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The Team is Waiting
Rating: PG-13 Violence, torture, some language, threat of death to a major character
Disclaimer: Stephen J. Cannell and/or assigns own the A-Team and all it's characters. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit, either.
Summary: An unusual mission involves confrontation with a ruthless former adversary and endangerment of Face's life.
Author's Notes: For well over a year I have taken immense enjoyment from the literary gifts of so many writers on this and other A-Team fan fiction pages. I especially salute emmastark, Jasmine, Lark, Witchbaby, and lamardeuse for perceptive stories that I have read over and over again–which is by no means is to leave unappreciated the many others who have contributed wonderful stories. This is my meager attempt at thanking you all, and hoping that you will keep writing.
It was a rare assignment or adventure when the Team did not,
at some point, complain that they had made a mistake
to ever get involved. It was rarer still
that they didn't go through the standard distraught objections from Face before
they even got started. That standardized
ruefulness was not a harbinger of things to go wrong. Nevertheless,
"You really think we can just walk in and out, no
problem? Some things might be that easy,
like stealing from the U.S. Mint. This
will not be that easy." Face was as exasperated as
"Course we can, piece of cake,"
"I have to go in, not you," Face had rounded back
to face Hannibal, looking down at first, but staring straight into his eyes as
he finished his simple remark. BA
observed, or thought he did, that some private message passed between the
Colonel and the Lieutenant. Since being
on the run in the
"We get Murdock. If we have to do this, we do as a complete team."
Face was cool. "Just in case. If this one goes bad, it will go bad spectacularly. We should have the whole team together. In case."
"Right." Face paused, then
went into his bedroom to select a proper outfit for a German courier to
So, Principal Systems and Operations Analyst Harry Fielding managed to get a message to his secret friend, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, and the mission was set into motion.
With Face impeccably dressed in a new four-button leather
car coat, wool trousers, and casual shirt, the Team went first to Los Angeles
Union Passenger Terminal, where Hannibal went into the concourse men's room
long enough to pass a wink with Harry at the sinks, then pick up the locker key
which Harry had set down while washing his hands. The locker key yielded a slender black
sheepskin portfolio, and an aluminum case like a make-up box. Back in the Van,
They spotted the courier in short order. He was loading his small suitcase into the
trunk when BA jumped from the Van, collared the courier entirely in a single
arm-hold, and pulled him inside in seconds.
A punch had him out cold immediately.
Murdock grabbed the suitcase and the genuine portfolio and joined BA in
They did not notice the second man, several rows away,
taking in the lightening-fast abduction, then jumping into his own rental car
and flying out of the lot. As for
According to the plan, the courier would have been to the Embassy about The team dropped off Murdock and the conscious but irritable courier at the back of Mr. Lee's laundry on the way, with a radio and a weapon. BA almost felt bad for the courier. "He'll be out of this business after Murdock's through with him."
"I have a feeling he'll be persona non-grata after this anyway," Face tried to make a light comment. "He'll need to find a desk job."
Hannibal figured that Face would be nervous on this one, but
that for the Lieutenant, admitting he was nervous would be worse than what he
was about to face. Instead,
Two miles from the Embassy, and at 10 minutes after , they parked behind a blue Lexus
rent-a-car. "Well, Lieutenant, it's
time. We want you out by .
You're expected at your pre-dinner engagement at . If you're
on-time, you get to decide what we do with the real courier. If you're late, Murdock gets to decide."
"Back soon." Face breathed in and out again deeply, jumped in the Lexus, and drove off. BA turned on the receiver.
Listening in from two miles away, Hannibal and BA both thought they could feel Face's tension in the embassy, but it was as much generated by their ability to hear but not see as anything untoward really happening. In fact, since Face had the advantage of seeing the expressions and demeanor of the embassy guards and staff, he was actually able to settle with some degree of security into his role, as he was allowed into the grounds, into the house, and after a thorough search (though not touching the inside of his shoes), up to the second floor waiting area. He was treated with courtesy and no particular threat. But he was left to cool his heels for a while. At , a secretary offered him water, which he declined. At a little before , another secretary invited him to follow her into one of the office suites. His last frivolous thought, before coming face to face with Rhona, was that Murdock would be choosing the fate of the courier after all.
Rhona Amelick was the name by which she had been known long enough that it was considered her name. She ran a network of assassins that made her an ally of a host of terrorist organizations, despite her womanhood. She was not exactly a model of femininity, Face took the time to note. She was pushing 50, had done little to protect or enhance her features, and though she was physically strong, she had no shape, at least not in the jeans and green shirt she wore. Her hair was shortened by a buzz cut, and she was smoking. She came around the desk to shake hands with her visitor, greeting him in rough German and waving him to a seat.
But Face stood still. Poised, curt, and cool, he said in English that sounded schooled but not native, "I would like to finish my business and be on my way. I have an engagement later this afternoon. Lateness could be misinterpreted." He looked generally in Rhona's direction, but chose not to look into her eyes, lest his comment be construed as challenge.
She put down her cigarette and sat at her desk, nodding. "I see," in English as rough as her German. "Alat, get the folder," she directed one of her minions. "Let me see the delivery," she told Face.
Obligingly, he opened his portfolio and handed her the phony documents. She looked them over in a cursory fashion and dropped them on her desk. "I don't know," she shook her head, picking up her cigarette again. "I don't think they are as good as these versions," and she pulled out similar photos and files from her top left drawer.
In that instant, Face, and
Alat returned with a stack of folders. Rhona took them, leafed through to be sure of their contents, then handed them to the courier. He opened his black portfolio, tucked in the folders, and bowed slightly at Rhona. He left.
"Well, that bit of work is taken care of. Now we can analyze both the true information and the false you have given, to see what things you Americans are most concerned with hiding or altering from us. Thank you."
"They must have had a second courier," BA whispered.
"Or the first was a decoy,"
"So," Rhona began, "I don't have a lot of time from my busy schedule to deal with you, but I am curious about who you work for exactly and if there is any value to you."
Face remained calm under her stare. He'd been in tough jams, although this was a clunker, being that the embassy was essentially like another country, with another country's laws. But the Team was outside, and listening to everything.
Rhona didn't wait long. She flicked her eyes up to a few of the guards standing behind Face's chair, sending a signal to them to see what they might jar from the interloper. One brought the butt of his automatic weapon onto Face's neck knocking him to the floor. Both moved in to kick him several times. He steeled against the worst of it, but drew himself up into a ball as though he was hurting worse–thus he was able to get the listening device out of his shoe and in his hand. Under two more blows, he was able to twist enough to grab the bottom edge of the desk, as though seeking it's protection, and that is how he was able to plant the listening device in the office of Rhona Amelick.
The guards dragged him away from the desk and up to his feet. He was dizzier from the blow to his neck than he was yet bothered by the kicks. "Fingerprint him," Rhona ordered. "Take him to the basement and tie him there for now."
Hannibal and BA heard the manhandling of Face out of the
room, but then still heard Rhona's voice. "He planted the bug,"
Within another 30 minutes, both good things and bad things happened. The decoy courier now had a companion, and both were bound, gagged, and left in the rental car in downtown LA, with the documents from Rhona, for timely pick-up by Harry's men. That was good.
However, Hannibal and Harry had been cut off during their initial phone call, or more likely Harry had cut it off, which was bad, because it meant the Team was on their own for the time being. It became worse when they realized that Rhona had been able to run Face's fingerprints and she now knew the identity of her uninvited guest. But at least Murdock was back with them, and together they were listening to the embassy's transmitter.
Rhona and others were speaking in
a mix of Arabic, Afghan, and infrequently English. It was unmistakable, however, when they heard
"Lieutenant Templeton Peck" and Colonel John Smith among the
conversations. "How did they get
access to the military records that fast?" Murdock fumed simply.
"That's 30 minutes away,
"I know exactly what's going to happen, Sergeant, and
if we don't get the right kind of help fast, we aren't going to be able to stop
what happens in the end. Let's go."
No audience of Team members or rescuers in the distance listened in as Rhona went to the basement of the embassy with a few compatriots and a baseball bat. The basement was fairly clean, poorly lit, and damp smelling. Two ropes, about eight feet apart, hung from under the first floor joists, and Face was securely tied by each hand, his arms then pulled and hanging just about at his head level. His fine new car coat and his shirt were tossed along the side somewhere, leaving him in trousers and undershirt only. Again, Rhona wasted little time.
"Your name is Lieutenant Templeton Peck, and your
commanding office was, or is, Colonel John Smith. He had the balls to allow himself to be mis-named
"Now, Lieutenant Peck...," she paused to mutter an aside to one of the soldiers with her, a youth unlikely to even be 20, "Do his legs first." As the youth with the bat approached, Rhona stepped back to give him swinging room and continued speaking to Face in her gruff English. "I'm still not sure that you have any value to me or not." The guard crouched and swung against Face's left leg, snapping the bone. Face screamed, but pulled in the sound immediately. "Maybe you can tell me if you still associate with Smith," she went on, as the bat was swung again, snapping the other leg. Face was left hanging from the ropes, unable to stand anymore.
"Not interested in telling me?" She moved back closer again, but Face was concentrating fully on adjusting his arms to allow breathing and narrowing the sense of pain in his legs. He suddenly understood very well what the simple ropes and bat could accomplish–if he could not stand, he would have to hang, and rather quickly he would have trouble breathing if he just hanged. Eventually he would strangle or start defying the pain in his legs to stand for relief. Two thousand years ago, something with a similar effect on the human body was called crucifixion.
Rhona stepped back again and perused Face. "I'm sure he's still with Smith. They have some antics going on called the A-Team. He's not bad looking, I will say that." She paused, then turned to her second in command but spoke loudly, for Face's benefit, too. "We can do his arms or his hips now. What do you think?" She looked again at Face. "Hmmm. He might seem irreparable if we did his hips. If Smith comes for him, we're better off with some useable bait. Do the arms."
Rhona walked away as the bat swung two more times, snapping two more bones, but engendering first one full scream, then one strangled scream as the ability to breathe was instantaneously inhibited. All the guards followed Rhona, leaving Face alone in the dim basement.
He could not afford to let unconsciousness take command, because he would surely die. Weight on either leg was agony, so much so that he felt like he could not breathe anyway when trying to stand–yet, the only way he could fill his lungs was to stand. Likewise to pull against the ropes with his arms, and thus improve his breathing, was more agony. His limbs were on fire, and yet only by enduring the fire could he pull in the air to keep enduring it. Through it, he droned to himself, the Team is coming, the Team is waiting.
"You've been unable to reach my cell phone, Harry."
Harry was expecting this, and didn't like what he was about to have to say. He said it any way.
"You know as well as I do,
"Jesus, Harry, we never did that. You never did that. We never wrote guys off like that.."
"Only three guys in the org even know about you or
Harry caved in because he wanted to. "But what can you use? I told you I don't have manpower, I can't give you manpower."
"That's okay. I need some stuff, everything you have on the embassy, a helicopter, meds...," they met eyes on that one, knowing exactly what range of meds Hannibal would want, "...other gear. Now. In an hour."
Harry shook his head. "No way." He relented. "Okay, we'll try. Come in and I'll try to track down the Director."
It was nearly two hours later that Harry had finally gotten
through to someone powerful enough to give instant orders in line with
Face's will was, of course, quite overpowering. He had been through imprisonment and torture
before. One of his tricks was to retreat
so far inside himself that his mind numbed to the pain in his body. He was trying that now, but it was no mean
feat. Breathing was very difficult
already, and he was finding himself needing to push onto his tortured legs more
and more frequently to get air. Suddenly
as though he was hearing it in real time, Face replayed a lecture from one of
the nuns in the orphanage about Christ's crucifixion. It was one of those grisly Passion Week
efforts to make children as uncomfortable about Christ's torment as He
was. Unbidden and unwanted, Face
remembered with crystal clarity the nun explaining that the crucified would
keep pulling themselves up to get air, and that it was a sign of mercy to break
hips or legs or arms so that the condemned would stop struggling and merely
suffocate into oblivion. Face
immediately tried to erase the overwhelming horror of that with another memory
of another voice. Onto his legs, quiet
moans, breathe, hang again. The memory
was one that was always in the background of his environment, no matter how
minor or trivial a possible threat, and in cases like this one, Face could
summon a certain set of words as clearly as if Hannibal were standing right
beside him–the words were an answer to a question asked long ago. "You're right,"
He got a more powerful reaction than he bargained for. Face was quiet for a moment, then began explaining to
The Van turned into the tiny airstrip's entrance, and they
drove to the AirWays hangar, as instructed. A tall man with chiseled features came out an
office door and approached with two huge black duffle bags.
Jake was both excited and insulted. "I'll stay in the Van. No worries. I'm not even armed."
Murdock and his silent guide materialized. "Bird's okay. Older, but it has what we need." He looked at BA, expecting a problem, but BA
was strained and silent. He turned his
stare back to
"No, I'm not exactly going in. BA needs to be the one to penetrate the embassy basement to get Face out."
BA was talking over him without listening much to his last
"We had a little run-in with Rhona
years ago, in '
Before any questions or accusations,
It was nearly when they were geared up and on the freeway back to downtown LA. The translator Jake indeed sat unobtrusively in the rear-most seat, listening as best he could to the frightening but fascinating exchanges between the men in the front. Murdock was waiting in the helicopter at the air field for word to go.
As the plan was laid out, BA would need to cope with a bare minimum of time off the ground as they beat a retreat from the embassy. He was worried, but for Face's sake he would do what he needed to do. As a way to keep his mind off the flying part, he asked about the medical kit.
"You said I would have to be the one to get Face. What's that about? What's in the medical kit?
BA's head snapped again.
"You mean help him die,
His voice lower, Hannibal said, "I've been in the shoes
you're going to be in. You ask Face what
he needs or wants to take. He'll
understand all three. I pray you won't have
to use the third, but it may be the only thing that can help Face." Near to losing his composure,
Back to their usual parking area near the embassy,
"They are sending a man down with some water for the prisoner," Jake said suddenly. "That means he is still alive."
"Or they are going to see if he is."
"Wait until he returns," Jake advised, so they told Murdock to fly slow, but BA jumped out and headed to the back wall of the compound, the plan views of the grounds and buildings very fresh in his mind, so that he would be in position when the all clear sounded. They would have 5 minutes or less after this started. In fact, he decided to head over the wall already, to be even closer to the basement window. He was over and threading through the intruder alert system like a very large jungle cat, when the 20-year-old bat swinger approached the struggling Face with a plastic bottle of water.
"You want water?" the soldier asked, holding up the bottle so that he could squeeze out a stream of water if the man was sufficiently cognizant to affirm. He knew Face was alive, thanks to the labored, muddy breathing and the constant contorting as he hung. The soldier had seen it before.
"Yes," Face managed to croak, and opened for the water. He drank way too fast, and in seconds he spit most of it right back up on the soldier, who socked him across the chest and strode away swearing in whatever native language he claimed. BA was nearly to the window.
"He's alive," Jake reported. "Threw up on the guard. He's pissed."
"Yes, Colonel., Murdock replied. "In," BA breathed into his tiny device. The window latch was alarmed. He cut the entire window circumference at the frame and pulled it out entirely, then slid in.
Meanwhile, Colonel. John "
Rhona was almost giddy when she
confirmed visually that it was
Instinctively, Face turned his head sideways to hear again. BA had not wanted to startle him, but with the soft warning, now walked around and close to him. "We're getting you out," was all he could say.
"Is he down?"
"Hang on," BA breathed, then without warning or further consideration, grabbed Face by the waist, just under the ribs, lifted a bit as Face struggled to inhale, and cut him down with a few swipes of a short blade. He laid him on the floor, spun a bag from his back and opened it, pulling out a few things. Simultaneously, he said, "He's out of restraints. Two minutes. Four if you can manage it."
Murdock, on line with the other two, chimed in, "I'm 45 seconds out, Colonel. Give me the word when you are ready."
"No, I think I'll stay right out here on American soil,"
"Give me a weapon," the enraged Rhona screamed, and while two of her lieutenants tried to
reason that she shouldn't, a third just handed her the gun and she fired
expertly at Hannibal, 400 yards away.
She squeezed five or six shots, and one felled
"Nice, but I'm after something, and I'm not interested
if you aren't going to deal, bitch,"
BA had rolled Face on his back and was rapidly reviewing key information. "We have only a few minutes. I need to get this harness on you–" it was really a vest "–and get you out the basement window to the grounds. Murdock is standing by."
"Face, you have to trust we have this under
control. Now..." he pulled out the
vest and made himself oblivious to Face's groans as he put purple arms through
the holes and rolled him to buckle on the vest.
"I have some anti-inflammatory and some pain killer.
"Both," Face said, not at all reasoning, just reacting to the thought that anything would give relief. BA spun open the medical kit, pulled out the Demerol and injected it, then the anti-inflammatory. He hoisted Face up on his shoulder and padded to the empty window.
"No, you come.
We talk. No more shooting." Rhona was doing what passed as her best attempt at coaxing,
but with the gun still hanging loose in her hand,
"Show me the man,"
At that moment, Face was hanging half inside, half outside, the high basement window, where BA had shoved him. "Thirty seconds," BA promised, and pleaded with Face. "You need to get through, Faceman. Just drop. Have to come through after you. We only have a few seconds."
Wracked and nearly out of energy to live, at least for that moment, Face protested, "I can't. I have no way to get down." The drugs seemed to be dulling the edges of his perception, but not drastically changing anything for the better.
BA was extremely unhappy, but committed to the obvious. "You have to get through, you have to make this," he said, then pushed Face through to land on broken limbs outside the window. He pulled himself up and half through, checked to see where he needed to jump to avoid Face, then pushed off to land near him, outside the building in the planter.
"I'm on my way," he heard Murdock say.
Face was moaning, but BA ignored it again and grabbed him again by the waist, leaned near the building looking up, and waited.
Rhona's attention was back on
"Well?" he demanded, knowing that guards would be running his way.
The helicopter with bright lights swooped almost
instantaneously over the roof of the embassy, cable dangling.
BA saw Murdock whiz over, heard the shots, knew his turn was within seconds. He dreaded the flying, he so dreaded having to grab that cable and rise up into the air, without protection, but he steeled himself to it by feeling the ripple that coursed through Face each time he took a labored breath. "Just a few seconds, then I'll be down," BA comforted himself, "and Face will be safe." Then the helicopter sound had circled back over the embassy, weapons fire trailing, and he looked up for the cables.
Rhona was running from the front balcony to her office, which faced out back. Her gut told her what was happening. There was not really time to react save to hope they could catch one or more with a bullet, and she sent a few men to the roof to help that hope along.
The cables with their hooks paused in mid-air swinging far, but BA caught one right away on the arc near him, and clasped it to his vest, the second one, caught on the second arc, he clipped into Face's . Up went the little winch motor. Up went BA and Face, as Murdock gently withdrew simultaneously, and bullets flew all around. One or two or three hit BA, but the vest deflected them with bruises. Then it was Rhona herself, within feet of the Team making it beyond the range of gunshot, who realized that she still had bullets, and that her victim was freed, and in a blast of anger leveled her gun at Face's dangling frame and squeezed off the remaining bullets.
She was a very good shot, even at a twisting, rising, retreating object in the blackness of night. A bullet lodged in Face's chest.
BA saw it or sensed it from the new way Face twisted below
him. He could see flakes of something
dribbling out, which he would realize quickly to have been the first trickles
of blood. He looked up at
"Say nothing, hold on,"
Face didn't pull his eyes off
"They have to be ready Murdock. He's in respiratory arrest." Murdock stopped breathing himself, glancing back involuntarily but really seeing nothing, yearning to go back and hold Face himself, but knowing that this sterile act of flying was now the difference between life and death for the Team. He got on the radio.
"BA, hold the wound,"
The skids hit the roof marks and
"Doc," he said more firmly, grabbing the arm to hold him this time, the gurney escaping somewhat. Dr. Joe's eyes travelled over the two men who had brought the victim, and the man leaning now out of the cockpit, saw the bullet holes, their clothes, their guns, their expressions. "Who are these guys," he first thought with a trance of distaste. But the intensity of concern in the eyes of the grey-haired one holding him......Dr. Joe softened just a bit, and allowed himself to let go of his patient fixation for just a second, so that these men might communicate with him.
"What?" he said. "I have a patient."
"He's had some meds, already,"
BA named the two and the doctor nodded, still wanting to get
at the patient.
"We have to get out of here,"
Even BA said it. "We
have to go,
Hannibal and BA were back in the Van, with Jake, watching him listen to gibberish while making copious notes, moping over Face. They were waiting for Murdock to be driven back to the Van after returning the cosmetically damaged helicopter, but had not been there long before Jake alerted them to more trouble.
"They're talking about you again." Jake had earphones, but he turned up the
external speakers so they could make out "Smith" and "Peck"
in the conversation. Jake looked at
"She doesn't like you," Jake said, in reply to
Jake listened some more.
Rhona was railing about
"It's not about Smith. Smith did nothing. Peck came in disguise. Peck escaped me. That's what I must finish to avoid shame," she said as Jake translated.
"You shot him already," a Lieutenant said. "It's over."
"Maybe," she replied. She followed up with orders. "Send Mohammad and Alat. Finish it if it's not done. I bet they went to County. If not, he should be easy enough to find."
Dr. Joe had been near the end of a shift which had started
at when the mystery torture
victim was dumped off the helicopter. Three
hours of clean-up, stabilization, emergency surgery, and consultation later, he
was more than exhausted, but at least he had a patient with hopes. Strange thing to see, the
torture done, even for a crew which worked an inner-city
He walked from the intensive care area to the other side of a glass screen, behind which patients had some sense of isolation. As he moved toward the center nurses' station, where a guard stood, a few men other men unknown to him immediately congregated before him. One was in a lab coat of what Dr. Joe guessed was another medical facility.
"Dr. Hershenburg?" Harry Fielding asked. "I'm a special agent for the government." He flashed something that might have been a badge or identification, but the only thing Dr. Joe noticed was a gun. "Can you tell me his condition?"
Dr. Joe cocked an eyebrow as the special agent, a few others in suits, and the man in the lab coat drew closer into to a circle. "He's stable now. We've operated to remove the bullet, but it's torn up his lung. We're respirating him, giving him blood and fluids, he's got a reasonable chance to pull out of this." That seemed to be enough to offer in Dr. Joe's book.
"We need to move him," Harry announced. "He's in danger here."
The doctor was incredulous. "I'm sorry, what did you say? Maybe I wasn't clear that he is in very serious condition and requires intensive care."
Murdock strained inside at the thought. He had positioned himself with his back to the patient behind the glass, so as to not have to see his friend.
"Sorry, doc, but we have to do what we need to do to protect him. And that means moving him. Now, what do you recommend? Is there a convalescent facility near......"
Dr. Joe cut him off with a growing anger. "No. NO. You cannot move him. This is County-USC mister agent or police man. We have an entire security ward here. We have criminals and we have movie stars. He can be kept safe."
Harry tried to interrupt, but was cut off again.
"Look, I have no idea what that man might have done, or done in the past, but I cannot in my heart accept that he deserved what was done to him. Do you realize he was essentially crucified? His lungs are full of fluid and blood and he won't spontaneously respirate for us. His limbs are so swollen we can't even splint him yet. I am determined to do whatever I can to save him. And in the meanwhile, or if I can't, I'm going to do whatever I can do to ease his pain–he's heavily medicated now. Am I more clear now? He cannot be moved!" He ended his diatribe on a higher pitch than he started.
Harry sighed. He
understood. Between the passion
Murdock tried to divert his attention from the doctor's
words and Harry's protests.
"You don't realize how serious this threat is," Murdock finally said aloud, interrupting both Harry and the doctor.
"Who are you?" they both said, turning irritably to his direction. Realizing they had the same reaction to Murdock, they locked eyes back with each other. "He's not with you?" they also said simultaneously. Had it not been such dire circumstances, it would have been very funny. As it was, Harry had his gun half out of his holster and the safety unclicked before any of them could blink again. Murdock thrust his empty hands forward instantly, "Not armed. I'm Murdock. I'm with the Team."
Harry recognized the name, but the gun kept moving out. The doctor backed up against the nurses' station counter. Murdock did not even breath. Behind him, the agent from the airfield, who had driven him to the hospital, nodded to Harry, and the gun was pushed back into its place. The doctor stood straight again.
Murdock lowered his hands and looked at the doctor. "I'm a friend of his," he said softly and sadly. The doctor did then remember his face from the helicopter, and nodded ever so slightly.
Harry took a breath and started again, more calmly, with the doctor. "You see, none of us can be sure of his safety here."
The doctor was not convinced. "He," jerking a thumb at Murdock, "got in because he was with one of your men. That's no proof that my patient isn't safe here."
Murdock lost focus on the doctor again and looked around at the other medical staff. His eyes fell on an orderly with a beige plastic carry-all stuffed with plastic-suited hypodermics on one side and little bottles sticking up on the other. He wandered into one care space, turned right around and came out. Same thing in the next. The next. He was one away from Face's when Murdock's eyes travelled down to the floor and he saw that the orderly wore pointed cowboy boots. He circulated right out of the adjoining care area and into Face's now. Cowboy boots.
Murdock reacted, and so did Harry, whose adrenaline was heightened already anyway by the incident a minute before. Both shouted, "Stop him," as the orderly–or, intruder–inserted one of the hypodermics into Face's IV and starting pushing its contents into the fluids. Murdock flew to knock it out of his hands as agents reacted a split second behind him and gave chase to the intruder, who indeed dropped the hypo and ran. The needle hung from the IV tube, half expelled, as Dr. Joe leapt pass Murdock, shouting himself, "Pull out the IV." The startled nurse couldn't react fast enough, so the doctor reached out and yanked the tubes roughly right out of Face's arm, causing a little spurt of blood to start dribbling out. Face reacted slightly and his left arm moved a few times, weakly, but he did not become conscious. Murdock was frozen to the spot, growing nearly nauseous as he watched over his friend. The doctor gently but quickly moved Murdock back from the bed so that he could check out his patient. Other medical personnel moved in as well to help and restore the fluids. Even in the space of a few minutes, the removal of the stabilizing medications were allowing a dawning pain to creep into Face's body, which was having immediate and noticeable effects on his vital signs. The medical personnel hurried up, as Harry pulled Murdock completely outside the area again. They stood silently as several agents came up, shaking their heads and empty handed. Dr. Joe Hershenburg stepped out to address them a few minutes later.
"Okay, you've convinced me. Let's talk about how to move him."
Dr. Joe opened his eyes from a confusing dream about chasing men with guns down his emergency room hallways. Not quite a dream, he remembered. The doctor's lounge was not too dark, and the sofa not too soft, but it had afforded him a bit of a nap. He looked as his watch:
They had needed another thirty minutes to be sure the mysterious victim was indeed stable again, and not threatened by any of the cyanide that had been in the hypodermic. The steel-eyed, grey-haired man had come in at some point to talk to the lead agent, and had the big black man still with him, the ones who had been on the helicopter. After a few moments, those two and Murdock had walked to the edge of the man's bed and spoke to him, although he was profoundly unconscious. Then they departed. Dr. Joe heard from the emergency room nurse that the "Murdock" character and the black man had climbed into the ambulance bearing the decoy patient. Under the sheet and the apparent medical gear in that ambulance was a special agent. They went to a rest home in Chatsworth.
The main relocation had been under Dr. Joe's supervision, to an area at the end of the labor and delivery wing. The labor and delivery rooms had all the technical support they needed for a patient in the man's condition, but was an unexpected and somewhat isolated location from other patients.
That business took until well past . In fact, he hadn't hit the sofa until He couldn't quite bring himself to leave, but he knew that he should get a little rest to be in optimum condition. He stood and got a mug for coffee. After a cup, he would take a look at his patient.
Murdock and BA were mostly quiet during the ambulance ride
Dr. Joe walked through emergency to check on some activity there, then walked to the opposite end of the ground floor. He took a staircase up two floors, to the surgical wing, but walked past the main theaters and the scrub rooms to a corner door. He knocked twice, paused, and entered the storage room. Inside was a nurse and a patient.
Carla Hansen, surgical nurse, looked up and shrugged her eyebrows. "Not bad," she nodded. "He's strong. All his signs are strong. He's been breathing on his own for nearly two hours now, without a hitch or a hiccup. Pressure is good, too."
Dr. Joe looked over the clipboard notes she handed him. He pulled out his own stethoscope and listened to Face's lungs work from various angles. He checked the conditions of his limbs. He was back up to Face's wound, looking at the cleanness of the repairs, when he realized that clear blue eyes were on him. He finished his probe and pulled the covers back over the man's chest.
"Hello," the doctor said gently.
Face was very disoriented. His last memory was of
He blinked once at the doctor but kept staring. He could not talk, not even swallow. He couldn't really feel the rest of his body, but he guessed it was still there. He wished desperately that the tube would be gone, or at least that one of the Team would come up from behind this doctor to assure him that all was well.
The doctor seemed to perceive his desire to be rid of the breathing tube, and in a flash of compassion, motivated by the record of solid respiration of the last few hours, the doctor decided to take it out. As expertly as he had slid it in, out he pulled it, barely giving Face a warning. The nurse handed him a nasal tube in it's place, which the doctor placed on Face, pulling the tubing over and around his head. "That's better, I think," he said.
Face nodded a bit but found in a test that little sound would still come out. "It's hard on your throat, don't push trying to talk. Here," the nurse spooned toward him a little chipped ice. "Let this melt in your mouth."
Face obliged. The ice felt good. He opened for another spoonful, then without thinking about whether he could or not could talk, whispered, "Where am I?"
"You are at County-USC. I'm Dr. Hershenburg, this is Nurse Hansen." If he was thinking of a reciprocal introduction, he was wasting his time, as primary training prevented the Lieutenant from saying anything about his own identity.
"You're safe with us," the doctor assured mostly himself, since the patient could not possibly know about the persistent attempts to kill him. The doctor also had no way of knowing how much the patient remembered about what had happened to him, so he went on in the most general way. "You were shot in the chest, but we seem to have patched you up quite well. Your arms and legs will be fine, too." That vagueness he hoped would cover if the patient didn't remember the broken bones.
But Face did remember, and was grateful to hear a positive word. "Thank you," he mouthed, and opened again for ice. Dr. Joe indeed felt quite optimistic about this patient, who showed such strong signs that he would recover.
Then the doctor remembered one other thing that he needed to tell his patient. "And I have short message from your friends." Face's eyes fixated on Dr. Joe. "They said to tell you that the Team is waiting for you." The doctor was quite sure he had recalled the phrase exactly, because something like a smile came over the man's mouth, and his eyes almost glittered, as though tears of relief were hidden there.
The door opened without a knock, and a woman entered in a blue lab coat. As the door closed behind her, she pulled an automatic weapon from a holster behind her back and waved it a bit. "Back against the wall," Rhona said. Nurse Hansen, about the same age as Rhona and having plenty combat experience herself in Vietnam as a field nurse, looked at the panic button attached behind the bed, and wondered if she could cover the few feet and hit it before the woman would shoot. She wasn't sure. Dr. Joe was confounded at the motivation that would drive this determination to kill the blue-eyed figure in the bed.
Those blue eyes were on Rhona, watching her as she stepped to the left side of his bed, between the doctor and nurse and him. His eyes travelled to the gun in her hands and rested there, on that target. Rhona looked at Face. "If only I had time to enjoy this more," she said, "but I think I need to make my time here short."
The doctor moved in a little as Rhona reached for the IV and pulled it from Face's arm.
"Don't try it. I have no interest in killing you, but if you interfere I will, simple as that. Makes no difference to me." The doctor felt his blood pressure rise.
Rhona turned back to the bed and reached over Face to the oxygen flow control, turning it off. Then her hand reached for a blue coverlet next to the bed, with which she was going to hasten the end she had started by suffocating him.
Then the door banged opened again, propelled by a shop vacuum or floor waxing machine of some sort being pushed by a janitor. Rhona glanced over, as the doctor thought to himself, "This isn't really a closet anymore!"
What happened next took place in the space of only seven seconds, but to each party their part of the drama had its own place and extended life.
Face grabbed Rhona's loosely-held
gun with his left hand, thankful that she had settled on his partially working
left side, and tossed it toward the doctor.
Dr. Joe kicked the gun across the floor.
Carla Hansen dove for the panic button and held it down. Rhona screamed up
at the ceiling like an animal, ripped out the drainage tubes on Face's chest,
while vaulting onto the bed to straddle him.
She brought her elbow down on his windpipe and clasped his throat with
angry, choking hands. The janitor swung
the metal machine attachment against Rhona's jaw,
knocking her completely off the bed and on to the floor, where she rolled back
to her feet and sprung up to face her attacker.
Colonel John Smith pulled a weapon from his waistband, aimed at Rhona, and their eyes met for an instant, as she was about
to pounce. He fired twice in rapid
succession, the first bullet entering her heart, the second blasting out the
back of her brain as she collapsed.
The doctor and nurse did move instantly. Dr. Joe grabbed the breathing tube and slid
it down again, sure without needing to verify that the man's breathing had
arrested. He slammed on the pump as the
nurse dug around the chest wound, calling out something about new
bleeding. Suddenly Harry was in the room
Harry wiped off his weapon and then pointed it towards the wall now splattered with Rhona's blood. "Watch out," he warned, and fired once.
"Well," he said, "I got her. My gun. My prints. Residue on my hand. My story." He
"We have both her key Lieutenants too,
"Let's get the rest of your Team here,
Harry was relieved that
The cafeteria did not reopen until , and it was only
He bought a coke and a bag of chips, and sat at one of the
tables. His mind kept re-playing over
and over the image of Rhona leaping upon Face and
attacking him. If only he had been
quicker. His gut instincts had obviously
been right when he guessed that Rhona would be
disinterested in following any bait. He
knew that she would identify and follow the doctor, if it took a day or two or
three, as the sure lead to finding and killing Face. She must have been delighted it happened so
Well, he thought, perhaps it really for the best, because if he had come sooner, she might have fired at Face immediately, and that would have been the end of him.
Face had to grab the gun away himself, came another grim
thought, full of guilt. But it was what
it was. They had taken on a monster, and
monstrous things had happened to them.
He had actually fallen into a dozing state when BA put his
"Let's get to a 24-hour burger place," BA said
When did he get the Van back?
They were finishing their food, back in the downstairs
cafeteria space. BA and Murdock had
waited patiently for
"Three shots," Harry corrected from behind him. And I did it. My service weapon."
Murdock and BA didn't understand at first, but it dawned on
"The doctor who has been handling Peck is ready to talk to me. I figured you'd rather hear it directly."
The four of them gathered outside Face's room door, where an armed guard stood watch. The doctor came out a minute later.
"I'm Dr. Joseph Hershenburg," he began, again hoping that the courtesy of names would be returned to him. Again the Team did not respond. He paused at that point, almost a little wistful. "I don't know his name, either. Something not right about that." He looked into the eyes of the silver-haired man, the obvious leader, the one who had ultimately saved the life of his friend and destroyed the killer.
The doctor owed the man something else. "The last thing I was telling your friend, before she came in, was that message about the Team waiting. It seemed to mean a lot to him."
That small statement meant quite a bit to the rest of the team, too. Silence reigned uncomfortably, until BA said, "So, how is he?"
"Well, we had a lot of damage again at the chest wound, which I think we have clamped up. We're a little concerned about his pressure–he might still have a little bleeder in there, so we are watching for that. He's fighting infection now, too, which is typical in these types of wounds, so we were prepared for that and are aggressively responding with antibiotics. He doesn't want to respirate reliably, however, so for the foreseeable future we are going to help do the breathing for him.
"On the good side, the orthopaedic surgeon has splinted all the broken bones. Simple breaks fortunately, really more designed for pain than lasting damage." Dr. Joe was sorry that came out, especially with the look on Murdock's face, so he rushed on. Also on the good side, we have some innovative pain management programs here, and I called our Assistant Director to approve some special protocols for your friend, so I think we can control the pain quite well, without danger of addiction, which will be important to his recovery."
"So, he'll be okay," BA concluded.
Dr. Joe took a deep breath and turned exclusively to
Dr. Hershenburg nodded, "I hope it's not necessary, but considering the circumstances and if it's important to him, I think you would want to do so, just in case."
"Yes. Just stay out of the way if you are asked to get out of the way. I'm heading off duty now. I'm so exhausted I'm at the point of making mistakes." The moment out of his mouth, Joe regretted that remark, too, as the men before him looked far more ragged than he felt. "Things will go well here. Many fine staff members have a personal interest in this case. I'll be back later in the day. You should get some rest yourselves." And he walked away from their dejection, hoping that the man would pull through and redeem them all.
The door cracked open to allow BA and Murdock to slip in, then move to the foot of the bed. Maybe the presence of all three created a
synergy that Face could feel, because he distinctly twitched and made a bit of
sound in his throat. Attentively, the
Team all leaned in a bit to see, and
"We're here, Face, all of us. We're all safe..." somehow
Face stared, blinking once, exaggeratedly, as though
acknowledging him. His eyes roved around
for BA and Murdock, but he could not move and his field of view was very
Me, Face thought, are they worried about me? He flicked his eyes back to
"Kid, we've talked to the doctor, and he thinks you're
going to pull through, but....." talk faster, before you lose him,
Face tried to concentrate.
Darkness came over him then and he fell unconscious again.
Over the next ten hours, at intervals of two or three hours,
Face would be propelled back to consciousness by a sense of fear more powerful
than his injuries. But he was so ill and
so heavily medicated that when he would surface, barely conscious, he first
struggled just to remember where he was or what had happened. And bone-shatteringly weary, he could only
stay conscious thirty or forty seconds, hardly time to figure that out. "Hospital," he'd realize, then remember the embassy and Rhona. The first two times, he then spotted
Hannibal, who leaned in when he realized Face was stirring. "What was it," Face tried to dig
through his memory, then, looking in
The third time he came to, Face hung on a little longer, and
after appealing to Hannibal with his eyes, weakly lifted his left arm to this
mouth and throat. He motioned
slightly. "He wants the tube out,
he wants to tell us something,"
Dr. Hershenburg was with his patient
when he roused the fourth time, desperate to hang on to life and to make sure
The doctor was discussing the matter with all three in the
next half hour. He was worried about
Face, who was unable to rest and thus had not made the positive progress Dr.
Joe wanted to see. He also was worried
about the grey-haired, steel-eyed leader, who was rather obviously near
collapse himself, with only a two hour nap in–a day, two? Dr. Joe didn't know. He had studied the
copious notes and machine recordings of the last eight hours, however, and
elected to remove the tube, with hopes that if Face could both talk and keep breathing
steadily as he had in the last 3 hours, he might get more productive rest and
stop fighting the medications. He went
in to Face's room as
The wait was not long after Dr. Joe had gone in. He was back at the door motioning them to come in.
Face was very slowly licking his lips, which must have felt
Finally, he could say it. Except that no sound really came out at first.
"No priest," he mouthed. Murdock came closer and took his hand. It wasn't so bad to cope with now, since most of Face was covered with soft blankets. And he wanted badly for Face to know he was there with him. "What did you say, Facey?" Murdock asked him.
But now the denial was in front of him. Had he needed it that badly, he wondered. "No priest," Face repeated, this time audibly, though quite deep and hoarse. "I am going to live." This was a lot for him to be able to say. "I will not leave you. Don't leave me to a priest."
BA and Murdock were plainly crying, and
"No priest," Hannibal repeated, leaning just a little closer. "We need you to live, Lieutenant. We need you for the Team. Now rest. We'll wait while you sleep."
Face kept his eyes locked with
"We're here, little buddy," BA answered. "You sleep so we can get out of here." That was just the right note of gruffness to relax Face back to sleep.
And this time, he slept for 48 hours, slept until his fever
was nearly gone and the doctor had decided that his breathing was completely
On the morning of the fourth day, Face was leaned up a little and working to feed himself jello and yogurt with his splinted arms. It was slow, but he was getting something inside him, all by himself. Murdock burst in suddenly.
"I'm so excited," he proclaimed upon seeing what Face was doing.
"I didn't know you felt that way about jello," Face whispered back.
"I don't but I figure if you're actually eating that stuff to get your strength back, you must want to get out of here pretty badly," Murdock laughed. "About time to think about moving on." He pulled a chair near to Face's bed and sat, taking the spoon and jello out of Face's hands, switching to the yogurt and helping him take small mouthfuls. It was clearly okay now for Murdock to be near Face, to nurse him even, because it was clearly the case that Face was going to be okay.
"Murdock," Face asked, raising his voice above a hoarse whisper as best as he could. "Why are you guys still hanging out here at all? Why aren't you out of sight?" The situation didn't make sense to him. He didn't really realize that he had completely checked out for two full days, but he did know that the guys always seemed to be around, and had been since the beginning, and even in his still-medicated brain, he knew that it had to have been a couple days or more. They could never stay in one place that long without someone from the Army getting wind of them. He would have normally expected to be stuck alone by this point, hoping for a rescue before he was well enough to be arrested.
Face had asked
"She's gone, Face, she can't hurt you anymore," he had answered, but with a sweet, sad, pained look in his eyes, and told Face to sleep again. But Face knew he could get the information from Murdock.
"Murdock," he asked again, pushing the use of his
voice, "there's something
Murdock looked only at the yogurt and the spoon and Face's mouth. This continued for a minute, until Face gently wrapped his fingers around Murdock's wrist and pulled the spoon back to the tray, while he inclined his head a bit to pry into Murdock's gaze, and said again, with little voice left, "What happened after I got here, Murdock."
Murdock roused himself. "We need to get you out of bed soon, and get going, you know. That's why I'm glad you're attacking the jello."
Now Face was silent, just staring at Murdock, his head sort of buzzing because of the wonderful medication that was keeping him from feeling anything but a constant, heavy pressure in places he knew he should rightly be feeling exquisite pain.
Murdock visibly gave up under Face's imploring expression, his shoulders sagging a bit. "Fine, you win. Here's the short version. Within a few hours of you being here, Rhona already sent goons to finish you off. The first guy almost got cyanide down your I.V."
"I don't remember," Face as much to himself as to Murdock.
"Yeah, you were just out of surgery," Murdock
sighed and kept down a repeat of the hysteria he had felt at the time. "So we packed up a couple fake Faces and
sent them off to various places hoping to pull the goons off your track. But
"I remember a little bit of that."
Murdock wondered exactly to what extent Face did realize how determined that woman was to kill him, and if he would be haunted by any of it.
"You should, since you apparently helped save yourself
by getting her gun away from her.
Face's thoughts had wandered to his murky memory of those few moments, but he snapped back as he realized that Murdock was doing it to him, too. Something was remaining unsaid.
"What is it, Murdock, what happened?"
"And the reason you guys are hanging around here is.....what?"
"Hannibal's friend Harry has gotten whoever it is in
whatever agency he works for to call whoever can make it that we won't be
arrested, and neither will you, at least for a while. Harry thought it was the
least he could do after what
"Okay, so tell me WHY you are hiding something," Face tried.
Murdock looked up into Face's clear blue eyes and said, "We figured you didn't need to have to deal with it until you were over the worst of this."
"What's happening to
Well, this had gone to hell, Murdock thought, now he thinks
"Face," Murdock put a hand on his friend's
Face pushed back into the pillow and closed his eyes. No wonder they wanted to keep it from
"For what, fool?" BA had just crossed into the room, took one look at Face's attempt at gaining composure, and knew just what had happened. He didn't waste time on Murdock (he would yell at him later), but concentrated immediately on Face.
"Listen, kid, today's the day you try out those legs a little over the bed, okay. We figure maybe one more day, and then we need to think about movin' on. We have to make sure you can make it with us. So the doc will work with you today, and we'll find out about therapy and stuff."
Face acted like he barely heard. BA tried again, leaning in to speak to him
very personally. "Face,
This finally registered with Face, his eyes cleared a little
and he wiped the edges of his eyes with his splinted hand. He also nodded a bit. "Okay," was all he said, but BA
fully understood, and by the time Hannibal and Dr. Joe entered the room 30
minutes later, Face was tired but cheerful, Murdock and BA were arguing over
something meaningless, and no atmosphere of regret hung in the room.
No, not on his own. He'd always be part of the Team.
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