Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law. These aren't my characters. Based on characters and situations from The Master, The A-Team, and Cover Up. I've borrowed them for, um, er, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. I will return them to their original copyright holders relatively unharmed (or at least suitably bandaged). This story was originally published in the fanzine End of the Rainbow #3, published by Neon Rainbow Press. Chapter 3 of the Bongiovanni Chronicles, and a sequel to "Alien Sushi" and "Silver and Gold."
Susan M. M.
A-Team/T he M aster/ Cover Up
(Chapter 3 of the Bongiovanni Chronicles)
John Peter McAllister lay on his side on a motel bed . The white-haired WWII veteran was currently serving as a rodent obstacle course. Henry, a brown and white hamster, was running up and down his arm.
Max Keller, Henry's owner and McAllister's pupil, was on the floor between the two beds. The curly-haired young man was doing push-ups. "Sixty-four, sixty-five."
"In Japanese," McAllister reminded him.
McAllister had spent most of his adult life in Japan. He'd gone there with the Army Air Corps … and stayed. He'd always been fascinated by the legends of the ninja – the semi-mystical sect of warrior-assassins who could allegedly walk up walls, disappear into shadows, defeat a superior number of foes with esoteric weapons, even sneak into an enemy fortress, slit the commander's throat, sabotage the armory, and sneak out without disturbing a single sentry.
For two years after the war, McAllister had worked on improving his Japanese. He'd studied karate, judo, swordsmanship, and gymnastics. Now and again, he'd let a discreet word fall in various ears that he was interested in the ninja. Then in 1947, he'd gone to rescue a Japanese woman from the unwelcome attentions of two drunken American sailors. His efforts hadn't been necessary. Her name was Okasa Tatsu, and she was a kunoichi, a female ninja. She'd knocked out both sailors without breaking a sweat, then turned, smiled, and extended a hand to him. He'd taken her hand, and not looked back for nearly forty years.
He'd become one of the very few gaijin ninja in the centuries-old history of the ninja. He became the only occidental American to achieve the rank of a ninja meijin – a ninja master. He would have lived and died in Japan, practicing and teaching martial arts and meditation for the rest of his life if two things hadn't happened. He'd learned that some of his former students, led by Okasa Ryu, Tatsu's grandson, had gone back to the ancient ways of the ninja, selling their skills to the highest bidder: sabotage, industrial espionage, assassination. And he'd learned that he had a daughter. A stranger had sent him a letter, claiming to be the daughter of his Korean War girlfriend, claiming to be his daughter, and stating that she was in trouble and needed his help. He'd returned to the United States to seek her out, but she had vanished, fleeing whatever – or whoever - it was that was chasing her. Unfortunately, he himself was being chased by young Okasa, who regarded his departure from the sect as a betrayal of their ancient secrets.
"Rokuju-hachi, rokuju-ku." Max continued his push-ups.
Suddenly the phone in the motel room rang.
"Do you suppose that's her?" Max asked. He started to get up.
"Who else knows we're here?" McAllister replied rhetorically. "No one told you to stop." He set Henry down gently and reached for the phone. "Hello?" He couldn't keep the eagerness out of his voice.
"Is this – is this John McAllister?" a woman's voice asked.
"Yes, speaking. Are you Teri?"
"Yes, I'm Teri. I got Rick's message that you were trying to reach me," she said.
"I've been trying to find you ever since I got your message in Japan." McAllister's heart swelled as he spoke to his daughter for the first time in his life. "When I reached Ellerston, you'd already left."
"I had to leave. I'm in trouble, big trouble."
"What can I do to help?" McAllister asked.
"It's not safe to tell you over the phone."
"Where can I meet you?" McAllister demanded.
"Balboa Park. The International Cottages, in an hour."
"I have your picture; I know what you look like. I'm an old coot, going bald," he told her.
"I have your picture, too. Rick snapped one of you," she explained.
"Will – will your son be there with you?" McAllister asked.
"Oh, yes, Tony will be with me. He's the reason we're on the run." She hung up without saying another word.
Max got up from the floor and dusted off his hands. "We'd better go." He reached for Henry and tucked the hamster gently in his pocket.
"Will it take us an hour to reach Balboa Park?"
"No, but on a Sunday it'll take us that long to find parking."
Contrary to Max's expectations, they found a parking space with very little difficulty. Which meant they had time to wait. And wait.
McAllister's eyes scanned the area the entire time, looking for Teri, or whoever was chasing her, or Okasa. He saw nothing but families enjoying themselves and the pleasant summer Sunday.
A dozen or more white cottages were gathered in an oval around a grassy lawn. Dating back to the 1935 Exposition, they were the Houses of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Each one housed representatives from a different country, Americans honoring the traditions of their immigrant ancestors. Max and McAllister wandered the area for a bit, looking for Teri, then finally settled on a bench near the north end of the multicultural grove.
Max pointed. A pretty woman had caught his eye. "Brunette at ten o'clock, and she's got a kid with her."
McAllister followed his student's gaze. He didn't need to look at the photograph in his hand; he recognized her at once. "It's Teri."
The two men stood in unison and began walking toward her. The woman saw them. She looked at a picture in her hand, then began walking to meet them.
McAllister stopped a pace or two away from her. "Teri?"
She nodded. "You're John McAllister."
He nodded, wondering whether she'd be willing to let a stranger hug her in public. "I've been looking – "
Before he could finish the sentence, she threw herself at him, embracing him as if to give thirty years of hugs at once. "Dad," she murmured, but it was almost more a breath than a whisper.
After a moment she let him go. "And this young fellow must be Tony?" McAllister looked down at his grandson, a handsome boy of five or six with curly black hair. He was startled to see his own cobalt blue eyes looking back at him from the boy's face.
"Are you my Grandpa?" Tony asked.
"Only if I'm very lucky," McAllister replied.
Tony seemed confused by that answer, not sure if it was a yes or a no.
"This is Max Keller, a friend of mine," McAllister introduced. "He's been helping me look for you."
"Glad we finally found you." Max extended his hand, and Teri shook it. He gave her an unobtrusive once-over: medium height, wavy dark brown hair, almost black, stormy blue eyes, and a figure that Praxiteles would have loved to have sculpted. It was easy to see why she made her living as a model.
"If you're my Grandpa, why haven't I met you before?" Tony demanded. "I used to see Grandpa Joe all the time, before we started traveling so much."
"I lived in Japan for a long time." McAllister knelt down to be face to face with the boy. "That's very far away, and I didn't have your address."
"Oh." Tony considered this a moment.
"Now, your Mom is smarter than I am – must take after your Grandma Laura – and she found my address."
"Do you know Grandma Laura?" The acquaintanceship evidently raised McAllister's status in Tony's eyes.
"I knew her a long time ago. I thought she was a very special lady." McAllister lowered his voice confidentially. "I even kissed her."
Tony nodded. "I kiss her, too."
Still down on one knee, McAllister looked up at Teri. "How is your mother? Is she- "
"She's fine. She lives in Seattle now. She's the one who found out you were still alive. I always thought you were killed in Korea."
McAllister rose. Despite his white hair, he moved with the grace and dexterity of a much younger man. "I was a POW. Missing in action, believed killed. Took a while to get the military bureaucrats to correct the records after I managed to escape from the prison camp." He reached out and took her hand. "You said there was something you needed help with?"
Teri glanced down at Tony. The three adults traded comprehending looks. This was something young ears didn't need to hear.
"Hey, Tony, you ever been here before?" Max asked.
"Well, every one of these cottages has foreign flags, pictures of castles and kings, and," Max paused dramatically, "cookies and cake. Shortbread at the House of Scotland, butter cookies at the House of Denmark, apple streusel at the House of Germany. If it's okay with your Mom, what do you say we go see how many different types of cookies we can eat?"
Tony's eyes lit up at the thought of cookies. "Can I, Mama?"
"May I, and yes, you may." Teri shot Max a grateful look.
"C'mon, Sport." Max laid a gentle hand on Tony's shoulder to steer him to the first cottage. They'd only gone a step or two when Max heard McAllister call his name. He stopped and turned his head.
McAllister barked out an order in Japanese.
"Hai, meijin." Max inclined his head sharply, as close to a formal bow as he dared come in public.
As they wandered off, McAllister turned to Teri and explained, "I told him to take care of Tony." It was a half-truth; his actual words had been 'guard him with your life.' McAllister pointed. "There's a bench over there. We can sit down and you can tell me what's wrong."
She followed him back to the brick bench and sat down. He took her hand and peered into her face. He stared at her a moment, as if trying to memorize her features. "You are so beautiful … like your mother."
Teri gave a half-smile. "Mom always said I looked like you."
"My hair used to be that color." He reached out and gently caressed her coffee-brown hair. "But we've got the rest of our lives to get acquainted. What kind of trouble are you in? What can I do to help?"
"It's Tony's other grandfather." Teri bit her lip nervously, trying to decide how to explain.
"Grandpa Joe," McAllister prompted.
"His name is Joe Bongiovanni."
"You say that like I should recognize it."
"If you were a police officer, you would. He's in organized crime."
"He wants to hurt you and Tony?" McAllister's paternal hackles rose.
Teri shook her head. "Worse. He wants custody of Tony."
"Legal custody? Has he filed a lawsuit?"
"I could fight a custody petition. A doting grandpa with a Beverly Hills mansion with an electric fence and armed guards, that's tougher to fight. Joe likes me; he adores Tony. And now that Nicky – my husband – is dead, he wants … he wants Tony. He thinks we'll be safer behind bars, living in his gilded cage." Teri looked up at her father. "Joe sees Tony as his legacy, carrying on the family name." She took a deep breath. "Carrying on the family business."
"So you've been running from him." McAllister held her hand.
"Joe would never hurt Tony, not deliberately. But I can't let him be brought up in that world. Nicky managed to escape it. I won't let Tony be drawn into it, to be raised as the crown prince of a mafia empire."
"He won't." McAllister assured her, "I'll protect you and Tony."
"But he's dangerous," Teri protested.
"So am I," McAllister promised.
To be continued ...