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This page last viewed: 2017-10-17 and has been viewed 3274 times
Summary: One split second changes the life of one the A-Team members and sets him on the path of a crisis of faith and salvation.
Warning: Violent scenes, language unsuitable for children
Type: Short Fiction
Disclaimer: The characters of the A-Team are not my own and are owned by Steven J. Cannell and Universal. The character of Reed Macy is mine, however.
A Crisis of Faith
"Howling Mad" Murdock rolled down the window of his friend's customized van. He leaned back and let the cool air tickle his nose. Templeton "Faceman" Peck snored softly in the back. Glancing over at his friend driving, Murdock wondered briefly if B.A. heard his stomach growl. B.A. Baracus, a beefy gold-laddened Black man served with Murdock during the Vietnam War. Apparently he didn't hear Murdock's stomach or he chose to ignore it. Murdock grinned.
"Hey big guy, I'm hungry! You hungry? I am! Are you? I'm a pepper, you're a pepper" Murdock sang the commercial at the top of his lungs.
B.A. swatted at him as if he was a buzzing fly. "Quiet, fool! I heard you when your stomach growled! Now, cool it!"
"Murdock! Would you keep it quiet? I'm trying to catch some zzz's." Face straightened his tie. "I had a very late night with Teena."
Murdock quieted down. He couldn't afford to make B.A. too mad. He'd be liable to toss Murdock out the van. Probably while it's still rolling, Murdock thought. He never worried about upsetting Face. When he'd had enough, Face would occupy himself, preferably with a blonde.
Silence filled the van for a few more miles. B.A. glanced at Murdock. "Okay, you want to eat? We're coming up on Duranville at the next exit."
"When is the colonel expecting us?" Murdock asked Face.
"He wants us there as soon as possible." Face whipped out a comb and ran it through his blond locks.
"Why don't we pick up some milk and cookies at a 7-11?" Murdock had been dreaming of a frosty glass of milk and a pile of Oreos.
B.A. looked horrified. "Cookies and milk? I'm starving! I want a Big Mac and fries!"
"I don't think this place has a McDonald's, B.A. And Murdock, too many cookies and you'll weigh as much as this van!" Face couldn't resist a dig at his friend.
Murdock turned to the backseat. "Are you suggesting that I'm gaining weight?"
"Just be careful, Murdock, your girlfriend may not like it when we bring you home in a muumuu!" Face could picture Murdock's willowy redhead on his arm.
"Reed likes me the way I am!"
"Well I don't get it! A knockout of a redhead and she goes for you! I am beginning to worry about this new trend of thought- brains over beauty." Face sighed.
Murdock retorted. "Makes you kind of obsolete, doesn't it?"
"Just concentrate on your imaginary dogs!" Face rolled his eyes. He hated when Murdock got in the last word.
B.A. snapped his head to Face. "Don't be starting him on that imaginary dog!"
"Easy, big fella!" Murdock grinned slyly. "You know that Billy ran off months ago. But I thought I did see an invisible cat the other day."
"Faceman, you'll pay for this!" B.A. growled.
Out of habit, Face looked slightly alarmed and made reassuring noises to B.A.
"Shall we get something quick so we can meet Hannibal?" Face was desperate to change the subject.
"We can get some-" Murdock started to say.
"I know. B.A. let's pick up some milk and cookies. Maybe Murdock will be so busy chewing he won't talk."
Face could tell B.A. liked that idea.
"Ok, ok! We'll get milk and cookies!" B.A. shook his head. Sometimes sometimes, that crazy man could find his last nerve and jump on it until it was raw!
Face interjected, "Say, B.A., I need to stop and pick up some more ammo. Hannibal specifically asked for it."
B.A. nodded. "We'll drop off crazy man for his milk and cookies."
B.A. pulled up in front of a small, dilapidated convenience store sitting on a corner of two run down alleys. The yellowed walls and peeling sign made Murdock shudder. He was seriously having second thoughts.
"Don't forget the milk! And no Oreos!"
"No Oreos? That's un-American!" Murdock looked shocked. He loved twisting the Oreos open and licking the white stuff before chowing down on the chocolate wafers. A sly smile spread across his face. B.A. wasn't buying the food, he was. While entering the store, Murdock was intent on the vision of B.A.'s face when he would see Oreos in the bag!
Murdock nodded to the cashier and made his way to the refrigerated drink section. Filling his arms with containers of milk, he turned to find the cookies. A sudden blast from a gun and shuffling feet sent Murdock to the floor. He let go of the items he was holding and containers of milk were strewn across the floor. The blast sounded like it came from a shotgun. Ever since Vietnam, Murdock was keen on the sounds of different weapons. On his belly, Murdock crawled to a chip display. Hiding behind the Doritos and salsa, Murdock spied a large man wearing a ski mask and carrying a sawed-off shotgun pointed at the boyÎs head. The boy couldn't be older than thirteen, if that.
The cashier was gathering money while the masked man screamed threats. Slipping his .44 out, Murdock scooted to an aisle behind the man. Trying not to be seen by the cashier, Murdock crouched below the food-lined shelves. This would have to be smooth. One movement and he should have the gun to the hooded man's head.
Straightening up, he caught sight of the cashier's face. Looking back he realized he could be seen in the corner mirrors! Too late! Murdock never got a chance to warn him. The hooded gunman spun around and backed up, dragging the terrified boy with him.
"You! Drop your gun!" The gunman sounded desperate.
"Do it! Now!"
Murdock dropped his Smith & Wesson .44 magnum. Following the gunman's signals, Murdock held up his hands and walked over to the cash register.
Through the ski mask, Murdock detected a smile. He also noted blood shot eyes. He was feeling uneasy now. This man was hopped up on something so this wasn't going to be easy! He wished B.A. and Face would get back soon.
"Who do we have here? You a cop?"
If the situation weren't so perilous, that would have made Murdock laugh. Him a cop? He shook his head.
The gunman pushed the barrel into the child's throat. The child, even younger then thirteen, choked and sputtered. His dark brown eyes were wide with terror. He whimpered, and looked at Murdock as if pleading for his life.
Murdock's heart ached for the boy. He smiled reassuringly at him. "What do you want?" Murdock figured the best action was to keep him talking, to delay the inevitable ending.
"I want the old man here to give me all the money!" The gunman's arm tightened around the young boy's neck. The boy gasped.
The cashier shook. "I gave you everything!"
"You know it ain't, Pops! You got a safe! Open it before I darken the counter with this boy's brains!"
The boy started crying, tears unashamedly running down his face.
"Wait! Take me! Leave the boy alone. I am more valuable, trust me!" He winked to the boy. The boy began watching Murdock with keen interest now.
The gunman scoffed. "Oh yeah, you're a thirty year old loser and I have this innocent boy, guess which will be a better bargaining tool?"
"Yes, innocence is a factor, but you see I have a family. I am an important member of this community. The boy is one of our many children playing on the streets." Murdock turned to the boy. "What is your name, son?"
The boy's voice shook. "Javi, short for Javier."
"Why don't you let Javi go? You'll get much more for me." For once Murdock wished he was dressed in one of Face's suits instead of his leather jacket and baseball cap.
"Right, youÎre an important man here? What do you think I am? Nuts?" "Takes one to know one." Murdock said under his breath.
"Sorry, pal. This boy is my ticket."
Murdock kept his voice calm and the boy seemed quieter. "If we get you all the money, will you let the boy go?" Murdock was ready to settle to get the boy out his arms.
The gunman shrugged. "That's all I want, Mister Important." He didn't buy Murdock's story. Murdock knew the best thing to do was to give in.
Murdock turned to the cashier. "I think it's wise to give the money to the gentleman, don't you?"
The cashier shook his head. "I am under strict rules not to open the safe. I may lose my job."
Murdock eyes widened and his heart stopped. This can't be happening! "The boy may lose his life!" Anger seethed and he fought a temptation to grab the shotgun from the hooded man and shooting the cashier. It was one thing to be hopped up on drugs like this gunman, but to deliberately not help, Murdock was unable to digest this.
The cashier shrugged. "Sorry."
Murdock saw the gunman's eyes flash. In what seemed like slow motion, Murdock dove for the boy, before an ear shattering and eye-blinding blast went off. The boy's body went limp and crumpled to the floor. A second blast blew the cashier up and over the cash register. He laid in a heap with limbs dangling in odd angles. Murdock's eyes met the barrel of the gun. Two more blasts and the gunman's eyes widened. The gunman fell to his knees and Murdock saw B.A. and Face with guns drawn behind the now dead man.
Murdock ran to the boy. Blood and bits of torn clothes were strewn across the floor and on the walls. He checked for any signs of life. A small shallow breath was heard and Murdock gathered the boy in his arms. Without words, Murdock climbed into the van with the boy, his milk and Oreos forgotten.
"Hang on, brother. We'll get him to the hospital fast!" B.A. felt sick at the sight of the injured boy.
Face realized that Murdock had not said a word since they ran into the convenience store. His silence was worrying Face. "You ok, Murdock?"
Murdock didn't hear him. He seemed to be watching the boy carefully.
The van skidded to a stop and Murdock jumped out still cradling the boy. Face ran ahead calling for a doctor.
Nurses and orderlies snatched a gurney and ran to the boy. One burly nurse, Steve, pried the boy from Murdock's arms. Murdock didn't want to let go. Steve draped the unconscious boy on the gurney and one of the nurses lead Murdock back to the waiting room. Face stood at a payphone, while B.A. steered Murdock to a seat. Murdock stared straight ahead and ignored nurses whizzing by him and the noises of the hospital.
Face sat on the other side of Murdock. "I called Hannibal. He's on his way here. Murdock, Hannibal is coming to help."
There was no flicker of recognition. Murdock barely blinked. Face shrugged to B.A. For two hours, Face watched Murdock waiting for news about the unknown boy. He didn't move. Face noticed that Murdock's eyes were unfocused and far away. He had the bad feeling that Murdock was replaying the incidents over and over in his mind.
A few hours later Hannibal appeared. He purposely strode over to Murdock.
"Murdock, how are you doing?" Murdock flicked his eyes at Hannibal, but it was as if he was looking through him.
"Captain, can you hear me?" Hannibal kneeled down in front of his pilot. Nothing. Hannibal straightened up, assuming his leadership.
"I said to answer me, captain!" Hannibal barked loudly, hoping to get a rise from the catatonic captain. Hannibal's eyebrows shot up. He rarely pulled rank and Murdock has never ignored him like this. He shook his head sadly.
Pulling B.A. and Face to a corner, Hannibal asked, "Face, what happened with him? He doesn't even recognize me." Hannibal absentmindedly put a cigar in his mouth. Realizing he was in a hospital, he quickly put it away.
Face shrugged. "I don't know, Hannibal. He has been quiet like this since the boy was shot."
"Yeah, man. We dropped him off at a convenience store while we picked up some ammo. We came back, we heard gunshots. Face and I took care of the gunman."
"Hannibal, you should have seen it. It looked like Vietnam all over again. Bodies and blood everywhere and we found Murdock holding the boy. He hasn't said anything since." "Yeah, it ain't right, him not acting crazy, singing, jibber jabbering."
Hannibal watched his captain for a moment before speaking. "I think it's time to call Dr. Richter. I have never seen him like this. I'm worried."
Dr. Chang, the attending physician, walked into the room. He looked around. "Which one of you gentleman brought in Javier Sanchez?"
"If that's the boy, they did." Hannibal pointed to Face, B.A. and Murdock.
The doctor consulted his chart for moment. "Javi was shot several times. The shotgun sprayed bullets throughout his body. But, whoever moved the gun in time, saved him from getting the full blast of the shotgun. He would have been dead instantly. As for his outcome I am not sure, but the next 72 hours will be most critical. His mother has been notified." He left as quickly as he appeared. Hannibal sat next to Murdock who had been watching the doctor.
Hannibal clapped a hand on Murdock's back. "Great work, Captain! You saved that kid. I mean, he still has a way to go, but he would have been instantly killed if you werenÎt around." Murdock walked to the window. Crossing his arms, Murdock stared out at the scenery.
Hannibal shook his head. It was time to call Dr. Richter.
Hannibal, Face and B.A. left to contact Murdock's psychiatrist. Murdock had since settled in a chair waiting for news. He had leaned back and appeared to be half-asleep. A tall brown haired man walked in. "How are you doing, Murdock?"
Dr. Richter pulled a chair up and sat opposite the pilot. "You know, I don't think I ever remember ever seeing you like this. Do you know who I am?"
Murdock nodded slowly.
"Good! At least that's a starting point. Do you feel like talking?"
Murdock shook his head, keeping his eyes on the psychiatrist.
"That's ok, you don't have to for now. But, remember, we have talked about avoiding negative feelings, letting them bottle up inside you. Do you remember that?"
Murdock nodded again.
"You know we have to bring these feelings to the surface, no matter how bad it feels. It's a painful process, but if we want o keep you in this world, Murdock, we have to do it. Now, I am going to sit here for a little while, just in case you feel like talking." Dr. Richter sat back and waited and studied the pilot.
Dr. Richter noticed that when Murdock turned his gaze away, he seemed to be lost in a memory. He agreed with Peck. He was most likely replaying the events in his head. But what really confused Dr. Richter was that tragic as this event was, it was nothing like some of the events Murdock had told him about Vietnam. Why would this Vietnam Vet act like this over a shooting?
A knocking on the door interrupted his musings. Dr. Richter was pulled aside by Hannibal.
"How is he, doc? You make any headway?"
Dr. Richter shook his head sadly. "No, he doesn't want to talk. But I do have an idea, though. Let me try something and I'll let you know what happened."
Grabbing his notepad and one of his many pens in his pocket, Dr. Richter strode back into the empty waiting room. Murdock watched him as he threw a notebook and pen on the coffee table.
"Here, Murdock. You don't want to talk, that's fine. But you do have to discuss your feelings and if you can't do that vocally, you can do it by writing. On this pad, I want to see at least a page written, front and back. I don't want to put you on medicine and drugs. You can do it! No one will disturb you."
As Dr. Richter was leaving, he turned to the pilot. "You can do it, for you and your team. I'll be back tomorrow night."
He left Murdock to stare at the notebook. Leaning forward, he picked up the loose-leaf notebook. Looking around, he picked up his pen. For a few minutes, Murdock doodled in the margins. Soon, he began writing.
Eyes, brown, innocent. Innocent are supposed to get hurt. Boys, girls, Americans, Vietnamese. Soon Chee, Javi all gone, existing only for others to use. How the hell can I help them all? I don't want to help. It isn't worth it. Not worth it! Not worth it!
Murdock lifted his pen from the paper. His heart raced and he felt sweaty. He pressed his hands on his head trying to create some order to his chaotic, swirling debris of thoughts. This was hopeless! Maybe he should retreat from reality. How would the world benefit from a battle scarred, borderline paranoid Vietnam vet? Murdock turned and stared out the window. It was late. The shadows threw eerie images on the ground. He sighed. He went back to his notebook.
What matters I? I see myself, little and tiny, facing an ocean. There is a big wave. It engulfs me. I am lost, inside and out. I am swept away
Murdock closed his eyes and laid his head on the wall behind him. A shiver ran down him and he pulled his jacket closer. He was so tired. He wanted to sleep, but every time he closed his eyes, the barrel of the shotgun blasted. The boy jerked. Blood sprayed over the walls. He bolted up. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. His hand shook when he wiped his face. Best way to stay awake is to write, he reasoned.
Soon Chee does our laundry. She is cute and lots of the other fellas notice it. She has the most delicate porcelain skin, trusting eyes and jet- black hair. She is so na•ve. I don't know why but she loves to come to me and look at my pictures. My wall is decorated with tons of pictures of airplanes. At first she thinks they are demon ships that destroy neighboring villages. I explain to her how they work. Bright girl! She begins to ask me questions about airplanes. She tickles me when she calls me Himsan. She never does get my name right. We have the perfect partnership- she makes me smile and I keep the guys from making the wrong moves around her. In a time of utter chaos and blackness, she is the reason for me to look forward to coming home. If you can call my hut a home. This Christmas, it is my first away from the U.S., Soon Chee shows up at my hut. Soon Chee trades for a baseball cap with another soldier and presents it to me this morning. It is blue. She thinks it will protect me in battle. I promise her I will never take it off. Her wide smile creases her face in two. I play with the cap in my hands, and Soon Chee bows. I learned some Vietnamese a few days ago and I want to impress her. Her eyes light up when I say, c‡m on anh, which is thank you in her language.
A sudden bang jolted Murdock from his journal. The pen flew from his hand and he realized he was standing on his chair. Murdock found himself staring into a set of familiar emerald-green eyes. Her flaming red hair looked barely brushed and she had no makeup on. She looked so young. Any other time, Murdock's heart would expand at the sight of his love, Reed Macy.
"H.M. What's going on? I got a frantic call from BA. He said you were ill. You won't talk. I got here as soon as I could. Left Sonja at Mrs. AdamsÎs. Why won't you talk?"
Murdock was used to Reed's seemingly endless streams of consciousness. He eased himself off the chair, still not sure what he should do.
Reed was shocked. Dating Murdock has taught her to expect anything, but when BA called her about H.M., she never thought she would see him like this. His eyes were hollow, and very little came to life when he saw her. For as long as she could remember, H.M. always hugged her whenever he saw her but he barely moved except for jumping when she banged the door open. She watched him sit down almost painfully. Quietly, she chose a chair next to him. She carefully reached out to hold his hand but when she touched him, he jerked back. Her heart broke. It was worse than she feared. The man she loved was leaving her. Tears accumulated at the edge of her eyes and threatened to spill over.
"H.M. please. It's me, Reed. Please, don't fade on me. I need you. Sonja needs you. I never-" Murdock turned away from her.
Reed watched H.M. staring out the window. She was used to his wide range of moods, but she never remembered a time when he didn't talk to her. In fact, as weird as it seems, H.M. was often her rock. Being a CIA agent, Reed needed his advice, his comfort and sometimes when things got gruesome, she needed his shoulders to cry upon. He had an uncanny knack of knowing when she needed to laugh. But, she surmised, they had a great partnership, since Reed took care of him. There had been many nights that H.M. would appear at her apartment banged up and bleeding. Reed would bandage him and often he'd stay the night.
Reed got up and walked over to him. She wished he would jump around and with one of his wide-grinning, eye-sparkling moments, he would yell, "Gotcha!" She briefly touched the his leather jacket sleeve. He didn't move.
Reed took her cue and walked to the door. She paused, looking back at the shell that used to be so vibrant, so full of life. In the line of work that H.M. was in, Reed always feared that one day, his life would be taken from her. She never even considered that he may lose his soul. The thought hit her and she felt tears streaming down her face. She left him to his journal.
Seemingly unaware of Reed's pain, Murdock picked up his notebook.
No one understands. It's all pointless. The guys are worried about me. Reed just came in. I couldn't tell her. She has enough on her plate with her job and little Sonja. Little Sonja, that sweet little girl. She knows how to wrap me around her finger. Hah! She makes me feel as Soon Chee does. I have grown to love that girl. She eases the hole in my soul when I fly these missions. Day after day, night after night, it gets so I only see limbs, bloodied uniforms and things indescribable that I know will haunt me in my dreams for years to come. She is only sixteen. Why did they leave her like that?
A gray light eased its way into the waiting room. A sudden flurry of activity roused him and he sat there trying to focus. What was going on? A booming voice over the intercom called, "Code 99, ICU, stat! Code 99, ICU, stat!" A coldness blanketed him and he knew that the boy was dying. Murdock followed a stream of nurses and orderlies out the room into the ICU. A crash cart was pushed into Javi's room and the doctors and nurses began resuscitation while Murdock looked on. As the pace neared a frenzy, one of the orderlies saw him, and gently pulled him behind the door.
"I'm sorry, sir. No unauthorized personnel in here." The orderly left Murdock standing there. He spied a chair in the hall and took out his journal.
After rescuing a squadron from a particularly tricky maneuver, I was so tired and looking forward to seeing a sweet, innocent face. As I enter our hut, I see long faces. No one can look at me. I notice my laundry had not been picked up. Something in me starts to freak. Just about then, Hannibal comes up to me. I know something is wrong. He sits me down on my bunk and it looks as if all the world he wishes he isn't there. He clears his throat. Just as I think he is going to speak, he pops a cigar into his mouth. Watching him light the damn thing, I want to scream! What happened? Where is Soon Chee? Is she even The colonel turns to me and lays a gloved hand on my shoulder. Captain, he says to me, I have bad news It's about Soon Chee, and -- the next few words amplify in my soul and reverberate in my mind- she's dead Some Northern Vietnamese colonel stormed her village and burned it down. Then Hannibal kneels down to me, like he did yesterday Some of our troops found her, she was naked, she had been raped and beaten to death Fog settles on me Hannibal's voice fades and I am suddenly aware of a burning fire in my gut. Something explodes in me. I open my mouth to scream but nothing comes out. All of a sudden as if some outside force is pushing I leap up and begin to tear off all the pictures of my wall. Bedding goes flying and someone tries to grab me. I fight back. No! No! Leave me! My fist meets with someone's face and I am overcome with unnamed arms trying to pin me down. Get off me! Let me cry! I lost her! God, why can't they leave me be? Please, I hurt so much! I want to die!
Murdock looked up from his journal. His face was wet with tears. A gentle touch on his arm made him jump. Wiping his face, he looked down an a small round face. He was a miniature version of Javi. He pulled on Murdock's elbow again. He pointed to the double doors of the ICU.
"My brother is in there." Murdock took in his soft brown eyes his tear streaked cheeks.
"I know" Murdock whispered.
The little boy settled next to Murdock and leaned his head against Murdock's arm. Careful not too wake the sleeping boy, Murdock opened his journal again.
Yesterday It was that same feeling the loss of control the guilt the sheer terror of losing another innocent face. I was supposed to protect these people. After all, I made it my life's work to help others. Again, I failed. I fail to protect Soon Chee and she is murdered. I failed Javi and he may be dying as I write. God, please Why are you doing this? Why are all these innocent people suffering? Why can't I make a difference?
Murdock looked down at the sleeping boy. A sudden burst of noise roused both of them. His heart stilted from fear, Murdock peered through the doors. As he poked his head inside, he felt the doors open wide and he stood eye to eye with a handsome Latino woman. Her face was wide with smiles and she grasped his hand, leading him into the unit.
"You must be that very nice man that saved my Javi's life."
Confused, he shrugged, trying to understand what was going on. She lead him to the bed and to his most wonderful relief, Javi's eyes were open. He looked to Javi's mother for some answers.
"Javi's heart stopped sometime this morning, but after they brought him back to life, he woke up. He has been asking about you."
Murdock reached for Javi's hand. "I thought you left me, partner." He tried to keep his tone light but inside, he was a torrent of emotions.
Javi grinned a toothy grin. "I wanted to thank you, Mister."
"You can call me Murdock. Why thank me? I couldn't keep you from getting shot."
Javi laughed. "You kept me from being too scared. I knew you would save me and you did."
Murdock grinned back. "Javi, you probably don't know this, but you saved me too."
Javi looked confused and sleepy. Murdock stroked his forehead. "I'll explain it to you later. You need rest. I'll come by later. I promise." As Javi closed his eyes, Murdock got up. He smiled his thanks to his mother and gave Javi's brother a head rub. He left the room.
He waited until he left the hospital walls. He breathed in the warm air. The sweet honeysuckle filled his nostrils and the sun warmed his skin.
Murdock chose a seat on the retaining wall just outside a small garden. As the sun bathed him, he opened his journal.
Soon Chee is murdered
Murdock scratched the sentence and started again.
Soon Chee was murdered. She's gone. But her soul is still with me. She's the reason I help others, so that no one has to go through what I went through. I can't save everyone, but I can die trying. Maybe this battered veteran can offer something after all. I don't know. You wanted me to write, Dr. Richter, and so I did. I dug up some very painful memories and you said it would hurt and they have. But the pain is a little more dull, not quiet as sharp. The memories are a little fuzzy now. The memory of that horrible day is hard to see now. Javi's smiling face is in front of it. I like the new memory. I think I'll keep it. I have to go now, Dr. Richter. I have many things to do and people to help and I want to get started.
As an afterthought Murdock added:
I am at that ocean again. But this time, the waters are calm and I am dry.
Murdock closed the notebook with a definite slap. He looked up just in time to see Hannibal, Face, B.A., and Reed walking up the sidewalk. He grinned. Murdock jumped up and ran towards their shocked faces. He had much to do and so much jibber jabber to catch up on!
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