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WARNINGS: Probably not too rough... maybe later when Team and their 'client' butt heads! Kidnapping, angst, hostility between Team and their 'client'. Puzzle to see how long it takes to figure out who 'client' is. Well, it changed focus on me... I may this angle in another story.
DISCLAIMER: A-Team copyrighted to Stephen Cannel, who owns them but seems to have forgotten them. I don't own 'em, but play with them a lot. Any original characters are copyright to me.
COMMENT CARD: Sure, I'm doing this way fast, so probably sequences out of whack... I can use the help. Hope that's sufficient.
His hand lingered on her cheek. Leaving her was always the hardest thing to do. She knew his life was very mobile and had come
to terms with that fact. If he could just achieve his mission, he could be free to stay with her forever.
His life had been far too hectic and disordered to ever consider seriously pursuing a love interest, and most women weren't
interested in Army types anyway. He'd resigned himself to the fact that normal familial relations probably weren't in the cards for
him. He resigned himself... //yeah, sure you have. But still a tiny part of you kept hoping... and then she walked through that door.//
He bent down again to gently brush her lips, trying to hold the essence of her for as long as possible, to hold him until the next time he could see her again.
//What did you ever do to deserve a woman like this?// He'd asked himself the question for the past several years and finally just gave up questioning it. Maybe there was some justice in the world, after all. Now if he could just finish his mission and be rid of the one cloud that hung over him and his men – to achieve that which he'd been chasing after for fifteen years. //Big 'if', pal.//
Her arms stretched up and curled around his neck. "Don't be a stranger, love. I know you must get some time free. It's too long
between visits. I don't know how much longer I can hang on like this. I need to see you once in awhile, love."
"Me too. But you know how it is. We never know when we'll get the call and have to skedaddle out of here."
She pulled her arms down, gently straightening his shirt collar, lightly brushing the emblems on the edges.
"Well, you know where I am. I'll be here waiting."
He turned away before succumbing to her presence, the urge to just stay and the chase be damned.
"I hate that! I have a name, you know."
He grinned back at her. "Yeah, I know... believe me, I know." Winking at her, he headed out the door, kicking the screen open ahead of him.
"Come back soon, Rod."
Decker strode out to his jeep, his steps firming as he approached the utilitarian vehicle. Jumping in, he shoved the key in and jammed the starter, his mood growing more foul. He hated having to leave this place normally at any time as it was his haven from the real world; but when it was the A-Team that butted into his private world, he grew even more virulent. //Damn you, Hannibal Smith.//
Snarling under his breath, he headed out to find and pick up Crane and then to lead his troops to the latest sighting of the elusive band of lapsed soldiers.
Melissa Stanton was probably the one sane thing in his life these days. He still couldn't imagine what she saw in him. He shook
his head in wonderment. Meeting her at a gun show on one of his rare weekends off had been a fluke; no other way to explain it. She'd been looking for some personal protection and he'd been happy to offer suggestions as to what a *lady* would want to pack. He couldn't help but grin to himself as he remembered how hard-assed he'd been. //A real jerk, Rod. She shoulda' tossed you on your butt right then and there.// But she hadn't.
Somehow, she'd seen past the surly mood and condescending attitude to see something inside that brittle shell that he usually kept very well hidden. A friendly lunch, followed by a friendlier dinner, followed by an eye-opening session at a gun range opened his
eyes to how special this lady was. She could hold her own, in every sense of the word. She smiled, bemused, watching demurely as he had laboriously explained in his best chauvinistic manner the workings of the Sig Sauer she'd purchased, only to turn around and nail the target dead center, 6 shots neatly overlaying one another to create a daisy pattern. He'd stood there, his mouth hanging open at the deadly accuracy.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? I'm one of the back-up shooters on the Olympic team, if we ever get our event made official." Her
twinkling brown eyes had looked up at his, knowing she'd gotten him to the max.
But in those eyes there had been no maliciousness, none of that damned fem lib stuff to show him up to make herself feel better.
He realized she was special and from that moment on resolved to learn more about her. She would be a good ally to have in his
corner -- a good friend. He never dreamed in a million years that they would become lovers. He had to smirk again. He'd been a bit rusty (*a BIT?*) – chasing Smith and his gang had kept him so tunnel-visioned that he'd forgotten any social graces he might have ever had with the fairer sex. But she'd been a patient and ultimately knowledgeable teacher, bringing him to points of passion he'd forgotten even existed.
The motel was just ahead, off to the left. Decker slowed the car down, his mood back under control. //That's what she does for
me... makes me sane again.// He had even more reason now to capture Smith's insolent team: once they were under lock and key, he was going to get his promotion and then take his well-deserved retirement and marry this woman, something he would never have dreamed of a few months ago. //Yeah, Smith, you're all that stands between me and a good life, finally. Your days are numbered, pal, count on it.//
He pulled up to Crane's unit and tapped on the horn.
Within seconds, Crane popped out, his duffel packed. He tossed it in the back and climbed on board with his C.O. "Mornin', Sir." He saluted half-heartedly.
Decker responded in kind. "Mornin', Cap'n." They'd been together too long for the strict formalities of the Army and only put
them on when an audience of either unknowns or unfriendlies were present. Crane had been with him since Vietnam and was the closest thing he had to a friend or family. Crane was the one man who knew what made Roderick Decker, Colonel, U.S. Army, tick and knew how to defuse him when he became dangerous.
"So what's the agenda today, Sir?"
"Smith and the A-Team have been spotted about seventy-five miles from here, 'helping' out an immigrant farm commune. A bunch of Hmongs recently set up a farm down there, and been having problems with the cattlemen in the area."
"Sounds like something Smith would gravitate to."
"Doesn't it just? Him and his bleeding heart ropensities. Sets him up, though. I've decided this time we're going in quiet and
ambush them. I really want to get this chase nonsense over with."
Crane crooked his head and looked obliquely at his commander. "Ms. Stanton, Sir?"
"Drop the sir bit, Crane... we're alone out here."
"Yes, sss... Rod." Crane smiled tightly. "So who are we hooking up with?"
"Got a brigade of National Guard weekenders just outside the area, so we'll just tap 'em on the shoulder and use 'em as a distraction. Smith will see them coming, run the other way and guess who'll be waiting?" Decker's wolfish grin was malevolent.
"Catching them's never been the problem, sir... Rod. It's keeping them that's always plagued us."
"Yeah, I know. Well, I like to think I've learned from my past mistakes. I've got an idea in mind to keep them buttoned down
once we get 'em."
"Want to share?"
Decker shook his head. "Not now. Wait and see. Smith expects me to do the same thing I always do. Well, not this time. Melissa was telling me about some strategies she'd studied from the ancient Greek wars. She showed me Smith's basic maneuver - that
pincer movement he's always touting. So I'll just shut down the hinge on the pincer and guess who's left dangling?" His evil leer
grew in intensity.
Crane was a bit surprised; mostly that Decker had even been talking strategy with a civilian, much less a female one. He
determined to take a second, better look at this lady the next time they were up this way. "So what's the plan?"
"Catch 'em, keep 'em separated... and keep them away from the damned toys they're so fond of! Bare room – floor and bars, period! I've called ahead, found an old abandoned jail in a town that blew away back in the 40's when the interstate bypassed it. Nothing for them to play with or divert for an escape. Understand?"
Crane's eyes twinkled. "Yeah. That just might slow 'em down."
"Damned straight! Make sure Peck has nothing on him or *in* him – and I do mean that, Crane – to use as a lock-pick. He gets
the most thorough search of any of them. Strip him and scan him. I brought a portable scanner - metal detector, with us this time. No surprises. I'll take care of Smith. Baracus and the pilot, if he's with them, are easy to handle once you take down those two."
Crane nodded, in admiration. "I do believe you've hit the nail on the head this time, Colonel."
"We'll try. See what happens."
Gunning the accelerator, Decker popped the clutch and spun out of the driveway, sending a shower of gravel and dust spewing out in an angry arc in his wake.
grinned wildly as he rubbed his hands in anticipation. Having just turned off
the multi-band scanner, they knew Decker was in the neighborhood. "This'll
be a piece of cake, guys. Decker is so predictable. He'll try to cut us off at the
north corner of town, but we'll just slip out through that junkyard on the east
side." He grabbed a cigar from his pocket, decapitated it and then lit it,
looking forward to this latest skirmish with the dour and douche Decker.
BA wheeled the van around in a tight circle, nearly ramming one of the MP jeeps suddenly barreling towards him. "How dey get here so fast? Ha! Missed me, sucka!" He was having his own form of jazz just by evading the pedantic MP's.
Peck and Murdock were just holding on for dear life inside the careening van. "Hannibal, are you SURE this is gonna work?"
Smith's jaunty grin answered him. "Like I said, Face, piece'a cake." He held onto the window frame tightly to keep from being propelled into Baracus' lap from the wild twisting and turning of the van, never designed for such maneuvering.
BA did what Smith had directed and neatly slipped between two jeeps, heading out of the town and towards freedom.
The van slewed around and came to an ignoble stop, the tires blown to bits. BA looked over at Smith, the question all over his face.
Hannibal shrugged ruefully. "Well, it seemed like a great plan." He stuck his head out the window only to be met by Decker's 357 making acquaintance with his chin.
"Well, Smith, looks like I finally got you figured out. I knew you were going to go the opposite of what you expected me to fall for." Decker's smug look was designed to irritate and it did.
"Aw, c'mon, Decker, what's the fun if you don't catch us once in a while?" Even with the manic gleam present in his eyes, Smith knew they were in a bad spot here. With the van down, it would take a more 'creative' getaway from Decker, but what the hell, they'd done it often enough in the past. He really wasn't too worried.
"True. Alright, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, get down outta that van and put your hands on top of your head. Ah, you might want to toss out your weapons first." Decker wasn't taking any chances.
"You're learning, Rod, you really are. A few more years of this and you just may put us away." Smith dropped his automatic outside the window and then opened the door, stepped out and raised his hands as ordered, pulling them back and neatly clasping them behind his neck. "Better do what he says, guys." His voice registered the regret at having been caught finally.
The A-Team members each stepped out of the van, chagrin written all over them. "Well, Hannibal, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into." Murdock's Ollie spin was deadly in its accuracy.
Hannibal shrugged. "Ain't over til the fat lady sings, Murdock." He was mentally calculating what was at hand to thwart the pompous Decker yet again.
Decker reached for Hannibal's right wrist, snapping a handcuff to it, then yanked it down brutally behind his back, taking out his frustration, and reached up for the other hand, pulling it down to attach it to its mate. Smith peered over his shoulder. Decker never shackled them with their hands in back. //Well, this is sure gonna slow things down.// Puffing on his cigar, Smith played his nonchalant card to the max, while watching out of the corner of his eye to see the other members of the Team being likewise
shackled. //Hope Face has his picks handy where he can reach them.//
Decker grabbed Smith's shoulder and spun him around hard to face him. "Well, Smith, what was it you said? Haven't I learned anything yet?" Decker's face finally creased in a malevolent grin.
Hannibal smiled back weakly. It did appear that Decker had indeed learned from his past mistakes. He shrugged negligently as Decker then shoved him towards his own jeep. "Keep them separated. One man to a jeep. Smith goes with me." He kept prodding Smith along in front of him until they got to the jeep. "Go on, Smith, get in."
Hannibal did so, although with difficulty with his hands confined so. An MP got in after him and sat across from him, his M-16 ready.
//Shit, this is really not one of our better days.// Hannibal took a quick look to see the status of the rest of the Team. As ordered, each man was put into a separate jeep, with a guard on him, ready to fire. Sighing softly to himself, he braced his feet as the jeep lurched forward and took off.
drive was not a particularly long one. But Hannibal Smith would have sworn that
Decker picked the road with the most
chuckholes in the whole damned county. He kept bouncing from side to side on the hard, unyielding metal slat seat in the back of the jeep.
Pulling up to a large concrete building, all the cars came to a precise, orderly stop. Decker jumped out first, motioning to the
soldier in back to haul Smith out. He stalked over to the building, pulled out a key, and opened the heavy steel lock. The antique lead door swung open slowly, creaking and squealing all the way.
Smith shuddered at the brittle, exacerbating sound. "Outta' chalkboards, Rod?"
Decker just smiled back. "Snipe all you want, Smith. I've got you this time." He turned back to the others and waved his hand,
motioning them to bring in the other prisoners.
Once inside, Hannibal groaned mentally. It seemed that Decker might have really outdone himself on this one. The dark, gloomy room had a number of barred cells in it, with a center area for exercise or some such. Not one single accessory adorned the
place. Nothing. //Well, there goes the easy way out.// But Smith was not about to let on how perturbed he was.
Casting his gaze about, he noticed that one cell had a sheet stretched across it, with an exam table in front. He felt a tiny chill ripple down his back. "Uh, Rod, I don't want to cut your taste in furnishings, but don't you think this is a little sparse?"
"It's a prison, Smith. Where you keep prisoners. Prisoners like you. Get the picture?"
Hannibal shrugged. "Yeah, some of it. But what's with the meat wagon?" He nodded towards the table.
"Oh, that's something special I reserved for Peck."
The little chill turned into an avalanche. "Say what?" Hannibal was suddenly having a flashback to the POW camp and times
when such a table boded ill for anyone near it.
Decker motioned to the guard with Peck, who pulled the hapless conman forward and then into the cell. "You know what to do. Crane, go with them."
Crane grinned as he followed the other two men.
Decker grabbed Smith by the collar and hauled him over to another cell, shoved him in and then locked the door. Hannibal was
at the bars in an instant, suddenly deeply alarmed at what seemed to be going on.
"Hey, Decker, what's with the Gestapo shit? We've got rights, y'know..."
"You are prisoners of the U.S. Government, Smith, felons on the run for 20 years. You have no rights. Now shut up!"
Hannibal tried to reach out through the bars to get at the mocking Colonel. "Damn you, Decker! If you hurt any of my men..."
"You'll what? 'Get' me?" Decker's wolfish grin emerged again, a sight to chill any man. "I'm just taking out some insurance on keeping you for a little while longer than usual. Stow it, Smith. I'm not hurting Peck... except maybe his pride."
Hannibal watched, not altogether convinced, but decided to keep quiet for the moment. He had always suspected that Decker had a screw loose and didn't want to tip the man over in case that was so.
The harsh command came loud and clear. Face looked back at Hannibal not quite sure what to make of this set of circumstances. "Now, wait a minute..."
"Do it, Face... unless they get weird, then you have my permission to take collateral damage." Smith's voice was no longer
humorous. Decker was playing in dangerous territory here, whether he knew it or not. The prison camp had left many scars on all of them, some not visible to the naked eye.
Face nodded, a haunted look in his eye. He removed his coat, tie, shirt and slacks. He bent down to take off shoes and socks. He
noticed that the men were going through his clothing, checking minutely for concealed objects.
Crane looked up at him. "Behind the sheet, Peck, now! And strip down."
Peck cast one last look at Hannibal before complying. Smith's return gaze was meant to bolster, but he was puzzled, completely off-base at this latest tactic of Decker's.
The guard at the table, held up a thin wire, then set it down on the table. After a few seconds, a small set of screwdrivers was
found. Then he held up Peck's watch and pulled at something to reveal another long, thin wire. "Gawd, regular James Bond here," he muttered.
"Right. And that's what has always been your ace in the hole, Smith. Peck and all his toys."
Hannibal was beginning to catch on, some relief filling him. *This* he - they- could deal with. This was nothing compared to the
threat of the other that had hung in the air. //Wondered if you'd gone rogue on me, Rod.//
A sudden yelp escaped the curtained area. "Hey! Careful! That... ouch!" and then silence. A moment later a hand slid around
the curtain holding a set of lock-picks. Crane's voice followed. "Found these in the shorts, Colonel."
"Hmmphhh." Decker leaned against the wall, arms folded tightly across his chest. He allowed himself one glance at Smith, who
seemed to be taking all of it better than he would have expected.
"Now, wait a minute! You can't.... hey, that's private territory... you...."
"Over, dammit! We haven't got all day." The elastic snap of a pair of examining gloves could be heard. Crane's voice was surly;
he did not get his jollies from peering up other mens' asses. That was for the medics.
Hannibal's voice chirped up. "Do it, Face, not much we can do now anyway." The regret was tangible in the voice.
Peck picked up the subtext, though. //It's okay, Face, they're not going into *that* territory.// He sighed. He'd do it, but didn't mean he'd have to do it quietly.
"Hey! Excuse me... you can't... you don't intend... shit! Your hands are cold, dammit!"
Smith couldn't repress a small grin. His Lieutenant was being subjected to indignities to his pride and he couldn't help but be amused, now that the worst fear was gone. The immaculately groomed Peck did not do well in situations like this. Getting him to
a medic was a chore the Team usually avoided.
A few moments passed with small muffled sounds combined with Face's whimpers emerging. Finally Crane came around the curtain, yanked off the gloves and threw them into a can nearby. "He's clean. AND I don't do that ever again for any reason... Ro..., sir." He remembered just in the nick of time to drop the familiarity he shared with his CO.
Decker's deep chortle boomed out. "Good. Now, Smith, let's see how you get out of this one."
Hannibal returned the look, absolutely deadpan. They were stuck good, but he wasn't about to let Rod in on the fact.
Face had been given back his clothes, and the sheet and table removed, he found
himself in the same pickle as the others.
Locked behind heavy steel bars, with nothing to play with. Sighing heavily, he looked up at Hannibal. "Any ideas, Colonel?"
Hannibal pursed his lips. "I'm working on it."
"Work all you like, Smith, you're not going anywhere. You'll spend an uncomfortable night here, and tomorrow morning a transport– a LOCKED transport - will come and get you and take you off to the big box."
"Just how uncomfortable will we be, Rod?" Hannibal still could not give up playing the jazz card.
"Oh, I think a cup of water, a crust of bread, and maybe a thin blanket will do."
"Thanks so much, Captain Queeg." Smith finally relaxed and moved away from the bars, beginning to pace like a panther, all
energy and nerves, tightly coiled with no release available.
Decker knew Smith's fertile mind was trying to deal out the deck, to see what advantage they might have.
"Maybe if you're nice, Smith, I'll get some grub for you."
"Oh, that's okay. Bread and water work. I've been meaning to go on a diet anyway." Smith flashed his trademark grin.
Knowing he finally had them - had them good - Decker decided to play back. He peered down his nose at the Colonel. "Yeah, I
think so, Smith. Always amazed me how you could move so fast, hauling all that dead weight." He displayed absolutely no humor.
"Natural grace." He refused to rise to the bait. "Why, Decker, is that the beginnings of a sense of humor? I never thought I'd see the day."
"You'll rue seeing this day, Smith, guaranteed."
Crane and the other soldiers came in, bringing small trays. The meal du jour consisted of a hard hunk of dry French bread, a
bottle of Arrowhead water, and an MRE, unopened, along with a small plastic cup and spoon.
Hannibal took his through the door slot alloted for trays, scoping out the room. "Where'd you find this place, anyway? Don't
remember it listed in the Triple A best places guide."
"A friend of mine told me about it. Used to be an old boom town back in the silver days. Then the freeway came in, missed it by
thirty miles and the town died. Nice jail, huh?"
Smith nodded affably. "Yeah... from personal experience could be a little more amenable, but I can see where it serves your
"Yes, it does, Colonel. Admirably." Decker allowed a predatory smile to emerge. "Enjoying your meal?"
"Hmmm... yummy, yes. MRE's, my favorite. Uh... how are we supposed to heat the water to cook 'em, though?"
"Improvise, Smith, it's what you're best at." Decker's eyes were frigidly challenging.
"Hmmm, well I always did like my meals lukewarm, anyway." He ripped off the zip seal of the pack, poured the contents into the
small cup, opened the water and poured some into the cup, and then stirred it with the small plastic spoon on the tray. The resultant glop was something resembling the castoff of someone's stomach contents. Smith stirred it a bit more, then lifted a spoonful to his lips, rolled it around in his mouth and then swallowed, his never-changing mocking grin plastered on tightly.
"Oh, that's good, Rod. Striganoff, isn't it? Really. This meal is worth the whole day." His eyes were twinkling merrily.
"Only you...." Decker rejoined sourly.
"Ain' eatin' none'a dis shit, Hannibal! Dis slop ain' worth feedin' to da pigs. BA Baracus don' eat no slop."
"Hannibaaaal, this really is not edible." Face's whine was back in full form.
Smith smiled broadly, his troops were back up and running, even with this little "setback". "Oh, BA, it's not that bad, not really. Close your eyes and swallow. Just think, this will make you big and strong, wasn't that what your mama used to say?"
"Mama din' never serve no slop like this!" BA threw the MRE packet on the floor.
"And Face, maybe it's not quite Antoine's, but it's fuel... and we *will* need fuel." The veiled reference to their situation went out like a beacon.
"And just think, muchachos, it was provided to us courtesy of the hardworking, US-of-A taxpayers who support our hardworking
government troops. Why I bet ol' Colonel Decker here didn't have to spend a single penny on our fine cuisine here."
"Ah, the mystery member of the troop perks up? Nice to hear from you, Captain. I always *knew* you were part of this gang."
"Rod, I think 'gang' is a little harsh, don't you? I mean we don't live in the barrio, don't deal drugs or shoot up neighborhoods..."
"On that last one, Smith, I'd step real careful if I were you." Decker's voice was warning.
"Yeah, I guess you're right... but not to kill people. Usually we're being chased, and we respond in kind." Smith was intrigued at actually having a conversation with Decker that included something else besides 'I've got you now, Smith'.
"Shall we get into the soldiers you've injured by causing car crashes? Yes, I would really like to get into that. I just wish I had the authority to detain you for a couple of days, out of sight. There's a lot I would like to 'discuss' with you, Smith."
"Then maybe, we should thank our lucky stars we don't have that option, then, y'think?"
"Yes, you should." Decker was still leaning against the doorframe when Crane came crashing back in from outside, carrying a
"Colonel, I think you better take this!" Worry was written all over the man's face.
"What now? Someone get wind we finally caught them? Can't I have a few hours to gloat? Damn." Decker yanked the phone out of Crane's hand before he could reply. "Colonel Decker here." He listened for a few long moments, then his face went white. Every person in the room could see it. His shoulders sagged as he finished the call. "Yes, I understand. Yes, I'll be there as soon
as I can. Aren't there any other law enforcement in the area? No? We're it? Fine. We'll be there asap."
He handed the phone back to Crane and visibly further wilted.
Smith noticed instantly and knew something was majorly wrong here. "What's up, Rod?"
Decker raised his eyes to Smith's usually taunting gaze. "There was a bank robbery in town. A teller and a bank customer were killed. The robbers got away."
"Well, we had nothing to do with it."
"I know that."
"You can't blame that one on us, Rod." Then Smith realized that Decker had agreed with him and then the very shallowness of the
remark. Contritely, he offered, "I'm sorry to hear about the civilians. Is there anything we can do?" Without thinking he instantly went into his white hat role.
"You can stay put, right here!" Decker's voice exploded, the fury filling the room. They all cringed back from it. There was no
reason for a simple bank robbery to make him so angry.
Crane piped up, timorously. "They said that there was a hostage taken... that it was...."
Decker's face aged ten years on the spot. "Melissa."
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