The cave was empty. All that remained was dust and rock. Stringfellow Hawke stared out at the empty space and leaned forward over the controls of the original Airwolf helicopter. It was strange to see the space looking so devoid of equipment. His blue eyes glanced off the far side where seven days before a steel platform had sat with an array of consoles; communication and security equipment vital to running operations from ostensibly the middle of nowhere. It was all gone. He breathed in deeply and got out, leaving the door open.
He walked around trying to find any evidence that the Lair had once been home to Airwolf; anything. He found nothing. The Airwolf team had moved out and the clean up team had moved in. They had been good, Hawke mused as he crouched and ran a hand through the trackless soil. They had left no sign of any kind; not a screw, scrap of paper or even a tell-tale footprint. The Lair had returned to being simply an unusual cave in the Valley of the Gods. Hawke remembered when it had last been just a cave; remembered searching it out with his late mentor Dominic Santini and being pleased because he had known that it would be the perfect place to hide the world's most technologically advanced and, at the time, only mach capable helicopter while he forced the FIRM, the intelligence agency that had built her to search for his missing brother. The wave of nostalgia caught him off guard. So much had happened since that moment. He rose and looked back at the helicopter that was standing centre stage.
The original. She was as beautiful as ever. The years hadn't diminished her sleek lines with the dark, gleaming black body armour and white underbelly or the way the sunlight cascading down the funnel glinted off her rotors and cast shadows on the walls. Time hadn't eroded the predatory feel of her or the way she called to him; one creature of the air to another. Hawke walked back to her and laid a hand on her nose. The hiss of hydraulics brought a reluctant smile to his face. He headed back to his seat but leaned back, folding his arms as he continued to look out at the Lair, not quite ready to leave.
He couldn't believe so much time had passed, he considered thoughtfully. His initial mission to retrieve Airwolf from Libya, after she had been stolen by her twisted creator Moffett, seemed like a distant memory yet the events spilled into his mind as sharply clear as though they had taken place only the day before. He'd brought Airwolf home, but he'd brought her to the Lair. The only person he didn't think he'd surprised at all with the move was Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III. The former deputy director of the FIRM had actually seemed understanding of Hawke's decision; pleased even. Michael had suggested another deal; his protection or as much as he could give at least, a continuation of the search for Hawke's brother and in return, Hawke would fly Airwolf missions for Michael.
Dom had not been pleased. Apoplectic was a better description, Hawke thought back fondly. The older man with his gruff demeanour hadn't trusted Michael at all when they had first started; had argued against performing missions and putting themselves in danger, flying a temperamental machine and potentially getting killed for the trouble. But Dom had come round. He'd loved flying Airwolf who he considered was his Lady. Hawke's blue eyes blurred a little. His grief at losing Dom in a helicopter explosion caused by a bomb the year before was still raw, still apt to creep up on him and catch him unawares. He rubbed his eyes and his fingers came back wet with the tears he'd been unable to prevent. He sighed.
Those first few months of flying Airwolf had been exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure. The excitement of the missions offset against his continued fruitless search for Saint John. They had come to a sudden halt after an attempt was made by the government to recover her and by mutual agreement Airwolf remained dormant in the Lair for months. Until an unexpected phone call had sent Hawke to Texas. Hawke shifted in his seat. He'd flown Airwolf to Texas and straight to Caitlin O'Shaunessy.
His lips tugged upward as he thought of his wife. He could remember exactly how she looked in the Pope County jail cell; her red hair had been short back then, the freckles that liberally covered her delicate features evident even in the dim lighting and her blue-green eyes had been as honest and open as she was. He had fallen immensely, hugely, impossibly in like, Hawke mused. The falling in love had come later, much later, after Caitlin had become the third member of the small Airwolf crew and after they'd saved each other's lives more times than he liked to remember. He wasn't sure of the exact moment that it had happened, only that it had. He'd tried to run from it, scared he would lose her like so many others in his life but in the end he hadn't let his fear rule him and they had celebrated their first year of marriage only a couple of months before. He couldn't imagine his life without her or their first child, a son they had named after Dominic and had nicknamed Nicky. He had been christened only a week before.
A smile spread slowly across his face; he and Cait had begun trying for their second child. The memory of a dream seeped back to him; Dom telling him he would have a daughter. He hoped it would come true like his dream of Dom telling him he was having a son had come true. His smile faded. That last dream had been more of a goodbye. God but he missed him. 'I'll always be backing you, kid.' Dom's words came back to him and he took a shaky breath. He still held onto those words like a talisman.
He shook himself a little. He might have lost Dom but he had regained his brother. Saint John had been found the year before, alive and well, after spending his life working undercover. That he hadn't contacted Hawke for all those years despite being alive and well was still a source of tension between the brothers but they were getting past it, Hawke thought determinedly. He knew Saint John regretted staying away so long and they couldn't turn back time after all. Nicky was helping to rebuild the bonds between them and so was the search for their parents and two more siblings; a brother and a sister.
Hawke sighed and shifted his position a little, staring sightlessly out at the Lair. He had never thought once he had found Saint John that he would ever need to search for family again but an unexpected encounter with a vengeful Japanese pilot from the Second World War had prompted the brothers to look closer at the boating accident that had allegedly killed their parents.
They had worked out that the accident had been a ruse for their parents to enter witness protection following their father's success at bringing Angelo Cordelli, the killer of his father, to justice. The FBI had lied and told Alan and Jane Hawke that Hawke and Saint John had perished when they had been unexpectedly swept overboard. They knew from the FBI file that their parents had ultimately skipped the witness protection following another attempt on their lives, taking with them a baby daughter. It had taken them forever to find that much out and Hawke wondered whether they really would ever track down the rest of their family. He was slowly coming to the realisation that he no longer needed to find them; he had his own family in Caitlin and Nicky and they came first.
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. They did have a slim lead; a name for their sister; Sarah Hardy. Michael was tracking her down. Hawke frowned. The name had been supplied by Angelica Horn, the daughter of his one-time nemesis John Bradford Horn. Angelica had given Hawke the information practically with her dying breath. Her biological father had apparently been a business man with Mafia connections; he had introduced her to the Cordelli family and to another Mafia man called Matt Sterling. They believed Sterling had been behind two attempts to grab the original Airwolf helicopter but they had no proof. Angelica was dead following an ambush organised by a deputy director of the Company, Marshall Evan, who they believed was working on behalf of Sterling. Evan had disappeared along with the video of her evidence. His betrayal had major ramifications for the Company's control of Airwolf.
The Company had run two Airwolf teams; one under the purview of an agent called Jason Locke and the other under the purview of Michael. Locke had taken control of the original Airwolf file. Saint John had assumed command of Airwolf while Hawke and Caitlin had been in hiding. An air force major called Mike Rivers and Dom's niece Jo Santini had made up the rest of the crew. The second project run by Michael was focused on building the next generation of the Airwolf craft. Hawke and Caitlin worked for Michael testing the new helicopter which benefited from having Airwolf's artificial intelligence. The intelligence had developed in the old ship, been transferred to the new ship but had found a way of transferring between them both. Whichever ship Hawke flew, she flew with him and as time went by he was thinking more and more of the intelligence as Airwolf regardless of the ship he flew. The Company had never known about the intelligence and Evan's betrayal had endangered both projects.
Luckily Michael had been working on another plan which had happily come to fruition; all aspects of both Airwolf projects were ordered by the President to be turned over by the Company to the Department of Defence. A new division was being created under its auspice to house both Airwolf projects. An ex-NSA agent called Robert Delaney would liaise with the President himself over missions and Michael would run day-to-day operations from Red Star. The new set-up had caused some major decisions to be made by the various team members; while Mike Rivers had happily transferred to Michael's project, Locke was staying with the Company ostensibly to weed out the corruption that had led to Evan's betrayal; Saint John and Jo had begun a relationship and opted out, deciding instead to focus on Santini Air, Dom's old air service business.
All things considered, Hawke was pleased with how things had turned out. He truly didn't mind Locke's absence; he and Locke had barely tolerated each other at best and, if he was honest, he was relieved that Saint John had decided not to continue with Airwolf. He loved his brother but working together day in, day out might have ruined the tenuous bond they had managed to rebuild. Hawke enjoyed working with Mike, not that he was letting him know how much. The other man was a good pilot, learned quickly and although seemingly laid back was a perfectionist when it came to his flying; Hawke appreciated that and Mike's irreverent humour especially as he could see it irked Michael occasionally in the same way Dom's humour always had.
Hawke's friendship with Michael still surprised him in many ways but Hawke appreciated it and relied on it more than he would ever admit. Michael, and his fiancée Marella, had been there for Caitlin and himself through some tough times. The two couples were close; Caitlin was spending the day shopping with Marella along with Michael's eleven year old daughter, Angelina. Caitlin had taken Nicky with her so it had left Hawke at a loose end. He had wandered into Red Star, the home of the Airwolf project, and found a chagrined Michael seemingly equally at a loose end and bizarrely out of his usual all-white uniform. It had been Michael's suggestion that Hawke take out the original Airwolf; she had been put through a battery of maintenance and upgrade sessions and needed testing. Hawke had a sneaking suspicion Michael knew Hawke had needed to fly something.
Airwolf had been as keen as her pilot to get airborne and within a split second he had felt the invisible click between them like always. He had sent her flying across the California landscape and found himself over the Valley of the Gods with some bemusement. Maybe it wasn't too surprising he'd found his way to the Lair, Hawke mused. There had been a lot of changes in a short space of time; maybe he'd instinctively needed to come back to something familiar. Maybe they both had, he thought looking around the cockpit. His eyes narrowed on his watch. He probably should head back before Michael got cranky…
The incoming communication alarm sounded.
Hawke allowed a rueful smile; it looked like he was too late. He closed the cockpit door and hit the receive button, reaching for the heavy helmet even as Michael appeared on the video screen.
'Hawke, where the hell are you?' Michael snapped. His one good eye seemed to burn with angry intensity down the transmission, the other was covered by its habitual black eye-patch and both guarded behind his wire-frame glasses.
Hawke bristled at the tone. 'I'm on my way, Michael.'
'Good,' Michael leaned forward, 'because I have a lead on your sister.'
Hawke froze in the act of putting the helmet on before he continued hurriedly. 'I'll be there shortly.'
Michael sat back, the picture of smug satisfaction. 'Try not to break any records; we've only just realigned her turbos.'
Hawke's only answer was a scowl before he disconnected the call.---
The sound of giggling coming from the office was the first thing Mike heard when he entered the hangar. He grimaced a little and hoped he wasn't interrupting something; it had been bad enough almost walking in on Jo and Saint John in the shower that morning in the apartment he shared with the other man. Jo had stunned them all by planting a kiss on Saint John at Nicky's christening and the couple were very much still in the first sappy phase of romance. He decided that he should give them some warning and banged the outer door firmly behind him. He was rewarded by the abrupt cessation of the giggling. He walked with more confidence into the office and stopped short in the doorway as he suddenly understood why the giggling had ceased; the couple were wrapped up in each other's arms in the midst of a very passionate kiss.
He coughed politely.
He coughed louder.
'Hey guys!' Mike yelled and slammed the office door.
The couple stumbled out of their embrace.
Saint John put a hand dramatically to his chest. 'God, Mike, you almost gave me a heart attack.'
'Good.' Mike said with his usual humour. 'I might have been a customer, you know.'
'We were celebrating.' Jo said defensively. Her hand went to blonde bob and quickly rearranged it back into place.
Saint John picked up a document from the desk and waved it. 'I'm now a proud half-owner of Santini Air.'
'Wow' Mike held out his hand for Saint John to shake enthusiastically before he wrapped Jo in a platonic hug under Saint John's watchful eye.
'Coffee?' Saint John asked holding up the pot.
Mike nodded and slumped into a chair opposite one of the desks. He waited until Saint John handed him a mug. 'So I guess you guys are really doing this?'
Saint John's lips twitched in amusement as he leaned back against the desk and took a sip of his own coffee. 'You thought we'd change our minds?'
'Well, not about each other, no.' Mike clarified. His green eyes twinkled mischievously. 'It took you long enough to work it out though.'
Jo stuck her tongue at him and he grinned as Saint John rolled his eyes.
'No,' Mike said keeping his tone light, 'I thought you might have had a change of heart about the career plans.'
Jo and Saint John exchanged an amused glance.
'You missing us already?' Saint John quipped.
Mike gestured with his mug. 'Well, it's not the same without you.' And it wasn't. He missed flying Airwolf with his friends. He pulled a face to lighten the moment. 'Your brother doesn't let me eat candy in the cockpit.'
Saint John smiled; he'd seen his brother training other pilots and knew he was a hard taskmaster. 'He was always serious about his flying.'
'So am I.' Mike said defensively. 'But seriously; banning candy?'
'I bet there's an upside.' Jo said perching on the second desk across the room. 'Have you had a chance to fly that new ship yet?'
The team had been stunned to see a new version of Airwolf in the skies the week before; stunned and, as pilots, envious. The new Airwolf helicopter had the same basic design as the original but looked sleeker, sharper and deadlier.
Mike nodded enthusiastically. 'Actually, that's all I've flown this last week. They've been upgrading the old ship. You should see the new one; she's incredible. You should fly her. Her balance is beautiful and she's fast; real fast. You have to experience it.'
Saint John looked over at Jo amused at Mike's almost reverential tone. 'There's the upside.' He commented wryly.
Mike smiled good-naturedly at the teasing. 'They're training me to fly her.'
'Training you?' Jo asked curious.
'Apparently your brother thinks I have bad habits.' Mike sighed dramatically. 'And,' he added, 'she is a different ship especially with the intelligence.'
'How is that?' Saint John asked. When String had told him about the artificial intelligence he'd been shocked and he wasn't afraid to admit the idea freaked him out a little.
'Weird.' Mike shook his head and gestured with the mug. 'The first time your brother spoke to her and she responded…' he shrugged, 'I admit it scared the hell out of me.' He grinned suddenly. 'She's beginning to respond to me now though.'
'Well, of course,' Jo said rolling her eyes, 'she's a lady; how could she resist your charms?'
'Exactly.' Mike responded breezily ignoring the hint of sarcasm in Jo's voice. 'Apparently she has a favourites list which I'm not on yet.' He smiled. 'But I will be.'
Saint John shook his head. 'I think I'm just pleased she wasn't in our ship.'
Mike hesitated a moment before he replied. 'Actually, she was.'
'She was?' Jo shot back before Saint John could reply. 'How?'
'Apparently, she can link to the old computer using the telecommunications network.' He shook his head. 'She's been with us most of the time we had her.'
'OK. That's just creepy.' Saint John said.
Mike nodded. 'She saved our lives too. You remember that time in the Balkans when we thought we'd lost her and found her a field over?'
'Yeah,' Saint John replied slowly, 'you forgot where you parked her.'
'No,' Mike pointed at him, 'ten minutes before we got there she'd moved position to avoid being detected by an army patrol.'
Saint John assimilated the new information in disbelief. If an army patrol had discovered Airwolf, the team would have been ambushed on their arrival back; they would have all been captured probably killed.
'And that's not the only time.' Mike said. He looked down briefly into the dark contents of his mug. 'She's balanced systems, lined up missiles, ran scans; all to make up for what we didn't know we needed to do.'
'We all barely got any training.' Jo said defensively. 'You learned in that simulator; I only had about a few weeks of training with Caitlin and Saint John had even less than that. I think we did OK.'
'You're right.' Mike cheerfully agreed. 'We did OK.'
Saint John smiled knowingly. 'But Caitlin and String do better.'
'I didn't say that.' Mike said his voice bubbling with restrained laughter.
'You don't have to.' Saint John commented.
'We've both flown with them, remember?' Jo shook her head and folded her arms across the blue overalls she wore. 'I remember the first time I flew with them in Airwolf. They just have this rhythm.'
'They do.' Saint John agreed.
'They are amazing.' Mike added.
There was a moment's silence.
'OK, well, I'm depressed.' Jo said with a sigh.
Saint John crossed the room and slid an arm around her. 'They've been doing this for a long time, Jo.'
'It's just a little galling to admit they're better than us.' Jo said easily.
'String's always been the best pilot I know.' Saint John said, hugging her gently.
'Thanks.' Mike laughed.
Saint John smiled apologetically. 'Sorry, Mike.'
'Nope, you're right.' Mike acknowledged. He sighed. 'Although I'm with Jo; it's galling to have to admit it when someone's better than you.' And as much as his own healthy ego hated to admit it, Stringfellow Hawke was better than him. He'd felt more of an equal with Saint John.
'You're enjoying flying with String though.' Saint John deduced.
Mike nodded feeling a little guilty admitting it. Flying with Saint John's brother was like having a master class every time they were in the air. The way Hawke flew was pure poetry. 'What's not to like?' He quipped to cover the awkwardness.
'So you guys are getting on OK?' Saint John probed.
Mike shrugged, his eyes twinkling. 'He hasn't used the eject button yet.'
'Your brother's a hard man to read.' Mike commented when they sobered.
Saint John's lips twitched at the hint of insecurity. 'Relax, Mike. He likes you and if he didn't think you were a good pilot, he wouldn't let you in the cockpit at all.'
'I'll keep that in mind the next time he refuses to let me eat candy.' Mike retorted pleased at the peek Saint John had allowed into his brother's thoughts. He lifted his feet up onto the desk and decided they needed a change in subject. 'Have you guys heard from Locke?'
Saint John shook his head. 'Not since we all said goodbye.' They'd gone out for dinner as a team a few days before to celebrate their time together and effectively say goodbye. 'You?'
'He was at Red Star yesterday.' Mike said.
Jo and Saint John exchanged a concerned look at the serious look in Mike's eyes.
'So what's going on?' Saint John asked.
'I thought you weren't interested anymore.' Mike teased.
'Hey, watch it!' Saint John said. He gestured at Jo. 'Or she'll punch you.'
Jo slapped Saint John's arm playfully as Mike held up his free hand in surrender.
'OK, OK.' Mike drank some of his coffee. 'Locke's managed to identify two more people who were involved with the ambush on Hawke and Angelica Horn last week. They're now in custody. Both of them admit they were recruited by Evan just over two months ago, shortly before the second attempt by Sterling to take Airwolf.'
'If it was Sterling.' Jo pointed out. 'We only have Angelica Horn's word that it was.'
'True.' Mike conceded. 'Anyway, Evan's still at large but Locke is heading for New York to follow up some leads there.'
'Sterling's home city.' Saint John commented.
Mike nodded. 'I offered to give him some back-up but…'
'He wouldn't accept it, huh?' Saint John shook his head.
'He can be so stubborn.' Jo sighed.
Mike drained his mug. 'Which is why I thought you guys might be interested in a little vacation…'
Saint John and Jo looked at each other.
'I guess a little vacation couldn't hurt.' Saint John said mildly.
'I've always wanted to see New York.' Jo added.
'Great.' Mike swung his feet off the desk and stood up. 'There's one more thing.'
'Oh?' Saint John asked amused.
Mike stuffed his hands in the pockets of his denim jacket. 'I'm going to move into quarters at Red Star.'
'You don't have to do that.'
The couple spoke simultaneously in protest and Mike waved away their words firmly.
'Look, I think it's great you guys are together and you don't need me hanging around cramping your style.' Mike said. 'I've checked with Marella and there's accommodation available with the job so…' he shrugged to complete the sentence.
'I'll miss you.' Saint John said but Mike knew it was an acceptance not another attempt to get him to change his mind.
'I'll miss you too.'
'Thanks.' Saint John held his out and they did a manly handshake-hug that Jo watched a little tearfully.
The phone rang breaking the moment.
Jo picked up hurriedly. 'Santini Air.' She paused. 'Michael, hi.'
Saint John rolled his eyes and mouthed the words 'what does he want?' at her. She sent him an exasperated look as she tried to remain focused on her conversation.
'Right. No, we'll be right there.' She hung up.
'What?' Saint John demanded as she passed him his jacket.
'Michael has a lead on your sister.' Jo said succinctly. 'He wants us to meet him at Red Star.'
'Well, what are we waiting for?' Saint John grabbed his coat and the keys to the Santini Air chopper. 'Let's move.' He was out of the office in the blink of an eye leaving behind a bemused Jo and Mike.
Jo shook her head, torn between understanding and annoyance.
Mike slung his arm around her and gave her a quick comforting squeeze before he started out of the room. 'Come on.' He grinned over his shoulder. 'Or he's likely to leave without us.'
The sad thing was he was right, Jo mused as she locked up the office and headed out after the guys.---
The diner was a well-known hangout for pilots that worked at the Gilligan air field down the road. It was old but well-maintained by the Franks who'd owned the place since they'd set up business soon after the Second World War. The late Teddy Franks had been a veteran pilot; his son Junior was also ex-air force. Teddy's widow, Marnie, did the baked goods; Junior ran the grill with his son Hank; his younger son, Billy who had some kind of mental deficiency that people spoke about in whispers, washed dishes and swept floors. Junior's wife had upped and left him with the boys years before; Hank's wife worked the tables with extra help from the occasional young woman who happened into Gilly Pass.
Sarah Hardy had gotten the history lesson within thirty minutes of setting foot in the diner with her son almost six months before. She figured Lou had hoped she might be one of the 'occasional young women' because the dyed-blonde waitress had looked exhausted when she'd relayed the information in between pouring coffee, taking the order and placing the food – two burgers dripping with juices and relish, and fat crispy yellow fries – in front of Sarah and her ravenous son. She'd had to dash Lou's hopes of another waitress when Sarah had asked if any of the air services were hiring. Lou had begun to explain they all didn't need a receptionist, probably an opener to offering the waitressing, when Sarah had interrupted and told her she was looking for work as a pilot. The look of shock on Lou's face had been a picture. It was something Sarah had gotten used to; a twenty-three year old pretty brunette with startling blue eyes and a curvy figure probably didn't scream pilot as a choice of career. Her young son had snorted at the resigned sigh that had escaped Sarah's lips.
Salvation had come in the shape of a wily old goat called Herman Bent. Herman had been Teddy Frank's best friend; he ran a small air service on the far side of the Gilligan air field. He'd claimed he had no use for a woman pilot but he could do with a mechanic. Sarah had bargained; she'd work on the air craft but she got to fly them, at least a couple of jobs a week, she needed the flight time. Herman had acquiesced far too quickly for Sarah's comfort even when she'd added she'd only work for cash and when she'd taken a look at his air craft, she knew why. Herman had three planes and an A-10 chopper that had seen better days. The planes flew; just. The chopper had needed work, the better part of several days, before Sarah had got it in the air.
The other two male pilots at Herman's were a father and son combo that had set Sarah's teeth on edge at first being that they were both out and out male chauvinist pigs. She'd put up with the comments and not-so-unintentional feel-ups in the first week and gritted her teeth. In the second week, Jethro Junior had cornered her in the small locker room at the back of the hangar and put his hands on her breasts. She'd kneed him in the balls like her Daddy had taught her and looked up to find Herman watching from the doorway. He'd nodded as though in satisfaction and told her that since his pilot was indisposed, he guessed she was taking the cargo run. Sarah had waited until the plane was airborne before she let loose a grin that felt like it had been waiting a hundred years to be released. They'd all treated her with some respect after that and six months later the small team at Herman's had formed something of a camaraderie that Sarah knew she was going to miss when she moved on just like she was going to miss the food at the diner, she thought, as she slipped into the first open booth.
'Your usual, hon?' Lou yelled from the counter.
Sarah nodded and checked her watch. Chris was catching a ride with one of his friend's mothers after school. She bit her lip. Maybe she should have picked him up herself. She had barely begun to form the thought when Lou slid onto the opposite bench and put down a mug of freshly brewed coffee in front of her.
'On the house.' Lou said. 'So how are you?'
'Good.' Sarah said recognising that the coffee wasn't on the house but would be paid for with good old-fashioned gossip. 'Herman's thinking about buying another plane.'
'Business must be good.' Lou commented.
'Not as good as Flybird's.' Sarah said mentioning the biggest of the four air services that worked out of the Gilligan airfield.
'But then you don't do the same business.' Lou said. She hunched forward. 'Just as well if you ask me.' She lowered her voice. 'Couple on the back booth over my shoulder? Don't look.' She said seeing Sarah start to move her head. 'I think they're Feds and I'm thinking they're investigating Flybirds.'
'Why would you think that?' Sarah asked curious in spite of herself.
'Just the questions they're asking, that's all.' Lou looked up as the door went.
A deputy sheriff wandered over holding his green baseball cap scrunched up in one hand. 'Ladies.'
'Deputy Watson.' Lou replied and winked at Sarah before she slid out of the booth; Sarah fought the urge to beg her to stay as the deputy took her place.
'How're you doing, Sarah?' Deputy Watson asked.
'Fine, Harold.' Sarah replied politely. Harold Watson had been trying to get her to agree to a date since the day she had rolled into town. She was wary of getting involved with anyone especially as she had Chris to consider. She had an awful feeling he was going to invite her to the town picnic which was taking place the next day. 'Just waiting for my son to join me for supper.'
'You know I've been meaning to ask you for a while now,' he cleared his throat nervously as his brown eyes shyly met hers across the table, 'I'm off duty for a couple of days and…'
Sarah caught sight of an old pick-up pulling up outside and Chris alighting from the cab. 'Here's Chris.' She moved from the booth to greet the boy running towards her.
Sarah's six year old allowed his mother to give him a brief hug before she pushed him gently into the booth.
Harold waited a moment for the invitation to join them and when it wasn't forthcoming gave a sigh. 'I'll leave you to it then.' He shifted out of the booth.
'Thanks for the company.' Sarah said her attention already turning to her child. She was unaware of how Harold tipped his head and made his way to the counter as her sky blue eyes ran over Chris's cherubic face topped with its shock of brown hair that never seemed to lie flat. He was so like her physically that she could hardly see his father. Maybe that wasn't a bad thing, she thought.
Lee Edwards was a boy she could happily forget. He'd been the school bad-boy, two years her senior, and she'd been a rebel without a cause. Lee had introduced her to sex, drugs and alcohol; and not necessarily in that order. They'd run off together on his motorcycle after she'd had one too many fights with her folks. A month later, he'd left her in a run-down motel in Arizona and a month after that she'd found out she was pregnant and had cleaned up fast. Some stubborn streak had kept her from returning home to her parents. She tried once just after Chris had been born only to find they'd moved on leaving no clue to their next location. She'd sat and wept that day on the front stoop before she'd picked up her baby and made her way back into the world. She'd done alright for herself and her son, Sarah thought determinedly as Lou set down the plates and topped up Sarah's drink.
Chris continued babbling about his school day in the way of children the world over and Sarah enjoyed his innocent recounting of math and the Little League practice as they both wolfed down the meal. His stories were peppered with mention of Kevin who was his best friend. He loved his life at Gilly Pass, Sarah concluded a little sadly. It was going to be hard on him when they moved just like it had been had on her every time her parents had packed up and moved onto the next town.
Sarah had always known her parents weren't like other parents, that their nomadic existence was unusual; that the constant change of names with each new home wasn't just a game. Just before her fifteenth birthday she'd discovered the reason hidden in a shoebox in her mother's closet. It had been filled to the brim with birth certificates and photos. Her parents weren't Alan and Jane Hargreaves or Harrington or any of the other dozen aliases they used; their real names were Alan and Jane Hawke. Her real name was Sarah Katherine Hawke; named for her grandmothers. Sarah shook her head. At fifteen, she'd been too upset to listen to her father's explanation of witness protection, a Mafia family out for revenge and the tragic death of their sons, lost in the boating accident that had meant to only be a cover for their escape. Even in the diner she could recall with absolute clarity the photo of the two boys, her older brothers; it was indelibly etched into her mind. Looking across the table at her own child, Sarah finally understood her parents' heartache and she regretted that she'd never get to tell them.
It hadn't been always been easy surviving on her own but she'd been lucky. Chris had been a couple of weeks old when she'd landed on her feet. The owner of the air service who'd hired her as an apprentice mechanic had ended up encouraging her to take her high school equivalency, training her as a pilot and teaching her how to drive. Bill and his wife Elaine had been like family to her; treated her like family; Hardy was their last name. She'd arrived back from a flight one day to find Bill nursing a black eye and several other bruises; men had been there asking about her. Bill hadn't told them anything. An hour later, Sarah had taken the run-down car Bill had insisted she take and moved on. Since then she'd been travelling every few months, never staying any place too long until Gilly Pass.
And they had stayed too long, Sarah mused as Chris stopped talking for a moment to concentrate, as only a six year old could, on stuffing as much of the rest of his burger in his small mouth as he was able. She sighed. She didn't want to move anymore than she figured Chris would. The town suited them. For all that everyone knew everyone else's business, nobody asked questions about why someone ended up in Gilly Pass; they just accepted that they did. They had a nice studio apartment over a garage on the Main Street where Sarah occasionally helped out to make extra bucks; her job at the airfield was good; the school was good; they were making some friends…and Sarah had an itch that had settled between her shoulder blades and wouldn't budge; it was the itch that told her it was time to move and soon.
'So can I, Mom? Please.'
Chris's plaintive cry broke through her reverie and she smiled at him apologetically. 'Can I Mom do what?'
His eyebrow quirked upwards. 'You weren't listening.'
'Sorry, sweetie.' She acknowledged the accusation. 'Now what were you asking me?'
Chris gave a heartfelt sigh. 'It's Kevin's birthday next week and he's having a party. Can I go, Mom? Can I? Please.'
Sarah opened her mouth to tell him no but the words died on her lips as she took in the hope in his blue eyes. 'OK. You can go.' She agreed. Another week wouldn't hurt, would it? She sighed deeply. She could live with the itch until then; she could.---
'Are you going to cut to the chase here or what, Michael?'
Michael sighed at Hawke's irritation at the presentation and abandoned his plans for a detailed explanation of how they'd found Hawke's sister and the dramatic reveal. He should have known Hawke would never have the patience to sit through it, he chided himself; Hawke rarely had the patience to sit through one of Michael's presentations never mind when his missing family was the subject. He sighed and turned to face the audience.
Both Hawke brothers were sat side by side wearing identical expressions of impatience; Hawke's eyes were guarded; Saint John's openly hopeful. Hawke's hand was wrapped in Caitlin's who was sat beside him; Jo stood behind Saint John, Mike beside her. Marella smiled sympathetically back at her fiancé from her position perched on his desk.
Michael cleared his throat and skipped to the end of the slides. A map of Colorado appeared on the wall behind him. 'Your sister is in Gilly Pass.'
There was a collective sigh of relief.
'How do you know for certain it's her?' Saint John asked.
Michael folded his arms over his white sweater. 'Larry Mason is convinced so, so am I.'
'Larry?' Hawke asked surprised. He caught Saint John's questioning glance. 'Larry used to work for the FIRM.' He explained. 'He was the best information analyst I've ever worked with.'
Michael nodded. 'He's the best in the business. He's been working on this for me.' His good eye met Hawke's. 'He says he still owes you for saving his life.'
Hawke shrugged away the comment a little self-consciously.
'How did he reach his conclusion?' Saint John pressed.
Michael smiled. 'As I mentioned, your sister must have become separated from your parents when she was sixteen around the birth of her child.'
The brothers exchanged a wordless look of wonder at what had happened; neither could believe the parents they remembered would have abandoned a daughter especially one pregnant and in trouble, but then they barely believed that a child their parents had raised would end up pregnant and in trouble.
'In some ways, what was obviously a stroke of misfortune for your sister is a stroke of good luck for us.' Michael said. 'Your father obviously had contacts to create new aliases, false social security numbers, that kind of thing. Your sister doesn't so…'
'So she's a lot easier to track down once you have a name.' Caitlin concluded.
'Exactly.' Michael agreed. 'Although not that easy.' He noted wryly. 'She's made it as difficult as she could given her situation.'
'Well, she is a Hawke.' Caitlin commented and was gratified when Hawke turned to her with a quick smile.
'So she gets separated.' Mike prompted. 'How does that help us?'
'When we got the name, we put that together with the information we got a couple of months ago from Yahara's correspondence with his men that indicated they thought she was in a town called Belle Falls in Arizona.' Michael said.
'We went there. We couldn't find anything.' Saint John pointed out. 'There wasn't a thread to pick up.'
'That's because you weren't looking for a young woman with a child.' Michael punched up a picture. 'A Christopher Hardy was enrolled in this pre-school; his mother was listed as Sarah Hardy on his records.'
'Her son.' Caitlin murmured.
'And a Christopher Hardy is enrolled in the kindergarten at Gilly Pass, again with his mother listed as a Sarah Hardy.' Michael added.
'You've tracked her through the kid.' Mike noted.
Michael nodded. 'We only found her because of the kid. Larry's good; he checked all the various official documentation for mention of a Sarah Hardy including school records even though we didn't know she had a child.'
'She kept the same name when she moved.' Caitlin frowned. 'Wouldn't she have changed it just to be safe?'
'We think she did.' Michael said. 'There's a clear time gap between her being in Belle Falls and showing up in Gilly Pass six months ago.' He brought up another slide. 'Larry also searched for driver's licenses and pilot's licenses in the name of Sarah Hardy. A woman in South Carolina is registered as having both and matches your sister's age.' He gestured at the photo on the screen showing a grainy image of an airfield with a family standing in front of it. A fuzzy sign proclaimed it as 'Hardy's.'
'This came from a local newspaper article about how a Bill and Sarah Hardy had helped take part in the rescue of a young car crash victim. It mentions how Bill and his wife took in Sarah and effectively adopted her so much so that she officially changed her name from Hargreaves.' Michael used a laser beam to point at the young child clutching Sarah's hand in the picture. 'This is your nephew.'
Hawke let go of Caitlin's hand to stand and walk up to the image. It was the only photo they had of their sister and her son; the only photo period. He felt Saint John's hand on his shoulder.
'She's been on her own all this time.' Hawke said softly.
'Not anymore.' Saint John replied.
The brothers looked at each other in silent agreement.
'Your sister has documentation in both names,' Michael interrupted gently, 'although she doesn't seem to use either at various times. Larry has managed to track down the majority of her movements including a high school in South Carolina which was attended by her and the baby's father.' Michael paused and reached for a folder that he passed to Hawke who began to leaf through the contents, Saint John looking over his shoulder. 'We think that's where they met.'
Caitlin sat forward eagerly. 'But if she was in high school when she met the baby's father then maybe that was when she was still living with her parents.'
'So we've got a starting point for finding them too.' Marella added.
Michael nodded. 'Larry's following up. He also believes Hargreaves is one of the aliases your father created and it's likely that he's used it since then.'
Hawke and Saint John looked up at Michael.
'We're really that close to finding them?' Saint John said in amazement.
'Close isn't exactly the term I'd use,' Michael said, 'but knowing Larry…'
'He'll find them.' Hawke concluded.
Michael nodded again. 'Which brings us to another problem; Sterling and the Cordelli's.'
Jo's blue eyes widened in alarm. 'If you could find her…'
'Then it's possible they might too.' Mike finished; the words devoid of his usual humour.
'Maybe not.' Marella mused out loud. They all turned to regard her inquisitively. 'We only found her because of the information we had from Yahara and Larry's tenacity on examining every official document in Belle Falls.'
'But Sterling could trace her through the driver's license and name change in the same way as Larry did.' Jo argued.
'Maybe.' Marella conceded, gesturing, the light catching on her engagement ring as her hand moved. 'But it would be a lot more difficult and you'd need someone like Larry who can put together seemingly disparate pieces of information.'
'The truth is it doesn't matter. Even if Sterling is tracing her, he hasn't got to her yet.' Caitlin said firmly. She bit her lip as her eyes flickered to her husband. 'The problem will be that we'll reveal exactly where she is when you guys go looking for her in Gilly Pass.'
'Which poses the question,' Michael said smoothly, 'of whether you should go looking for her at all until we've resolved the Cordelli and Sterling situation.'
'You're kidding?' Saint John asked askance.
Hawke moved restlessly back to his chair, tapping the folder against his leg. He slumped into his seat and stared up at the photo of his sister as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
'We're not just going to leave her out there on her own.' Saint John said heatedly.
'We can watch her and make sure she's OK.' Michael allowed. 'But until we get all the pieces into place, she may be safer being on her own. As soon as you make a move, you'll alert Cordelli and Sterling to the starting point where they can start to trace your family. It'll be a race to see who finds them first. At least we have a head start right now.'
'Now look…' Saint John began his hands shifting to his hips.
'She's going to run.' Hawke said.
His quiet words silenced the room.
'How do you know that?' Mike asked puzzled.
'Because he's very good at what he does.' Michael responded amused at Mike's reaction.
'No, seriously.' Jo said leaning over the chair to look at Hawke. 'How do you know that?'
Saint John took a deep breath and met his brother's almost expressionless eyes. 'Gut?'
Hawke gestured with the folder. 'She's typically moved every couple of months according to Larry's info until Gilly Pass where she's settled for the last six months. She must be getting antsy about now.'
'If she moves we can follow her.' Michael argued.
'You can't guarantee that.' Hawke said firmly without switching his gaze from his brother. 'We go now; bring her and the kid home.'
'What about the Cordelli's and Sterling?' Mike asked.
'Michael has a plan.' Hawke's gaze moved to the spy. 'Don't you, Michael?'
Michael refused to squirm under the collective regard of the group. He brushed a finger over his moustache to hide the small smile that tugged on his lips. 'I may have a plan.' He conceded.
'You want to let the rest of us in on it?' Saint John said sharply as he resumed his seat. He felt Jo rest a comforting hand on his shoulder and he reached up to cover it with his.
Michael's jaw tightened. 'We have two problems. The initial problem was Cordelli and Sallis finding your family through your search and enacting their revenge on your father for his part in bringing Angelo Cordelli to justice.' He shifted his weight a little to relieve the pressure on his bad knee. 'We now have the additional complication of Sterling and his interest in Airwolf.'
'Yes, so?' Saint John said impatiently.
'The original plan was to find someway of taking down the Cordelli's to enable your family to come out of hiding.' Michael continued as though Saint John hadn't spoken. 'Sterling is a rival of the Cordelli's…'
'You want to do a deal.' Hawke realised.
'Of course.' Jo murmured. 'Offer Sterling the Cordelli's territory in exchange of his backing off Airwolf.'
'That's obviously where he's going with his own search for your family.' Michael said. 'If he finds them, he can blackmail the two of you,' he pointed at the brothers, 'into potentially handing over Airwolf while at the same time offering information about your family in order to gain a negotiating chip with the Cordelli's over any disputed territory.'
'How do you know this stuff?' Mike asked amazed again.
'Because Michael's very good at what he does.' Hawke commented wryly.
Michael tilted his head in acknowledgement of the compliment.
'But don't we want to bring Sterling to justice?' Mike asked.
'He has a point.' Saint John stated. 'I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of letting Sterling go free after everything he's done in the past few months just so we bring down the Cordelli's.'
'Actually I don't think offering Sterling a deal was Michael's plan.' Hawke said slowly.
'We make the deal with the Cordelli's.' Caitlin sighed and crossed her arms over the checked cotton shirt she wore.
'Sterling's territory for them leaving us alone?' Saint John mused. 'Would that work?'
'Giovanni Cordelli isn't interested in feuds; he's interested in the best interests of his family's business.' Michael pointed out.
'It might work.' Hawke frowned. 'If we can convince Cordelli that the feud should have ended with Angelo's death which came because of my father seeking retribution for Grandpa's.'
'We need them to sort out Sallis too.' Caitlin pointed out.
'We could always claim if they don't take the deal then we would deal with Sterling.' Marella added. 'It might give us more leverage.'
'So we have a few details to iron out.' Michael commented. 'Are we agreed on the principle?'
'We should get going.' Saint John said to Hawke.
'I'll meet you at the cabin in a couple of hours?' Hawke checked looking at his watch.
'You mean you'll meet us?' Jo asked surprised at being excluded.
Hawke and Saint John exchanged a swift glance.
'Actually, Jo,' Saint John turned to look at her apologetically, 'I think String and I should go alone.'
'Oh.' Jo looked over at Caitlin for support.
Caitlin shrugged and remained silent. She knew it was something the brothers needed to do together despite her desire to tag along and support Hawke.
'Maybe you should go on with that vacation we were talking about.' Saint John hinted heavily, waggling his eyebrows.
'I could come with you instead, Jo.' Mike offered cheerfully. 'After all, if Hawke's away presumably…'
'You'll be busy here.' Michael interrupted. 'Cait'll take over your training.' He pinned Jo with a look. 'And don't even think about going to New York.'
Jo snapped her mouth shut. 'You have us bugged.' She said accusingly.
'No,' Michael shook his head, 'I guessed you'd want to back up Locke.'
'He's alone in enemy territory…' Saint John argued.
'For a reason.' Michael stressed.
Hawke assessed Michael's firm look. 'You're laying a trap for Sterling.'
Michael nodded as Saint John, Jo and Mike all turned to look at him with amazement again. 'Locke's current situation gives him a good chance to lure Sterling into approaching him to become Evan's replacement.' He shifted. 'Locke can play at being the disillusioned agent, bitter and twisted over losing control of Airwolf yet still having access to the helicopter through his work.'
'That's a risky undercover op to undertake without back-up.' Mike said unusually serious.
'Which is why he isn't undertaking it without back-up.' Michael shot back.
'You've got men on him in New York?' Saint John asked.
'Actually they're women.' Marella corrected. 'But, yes.'
'So if you go haring off to New York you'll ruin the set-up.' Michael pointed out.
Jo sighed deeply. 'I guess I'm staying home then.'
Saint John squeezed her hand before he met Michael's gaze. 'Why didn't you tell us before Locke went?'
'You had no need to know.' Michael said adjusting his glasses. 'But given the circumstances and the obvious action you were about to take, I had to tell you or the operation would have been blown.'
'Having an inside man with Sterling gives us an edge.' Hawke commented feeling a little guilty at his earlier uncharitable thoughts about Locke.
'Definitely.' Michael added.
Hawke got to his feet. 'We'd better get going.'
The group got to their feet and began exchanging goodbyes. Mike, Jo and Saint John left first leaving the others alone for a brief moment.
Caitlin caught Marella's dark eyes and jerked her head toward the door with a smile.
Marella nodded almost imperceptibly. She hugged Hawke goodbye and wished him luck before she followed Caitlin out of the room.
Michael and Hawke looked on amused.
'Thanks, Michael.' Hawke said turning to the other man. 'For everything.'
Michael shrugged off the gratitude and patted Hawke's shoulder on his way to his desk. 'Go get your sister, Hawke.'
Hawke made his way out of the office. He paused at the door and looked back at his friend. 'Oh and Michael?'
Michael looked over at him.
'Don't let Rivers eat candy in my helicopter.' Hawke muttered.
Michael held the grin back until the door was firmly closed.---
'You want a lift back into town?'
Sarah looked up from her place lacing up her boots on the floor of the staff locker room at Jethro Junior who was shrugging into his jacket. 'Thanks but I've got the car.'
'OK.' Jethro accepted her answer readily enough, his mind already turning to the cool beer and hot blonde that awaited him in the Windy Pass Bar on the other side of town. 'Don't forget to lock up.'
Sarah pulled a face at Jethro's disappearing back and stood up, stretching tiredly. Her blue eyes landed on her son asleep on the small sofa that was lodged in the back corner of the locker room and she felt a familiar wave of guilt. Chris was used to waiting at the airfield while she did a job and she knew she was lucky Herman allowed it but she still didn't like that she couldn't afford a baby-sitter or that her son more often than not fell asleep on the old sofa than in a bed. She pulled on her own jacket before she stooped and picked up Chris.
The sleepy child wrapped himself around her and she staggered out to her car. She placed him in the passenger seat and secured him with the seatbelt wrapping the old blanket she kept in the back around him to keep him warm. She headed back into hangar, grabbed her bag and hurried back out, pausing only to turn off the lights and throw the locks. The tarmac in front of the hangar was in darkness; Herman was too stingy to pay for a light and Sarah looked wistfully at the brightly lit Flybirds hangar on the other side of the airfield. A faint breeze drifted across her skin and made her shiver. She clambered into her car and hit the locks.
A flickering light in the skies caught her attention and she frowned as she recognised the lights of a Jet Ranger coming into land in front of the Flybirds hangar. She rubbed her nose and turned the key. Nothing. She frowned and tried again. The engine gave a whiny sound and died. She hit the steering wheel in frustration. She took a deep breath and reached past Chris into the glove compartment, grabbing the large flashlight she kept there for emergencies. She switched it on before she unlocked her door and climbed out.
She popped the lid and propped it open as she shone the flashlight over the engine. Spark plugs were new; the starter wire hadn't shook loose, her gaze fell on the battery. She turned off the flashlight and headed back to the car where she reached for the switch to turn the front lights on; her hand froze. Her lights were on. She backed out of the car and stood for a moment. She'd left her lights on and the battery was drained. She shook her head. She hadn't turned the lights on, she was sure of it. She sighed. She must have knocked the switch by accident when she'd gotten out of the car earlier. Her teeth worried at her bottom lip. Dead battery. She had jump leads in her tool-box; all she needed was another vehicle to charge her battery.
Sarah sighed and looked at the hangar. She'd thrown the locks and she didn't have a key to get back in. She could break in through the office window but then she'd owe Herman and she needed all her cash for the upcoming move; it was bad enough contemplating having to replace the battery. Her eyes were drawn across the airstrip. The Jet Ranger had landed in the open space in front of the Flybirds hangar and the place was bustling with people. She straightened. The Flybirds pilots kept to themselves but they'd surely help her out with the battery…she got back into the car and shook Chris awake.
'Mom?' His eyes opened sleepily to peer at her.
'There's a problem with the car, sweetie.' Her hand pushed back his unruly fringe. 'I'm going across to Flybirds to get some help. You stay here in the car and keep the doors locked until I get back. OK?'
'OK.' Chris replied, his eyes already closing again.
She leaned over and kissed the top of his head. She closed her car door and locked it before she started the walk across the airstrip. She pulled her jacket around her tighter; it could get cold at night but she figured the chill had little to do with the temperature and everything to do with her unease. The itch between her shoulders blades was nagging at her again. A week, she reminded herself. All they needed to do was stay a week so Chris could attend Kevin's birthday party. Surely she could give her child that gift before she uprooted him again?
A gun shot had her head jerking up. She stopped abruptly almost stumbling in her haste. There was a man on the ground and a pilot from Flybirds standing over him with a gun in his outstretched hand. Her hand flew to her mouth although no sound escaped her; her heart beating wildly in her chest. The frozen tableau in front of her shifted as two other men stooped to pick up the body.
They hadn't seen her.
The thought hit her like a freight train. All she had to do was walk back to the car. She and Chris could spend the night there; Herman would be at the airfield at first light…without conscious thought she took one step back. And then another. Before she quite realised what she was doing, she was running at full speed back to her car.
She was almost safely at the vehicle when she heard footsteps stampeding towards her. She gasped in more air and surged forward, her hand hitting the car roof as she scrabbled in her pocket for the keys.
A man charged her from the side.
They hit the ground with a thud and her breath left her body in a whoosh. His hand clamped something over her mouth and nose even as she struggled under his weight. She smelt something chemical and everything went black. She was unconscious when her assailant lifted her from the ground in a fireman's lift; unconscious to her son's horror as he watched his mother being carried away into the darkness through the car window…---
The cockpit was quiet; the only sounds the hum of the engine and the steady beat of the rotors. Both brothers had lapsed into silence early in the flight, lost in their own thoughts.
Hawke rolled his shoulders feeling the strain of the day's flying starting to tug at his muscles.
'You want me to take over for a while?' Saint John asked seeing the move. He could see the moment of indecision on his younger brother's face, torn between wanting to continue to fly and the need to rest.
Hawke sighed and nodded. He relinquished the stick to his brother and as he felt the weight shift on the paddles under his feet, drew his own away. He glanced at the clock on the instrument panel, calculated their remaining travel time. 'It shouldn't be too long before we see Gilligan airfield.'
'We should probably talk about what we're going to do when we get there.' Saint John said.
'It's going to be late.' Hawke commented. 'We're probably best trying to find her in the morning.'
'So, a motel?' Saint John asked.
Saint John smiled; his brother sounded as enthused as he was at the idea. 'What did Michael's information say about this airfield? Anything nearby?'
'Nope.' Hawke recalled the details from his memory. 'It's a small private airfield. Four air services supplying tourist rides; crop-dusting and courier services. Control tower operates nine to five; beyond that the air services inform each other if they're night flying.'
'So we could land in a deserted air field?' Saint John checked.
'Could be.' Hawke said.
'Remind me why we didn't want to wait until morning.' Saint John muttered.
'We can always sleep in the chopper.' Hawke responded ignoring the comment. 'It wouldn't be the first time.'
'I'm getting too old.' Saint John sighed. He glanced across and saw the faint smile on String's lips. 'Hey! It'll happen to you one day.'
'Maybe.' Hawke allowed folding his arms across his chest.
There was a moment of silence.
'You know I've been thinking…' Saint John began.
'I hope you didn't strain something.' Hawke quipped.
'Funny.' Saint John took a second to glare at his unrepentant younger brother. 'If she's as jittery as you think, we're going to have to be real careful or she'll run as soon as we start asking question around town.'
Hawke sobered but didn't reply; the same thought had occurred to him.
'She may not even know about us.' Saint John mused.
'We look alike.' Hawke noted almost incongruously.
'Yeah.' Saint John agreed. 'That picture of her kid; that could have been you.'
Hawke nodded. 'I'm hoping there's enough of a family resemblance that she gives us a chance.'
The look they shared was familiar; an understanding on a deeper level than mere words. Hawke felt a warmth steal into his bones and settle.
'You think this Larry guy will find our folks?' Saint John asked idly.
'If anyone can, it's Larry.' Hawke said.
'How did you end up saving his life?'
'He ended up being targeted by a Russian mole in the FIRM who tried to kill him.' Hawke shifted in his seat. 'Dom and I turned up in Airwolf just in time.'
'You miss Dom a lot, huh.' Saint John said.
It was one word but it was filled with emotion; so much emotion. Saint John could hear grief, regret and loss. He sighed. 'Mike's a good guy.'
Hawke's eyebrows shot up and he looked over at his brother questioningly.
'He'll be a great co-pilot for you if you just give him a chance.' Saint John pressed on.
Hawke frowned. 'Has he said something?'
'No,' Saint John quickly denied, 'of course not.' He gave a sideways glance and was relieved to see Hawke looked puzzled more than annoyed. 'It's just I get the sense from what he has said that you're giving him a hard time.' He steadied the helicopter as they hit an air current. 'I mean training him?'
'He's never flown the new Airwolf before.' Hawke said mildly.
'But he has flown Airwolf and that new bird doesn't look all that different to me.' Saint John pointed out.
His brother didn't answer.
'I just think you need to ease up.'
Hawke sighed. 'I've barely worked with him a week, Saint John.'
'I trust him with my life.' Saint John said. 'Hell, I did every mission we went on together.' He frowned as a thought struck him. 'You don't trust him, do you?'
A muscle worked in Hawke's jaw and he found himself resisting the urge to snap. He took a deep breath. 'Honestly? No, I don't. Not yet.'
'Saint John.' There was enough of a warning note in Hawke's voice to stop his brother from continuing. Hawke took another deep breath and wondered how many he was going to have to take before they could drop the subject. 'Rivers can fight his own battles. If he's got a problem, he should tell me.'
'He doesn't have a problem.' Saint John allowed.
'Then why do you?' Hawke retorted.
'I just want this to work out for him. That's all.' Saint John shrugged. 'He deserves it.'
Hawke silently assessed his brother for a long moment.
'What?' Saint John demanded.
'You regretting your decision?' Hawke asked bluntly.
'No. Of course not.' Saint John denied.
'But you feel guilty for abandoning Mike.' Hawke deduced suddenly.
Saint John sighed as he acknowledged the truth of his brother's words. 'I just think you should give him a break.'
Hawke relented a little with understanding his brother's motivations better. 'He's a good pilot, Saint John, and he's doing fine. He wouldn't be in my cockpit if he wasn't.'
'Isn't that supposed to be his cockpit too?' Saint John pointed out.
'Maybe one day it will be.' Hawke said softly. He smiled. 'He has to convince more than me.'
'Caitlin?' Saint John queried.
'A different lady.' Hawke said.
'Airwolf.' Saint John surmised. 'Mike mentioned something about her having a favourites list.'
There was a subtle question in Saint John's statement; Hawke ignored it.
'I still think the artificial intelligence thing is a little freaky.' Saint John commented.
Hawke shrugged. 'She's saved my life and Cait's too many times for me to worry about it anymore.'
'It doesn't freak you out that she could take control?' Saint John said.
'She won't if I'm flying.' Hawke muttered.
'The favourites list.' Saint John realised. He banked as he made a course correction. 'So, you haven't said anything about me and Jo yet.'
Hawke's eyebrow quirked up at the abrupt change in subject. 'What do you want me to say?'
'I don't know.' Saint John admitted with a laugh. 'I just want to know you're OK with Jo becoming part of our family.'
'She already is.' Hawke said simply.
Saint John smiled appreciatively at him.
'So I guess it's serious.' Hawke commented.
'Yeah.' Saint John agreed. 'It's serious.'
Hawke nodded understandingly. 'I'm happy for you, Saint John.'
Saint John felt the sincere words to surround him like a warm blanket. He gestured at the lights in the distance. 'That should be Gilligan airfield.'
They both tensed as the distance was quickly eaten away.
Hawke frowned at the sight of the police cars surrounding one hangar. 'Something's happened.'
'Well, at least it's not deserted.' Saint John said as he angled the chopper to land a safe distance from the hullabaloo on the ground. They sat looking out at the scene for a long moment.
A battered old sign on the top of the hangar proclaimed the place as Herman's. The hangar was open, bright light spilling out onto the tarmac and competing with the blue and red strobes from the police vehicles parked out front with an equally old Ford car. Hawke could see police officers searching the area around the hangar; the sheriff was talking to an old man off to one side of the doorway and across the airstrip at another service another cop was talking with the pilots there.
'String.' Saint John nudged his arm and pointed to one of the cop cars. The back passenger doors were open and crouched in front of them was a woman officer trying to comfort a small child. 'Isn't that…?'
'Yeah. That's Sarah's kid.' Hawke opened his cockpit door and they jumped out. They made their way across to the hangar quickly and headed straight for their nephew.
They both turned at the yell to see the barrel-chested sheriff striding towards them. The brothers exchanged a quick look and by mutual agreement stopped.
'Who the hell are you and what are you doing traipsing across my crime scene?' The sheriff glared at them.
'I'm Saint John Hawke. This is my brother Stringfellow Hawke.' Saint John made the introductions as Hawke's eyes were glued to the kid. Saint John sighed and decided to get straight to the point. 'We're looking for our sister Sarah Hardy, Sheriff…' his eyes fell to the badge on the green jacket, 'Dulles.'
'Sarah, huh?' The sheriff took off his hat and mopped his brow and Saint John stiffened under his considering look. 'You don't much look like her.' He replaced his hat. 'But your brother's got the same look.'
'He takes after our mother.' Saint John commented wryly.
'What's going on?' Hawke asked brusquely his attention swinging suddenly back to the sheriff.
He shuffled nervously, feeling he was being weighed and found wanting by the ice blue gaze that pinned him. 'The kid called it in.' He blustered. 'Claims he saw his mother abducted by some man.'
Another look between the brothers, this time edged with fear and concern.
'Are you telling me our sister's been abducted?' Saint John asked furiously.
'Yeah.' Dulles placed his hat back on his head registering the shock on the two men. 'I guess that is what I'm telling ya. She's gone. There ain't no sign of her.'---
Caitlin heard the clatter of crockery in the kitchen as she carefully laid a blanket over her young son. She stroked Nicky's cheek and sighed. He was drifting into sleep. He looked so young and innocent. She wondered absently if her son would grow up to look like the young boy in the photo and if Sarah's son had looked like Nicky when he was a baby. She felt a wave of sympathy for the younger woman. She remembered all too well when Hawke had been in a coma having to contemplate having and raising her child alone; the idea had seemed unbearable. She couldn't imagine how Sarah had managed at sixteen; had managed for all the years in between. It was hard enough, Caitlin mused, with a supportive husband. Another clatter from the kitchen had her straightening with another sigh. She gave Nicky a soft kiss on the top of his head and made her way downstairs.
Jo was at the sink, up to her elbows in soapy water. She thrust another plate into the drainer and Caitlin winced at the noise. She stepped up and intercepted the next plate before it hit the drainer too.
Jo whirled around in surprise. 'Hey. You all done putting Nicky down?'
'I am,' Caitlin said in a low voice, 'which is why I'd appreciate it if you could hold off on banging the pots and pans.' She tried to keep her tone light but there was enough of an edge to bring a blush to Jo's cheeks.
'Sorry.' Jo turned back to the dishes from their shared dinner and continued in a more restrained manner.
Caitlin shrugged and picked up a towel. She started wiping the dishes dry and setting them on the side. 'So you want to talk about it?'
Jo paused and turned to look at the redhead. 'Didn't you want to go with them?'
'Of course I did.' Caitlin agreed.
'Then why didn't you say anything?' Jo asked exasperated.
'Because it's something they needed to do together, just the two of them.' Caitlin said simply.
Jo stopped and frowned at her. 'Why?'
'Well, for one thing, she's their sister and for another…' Caitlin sighed. 'It gives them the chance to bond as brothers again.'
'But they're already close.' Jo argued remembering to keep her voice pitched low. 'I don't know any siblings closer than Saint John and Hawke.'
'That might have been true when they were younger,' Caitlin allowed, 'but things have changed.' Her blue-green eyes sharpened at Jo's obvious surprise. 'Hasn't Saint John discussed any of this with you?'
'No.' Jo admitted. 'We haven't really had a conversation about him and Hawke since I found out he'd kept you guys secret.'
'Not even in the last week?' Caitlin checked.
Jo's cheeks reddened again. 'Well, we haven't done much talking this last week.'
Caitlin grinned at her. 'Way to go, Jo.'
Jo pulled a face and returned to washing the dishes. 'So what's going on with Saint John and Hawke?'
'They were apart for sixteen years, Jo.' Caitlin said gently. 'That's not easy to put them behind.'
'I'm not sure I understand.' Jo said as she placed a casserole pot softly into the drainer.
'You should ask Saint John.' Caitlin said stacking another plate on the side counter.
Jo accepted the suggestion and recognised the signal that Caitlin wouldn't discuss it further with her.
'So, you guys haven't done much talking, huh?' Caitlin said moving the conversation on as Jo emptied the sink and reached for a towel. 'I guess it's been good.' She waggled her eyebrows.
Jo reached for the coffee pot with a smile. 'It's been very good.'
'I'm pleased for you.' Caitlin said as she dried the last plate. 'For both of you.'
'Really?' Jo checked a little anxious.
'Of course.' Caitlin said. 'Why wouldn't I be?'
Jo shrugged. 'I guess I've been a little worried at how you and Hawke would be about the two of us getting together.'
'We couldn't be more pleased.' Caitlin said trying to reassure her. 'You're family, Jo.' She shook out the towel and laid it out to dry. 'I know we might not have always acted that way at times but it's the truth.' She crossed her arms as she rested back against the counter. 'I think we both feel it seems right making it official.' She saw the quick gleam of alarm in Jo's eyes before the other woman turned and concentrated on making coffee.
She waited until they were both sat on the sofa in front of the hearth with the fire blazing and mugs of the freshly made drink in their hands before she raised it again. 'You seemed a little anxious when I mentioned making it official back there.' She probed gently.
Jo wrapped her hands around the cream ceramic and gazed at the fire. 'I guess I am.' She confessed. 'It's all moving a little fast.'
'Saint John's serious about you.' Caitlin commented.
'Yeah and that's scary.' Jo softened the words with a quick smile. 'My previous relationships haven't exactly worked out and I'm not sure this will either if we're not really talking and confiding in each other.'
'Well, you guys have spent the better part of this year pulling away from each other because of you thinking he wasn't interested, and him thinking you were interested in Mike.' Caitlin pointed out. 'It's only been with admitting you both had feelings for each other that it's brought you closer again.' She gestured with the mug. 'Besides it takes time to develop emotional intimacy.'
'Was it like that for you and Hawke?' Jo asked curious tucking her legs beneath her.
'It was.' Caitlin admitted. 'We're both independent and it took both of us a while to realise we didn't need to handle things on our own anymore.'
'How did you make the shift?' Jo pressed.
'With a few bumps and bruises and a lot of hard work.' Caitlin said with a wry chuckle.
'That doesn't sound like fun.' Jo said.
Caitlin shrugged. 'It's worth the effort.' She took a sip of her drink. 'It still is hard work.' She mused out loud thinking back to the argument she and Hawke had gone through the week before. There had been a lot of hurt and angry words before they'd gotten through it but they had gotten through it and that's what counted. 'It just takes work and time.'
Jo sighed. 'I don't think Saint John wants to wait.'
The other woman regarded her with a serious expression. 'If Saint John's pushing you too fast you have to say something to him, Jo.'
'I'm not sure he is.' Jo said. 'It's just…sometimes I see this look in his eye and I swear I know he's planning out our future in his head; the marriage, the kids, and I want that too…'
'But you want to take part in the planning.' Caitlin said.
'Yes.' Jo gestured at her with her mug. 'Exactly. It's like he's got this preconceived image in his head about how it's going to be and I'm just not sure how much of it is because he wants to be with me and how much of it is because he wants that dream.'
'You need to talk to him.' Caitlin said gently.
'I know.' Jo admitted. 'I do love him.'
'He loves you too.' Caitlin said.
Jo nodded. It wasn't going to solve itself overnight but she felt better for the discussion. Caitlin and Hawke often looked so together, it had been reassuring for her to hear even they had to work at it. 'Thanks for inviting me over tonight.'
'No problem.' Caitlin said easily. 'It's nice to have the company. Nicky's great but he's not exactly talking yet.'
Jo grinned. 'I heard about your bet with Hawke.'
Caitlin nodded confidently. 'He's going to say mama before dada. I just know it.' She smiled across at Jo. 'And you and Saint John will work it out.'
'You know that too?'
'I'm a Mom.' Caitlin said breezily. 'I know everything.'---
'I want my Mom!'
The shout broke through the momentary silence between the sheriff and the Hawkes.
Hawke gestured back at the kid. 'You OK if we look after the boy.'
'Chris?' The sheriff nodded. 'Sure. I don't see why not.'
Saint John muttered a thanks; Hawke was already striding away.
The female officer stepped back at a nod from the sheriff and allowed Hawke to take her place in front of Chris. He crouched down. The boy looked back at him tearfully and his blue eyes widened in surprised recognition.
'You look like my Mom.' Chris said startled.
'I know.' Hawke said. 'That's because I'm her brother and so's this guy.' He jerked his thumb at Saint John.
'Really?' Chris said sceptically.
Saint John hunkered down. 'Your Mom ever talk about her family much?'
'Uh-huh.' Chris nodded. 'She said she lost her family when I was born and didn't know where they were so it's just me and her.'
Saint John felt his breath catch in his throat. 'Well, we've been looking for your Mom and for you.'
Hawke's blue eyes held his nephew's. 'You guys aren't alone anymore. Trust us.'
Chris nodded slowly seeing the truth in Hawke's steady and resolute gaze.
Hawke held out his arms and Chris flung himself across the small space into his uncle's embrace.
'I couldn't stop him!' He cried pitifully, his tears soaking into Hawke's cotton shirt.
Saint John stroked a hand over the young boy's head. 'It wasn't your fault, Chris.'
'But I should have done something.' Chris sniffled.
Hawke disentangled himself from Chris enough to look at him seriously. 'You want to tell us what happened?'
'I don't know.' Chris said tearfully. 'She told me the car was broke and she had to go for help but then I heard her knock on the car but someone was out there with her and they took her!'
Hawke and Saint John looked at each other.
Saint John patted Chris on the back gently. 'Let's start from the beginning. How about when you arrived at the air field today?'
'Mom brought me after dinner.' Chris said. 'She had a job. I stayed in the hangar and waited for her with Jethro Junior.' He bit his lip. 'I fell asleep.'
'But then your Mom came back.' Saint John surmised gently.
'I guess.' Chris said. 'When she woke me up I was in the car.'
'She woke you up.' Hawke repeated.
'She told me there was a problem with the car and she was going to Flybirds for help.' Chris wiped his nose with his hand. 'She told me to stay in the car and then she left.' His lip trembled. 'I was going back to sleep when I heard the thud against the car.' The tears started again. 'It was my Mom.'
Hawke pulled out a hanky and wiped Chris's tears away. 'What else did you see?'
'There was a man.' Chris said.
'Was he taller than your Mom?' Hawke asked.
Chris nodded. 'He was.'
'Can you remember what he was dressed in?' Hawke prompted.
'Just black.' Chris said. 'All black. He attacked her.'
'How?' Saint John asked gently. 'Did he hit her or push her?'
'He kinda pushed her and she fell on the ground.' Chris said. 'I could see her struggling and then she stopped and he carried her away.' The tears were streaming down his face but there was a stubborn look in his eyes that Hawke recognised; he saw it in the mirror all the time. 'I went for call the police but I had to break the window. Herman's mad about it.'
'I'm sure he'll understand.' Hawke said.
'They can't find my Mom. Chris burst into tears again.
Hawke pulled him into another hug.
Saint John motioned for him to stay with Chris while he drew the sheriff away who had been listening with interest.
'Thanks for that.' Dulles tipped his hat back. 'That's more than we've been able to get out of the boy since we arrived.'
'Which was when?' Saint John asked.
'About an hour or so.' Dulles said. 'One of the boys came out straight away, called us for back-up when he'd gotten the story from the boy.'
'Any vehicles seen leaving?' Saint John asked.
'You law enforcement?' Dulles asked.
'Not exactly.' Saint John admitted.
'Hmmph.' Dulles shook his head. 'No vehicles seen leaving. The boys over at Flybirds didn't hear or see anything either.' He sighed. 'We got search parties out.'
'You Sarah's brother?'
The raspy voice behind him had Saint John whirling. The old man who had been at the hangar doorway had crept up.
'Yeah. I'm her brother.' The words seemed new and awkward as he said them. He shook off the feeling. 'You're?'
'Herman Bent. Sarah works for me.' Herman drew himself up proudly. 'I'm real sorry about your sister. It's obviously some crazy…'
'Saint John.' Hawke stood up. 'A word?' He leaned down and squeezed Chris's shoulder. 'We'll be right back, I promise.'
Chris nodded, his eyes wide with apprehension.
Hawke gestured for his brother to step over to the side with him.
'What are you thinking?' Saint John asked.
'Someone comes out of nowhere and grabs her?' Hawke shook his head as he scanned the air-strip. 'Something doesn't feel right.'
'You think Sterling?'
'I don't know.' Hawke said. 'But I think we should call in some back-up.'
Saint John nodded. 'I'll stay with Chris. You make the call.'
Hawke agreed and they made their way back over to the openly curious locals. 'You got a phone I could use?'
Herman nodded. 'In the office. I'll show you.' He led the way inside and to the small cramped office at the back of the hangar next to the locker room.
Hawke's eyes took in the stack of invoices, aerial maps and flight plans left lying around on the two small desks and almost smiled. It reminded him how the Santini Air office had looked under Dom's management. He snagged the phone and looked pointedly at Herman who was lurking in the doorway.
'I…uh…I'll give you some privacy then.' Herman said backing out.
Hawke figured he'd taken a step away out of sight but he settled for it. He dialled the number to connect him to the satellite phone at his cabin.
Caitlin's Texan drawl eased the rising tension in his gut. 'Hey.'
'Hey. How's it going?' Caitlin asked.
'Badly.' Hawke said. 'We landed in the middle of a situation. Apparently some guy grabbed Sarah about an hour or so ago.'
'You think it was Sterling or the Cordelli's?' Caitlin asked worriedly.
'I don't know but we think we need some back-up. Can you let Michael know and bring the Lady?'
'We're on our way.' Caitlin said.
'Cait?' Hawke stopped her before she hung up.
'What?' Caitlin prompted.
'I love you.' Hawke said.
'I love you too.' Caitlin said. 'I'll be there as soon as I can. Bye.'
'Bye.' Hawke heard the dull tone of the dead line and replaced the receiver in its cradle. He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He walked back out surprising Herman who as he'd expected had been ear-wigging at the door. He ignored him and continued on out of the hangar. He glanced over at the patrol car where Saint John was sat with Chris curled up in his arms and ignored them to speak with the sheriff.
'Dulles.' Hawke jerked his head. 'Can I have a moment?'
'What's up, son?' Dulles asked.
Hawke sighed. 'This may not be an ordinary abduction.'
'Now why would you say that?' Dulles asked his brown eyes brightening with interest.
'The rest of our family were in witness protection when Sarah got separated from them. We think it's likely that the people who were after them have maybe found her.' Hawke explained.
'I see.' Dulles sighed. 'Well, I'll inform my boys but this is a bit out of our league to tell you the truth.'
Hawke recognised the offer in the oblique statement. 'You'd be OK if we stepped in and ran the search?'
'Your brother said you weren't law enforcement.' Dulles said with surprise.
Hawke drew out the new id card Michael had issued him with and showed it to Dulles.
'Department of Defence, huh?' Dulles sighed and handed the card back to him. 'Well, we'd sure appreciate the help.'
Hawke nodded. 'I have a specialist aircraft on the way to assist with the search. In the meantime, my brother will want to talk with everyone at the airfield. Redo all the interviews you've done to date.'
'I've no problem with that.' Dulles said. 'I'll get one of my boys to accompany him so it's all official.'
'Thanks.' Hawke said. He headed back to Saint John and briefly updated him.
Saint John frowned. 'Why do I have to interview them?'
'You're better with people than me.' Hawke pointed out. 'I'll stay with Chris.'
The brothers exchanged places and Hawke watched as Saint John headed off with the female deputy.
'Are you really going to find my Mom?' Chris asked.
'Yeah.' Hawke held his nephew's eyes firmly. 'We're going to find your Mom.'
'You promise?' Chris asked plaintively.
Hawke pulled him in for a hug. 'Yeah, I promise, kid.' It was a promise he fervently hoped he could keep.---
Airwolf caused a stir but then she always did. The locals had also been taken aback by the sight of the team of agents working for Michael who had descended on the place within thirty minutes of Hawke calling for back-up. Saint John was ostensibly driving the search on the ground coordinating the agents, the local law enforcement and half the town of Gilly Pass that seemed to have turned up to help. They were using Herman's as a base. Hawke had stayed close to Chris, who'd cried himself to sleep on the sofa in the small staff locker room, and waited for Airwolf.
The sight of the original black helicopter descending in front of Herman's hangar made Hawke automatically feel a hundred times better. The sight of his wife climbing out of the commander's seat made him feel a hundred times better than that. He ducked under the rotors and hugged her.
'Do I get one of those?' Mike asked cheekily from the other side of the nose.
Hawke shot him a warning look.
Mike held up his hands in surrender even as Jo slapped him.
Hawke was relieved to see Michael climb out behind Mike. 'Michael.'
'Any news?' Michael asked.
'Nothing.' Hawke said. 'Saint John's got everyone doing a standard search pattern out from the hangar but we both think this guy is long gone.' He gestured at Airwolf. 'I want to take her up and scan the area.'
'Good idea.' Michael brushed his moustache with a finger. 'I'll head indoors and help your brother set up the rest of the operation.'
'I'll go help Saint John too.' Jo said gesturing at the hangar. She tried to keep her unhappiness at the fact that he hadn't come out to greet her like Hawke had done with Caitlin from her expression and voice.
'He'll be pleased to see you.'
Hawke's gentle comment brought a flush to her cheeks as she realised she probably hadn't been as successful as she'd thought.
'I guess we're flying then.' Mike said throwing Hawke a uniform across the helicopter.
Hawke caught it with one arm. He kissed Caitlin. 'Set her up. I'll be right back.'
He showed Jo and Michael into the hangar before he quickly changed in the locker room.
'Are you going to find my Mom?' Chris's sleepy voice stopped him at the doorway and he made his way back to the sofa.
Hawke knelt down by the boy. 'I'm going to go try.' He ruffled Chris's hair. 'Get some sleep. I'll be back soon.'
Chris closed his eyes and Hawke rubbed at the ache in his chest. He stepped away and walked hurriedly back to Airwolf. He climbed into the vacant command seat and glanced over at Mike who was settled into the counter-measure specialist seat. A quick look behind him reassured him more; Caitlin sat in the engineer's console, her fingers flying nimbly over the keyboard. He could see from his monitor that she was having a conversation with Airwolf.
He pulled on the helmet and started up the engines. As soon as Caitlin confirmed the systems were good, Airwolf rose up into the night sky.
'Full set of scans.' Hawke ordered.
'Scanning.' Caitlin confirmed.
'So what's the story?' Mike asked his voice devoid of its usual humour as he focused on his monitor where the results of the scans were being transmitted.
'She was working late. We think she came back OK from her flight, locked up and put Chris in the car. Chris says she woke him up to tell him there was some problem with the car and she was going for help at Flybirds.'
'The service across the road from Herman's.' Mike noted.
Hawke was inwardly impressed at Mike's observant nature. 'Yeah.' He sighed. 'Chris woke up to see a man attacking his mother by the car.'
Caitlin frowned. 'You mean he fell back asleep?'
'I guess.' Hawke said glancing behind him. 'What are you thinking?'
'Well, if he fell asleep after she told him she was going for help, then there must have been some time between her going for help and going back to the car where she go attacked.' Caitlin said logically.
'Saint John had them bring all the pilots from Flybirds come to the hangar to be interviewed again. They say she never asked them for help. They're claiming they never saw her.' Hawke replied.
'You think they did.' Mike stated.
'I think they're lying about something.' Hawke muttered. 'I just don't know what.' He frowned at the monitor. 'Cait, are we getting anything back there?'
'We'll need to go through the data back on the ground frame by frame for analysis.' Caitlin said. 'There's nothing suspicious so far.'
The incoming communication signal sounded in the cockpit.
Mike hit the button to connect them and they found themselves staring at a picture of Michael. Somewhere in the short space of time that had passed, he'd changed out of his Airwolf uniform and into his usual all-white three piece suit.
'Michael, we're a little busy…' Hawke began.
'You need to come back.' Michael said firmly.
Hawke's eyes snapped to the video monitor. 'Why?'
'The DEA just turned up.' Michael explained. 'We have a situation.'
'On our way.' Hawke let Mike disconnect the call while he concentrated on taking Airwolf back down.
They all noticed the black sedans as they made their way into the hangar. Herman pointed them at the office silently. Hawke marched in without knocking interrupting the heated debate that was already in progress.
'We're not interrupting are we?' Mike said with mock innocence as he shut the door behind them.
Michael sighed. 'Agent DeMarco, this is Stringfellow Hawke, Mike Rivers and Caitlin.' He waved at the dark haired agent and his burly partner. 'This is Agent De Marco and his partner Agent Sander.'
'What's going on?' Hawke asked bluntly.
'It seems we've disturbed one of the DEA's ongoing investigations.' Michael said sitting down on the edge of the desk.
Saint John gestured from his position leaning up against the far wall by the boarded over broken window. 'They've had Flybirds under surveillance.'
Jo laid her hand on his shoulder comfortingly.
'Your presence here just ruined months of work.' Sander blustered, his bulbous nose turning red.
'Our sister is missing.' Saint John said straightening as Hawke stiffened at the agent's tone.
'So is one of our agents.' DeMarco said. His manner was calmer than his partner's, more assured.
There was a moment of stunned silence.
'When did you lose contact?' Caitlin asked folding her arms as she levelled a no-nonsense stare at them.
'About the time the girl went missing.' DeMarco admitted.
'Maybe Sarah saw something.' Mike suggested.
'Maybe.' Hawke said rubbing his chin. 'We know those Flybirds boys were lying about something.'
Saint John conceded the point with a tilt of his head.
'OK, so there's no problem you turning jurisdiction over to us then, is there?' Sander said challengingly.
Saint John bristled but Hawke gave a sharp shake of his head indicating that he should let Michael respond.
'I think you'll find we have jurisdiction,' Michael's smile was feral, 'but we're more than happy to work together to achieve a successful outcome for both parties.' He concluded smoothly.
Sander puffed out his chest. 'Why don't we take this upstairs and let the big bosses decide?'
Michael raised an eyebrow at the agent. 'Of course. I'm sure the President will be only too happy to take time out of his schedule to explain to the Director of the DEA why one of his agents should be fired for interfering with my operation.'
Sander's nose went purple.
DeMarco grabbed Sander's arm. 'Working together sounds good.'
'Good.' Michael said. 'Let's start with a full explanation of what the DEA was doing.'
'We've suspected Flybirds has been smuggling drugs into the country for some time.' DeMarco said. 'About three months ago we assigned Agent Jody Willis to work undercover with Flybirds and gather evidence.'
'On his own without back-up?' Saint John queried.
'Loners drift into Gilly Pass all the time.' DeMarco said. 'A couple would have seemed out of place. There was a system of regular checks put in place and he had an emergency number he could have dialled any time for a retrieval team.'
'Three months is a long time to be undercover without finding enough evidence.' Mike noted. 'Are you sure these guys are drug smuggling?'
'We're sure.' Sander replied forcefully. 'And Willis did his best but they didn't trust him straight off. He was assigned the legal stuff, the stuff that helps maintain their image as a legitimate operation.'
'Two days ago we got a call from Willis confirming that they were finally letting him do one of the Mexico runs as a co-pilot.' DeMarco sighed and crossed his arms. He suddenly looked tired. 'Yesterday it came to our attention that the FBI was sniffing around the town.'
'They weren't informed of this operation?' Michael asked.
'No.' DeMarco said.
'Wow. You really know how to make friends, don't you guys?' Mike said leaning back on the door.
'It must have spooked them.' Caitlin thought out loud. 'Bad timing for your guy. Feds sniffing around just when they let him in on the secret…' She sighed. 'His cover got blown.'
'Maybe.' DeMarco agreed.
'No maybe about it.' Hawke said. He winked at Caitlin. 'She's very good at what she does.'
Caitlin gave a small smile. She gestured. 'You said your guy had them under surveillance. I'm guessing he had a camera or a wire?'
'You are good.' DeMarco allowed. 'He had both. He didn't want to wear the wire last night.'
'What about the camera?' Caitlin asked.
'He told me he hid it in the cockpit of the helicopter they used.' Sander admitted.
'We need that tape.' Hawke said. 'If it was recording…'
'It might have picked up on everything we need to know.' Caitlin agreed.
'One problem.' DeMarco said. 'If we walk over there and get the camera, then we're revealing the surveillance and if that camera didn't pick up a drugs run then we have no evidence and they'll walk.'
'Safety of a civilian comes first.' Michael interjected. 'That film may have valuable information about Sarah Hardy's whereabouts.'
'If your man got made last night,' Saint John added, 'it's all over anyway.'
'How do you want to do this?' DeMarco asked.
Hawke was about to reply when there was a furious knock on the office door. Mike spun around and snagged it open.
Dulles jerked his thumb back out towards the airstrip. 'Thought you federal boys might want to know Flybirds just took off.'---
'They what?' Sander shouted angrily.
'When?' Hawke asked sharply.
'Five minutes ago.' Dulles said wiping his brow. 'We tried to stop them with the cars but they got the damn plane in the air anyway.'
'Damn!' DeMarco said. 'We've lost them.'
'Not yet.' Hawke snapped back. He looked at Michael. 'I'm going after them. They might know where my sister is.'
'I wouldn't expect you to do anything else.' Michael said with a sigh.
'I'm coming with you.' Saint John said firmly.
'Jo, why don't you go with the guys and take the engineer's seat?' Caitlin said hurriedly.
Hawke looked over at her inquisitively.
'I want to check a few things out.' Caitlin said. She turned to Jo. 'Can you get Airwolf to transmit all the scans to Red Star? I want to liaise with them over the results.'
'Sure.' Jo nodded.
'You OK being grounded?' Hawke asked Mike.
Mike's surprise at Hawke's question showed momentarily on his face but he nodded understandingly. 'I'll back-up Caitlin.'
Hawke nodded in relief. 'OK.' He gestured at Jo and Saint John. 'Let's go then.'
'Michael,' Caitlin gestured at the spy, 'could you call Red Star and get them to fax the pictures of the scans straight here.'
'On it.' Michael said leaving the office.
'What do you want us to do?' DeMarco asked.
'We're letting the chick tell us what to do now?' Sander complained.
'Hey! Have some respect, buddy.' Mike took a step forward.
Caitlin grabbed his arm. She looked at DeMarco. 'You said they used a helicopter not a plane for the trip to Mexico, right?'
'Right.' DeMarco agreed.
'Then the likelihood is that it's sat across the airstrip abandoned.' Caitlin pointed out.
'We can get the tape.' DeMarco said excitedly.
'Let's go.' Sander agreed.
'Go with them.' Caitlin said to Mike.
Mike nodded and the men left the office.
She turned and headed back out to the front of the hangar. She ignored the milling agents, cops and townspeople and focused on Sarah's car. She caught sight of the flashlight Sarah had left propped up on the engine and switched it on searching for the reason why the car had broken down. She frowned. There didn't appear to be anything wrong. She headed round to the passenger side which was unlocked and reached over to unlock the driver's door. She headed back around without closing the door and ignored the curious stares of everyone else as she got in the car. She tried the engine. Nothing. She sighed. Her eyes ran over the dashboard and snagged on the light switch. It was on full. She looked up and out of the windshield. No lights. Battery, she mused; the battery was dead. Sarah had gone over to Flybirds to get a jump start.
'What are you doing in my Mom's car?'
Caitlin's head snapped round to the open passenger door where Chris was stood looking in on her with an unhappy frown. 'You must be Chris.'
'I'm your Auntie Caitlin.' She said.
He stared at her doubtfully.
'I'm married to your Uncle String.' She explained.
A look of comprehension drifted across his face. 'He's gone to find my Mom.'
'I know.' She patted the passenger seat. 'Come and sit with me.'
He climbed back into the car.
'So, your uncle was telling me what a brave guy you've been and how helpful.' Caitlin began softly. 'Your Mom's going to be so proud of you.'
'You think so?' Chris asked.
'I know so.' She tapped his chest lightly with one finger. 'She's going to be very proud of you.' She was pleased when her words raised a small smile on Chris's face. 'Could you answer a couple more questions for me?'
'Sure.' Chris agreed readily.
'Do you remember if your Mom leave the lights on when you got out of the car after you arrived here?' Caitlin asked.
'She didn't.' Chris denied.
'Are you sure?' Caitlin asked.
Chris nodded enthusiastically. 'It wasn't dark.'
'OK.' Caitlin bit her lip. 'Now this question's going to be difficult so I want you to be brave again.'
Chris nodded again.
'Can you remember which direction the man came from?' Caitlin asked gently.
He pointed to the front of the car.
Caitlin frowned. It was in the opposite direction from Flybirds.
'Did I do something wrong?'
'Oh no, sweetie.' Caitlin hurried to reassure him. 'You did great.' She smiled at him.
'My Mom calls me that.' Chris said.
'Sweetie?' Caitlin checked. 'Well, that's because you are.' She saw him shiver and tucked the blanket around him. 'Come on. Let's get you inside.'
She bundled Chris up and walked him into the hangar.
Michael greeted her. 'The pictures from Red Star have just started to arrive.' He pointed at a work-table which had been cleared and was being used by the agents to coordinate the search.
'Great.' Caitlin said.
'Can I help?' Chris asked.
'Absolutely.' She agreed.
'We got it!' The excited yell behind her had them all turning to see Mike and the two DEA agents running in.
Mike held up the camera. 'One tape.'
'Good. Why don't you guys set up the video while I get Chris organised.' Caitlin said. She spent a few minutes showing Chris the pictures and how to work out if there were a lot of people or not from the heat signatures. She told him to put aside any where there were just one or two people before she joined the guys in the office to look at the video evidence. 'What have we got?'
'Well, we have what we need to put the Flybirds boys away for a long time.' DeMarco said motioning at the screen. 'They're just about to land back here.'
They watched in silence as the helicopter landed. They could see the pilots exit and walk round to stand at the front by the nose.
'That's Agent Willis.' Sander said tapping the screen.
The action moved on as Willis and his co-pilot were approached by two others. An argument ensued and they all watched horrified as one of the men pulled a gun and shot the DEA agent.
'Goddammit!' Sander said as the tape played out and they watched them move the body.
'Rewind the tape.' Caitlin ordered.
'I don't think we need to watch that again.' Sander said heatedly. 'One of our men just died.'
Caitlin ignored him and rewound the tape herself. 'Look. Watch as they come into land.' She paused the tape.
'The camera catches Sarah.' Mike realised.
'Getting into her car.' Caitlin confirmed. 'Now keep watching.' She stopped the tape again. 'Here.'
'She saw it.' Mike realised seeing the vague image in the darkness caught on the periphery of the camera angle. 'She saw the shooting.'
'And she runs.' Caitlin said.
Mike frowned. 'But they all seem to ignore her. I mean I don't see anyone running after her.'
'Maybe they ran behind the camera out of shot.' DeMarco said leaning back against the desk.
'Maybe.' Caitlin murmured.
'Well, you gentlemen seem to have enough evidence here to convict the Flybirds staff.' Michael said. 'You have our condolences on the loss of your man.'
'Thank you.' DeMarco said rubbing the back of his neck. 'Let's hope your guys catch up with them.'
'Oh, they'll catch up with them.' Caitlin said with confidence.
'The Flybirds' pilots are the only people who know what they did with Sarah.' Mike added gesturing at the monitor.
'You really think she's still alive?' Sander said derisively.
'She's a Hawke.' Michael said simply.
Caitlin smiled appreciatively at the spy.
'We need to make some calls.' DeMarco muttered.
Michael gestured. 'Use the office. We'll wait outside.'
The three of them left the DEA agents to it and wandered back into the brightly lit hangar.
'Now what?' Mike said as they stopped after taking a couple of steps.
'We wait for Hawke.' Michael replied.
'Or not.' Caitlin said her brow creasing. 'I'm going to check on the pictures.'
'You can't still think they'll be useful.' Mike said as he followed her.
'You never know.' Caitlin murmured. She smiled at Chris who was stood with a blonde haired woman. Caitlin looked questioningly at her.
'Hi, I'm Lou.' Lou gestured with the flask. 'Coffee?'
'Thanks that would be great.' Mike said, flashing a smile at her.
Caitlin rubbed Chris's shoulder. 'So what have you got?'
'Most of them have lots of people,' Chris said, 'but there's this one.' He pulled out a picture and showed it to her.
Caitlin regarded it with a frown, hardly noticing Lou come to stand behind her shoulder.
'Well, I'll be.' Lou exclaimed.
'You recognise this place?' Caitlin asked turning to look at her.
'Sure. It's Deputy Watson's place up by Snail Creek.' Lou replied. 'I just can't believe the boy found himself some company.'
'He lives alone?' Caitlin asked noting the picture clearly showed two heat signatures.
'Yeah, honey, he lives alone.' Lou shook her head. 'I always thought he was a little sweet on Sarah to tell you the truth.'
'Sarah?' Caitlin checked.
'Yeah. Yesterday, I could have sworn he was going to ask her to the town picnic today seeing as he's got leave.' Lou said.
'Did he?' Caitlin asked.
'Nah.' Lou grinned. 'Chickened out 'cause this one arrived.' She ruffled Chris's hair. She moved on and Caitlin was left standing gazing at the picture thoughtfully.
'Why don't you keep looking through the pictures, Chris? I'm going to go check something out.' Caitlin said. She put the photo back down and picked up a copy of the local map.
Mike put his mug of coffee down and followed her across the hangar. 'Where are you going?'
'I'm going to go check on Deputy Watson.' Caitlin admitted.
'You think he had something to do with this?' Mike said sceptically.
'I don't know.' Caitlin said. 'But something doesn't add up right.'
'I'll come with you.' Mike offered snagging the map from her hand.
'I'm coming with you.' Mike rephrased. He grinned. 'Your husband would shoot me if I let you go wandering off into the Colorado wilderness alone.'
'Well, that's true.' Caitlin said with a smile. 'Come on. Let's tell Michael where we're going and commandeer a police car.'---
It hadn't taken Airwolf long to catch up with the Flybirds plane. It took them slightly longer to convince them that returning to Gilligan airfield was the best option open to them. Hawke had gotten impatient with Saint John trying to talk them down and had blown up an abandoned building. It had made their point. The plane had turned back for Gilligan. They watched as it had landed on the airstrip below and was immediately surrounded by Michael's agents.
Hawke landed Airwolf and marched out towards the four men who were lined up on their knees outside the plane. Michael was holding a gun on them, along with the DEA agents. Hawke didn't wait. He grabbed the first guy and slammed him against the plane. Sander went to stop him and found Saint John in his face.
'You're going to tell me where my sister is.' Hawke said in a quiet expressionless voice.
The guy swallowed hard. 'We don't know. We never saw her. That's the honest truth.'
'She saw you shoot a man.' Michael said contradicting them. 'We have you on tape.'
All the men seemed surprised.
'She did?' The guy Hawke was holding shook his head. 'We didn't see her. We didn't even know anyone was on the other side of the strip until we saw the cop car arrive.'
'Check the plane.' Hawke said.
Saint John climbed into the plane and emerged a few minutes later. 'There's a body in the back.'
Hawke's eyes widened and met his brother's fearfully.
Saint John's hand landed on his shoulder. 'It's Agent Willis. There's no-one else back there.'
'I'm telling you, man.' The guy who Hawke continued to hold pleaded with them. 'That girl going missing? It wasn't us.'
'He's telling the truth.' Another of them said.
Hawke released the guy he held and stepped back. He scowled at Sander. 'They're all yours.'
'You're letting them take them?' Jo asked surprised as the DEA agents led the men away leaving Hawke stood by the plane with Michael and his brother.
'I don't think they know anything.' Hawke admitted. He rubbed his hand over his face. The long night was beginning to take its toll. 'We're missing something.'
'That's what Caitlin said.' Michael sighed.
Hawke looked around and realised for the first time she wasn't present. 'Where is Caitlin?'
'One of the pictures picked up on a couple of heat signatures in a remote location. She went to check it out.' Michael explained adjusting his glasses.
'On her own?' Hawke asked incredulous.
'No.' Michael denied feeling a tad defensive under Hawke's accusing stare. 'Mike went with her.'
'What were the coordinates?' Hawke asked brusquely.
'Mike can back-up just fine, String.' Saint John said exasperated.
Hawke ignored him focusing on Michael. 'Get me the coordinates.' He was already starting to walk back to Airwolf.
'You don't need to go checking up on him.' Saint John said following him; Jo following them both.
Hawke opened Airwolf's door and turned to his brother. 'This has nothing to do with Mike.'
'Oh really?' Saint John said sceptically.
'Saint John, Cait has a nose for trouble and she has good instincts about this type of thing.' Hawke waved at the melee around them. 'If she came to the same conclusion that we were missing something and decided this was worth checking out…'
'Then it's really worth checking out.' Jo concluded.
'What are we waiting for?' Saint John asked. 'Let's go.'---
Caitlin parked the car some distance away from Watson's cabin. She decided if Watson had abducted Sarah then driving up would give him too much notice and Mike was happy enough to follow her lead. They walked up to the cabin in silence with their plan of approach already worked out. The gradually lightening sky made the path easier. Just before the road widened out into the cabin clearing, Caitlin went left and Mike went right. Their weapons were drawn and in their hands.
She went around the back while Mike covered her from the dense undergrowth at the side of the house. She peeked into the window and her eyes widened; lying on the double bed in the centre of the room was a young woman. Caitlin couldn't make out her face but her hair was the same colour as Hawke's and she was tied up. Watson entered the bedroom and Caitlin ducked down. She strained to hear the conversation.
'What do you want with me?' Sarah was asking.
Caitlin closed her eyes at how scared the young woman sounded.
'I just want to spend time with you, Sarah.' Watson's voice drifted through the simple wooden structure.
Caitlin slowly rose to look through the window again.
Watson was sat on the bed caressing Sarah's hair. Caitlin shuddered to see him and the way Sarah was flinching away from his touch.
'They're all out looking for you.' Watson said. 'But they'll never find you. You're mine now.' His hand reached for her jeans. Sarah started to struggle.
Outside, Caitlin paled. If she didn't do something, she was going to end up watching and listening to Sarah getting raped. She could already hear Sarah's frightened cries through the wall. They needed a distraction. She ran back around the house and fired a shot at Watson's car taking out one of the back tyres. She took position next to the cabin door and when Watson raced out, she sneaked into the cabin behind his back. She ran to the bedroom.
Sarah's blue eyes widened at the sight of her. Caitlin quickly pushed past her shock at how alike Sarah and Hawke were to reach for Sarah's bonds. She tried hard to ignore the fact that Sarah's jeans were partially open.
'Who are you?' Sarah asked.
'Explanations later. Escape now.' Caitlin said as she got Sarah free who immediately did up her jeans with trembling hands. Caitlin crossed the room and opened the bedroom wide. She gestured for Sarah and the other woman jumped out. Caitlin was halfway out when Watson charged back in.
'Hey!' He yelled.
Caitlin aimed and shot at him.
Watson dived out of the way and Caitlin dropped the rest of the way out of the window. She grabbed Sarah and started to run toward the undergrowth.
A shot rang out and hit the dirt by their feet. They both dropped to the ground.
'Stop!' Watson shouted. 'Or I will shoot you.'
Caitlin whirled, rising to her knees and shot at him getting out of the window. She pushed Sarah to get going and they raced again for the tree line. Watson was hard on their heels. He shot again. The bullet flew past to shatter a tree branch nearby. Sarah stumbled on a rock and fell. Caitlin went back to help her and came to an abrupt halt as a bullet hit the ground in front of her.
Watson smiled snidely. 'Stop right there. Drop the gun.' He jerked the shotgun at her and she slowly lowered the gun to the ground. She was hoping that somewhere in the foliage was Mike backing her up.
Watson's brown eyes raked over her. 'Well, aren't you a live one.' He smiled. 'It's a shame but I don't have time for you and I've been waiting on Sarah a while now.' He raised the shotgun. 'Time to say bye-bye.'
'No!' Sarah yelled. She kicked out with her legs catching Watson's, sending him off balance.
The gun fired.
Caitlin was already half-way to the ground when she felt Mike hit her from the side, sending her the rest of the way. She grabbed her gun and fired at Watson; he jerked and fell backwards.
'Mike?' Caitlin turned him over to find him clutching his left arm with his other hand. She pried his fingers away.
'Is he OK?' Sarah asked crawling over to them.
'It's just a graze.' Caitlin said with relief.
'Just.' Mike exclaimed. His eyes met hers and she was pleased to see them twinkling irrepressively. 'You know Saint John's plans always involve me getting shot too.'
The distinctive howl of engines filled the air.
'What is that?' Sarah commented looking up. Caitlin and Mike exchanged a wry look.
'Come on.' Caitlin said as she and Sarah helped Mike to his feet.
Airwolf descended into the clearing and landed by them. The doors opened and her crew spilled out.
'You OK?' Hawke asked sliding an arm around Caitlin.
'I'm OK.' Caitlin said hugging him back. 'Mike saved my life.'
Hawke's blue eyes smiled gratefully at the blonde-haired man. 'Thanks.'
Mike shrugged and winced. 'Any time.'
Saint John nudged his brother. 'Didn't I tell you he was good at what he does?'
Hawke didn't reply. His eyes were pinned to the woman standing beside Mike and he gently let go of his wife. Caitlin reached over and pulled Mike away; they moved back to stand by Airwolf next to Jo leaving the two brothers opposite Sarah.
Sarah's eyes widened as they travelled over the two men, her mind making the connection to a photo of two young boys. 'Oh my God. You're dead!'
Saint John swallowed hard against the sudden press of tears. 'No. They lied to Mom and Dad.'
'We've been looking for you.' Hawke said quietly, his voice rough with emotion.
'We're really here and we're really your brothers.' Saint John added. 'You're not alone anymore.'
The tears welled in Sarah's eyes and she took a tentative step forward. A moment later, she was in her brothers' arms as hers wrapped tightly around them.---
The waiting room of the small medical centre on the edge of Gilly Pass was filled with the Airwolf team as they awaited news of Sarah and Mike. Hawke and Caitlin took up one sofa; Chris was curled up asleep between them. Saint John and Jo had taken the other. The door opened and they all looked up expectantly.
Michael made an apologetic smile. 'Sorry. It's only me.' He kept his voice low, not wanting to disturb Chris.
Hawke waved him in and Michael took the only available seat; an uncomfortable plastic chair.
Michael watched as Caitlin gently stroked Chris's head and reached forward to touch her arm. 'I talked to Marella; she said to tell you Nicky's fine.'
She smiled gratefully at him. 'I think he's going to grow up to look just like this little man.'
'There's quite a resemblance.' Saint John noted his hazel eyes looking over at Hawke with rueful amusement.
Hawke shrugged. 'Maybe our other brother looks more like Dad.'
Saint John smiled hearing the unspoken reassurance; Hawke and Sarah might take after their mother but Saint John had taken after their father and so might their other sibling. 'We'll have to ask Sarah.'
'How is she?' Michael asked.
'Shook up mainly.' Caitlin said. 'The doctors just wanted to check her out.'
'She was very lucky.' Michael murmured, keeping an eye on Chris for any sign the boy was waking up. 'The FBI forensics team think they've uncovered a grave site behind the cabin. They think Watson's been abducting and murdering young women for a while.'
'Wouldn't someone have noticed?' Jo queried.
Caitlin shook her head. 'Not necessarily in a place like this. I remember a similar town on my patch back when I was a cop. It got a lot of drifters coming in and out. It was always difficult when someone went missing to determine if they'd gone missing or had just moved on.'
'She's right.' Michael said pushing his glasses up his nose. 'The agent in charge noted that these types of towns are great feeding zones for serial killers.'
'And Watson was in a perfect situation; most young women would have trusted a cop.' Caitlin added. She shivered and Hawke brushed his hand across her cheek gently.
'Well, he's out of business, thanks to you.' Hawke murmured.
'How did you work it out?' Jo asked curious.
'It was Sarah's car.' Caitlin said with a sigh. 'When I realised Sarah hadn't left the lights on herself, it just seemed to me that someone must have deliberately done it to drain her battery and I couldn't reconcile that with an unplanned attack from the Flybirds guys in retaliation for her seeing the shooting.'
'Well, thank God you did work it.' Saint John said. He'd been present when Caitlin had given her statement to the FBI agent. It sounded like it had been a close call.
'Sarah's very lucky Watson wanted her conscious.' Caitlin admitted. Her mind flashed back to her own near misses from rape and she shuddered again. Hawke's hand slid into hers and she squeezed his fingers gently in gratitude for the small comfort.
'All in all, it's not been a bad night's work.' Michael said stretching his legs out. 'The FBI will get the kudos of stopping a serial killer; the DEA gets a successful conclusion to their drug smuggling op despite the loss of Agent Willis and you guys have your sister.'
'And the Airwolf project gets none of the credit.' Jo remarked.
'Only in public.' Michael assured her, his good eye twinkling. 'We're getting the credit where it matters.'
'Bob's pleased, I take it.' Hawke commented wryly.
'Ecstatic.' Michael confirmed. 'He's said the President is happy we're proving our value so early.' He smiled. 'We should have our pick of missions.'
Michael had missed all the spy stuff, Hawke realised seeing his friend's evident satisfaction, the barely concealed pleasure at the political back and forth. He shook his head as the door opened again and Mike entered.
The young pilot glanced around the packed room and wondered where to sit.
Hawke guessed at his hesitation and gently picked up Chris. He shuffled along the sofa to sit closer to Caitlin settling the still sleeping boy he held in his arms. Mike smiled gratefully and eased gently into the space available.
'How's your arm?' Saint John asked.
'Sore.' Mike admitted. 'But they say I'm good to go.'
'Good,' Hawke said wryly, 'because you're going to have test out Airwolf's turbos while I take a couple of days.'
'The new ship?' Mike asked excitedly.
'The old ship.' Hawke corrected. 'The turbos need realigning again. You can feel the drag when they fire.'
'Right.' Mike sighed. He hadn't felt any drag. He guessed he still had a lot to learn. He met Hawke's eyes mischievously. 'You know, when I'm injured, it always helps me feel better if I can…'
'You're not eating candy in our cockpit.' Hawke said firmly. He ignored the knowing look Saint John shot him.
Mike's eyes widened at the pronoun Hawke had used and he rested against the cushions tired but happy. He might not be able to eat candy but he'd settle for the acceptance, he thought.
The door opened for a third time and they all got to their feet as Sarah entered. Hawke gently roused Chris. He looked at Hawke disorientated for a moment before Hawke pointed at the doorway. Chris shot across the room and into his mother's arms.
Sarah crouched down to hug him to her closely. 'I'm OK, sweetie.' She cupped his chin and held his eyes proudly. 'Caitlin says you helped to find me.'
'I'm so proud of you.' Sarah said hugging him again.
'I love you, Mom.'
'I love you too, sweetie.' She gave him another squeeze before her attention focused again on the waiting group. 'I don't know how to thank you guys.'
'You don't need to thank us,' Caitlin said, when the guys remained silent, 'you're family.'
The younger woman smiled a little nervously.
Hawke wrapped an arm around his wife and looked over at his sister. 'You ready to come home?'
Sarah considered the hope in Hawke's eyes that he couldn't quite hide; the same eyes that looked back at her each morning in the mirror; the same eyes as her son. There was no denying they were family. Her gaze drifted to Saint John and she felt her heart skip a beat; he looked so like their father.
A strange feeling stole over her. She felt safe, she realised, for the first time in years there was no itch nagging at her. She looked down at her son who looked up at her trustingly before she looked back at her brothers. 'Yeah,' she said softly, 'we're ready. Let's go home.'