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Ratings/Warnings: PG - slight use of adult language, some violence.
Summary: Amy Allen goes to Alabama to cover a Civil War battle reenactment. One unit uses real bullets instead of blanks, injuring some other reenactors, but they claim their innocence even from the jail cell. Amy calls the A-Team in to help clear the names of the accused as she thinks they are being framed. There is character injury in this story, slight adult language, and the usual A-Team violence. This story contains seven chapters total.
Disclaimer: All characters created within my stories are of my own creation, with the exception of the A-Team characters.
Copyright: August 2002
[Note: all images and events created within this story regarding the battle reenactment is being based on information found on such sites as http://www.jeremyrizza.com/civil.html,
http:www.geocities.com/sixthalabamacavalry/, and http://www.dauphinisland.org/fort.htm]
Amy wiped the sweat from the back of her neck with her scarf . . . even with her new short haircut, she was still awash in sweat in this Alabama spring weather. She hated to think how hot it got there in the summertime. She made a mental note that she would tell her editor he owed her BIG for this one. She had been sent on assignment down to Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island, AL, to cover the largest Civil War reenactment in the country, "Thunder on the Bay," to commemorate the Battle of Mobile Bay. Amy had never seen such a reenactment, so she was slightly intrigued, but heading to Alabama was not something she relished. When she arrived at the campgrounds outside of the fort and saw the sheer number of people to participate in this project, she knew this would be something very special to witness.
She watched the soldiers prepare in their period gear, mostly frock coats, wide-brimmed hats, suspendered pants, and tall boots. She spotted the Union units by their required sky blue trousers and federal blue coats. The huge (and still growing) audience looked on with pride at these performers. Some of these actors, Amy found out through some impromptu interviews, were direct descendents of the people they were portraying in the battle.
While the large crowd awaited the battle commencement, a narrator dressed in period clothing told jokes and stories in a thick Alabama drawl, trying to entertain the impatient crowd. Within an hour, the battle raged, hundreds of extras fighting and dying with vigor. Thousands of forces besieged the fort. The Union fleet came into the harbor and fired off their cannons at the fort, after easily disposing of the few Confederate ships. The ten large cannons that had been placed on the fort wall roared resoundingly, shaking the ground as the Confederates retaliated against the coming ships.
The crowd awed at the sight, trying to maintain their safe distance but still be able to watch everything going on at once. As the Union stormed the beach in their long boats and began fighting hand-to-hand against the Confederates, another few companies of the Union came over the hill. The Confederates were surrounded as the Union attacked full force from land and sea, a novelty that was something that made this reenactment very unique.
Amy noted that at least one of the companies attacking from the land was a black unit, a fact that the textbooks and the media did not emphasize as much as it should. She flipped through the information packet she had been given at the information booth, and noted that this unit was the 96th USCI (United States Colored Infantry Regiment). She was ripped away from her reading when in between all the gunfire and fighting, she heard a loud rebel yell, giggling momentarily as she thought of Murdock.
Finally, the battle dwindled to a halt, and the dead rose to stagger back to their friends, commending one another on their performances as the crowd roared its approval of the show. However, there were some "corpses" who didn't get up, seemingly struggling. A number of the reenactors from various companies checked on the men and screamed for medical assistance. Confusion set in the crowd's collective minds as they tried to figure out if this was part of the show or not.
Amy ran past the audience barricades in the confusion to get closer to this story. The men had been shot with real bullets! How could that have happened? Who would've used real bullets? After a half a day of waiting and eavesdropping on the swarming medical assistance and police officers, she picked up the information that the bullets had been traced back to a certain type of gun. After another time-consuming search of a list of weapons that each faction carried, it was found the guns had been used by the 96th USCI regiment in the reenactment. Why did only that regiment have the particular guns? Why and how could they've gotten real bullets past inspection? Why would they have wanted to injure and possibly kill any of the other actors? The questions ricocheted in Amy's mind as she saw a handful of the confused, scared black actors placed under arrest temporarily for suspicion. Something just wasn't right about this situation, so she decided to make a little phone call.
Early the next morning, Amy waited in the jeep her editor had rented for her at the airport. She was deep in thought, looking over her notes thus far on this trip, when a light knocking on her passenger door startled her. She looked up with a start and then smiled at the sock puppet looking back at her. She unlocked the doors and Murdock leaned in, eager to introduce Amy to his new friend that Max had bought him at the Marionette Theater in St. Louis on a trip to visit with her family. B.A. opened the driver side door and told Amy that he was here now and completely awake after being drugged by Face (he had crumbled some sleeping pills in B.A.'s sandwich), so he would be driving. When he was able, no one drove but B.A. Amy jumped in the back seat as Max opened the side door. Hannibal jumped in the front passenger seat, while Face, Amy, and Max squeezed in the back seat. Murdock leapt in the back carriage area. Everyone listened to Amy's story in between her directing B.A. where to go.
"Sounds kind of fishy, doesn't it, Colonel?" Face posed.
"It does, Face. We'll just have to get to the bottom of all this." Hannibal replied.
When B.A. parked the jeep at the Fort spectator parking area, Murdock's new friend was snatched from him and thrown in a garbage can for bothering B.A. Murdock looked as sad as if Billy had been run over by a train.
"I'll get you another one next time I visit St. Louis. It'll be a better one, I promise." Max whispered, consoling the emotionally hurt pilot. "You want a Civil War hat?" she pleaded to make him smile. A smile exploded across Murdock's face as he nodded vehemently.
The Team looked at all the families that had camped out for the reenactment festivities. They found out from the information booth that the battle of the day had been postponed due to the prior day's events. Hannibal changed into a Civil War uniform to mingle with the other actors and try to find out some information. Face was ordered to mingle around the souvenir and refreshment stands, to see if he could find out anything. Murdock went with Face, mostly to try to scam money for a Civil War hat out of his friend. B.A. drove Amy and Max over to the jailhouse where the 96th USCI reenactors were being held.
Amy tried to charm the officer guarding the suspects, but was unsuccessful. B.A. got impatient and stepped up to the smaller guard, explaining sternly that some of the inmates were his cousins, and he wanted to talk to them. The guard, not wanting any trouble and not having any backup at the moment and not being certain if a bullet would stop this big man if need be, agreed to give them a few minutes with the inmates, but no more.
By the time they left, they were even more confused. These men usually re-enacted in the Virginia area, but they had been called in for the Fort Gaines show when another group dropped out. That didn't make any sense. Amy decided to put in a call to the reenactment hosts to try to get in contact with the regiment that had pulled out.
"Well, while you're doing that, B.A. and I can see what Hannibal found out and if he heard anything about this Col. John Colvin they mentioned in there." Max suggested as they all jumped in the jeep and headed back to the fort.
At the battlefield, Face had flirted with a waitress enough to get some free food for the group. Murdock was manipulating his roll, making it talk to Face, when Max and B.A. walked up to them.
fool." B.A. muttered.
Murdock stopped immediately and tore into the roll with his teeth, mocking muffled screams as he ate the roll down.
"Where's Amy?" Face inquired.
"She's making a few phone calls, trying to get a little more information to try to help figure out what led up to this event. The actors we went to see are from the Virginia area, not usually down this far south. But, they got a call from a Col. John Colvin inviting them to replace another black unit that dropped out. He was very persuasive and offered to set the unit up with camping equipment, meals, and the weapons and blanks." Max explained as she sopped up some gravy with a biscuit on the table in front of her as she sat down.
As they ate, Hannibal caught up with the Team.
of these crazies are so delusional that they think that the black soldiers used
real bullets on purpose to retaliate for the years of slavery." Hannibal
said softly, with an air of frustration.
"That's just stupid. Those men don't even have anything to do with this area, so why would they want to retaliate for their ancestors, supposedly?" Max thought aloud. "Did you happen to hear anything about a Col. John Colvin?"
"He is one of the leaders around here, apparently, on and off the field. He was one of the men I overheard spreading that little theory around." Hannibal replied.
"Well, the accused reenactors we talked to said he helped get them down here and set them up with supplies." Max said, taking another bite from her biscuit.
Amy ran over to the table. "The crew that dropped out said they dropped out due to some circumstances that came up." She gasped as she tried to catch her breath. "The rules of such reenactments state that all weapons must be approved by a sanctioned committee and checked several times. Since Col. Colvin was going to supply them, he said they'd take care of the checking. When they got the list of weapons they would have at their disposal, their leader called to double-check if Col. Colvin had gotten the weapons cleared, and they had not been. In fact, a few of the weapons on the list had been banned from the activities. The unit decided to pull out, feeling something was wrong. They reported it to the police in this area, but nothing was done, apparently." Amy reported, looking over her notes.
"Well, sounds like maybe we should find out a little more about this Col. Colvin's activities here." Face added.
That night, the Team went to the bonfire cookout that had been planned for the actors and their families. Murdock and Face were put on detail to search out and spy on the Col. Colvin. It took them a while, but they finally found him and stood back in the shadows to keep a lookout on him. He had a group of soldiers around him, regaling them with tales of his forefathers, from the Civil War to the present. He was arrogant with his heritage. Later in the evening, the Colonel and his crew slipped off to a tent back in a nearby wooded area, checking behind them along the way to ensure they weren't being followed. They didn't look up in the trees, though, where Murdock and Face had climbed and perched to watch them.
Once they were inside the tent, Murdock and Face dropped down, Face going back to inform the Team, Murdock sneaking up to the tent to eavesdrop. Murdock shuddered at the "southern pride" garbage he heard being spewed within the tent, especially from the "good Colonel." They were discussing a frame-up and noted that the real bullets had not been enough, no one had died to trigger enough panic and thus had not added enough importance to their mission. They agreed that someone would have to be lynched to ensure that everything was seen as retaliation against the slavery of the past. That way, it would stir up more racial tension throughout the South and their group could once again try to gain recruits.
Murdock couldn't believe this trash and decided to run while he could, before he got caught. Unfortunately, he stumbled on a trip wire he hadn't seen while scrambling away. The men emerged quickly and before Murdock could even look up, he heard the guns being pulled and aimed directly at him.
The Team rushed to get to the tent when Murdock had not reported back in the past fifteen minutes. When he hadn't returned or radioed back on time, B.A., Face, and Hannibal decided to go out together and cover the area they knew the Captain had covered, especially near the tent. They felt something was wrong and feared for Murdock's life.
"Well, let's go then." Max said impatiently as she started to walk toward the woods.
"No, Max, we'll go and check on Murdock. You and Amy stay here, keep a lookout for Col. Colvin, in case he comes back this way." Hannibal ordered.
"Fine, . . ." Max pouted as she sat back down at the table next to Amy. Hannibal shot her a deadly look, and she stammered, "Yes, sir, Colonel. Order received."
The Team headed off toward the tent quickly. At the tent, they found not a soul. Then, Hannibal noticed a small glimmer of light far off, deeper in the woods. The Team hiked cautiously toward the light. As they moved closer, they saw Murdock bound and the group around him discussing how to hang him up correctly. B.A. almost ran forward then, but Hannibal put a hand on his shoulder to halt him and they all retreated, stomachs to the ground.
"They got Murdock. They're planning on lynching the fool." B.A. whispered, concerned.
Hannibal thought momentarily, then ordered B.A. to enter from the left, Face from the right, and Hannibal would enter from the rear to try to retrieve Murdock.
When the Team was half way to the wooded area, Max grinned and pulled Amy with her.
"C'mon, let's go." Max insisted as they ran behind one of the ammunition tents and ducked inside.
"But he said to stay, Max." Amy pleaded.
"He can yell at me later." Max said as she frantically looked for a good archery set. She found one and tested the bow, smiling warmly at the reverberation she felt when she plucked the strung bow. She threw the quiver on her back and loaded up with some arrows. She then double-checked that her handgun was secure in her boot.
"Are you coming?" Max asked.
"No, I can't help in this situation, . . . I'll stay and keep the lookout for Col. Colvin, . . . like Hannibal told us to do." Amy made her excuses.
"Fine, I'll go it alone." Max spat as she started running toward the area. When she got to the tent, she hit the ground and began crawling toward the small clearing deeper in the woods, where she saw a firelight gleaming. She grew anxious as she crawled closer. She saw B.A. to the left and Face to the right, focusing their attention on the soldiers in the clearing. She peered around a tree, from under a bush, still searching for Hannibal. Her eyes and her breathing stopped temporarily as she saw Murdock bound and a rope dangling from a large tree branch above him. They were going to hang him!
Col. John Colvin ordered the rope to be strung up. Murdock tried to talk his way out of the situation, but was struck across the jaw with the butt of a rifle for his trouble. Max gripped the bow harder, trying to keep calm. She rose to her knees and pulled out an arrow. With a deep breath, she hooked the arrow in place and took her aim slowly. She held her breath and drew the bow taut, her hand even with her jaw as her two fingers held the arrow to the string in anticipation.
The crew pulled the rope tight as Col. Colvin pushed Murdock toward the noose and shoved him up to stand on a chair. Murdock's eyes darted about as he looked and prayed for help or escape. He gulped hard as the noose was placed around his neck. Col. Colvin started tilting the chair he had shoved Murdock up onto, as Murdock stretched to keep the rope from going taut. Col. Colvin was toying with him now.
"You want to help those colored people, when you could be on the winning side, son?" He lectured.
"I think you're going about this all wrong. Besides, didn't the South lose?" Murdock retorted, then gasped as the chair was tilted more.
"You are going to be the turning point for our cause. We'll get this traced back to those blacks as well, and the race riots will begin." The demented Colvin hypothesized and kicked the chair out.
closed his eyes tight as he fell. Max tensed and then released the arrow,
exhaling only when it struck through the rope and Murdock hit the ground with a
thud. The other Team members began attacking the group, shooting a line of
bullets at their feet.
Max tried to stay back, but inched her way forward, crawling to try to see if Murdock was okay. Murdock looked up, coughing dirt from his mouth. Max stood and called his name to catch his attention, but when he looked up to see her, she crumpled to the ground in pain. She hit the ground with a thud, the air knocked out of her.
Ignoring the burning pain in her shoulder, she felt for her gun, but it had been dislodged from her fall. She spied the gun just a few feet away and began crawling. When she reached it, a boot stepped down on her good hand. She jerked her hand away and reared back on her knees to look up at her assailant. A young man full of hate looked down at her, condemning her for her stupidity. He pushed the barrel of the gun under her chin, pushing her backward till she lay sprawled on the ground, head forced back. She breathed raggedly and marveled at her own stupid anxiousness of running into this situation after Hannibal ordered her to stay put.
As she took a deep breath, presumably her last, the man was struck in the temple and thrown sideways. She looked up to see Hannibal had rescued her. She smiled feebly as he picked her up and started back toward the van, the rest of the Team following close behind. When they got back to the fort, Hannibal laid her gently on the table they had sat at earlier. She struggled to sit up, still trying to ignore her hurt shoulder and pleading for them all to get gone quickly.
Murdock made it back to the table after running to retrieve Max's duffle bag from the jeep. He fumbled frantically through the bag.
"What are you looking for, fool?" B.A. grumbled.
"Her knife." He found it and looked at Max, to see where the wound was. B.A. ripped her shirtsleeve apart, basically turning her sleeveless T-shirt into a one-shoulder halter.
"Do you know what you're doing?" she asked, looking up at Murdock hopeful.
"Um, . . . I watched what we all did in North Carolina." He replied shakily.
Max laughed as she let her head drop back. "Let's hope you were paying very close attention."
He leaned over her from her right side to get a look at her injured left shoulder. He reached in with the knife and tried to pry the bullet out. Max gritted her teeth, sucking in sharply at the pain. He pulled the bullet out and she groaned at the release.
"Hold on, Max, . . . that wasn't all of it." Hannibal said as he looked at the wound. B.A. petted her forehead, now gleaming with a sheen of sweat.
"Great," she scoffed, "just my luck."
Murdock went in again, striking a nerve, it seemed, as Max cried out with her eyes clenched and clasped at him with her right hand. He tried to quicken the operation, finally getting the shard out. He threw his jacket down and ripped off his flannel shirt, tying tightly over the wound until they could get her to medical assistance.
(Note: the following are basic CB radio codes mentioned in this chapter -- 10-5=Relay Message; 10-4=OK, Message Received; 10-2=Receiving Well; 10-20=My Location Is; All codes and messages can be viewed at the following site: http://www.bigradios.com/shadow/cb10code.htm)
B.A. picked Max up and carried her as the Team ran to the Medical tent. Inside the tent, the aids cleaned the wound and put in a couple of stitches, but more importantly to them, they questioned where she got injured.
The Team slipped away as the local police were contacted to come in and hear Max's story. Amy remained with Max to backup her story and to keep tabs on the situation. When the name Col. Colvin came up as being part of group that hurt Max, Amy noticed the sheriff flinched and then continued to write. He said he would go search out Col. Colvin and question him immediately. Max could feel something wasn't right with the sheriff. She bet Amy that he wouldn't question Col. Colvin, or if he did, he would find the man completely innocent. She just had that feeling.
Amy helped Max stand, securing her injured shoulder that was now set up in a sling after she had been cleared to leave the tent. They trekked back to the jeep, not finding the Team waiting there. They got in the jeep to wait, Amy nearly sitting on a walky talky in the driver's seat. She picked it up and she and Max looked at one another.
"Let me try something here, Amy." Max said with a grin as she took the walky talky from Amy's confused hand.
"10-5, Alpha Dog, we're standing by." Max transmitted.
"10-4, Max, what is your condition?" Hannibal called back.
"10-2, boss. Present condition stable. Sling employed for remainder. Indicate location." Max relayed.
"10-20 blue coat boat canvas." Hannibal called back.
"10-4. On the move. Over and out." Max called back, ending the transmission.
"How do you know what he said?" Amy asked, utterly lost at the conversation that had just taken place.
"Police training, sweetheart. Handy the things you can pick up sometimes." Max said as she struggled out of the jeep.
Amy and Max stuck to the shadows, crossing behind and in between the empty seller's tents. It was late at night and the campgrounds were silent, everyone had turned in for the night. Max was guessing really where the guys were, going by the hints Hannibal had told her -- trying not to give much away in the short broadcast, in case someone happened on the frequency. She led the way toward the bay, looking for one of the tents that sold Union coats. Amy and Max were scanning the tent signs, when they were ambushed from behind, arms trapping theirs and hands clamped over mouths. They both stopped struggling when they heard familiar voices whispering in their ears. They were slipped under a tent flap, followed by their captors.
"Damn it, you two, . . . you scared the hell out of us." Max scolded playfully.
"I didn't hurt you, did I?" Murdock asked, a concerned look crossing his face as his eyes raked over the sling helping alleviate her injured shoulder.
"No, I'm fine. Just glad you're still alive." She smiled back.
"Remind me to thank your father for taking you hunting." Murdock laughed, rubbing his neck where the noose had been.
"Yeah, well we're gonna' have to come up with something to catch these guys. The sheriff that wrote out the report flinched when we mentioned Col. Colvin. I'm thinking he was in on it. That got me thinking, I bet whoever was supposed to double-check the weapons and the ammunition is in on it as well. Apparently, this Col. Colvin has a lot of power around here. But why?" Max reported to Hannibal.
"Col. Colvin is trying to instigate a race riot, trying to get whatever atrocities he thinks up and gets his men to execute to be traced back to a group of black people. He wants to use the confusion and racial tension to expand his ranks." Murdock said.
"So, Col. Colvin has his troops we saw, the local authorities, probably a number of people in this reenactment,... looks like the deck is stacked against us in getting this man caught." Hannibal supposed. He paced in the dimly lit tent, thinking. The Team just watched and waited. "We could always bring in some higher authority." Hannibal concluded with a smile.
"Hannibal, . . . no." B.A. replied.
"Get the higher authority down here and then somehow get Col. Colvin to confess." Hannibal continued.
"But how you gonna' do that, Hannibal?" Amy asked.
"I'm not, . . . you are." Hannibal chuckled to himself.
The next morning, Amy made her phone call, as instructed by Hannibal.
"That's right, Decker. I tracked the A-Team down here at Ft. Gaines, AL." Amy tried to sound sincere. Decker wasn't buying it, so she decided to appeal to his ego. "That's just great, Decker. You're gonna' pass up the opportunity to finally catch the A-Team because you're skeptical? You're just always going to be a black eye on the military records, aren't you?" She concluded the conversation and hung up. "He's on his way, and had a few choice words for me as well."
"Now, we just have to get Colvin caught." Hannibal mused.
Amy checked with the sheriff about Colvin, and he had indeed pleaded innocent, but he had "promised he would help in tracking down the wrong-doers."
"But, Hannibal. I think they're going to do something with the captured reenactors today. The sheriff was muttering something about justice coming soon." Amy added.
The Team dressed up in some "borrowed" uniforms to mingle, while Max and Amy remained as they were -- remaining as newspaper representatives. They all went to the battlefield where everyone was gathering. When they got there, they saw the 96th regiment gathered, handcuffed and chained together on a platform before the crowd. The sheriff relented that they would be holding a mass trial now, with the spectators as the witnesses and jury. The sheriff then handed over the platform to Col. Colvin. He went on a tirade about injustice to those injured in this unfortunate incident.
The Team spread out among the crowd, ready to go into action if need be. Max and Amy rose at several points during the speech, questioning Col. Colvin, who stumbled to find the words to cover his own butt in the whole operation.
"Excuse me, Col. Colvin, another question if you don't mind." Max said sweetly.
"Go ahead, Miss." Col. Colvin seethed through his gritted smile.
"Who tried to hang a man last night?" Max asked.
"I don't know what you mean, Miss." Colvin replied.
"Well, I heard a commotion in the woods the other night and witnessed a group of men conspiring to hang another man." Max reported.
The crowd came alive with hushed chattering, everyone looked to Col. Colvin for his answer.
"Well, I didn't get that report, did you, Sheriff?" Col. Colvin switched focus to the sheriff.
"No, sir." The sheriff replied quietly.
"Well, that's funny, since I gave my report to you, Sheriff, when you questioned me about who shot me." Max retorted.
"You fingered Col. Colvin and a group of men as the perpetrators, and I found them innocent." The sheriff defended.
"Yes, but you didn't test the bullet pulled from her shoulder with the illegal gun being carried by that man by Col. Colvin." Amy said as she stood, tape recorder in hand, bullet in a baggie in the other hand.
The sheriff walked over checked the man over and found an illegal handgun stuck in the back of his pants. The crowd talked in a hushed buzz once again.
The man panicked and ratted out Colvin. "Colvin ordered me to do it. He also ordered the real bullets put in those guns those blacks used."
Colvin, shaking in rage and fear, blurted out over the PA system, "No, you fool. You're messing up the plan."
"And what plan is that, Col. Colvin?" a voice rang over a bullhorn.
The crowd looked back toward the road to see a group of military vehicles standing ground, their leader standing tall and speaking through the bullhorn. The military surrounded the platform and captured Colvin and his men, including the sheriff. Amy made sure to get to Decker with the tape and her notes, Max backing up her story to this Decker.
"Where's the A-Team, Ms. Allen?" Decker asked skeptically, scanning the huge crowd before him.
"Well, they got out of my sights and they might be out there somewhere or they might've even gotten out of the county by now." She replied, smiling sweetly. Max tried to hide her own smile.
After taking the report down as needed, Decker ordered that road blocks be set up to check everyone who was now leaving, knowing the event was finished this time around. Nearing Amy's jeep, Decker and his accompanying officer were knocked off balance as four civil war men ran past, grabbing Max. They leapt in the jeep and took off, breaking through a barrier and off to freedom.
"Miss Allen, you wouldn't have happened to know who those men were, would you?"
"Well, could've been the A-Team, Colonel. But they're just so good at disguises, I just can't tell, sometimes." She replied.
"And who exactly was the girl they just ran off with?" Decker sighed.
"You have her name right there on your report, sir. Norah Morrison." Amy replied, pointing at the paper he'd written the name she'd given him. He hadn't had the chance to check her for ID to verify, so could only assume that was her true identity.
"Next time, Smith. Next time," he mumbled in an irritated tone.
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