by Wendy W
Warning: Possible death of a main character in a VERY unpleasant manner (E-mail me for specifics), nothing graphic, but VERY intense situation with serious angst, and the death of a minor character.
Summary: When a difficult case lands one of the team in a life and death situation, the rest of the team race against time to find him. This is a companion/sequel to "Darkest Hour", and begins the morning of the event portrayed in that story. It will really help to have read that story first.
Disclaimer: The A-Team doesn't belong to me; I couldn't afford the ammo
Comments: Yes, although it may be a little while before I respond, I welcome ALL comments.
Notes: Special thanks to Stephanie who began this saga! Tremendous thanks to Cathy for her encouragement, comments, suggestions, and for soon becoming my only link to the cyber world.
The morning dawned bright and clear. He stepped out onto the small balcony, and as he took out a cigar and lit it, he thoughtfully considered the day's agenda. In a few hours, they would capture a huge drug shipment, stopping countless lives from being ruined by the addictive powder, and effectively ending the career of a major mafia sleaze ball. Then, they'd be reunited with their lieutenant, collect their well-earned fee, and head home to LA for a much needed vacation. He leisurely released a billowy puff of smoke into the crisp air. Yes, he had a plan, and it would go off without a hitch. All in all, it was a good day to be Hannibal Smith.
He was torn from his musings by the sound of arguing. He stepped back into the comfortable apartment their client had supplied for them to find Murdock clutching an assortment of mannequin arms, hands and heads in a protective manner.
"But I NEED to bring them, BA. I'm telling you they can help us!!" Murdock implored his muscular friend.
"Ain't nothing but a bunch a plastic, you crazy fool! Cain't help us bust up a drug shipment!" BA yelled back, with growing anger and frustration.
"See, that shows how much you know, BA. They are a veritable army, just waiting to come together with the right kind of leadership! Today could be the day they show the world... their... uggh, Hannibal... uggghhh, Hann.. i.. bal...!"
BA knew he'd reached the end of his rope. The last few weeks had really tried his patience. Aside from the drops to exchange information with Face, and the occasional confrontation with Profetti's goons, he felt that they'd spent entirely too much time waiting around, and it had NOT been easy.
Ever since Murdock had visited Berraducci's jewelry store, he had become convinced that all the disembodied fingers, hands, arms and heads, swathed in velvet and used to display a wide assortment of jewelry, were actually alive, but hibernating, while waiting for someone to lead them into finding the rest of their "bodies". Of course, the king of mental illness had decided that he was just the man for the job!
It was usually Face who indulged Murdock's little escapes from reality while keeping him from driving the rest of the team to the VA themselves, but Face was infiltrating the mobster's network by dating his daughter, and they'd had very little contact with him for the past two weeks. Fortunately, the conman had overheard the guy discussing a drug shipment that was coming in today, and had gotten word to Hannibal.
Now, they were getting ready to go after the shipment, and the last thing BA needed, or wanted, was the "crazy fool" carrying on about plastic people! He needed quiet, even if he had to choke it out of Murdock!!
As he entered the room, Hannibal surveyed the scene quietly. He understood the tension they'd all been under. Splitting up the team was never his first choice, but it was necessary in this case, and was about to pay off in a big way. He didn't need a broken pilot or an irritated sergeant only a few hours before everything went down. Putting out his cigar, he hurried over to intercede. "Now BA, let him go!"
BA quickly, but begrudgingly released him. "Make him stop, Hannibal, or he'll be hibernating with his new friends, permanently!"
Murdock quickly gathered up his fallen friends and shot a thunderous look at BA, which BA returned in full measure.
"Come on guys! We have work to do!" Hannibal admonished. "In a few hours, this will all be over, and we can head home."
"But, Colonel, they can help! Just last night, you, yourself, were saying that you wished we had a few extra hands for this one, AND more arms!" Murdock pleaded.
Hannibal fought back a chuckle, and had to hold back BA, as he formulated a response that would satisfy both men. Turning to his erstwhile friend, he donned an utterly serious expression and said, "Murdock, THIS could be rough. As much as we could use the help, you know we don't endanger innocent civilians if we can avoid it. For their own good, I'm afraid your friends will need to sit... I mean, stay, out of this one. You understand, don't you, Captain?"
The proud pilot stood a little straighter, and stopped just shy of a salute when he answered, "Understood, Colonel. My troops will stay behind and guard our base. No one will get past them, sir!" With that, he gathered up his velvet clad army, and disappeared into his assigned bedroom.
With the sound of the bedroom door swinging shut, BA bellowed in disgust, "HANNIBAL! Why you let that crazy fool think them plastic parts are an army? You know he's not gonna quit messing around with 'em now!"
In a placating manner, Hannibal replied, "We all deal with stress in our own way, Sergeant, and right now, talking to plastic body parts is Murdock's." His friend still looked unconvinced. "Look, once we wrap up this case, he'll move on to another obsession, so just ease off, okay?" He put his hand on the big man's shoulder and his expression became completely serious. "BA, I need you guys focused right now, not fighting. I know the last couple of weeks have been rough on all of us, but it's almost over now. We need to go over the details of the plan, so can I trust you NOT to beat Murdock with any of his friends?"
BA, feeling slightly ashamed and duly chastised, agreed quickly, "You got it, Colonel. We got work to do. So, what's the plan?"
Breathing a deep sigh of relief, he patted his sergeant on the shoulder and said, "Go get Murdock, and I'll lay it out for you." He pulled out another cigar, and lit it quickly before glancing back at his sergeant. "You're gonna love it!" Hannibal finished, with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye.
Muttering under his breath about the jazz, front doors, and crazy fools, BA lumbered off to retrieve Murdock.
With a smile bright enough to shame the brilliant morning sun, Hannibal walked back over to the sliding glass door and surveyed the city as it slowly came to life.
Once the team arrived at the warehouse, it took very little time to set up their equipment, and get into position. Their experiences with Profetti over the past two weeks, as well as the information Face had been providing them, showed that the crime boss relied less on heavily secured locations and more on ingenuity. First, he never conducted any of his business in the same place twice, so as to prevent being bugged or ambushed. Second, he divided up the information required to complete a particular business matter.
He would provide a location to one man and the task to another, and then both, neither knowing the other's identity, would be given a day, time, and place to meet, which was usually only a short time before whatever business was to take place. Once they met at the appointed time, they'd put together their information and handle their assignment. Therefore, no one person knew enough to compromise any operation if he were apprehended, and it effectively eliminated the threat of informers.
As he thought about it, Hannibal realized it was a brilliant strategy, and it certainly explained why the law hadn't been able to touch Profetti, until now. The fact that Face had been able to provide the time, location, AND the type of shipment, had been just the break they needed. After checking out the warehouse the night before, they'd been able to find perfect places to install a microphone and camera. Once they recorded the exchange of drugs and money, the careful research Face had done while visiting the mobster's home would enable them to link the men to Profetti, and then they could leave the rest to the Fed's.
Hannibal had wanted Face to rejoin the team after his call from Profetti's house the night before, but he knew his lieutenant was right in wanting to maintain his cover and routine until after they'd wrapped things up at the warehouse. Profetti was a scrupulously careful man, and after the trouble the A-Team had been giving him the last few weeks, he was scrutinizing everything and everyone. If Face disappeared, he'd know where they'd gotten their information.
Still, Hannibal didn't like it. Face would be on his own when the drug shipment was captured, and he knew the ruthless crime lord would be both eager and determined to exact revenge on the person responsible. The hour or so time gap between the arrival of the authorities at the warehouse and Profetti's inevitable arrest would leave Face completely vulnerable if someone connected him to the seized shipment. Still, they had no other choice if they wanted to stop Profetti and bring his dirty businesses to a halt.
So, he and Murdock were now hiding outside the warehouse, while BA sat in the nearby van, monitoring the activities inside. Once BA had the exchange on tape, he would give them the signal to go in and 'bag the trash'. They didn't have long to wait as a black sedan pulled up in front of the building. Two men climbed out and headed inside, unaware that with the help of modern technology, BA would be joining them for the exchange.
Frank cautiously looked around the warehouse. He raised his gun as he searched the shadowy recesses created by the large crates scattered around the room. He couldn't afford to take any chances. Too many of their operations had been fouled up in the past few weeks, and the boss was NOT happy. In fact, Profetti had made it very clear the night before that the penalty for failure this time would be death, and Frank definitely wanted to avoid THAT.
He didn't usually handle the exchanges himself. Instead, it was his responsibility to supervise the men who DID handle them. However, this situation was different. The pressure was high, and the boss wanted some extra insurance that everything would go smoothly, so Frank was handling things, personally.
After assuring himself that the warehouse was empty, he signaled to his associate that the coast was clear.
Despite Frank's careful search, Tony still found himself peering warily around the room. He hadn't been at the boss' house the night before, but he had certainly been advised of the importance of a successful exchange. He was a veteran of these types of 'meetings,' but he'd felt uneasy all morning. Too many things were going wrong lately, and even Profetti himself was getting nervous. This was evidenced by the fact that Frank was handling the exchange, and that both of them had been supplied with all the details rather than just a part, which was their usual procedure. No, he definitely had a bad feeling about this.
A noise at the door nearly caused him to drop the heavy briefcase he carried. He and Frank both spun towards the door, their weapons drawn. They visibly relaxed, and lowered their weapons when they recognized the men entering the warehouse.
"Damn! You could have shot me, man!" the dark haired newcomer yelled. "What's wrong with you guys?"
Frank's expression became cold. "If I wanted to shoot you, you'd have a hole in the middle of your forehead right now, Vic, so back off!"
Vic appeared unfazed by the remark, and motioned for his companion to follow him to a large crate in the center of the room. Frank and Tony moved toward the crate in a similar manner. Vic's silent companion placed the briefcase he carried on the large crate, while Tony did the same with his.
"Okay, gentlemen, let's make this quick. The boss is waiting, and patience is not one of his virtues when it comes to this kind of money," Frank said, his voice sharp and clipped.
With snaps that echoed throughout the huge room, the two briefcases were opened. One was full of crisp, neatly bundled hundred dollar bills, while the other contained numerous packages of fine, white powder.
Each pair of men carefully inspected the offering provided by the other pair. When both sides were satisfied that everything was as expected, Frank shut the briefcase containing the snowy powder, securing it with a resounding click, while Vic did the same with the briefcase full of money.
Frank looked at Vic and his annoyingly mute companion. With a slight trace of relief and a hint of sarcasm, he said, "Gentleman, it's been a pleasure doing business with you."
Vic's only response to Frank was a dismissive shake of his head, while his partner continued to stand impassively.
Their business successfully concluded, the four men started for the door.
"The pleasure's been all mine, sucker!" BA grumbled triumphantly to himself. Having heard and seen all that he needed, he pushed the 'stop' button on the recorder and gave his teammates the signal. As he took off the headphones, he could hear the distant sound of gunfire and Hannibal's voice, as his teammates eagerly charged into the warehouse. Climbing into the van's driver's seat to rendezvous with the others, it occurred to him that for once, it looked like one of Hannibal's plans would actually work right!
"Hey fellas, got anything for a headache?" Hannibal yelled while spraying bullets into the ceiling just above the men.
The four men dropped to the ground, their arms wrapping around their heads in a protective manner.
Murdock circled around to cover them from the other side, his M-16 aimed at the cowering group.
Once Hannibal's introductory barrage of automatic weapon fire had ended, the men moved to regain their advantage against the armed intruders, and reached for their own weapons. Another round of gunfire, this time from Murdock, quickly ended their attempts.
"Toss your guns over by the door, fellas, or my friend, here, will be able to add some more body parts to his army."
Murdock raised his eyebrows, and grinned joyfully at the prospect. "Thanks, Colonel!"
Though slightly bewildered by the threat, they looked at one another, and silently weighed their options. They all knew the fate that awaited them when Profetti heard about this monumental disaster, especially Frank, but they also had little doubt that the men before them were deadly serious, and judging by the one in the brown leather jacket, perhaps a little crazy, too. They hesitated briefly before silently complying.
"Good choice. Now, on your knees and put your hands on your heads," Hannibal ordered while pressing the barrel of his weapon against Frank's head.
This time there was no hesitation before they all complied.
"You know, Hannibal, I think they're the ones that could have used the extra hands!" Murdock observed happily.
The four men kneeling on the floor simply glowered at him.
"Yeah, I think you're right, Murdock!" Hannibal answered back, his face aglow with a plan coming together, and so easily, too.
BA rushed in, his own weapon slung over one shoulder, and a coil of rope over the other. "Hannibal, the Fed's are on their way."
"The Feds?" Tony asked, his body language communicating almost imperceptible signs of fear.
"That's right," Hannibal responded. "We wanted to make sure that your boss' friends in the local police department didn't give you guys any 'special treatment'. But don't worry, I'm sure the FBI will be happy to give you slimeballs everything you deserve." He chuckled victoriously, and pulled out a cigar. As he lit it, he looked over at Murdock. "Keep 'em covered, Murdock. BA, bring the rope over here, and we'll wrap up this little present."
BA put his weapon down and headed over to the kneeling group of men. With Murdock keeping vigilant watch, he and Hannibal made quick work of tying up the four men. They then secured the whole group to the large crate before stepping back to give the bound gangsters an appraising look.
"Okay, BA. Go get the tapes so we can put the greeting card on our little gift and get out of here," he said.
"You got it, man!" BA hurried out to the van, returning quickly with both video and cassette tapes which he slipped into a large envelope that already contained a small stack of paper.
"Here you go, Hannibal." He handed the small bundle over to the Colonel.
"Nice, BA," he said appreciatively. "Here, Murdock. You can do the honors," he said, tossing it over to him.
"Thanks again, Colonel!" Murdock said, easily catching the incriminating evidence. He walked over to the captured men and pulled a pen out of his jacket pocket, scribbling on the envelope, 'These little gems are a gift from the velvet army, and the A-Team'. He then set the bulky envelope on the floor, just beyond their reach and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
Hannibal walked over to the forgotten briefcases. Slinging his M-16 back over his shoulder, he picked up the two suitcases, one in each black-gloved hand, and placed them beside the envelope.
"We better go, man. The Feds are gonna be here any minute," BA urged.
Unable to contain his fury and frustration any longer, Vic seethed, "You guys are dead men!"
"Jeez, like we haven't heard THAT before," Murdock countered.
"All right guys, let's get out of here," Hannibal ordered. Looking over at the conquered gangsters, he couldn't resist a final taunt. "I don't know if any of you like opera, but if I were you, I'd learn how to sing, or you're gonna wind up sharing a cell with a hairy guy named Big Mac."
"Yeah," Murdock chimed in, "and I don't think it'll be hamburgers he's gonna want to flip!"
BA groaned and headed out the door, with Hannibal and Murdock quickly following. They climbed into the van and drove off, hearing the familiar sound of sirens in the distance.
"Kept a copy of both tapes like you wanted, Hannibal, and copies of Faceman's stuff, too, just in case the ones we left 'disappear'," BA assured him as he drove back to their apartment.
"Perfect. Now, we just have to head back and wait for Face. Once the FBI picks up Profetti, the Beraducci's shouldn't have any problem pressing charges against Sartori. Then we can collect our fee, and head home." He heard Murdock humming the theme to 'Dragnet', as he leaned back in his seat and took a deep, contented draw on his cigar. Yes, it certainly was a good day to be Hannibal Smith.