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Independence Day

Independence Day

Author: Monte

 

Rated: R

Copyright: August 14, 2003

Status: Complete

Summary: Sequel to "Dark Angel". Does not need to be read together, but would probably be better if you did read Dark Angel first. Kyle Garcia returns still bitter and seeking revenge.

Warnings: Major character death (not of an A-Team member), a bit of swearing, violence, angst.

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em.

Beta read by: Casper

Comments: Pretty please

…………………………………………………

PART 1 - Birthday Surprise

Murdock tiptoed up behind Jo and placed his hands over her eyes. "Guess who, birthday girl."

Jo knew who it was instantly, but played along. Reaching up and caressing the hands on her face, she said, "Hmmm. No gold, so that rules out BA. I guess... Hannibal."

"Nope. Try again," Murdock said with a smile.

"Let's see. Maybe it's Face."

"Sorry. Still not right."

"Well, that only leaves one obvious answer. You must be the man of my dreams. Mighty Mouse!"

Murdock dropped his hands and looked down at Jo in mock confusion. "Last week you said Woody Woodpecker was the man of your dreams. You sure do go through these guys in a hurry."

"None of them measure up to you, though. So what's up? I thought you weren't coming over until after supper."

"Well, I just couldn't wait. I got a little surprise for you."

...................................................................

"So are you going to tell me where we're going?" Jo asked.

"Nope. You'll just have to wait. And no peeking either. It'll wreck the surprise," Murdock replied.

Jo sighed and leaned back against the headrest. The sunshine on her face was warm and soothing.

"How did you ever convince Face to let you drive his 'Vette?"

"It's a secret. Now you just sit there and enjoy the ride."

Murdock looked over at Jo. The blindfold covered half her face, but at least she couldn't see where they were going. Murdock smiled as he thought of how surprised she was going to be. This day needed to be special, and he had worked hard to plan out every little detail. After a while, Murdock pulled into a parking lot and shut off the engine. He hopped out of the corvette and walked around to assist Jo into the restaurant.

Jo grasped Murdock's arm and allowed him to lead her inside. When she was seated, she asked, "So do I get to take off the blindfold, or am I eating lunch in the dark?" Jo felt a pair of hands untie the knot. As the piece of cotton cloth was removed, she slowly opened her eyes. She saw BA sitting beside her, while Face and Hannibal sat across from them. Murdock sat down on the other side of Jo and grinned at her.

After having a leisurely lunch, including a birthday cake with candles, the group reminisced about the past year.

"I want to thank all of you for a wonderful birthday. As you know, this is the first birthday I've had since Dad died, and you've all been the best friends that anyone could ask for," Jo said, smiling as she looked around the table.

"Well, it's not over yet," Face told her. "What's a birthday without presents?"

"Here you go, kid." Hannibal produced an envelope from inside his jacket and handed it to Jo.

Inside were two tickets to a local production of 'The Phantom of the Opera'. "Hannibal. Thank you. 'The Phantom' is my favorite."

"I know," he replied, his eyes twinkling.

"And after the show, dinner at Da Guidos. A table for two. Tino is expecting you," Face said.

"Isn't Da Guidos that new little Italian spot down on Rodeo that's so hard to get into?" Jo asked.

"Ah, yes. Only the city's finest can get reservations. Why do you think I like it so much?" he said slyly.

"You're sweet, Face. Thank you."

Silently, B.A. held up a small box tied shut with a dark blue ribbon. He watched as Jo carefully untied the ribbon and slipped it into her pocket. A smile softened his features as she opened the box and withdrew a set of keys.

"Rest of it's outside," he explained.

Jo stared at B.A. in confusion. After a few moments, she stood and followed his lead through the door into the parking lot. Beside his van sat a 1966 Ford Mustang hard top. Jo stood with her mouth hanging open in front of the dark metallic blue vehicle.

"How did you... When did you... Oh, B.A. I don't know what to say," Jo stuttered in shock.

"Took me every weekend for 'most three months. We was all in on it. Even Harry. Wanted it to be a special surprise."

"So that's why Harry suddenly wanted to change his days off from Saturday and Sunday to Tuesday and Wednesday. Now it makes sense why Murdock was always so anxious to go places on the weekends. I can hardly believe you got Dad's old Mustang finally running." Jo gazed at the car in admiration. "I don't know how to thank you."

B.A. grinned and shrugged. "Anything fo' you little sis."

Jo turned and threw her arms around his neck. "You don't know how much this means to me," she whispered, fighting back tears.

B.A. patted her back and gave her a quick squeeze. "Go on. Try her out."

Jo slid into the driver's seat and started up the engine. She closed her eyes and listened to the purr of a well-tuned machine. An impish grin crept onto her face as she opened her eyes to see that Face, Hannibal, and Murdock had joined B.A. "So who's gonna come with me to try out my new wheels?"

"I've got to drive the 'vette back," Face remarked.

"I'm gonna stay here and have a cigar," Hannibal said, taking a cigar out of his jacket pocket.

"I'm drivin' my van," B.A. responded, making it obvious his mind would not be changed.

Looking over at Murdock, Jo chuckled, "Well, my friend, that just leaves you. Got any plans for tonight?"

Murdock quickly slid into the passenger seat. As he reached for the seat belt, he jokingly asked, "Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, will we be safe?"

Jo retorted, "I fly with you, don't I? Could this be any worse?" Waving goodbye to the others, Jo murmured, "Besides, the devil looks after his own they say."

Murdock raised an eyebrow in mock concern as Jo revved up the engine before driving away from the rest of the team.

...................................................................

Murdock looked over at Jo. There was a faint smile on her lips as the breeze played with her hair. He reached over and lazily twirled a strand around his fingers. "It's so strange how a person can change so much in just one year. When I met you, you were so determined to prove your independence. It's a wonder you didn't get yourself killed over in Scotland."

Jo's eyes dulled as she recalled her stubborn insistence about not needing anyone to protect her. "In a way, I almost hoped for death. I knew in my heart that Dad was going to die. I guess I had lost most of my will to live by then." A bittersweet smile appeared as she caressed Murdock's cheek. "I don't know where I would be if you hadn't come along and rescued me."

"Have you talked to Dr. Elliot about this at all?" Murdock asked in concern.

"Yeah, we've talked about it all I suppose. The fear of getting hurt, bitterness and revenge, death wishes, new beginnings, learning to live again. We've touched on almost every topic he can find."

"Did you know, B.A. still thinks it's my fault you have to see a psychiatrist?" Murdock asked.

Jo simply shook her head at the thought. "The grief counsellor I was going to after Dad died felt it would be more beneficial for me to see Dr. Elliot. I honestly thought I was going crazy for a while." She gazed out over the waves toward the horizon. The last rays of sunset were dying for the night.

"You've been awfully quiet this evening. I hope we didn't go overboard on the whole birthday surprise," Murdock commented as he pulled Jo close to his chest.

"No, you fellas were wonderful. I loved everything about today. I'm just being reflective," Jo explained. "Dr. Elliot's considering giving me some medication to help me sleep at night. I don't think I've slept for more than 3 hours at a stretch in the last couple months. Between the nightmares and trying to accept Dad's death, it's been tough. I'm glad you've been here for me. I don't think I could deal with this on my own."

Murdock rested his chin on Jo's soft hair. He had seen her in this mood many times. He knew different moods needed different responses. He could be the crazy, fun-loving Murdock when she was happy. When she was melancholy, like now, she simply needed someone to support her and be with her. And on the rare occasion when she became irate, he knew how to stay in the background.

"We should head back," Jo said after a bit. "It's going to be late if you go back to the city tonight. Unless you'd rather stay with me?"

Murdock smiled and gently kissed Jo's forehead. "What you need is a good night's sleep. Knowing you, you'll stay awake until you know I am safe at home, so maybe it would be better for me to stay. At least then you'll go to bed at a halfway decent hour."

The pair returned to the car, leaving the beach behind them. The drive back to Oakdale was relatively quiet, each of them lost in their private thoughts. They were both tired when they reached their destination. The long, eventful day had drained them of energy, until the only thought they entertained was that of sleep.

This lack of perception let the man in a black Mercedes across the street remain unobserved. The gleam in his eyes was pure evil. He watched as Murdock and Jo disappeared into the house. A sadistic grin twisted his features as he drove off into the night.

PART 2 - Kyle's Back

The chime of the doorbell interrupted Murdock from his morning paper. He signed for the envelope the messenger held, then withdrew the single sheet of paper and scanned the few handwritten lines in silence. Walking into the living room, he picked up the telephone and dialed the number to Mr. Lee's Laundry.

"Hannibal, it's me. We've got a problem. Kyle Garcia is back," Glancing down at the paper in his hand, he continued. "And now he's threatened Jo."

"Stay with her, Captain. I'll get Face and B.A. We'll be there as soon as we can."

Murdock hung up the phone and left the paper on the table as he thought about what he would say to Jo. He walked over to the bathroom door and gently tapped to make his presence known. Upon entry, he gazed at the young woman in front of him. Her long red hair was still wet from her shower. The dark purple robe she had loosely tied around her waist did little to hide her figure from him.

"Did I ever tell you how good you look in my robe?"

Jo wrapped her arms around his neck. "Why do you think I wear it?" Jo peered up into the brown eyes in front of her. She could sense the wavering passions in his soul. "What's bothering you, love? What's happened?"

Murdock swallowed and took a deep breath. Softly, he responded, "Kyle's come back. He knows where you are."

...................................................................

Hannibal, Face and Murdock sat at the kitchen table after supper to discuss their plan of action.

"Hannibal, if he knows where Jo lives, what's to stop him from just walking right in here?" Murdock asked.

"He's got a point, Colonel," Face agreed. "Kyle is serious. He's out for revenge. Jo isn't safe here by herself."

"I know, Face. We need to move her to somewhere Kyle won't find her before we can find him." Hannibal retrieved a cigar from his jacket pocket and lit it as he considered their options. "One of us should be with her at all times. Face, you arrange the accommodations."

...................................................................

Jo collapsed onto the bench and accepted the bottle of water and towel from BA. "So how long was it?" she asked, as she stretched out.

"One hour, thirteen minutes, forty seven seconds," BA reported, and showed her the stopwatch he held in his hand. "How far did you run?"

"Ten miles. After breaking my wrist so badly last fall, my doctor said I would have to give up rock climbing. So I took up running. It's a good outlet when I need to let off a little steam."

BA studied Jo as she leaned back against the wall. "You bein' careful when you run? Don't want you gettin' hurt."

"Yeah, I am. You don't have to worry about me." Jo smiled as she looked up at BA. "I'm gonna go have a quick shower. I'll be out in a bit."

...................................................................

Jo closed her eyes as the hot water flowed over her skin. She had known it was only a matter of time before Kyle decided to resurface. Now he was taunting her, trying to draw her out. It was a vicious game he played. His last pawn had been Jo's father, James. Now Kyle had a new plaything in mind.

Jo shut off the water and wrapped a towel around her body. Opening the door to her room, she walked over to the closet, where she extracted and pulled on a pair of faded Wranglers, a simple black tank top and tennis shoes.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the bedroom mirror, she spoke to her reflection. "What Kyle doesn't know, is that I play with friends, and we make our own rules."

PART 3 - Another Nightmare

The constant drizzle was beginning to get on everyone's nerves. BA spent most of his time either in the garage, or lifting weights. Murdock and Jo played cards for hours on end. The first three days weren't too bad, but cabin fever made its appearance on the fourth day.

After losing the last six games of crazy eights, Jo threw the cards at Murdock in disgust. "I give up. I should have known better than to play crazy eights with a crazy man."

"Well, when we played old maid, you were the one winning," Murdock pointed out.

Jo glared back at him. "That's not the point."

They continued to bicker as Face and Hannibal looked on. The men watched for a moment before Face spoke up. "Maybe we should take a trip into town, Colonel."

"I think you're right, Face. First thing in the morning, we'll head out," Hannibal agreed.

...................................................................

 During the course of the day, the tension in the group subsided. Face met one of his lady friends for lunch, BA stopped by the day care center, Murdock and Jo went to a matinee, and Hannibal played a round of golf.

After the movie, Jo and Murdock wandered through the park. They stopped by the pond and fed bread to the flock of ducks. Out of habit, Murdock kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, but all seemed calm, all but Jo.

"You seem a bit distracted. Something on your mind?"

"You ever get the feeling that you're being watched? I keep getting the feeling someone's eyes are burning a hole in the back of my head, but I can't see anyone," Jo admitted.

"You think maybe it's Kyle?" Murdock wondered, scanning the faces of those around them.

"Don't know. But I think we should go find the others."

...................................................................

The summer night was pleasantly mild. The crickets chirping in the weeds blended harmoniously with the twittering of the birds settling in for the night.

Jo cracked open the window and listened to the gentle whisper of the breeze. The sounds of nature always helped to relax her when she wanted to fall asleep. Slipping beneath the sheets, Jo stared into the darkness and wondered how long it would be until she had to face Kyle once again.

"It's not going to be long enough," she whispered to herself.

She was running. She didn't know who she was running from or where she was, just that she had to keep running. There was danger behind her. She had to stay ahead of it. She had to reach safety. One face stood out in her mind. Murdock. She had to find Murdock. She could hear his voice calling her name. Keep going, don't stop, don't slow down.

Jo's eyes shot open. The torment of her dream faded once again. Jo sighed, she was more tired now than when she first went to bed. Slowly, she rose from the bed and slipped over to the door. Stealthily making her way past a snoring BA, she eased into Murdock's bedroom and silently closed the door behind her. The starlight shone dimly in the room, bathing the sleeping man in a pale glow. She lifted the blanket covering Murdock, just enough to slide in beside him. Even in his sleep, he smiled slightly and held her close to his chest. Finally feeling safe, Jo let herself drift back to sleep.

...................................................................

The morning sun was peeking through the vines of the Virginia Creeper on the window. Murdock yawned and opened his eyes. Jo lay beside him, still asleep. He had felt her join him last night, but hadn't woken up enough to ask about the dream he knew she must have had. He brushed a strand of hair back from her face as he studied her peaceful features.

Jo sighed and snuggled against his bare chest. A faint smile played on her lips as she toyed with the curly hair next to her cheek. Murdock moved his hand to cover hers, bringing her hand to his lips, he lightly kissed her fingertips.

"Good morning," he said, when she opened her eyes.

"Morning, hot stuff," Jo replied cheerfully. She rose up on one elbow to look down at Murdock. "Anyone ever tell you how cute you are in the morning?"

Murdock glanced at the tee shirt Jo was wearing. "Is that my shirt?" he asked curiously.

Jo blushed under his scrutiny. "Yeah, I stole it. What are you going to do about it?"

His eyes sparkled devilishly. "Maybe I should steal it back."

Jo's eyes narrowed. "You wouldn't dare."

"Oh, wouldn't I?" Before Jo could respond, Murdock had her hands pinned above her head and his strong legs were on either side of her hips.

Jo squirmed under him, but quickly gave up the tactic. She wasn't strong enough to unseat him, and he seemed to enjoy the way she was wiggling underneath him.

"Hey, fight fair, will ya?" Jo complained.

"All's fair in love and war, they say."

Jo scowled up at him. "So which is this?"

Taking both of Jo's wrists in one hand, Murdock slid his other hand down her arm and side, letting it come to rest on her thigh.

"A little of both, I'd say." Murdock lowered himself until his face was just above Jo's. "All is fair in love..." He kissed the end of her nose, then both of her eyes. His tongue flicked over her lips as he slowly slid his fingers under her shirt.

Jo relaxed under the touch of the man she loved. His hand slowly and carefully pushed the shirt upward. Jo shivered as his fingers brushed over a ticklish spot on her ribs. She barely heard him whisper…

"And in war…"

Jo shrieked when the feather light touches turned against her. Murdock knew all her ticklish spots and used that knowledge to his advantage. His hands flew over her ribs and stomach as Jo laughed and squealed, trying to free herself from between his legs.

Murdock's deep laugh joined Jo's as he used his entire body to hold her down. It took all his strength to control her as she thrashed around, tangling them both in the sheets.

The noise from the bedroom did not go unheeded by the occupants of the living room. "What dat fool doin' to Jo?" BA growled.

Hannibal stared at the door to the bedroom as a loud thud and more laughter could be heard. "I'm not so sure I want to know."

BA shook his head and turned up the volume of the football game he was watching.

PART 4 - Captured

Face stood in the doorway watching Murdock and Jo splashing each other in the pool. He chuckled as Jo launched herself at Murdock, submerging them both in the water. Murdock came up sputtering, his hair plastered to his skull.

"Colonel, tell her that wasn't fair," Murdock appealed.

Before Hannibal could respond, Jo retorted, "Well, you started it. You pushed me off the bed. You're the one who said, all's fair in love and war."

Murdock crossed his arms over his chest and replied, "I didn't push you, you fell. Besides, water fights aren't part of love or war."

"Says who?" Jo wanted to know.

"Says me," Murdock sneered.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to leave those two alone, Colonel?" Face questioned.

"Are you volunteering to stay behind, Lieutenant?" Hannibal teased.

"No!" Face held his hands up and backed up a step. "We need every man we can get to track down Kyle. I'd be of more use looking for him than babysitting here."

"You mean you don't like having water fights?" Hannibal grinned around his cigar.

"Don't smile at me like that, Hannibal. I don't like it when you smile like that. Hannibal, no." Face began to back up again, accidentally colliding with BA.

"Hey, watch where you goin', Faceman," BA growled in mock anger. He caught Hannibal's slight nod and moved toward Face, who was trying to keep one eye on BA and the other on Hannibal.

Hannibal rose from the lounge chair, trapping Face between himself and BA. "You look too warm, Lieutenant."

Face quickly looked back and forth between BA and Hannibal. Both were grinning mischievously at him. Misjudging the distance between his feet and the edge of the pool, he took a step back right into the deep end of the pool.

Jo clapped her hands over her mouth as Face dropped into the water. Murdock howled in delight.

After Face had managed to climb out of the pool, he glared at Murdock and Jo. "You think this is funny or something?"

Taking in the drenched clothing, the two nodded and continued to giggle. Adopting his best British accent, Murdock stated, "Don't take this personally, old boy. But you do look a bit like a drowned rat, Templeton."

Jo's laughter rang out at the allusion to Charlotte's Web. She threw her arms around Murdock's neck as she continued to laugh. "You're so bad. But you are so funny also."

Stopping only long enough to direct a disgusted glare at the couple, Face stomped off to change his clothes.

...................................................................

Kyle lowered the binoculars as the van pulled away from the house.

"You can run all you like. But I'll have you just as I had your father. You can't hide from me."

For days, he had been watching Jo from a distance. Now the time had come to carry out his plan. Kyle picked up the black case sitting at his feet. He methodically assembled the various pieces it contained into a crossbow. He slipped a sedative laden dart into place and began his descent to the house below him.

...................................................................

Murdock stroked Jo's hair away from her face. He could see the melancholic numbness taking over her emotions. Lifting her chin so that she had to look at him, he probed gently at her psyche. "A penny for your thoughts?"

Jo sighed and asked, "Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? I pay to have you listen to my conundrums. Then you say I'm a hopeless basket case." Jo paused to smile sadly at Murdock. "Why do you put up with me? I'm stubborn, I refuse to listen, I'm just a general pain in the butt."

Murdock placed a finger on Jo's lips to silence her. "I know, but I need you just as much as you need me. I want to spend every minute with you. But most importantly, I love you, Jo. Nothing can change the way I feel about you. No matter what happens, I'll always be here."

"Don't make promises you can't keep." Jo picked up her coffee cup and stepped outside the house to watch the dying sunset as it sank behind the hills.

This was the moment Kyle had been waiting for since his return to America. He carefully aimed the crossbow and let the projectile fly. He watched as Jo shuddered in pain as the dart pierced her skin.

The last thing Jo's mind registered before slipping into oblivion was a malicious sneer and a pair of brutal gray eyes.

...................................................................

Murdock poured himself another cup of coffee. Jo made it just the way he liked it. Rich, dark and very strong. He inhaled the fragrant steam of the black liquid and ran his fingers through his hair, walking toward the door.

He pushed it open and looked around for Jo. "Jo? Hey, Jo."

Murdock froze when he saw Jo's broken coffee cup on the step. He quickly scanned the surrounding area and saw a dark haired man driving away in a black Mercedes. A mixture of anger and dread hit him like a sledgehammer.

Murdock ran to the edge of the road. As the car disappeared from sight, he growled, "Damn you, Garcia."

...................................................................

Murdock paced the length of the room. He blamed himself for Jo's abduction. "He took her Hannibal. That psychopath took her. He's gonna kill her, just like he killed her dad. I've gotta get her back."

"Calm down, Captain. We'll find her. We'll bring her back, and this time, Garcia won't get away."

"No. I'll make sure he doesn't. This time it's personal." Murdock stopped pacing to stare at his commanding officer. "I never should have let her out of my sight. If he hurts her, if he lays one finger on her, I'll kill him. So help me God, if that son of a bitch hurts her, I'll kill him."

Hannibal took a long hard look at the pilot. He had seen that dark look of determination before. In Saigon, Da Nang, Hanoi, in all the missions during the war. Hannibal knew Murdock was deadly serious when he threatened to kill Kyle Garcia.

"Go get some sleep, Captain. Tomorrow we'll find Jo and bring Garcia down."

Part 5 - The Meeting

The ticking of the clock was the only sound in the room. Murdock stared out the window, waiting for daylight. He was ready for Kyle. In his hands, he held the .357 Jo had taken from Kyle once before.

An ominous resolve flowed over him. He would find Jo and Kyle, or die trying. By the time it was over, someone's blood would be soaking into the dirt. Murdock clenched the cold barrel of the gun close to his chest. Kyle would have to pay for the pain he had put Jo through. For now, he waited. The wrath he felt was smoldering under the surface. His eyes were cold and calculating. His mind was made up.

With the dawn came a phone call from Garcia. Murdock gripped the phone as he listened to Kyle's eerie voice.

"You want the girl? Come get her. If you have the guts to face me, that is. What do you say? Ya wanna come play?"

"If I find out you've hurt her, Garcia, you won't live long enough to regret it."

Kyle chuckled savagely, "You don't scare me, flyboy. Be at 6214 Barbrant Drive at noon. Come alone."

...................................................................

Jo glared angrily at the guard in front of her. She hated bullies. He was tormenting a young dog tied up across the room from Jo. The pup whined hungrily as it stared at the guard's breakfast.

The guard looked down his nose at the animal. "Shut up, stupid mutt." He kicked at the dog, but missed. He turned his scornful gaze on Jo. "So, missy, how tough are you? We'll see how you hold up when Garcia gets down here."

The door opened and Kyle motioned the guard to leave the room. For a moment, they stared at each other in silence.

Kyle finally spoke first. "You have your mother's eyes."

"What's my mother got to do with you?"

"She was mine, and James lured her away from me. He always got what I wanted. But look how he ended up. And you, the devoted daughter, picking up where he left off. All I want is the store. Sign it over to me and you'll be released unharmed."

"Forget it. You took my father away from me already. I'm not going to let you get your hands on his store. You're nothing more than a murdering criminal."

Kyle's eyes narrowed as he sized up the girl before him. "You'll be singing a different tune by the time I get done with you," he growled.

His eyes dark with rage, he stalked over to Jo and dragged her across the room. He handcuffed her and attached the handcuffs to a chain hanging from the ceiling. Then with a menacing grin, he picked up an old fashioned cat of nine tails.

Facing Jo, he slid the rough leather cords through his hands.

Jo swallowed hard and thought to herself, "Focus on Murdock. Don't let him see me cry. He can hurt the body, but not what's inside. Just think about Murdock. Murdock will get me out of this somehow."

...................................................................

"Almost noon."

Murdock knew it was time to make his appearance. He walked into the dimly lit bar to find Kyle. He scanned the room, memorizing the layout. Kyle sat at a corner table, watching him.

Murdock walked over to the table and stood before his adversary.

Kyle motioned him to take a seat. "Bartender, bring this man a drink."

"Where is she, Garcia?"

"In time, my dear boy. I must commend you for staying with her. She is a fighter. Even more so than her father was, I might say. Pity he had to die so quickly."

Murdock accepted the rum and coke the bartender brought him. "I'm not here to play games, Garcia. Tell me where you took Jo."

Kyle sipped his brandy and sneered at Murdock. "I want the store. I'll let her go if she will sign it over to me. Unfortunately, she's also inherited her father's stubborn streak. So here's what we are going to do. I'll take you to her and you convince her to give up the store. If she does, you both live. If not, you'll have the pleasure of watching each other die."

Murdock stared at Kyle in disbelief. He truly was a madman. He had no doubt Kyle would kill Jo without so much as a second thought.

"Alright. Take me to her."

Part 6 - Truth and Justice

"Why would he want this place, Harry? What is it about this store that drives Garcia to kidnapping and murder?"

Harry looked up at Hannibal with sigh. "It'll be easier to show you than tell you." He led Hannibal and Face down into the basement. At the far end, hidden behind a row of lockers, was a heavy steel door. "James never told Jo about this room. He was trying to protect her from Kyle. It all started years ago, just after Jo was born. James and Kyle had split up already but Kyle came back unexpectedly. James was away and Jo's mom Elaine found Kyle down here. She threatened to call the cops if he didn't leave immediately." Harry pulled the door open to reveal the room's contents.

Face stared in shock at the disarray before him. "Is that what I think it is, Harry?"

"Yeah, Kyle had been running heroin out of southeast Asia. Elaine was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He panicked and strangled her. He left the door partly open and flew outta here like a bat outta hell."

Hannibal shook his head in disbelief. He prayed Murdock would find Jo before it was too late. "What happened then, Harry? Who found Jo's mom?"

"James caught a glimpse of Kyle fleeing the parking lot. He's the one who found her. He moved her out into the main part of the basement and blocked the door with the lockers. The police never knew about the heroin." Harry closed the door and returned the lockers to their original position.

Face contemplated the situation with a frown. "An army surplus store would have been a perfect front for Garcia to smuggle dope and black market items. It makes sense now."

"Thanks, Harry. Come on Face, let's go find Murdock and Jo." Hannibal bit down on his cigar, determined to bring down Garcia once and for all.

...................................................................

Murdock waited impatiently for Garcia's henchman to bring Jo into the study. He knew Face, Hannibal and BA were listening via a hidden microphone, waiting for his signal. He sprang to his feet when he saw her. The goon, practically dragging Jo by her arm, tossed her onto a chair. Murdock rushed over to her and wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders. His blood boiled when he felt Jo flinch in pain. Slipping his jacket off his shoulders, he draped it over her.

Kyle watched the display with cruel amusement. He smiled sarcastically. "Well isn't this just the cutest thing you ever saw?" His smile melted away as he turned his attention to Jo. "Are you ready to give up, girl? Or do I have to kill your boyfriend like I killed your parents?"

"You'll get what you want, Garcia. Now leave her alone," Murdock warned.

Jo numbly shifted her gaze to Kyle. "You killed my mother? What kind of animal are you?"

Kyle pulled a Luger out of the holster under his jacket and aimed it at Murdock's head. "Do as I say, or he dies. I get what I want no matter how many bodies I have to leave behind me."

Jo's eyes narrowed in anger. "You won't get away with this, Kyle."

He chuckled evilly. His finger tightened on the trigger as he replied, "I already have."

Murdock turned and shoved Jo toward the door. "Run!" he told her urgently. Then he reached back and gripped the gun hidden under his shirt. Diving to the side, he pulled the gun out as Kyle's first shot rang out. The bullet just grazed the side of his skull, but Murdock, ignoring the stinging pain, didn't waiver as he pumped two bullets into Kyle's chest.

As the first shot rang out, the other team members stormed into the house. They fought with Kyle's guards, overthrowing them easily. Hannibal spun around when Jo cried out to them. "I'll take care of Jo, you guys go find Murdock," he ordered.

Kyle slammed back against the wall before sinking down to the floor. He stared disbelieving into the pilot's brown eyes. Slowly, he focused his vision on the cold gleam of the gun barrel still pointing his way. It was ironic; he'd been shot by his own gun. The lack of mercy in Murdock's eyes didn't frighten him. Kyle knew he was already dying.

"You picked the wrong people to mess with, muchacho." Murdock calmly dropped the gun onto the desk. "Jo said she'd give you your gun back, now you have it."

Murdock stalked out of the room as Kyle's final breath left his lungs. He didn't get far when he met up with Face and BA. "Kyle's dead, where's Jo?"

"She's with Hannibal. Let's get you back to the van and get that bleeding stopped," Face said.

Jo winced as Hannibal treated the cuts and bruises on her back. She jumped up when she saw Murdock coming toward them. They held each other for a few moments before she pulled back. "Your head is bleeding."

"I'll live," he said. "The important thing is you are safe. Let's go home."

Part 7 - Epilogue

Jo knelt by the twin granite headstones and ran her fingers over her parent's names. James Wesley Harris rested beside Eileen Maria Lupita Delavegas Harris. Jo placed a single rose on her mother's grave.

"El Senor dio y el Senor quito; bendito sea el nombre del Senor. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord," she read.

She sighed as she thought of the years her father had spent without the woman he loved. Finally, they were together again.

"They say hindsight is 20/20. I understand now why you didn't tell me the whole truth about Momma's death. You were just doing what you thought was best. He took her away from us, and then he took you away from me. He won't hurt me anymore, he can't. I'm safe now."

Jo paused and watched the approaching storm clouds. The wind rustled the leaves above her. For the first time in years, she was at peace. She felt released from the fears brought on by the deaths of her parents and the terror of Kyle Garcia. At last, she knew the truth, and it had given her freedom.

The clouds were nearly overhead when she rose from the graveside. The wind whipped her hair around her face and chilled her. She turned and strolled down the gravel path to the gate.

The rain was falling steadily by the time Jo reached the house and sat on the porch steps. She turned her head slightly when the front door opened.

"I was too young to remember her, but he did his best to be both Daddy and Momma to me. Now they're both gone."

Murdock lowered his tall body onto the step by Jo. "You been missing them lately?"

"A little," she admitted. "A little too much and a little too often, maybe. Mostly just a little more every day." She looked over at Murdock. "Do you still miss your mom?"

"Yeah, I guess I always will." He smiled and put his arm around her. They sat in silence for a while as the summer storm ran its course. Eventually, he broke the silence. "So what's the plan now?"

"I was thinking of taking some time off. Harry has been talking about leasing the store from me. I might take him up on it. Other than that, I'm not sure." Jo pondered ideas for a moment before continuing. "Maybe I'll take up a new hobby. Something less strenuous than running and less dangerous than rock climbing. Maybe photography. I could have fun with Dad's old Nikon."

Murdock raised his eyebrows at her tone of voice. "Fun? Just what are you planning on taking pictures of, may I ask?"

Jo grinned wickedly. "Classified information. It's for me to know and you to find out." She laughed and pressed a quick kiss to his rain streaked face. "Let's go inside before we drown out here. If you get the hot tub going, I'll make some Scooby snacks."

Together the drenched pair returned to the house to dry off and warm up. The rest of the day passed in laughter and fun, as fears were forgotten and the past was laid to rest. Together they found the freedom to live and love. The future was bright. As long as they had each other for support and balance, they would both be flying free.

Finis

August 14, 2003

 


Independence Day by Monte

 

 


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