SG-1 returned from their mission the next morning wet, cold and tired and ready for the annual stand down between Christmas and New Years Day. Carter had started doing annual gate tests and maintenance deliberately that week the first year the SGC had been in operation. A couple of years things hadn't worked out according to plan, but all in all they'd been pretty lucky.
O'Neill caught something in Hammond's expression and immediately thought about Jamie and Sirikat. "What happened?"
"Nothing immediate, Colonel, but I do need to see you as soon as you clear medical."
O'Neill wasted no time getting his exam and cleaning up. Hammond's aide ushered him right in.
"What's wrong, sir?"
Hammond outlined the situation. O'Neill asked, "What can I do?"
"I'm going to help Alvin make arrangements and close out his father's apartment. Meanwhile, I'd like you to poke into his parents' background. As far as Alvin knows, he doesn't have any living relatives. But the NID could see it as a way to get Jonathan's cooperation if Alvin's long lost uncle suddenly showed up."
"Somebody could get lost down a real deep hole someplace trying that," O'Neill replied.
"That being one very good reason I want to put a stop to any potential trouble before it ever even appears on Jonathan's radar," Hammond said. "I know full well what he can do to protect his friends if someone leaves him no other option. He, and they, won't ever be put in that position if I can help it."
Once again O'Neill was reminded exactly why he was so loyal to his commanding officer. "I'll see what I can find out, General. What do you have to go on?"
Hammond turned over a thin manila folder containing what information he had so far, basic vital statistics on Alvin's parents. O'Neill ran a very thorough background check on both of them and was unable to locate any relatives. It looked like Alvin was well and truly alone in the world, just as Daniel had been after the terrible accident that had taken his mother and dad. O'Neill wondered how differently things might have turned out for Daniel if there had been someone like George Hammond in his life then.
He called Hammond. He could hear recorded "inspirational" music playing in the background as the general answered. "Did you find anything?"
"No. Connell's mother lost custody of him when he was four and OD'd a year later. His father was the building superintendent, according to an order of support, and he's also been dead for years. Alvin's maternal grandparents were killed in a car wreck twenty years ago, and if you can believe this, they were both only children."
Hammond scowled. "Didn't Alvin's mother also die in a car crash?"
"I don't know, sir, did she?" O'Neill started to smell a rat.
"Jack, dig a little deeper. Sometimes a paper chase works as well to hide a body as a pair of cement overshoes. Alvin's father's background sounds a little too much like Jonathan's to me."
"I'd like you to go over Alvin's apartment before I take him up there as well."
"I'm about to wrap up here. I'll go over there and check it out and call you back. Apartment 3B?"
O'Neill looked both ways in the hall and pulled on gloves before he let himself into the apartment. The cops had taken down the crime scene tape.
There were still empty whiskey bottles scattered around and the sink was full of dirty dishes. The super had let himself in and turned the heat way down. O'Neill was just as glad, it kept the place from smelling so much like somebody had gone on a three day drunk and died in here. The cut ends of rope still dangled from the fan and the kicked-over chair lay where the paramedics had shoved it out of their way.
The cops had already tossed the apartment, and Jack figured they would have found anything obvious. What he was looking for was something older....something to either confirm or deny that the family history that Alvin had believed all his life either was the truth or in fact the fabrication that Hammond and O'Neill had come to suspect.
Connell's bedroom was a mess, with a bed that had apparently never been made and dirty laundry strewn all over the room. O'Neill found a .38 revolver and an envelope with $2000 in $20 bills under the mattress. He thanked God that Connell had been in the living room when he flew into a drunken rage. O'Neill secured the weapon and the money, the building super didn't need to see either. There was nothing of interest in the drawers or the closet. But taped to the underside of the nightstand drawer was a manila envelope. Inside was a picture of a pretty African-American woman in her thirties, and a floppy disk--interesting since Connell didn't own a computer and had given Alvin the distinct impression that he wouldn't even know how to turn one on. He pocketed those also.
Looking up at the ceiling of the closet, it was higher than the dropped ceiling in the bedroom. Jack pulled a chair over and climbed up there. A false panel in the front wall slid away easily. He pushed the clothes to one end, turned on his penlight and peered into the opening. Inside he found a generic black commando outfit--pants, long-sleeve shirt, ski mask and gloves, none of which had tags or any other identifying marks.
There was a huge suitcase behind the stack of clothes. Maneuvering it out of its hiding place was a job. Something in there weighed a ton. O'Neill almost hit himself in the head with it. Swearing, he extricated himself and the suitcase from the closet, flopped it on the bed, and picked the lock. If there was a body in there he was gonna--
It wasn't a body but it was responsible for a few or he missed his guess. There was a broken down sniper rifle in there along with ammunition. Envelopes held phony passports, driver's licenses and credit cards under three different names, none of them Connell. The rest of the case was stuffed with cash: US dollars, Euros and Japanese yen.
Jack drew the bottom line and it wasn't good. He threw everything including the commando suit into the case and got the hell out of there.
He hadn't been out of the building fifteen minutes when a gas company truck stopped in front of the building and the tenants were rousted out. A few minutes after that, all the windows blew out of Apartment 3B.
Once they had finished making arrangements for a simple funeral, Hammond took Alvin back to Jonathan's place. Now that they knew for sure something was going on, Hammond decided to be honest with the boys, but told them only what little they knew for a fact so far. Jonathan read a lot more between the lines, but he agreed with Hammond that it was best to keep Alvin out of it as much as possible until they found out what was going on. If the truth wasn't buried forever, getting to it could turn out to be a very messy, dangerous job. That was best left to Jack, while Jonathan made sure nothing happened to Alvin. Jack had access to all sorts of information and contacts that were no longer available to Jonathan.
Alvin asked, "General, are you saying Dad was some kind of a hit man? Was he in the Mafia or--?"
Hammond said, "I don't know, son. I can try to find out--if you want. There's something to be said for burying the past with your father."
Alvin fought back a headache. "I'd like to know the truth about my father, sir. Did he kill himself or was he murdered?"
"I doubt he was murdered. It's usually pretty stupid to kill someone to keep them quiet, no matter what you see on TV. A murder attracts too much attention in and of itself."
"The general's right, Alvin. We're going to write an Ian Fleming novel if we start speculating, and there may not be anything to find out."
"You get some rest. If there's anything to be learned, we will get to the bottom of it."
Jonathan asked, "When's the service?"
"Friday afternoon at two o'clock," Alvin replied.
Jonathan thought, some damn holidays with the funeral looming, and them with the flu. "General, thank you for everything."
"No trouble, son. You sit still. I'll lock up on my way out." He gave Lassie a farewell pat on the shoulder as he went through the kitchen, locked the door behind him, and then they heard his footsteps retreat down the stairs.
Alvin said, "My friend, I would pay you good money for a beer right now."
"You and me both," Jonathan replied.
"What the hell is going on here? Who would blow up our apartment? I'm having trouble figuring out anybody besides me who'd care if Dad was dead or alive."
"Well, Alvin, according to the general, they cleared the building before they blew up your apartment--and only your apartment. That sounds like a clean-up crew to me. They didn't want to hurt anybody, they just wanted to keep anyone from finding anything that your dad might have left lying around in there."
"I hope to God nobody saw Jack take that suitcase out of there."
Jonathan hoped the same thing, but he just said, "Jack's a pro, he knows what he's doing. Did you eat?"
Alvin shook his head. "We stopped for a sandwich but all I could get down was a cup of coffee. Funeral homes--God! You know when you go to pick out a casket they're lined up in this showroom with stickers on 'em like used cars?"
"Yeah." Jonathan really found himself wanting that beer.
....Not too much about the arrangements for Charlie's funeral had stuck but the casket showroom had. Some bastard of a salesman had wanted to put him in this white thing that he said looked angelic and Jack thought looked like Cinderella's damn pumpkin coach. They'd picked out a shiny red one that looked more like a race car....
Jonathan wondered if Sirikat knew anything about all that and he hoped to hell she didn't.
Alvin said, "Jonathan, I've been so selfish--this has to be awful--I mean, your family--"
"No, it's just, you're right about that showroom thing. It's OK."
Hesitantly, Alvin said, "Jonathan, I hope you don't get mad at me for saying this, but I...sometimes I wish you were gay."
Jonathan looked Alvin straight in the eye. "No way I'd get mad at you for saying that. It's a compliment, Alvin. I'm just not wired that way, is all."
"I'm gonna heat up the rest of that soup, you want some?"
"Yeah, that sounds good."
Alvin settled on the couch and closed his eyes. Jonathan divided the soup into two big mugs and got some crackers. They ate it and watched some TV before they finally called it a night.
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