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Nothing Has Changed
Rated: R (Rated R for character angst and same sex intimacy--though nothing that would warrant a stronger rating)
Warnings: General character angst to one specific lieutenant.
Summary: Face becomes an unwilling participant in an experiment.
Nothing Has Changed
"Damn it Hannibal! He's got me backed up against the wall!" Face shot back, his voice echoing in the large room.
"It isn't the first time someone's tried to corner you," Murdock remarked. "Remember Jeanette? You felt the same way about her."
Face smirked, trying to figure out a way to get his friends to take him seriously. "I'm not talking about a female, Murdock. I'm talking about Decker! You remember him, don't you? He's the guy who's trying to put us behind bars for twenty years!"
"Why don't you handle him the same way you handled Jeanette? I believe you told her that you were going out of town indefinitely," Murdock offered.
"Damn it Murdock!" Face retorted. "Decker isn't some blonde aerobics' instructor who can be easily distracted. He's Decker! Relentless! Tireless, and paid to capture us, only he doesn't seem to want US anymore, he wants ME!"
"Take it easy, kid," Hannibal responded, but that wasn't going to happen as he watched his agitated lieutenant pace around the vacant warehouse.
"TAKE IT EASY?!" he exclaimed. One minute Face's jacket was pushed back and his hands were firmly on his hips, the next, a hand was running through his hair. "That's easy for you to say, that SOB isn't after YOUR butt, following YOUR every move, or showing up every where YOU are!"
"Well, you haveta admit, Faceman," Murdock drawled somewhat lazily, "you ARE the easiest target."
"Yeah, well, we'll see about that! The next time he gets close, he's gonna be looking down the wrong end of my 357!" The giggling from behind him got his attention and he turned around, "What the hell is so funny, BA? You think it's amusing that Decker keeps hounding me, following me wherever I go? It won't be so funny when he finally catches me and you guys have to break me out of a military prison!"
"He's not going to catch you," Hannibal reiterated knowing his lieutenant's penchant for exaggeration.
"Oh no?! How 'bout last night? If it wasn't for that lady in the hallway, I'd be wearing army green right now. Or how 'bout two nights ago? I damn near broke my leg jumping off that building. And the day before that? My 'vette still needs body work from all the objects it bounced off of trying to avoid his military convoy!"
"But you weren't caught!" Murdock surmised.
"I've been LUCKY!"
Hannibal quipped, "You've mastered the art of luck Face; nobody's as lucky as you are."
"I have a feelin' my luck's gonna run out. I can't keep getting a break, sooner or later, he's going to be the one who gets lucky and that means I'm either gonna be dead, or tossed into a prison somewhere and the key thrown away."
"Okay. If it makes you feel better, we'll take a vacation. Wherever you want to go. Florida, Hawaii, Vermont?" Hannibal emphasized each destination with a stab of his unlit cigar.
Face looked at his colonel, wondering if he was being sarcastic or genuine; he couldn't tell. But he didn't care either; at least they seemed to be taking his problem a little more seriously.
Hannibal nodded towards his lieutenant, giving him confirmation that he meant what he just proposed. He couldn't help but be amused by all this, but he also knew his second in command was a little shaken and needed some TLC. After he offered the vacation, Face visibly calmed, he no longer paced, his jaw wasn't so set, and his hands were no longer alternating between his hips and his hair.
"I don't want to be anywhere but here," Face frustratingly whined.
"You could come bunk with me in the VA. I could probably get you in on a paranoid/schizo theme. The only problem is getting you back out again," Murdock offered, then sat back and pondered his own idea.
Face took a deep breath and slowly let it out, thinking about what he wanted to do. Distressed by the last week, he lamented, "What do you think has gotten into him? Decker isn't usually this persistent, and why ME? He could harass BA just as easily."
Hannibal smiled and pointed his finger and said, "Because YOU are more exciting."
Both BA and Murdock chuckled and Face allowed his annoyance to surface again, only this time it wasn't directed at just Decker. "Go ahead, LAUGH! Something's gonna happen and then you guys will be sorry you didn't take this seriously!"
Hannibal studied his watch. "He's late. Later than usual, that is."
"Sucka should know better than to keep us waitin'," BA growled, but under the rough faŃade he was worried.
"You don't suppose÷?" Murdock asked, implying that Decker just might have been successful.
The phone in the van rang and Hannibal quickly picked it up, "Joe's Pizza Delivery!" he snapped into the receiver.
"Hannibal! COME QUICK! Garment district! Main lo--", the phone went silent.
"FACE!" Hannibal responded, waiting only a second before slamming it down and saying, "Let's go BA! Garment district!"
BA wasted no time getting them to their destination. Once there, he carefully maneuvered the van through the narrow streets while Hannibal and Murdock looked for signs of either Decker or Face. "You see 'im?" BA grumbled, not liking the confined area of the narrow streets he was having to negotiate.
"Not yet," Murdock responded.
BA drove slowly down the alleys, looking down side streets, up into balconies and fire escapes, and peering into windows of the shops.
The very brief conversation with Face kept going through Hannibal's mind until he finally asked, "BA, where's the main loading docks around here?"
"Most of 'em are next to the tracks."
"Before the line went dead, Face said something about the 'Main-something'. Only thing I can think of are the main loading docks."
BA turned the van down the next narrow street and drove slowly towards the railroad tracks.
As they approached, Hannibal soothed, "Careful BA," his instincts suddenly on alert.
The raze of gunfire erupted and BA rocked the van, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the spray.
"Look!" Murdock shouted and pointed straight ahead.
The van sped forward and crashed through a stack of wooden crates, swinging its rear end around and stopping in front of another stack. The bullets continued to fly as Murdock flung the door open, and yelled, "COME ON!" By the time Face had jumped into the van, Murdock had pulled a semi automatic from a metal lockbox and thrust it towards him.
Hannibal could see Decker hunched low behind his sedan and shouting orders to his men. By the looks of it, Face had been the object of attention for quite some time, but without having had much success, Decker's men seemed a bit befuddled.
Taking aim, both he and Face opened fire on the area where Decker was shouting orders and Crane was trying to execute them. BA skillfully and hastily exited out of the small space and onto the larger, main road. With only two military sedans in pursuit, it was easy enough for BA to lose them.
Thirty minutes later, the van pulled off the road onto a side street and parked.
Murdock, Hannibal and BA turned in their seats and stared. It was the first time Hannibal had taken a good look at his lieutenant and he didn't like what he saw. Face was only wearing a pair of pants, no socks, shoes or shirt. His pants were ripped, and he had cuts and bruises across his chest, shoulders and a few on his face. "What the hell happened to you?"
Face started slow and searing, "You want to know what happened to me?! Decker is what happened to me! That SOB is EVERYWHERE I GO!"
Murdock took his bomber jacket off and offered it, "Here, even though it's California, it's still cold in the winter."
Face ignored him out of anger and contempt for his situation, one that only he seemed to be in, "That son of bitch won't let me rest!"
"How'd ya get messed up?" BA groused.
"I jumped from a second story window into a bunch of bushes! From there, I ran into the crowd hoping to blend in, but as you can see not too many people wander around the Garment district wearing only a pair of Armani slacks!"
"Where are your clothes?" Hannibal asked.
Face turned away, knowing the question was coming and ashamed of the answer he had to give. Eventually, he mumbled, "They're at Vanessa's."
"A girl!" BA smirked.
"Was she a plant for Decker?" Hannibal asked, eyes twinkling.
"NO! I swear; if she was, she was as shocked by the whole thing as I was."
Hannibal pursed his lips and rolled his eyes, finding agreement among Murdock and BA.
Frustrated, Face explained, "Look, damnit! Where am I supposed to stay?! Decker's busted into my last two places and messed up the scam I had going to get a new one! It's been four days since I've had a good night's rest! You prefer I sleep on the street?!"
Hannibal hadn't realized Decker had managed to evict his lieutenant and keep him at bay for so long. He shrugged his shoulders, the closest thing to an apology anyone was going to get from him.
Face continued, "I'm tellin' you colonel, there's something going on with him and he has it out for me! And he's getting very close."
Pensively, Hannibal reached into his pocket but found nothing. Unconsciously he looked to his lieutenant to supply him with a fine Cuban cigar.
Face spread his arms out and looked down at his bare chest and back up again, "Sorry Colonel, I only had time to grab my pants."
"Shame," Hannibal responded. "You know I always think better with a cigar; and the better the cigar, the better the plan. Given your situation, I'd think you'd make an attempt at carrying them at all times."
Totally exasperated, Face let his head drop back against the headrest. He knew his colonel was only half joking, but he was very tired and cold. Remembering the offer, he turned his weary head towards Murdock and seeing the jacket, reached his hand out; Murdock did one better and helped him slip it on.
Decker sat at his desk, allowing a smile to barely touch his lips.
"I think you're getting to him sir," Captain Crane praised.
"You can BET I'm getting to him." Then his smile changed to a smirk and he snarled, "I just can't believe I haven't caught him yet!"
"He's good sir. One of the best."
"But I'm better! And I intend on capturing his butt!" Decker leaned back in his chair clasping his hands across his belt. "Did I ever tell you why I'm after Peck, Captain?"
Crane's excitement grew, he'd been wanting to know the reason for going after Lt. Peck since his colonel announced the plan last week. "No sir, you didn't."
"Well, it's like this. General Blomquest has little use for The A-Team or the effort being put into capturing them. However, he would like very much to get his hands on a certain lieutenant. Seems Peck broke every rule in the book when he was in Nam, before he hooked up with Smith. And to further complicate things, it seems that Blomquest's wife is involved in some way. I don't know the full story, but the General told me I have until he retires to present Lt. Peck to him. If I do that, he'll all but guarantee my promotion off this assignment."
"What about the rest of the A-Team, sir? The military is quite clear about capturing ALL of them, not just one or two."
"The General said he would 'fix' things if I brought in Peck. There's not many people higher than him, and if he says Peck is as good as all three, then I'm not going to argue."
"That explains why you chose Peck, sir, I would have thought that Sergeant Baracus would have been easier to trap," Crane summarized.
"The choice wasn't mine, but you're right, if it were, I would have gone after Baracus. But Blomquest is adamant about it being the lieutenant."
"What's he going to do with Peck once we turn him over?"
Decker frowned, "I don't know." He knew Blomquest had a somewhat questionable reputation, at times bordering on brutal. He wasn't sure what the General had planned for Peck, but he was sure it probably wasn't going to be very appealing.
BA snarled, "It's a trap, man. Decker's just waitin' for all of us to be together so he can grab us."
Hannibal often solicited opinions from his men, and BA's opinion seemed to match his own. Nodding his head, he said, "You might be right BA, and if it IS a trap, and I rein both of you in, he'll have an easy shot at all three of us."
Face wearily said, "So, I'm on my own again tonight to find a place to stay."
Murdock said, "My offer's still good. The VA's got a soft bed, warm food and more mind-altering drugs than you can imagine. On the down side, I'd steer clear of the shock treatment."
"Shut up, foo'! Faceman can't stay at the VA!"
"Hannibal," Face said, ignoring his other teammates, "where do you propose I stay? I'm clean out of scams, and suddenly the ladies don't look so appealing."
"Can't help you there, kid, but I'm sure you'll figure something out."
"Can't I stay with either you or BA tonight? Just for the night, then I'll be gone."
"Sorry, too risky. The best thing for us to do is stay separated. BA, you watch your back; Decker may tire of Face and go after you."
Face closed his eyes and listened. He really didn't know where he was going to go. A motel was his best option but with the way Decker had been finding him, even that didn't sound appealing. He needed a place that was different, uncharacteristic for him to be staying at, maybe even a little unappealing. He also needed someone he could trust. Suddenly, the idea came to him and even his friends in the van wouldn't think to look for him there; maybe Decker wouldn't either. "Hey BA, there's a shelter in South LA, you can drop me off there."
"YOU gonna stay in a homeless shelter÷" BA groused, "in the South part of town?!"
"You got a better idea?!" Face snapped, never opening his eyes or moving his head.
"Yeah! Try a motel!" BA groused.
Face retorted, "Not with the luck I've been having. I need a place where NO ONE would think to look for me."
BA and Murdock gazed expectantly at Hannibal, hoping he'd change his mind and let Face stay with him. Dropping a man like Face at a shelter could be worse than being captured by Decker, especially when that man was barely dressed.
Hannibal ignored the stares and jerked his head forward, silently commanding his sergeant to proceed. Face was smart to think of a homeless shelter, definitely not the place that you'd look for a guy like him. Reluctantly, BA put it in gear and started into traffic.
Face knew what they were thinking and decided to ease their fears even though he was annoyed with them. He didn't really blame Hannibal because the thought had crossed his mind that Decker might be pulling together some kind of elaborate scheme or trap, and if Decker were to capture two or more of the team, it would be a whole lot more difficult for the remaining members to exact an escape, "Don't worry, unless it's under new management, I know the family who runs it."
Murdock put a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder and shook, "Hey Faceman, wake up. We're at the shelter."
Face opened his eyes, unaware that he had dozed, and focused on his surroundings. It was late afternoon and by the looks of the buildings, streets and people walking around, they were definitely in south Los Angeles. He blinked a few times and moved his aching body.
"Are you sure you want to stay here?" Murdock asked.
"I don't see where I have much of a choice. Besides, I told you already, I know the people who run it. At least I think I know them," he added uncertainly.
"I'll expect you to check in tomorrow at the usual time. If I don't hear from you÷" Hannibal let his voice trail off.
"Then you can call Decker and ask him which prison he threw me in," Face finished the sentence.
"Decker ain't gonna catch you, man," BA grumbled, but he wasn't at all liking having to leave his friend here.
Face slid out of the door and turned to take the jacket off.
"Keep it!" Murdock insisted. "And here," he said, handing over a pair of shoes he'd found in the back of the van. "We should have stopped and gotten you some more clothes÷"
Face was about to protest when his friend cut him off with both his hands, "I know! I know! You want to blend in and look the part of a homeless person÷ New clothes would have just aroused suspicion. Well, take care in there Faceman."
Face nodded, still tired from the nap, but managed to say, "I will. And thanks for the jacket." After slipping on the shoes, he closed the sliding door and disappeared inside the old graffiti strewn building.
BA slowly drove away.
"Turn at the next corner and stop BA," Hannibal said.
The driver looked quizzically at his colonel but did as he was told.
"Murdock, give me that make-up kit in the back. Then get me some old clothes in this Thrift Shop, nothing too 'new' looking." BA had pulled over a couple of stores down from a sign that read, "Gertie's Consignment Shop".
"What'd you gonna do Colonel?" Murdock asked, while handing over the box of make-up.
"I'm not leaving Face alone in that place; besides, I didn't believe his story of knowing the owners."
"Neither did I," Murdock agreed, "I'll be right back." He hopped out of the van and entered the shop. A few minutes later he jumped back into the van and handed over a bag of clothes.
Within minutes, Hannibal had transformed himself from a middle-aged man to an old man with bad teeth, bad skin and bad hair. He replaced his usual safari jacket with a tattered flannel shirt and his shoes with sandals; he was barely recognizable as the colonel.
"Nice look, Colonel."
"Thanks Murdock. I want you guys to come back tomorrow morning and pick me up. This'll give me an opportunity to think about why Decker has it out for Face. Hopefully, he won't show up tonight, and if he does, we'll have to figure out how he's managing to track him."
With that, he exited the van and went over to a garbage can. Rummaging through it, he pulled out an empty liquor bottle and a paper bag; nodding to his men, he stumbled down the sidewalk, already in character as the Dirty Wino.
Face chose a cot near the door. It was the coldest part of the room but he felt better being by the only escape route from the place. The room wasn't how he remembered it, but it had been a long time since he'd been there. He shook his head to escape those memories and concentrated instead on how miserable he was feeling. The last couple of days had really taken a toll on him and he was stiff and his body ached terribly. He thought he was in better shape but his muscles were hurting and he must have twisted his back because it was especially painful.
He went on to think about Decker and how he'd come very close to catching him. It seemed like the man knew where he was and what he was doing at all times, but how was that possible? Even Face didn't know what he was going to be doing most of the time. But Decker had been showing up almost on a daily basis, and Face knew he was much better at covering his tracks than that.
The conman shivered at the cold and looked down at his jacket. He smiled; his current problems temporarily forgotten as he silently thanked his friend for the use of his prized possession. Face pulled it tighter around him taking in the distinct aroma of the pilot; it wasn't his size, but it was warm. He felt childish holding onto the jacket as tightly as he was, and he suddenly realized that this might not have been such a good place to come, and not just because of his memories of the place. Some movement caught his attention and he looked across the room to where several men had gathered to eye the newcomer. 'Great,' he thought, 'fresh meat for the zoo animals. Another night shot. Well, who needs it?' he tried to joke with himself, 'sleep is highly overrated.' He pushed down into the cot, ignoring the leers coming from across the room, and oblivious to the old wino stumbling through the door.
"Excuse me. Excuse me sir!" the woman emerged from behind the desk and followed the old drunk into the large room filled with cots.
"Huh?" the wino grumbled.
"I need to ask you some questions before you go inside," she smiled and offered to help the old man back to the desk when she noticed the nice looking man in the bomber jacket already lying on a cot.
"I'm sorry sir, but I don't remember you coming in. You'll have to answer some questions too before you take a cot."
Face graced her with an award-winning smile and she smiled back. "I'm sorry," he answered, "when I came in no one was behind the desk so I just walked in."
"I stepped away briefly, but let me handle him and I'll call for you when I'm done," she smiled at him. The wino lost his footing and stumbled almost toppling over and taking the woman with him. Face jumped off the cot and grabbed the old man and assisted her in taking him to a chair by her desk. Face stood behind the wino and held him up while she asked him some questions.
"I'm afraid we get a lot of that this time of year," she said to Face as the wino's answers were too incoherent to understand. "I'll mark down a few facts about his age, race and general condition and take him to a cot." Face nodded, and a few minutes later they had managed to deposit the old man on a cot not too far away.
"Well, now that he's taken care of, let's get you checked in," she said and Face followed her back to the desk and sat in the same chair, unaware that the wino was watching and listening intently just a few feet away.
While she was getting her papers in order, Face summed her up; a woman in her fifties (maybe older), salt and pepper hair, with more wrinkles than a fifty year old woman should have. Finally, she looked up and smiled, "We don't often get your type in here."
"Does that mean I have to leave?" Face asked, winning her with his smile.
"Of course not. But let me guess, you've either lost your memory, or you're hiding from someone."
Nodding his head in appreciation of her assessment, he changed the subject and asked, "Do you run this place?"
"I don't just run it, I AM this place, and have been since my family opened it years ago," she chuckled. "Without me, these people would have no where to go." She paused and then asked, "I don't recall ever seeing you before, is this your first time in here?"
"Sort of," Face replied. "I came here once twenty some years ago. Actually, my mother and I came here. It's just that when it came time to leave, she kind of left without me."
The wino's eyes grew large.
"She what?" the woman exclaimed softly. Then she furrowed her brow and Face could tell her mind was drifting back. Her eyes were what gave it away and he knew she remembered, "Oh my! We hadn't been open a week when a small boy was abandoned here. You can't be that boy, can you?"
"In the flesh," Face smiled and discounted her sympathetic eyes. But he didn't elaborate; instead he pulled the jacket tighter around him and tried to act non-chalant, a behavior that was not convincing to the eyes of the wino.
She wanted to ask him questions, but she could tell he probably wouldn't give her very straight answers. If he wanted to talk, he would; in the meantime, it was her job to record and listen, not probe. After regaining her composure, she asked the few requisite questions and recorded his brief answers. "That'll do it. If you need anything, or just want to talk, Mr. Peck, I'm always here," she offered with a warm motherly smile that hinted at sadness.
He was about ready to stand up when he thought of something, "You could do me a small favor," he cautiously began.
"If any military men come around, could you stall them until I can get out?"
She didn't ask any questions. In fact, the request didn't seem to even faze her. She nodded her head and smiled, "There's a door hidden behind some boxes in the back room."
He returned the smile and went back to his cot unaware that the wino was watching his every move.
Face couldn't stand it anymore. He didn't want to have to use the bathroom, but it was either go there and risk a possible attack or have an accident, both unattractive options. The room was dark and as far as he could tell, everyone was either sleeping off a hangover or just plain sleeping. He slowly and quietly moved off his cot towards the rear of the room.
Hannibal opened his eyes and caught a glimpse of his lieutenant making his way towards the washroom. He also saw some movement from another man and then a third man. He watched until Face had disappeared through the door and then heard the rustling of three or four men making moves towards the same bathroom. He knew what went on behind closed doors at places like this and, no matter how much luck Face possessed, he wouldn't stand a chance against anyone in his current state.
He glided off the cot and joined the men who had gathered a short distance away from the bathroom door. They were whispering and didn't seem to care that the wino had joined them.
A gravely voice declared, "I saw him first so I get him first. If he has anything worth taking, it's mine." His hand was displaying a rather ominous looking knife.
"Just don't take all day," another slurred voice replied.
Hannibal pushed his way past the men and was met with a challenge from the gravely voice, "Hey old man, you haveta wait your turn!"
The only light coming into the room was through a window where a streetlight was shining brightly against a small portion of the wall. Strategically positioning himself, Hannibal opened his flannel shirt and pulled out his gun, allowing the light to reflect off its barrel.
"Hey man, we don't want no trouble!" the slurred voice said upon seeing the automatic weapon in the now steady hands of the wino.
"Neither do I," the wino replied. "And the only way to avoid it is for each of you to go back to your cot and go to sleep. And if anybody raises a finger against him," he used his gun and pointed to the bathroom door, "you'll get the trouble you'd like to avoid."
After several tense seconds and grumbling from several of the men, they slowly filtered away, leaving the wino leaning up against the wall. The door to the bathroom swung open and Hannibal quickly shoved the gun back under his shirt and disguised his action by falling into a coughing fit.
"Hey old man, you okay?" came the familiar voice of his lieutenant.
"Yeah, just have to use the jon."
Face helped him through the door before returning to his cot. He noticed an unusual silence that seemed to have eyes, but since he was just thankful that nothing happened in the bathroom, he ignored it and slipped back onto the cot and fell into a light sleep.
The commotion woke everyone who wasn't already moving about in the room. The woman's voice was raised and she was shouting, "I don't care who you are! You can't just storm in here demanding to search this place! These men have rights!"
"Yes I can, ma'am. I'm looking for this man, have you seen him?"
Face recognized the voice and cursed under his breath. Slowly, he slithered off his cot and started making his way to the rear of the room when he heard Decker shout, "There he is! GET HIM!"
Face broke into a run, hurdling cots and people and slamming through the rear entrance to the back storage area. He turned around in time to see the old wino fall directly into the arms of Decker. His weight alone would have been enough to drop Decker; he couldn't stop and dwell on it but he offered a silent thank you. He quickly found the boxes and kicked them aside to uncover an old wooden door. He yanked it open and ran into the bright sunshine. The wino bought him just enough time to sprint down one alley, then another and another until he wasn't even sure where he was. He was out of breath and had to take a minute to rest. 'How the hell did Decker find me?' he pondered. This was getting ridiculous.
Hannibal waited outside the shelter for BA to arrive. He'd been successful at allowing Face time to escape but he was puzzled at how Decker kept locating him. Aside from the curse words that Decker threw his way, nothing more was said, so there was no way of knowing how Decker was managing to tail Face.
The familiar black van pulled up to the curb and Hannibal got in.
"Where's Face?" Murdock asked.
"Decker showed up this morning. Face got away, but I don't know where he is right now. We'll have to wait for his phone call."
"How's he keep finding Face?" BA grumbled.
Hannibal shook his head and said, "I don't know. But he's doing it and I'm afraid he's getting a little too close."
"How was last night?" Murdock asked.
Hannibal thought back to the bathroom scene, then looked at the worry in his pilot's eyes. "Uneventful," was all he said.
No call again.
BA and Murdock knew not to talk while their colonel was thinking. The idea of Face being caught was heavy on everyone's mind but Hannibal seemed particularly concerned now. "Let's go," he finally announced.
"Where?" BA asked while starting the van.
"Where would you go if you needed your clothes?" Hannibal responded.
"Back to where my clothes were. Vanessa's!" Murdock concluded.
Hannibal nodded his head in agreement and added, "It's a long shot but it's the only place I can figure he might go. Face didn't think she was a Decker plant and his clothes should still be there."
"But where does she live?" BA asked.
"Somewhere around the Garment district," came the very vague answer.
Just like the day before, it was broad daylight and the middle of a workday when they arrived. Designer clothes were being pushed around on large hanging racks, crates were being filled with mass produced items, and people were shopping and milling around looking for bargains. It was no easy task trying to locate an apartment where all they knew about it was there were bushes under it and crowds nearby.
Once again, Hannibal's senses came on alert and he soothed, "I have a feeling something's going to happen."
The sirens started softly at first and grew louder as the seconds ticked by. BA quickly drove into a garage, safely into the darkness, as the green sedans sped past. A half block away they skidded to a halt.
The team ran to the garage door and saw that ten to twelve military personnel were quickly surrounding a building with bushes around the exterior. "I think we might have located our Faceman," Murdock understated.
"Come on!" Hannibal instructed, and they raced through the garage, out the back door, down one street and stopped near the building. Referring to the posted guards on the rear door, Hannibal said, "Murdock, we need a diversion."
A few minutes later, a high-pitched scream came from down an alley way and the guards took off to help the damsel in distress. BA and Hannibal slipped through the door and up to the second floor.
Opening the door very slowly, they were shocked at what they saw in the hallway. Steady and dangerously calm stood Face, his arm stretched out straight pointing a gun at Decker's head. Behind Decker stood Crane, arm straight and pointing his gun at Face. A standoff.
Hannibal inched slowly into the hall with BA following close behind. He heard BA whisper, "Oh man!"
Face's jaw twitched and he growled, "I'm going to get you off my back once and for all, Decker!"
"Face!" Hannibal interrupted. Face hadn't been aware that anyone had come into the hall and neither had the other two. Before anything sudden could happen, Hannibal pushed his gun into the back of Crane and said, "I'd drop that thing nice and easy if I were you."
Crane went to move his head but Hannibal pushed his gun harder into his back. Crane released his grip and BA relieved him of his firearm.
Face was making no attempt at lowering his gun however and Hannibal slowly moved so he was standing next to Face, his sidearm pointing at Crane. "Face," Hannibal softly began, "you can put your gun down now."
"Not on your life, Colonel!" Face shot back, never taking his eyes off Decker and never so much as wavering his hand.
At virtually point blank range, there wasn't much Decker could do but stand frozen in the hall with his hands up, glaring from Peck to Smith, and keeping his mouth shut.
Face continued, "I'm sick of having to watch my back every second of every day! And he's the reason why!" The anger that spewed off his lips caused both Hannibal and BA to throw a quick glance at him. His entire demeanor was reeking of anger and they hadn't seen him like this since their days together in Nam; Hannibal knew he had to control him or lose him.
"I have them covered Face; back off!"
Face made no move.
Hannibal was aware of BA's movement. He waited another few seconds for Face to obey his order, but he was really waiting for BA to get into position. When Face appeared as set as ever to blow Decker's head off, Hannibal barked, "Lieutenant! Stand down, that's an order!"
BA had inched his way around the blond and with unusual speed and agility, reached up and put his massive hand around Face's hand and forced the gun away from Decker's head. The movement was surprisingly fast and simple, yet effective.
Face struggled with this turn of events but had no choice under his friend's strength but to let the sergeant take his gun. Still searing with anger, he glowered.
The anger was still very much alive across his lieutenant's face and once he deemed that BA had control over Face, Hannibal seemed much more relaxed. Satisfied with their situation, Hannibal toned to Decker, "Why him?" he nodded to his lieutenant.
The silence said volumes.
"So it IS him you're after, and no longer the entire A-Team," Hannibal confirmed. "Have you branched out on your own, Decker? It's not like the military to abandon their pursuit of us and settle for capturing just one. Who're you working for now and why do they want Face?"
More silence, very uncharacteristic of their nemesis.
Changing his tactics, Hannibal knew goading would always work and so he sneered, "You'll never catch him Decker. You've never been able to catch any of us and now you're trying to catch the one person who wants to be captured the least. You'll never succeed!"
"Don't bet on it Smith! Every time I get close, I learn something about him. Eventually, he'll run out of ways to run and that's when he's mine!"
Hannibal glared, knowing there was more truth to that than he cared to think about. He figured he wouldn't be getting any more information from him so he ticked his head at BA and several seconds later, both Crane and Decker were cuffed to a pipe and the three of them were racing down the stairwell.
Back inside the van, BA got them quickly away from the district and was driving towards the coast. He wondered if Face really would have pulled the trigger if they hadn't shown up; it had been a long time since he had seen that kind of hate in those blue eyes.
"Not much luck getting your clothes back, huh?" Murdock said as he observed Face wearing the same torn slacks and his bomber jacket.
Face didn't answer; he just stared at the black interior of the van door.
It was most unlike Face to resort to cold-blooded murder and even though Hannibal was pretty sure he wouldn't have pulled the trigger, it wasn't something he wanted to test. Using his best paternal voice, Hannibal asked, "What's going on Face?"
Face's answer was soft but forced, "I'm tired and I'm hungry." After a pause, he asked in the same despondent tone, "Why's he after me? And how's he finding me?" He rubbed his neck and closed his eyes, feeling the wariness of the last several days catching up to him.
"Well at least we know it's not a trap to catch all of you," Murdock said. "But those are two very good questions, muchacho."
"First, we have to find out how he's tailing you," Hannibal surmised. "Think back Face, each time Decker showed up, who were you with?"
"I wasn't with anyone this morning; I was with Vanessa yesterday; by myself the day before that; meeting Dave Howard the day before that÷" he paused, like this was going nowhere and rubbed his neck again, hoping the aches and pains of his body would start to abate. "There doesn't seem to be a pattern here, I didn't see the same person or go to the same places."
"That does make it a bit more challenging," Hannibal said wishing beyond hope that he had a cigar.
"I'm hungry, let's eat and figure this out," BA growled.
The beach had only the die-hard sunbathers on it and the water had only the die-hard surfers in it when Murdock returned with the burgers. The food settled Face's stomach a bit and he stretched out on the warm sand and laid back. Within a few minutes he was asleep.
The other three walked a short distance away so that their conversation wouldn't wake him.
"Ain't seen the Faceman look like that in a long time," BA commented, referring to the earlier dangerous glint in his eyes as he held the gun on Decker.
"Neither have I," Hannibal agreed.
"What'd'ya suppose he wants with Face? I mean, the army has always made it clear that they want ALL The A-Team captured. Maybe they changed their mind?" Murdock offered.
"I doubt it," Hannibal responded. "But even if they did, they would have chosen me as their target, not Face." A few minutes passed before he continued with a new idea, "But maybe someone in the military has a different agenda. Maybe someone high enough up has been able to persuade Decker that Face is as good as all of us."
"That still don't answer the question, 'why him?'" BA pointed out.
Before Hannibal could shake his head in despair, Murdock's head jerked up and he said, "Sirens!"
BA ran towards the van and Hannibal and Murdock raced to wake Face. A very groggy and disoriented conman jumped out of his slumber and with their help stumbled to where BA was waiting. They were off running again, to nowhere in particular.
BA smiled, the green sedans were easily evaded and he hadn't even broken a sweat.
"Nice, BA," Hannibal praised. They were still driving up the coast when BA found a secluded spot and pulled off the highway. The dirt road took them to the edge of the cliff, hidden behind a cluster of trees. The view was spectacular and the four men stood in silence, watching the turbulent Pacific waters below crash against the rocks.
Face was nervous and it showed. He fidgeted with his hands and every little sound made him jump. Hannibal thought he'd probably be acting the same way if Decker had been on his tail like never before.
Finally, Face gritted his teeth in anger and said, "No body knows about that shelter, not even you guys. So HOW IN THE HELL IS HE FINDING ME!!!" His sheer frustration at his situation was painfully evident in his words.
Before Face has completed his sentence, an idea invaded Hannibal's thoughts, and he turned and faced his lieutenant and said, "Take your clothes off."
It was a bit chilly and the request seemed to come from out of nowhere. "What!?" Face asked.
"Think about it÷" Hannibal explained. "Decker keeps following you and we can't figure out how he's doing it. There's no pattern to the people you've been with, or the places you've stayed. Hell, you haven't even been wearing the same clothes. That makes the only constant in your life right now is your body. So, take them off."
Face grudgingly moaned at his colonel's logic but had to agree that there wasn't much else left to check. He unzipped the jacket and let it slide over his shoulders and drop to the ground.
Hannibal started at his lieutenant's neck, pushing his chin upwards while he inspected him. Hannibal's hands were cool against the warm skin so Face didn't actually mind the touching. The colonel used his fingers as a guide for his eyes and slowly scrutinized every inch of his friend's neck, shoulders and torso, then inspecting his arms and turning him slowly around to look at his back.
Murdock and BA also scrutinized their friend and grimaced at the cuts and bruises across the normally smooth skin.
"OUCH!" Face hissed and jerked his body away from Hannibal's touch.
Ignoring his cries, Hannibal said, "Look at this."
Both BA and Murdock walked around Face and the three of them stared at his back.
Unnoticeable amongst the cuts and bruises was a reddish black spot located on his shoulder, near to his neck. The more Hannibal probed the spot the more Face squirmed under the firm grip of his friends.
"Looks like an incision that didn't heal too well," Hannibal ascertained.
"Looks like it's infected too," BA grumbled.
"I've seen that kind of protective glue at the VA," Murdock added. "When the patients have small cuts, they use this new stuff that replaces the need for a Band-Aid. It kinda seals the skin together, allowing it to heal."
"Well, it ain't healin' too good," BA pointed out.
"Hold still, Face," Hannibal said. He carefully pulled his penknife from his pocket and held the blade under his lighter flame. Once he was satisfied that the blade was sterile and then cool enough to use, he pressed the tip of the knife against the previous incision and pushed.
The severity of the pain was unexpected and Face involuntarily jerked away, hissing, "What the hell are you doing?!"
Hannibal nodded and Murdock positioned himself so he was in front of Face. His hands firmly grasping onto Face's shoulders, his feet braced so that Face wouldn't be able to push him backwards.
Another push of the blade into the already wounded flesh and Face gasped and grabbed Murdock's forearms as his head fell forward against the pilot's shoulder.
"Shit, Hannibal, what're you doing?!" Face groaned.
"Hold still, Face," Hannibal soothed. "I think I feel it."
BA had a firm grip on Face's arm and was using his free hand to hold the already taut skin.
"I can feel it÷" Hannibal mumbled, offering little solace to the patient and minimal information to the others.
Murdock was using all his strength to keep Face from moving around and it was draining him.
The probing continued until Face's legs buckled and Murdock was forced to shift his arms under Face's armpits to support his friend's weight. BA also adjusted his grip and was now holding onto Face's arm as well as his pants so that Murdock didn't have his friend's entire weight to sustain.
"Better hurry up Colonel, I don't know how much longer he's gonna be with us," Murdock's voice was strained under the added weight.
"Just a little deeper÷"
Face jerked suddenly, and then went completely limp. All three men grabbed a part of their friend and laid him face down on the pine-needle covered ground. Murdock pushed his jacket under Face's head and sat down next to his now unconscious friend. Hannibal resumed his probing and was finally able to cut out of Face's back a very small piece of metal.
"A bug!" BA snarled, holding his hand out for Hannibal to drop it in. The small piece was barely discernable as an electronic tracking device but BA knew one when he saw it. "That SOB put this into our Faceman!?" he growled.
"Take it easy BA," Hannibal's anger was only barely more contained that that of his sergeant. "Let's get Face fixed up and then we'll decide how we're gonna handle Decker!"
Murdock brought back a first aid kit from the van and Hannibal poured antiseptic on the wound and cleaned it as best he could. He made a pad out of gauze and used several pieces of tape to secure it onto the now noticeable cut on his friend's back. 'If his friend was sore earlier, he surely will be a lot sorer now,' Hannibal thought.
BA came running back along the path, "Hannibal, someone's coming!"
Hannibal turned over the first aid care to Murdock and said, "Where's that bug?"
BA reached into his pocket, fumbled around and pulled out the tiny piece of metal. He dropped it into the outstretched hand of his colonel.
Hannibal walked up the path towards an unsuspecting couple that was enjoying the view of the water. Murdock wondered just how long it would take them to call the police if they discovered four men, one injured, on the roadside. Well, he thought, Hannibal will make sure they never know that we were here. Murdock cleaned the other scratches and scrapes on Face's torso until Face stirred slightly.
"Hey muchaco, how's it shakin'?" Murdock joked.
"Ugh," Face said, still feeling a bit nauseous from the ordeal.
"Don't try to move around just yet, okay?" Murdock instructed and Face obliged.
"I'm cold," Face said.
"But you're feeling warm, I think you have a fever," Murdock said after feeling Face's forehead. Not really expecting any comment, he continued, "Hannibal will be right back and then we'll take off. BA, got a blanket in there?"
"Where's Hannibal?" Face asked.
"He's sending Decker on a wild goose chase," BA said after returning from the van with a blanket.
"Decker's here!?" Face exclaimed, trying unsuccessfully to get up.
"Take it easy, Face. Decker isn't here, so you lie quietly until Hannibal comes back." Murdock looked down the way and could barely make out his colonel and the young couple. Hannibal had his arm around the shoulders of the man and he was pointing off into the direction of the sea, no doubt regaling the young couple with stories of his 'sea faring' days, totally fabricated. "Yes, I'd say Decker is going to be in for quite a surprise."
"What'd he dig out of my back?" Face groaned.
"A bug," BA answered.
"A tracking bug," Murdock elaborated only slightly.
"Really?" Face could hardly believe his ears. "You mean Decker surgically implanted a bug on me?"
"IN you, is more like it," Murdock answered, "and probably not Decker, I'm guessing here but I suspect he had someone do it for him."
Hannibal was done with his quarry and was walking back up the path when he saw that his patient was awake. "How're feeling, kid?"
"Like I've been hit by a truck."
"He's getting a fever Hannibal," Murdock added under his breath.
Hannibal nodded and thought a minute, "There's a clinic up ahead about 50 miles. We'll get a doc to check him out, prescribe some medicine and then head back to LA tonight. By that time, Decker should be on a new trail."
BA and Murdock gently picked Face up and helped him into the van. Once on the road, Face asked, "If the bug was planted IN me, how come he didn't catch me?"
BA growled his answer, "The bug only sent out intermittent signals."
Face furrowed his brow, "What kind of a tracking device is that?"
"Not a very good one," Hannibal clarified. "Evidently, the device was supposed to be more accurate but whoever implanted it didn't do it right. The result was an intermittent signal, if that."
"You're lucky Faceman. Had it worked, you'd be behind bars right now. And I ain't talking about the ones where I live."
"Decker's got some nerve÷." Face's voice trailed off.
"The question is WHO did the implant?" Hannibal pondered. "Decker started following you five days ago. Who were you with last Saturday?"
Face closed his eyes and thought back. "I met this girl at a bar, her name was Carlotta. She was an Italian beauty worthy of any and all attention she got."
"You take her home?" Hannibal asked.
"No, she wouldn't go. She insisted we go to this new spa that opened up. She said she was part owner and wanted to know what I thought of it." Face paused, reflecting on the remainder of that evening. "Funny thing about it was I don't remember too much about the spa. I remember the drink she gave me, and then I remember the hot bath. But I don't remember getting into the hot bath. Next thing I knew I was running from Decker," Face rubbed his hand over his face, frustrated at himself for being so gullible.
"I'd say you were conned, Mr. Conman," Murdock offered good-naturedly.
Realizing the trueness of the statement, Face exhaled. "Shit! You mean she did the implant?"
They shrugged. BA suppressed another annoying giggle and they rode the rest of the way in silence.
"Wakey wakey, Facey," Murdock nudged.
Face's eyes fluttered open. His fever was higher and his color much paler than an hour ago. "Are we here?"
"Yeah, let's get you inside so the doc can fix you up," BA groused, he'd already opened the door and was reaching around Face to get him up.
Face tried to accommodate the sergeant but he seemed to be less than helpful. Upon entering the clinic, Face could hear Hannibal's voice saying, "My friend has taken a bad fall and cut himself and it looks as though some of the cuts have become infected. We'd like the doctor to take a look and see what he can do for him."
Face straightened a bit and offered a smile to the lady behind the counter.
"Take a seat and I'll call you when he's ready," the lady responded, ignoring the smile that came her way.
Hannibal sat down beside Face and asked, "You doing okay?"
"I could be better. I don't know if I'm more mad at myself for being conned by Carlotta or for not figuring out how Decker was following me. Did you have to dig so deep?" Face complained as he tried to get comfortable on the metal chair.
Hannibal smiled, complaining was good where Face was concerned.
"I'd like to pay her a visit and find out how much she got paid to do it." Face shuddered violently at the sudden searing pain in his back followed by the subsequent nauseam.
Hannibal patted Face's leg, very paternally, and said, "You'll get your chance at that. In the meantime, I suggest you work on getting your strength back so we can conclude this little mystery."
The lady came out from behind the desk and called, "Mr. Smith, you can bring your friend in now."
Hannibal helped Face into the examining room and up on the table. BA and Murdock stayed behind; not quite trusting that Decker didn't have some backup plan.
A plump little man with balding black hair entered. He didn't bother looking up from his papers for several seconds and when he did it was to look over his spectacles at his patient and then at the older man in the chair, and back again to his patient. "I read here that you've fallen. Where'd you fall?"
"A cliff about an hour south of here. It was my own fault really, I just couldn't get enough of the view," Face smoozed, although his fever and general health didn't lend his words much credence, and he wondered how long he could keep up the act while his head was spinning and his body was going numb.
The doctor put his papers down and strode over to his patient. Noticing the jacket, he commented, "You a pilot?"
"No, it belongs to a friend of mine."
"Well take it off so I can have a look."
Face removed the jacket using as little movement as possible while still achieving the desired result. The doctor listened to his chest and then moved around behind him and saw the bandage. If possible, Hannibal thought Face was paler now than earlier. The slight sway on the table indicated his friend wasn't long for this world. The quizzical look from the doctor and the lack of response from Face made Hannibal get up and walk the short distance to the table and say, "I bandaged the worst of the cuts myself."
The doctor pulled off the bandage and deadpanned, "You fall on a knife son?"
Hannibal interjected, "I had to remove a rather large piece of debris that penetrated his skin."
"I see," the doctor said, obviously not buying the explanation. "You said you fell today?"
The room was spinning now and Face thought he heard a question but wasn't sure. Equally unsure of the answer, he felt his head roll slightly and then the familiar blanket of oblivion seemed like a nice alternative to answering any questions. Just as Hannibal answered, "About an hour ago," Face passed out into his arms.
Hannibal kept him from falling off the table and could feel the terrible heat emanating from his body. He shrugged and discounted, "He's not really feeling all that well either."
The doctor smirked at the obvious and said, "Mr. Smith, I know a knife wound when I see it, and I know a wound that's several days old. This infection is rather far along for this injury to have just occurred today. And with the exception of his pants, this man has no clothes on. I don't ask too many questions, but I do expect my patients to be forthcoming with me. I'm only obligated to report bullet wounds to the police; I don't have to report this. So tell me why my patient was subjected to this treatment."
Before Hannibal could respond, the doctor had gently eased his now unconscious patient onto the table and managed to roll him onto his stomach so that he could take a good look at the injury. Hannibal thought that the gash looked much worse than he remembered.
The doctor opened the door a little and called, "Mary, come in here." Then back to Hannibal and reiterated, "Care to explain so that I can do my job?"
Conceding for the sake of his lieutenant, Hannibal stated, "Someone implanted an object in my friend's back about five days ago. I took it out an hour ago. The cuts and bruises are from a fall he took into some bushes yesterday from a second story window."
The doctor took a deep breath and nodded his head, he was told what he needed to know. Almost. "What kind of object?"
Mary walked into the room and surveyed the scene.
The doctor noticed. "You can talk in front of her. She's my wife and won't repeat anything."
Hannibal took a breath and said, "A miniature tracking device."
"Was it made out of titanium, aluminum, stainless steel or a hi temp alloy?"
Hannibal squinted his eyes; that was NOT a question he expected. "Does it matter?"
"It does to him," the doctor replied pointing to his patient. "Depending on the craftsmanship of the device, your friend could be in serious danger."
"What do you mean?"
The doctor nodded towards his wife and she began checking her patient's vital signs and recording his stats while her husband explained why he needed to know the material the device was made from. "Judging by the look of this infection, it appears that your friend had a reaction to the object."
"We thought it was implanted wrong," Hannibal offered.
"It probably was, but the real danger lies in your friend's reaction to it. Stainless steel and aluminum probably wouldn't produce a reaction like this; but some of your high temperature alloys would and titanium might, depending on the residue left on the device after it was manufactured. I hate to do this to him, but I'm going to have to probe that area and make sure there isn't so much as a speck of metal left in him. If there is and it gets into his blood stream, he most likely will die."
Hannibal blinked his eyes at the new information. He wasn't sure he believed any of what he was hearing, but he couldn't risk it if the doctor knew what he was talking about. "You mind repeating what you just said to my sergeant?"
The doctor looked at his wife and she said, "I'll be another 2 or 3 minutes." He nodded and Hannibal opened the door and called, "BA, come here."
BA and Murdock stepped into the now crowded examining room. Murdock went over to Face and stroked his head lightly, trying not to interfere with the nurse and wondering why he was unconscious again. Hannibal asked BA, "You have any idea what that tracking device was made of?"
BA scrunched up his face and looked like that was the most ridiculous question he'd heard all day. "It was made of metal! What for!"
"Can you be more specific, BA," Hannibal cajoled. "It seems that Face is having a reaction to the type of metal, and it would be helpful to know what the bug was made out of."
BA saw the expression on the doctor and then looked down at his friend on the table. The gash looked much worse than he remembered it being and his friend certainly wasn't looking too good. He paused and thought about the small electronic device. To make it that small, they'd have to use a metal that was pliable, something like inconel or hastelloy. He grumbled, "It was an alloy of some kind."
"Not stainless steel or aluminum?"
"No man, they couldn't make it that small and include a battery with it. It had to be made out of an alloy compound."
With that information, the doctor declared, "If you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have some work to do on my patient."
The three men looked from the doctor to the nurse and finally to their unconscious friend. A nod from Hannibal offered assurance that everything was all right and slowly they exited the room.
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