Please Send This Author Comments!
This page last viewed: 2017-04-27 and has been viewed 1550 times
Disclaimer: The characters from the series 'A-Team' and any other characters used from television and film belong to their relevant owners and are used here only for pleasure and not for profit. Any similarities with real life characters or situations are unintentional and coincidental.
Summary: Sequel to "The Changeling"
Copyright: August 2005
Friendship is one mind in two bodies. –Mencius
"Gentlemen, I have a new assignment for you."
Face had been doing pretty well, all things considered. There were still too many times when something would be said and he'd get a completely blank look on his face. That would be followed by an embarrassed silence, which Face would try to laugh away. But everyone knew it bothered him. On the last mission, Hannibal had found himself double-checking, making sure Face remembered not only things that he had assumed Face knew, but that he remembered what he had just been told. It wasn't good for either of them.
"I know that, Colonel, but this can't wait. And it's important that the Team handle it. As per our agreement..."
"All right, Stockwell, let me get the guys and you can drop this new emergency on us."
Murdock arrived a few minutes after the rest of the guys had arranged themselves in the living room. He was still wearing his newest uniform, a dark green shirt proudly proclaiming "Hill's Nursery" across the back. He was not happy.
"General, how do you expect me to maintain my new lifestyle if, every time I get the hang of things, you come in and pull me off the job to run another mission?"
"If you're having problems, Captain, I suggest you go back to LA, where you were supposed to be anyway."
Murdock made a face at Stockwell's back as he stepped into the living room and flopped unceremoniously down next to Frankie, who gave him sympathetic smile. Face, on Murdock's other side, had to think fast as to why Murdock was supposed to be in LA; one of those things he'd been told but hadn't actually remembered. All he remembered was something about dogs...
"If they have doubts about my ability to do the job, it's much easier to..." There he had stopped, looking uncomfortable.
"Much easier to what, Face?"
was almost mechanical. "Liabilities have to be...reduced..." He'd
stopped again, hurried on. "I know that's not the way it is here,
Face. As long as you know it 'intellectually', we'll work on the other as we
will be a retrieval mission, gentlemen." Stockwell looked from one man to
the next, gauging their reactions. As expected, they ranged from bored to
resigned. Except for Peck. He was totally without expression, simply waiting
for the information. Interesting. "Some very delicate files were on their
way to the
"A few days after the disappearance, the person for whom these files were intended received a phone call. Very short, very succinct. One million dollars to be paid into a Swiss bank account, by a given date, in exchange for the files."
"And the money was paid into the account, which was immediately transferred to...what, the Caymans? And no files." Face looked up at Stockwell. He had not even opened his envelope yet.
"Exactly, Lieutenant. The job of the Team is to find those files."
suppose you have a location in mind?"
we were able to trace the call."
this public phone was where, General?"
little town in
"Hey, watch it, Face!" Murdock jumped up, wiping the beer from his jeans as Face hastily retrieved both the bottle and the note from the floor.
spent the next half hour going over the details with Stockwell, what little he
had. A list of known political extremists who could have known about the
transfer, people from the country where the files had originally been stolen
from, and various local thugs. None of them seemed to fit the personality of
the thief, to
Carla left shortly thereafter, and again,
meanwhile, had managed to slip away from the house unnoticed. He desperately
needed time to himself, to think. Hannibal and the rest of the Team didn't know
Not that he
blamed them. Not really. They were so concerned about getting his memories
back, they had concentrated only on that. Even after he started seeing that
psych, they hadn't talked about anything other than his 'old' life. Once he was
Oh, they were sympathetic when he'd wonder what had happened to all of them afterward, but no one asked what they had done, where they had been, what it had been like. He even tried to talk about some of the things they'd done, like going to Loring Park, but it seemed to make everyone else uncomfortable, so he'd quit.
The worst part was having to be nice to Carla, because Carla was the only one who knew, who really knew, what had happened. And she wouldn't tell him where any one was now. Just kept saying they were well, and that he should just get on with his life, like they were. As if it were that easy. Suddenly thrust in with a bunch of strangers who were supposedly as close as family to him. Being watched and pitied and 'encouraged'...like he was getting over some dread disease, instead of having lost...hell, say it, instead of having just lost his best friend.
And then he'd
looked at that note, and recognized the handwriting. Immediately. And heard the
It had to be him. And Carla knew it...
Frankie had already gone to their rooms to start packing. Murdock was sitting
on the couch, a scowl on his face.
Murdock tossed a none-existent something to the floor and sighed.
really liked this new job,
don't have to go, Murdock."
Murdock to curse Stockwell's future generations,
Face was so
deep in thought he almost didn't hear the footfall behind him. Almost. He
whipped around, pistol in hand, relaxing when he saw
"I thought we talked about that, Face." The Colonel wasn't happy.
thought you were going to give me some warning," he snapped back. He
immediately regretted it. That wasn't the way you talked to your superior
"Something about this mission that bothers you, Lieutenant?"
"No, why should it?"
"You're not in the habit of dropping your beer, for one thing. Nor of going for a walk instead of getting ready for the job."
the beer was just an accident,
"And the walk? You'd normally be figuring out what we were going to need for this job, not wandering around with your head in the clouds."
"In case you hadn't noticed, a lot of things aren't 'normal' any more." The best defense was a good offense. "This is a habit I picked up while I was gone, okay? Taking a little time to ground myself before hand. If I'd done this on those other jobs, maybe they would have gone a little smoother."
"I thought maybe you were trying to figure out how to get in touch with Carla."
"Carla? What the hell for? She never tells me anything anyway. You know that."
It wasn't really the way Face wanted it. Face wanted to be able to tell the Colonel everything he suspected, everything he knew. But it was the Team's job to take down the thief. It was Face's job to protect him.
That's what they had always done for each other.
"I've never known Peck to be clumsy, have you, Carla?" Stockwell was casually watching the scenery pass by the limo windows.
"No, General, I hadn't really noticed that before."
"What do you suppose caused that little reaction? Hmm?"
"He was sitting next to Captain Murdock. That in itself would rattle most people."
"Ahh, but that shouldn't bother the lieutenant. He's known Murdock for years."
"The 'original' lieutenant did, sir. This one is still getting used to him."
"Point taken, Carla." He continued to peruse the view. "I supposed we should be expecting any number of surprises from him. At least until his memory fully returns."
"I would say so, yes, General."
Stockwell chuckled. "That should make things very interesting. For everyone."
Carla smiled in turn. Interesting was not the word she was thinking of.
He was watching out of the apartment window. He wasn't expecting anyone, not yet, but he kept a close watch, just in case. He'd learned the hard lessons of getting complacent. It wouldn't happen again. Which didn't preclude having a little fun along the way. Like that note. He smiled at that.
Stockwell would have the famous A-Team on his tail within another day or so. It
would take that bitch that long to persuade him that they were the only ones
who could handle this job. He wondered if she would tell him about the real
Face. It had taken him a long time to find him again. Carla had done everything she could to keep him from finding out. But there were files, and where there were files, there were ways of accessing them. And finally he'd found the right ones. Face. It had taken some effort to use that name instead of the one he knew. But he did. When they met up again, he didn't want to confuse things for either of them. If that was the name his friend had used, was using, then that's what he would call him. And they would definitely meet up again. Because of Carla.
Carla really was a vengeful kind of person. She didn't like the idea of his being 'the one that got away'. After all she had done for him. He should feel truly ungrateful for slipping away at the first opportunity. Yeah, right. Promises of bringing back his memory, helping him get back to his people again, just like they were doing for Face. And he'd gone along with it...for a while. He'd started remembering things alright. And that's where Carla's little plans had gotten fucked up.
He'd started making his own plans, but they hadn't really gelled until he found out about his people, his friends. The ones he'd always wanted to go back to, just as Face had been wanting his. And found out they were all dead. He'd gone all this time thinking he had someone waiting for him, only to find out they had gone just before the whole experiment had started. Which was why he was chosen. Because they knew he had no one. And that's why Carla had thought she could hold him. Because, after all, what else did he have?
She hadn't counted on Face. Hadn't counted on the fact that he knew Face would not abandon him, nor he, Face. Had seriously underestimated the bond the two men had formed.
I took care of him; he took care of me. Always. Always in that life, anyway. And, like himself, he knew his friend was fitting into his 'old' life with as much ease as a turtle on his back. The re-integration had gone to two extremes, both equally guaranteed to fail. Taking two men who had learned to rely exclusively on each other, who believed they had only the other; throwing one into a gang of men he didn't remember, the other into a void with no one to turn to. Neither would be happy with their situation. Both would miss their other half. The certainties of that connection. And eventually they would both make the move to reunite.
He just happened to have gone first.
It had been a twist of fate that he'd learned of these files being transferred. Good luck for him, bad luck for the courier. If he'd been a few minutes earlier, the guy would still be alive; but, that was hardly his problem. He'd interrupted things in time to grab the prize for himself, which was all he really cared about. And now he sat with mega-bucks in a secret account, and the prize within easy reach when he needed it. The prize Stockwell wanted, anyway.
His prize would be on his way in another day or so.
They had gone
Face stepped out of the van nervously. Kept on a mask of calm curiosity, but he was like a wound spring inside. He didn't want to look across the street. He knew exactly what was over there. A small cafe with a suspicious waitress. Who would probably remember two bums who had caused a ruckus there, but who wouldn't recognize either of them now.
pulling himself back to reality. The others were staring at him. Again.
He tried to sound casual. "What?"
we're not boring you, we were just discussing whether or not this guy would
still be around here or not. What do you think?"
Face looked around as if he was really thinking about it. He knew. They were probably being watched right now. That note had been left for Stockwell to find, meant for Face to understand. He was here.
"No, I don't think so, Hannibal. This guy just dumped a million in his bank account. He's going to want to enjoy it. And it wouldn't be here."
Relieved to get away from the Colonel's scrutiny, Face nodded and hurried up the street. It took only a few moments with the young, and very feminine, desk clerk, to get them a suite for the price Stockwell had allocated for two doubles. Face had wondered at the sudden frugality on Stockwell's part. Wasn't like him to worry that much about expenses. Only the outlandish ones.
Glancing out the door to make sure the guys weren't coming in yet, he made one more request. He had just concluded that business when the Team walked in. Smiling, he led them to the elevator and up to their new accommodations.
around the spaciousness,
"You are so right, Colonel."
"Stockwell got a phone call earlier, from the guy who was supposed to get those files. Seems the thief has another deal in mind. When he was reminded that he'd already been paid, the guy told him that was only the down payment. And once again, they were able to trace the call. Came from a phone booth on the other side of town. No note this time, though." He looked over at Face. "Seems our friend is still around, after all, Face."
"Possibly. Or a confederate. I mean, you did consider the possibility that there's more than one person involved in this, didn't you, Colonel?"
careful not to react to the challenge. "Never underestimate the enemy,
"I never do, Face. I never do."
The clerk at the front desk heard the front door open and sighed. It had been a busy day and she was wishing she could take a break. She looked up expectantly and was immediately drawn to a pair of eyes that would put Harrison Ford to shame. Two in one day? She should definitely have taken her uncle up on this job sooner...
"Hi. I was wondering if I could leave a message for one of your guests."
"Sure, I can get it to them for you." She smiled her sexiest smile.
He matched her smile and she damn near went through the floor. Then he handed her an envelope. She never looked at it.
"I'll make sure they get it, Mister..."
"Thanks, sweetheart." He winked at her and abruptly turned and walked out.
She watched, fascinated, until he disappeared from view. Only then did she look at the envelope. Oh, wow. They knew each other...how weird...
The phone in the room rang and Murdock scooped it up.
"Wally's Bar and Grill."
"Excuse me? I was calling room 420."
"I'm sorry, little lady, this is 520." He hung up a moment later.
"Some gal, got the wrong room." He joined them on the couch, and was soon engrossed in the game.
Face had been
listening from the bedroom door. He could feel his heartbeat quicken. Of
course, there was always a chance it really was a wrong number, but he didn't
think so. Way too coincidental. Part of him wanted to race down to the desk and
collect whatever it was that had been left for him; the other part knew he
would have to take his time, make it casual, or
closed the bedroom door, leaned back against it. Why was he even doing this? He
knew he should tell
He knew it, but he didn't feel it. Damn.
moved to stand in front of the window. He stared down at the street,
half-hoping he would catch a glimpse of him, knowing he wouldn't. Sometimes he
got so mixed up, memories coming back about the men in the other room,
colliding with what he had believed to be reality. And then he'd go to
That was really when Face knew that this was not going to work. It was like trying to put the proverbial square peg in a round hole. At first, he'd wanted it to work, badly. And he did whatever he could, whatever he was told, to make it work. But even though he'd remember things, it was like watching an old movie. Just characters on a screen. It wasn't real to him. He had never gotten that connection back. And he didn't believe he ever would.
Now he had a chance to get back what he'd lost. And he wasn't going to screw it up...not for anyone.
He'd gone directly to his car after leaving the hotel and headed for his new digs. A far cry from a cardboard box. He smiled bitterly at that thought. Crazy as it may be, he really wished they could go back to those days. When all they had to worry about was that day, that hour. Sure, there'd been days when they'd gone hungry, when they were cold, wet. But those problems seemed minuscule to the ones now. All the scheming and hiding...
That would be over soon. Stockwell probably thought it was over once Barish was gone, but he had no idea. Stockwell...and Carla. Thinking they had everyone where they wanted them again. Thinking they were in control. Until he'd gotten away. That upset the applecart. Created all kinds of upset.
They hadn't seen anything yet.
Face had his chance later that evening. They were on their way out to find a restaurant for supper. Half a block from the hotel, Face pulled up short.
"Hey, you guys go ahead. I left my wallet back in the room."
won't need it, Face. Stockwell's picking up the tab."
"I know, but I just feel better having it on me. You guys go ahead, I'll catch up." Without another word, he turned and hurried back toward the hotel.
wrong, Colonel?" Murdock had noticed the frown on
"I'm not sure, Murdock. Something's not right, but I don't know what."
"Something about Face, Johnny?"
"What makes you say that, Frankie?"
"Well, it's just he's not really with us yet, y'know? I dunno. Maybe he shouldn't have come with us on this one."
"Face is part of the team, Frankie. Don't you forget that. We'll watch his back." BA scowled hard at Frankie, making the other man back away a step.
"Hey, no offense, BA. Really. It's just..."
He didn't want the team fighting among themselves, but he agreed with Frankie for once. He never should have brought Face on this one. Not until he knew what was going on between him and Carla.
The clerk smiled brightly when she saw Face coming back in the door. He strode quickly up to the desk, flashing her a brilliant smile.
"Did I do that right, Mr. Hamilton?"
"Perfect, Lisa. Absolutely perfect. My friends will never expect the surprise." He took the envelope she handed him, forcing his hand not to shake.
He hurried into the lobby and found a chair in the far corner. He held his breath as he carefully tore open the envelope. There was a note, in the same, familiar handwriting.
"Good to see you again, buddy. Time's not right yet, but I'll see you soon. Be ready."
Face smiled. 'Be ready.' As if he hadn't been ready for a long time...
joined them at the restaurant,
help, of course, if they knew just what was in those files. But Stockwell
steadfastly refused to divulge that. "Need to know", again.
the speculations were getting totally out of this world, and the wilder they
got, the more everyone was laughing.
"It's okay to relax, guys, but let's remember. This guy killed the courier. He's not to be taken lightly."
Face sobered immediately. "How do you know he's the killer, Colonel? All Stockwell said was that the courier turned up dead. He could have been killed by any one of the apparently many people who are after those files."
"And not take the files? C'mon, Face, that doesn't make any sense."
"Maybe the killer turned them over to our guy, and our guy had nothing to do with the murder. He didn't even have to know about it. Or maybe the killer couldn't find them, and our guy did."
"That's pretty far-fetched, Face."
"I'm just saying you can't hang a guy when you don't know the facts. You of all people should understand that much."
For a moment,
"Okay, Face, what the hell is going on here?"
immediately put on the innocent expression that fooled most people. Not
"I don't know what you mean, Colonel. I'm simply pointing out that you and the others seem to be guilty of doing much the same thing that was done to you. Convicting a man of something when you have no proof."
"Okay, Face, I'll concede that maybe, maybe, this guy is not a cold-blooded killer. Don't let that blind you to the fact that he is a thief and an extortionist. Possibly - note, I said, possibly - a traitor. I would think that would be enough to make you less sympathetic toward him."
"Who said I was sympathetic? I'm only pointing out a bit of hypocrisy when I see it."
"I think that's enough, Lieutenant."
"Actually, more than enough, Colonel. If you'll excuse me, I'll see you back at the hotel." With that, Face calmly dropped his napkin and stood, heading for the door before anyone could say anything.
the hell?" Frankie couldn't believe what had just happened. He'd never
seen any of the team get in
"I need to speak to Carla. Now."
"I'm afraid she's not at her desk right now. Could I take a message?"
"No, you cannot take a message. I know she's there. You put her through or you can kiss Able 7 goodbye."
"Just a moment, please."
Colonel Smith. I know Able 7 is in
"I want to know what you haven't told us about this job. Specifically what it has to do with my lieutenant."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Colonel. Are you telling me that there's a problem with Peck?"
"Yes, there's a problem. And you know what and why. Now I want you to tell me."
"I already told you, Colonel, I have no idea..."
"Okay, okay. Maybe I should talk to Stockwell instead. He might be interested in your little games. And then he might a little more helpful."
"Perhaps you should, Colonel. I'm sure he'd be interested in knowing how the lieutenant is doing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do." She hung up abruptly.
"No, she called my bluff. She has 'no idea' what the problem is."
"So now what?"
"Which means it probably has something do to with his time away from us." Murdock was fiddling with his cap. "Any way of getting hold of the records they kept?"
chance. Classified. Which means they're either locked up tighter than
"So back to the question - now what?"
"So now we try to get through this job as fast as possible, before Face does something...inadvisable. And guys..."
The three men looked at him, waiting.
"Let's take it easy with this. Keep in mind he's learned a few tricks over the last year or so, plus he still hasn't reconnected...we may have to watch our own backs."
"How do we know what he would do now, Murdock? We haven't got him back yet, you know that. And you saw how he was at dinner. That's not Face."
"He was trying, Murdock. But I don't think he is any more."
Face stepped into the hotel room. The entry light was on, otherwise it was dark. He made his way carefully to his bedroom, slid out of his clothes and into bed. Murdock, in the next bed, never moved.
He'd walked for a long time, retracing the steps from before. Had actually walked as far as the edge of town, down that highway. He'd wandered aimlessly after that. The euphoria he'd felt after getting the note had died with the argument at dinner. He shouldn't have done that. He really, really shouldn't have done that. They would know something was wrong now. Unless he could come up with some kind of story, something to explain away the anger. Headache, maybe? Yeah, like they'd buy that.
In the end, he said the hell with it, and walked back to the hotel. He would be Face to the hilt from now on. If they asked about the outburst, he'd just apologize, say he didn't know what had gotten into him. Otherwise, he was strictly a team player. Until he heard from him again, and knew what he had to do next.
He shifted in
bed, trying to get comfortable. He should've grabbed
a sleeping pill.
He had one more call to make before he took to the road. He knew there was a problem within the Team. Watching the sudden departure from the restaurant, he'd known then that he would have to work fast. He'd apparently underestimated the strain his friend had been under. It should have been obvious, being confronted daily with people he was supposed to care about and not remembering them. It would have been much worse than his own situation, having to deal with memories alone, no one else to deal with.
He quickly dialed the number that would bypass all the assistants and delays. A direct line he shouldn't have had. A consequence of having too much confidence in security systems. A consequence of underestimating the enemy. Of course, she hadn't known he was the enemy at that point.
The call was answered curtly. She would be expecting anyone except him.
"Hello, Carla. How are you today?"
"I won't bother asking how you got this number. What do you want?"
"Just calling to chat, Carla. It's been a while since we talked, you know."
"Do you still have the files?"
"Oh, yes. Safe and sound. Feel better?"
"What do you want? You've already been paid very well for them. And reneged on your end."
"Now, that's not quite true. If you ask Mr. Bellows, he'll tell you that I said the money would be a start. He neglected to tell you that, didn't he?"
"So what do you want?" Carla was sounding more and more impatient. He smiled at that.
"What do you mean?"
"Ah, Carla. Retribution is what I want. Retribution in all its forms."
He hung up then, hearing her questions and demands and ignoring them.
Off-balance. Just the way he wanted them...
It was three days of hell for the team. They canvassed the streets, stopping everyone they met, talking to shopkeepers, trying to get any clue as to strangers that had been in the area. They split up, covering both parts of town where the phone calls had come from, knowing it was really just a way to occupy their time.
their quarry was gone. What he wasn't sure of was where he had gone. West, to
Part of him said to drop everything and hit the road. It was getting too close with the guys. They were watching him, all the time. No matter where he went, what he did, one of them was close at hand. All very casual about it, and they maintained a 'reasonable' distance, but it was obvious to him. He cursed his own stupidity for that night at the restaurant. All the more reason for him to want to bolt. He didn't like being under such scrutiny. He didn't like anyone watching him. Spying on him.
But the other part of him, the practical part, knew he had to wait. There was some plan in place, some scheme that had to play out first. He had a pretty good idea what that was all about, too. Barish was gone, there was nothing they could do about him. But there were others, just like the good doctor. And Stockwell. Impatient as he was, he knew he had to wait, wait until certain things were in place.
And if things went the way he thought, he would not only have his friend back, they would have their revenge as well.
He smiled, and moved on to the next shop.
The third call came that night, the product of that call the next morning. The bank where Stockwell's organization did some of its business was seized by the Fed. Certain irregularities had been discovered, thanks to some information which had been delivered to the authorities the day before. It wasn't a disaster, but it caused 'complications', as Stockwell put it.
where did the call come from?"
"I want to know what else is in those files, General. Is it just your organization that's involved? Or are there others?"
Stockwell sighed. "There are others, Colonel, but I'm not at liberty to say which ones. That is strictly..."
"Need to know, right. All right, Stockwell. We'll pack up and head out. But you better come up with something more for us to go on, or it's just going to be another wild goose chase."
Stockwell hung up without responding.
He was taking a long, slow walk along the busy streets. Remembering. The first place he'd gone was the underpass where they had lived in their little boxes. The boxes, of course, were long gone. Any trace of the two men were long gone. New people had moved in. Not very friendly people, either. Oh well. Can't go home again...
He'd walked from there to the half-way house. He only spent a few moments looking at that. It held no happy memories. Just clearing out the cobwebs here.
It was then he'd started the long part of his walk. He could have done it with his eyes closed. Past the deli - damn, Joey was still working there. He watched him through the window, waiting on customers. Ha! He'd grown a mustache. Fancy that...
He continued his walk, looking at all the familiar places, people. Of course, no one recognized him now. He even stopped and chatted with a couple of people who had been helpful to the pair, but although they spoke pleasantly enough to him, it was clear they only saw a stranger. It was depressing, in a way.
reached his destination.
He wandered the park for a while longer, enjoying the feeling of really being home again. This had definitely been their favorite place. As he headed back down the street, he stopped. A "for rent" sign sat in the window of a basement apartment. He smiled.
What better place for a fresh start? At least, when he'd finished his job...
They lucked out. BA didn't even show signs of waking up until they were in the limo on the way to the hotel. Face ignored his outburst, growing impatient with the continual complaints about flying. He had the greatest urge to just tell the guy to shut up and grow up, but he knew better. He was Face, after all. Face indulged the man. And Face would never stand a chance against BA. Like hell. Face just never showed BA what he could really do. But for now, he just put up with the irritant. He was finding so many things about this group to be, well, irritating. Very irritating.
Over the last couple of days, he'd been thinking a lot about his history with the Team. He found it hard to believe that he could have stayed with them for all those years. But then again, he was a different person from the young kid that had been so easily influenced by the Great Colonel Smith. He could understand how someone like Face would have come under the spell of someone like Smith. It was almost inevitable. Two of a kind, almost. What he hadn't figured out yet was whether Face had been like Smith before the two met, or had he molded himself into that after? How much had Smith deliberately influenced the young kid?
Well, the younger Face was easy enough to figure out. But why on earth had he stayed with these guys so long? From everything he'd learned about, well, himself, he would have been quite capable of making a living - a good living - on his own, on the run or not. Why had he allowed himself to stay under Smith's dominance?
there was Murdock. He would never understand that attachment. Never. Pity?
Possibly. Certainly not now. Murdock was dangerous. Apparently hadn't been out
the nut house that long. Everyone kept telling him the stories, the weird
antics Murdock had gone through. He didn't know whether to believe them or not.
He certainly hadn't seen any of that in
The other two - BA and Santana - he would've dropped those two in a second. BA bounced between being someone's nightmare come true and a real wuss. Afraid of flying? But then maybe that wasn't so far-fetched. Most bullies were real weenies when it came down to it. Oh, sure he was good when they'd gone on those few missions since his return. But so were a lot of people he knew.
Wait. No. People he'd thought he knew. Face shook his head. Damn it, this was where all the shit got confused again. His past, the past he knew as his, didn't exist. The past he'd never heard of was real. The Team - they were his friends, his family. Anyone else didn't exist.
Except...he was real. Face knew that. He knew that.
After all, he had the note.
Face was getting
worried. They had been in
They had met
with Stockwell shortly after arriving here. As
Face had smiled to himself as he listened to Stockwell describe the type of information the files contained. It was exactly the type of information he would have gone after. And he would have known exactly how to use it, too.
Bravo, my friend. Bravo.
But that only added to the frustration level now. He knew what the plan was. And he knew that no matter what the Team did, or what Stockwell tried, it wouldn't end until every piece of paper in those files had been exposed. And Face wanted in. He wanted in so badly he could taste it. He thought about what these people had done to him, to them, to how many others, and he felt the anger grow inside. Barish was beyond him now; but the people that worked with him, the people that financed him, they weren't. They could still be brought to their knees. And Stockwell. Who'd turned Face over to them like a piece of meat.
Stockwell was very much within reach. That was only a matter of time. It always had been...
He stopped at the phone booth. This would be a bit trickier. He was through messing with Bellows. Or Carla. He was making this call directly to Stockwell. Much more difficult, as he didn't have the right phone number. He would have to take the time to work his way through the security maze. He could just tell them who he was, what he wanted, but that would just cut his timing down even closer. So he had to do this the hard way.
He smiled. Sometimes the hard way was just more fun...
The first number belonged to Carla's assistant. He felt sorry for her. To have to kowtow to that bitch, day in and day out. But she was easy to manipulate, also. Too used to following orders without question. All he had to do was give her the code word, the same code word he'd used to get Carla's direct line. Again, not so easy this time, as he was working his way up the ladder. But it got him to the next level.
This time a man. Not so easily persuaded. Higher level of security, training. But the code word worked there, too. Now it got tricky. He had no 'in' at the next level. He would have to give them something, identify himself enough so he would be put through. Once he did that, the seconds started ticking off. And Stockwell would keep him going as long as possible.
"I need to speak with General Hunt Stockwell."
"No name. Just tell him I'm a friend of Mr. Bellows."
"You heard me. Stall and I'll hang up."
"Yessir." He was put on hold. He checked his watch. If
he was lucky,
"Hey, Hunt. Nice to put a voice to the name, guy. I'm going to make this short and sweet. You already know what I can do."
"What do you want?"
"Ha, that's funny. Let me give you the list. And the deadlines. If they aren't met, there's going to be a lot of paperwork flowing. Get my drift, General?"
"Let's have it."
Three cars came screeching around the corner some seven minutes after Stockwell picked up the line. They found the phone booth, the receiver still swinging wildly...
Stockwell called that afternoon. Their thief, according to the General, had made his first mistake. He'd given them a list of demands, and Stockwell knew from that what papers would be going where, and when. All the team had to do was make sure the thief had no opportunity to turn over the papers.
Right. Piece of cake...
up with the General,
"Why wouldn't he just mail the stuff, Johnny?"
"He wants immediate gratification. And he's hands-on. He knows who has to get this information and how, in order to get the greatest attention. Going through the post office, hoping it gets there in one piece, doesn't get sloughed off to some assistant - no, he's going to turn this over in a way that will garner the most attention. Just like the first time. Within an hour of the first deadline being missed, the right guy at the Fed had the information in his hands. He'll do the same thing this time."
you think he's doing this,
"He's got a grudge. Against the government, against Stockwell, maybe just against the world in general. But he gets a thrill out of it. A big thrill."
"Kinda like the Jazz,
in a perverted sort of way."
"Okay, then, let's drive over to the Senator's office and take a look around. We need to know that building like the back of our hand. And see what we can do to limit his options."
word of discussion, the five men left the hotel and headed for their objective
- the local office of a
Face knew he
was running out of time. He had to get out that night, one way or the other.
The guys were planning on relaxing in the room that night, watching a couple
tapes Murdock had picked up that morning. He'd liked the layout of the
Senator's building. He had a lot of ideas about that, and knowing what
He finally decided there was only one way to do it. He didn't like to. Too...Stockwell. But then again, one had to fight fire with fire.
movie was just over half done when Murdock got up to refill everyone's drinks.
Face offered to help and they moved into the kitchenette. Face hadn't missed
the glance of warning
He deliberately created a diversion by dropping one of the glasses, and watched, amused, as Murdock made a show of cleaning up the broken glass, while surreptitiously keeping an eye on Face. He noted how Murdock relaxed when no attempt was made to doctor the drinks. The next step was a little trickier.
"Better add some ice to those, Murdock. You know how everybody will yell if they're not cold enough."
"Good idea, Face. Last thing I need is BA pounding on me before bed." Murdock laughed and grabbed the ice from the freezer. Face watched with satisfaction as the doctored ice went into the glasses.
He'd made up the ice tray that afternoon, right under Frankie's nose. There was a reason Face would have dumped that guy...
The guys had all gone to bed almost immediately after the movie ended. Face had faked one swallow, and set the glass casually on the floor beside the couch. Funny thing about people. If he'd held a cigarette, people would notice if he didn't smoke it. If he held a glass, people would notice he wasn't drinking. No glass in hand, no notice given when he wasn't sipping along with them. So simple.
He waited a
good half hour before venturing out. As expected, no one else was up. He
figured he had three to four hours. If his instincts were right, he'd be back
in half that time. Outside the hotel, he was able to grab a cab almost
immediately. He'd liked that about
It took less than twenty minutes. Another five minutes to find his way to the pavilion. He was careful as he marched along the pathways. The park was calm and peaceful during the day; there'd been a lot more action at night. And not nice action, either.
He saw him almost immediately, even though he sat in the shadows. For a moment he stopped, his heart pounding. This was it. He should have known long ago. He never should have tried to fit into that other world. He didn't fit there. Not any more. This was where he belonged. With the only other person who knew what he knew, thought as he thought, acted in total sync with him.
He stepped up to the pavilion steps. The other man stood, moved out of the shadows. They stood, facing each other, grinning from ear to ear.
They knew time was short, but still they walked. Neither had said much at all; just walked and every now and then looked at each other and grinned. Just like the old days. Didn't have to say anything, just walk along and enjoy each other's company. There were things they needed to talk about, and things they wouldn't talk about, but they needed to get back in each other's rhythm first. And then they felt ready.
"How much do they know?"
"Some, but not enough. Not yet. We haven't much time."
"No. Your colonel is pretty quick. It won't take him long now. Although I doubt dear Carla is helping him out any."
Face laughed. "No, Carla is being...well, Carla." He hesitated. "She's using me to get to you, you know. I had to slip the cabby an extra twenty bucks just to zig zag around before coming here. Just in case. He wasn't too happy having a fare giving him directions." He chuckled, thinking of the cabby's total confusion at the circuitous route they'd taken. That made it worthwhile, even though Face hadn't seen anyone on their tail.
His companion chuckled with him. It was good to hear that sound again. "I wouldn't worry about Carla too much. Her people know who she's after." His voice took on a grim tone.
Face stopped and looked him in the eye. "And who is she after?"
"A ghost. A nightmare. Someone that should have died a long time ago. At least, that's who they think they're after. Not who I am. Although, it's nice to have some of the skills of that ghost. For now, anyway." He looked at Face. "And who is she using to find me?"
"I wish I knew." Face kicked at a nonexistent stone. He was not going to waste their time being maudlin. He glanced at his watch. He had to be getting back, and soon.
"I have a deadline coming up for the General this morning. He's not going to make it, of course."
"The Colonel already has a plan set up. A very good plan, actually. Too good for one man to outwit."
"Good thing there's two of us then."
They looked at each other and laughed.
God, it was good to really laugh again.
suspiciously at the bed where Face was sleeping. Quietly, he stepped over and
picked up the shoes from the floor beside the bed and stepped back out of the
room. Going to the kitchenette, he switched on the light and looked at the
bottoms. Dry. No cleaner, no dirtier than they should be.
back to kitchenette, he started a pot of coffee. Looked at the glasses in the
sink. Rinsed out, of course. But
they'd been drugged. He knew it. He just couldn't prove it. Any more than he
could prove Face had left the hotel last night. But
What he didn't know was why.
shuffled into the living room and flopped down on the couch. He looked at
"Like that would do any good." BA stalked out of his room and headed for the refrigerator. He joined them in the living room with a large glass of milk. "He'd just look innocent and deny everything."
"The problem is, I can't prove he did anything. Including leaving the room last night."
"Damn it, Murdock, I don't know. I even checked his shoes and there was nothing to say he'd left."
"Man, what was in those drinks last night, Johnny? I can't believe the hangover I've got!" Frankie stumbled out of his room and made for the coffee pot. BA just shook his head.
"Well, Murdock? You and he put them together last night."
"Who made up the ice cubes?"
"Uh, Face did, yesterday afternoon. But I was watching him, Johnny. Nada. Absolutely nada."
"Anybody check the bottles?"
"He never had his hands on them. Not when I was around him."
Frankie shook his head. "We never had 'em out."
They sat silently for a moment. How the hell had he done it?
Face woke up, feeling groggy. He wouldn't have to fake a headache this morning. He was feeling every second of his early morning activities.
After leaving the park, he'd had a hard time finding another cab. Then he'd had to sneak into the hotel, and into the men's room, where he'd carefully rinsed and dried the bottoms of his shoes. Then back out of the hotel for a quick walk around the block and back up to the room. Everyone had been sound asleep yet. Dropping into bed, he'd been unable to fall asleep right away. Going over every moment again in his mind, going over their plans.
It would be easier now, knowing what the goal was. There was an element of disappointment, of course. It could be weeks before he could extricate himself from his current situation. Or days. That all depended on the Colonel.
On one hand, he wanted Smith to figure things out quickly. Face wanted out. Soon. On the other hand, the longer he could keep them guessing, the easier it would be to complete the plan. Their plan. And that was more important.
He crawled out of bed and immediately popped some aspirin. Throwing on his robe, not bothering to get dressed, he headed out to beard the lion. As expected, the men were all congregated in the living room, all looking much as he felt. Eight eyes bored into him.
"Sleep well, Face?"
"I don't know if you'd call it sleeping or not. Feels like someone slipped me a Mickie."
He could feel
Face stopped and stared at them. Okay, play it cool. Puzzlement, then suspicion.
"You guys, too? All of you?"
They nodded. He could see the Colonel's doubt spreading to the others. Excellent.
"The bottle? Anybody check it yet?"
yes, we did, Face."
Nice cover up, Colonel. Face had to admire how quickly he was able to switch to this new avenue.
"Our friend, the thief? But how? And why last night? Stockwell's deadline isn't until later this morning."
know the answers, Face. But I'm going to find out."
"All right, guys, this is getting us nowhere. That deadline is coming up. We need to be in position well before hand."
Despite his headache, Face smiled to himself. You were right, Colonel. Some things you never forget.
Face had been
building opened at ; the deadline Stockwell had been given for the
latest demand was . By , the team had made a complete
canvass of the building's interior and knew that,
other than janitorial staff, it was empty. By , one set of elevators were
undergoing 'repairs', and the secondary stairwell was closed for 'painting'.
Face and Frankie had checked out the Senator's personal office area, including
his calendar. His day was filled with appointments.
Face, Murdock, and Frankie were stationed at various points on the floor to permit quick access to the only exits they had left available. BA was stationed outside in the van, ready to follow anyone who got past the team inside.
itself was long and boring. The deadline came and went. Two people came into
the Senator's office without appointments; one, a student reporter from the
local university who was way too young. The other was an elderly gentleman who
was very hard of hearing.
In a way,
this was easier. After making sure no one was lingering in the office when the
secretary prepared to lock up,
More and more
he was wishing he had been able to leave Face behind on this one. He should
have known there would be problems that first day. But even knowing what he did
So, for phase
Face and Murdock waited in the rental car in front of the building, Face stretching out in the front seat, Murdock in back. Face knew he should get some sleep, but he was too excited. He could feel an electricity running through him. Maybe what the others called the Jazz. Whatever it was, it felt good. Hell, it felt great. He kept watching the building, thinking. Seeing it in his mind. So simple. The winning element of any good plan. Simplicity.
"Can't sleep, Face?" Murdock's voice was muffled in the back seat.
"It'll come. Don't worry about it." He didn't mean to sound so clipped, but he didn't need a conversation with Murdock just now.
"What's going on with you, Face? You've been so, I don't know, tense since we started this job."
"You're imagining things, Murdock."
"No, I don't do that anymore, Muchacho. I'm sane now, y'know?"
Yeah, right. "Okay, okay, but I haven't been tense. I've just been concentrating on the job."
"Hmm, how about agitated, perturbed, irritated, provoked, stirred up, worked up, piqued..."
"Murdock, if you don't shut up, I will show you what I'm like when I'm irritated."
"Sheee..." Murdock grumbled, but shut up. He was
beginning to understand why
Morning came without incident. Face and Murdock, besides restlessly pacing the Senator's offices, had had nothing to do except stare at each other. They couldn't talk, for fear of any visitors hearing them. The only excitement had come when the custodians had come to clean. The two men spent a very uncomfortable half hour stuck in the closet. They made a fast but thorough inspection of the room after their release, in case one of the custodial staff had left anything behind, but they found nothing.
had to move to a different scenario.
Thus it was Murdock who had the first hint something was not right. Shortly after the Senator arrived, he came bursting out of his office and conferred in low tones, but with obvious urgency, with his secretary. She seemed to be denying something, and the Senator returned to his office in a huff. Within minutes, the secretary's phone rang, and after speaking for a moment, began telling everyone in the office that the Senator would have to reschedule their appointments. She included Murdock in her 'don't argue with me' look. As he shuffled out the door, he heard her get back on the phone, apparently calling another Senator.
"What's going on, Captain?"
"Dunno, Colonel, but the Senator's definitely not happy about something, and he's canceling all his appointments. I heard the secretary calling another Senator as I left."
don't like this." Frankie and Face had moved up close now, curiosity and
concern showing clearly.
"It can't be our guy, Colonel. There was no way he could've gotten anything past us." Face was adamant, and Murdock agreed.
the janitors - we checked everything out after they left,
okay. Maybe it's something totally unrelated. He is an important Senator, after
Face was practically humming inside. He'd pulled it off so smoothly! He couldn't believe it had been that easy. But then, they were dealing with Face. Face, who they knew like the back of their collective hands. Whose scams they saw through with ease. Who could never lie without their knowing. They knew Face inside and out.
But they don't know me...
others to wait there and keep an eye on the office,
"The bastard's done it again, BA. The Senator is calling for an investigation into one of the programs that Stockwell's got an 'interest' in. Some of the projects that weren't really in their purview, additional funding they weren't supposed to have."
did he do it,
"I don't know, BA. There was just no way he could have."
"Murdock was with Face the whole time. He would have noticed if he'd left anything there. Besides, how would Face have gotten hold of that file?"
"We still haven't figured out how we were drugged, BA. We don't know how that happened, we don't know if he left the hotel, we don't know how the papers got to the Senator, and there's nothing we can pin on Face. Yes, it's obviously something he could have done. But did he? I can't accuse him of anything, BA, not without some really hard proof. I can't risk losing him because of a gut feeling. We've been through too much and too many years to do that."
"I know, BA, I know. But there's only one way we're going to get to the bottom of this. And that's to push Face as hard we can without an outright accusation. Push him hard enough and something's got to give."
Carla sat at her desk, chewing anxiously on her pen. It was a habit she had given up years ago. Mostly. She only did it now when she was extremely agitated. And she was definitely that.
This was not the way it was supposed to happen. Peck was supposed to find his old partner and allow the team to bring him back in. Instead, he appeared to be as inept at finding the man as the rest of them. And yet...there was that phone call from Smith. Something was going on with Peck. Something that had the Colonel worried enough to contact her. Worried enough not to contact Stockwell.
So why the hell hadn't they found him yet? Good God, he was leaving a path for Peck that a blind man could follow. And time was running out. She'd seen the list of demands and deadlines. Every one of the demands linked to a financial 'arrangement' of some sort. Either through Stockwell's organization or Barish's group. She could give a rat's ass about Barish's bunch, but Stockwell's items were the first ones on the list. By the time they got to Barish, Stockwell - and Carla - would be permanently out of the picture.
Which meant Smith and his men would be out in the cold. With a death warrant hanging over them. She wondered if Peck even knew about that.
Maybe it was time she had a little talk with the lieutenant. Find out why he hadn't found his old partner yet and if he realized the consequences if he didn't. Yes, it was definitely time for a tete a tete.
He had rented the basement apartment. It was dark, damp, and had cockroaches, but he didn't care. He didn't spend that much time there, and it was directly across the street from the park. He moved in the very day he signed the lease. By that evening, he was settled in with the furniture he'd picked out the day before. A four inch cockroach named Ernie, now at home in a small terrarium, kept him company. Until Face could get away. Face. All his resolve about that name had flown out the window when he'd finally seen him. But seeing the confusion the man was still trying to work through, he'd renewed that resolve. Sighing, he sat down with his maps and papers, going over the last details. After an hour or so, he pulled out his Sig and started cleaning it. He had no intention of needing it, but he also intended to be prepared.
He had given Stockwell a little extra time for the next deadline. He knew the General would have to work with some other people on that one, and, 'influential' the General may be, these other guys were stubborn. He idly wondered if Stockwell would actually bow down to him on any of his list. He doubted it. To do so would wreak as much havoc on his organization as the financial fiascos. Undoubtedly he recognized that his organization was sentenced to destruction, either way. And then it would be the other guys' turn.
He wasn't sure why he'd placed Stockwell at the head of the list. Probably for Face. Face had not had any choice. Not like he had. Not that it was exactly voluntary, but his 'career' had pretty much marked him for a guinea pig. He hadn't exactly lived a lily-white existence. And that had been by choice.
How was it he'd described it to him? A nightmare. Yeah, that was a pretty good description. Not something he was proud of. Not now, anyway. He'd learned some things from being around Face. Even though he wasn't Face then. But the quality of the person still came through. If it hadn't, they both would have been dead already. From Face he'd learned what loyalty meant. Real loyalty, not that blindly-do-as-you're-told-and-wave-the-flag-while-you're-at-it loyalty. The stuff they crammed into you so you could butcher babies without blinking an eye.
He closed his eyes. Those memories he didn't want. Those belonged to someone else. Someone monstrous.
Someone that should have died a long time ago.
Stockwell's out for blood. Ours."
"I wouldn't exactly call him two-bit, Colonel." Face's voice was calm but there was just a bit of a flash in his eyes. "After all, he took Stockwell for a cool million."
"Oh, that's right. The extortionist who stole confidential material and didn't have enough honor to turn them over when he got paid that 'cool million'. In my book that's two-bit."
"I'd hardly worry about honor when you consider who you're working for, Colonel."
"You forgetting that you also work for the General, Lieutenant?"
"I only wish I could. Along with a lot of other things I wish had stayed forgotten. For good." Face stalked out of the living room and slammed into the bedroom. A moment later they heard the shower going.
"Well, how's your plan working,
"Shut up, fool."
"Okay, Murdock, the idea is not to get him to open up. The idea is to piss him off. And keep pissing him off until that control goes. That happens, we're going to find out what the hell is going on."
"And then what?" Murdock was kneading his baseball cap, angry at the whole situation.
we'll know how to finish up this job and go home."
"Then we'll do what we need to, to pick up the pieces. The way things are now is not good for him, either, Murdock. It's not good for anyone. The longer we let him go, the further back he falls into that other guy, and I'm not prepared to let that happen. This is as much for him as it is for us. More so. A hell of a lot more."
Face stood under the hot pelting water, trying not to think, trying to calm down. He had to quit losing his temper like that. Damn, damn, damn it! He was so sick of that sanctimonious, overblown, son of a bitch! Two-bit. Right. He'd make twenty of Smith. As if Smith and his group hadn't taken down bad guys in any way they could. What the hell did he think Stockwell was? And Barish! God, of all the sick bastards...
He didn't even realize he'd done it, until he felt the pain running up his arm. His fist, where it had slammed into the side of the shower, felt like mush. Oh, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!
He heard the pounding on the bathroom door.
"Face! Face! Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm alright! Just...just forget it."
There was a pause. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, dammit, Murdock, just leave me alone, will you?"
He stepped out of the shower and immediately held his hand under a gush of cold water from the sink. The throbbing started abating but he knew the hand was going to be swollen up. He carefully flexed the fingers and wrist. Hurt like hell but he didn't think anything was broken. Shit.
He sat down on the edge of the tub. What the hell was he doing? This was not him. He did not lose his temper like this. He did not lose control like this. He...hell, he didn't know if he did or not.
wrapped a towel around himself and opened the door, nearly bumping into
"Problem, Face?" No anger in the voice this time.
"No, I'm fine. I just need some sleep."
If it hadn't hurt so badly, Face would've pushed away. There was something unsettling about letting a man he was coming to loath take care of him. But it did need wrapping and he couldn't do it himself.
He pulled his arm away, but not angrily. He sat on the side of the bed as
"Face, I don't know what's going on with you, but..."
"There's nothing going on with me, Colonel. I slipped getting out of the shower. That's all."
He saw the
tightening of the jaw.
No more Mr. Nice Guy, huh, Smith?
Carla arrived outside the hotel early in the morning. She sat, watching the front door, not quite sure how to go about this, now that she was here. She definitely did not want a confrontation with Smith. She thought for a few moments, and then picked up the mobile phone and carefully wrapped a hankie over the mouthpiece. A few minutes later she was connected with the Team's suite.
"Colonel Smith? This is Anna Carlson. I'm one of General Stockwell's assistants."
She held her breath. When Smith replied, the suspicion was clear in his voice.
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure, Miss Carlson. Perhaps you could verify who you are?"
"Certainly. Empress One."
"Very well, Miss Carlson. What can we do for you?"
"General Stockwell received a tip on those files. He doesn't know how accurate it is, but we need someone who can break into a safe, and quickly."
"Well, that's where we might have a problem...our safe man injured his hand last night. I don't know if he can do it left handed."
"Injured his hand? How?" Carla almost lost her accent but recovered quickly.
"A little accident in the shower. Anyway, uh, I'm not sure..."
"Well, I'm afraid he'll have to try, Colonel. We don't have time to bring anyone else in. Have him come to the front of the hotel in ten minutes. A car will pick him up."
"Okay, I'll have him and one of our other guys down in...'
"No, just your safe man. We'll provide backup."
"Now, wait a minute..."
"Colonel Smith, I really don't have time to argue. General Stockwell was very insistent on this."
"Thank you, Colonel Smith. I appreciate your help. General Stockwell can be, well, difficult, if we don't do things his way."
"I understand, Miss."
Ten minutes later Face appeared in front of the hotel, looking up and down the street, nervously. Carla pulled up to the curb, just past the door, and shoved the passenger door open. Face stopped short when he looked in the door and saw her.
"Don't just stand there. Get in before Smith sends someone out here."
They sped away, disappearing into traffic.
As soon as
"Stockwell is on a conference call. Won't be available for hours. Probably damage control."
Murdock came hurrying in the door.
"Yeah, and, I mean, this could be legit, right? Stockwell's gotta have other guys working on this, too, right? Maybe one of them found something..." Frankie looked at Murdock, and got a grateful smile in return. Frankie didn't know if he believed it any more than Johnny, but hell, Face had been nice to him since he'd gotten back; well, most of the time. Just lately...
"All right, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Who knows? Maybe the whole thing is legit, and when Face gets back we can all go home."
"Okay, Carla, start talking. What the hell are you trying to pull? You knew..."
it, Lieutenant. Yes, I knew exactly who the extortionist was. As soon as I
found out he'd called from
"What makes you think I can? Or want to?"
"Well, you'd better want to, Lieutenant. There's too much riding on this."
"You think I care if Stockwell goes down in flames? Lady, you got a lot to learn."
"If the General goes down, as you say, the Team will be going down right along with him. Not only will you lose any chance for a pardon, you'll be wanted by the military again. This time with a death sentence waiting for you."
Face paled visibly. "Wait a minute. The military thinks we're dead. Everyone thinks we're dead..."
Carla shook her head. One would have thought they would have let him know all of the recent history first. "No, Lieutenant, the military discovered that the 'bodies' were missing from the morgue. They know the team escaped. And they will make damn sure those sentences are carried out the next time they get their hands on the team." As an afterthought, she added, "Of course, you, at least, do have a body in a grave, so I suppose you stand a chance of getting away, at least for a while. At least until someone informs the MPs of what really happened..."
Face sat back in the seat, looking out of the windshield, seeing nothing. This was too much, way too much. He had to think. This put a different light on everything. Everything.
It was time to throw a wrench into the works. Stockwell was occupied with the next deadline, so it was the perfect opportunity to entice the team with some independent work. Nothing in the rules said he had to deal exclusively with Stockwell, after all. Especially since there were no rules.
As he dialed the hotel, he started smiling. This was getting to the really fun part, now. Stockwell running around on one side, getting the team involved in trying to save his ass with each new deadline; and he, himself on the other side, sending the team out on little errands of his own. He'd have the whole bunch running around in scared little circles, desperate to stop things before it all crashed down on them, none of them knowing what was really going to happen next...
He held no little animosity toward the famous A-Team. Face hadn't said a lot about them, but enough so he understood what had happened. They expected Face to just forget all about those months together with him. Like he'd never existed. Sure, cut off the guy's right arm and tell him to pretend he never had it to begin with. No wonder Face was having problems.
And he was having problems. That was obvious. Which meant a problem for both of them. At least, in the short run. He would have to bear that in mind, with all these little games he'd be playing. Try not to screw his friend up any more than he already was. It had been hard enough to deal with his own new/old past clashes. With the team trying to make Face deny that part of him...he'd thought Smith was smarter than that. But then, Smith hadn't dealt with a lot psych problems, not like he had. Smith had seen the 'typical' battlefield problems, whereas he'd had to deal with guys losing it after too many special ops. Special ops that Smith would never have dreamed of taking on...
Shit. How long had Smith been on the line?
"Colonel Smith, I believe?"
"This is a very special friend of General Stockwell's. I have something he's been looking for. Interested?"
minutes after he'd left, Face walked into the hotel room.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Why didn't you tell me about the death sentence? Why didn't you tell me what was at stake? All this time, and I never knew what Stockwell was holding over you! Why didn't you tell me?"
Shit. Who had told him that? And why now?
"Face, listen, it's nothing we worry about, okay? Stockwell uses it as lever against us, that's all. Between that and the pardons, he figures it'll keep us in line."
"Why didn't you tell me!"
"Because we didn't think it was necessary at the time. You were having enough problems. You still are, for chrissake. We would have told you when you were more yourself."
myself? Damn it,
"Face, what's going on?"
"What does it change? Nothing. We told you what you could handle."
"And who the hell are you to decide that? Who gave you the right to decide what I should or shouldn't be told, what I should or shouldn't remember?"
"Face, you have to calm down. We'll talk about this, I promise. We need to get it all ironed out, but it's gotta wait for now. We don't have a lot of time."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I got a call from the extortionist. Directly. He wants to set up a meet. We've got less than an hour..."
No. The plan. He was going ahead with it. But he didn't know...
can't do that,
"Why not, Face? We have a chance to take this slimeball out, once and for all..."
Slimeball? No, no, he wasn't a...no, they didn't understand. They didn't know what he was really doing.
"We can't do that, Face. This guy has caused too much damage. We have to put him down. A man is dead because of him, Face."
"I told you he didn't do that!" Why couldn't they understand that? He wouldn't kill anyone like that. That wasn't what he wanted. Not what they wanted...
"And how would you know that, Face? I want some answers, Lieutenant. Now! What are you holding back? What are you keeping from your team? What do you know about this low-life bastard?"
What was he holding back? The Colonel was angry at Face for holding back on the team? Hadn't the man heard anything Face had said? Was his only concern the team? Suddenly Face realized what they'd been doing. Realized how selective they were being in what he remembered.
Now he knew where he stood, why he was with these people. As long as he thought only of the team, as long as he was useful to the team, as long as he could be used...he suddenly looked at the Colonel, decided.
"I know I'm not just an experiment to him, Smith."
Before anyone could stop him, Face was out the door. By the time they got to the hallway, he was gone.
hurried to the elevators, Frankie had taken the stairwell, trying to get to the
lobby and find him. It was a waste of time.
"I know I'm not just an experiment to him, Smith."
In one simple
sentence, Face had spelled out everything. The way Face felt he was being
treated; the way he felt toward Hannibal, probably the whole team. Worse, that
Face knew the extortionist. And, together with everything else that had
He heard the
door open, Murdock's voice talking to BA. A moment later, Frankie returned. The
murmur of voices continued for another few moments, and then it was quiet as
they all waited for
He turned and faced his men, and was startled to see how unsure they all looked.
"Okay, guys, let's go meet this guy."
uncertainty turned to disbelief. "
"Exactly, Captain. And the only one that can find him now is our thief."
He sat comfortably on the catwalk, casually looking around the small theater. He'd gone over every inch of the place, knew exactly where he could go, where he could get trapped. There was plenty of time before the Team arrived. Even if they came early, which they probably would. He looked at his watch; they could be outside right now, 'casing the joint'. He liked the phrase. Sounded 'tough', like gangsters. He smiled. Thinking back to playing cops and robbers as a kid. He figured that memory could be true. He'd seen pictures, family pictures, himself and two brothers. Wondered, briefly, if they really were dead now. So many things he didn't know. So many things he'd been told, but didn't know if he could believe. That was something he could work on, when this was all over and done with.
Something the two of them could do. Find out what was truth, what was lie. Or maybe they'd just say the hell with it, and move on, make their own future, the hell with the past. Could it really be that easy? For himself, probably. If he ever did check on his past, he wasn't sure he'd believe anything he found. So many things that could be faked.
He thought, again, about those first few months up here, just the two of them. It was a little foggy, here and there, but he remembered most of it. There were parts of it he didn't like, naturally. Things he would have done differently. But what he remembered, and held on to, was being happy. Content. At peace.
Would he feel that way again, when this was all over with? Could he? Could either of them?
He heard the door below opening. Show time...
Carla shut the door to her hotel room and leaned against it. This was definitely not going the way it was supposed to. Peck had not reacted at all the way she had expected. Once he knew about the consequences to the team, Carla had expected him to fully cooperate. It was a matter of loyalty, after all. One didn't turn one's back on years and years of friendship just to protect someone you'd known for a few months.
But instead of a promise of cooperation, Peck had just gone silent. Anything she said to him after dropping her bombshell had been ignored. Finally, she had given up and dropped him back at the hotel. He had not said one word to her.
Now all she could do was wait and see what he did. Stockwell had sent her here after the fiasco with the Senator. To 'keep an eye on things. She was thankful that he had no idea what was really going on here. He had not concerned himself with Barish until the end, and had had little interest in Peck afterward, once Smith made it clear he would be staying with the team. If Carla didn't know better, she would have sworn being around Peck made him feel guilty. Or at least, uncomfortable.
The problem was, of course, that the longer it took for Peck to wake up and smell the coffee, the more damage was done, and the harder it would be to explain things to Stockwell. Like why she hadn't told him immediately who the extortionist was. Which she couldn't do without explaining how he'd managed to slip from her grasp in the first place.
Not for the first time, she wished Barish had taken Santana. It would have been so much easier...
He watched the men enter and fan out across the floor of the theater. He knew immediately that something was wrong. Face wasn't with them. They could have left him outside, he supposed, to watch the exits, but that he had made it clear they were all to come inside.
"You're short, Smith. Where's pretty boy?" He cringed when he said that, even knowing Face would understand.
Smith looked up, searching the upper reaches of the theater for the source of the voice.
"I thought you could tell me."
"Sloppy, Smith. Can't keep track of your own people?"
"Cut the crap, buddy. I know who you are. And I know Face does, too. He left, about an hour ago."
"What do you mean, left?"
"I mean, walked out. Left the team. I gotta say, you did a damn good job on him."
"I'm not the one you should blame for that, Smith. I'm not the one who made him deny who he was. ALL of who he was."
There was silence for a moment. He couldn't see Smith's face clearly, but he knew the shot had hit home.
"All right. I'm not going to get into a blame game here. But if you know where he is, you'll convince him to come back. He needs help. He won't get it on the run with you."
"Help, huh? Like he's been getting? I don't think so, Smith."
He crept carefully toward his escape door. Smith was still talking, trying to convince him to turn Face over to them. Let him talk. He regretted that he wouldn't be able to make this part of the plan work, but he had more important things to take care of now.
He had to find Face.
"I know what you're trying to do. And I can understand it, believe me. But it's not going to change anything. Not for you. Not for him. And Face can't help you like he is now. It's time to give it up."
our goose has flown the coop,
Frankie - check outside." The two men hurried to the exit, but
up next to him. "This could be a good thing,
"That doesn't mean he's going to come home, Murdock. It may mean they go underground. And if they do that, we may never see him again."
He walked up slowly, but making sure Face heard him. His friend was sitting on the bench, not far from the pavilion, looking out at the small lake.
"How did the meeting go?" He didn't turn around, just kept staring out at the water.
"It didn't. Smith told me you'd left them, so I came here."
"He knows who you are, then."
"Yeah. He would've found out soon anyway. Doesn't matter."
He sat down on the bench, close but not too close.
"Don't call me that." There was no anger in the command, merely resignation. He looked up at the sky, then back to the lake. "I remember the day I was adopted. A family I'd lived with for a while, I don't know how long exactly. The day the adoption was finalized, my new dad brought out this brand new two-wheeler. He taught me how to ride it. My dad, pushing me along from behind, letting go, but running along beside me in case I got into trouble. And he had this big grin on his face when I finally made it up and down the block without tipping over...He had this soft, rumbly kind of voice. That's what I remember."
Face picked up a stick from the ground, tapped it absently against the bench. "The truth is I never got adopted, I never had a dad and I don't know how I learned to ride a bike." He threw the stick in the water, disturbing the ducks. "Dumb. Sitting here trying to remember how I learned to ride a fucking bicycle."
They sat quietly for a few more moments. Then Face felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked over at his friend, who stood up then. Looking down at him, smiling.
"C'mon, Sam. Let's go home."
He yanked a
cigar out of his pocket, and just stood there, staring at it. For the first
time he realized how many times he would just stand there, waiting for Face to
light his cigars for him, forgetting that it was no longer a habit for his XO.
Just another one of those little things that he and the team hadn't even
thought about, but were totally foreign to Face. The little things he wouldn't
want to bother
An experiment. Face had been closer to the truth than anyone had realized. The whole idea of bringing him back to the team had, in reality, been an experiment. To see if they could get him back. To make him come back. And they had all thought the only way to do that was make him push away the life he 'knew'. That life was a lie, so forget it. Dump it. Even that damn psychologist Stockwell had set up. Whose only goal was to make Face remember.
Murdock stood at the doorway. "Well?"
"She's out of the office."
"Out of the office, or out of town?"
"I'll give you two guesses." He looked at the cigar again, and shoved it angrily back in his pocket.
"So, now what?"
"Wait until that...woman...calls back. We have to come up with something to tell Stockwell, and, like it or not, she's going to help. She oughta be pretty adept at lying to him by now."
"You really think she'll go along with us?"
"I think she's going to realize that things have gone too damn far not to. If she doesn't help, she knows we'll have no choice but to go Stockwell with everything. He's the only other way we have to get the resources we're going to need."
"So who's this?" Face bent down, examining Ernie's lair.
"Oh," Randy chuckled, "Sam, meet Ernie. Ernie, this is Sam."
"Hello, Ernie. Nice to meet you." He straightened and looked around the apartment. "So, this is home now? Bit different from a freezer box."
"Yeah, but it'll do." He opened the refrigerator, frowning. "Well, looks like we'll have to order in pizza tonight. That okay by you?"
"Sure." Sam wandered over to the couch, looking out the window, eye level with the sidewalk. He could see disembodied legs walking by out front. There seemed to be an adequate number of young women in the neighborhood. "Nice view."
"You ain't seen nothin yet." Grinning broadly, Randy walked over to join him. "If you're up early enough, all the joggers go by here to get to the park."
live with that," he chuckled. "
Randy shook his head. "C'mon, don't do that here, okay? Here, we know there's another life we have to deal with. It's not 'either or'. The only way to get through this is to recognize that."
"What if I don't want that other life?"
Randy shrugged. "I liked you without it, y'know. The point is, it's up to you. Not me, not Hannibal, not Stockwell." He grinned at Sam again. "You know, we're really two of the luckiest people in the world. Because from here on out, we can be whoever we want to be. What's in the past, any past, doesn't mean a thing. The only thing we have to worry about is the future. Now, you ready for pizza or you want to burn your brain a little more?"
Sam chuckled. "I think we need an extra large. I haven't eaten since breakfast."
"The General won't know Peck is missing unless one of us tells him. And I certainly have no intention of doing so."
calmly in the team's hotel room. She hadn't bothered to call, or pretend to be
"So we just go along like everything's fine and dandy, huh?" Murdock glared at her from the couch.
"As far as Stockwell is concerned, yes."
"And what about finding Face?"
"As Colonel Smith has already figured out, you find the extortionist, you'll find Face. Consider it an additional incentive."
you've already pushed your luck as far as it's going to go, so I'd watch the
"Colonel, be reasonable. If it were that simple, we would've found Randy a long time ago. Long before he was able to inflict any damage. All I can really do is get you the full list that General Stockwell received, along with the likely financial interests they represent."
"You can also explain a few things. Like why you felt the need to talk to Face this morning, and tell him things he really didn't need to know yet."
"Colonel, the whole point in bringing in the team was to get Peck on the trail. He knows Randy better than anyone. He should have been able to find him almost immediately. Which he did, but for some reason, he chose not to let anyone in on that little fact. Not knowing that, of course, I felt it necessary to give him a little added push. I meant it only as a reminder, not realizing that you, Colonel, had chosen not to tell him something of such a serious nature."
"You didn't think you should check with me, first? No, because you didn't think it necessary to tell me who the quarry was. Just let us find our way in the dark."
Carla had the grace to blush, a little. "There were reasons for that, Colonel. Mainly because Randy should not have escaped in the first place. Not that I had any control over that, but, you know how the General can be."
"In other words, you were trying to save your sorry ass."
Carla drew herself up. "Recriminations are really counter-productive at this point, Colonel Smith. There is one other thing I can provide you with, and that is a copy of all the reports I received from Dr. Barish. Since Randy seems to be going back to more familiar territory, they might prove of some value to you." She moved suddenly and quickly toward the door. "I'll have them dropped off later tonight."
"One last thing, Carla." She stopped and looked back, irritated. "What happens when we catch up with them?"
"Randy will go back with me. He's still of some value to the organization, and the General won't care who was behind it as long as the extortion stops. I'll come up with a plausible story."
"Well, unless you want to explain to the General why you're suddenly short one man, I suggest you keep him. And hopefully do a better job containing him than you have so far."
With that, Carla swept out of the room.
He woke early in the morning. He hadn't slept well at all, and was hoping his dreams, if one could call them that, hadn't disturbed Randy in the next room. They really hadn't been dreams, just flashes of this and that. Which had made them all the more disquieting. Things were getting mixed up together in a hodgepodge of images. His mother, dancing with Smith at his parents' anniversary party. Murdock giving him that damn bike. His father grinning at him as they dropped from a helicopter into the jungle. It had been like that all night.
He pushed himself out of bed and stood, looking around the bedroom. He smiled, immediately feeling more relaxed. Randy had gotten a two bedroom apartment. No sleeping on the couch until he found his own place. Nobody wondering how long he'd be staying. Randy hadn't asked, Sam hadn't suggested. It just...was.
Just like the money. Sitting on the couch, eating pizza, drinking beer, Randy had given him the account book - with two names on it and ID's to match - and shown him the balance. Then they had discussed what to do with it. What they would need to keep liquid, what they should invest, even 'mad money'. As far as Randy was concerned, it was 'their' money. They had both earned it. Sam knew he would have done the same.
That was something he hadn't felt with the others, that togetherness, that oneness. More often, he'd felt like a tin cup thrown in with the fine china. Whether it was him, or them, he didn't know. Maybe it was just the circumstances. They wanted - no, they demanded - their old teammate back, and he couldn't, or wouldn't, give that to them. And then discovering that they controlled what he should know...he was able to think more calmly about it now. In fact, other than those damn dreams, he'd felt more centered since leaving them than he had in months. No longer wondering what was going on, no longer under a microscope. Now he could think, he could plan, he could execute. He could look forward, not back. Now he was...whole.
He'd poured over the reports Carla had sent over. The list from Randy - God, he hated the very name - was precise and well-timed. It was obvious he fully intended to bring Stockwell down, and down hard. But then the list shifted. New organizations, new people he'd never heard of. Until he got down a little further, and realized that Dr. Barish's name appeared periodically, listed as either a subordinate to someone else or as an associate. That's when he understood the whole picture. The strength of the motivation. And why Face had acted the way he had.
He hadn't said anything to the others yet, and possibly that was the reason for his poor night's sleep. He was used to discussing the operation with his men, getting their input. But he hadn't this time; he'd wanted time to digest the information himself first. And that was like swallowing bile.
It was bad
enough that they had to deal with Randy.
This wasn't going to be just a retrieval, as Stockwell thought. This was blowback, with his lieutenant right in the middle of it. And the hell of it was, that's exactly where Face wanted to be.
Randy heard him moving around the apartment. Not just getting acquainted with it. Getting to know it. He listened for a moment. Yeah, going out the backdoor now. He'd be checking the back hallway, the exit there. Then the layout of the building, every floor, before going to the front. When Sam returned, he'd not only know exactly where every exit was, but which way to turn, where the barriers were, and any possible hazards to a safe and speedy retreat. Randy could have told him, but Sam would have checked them out anyway. Being told something, and seeing it for yourself, were two different things.
Randy was feeling good this morning, even though Sam's dreams had awakened him periodically through the night. He hadn't gone in. That would only have made Sam feel worse. It would take a while before he'd really settle in. Come to terms. God knew it had taken Randy long enough, and he hadn't had all the distractions Sam had. If he kept having problems, then they'd have to work on it. But Randy was confident that soon he'd be back on an even keel. They both would.
they'd stay here in the Cities for a while. They both liked it. Maybe when
winter came on, they'd go somewhere else. The
But first, they had business to take care of. He wished Barish was still around. God, he would have liked to get his hands around that bastard's neck. He'd make it so slow...well, he was out of luck there. But Sam would have Stockwell. They'd bring down his organization first, and then... He smiled.
He wondered how long the General would last.
"What's next on the list, Murdock?"
"Just a name - Otto Reich - and a date - three days from now."
"I'm not sure - just a note - House Foreign Affairs Committee."
"All right. Check with Stockwell's office. Find out who's on the committee, who the chairman is, who has his ear."
"BA, we'll have to get to D.C. before the deadline."
"Good. Frankie, get some maps of D.C. We need to know where these guys' offices are and where they meet. All exits. Where the guards are."
"That's gonna take some time,
"Call Carla. Let her earn her salary for a change."
Frankie grinned. He loved dealing with Carla, much to her disgust.
Murdock came back out a few minutes. "Stockwell will have the info to us later this evening. He'll also have rooms set up for us when we get there."
"What if Face comes back while we're out East?"
"And do you think Face will know that?"
"So where do you think Face will be?"
Murdock sighed heavily. "Okay, Colonel."
"Murdock, if he wants to find us, he will. Otherwise, like Carla said. We find Randy, we find Face. So let's make sure we find Randy."
"So when do we leave?"
"Tomorrow morning. Our flight should get us in just before lunch. There is a slight change in plans. We're going to take a more 'back-door' approach this time."
Sam grinned widely as Randy outlined his changes. He'd never heard of the "Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations", but he liked the sound of the guy running it. And neither Stockwell nor the team would expect them to go this route.
"It's not fair, you know, changing the rules in the middle of the game." He mockingly scowled at his partner-in-crime.
"I know - but it's much more fun."
This part of the plan didn't involve finances, which hopefully would have thrown Stockwell off kilter a bit. There were so many people the two could go to, when it came to Otto Reich. But again, Reich wasn't the real threat to Stockwell. The earlier demands had caused financial headaches. This was the first serious step toward bringing down Stockwell's empire. The political ramifications would be tremendous, not only at home, but abroad.
And they had just gotten started.
The team had
arrived in D.C. that afternoon.
First of all,
Stockwell was insisting that if Ables would be used,
he would be in charge of the operation.
It was late
in the evening when he had finally come up with the final plan and assignments.
His own team would be handling the most likely contacts. The Ables were dispersed among the other lesser players. After
checking out the myriad buildings, offices, and exits,
The Team was
to meet with the Ables early in the morning, so they
hit the sack early.
his thoughts drifted to his missing lieutenant. He wondered if they were
already in the city, or waiting until the last minute to make their appearance.
He knew damn well the two of them would be together. He didn't know if it made
him angry or sad to know that Face would be a willing participant in this. He
thought about the outburst about those damn sentences, and it crossed his mind
that Face may try to talk Randy out of this scheme of his. It was possible, but
that would indicate a strong loyalty to the team. Strong enough to overcome
Face's need for revenge. Or maybe he saw it as justice. Either way,
He knew now that they had made a huge error with Face, right from the start. He should have had time to himself, with the right doctor, to accept what had been done to him. They shouldn't have brought him back to the team so quickly, insisted on pushing him into the old routine so fast. And they damn sure shouldn't have tried to make him ignore his time with Randy.
Maybe if they had allowed him to be both Sam and Face, had accepted that Sam was as much a part of his life as the team, maybe...
Sam dozed through most of the flight to D.C. He didn't like to let himself really sleep; he wasn't sure if the dreams would come again or not. He knew they came every night. Like clockwork. More of the same kind of mix-ups as that first night. They were disturbing, and yet, there was something about them that was...reassuring?
Ridiculous. How could seeing his mother with Smith be reassuring? Maybe it was just the fact that he could see his mother's face so clearly. Who she was with didn't really matter, as long as he could see her. The same with his father. They couldn't look so real, night after night, looking the same each night...not if they were just images those doctors had given him. And yet, everyone kept telling him that that's just exactly what they were. Just images. Fakes. That they had never existed.
Was that possible? Really? Could a bunch of psycho-babblists make up a whole lifetime like that? Well, given the right stimuli, he supposed it was possible. It certainly was, done the way they had with Randy. But he hadn't been drugged. Not like that. But then, he was different from Randy in one major respect.
Randy had had a family.
the team, to the psych, to everyone he'd met since
And that's why the so-called resistance in accepting the truth. His real past. It wasn't as 'all-American-apple-pie' as the lies. They had almost convinced him. Almost. They had tried, he had tried. Maybe, if they hadn't been so hell-bent on making him forget about Randy. If he had been allowed to see him, talk to him. It had been frustrating and confusing. Why not let him see Randy? What were they so afraid of?
So he'd gone back to this A-Team, and found himself working for the very man who had supposedly turned him over to these mad scientists. And he was supposed to accept that. That was where everything started breaking down for him. These guys were supposed to have known him for almost half his life, were supposed to be practically like family, and yet they wanted him to work for the man that... how the hell did they think that would ever work?
There was only one way. They thought they could convince him to believe their lies. They would make him think they were telling the truth, and everything he remembered was a lie. Make him fit into their history. Their history. Not his. Theirs.
He'd thought perhaps it was Carla and Stockwell pulling the strings. Making the decisions about Randy. But then Smith had admitted that he, and the rest of the team, were deliberately not telling him things. Things he should have been told, if they were really part of his past.
If it was his past, he should have been told. If it wasn't his past, then it wouldn't matter. But it was part of the team's past, and he was supposed to be part of the team, so...but if it was all a lie...
He was getting a headache. A bad headache. He couldn't figure out any more what he should believe. It seemed like everyone was lying to him. Smith, Murdock, Baracus, Santana - all intent on doing Stockwell's bidding. Just continue the experiment but with a set of 'facts' to make up for the fiasco in LA. Adjust to salvage what they could. Make him accept the new story.
The faces of his mother and father. So clear. So crystal clear. The memories of the team, so blurred, so hard to find...
He couldn't believe them. Not any more.
The next morning Randy walked briskly up the street, looking for a particular cafe. He had made this appointment yesterday afternoon, right from the airport. The senator was a bit skeptical about making the appointment, but once Randy had given him certain information, he was willing to meet.
He found the cafe, and stepped inside, quickly scanning the occupants. He saw him at the back, in a booth. Randy sauntered in his direction, watching the other diners. No one paid any attention to him. He reached the booth, and without saying a word, slid into the seat across from the young senator. They looked at each other, carefully taking the other's measure.
"You have something for me?"
Randy took a single sheet of folded paper from his jacket pocket and slid it over. The senator opened it and quickly glanced over it. A deep frown swept over his face.
"You're sure of this?"
"Where's the rest?"
"That'll cost you."
The senator stared at him, repulsed. "Are you serious?"
"I can do my own digging. Our business is finished." The senator got up abruptly and headed for the cash register at the front. Randy stood, stretched, and sat down again.
At the register, the senator had just paid for his meal when another man stepped up, stumbled and fell against the senator. Apologizing profusely, the man straightened the senator's rumpled jacket and tie before backing off. The senator smiled absently at him and proceeded out the door.
Ten minutes later Randy was back at their hotel, waiting in the lobby. Sam showed up a few minutes later. They grinned at each other.
"Okay?" Randy already knew the answer, of course.
"No problem. Inside pocket, safe and sound."
"Good. I was afraid for a minute he was going ask me how much, but he didn't. Just got mad and left."
"You're sure he'll do something about it? He'll put that information to use?"
"Positive." They looked at each and grinned again, giddy with the ease of the operation. Not a sign of the A-Team or anyone else. They were probably running themselves silly trying to keep track of the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"So, ever seen the Lincoln Memorial?"
rebuilding it over and over, BA angrily shoved the alarm clock away; in the
process he nearly knocked Murdock's pop bottle off the table. Murdock grabbed
it angrily, shoving away from the table and stalking into the living room.
Frankie, who had been trying to watch television, wisely decided to check out
the view from the balcony. As he stepped out into the cooler air, he hoped
It was their fourth day in D.C., and so far there hadn't been a sign of either Randy or Face. None of the people they and the Ables had been watching had been approached by anything other than normal methods. And yet they all knew that there would be ramifications from the missed deadline. The members of the team had been alternating with various Ables in the surveillance, meeting back at the hotel room that was their base of operations to compare notes; it was time-consuming, boring and stressful. Nerves were at the straining point.
The door to
their hotel room literally slammed open. Even Frankie heard it from the
balcony. That couldn't be good. He stepped cautiously back inside. One look at
"They didn't even go after our Committee members. They side-stepped us. Gave the information to a Senator Kerry. Stockwell got the news this morning - friend of a friend of a friend. Otherwise we'd have never known."
"How does that fit with Stockwell's finances? I don't understand..."
"They're hitting him in a different arena this time." The use of the plural wasn't missed by anyone. "The information, in the hands of this Senator, is going to cause repercussions internationally. And since this particular information could only have come from Stockwell..."
"Shit." Murdock threw his pop bottle into the garbage. "And I suppose he's long gone, too. Who knows where..."
exactly. Carla got a photo by courier this morning."
Randy and Face, in front of the Jefferson Memorial, smiling and waving at the camera, typical tourists. Murdock picked it up, glanced at the back. Saw the note, with yesterday's date on it.
"Long time, no see..."
They had planned
on staying in the D.C. area for a few days, sight-seeing, but by the third day
it was obvious Sam was not comfortable being that close to
Sam relaxed noticeably when Randy told him they were leaving. It only took a short time for them to pack and get to the airport. It wasn't until they arrived at the ticket desk that things started falling apart.
Sam stopped short, looking confused.
"What's the matter, Sam? Forget something?"
"Yeah. It was the only one that had seats available. Something wrong?"
"No. No, nothing. Just...it sounds familiar." Sam shook his head, smiling ruefully. "Never mind. Deja vue all over again."
Randy smiled back, but watched him. There was something odd there.
Sam seemed to relax again as the plane taxied down the runway and took off. He watched out the window as they gained altitude. They soon moved in heavy clouds, and Sam leaned back in his seat to sleep. Randy picked up a magazine and lazily started browsing. Soon he nodded off.
It must have been about half-way through the flight when he woke up. He wasn't sure what it was, at first. Then he heard someone speaking, whispering, next to him. Sam. He looked over in alarm.
Sam was scrunched down in his seat, a brows furrowed, staring ahead as if trying to make out something just out of his vision. Randy couldn't make out the fast, staccato whisperings. Taking a quick look around him, he reached over and gently squeezed Sam's arm.
"Sam? Sam. What's going on?" He spoke low, but firmly.
The whispering stopped, but Sam continued to stare ahead. Louder, but still quietly, he answered. "We're being hijacked."
A man named
Randy glanced around him. No one seemed edgy, or on guard. He hadn't seen any crew other than the stewardesses, but they certainly hadn't seemed nervous. Sam must have seen something that tipped him off.
"How do you know, Sam?"
"They made demands. We traded Smith for the passengers."
"He posed as Beller. And I...I was the accountant..."
Suddenly Sam didn't seem so sure of himself. Randy looked closer at him. Aw, no. Sam's eyes were unfocused and he seemed to be looking much farther ahead than the seat in front of him. Randy knew immediately what was happening.
"No, Sam, that's not now. That happened...a long time ago." Randy didn't know if it had or not, but he had to play by Sam's rules right now.
For a moment, he didn't think the other man had accepted it, or even understood it. But gradually, Sam began to focus, his eyes darting around nervously. He stopped when he saw Randy beside him. He suddenly went pale, and Randy could see he was starting to panic.
"Randy, what the hell's going on? I saw...so clearly...like it was happening right now. Are you sure...?"
"I'm sure, Sam. Nothing's going on right now except a routine flight. It must have been another dream. That's all.'
"But it seemed so real, Randy. How could it be so real, when it never happened?"
"You know it never happened? Are you sure?"
"Damn it, yes, I'm sure! None of that crap happened! I was never with those guys! Never!" Sam's voice was rising, and nearby passengers were starting to look at them.
"Okay, okay, calm down, Sam. Just calm down." He looked at the other passengers, smiling reassuringly. "Look, let's just not talk about it right now. When we land, we'll get home and we can talk it all out, okay? But we have to be cool right now, not draw attention. We don't want any problems with our plans, right?"
Sam immediately quieted. No, we can't jeopardize the plans. No way. He nodded at Randy, picked up a magazine and studiously started turning the pages.
Randy sighed in relief. Flashback or not, this was not good. Nor was it good that Sam was denying his involvement with the team. Randy knew he'd been a part of it; if Sam didn't want to be any more, that was one thing. But to convince himself it never happened, well, that was another.
Their plans may take some reworking...
moved back into the
Not that he would admit it to any one else, especially the rest of his team, but Hannibal was getting discouraged. This was liking fighting shadows. Between Randy and Face, they could come up with damn near any scenario to accomplish their goals. Randy had his own specialized training, which was difficult enough to predict. But Face...not only did Face have SF training, he'd had years of tutelage under Hannibal himself. And no one could forget things that had become second nature. No way.
And that was when it hit him. Maybe he was fighting shadows. But most of those were his own. He'd had much the same training as Randy, and he'd taught Face practically everything he knew. Shadow boxing. Just look in the mirror and see what was coming next. He chuckled, lighting a cigar.
All he had to do, was outwit himself.
"And where is our good Lieutenant this morning?"
headed back to
"On his own? You think that wise, Colonel?"
"Face's problems are memories, not doing his job." Again, that was true. He'd proved it.
Stockwell didn't look satisfied, but it was obvious he was going to get no further. "Just make sure he's back in time for the next deadline. I'm having every available agent in the field for this one."
"I wanted to discuss that next one with you, Stockwell. I want all the details this time, not just your hunches."
"I'll give you what you need to know..."
"Not good enough, General. If I had known everything the last time, we would have known to have looked more closely at that senator. You neglected to mention he'd already been making noise about some of the people involved."
Stockwell's attention, and neatly diverted him from the subject of Face.
Frankie went back to his television. BA had interrupted his work on the van to listen to Stockwell's diatribe, but once the General and Hannibal were closeted together, he headed back outside. Murdock meandered around the living room, watching curiously as Carla sat, stone-faced, in a chair as far from Frankie as she could get. She was clearly not at ease being in the same place as both the team and Stockwell.
Deciding he needed a little 'quality time' with the woman, Murdock moved casually over to her side and squatted down beside the chair. Carla pointedly ignored him.
Speaking low, in case Stockwell should come out suddenly, he smiled almost kindly.
you and I really need to have a little talk. I know
Carla looked at Murdock with something like disdain. She neither liked nor trusted Murdock, knowing full well the only reason he wasn't still in the VA was because of the General's connections. Yet another mistake he'd made trying to prove his 'integrity' to Colonel Smith.
"I really disagree, Captain. There is nothing else I have to tell you."
"Oh, I'm afraid I disagree, Carla. There's a lot of stuff that wasn't in those reports. I know how to read between the lines, you see. Had lots of practice at the VA."
"Of course, I could always ask General Stockwell. He wouldn't have to know Face is gone for me to want to know certain things. About Face...about Randy. And, of course, he'd probably push me off on you, but then you'd have to tell me, or he'd wonder why you were being so...secretive. Who knows? It might even reawaken his interest in Randy."
Carla sighed in frustration. "Very well, Captain. But not here, not now. I'll contact you later today when it's more prudent."
"I'll look forward to it, Carla, impatiently." He smiled benignly at her as he stood and headed out the door, intent on 'helping' BA with the van. It was turning into that kind of a day...
"Feeling better?" Randy looked in the door to the bedroom. Sam had taken some heavy duty sedatives as soon as they got back to the apartment, and slept nearly twenty-four hours straight. Now he was looking blearily up at the figure in the doorway.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, soon as I find my head I'll be fine." He smiled, embarrassed. He didn't know why all that crap had run through his head on the flight, but he sure as hell wasn't going to let it happen again. Enough was enough. He was through with all that. Now they had a job to do.
Randy wasn't willing to let it go that easily. "We need to talk this over, bud. And it's not just the idea that you might wig out on me in the middle of things. Stuff like that, that's not good for you, period."
"So I'll just watch what I dream from now on." The attempt at humor fell flat. "Look, the next deadline is days away. Plenty of time for me to get my head on straight. It won't happen again."
"C'mon, Sam, you know what's happening as well as I do. We've both seen it before. It's not going to go away on its own. The hell with the deadline. We can take whatever time we need and get you straightened out first. Stockwell can't regroup that fast."
getting angry now. "There is nothing to straighten out, Randy. Okay, maybe
I should have taken a couple of days to get my ducks in a row before going that
"Ain't gonna happen, Sam. Tell me this: What's going to happen the first time you see Smith? Or that pilot? Baracus. Santana. What are you going to do?"
"What are you talking about? Why should anything happen? Other than I make sure they don't see me." Sam shoved himself off the bed; not a smart move, considering his head still wasn't quite connected to his body yet. His head swam, and Smith's face popped up in the middle of the waves. It startled him and it showed.
"What? What's going on, Sam? C'mon, talk to me, damn it!"
"It's nothing! Geez, Randy. Quit acting like I'm some sorta head case. You're as bad as..."
"As Smith? Maybe he was right, Sam. He said you need help, and maybe he was right." Randy was treading on very thin ice now and he knew it. "All I'm saying is we both need to be on top of our game from now on. Things are going to be getting a lot dicier. We're not going to be leaving little gift packages on somebody's desk any more. We're talking about dealing with people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't really want to get my head bashed in because yours is off in Never Never Land. Capice?"
"So I won't sleep on the job and then we won't have to worry about it, okay? Jesus H. Christ, Randy! I'm not so nuts that I can't do the job. Let's not forget, I was the one taking care of you not so long ago. You want to talk head cases?"
"No, I don't want to talk head cases. What I want to talk about is the A-Team. The team you were a part of for over a decade and yet you want to pretend that doesn't exist. That's what I want to talk about."
"I was never..."
"Bullshit! You want to see the records? Not just the 'official' ones. I can show you newspaper clippings, photos, memos, the works. It's all there, Sam. You can't just decide it didn't happen. You don't want to be part of them any more, that's fine. But you can't just wipe out those years, Sam, because they were real!"
He didn't see it coming.
Sam shook out his hand as he stepped over Randy and stalked out of the front door. Damn. That hand was never going to heal up if he didn't quit slamming it into things...
Only one of
the four possibilities allowed Stockwell to retain these people within his
'circle of friends'. The only problem, from Stockwell's point of view, was that
the team so far had an abysmal record of stopping the extortionist from getting
to their targets. And
In the end, Stockwell was willing to try the third ploy - once. If they failed, Stockwell would have no choice but to use one of the first two. It would cost the General the use of that particular target - there would be no way the man would cooperate once he knew the information on him had been 'lost' anyway - but, in Stockwell's eyes, stopping the threat of losing anything more because of the extortionist was worth it.
he'd taught Face everything he knew. He hadn't necessarily taught him
He left the park, wandering along the streets, thinking about the so-called evidence Randy had told him about. Clippings were meaningless; the press was easily fooled. Photos could be faked, as could documents. Randy should know that. Where had he gotten all that information? Had to have been from Stockwell or Barish. And that should have told him right there it was faked. Sam shook his head. He hadn't thought Randy would be so gullible.
That didn't change the fact that Sam had behaved badly. You don't hit your best friend. He had to find some way of making it up to him. And then he saw it and a huge grin spread over his face. How many times had they passed by the Guthrie Theater and Randy had wistfully said he'd like to see a real play. Well, now he would.
Ten minutes later Sam was hurrying back to the apartment. These tickets, coupled with a sincere apology, would put them back where they belonged.
"Okay, so who's this guy? Why's he so important to Stockwell?" Murdock was staring at a rather fuzzy photograph. A man, big moustache, longish hair, surrounded by a lot of muscle.
"Tommy Fiallos. Small-time hood, big-time connections. The usual - drugs, prostitution, porn."
"And Stockwell's keeping him on ice? Why?"
like I said, Tommy has big-time connections. Access
to information that helps Stockwell keep on top of things like local politics
"So why would Randy want to put him out of business? Sounds like he's more useful than criminal."
"He's connected with Stockwell. Apparently that's all that matters to them. If they can hurt the General through Tommy, they will."
you'd quit including Face like that,
"I'm being realistic, Murdock. I suggest you start doing the same. Now, we know they're going after Tommy next. Obviously, the objective has to be extortion. Threats to reveal that he's a snitch to his confederates. What the exchange for silence will be, I don't know exactly. I'm assuming something Tommy will understand - money. The amount won't really matter, except it will have to be enough to ensure he takes them seriously. Naturally, the first thing Tommy is going to do is contact Stockwell. That's when we'll get the details. And that's when we put our little plan into motion."
"What's the plan,
"Very simple, really. In exchange for information on his drug-dealing buddies, Tommy will be offered a spot in the protected witness program; the deal will include his not mentioning Stockwell. Not that any one would believe him, any way, but it makes Stockwell feel better."
"So how does that get us any closer to Randy?" Murdock was getting into the spirit of the plan now, despite himself.
"Randy will have set up a meeting with Tommy. Tommy will tell Stockwell. Stockwell will tell us and we'll be there waiting."
"And Randy's not going to think of Tommy contacting Stockwell?" Murdock suddenly lost his enthusiasm.
course he is. He'll be expecting a trap. Instead, he'll get exactly what he's
looking for. Tommy Fiallos."
"Oh, now, wait a minute, Johnny! We've been through this before, remember? I'm not looking forward to having my head handed to me by a freaking killer!"
"Relax, Frankie. Tommy's very careful about photographs - that fuzzy piece of shit there is one of the better ones, even for Stockwell. Randy's not going to have any idea you're not Tommy."
"But what about Face?"
There was a
short silence before
Sam opened the door slowly, after making enough noise in the hallway to make sure Randy knew someone was coming. He poked his head in the door.
Nervously, he stepped into the living room, closing the door firmly behind him, hearing the lock catch.
Damn, where was he? Shit, Sam hadn't hit him that hard, had he? Caution aside, he strode toward the bedroom, stopping in the doorway. Empty.
"Damn it, Randy, where are you?" He hated it, but he could hear the panic rising in his voice.
"Right here." Sam spun around and was caught by a sofa pillow in the head. The force knocked him to the floor.
"What the hell?"
"That was a down payment. I'll get even later."
The two men glared at each other for a moment. And then Sam started chuckling, shaking his head. Randy grinned down at him before offering a hand up. Sam grabbed hold and immediately pulled down, putting his foot in Randy's stomach and flipping him over. Randy went crashing onto the hall carpet a few feet from Sam. It took a moment for him to catch his breath. He rolled painfully over to his stomach, and glared at Sam, who shrugged innocently.
"Some things you never forget."
"God, why did I bring this man back into my life!" He shook his head, mimicking Sam, before looking back up, a wry smile on his face. "Truce?"
"More than that." Sam pulled the tickets out of his pocket. "Treat."
Randy reached over and grabbed the tickets excitedly. "Aw man, that's...that's fantastic! And the Guthrie!" He sobered, still looking at the tickets. "Sam, I'm sorry I pushed you so hard before. I just..."
"Let's just forget it. We were both out of line. Chalk it up to growing pains. For now, we have a play to view. And you better damn well like it!"
Randy watched as Sam pulled himself up and headed for the bathroom. A few moments later he heard the shower going.
Sighing, he got to his feet. He was going to have to add to his collection on the A-Team, and soon. He needed to know as much about them as possible. He didn't need another Beller incident. Not now.
Tommy Fiallos walked into his office and glared angrily at the workmen and their scattered equipment. It looked like an electronics convention.
"What the hell is going on here? I didn't authorize any work done!"
"Really? Did you hear that, Mal? Mr. Fiallos says he didn't authorize any work." The first workman stood and looked at his companion, confusion on his face.
"Well, I got a work order here, Fred. See, Mr. Fiallos - all signed, sealed and delivered."
Tommy looked angrily for the paperwork, and instead found himself staring down at a Saturday Night Special. Some people thought they were just glorified pea-shooters, but those people had never had one pointed at them.
"My guys will eat you for breakfast."
"Your guys better stay the hell out of the way, if they want to keep you breathing, pal." The blond workman stepped closer, the barrel of the gun shoving into Tommy's stomach. "We aren't going to play any funny games today, Tommy. We're going right through the front door. You tell your people to play dead, understand? Then we go down the hall and down the stairs. You try anything - you even breathe wrong - and they'll be picking out flowers for your funeral."
Tommy was starting to get very nervous. He had a lot of 'business associates', but he didn't think he'd pissed any of them off.
"Who sent you?"
Blondie winked at the other guy. "You might say General Stockwell sent us."
Tommy turned pale. This was not the agreement he had with Stockwell. He was supposed to be safe, as long as he kept the information flowing. What the hell was going on?
"I want to talk to Stockwell."
"You will, pal. You will. Once you get us out of here in one piece."
Tommy swallowed, and finally nodded. If these guys worked for Stockwell, he was in big trouble. No way he was going to make it worse.
With a final nudge of the gun, he turned and walked out of the office, his two escorts close behind him.
up the telephone. He did not want to tell
"They've made contact?"
"Well, yeah, they've definitely made contact, Colonel." Murdock gulped. It wasn't just that they had made contact. It was the way they'd done it. And the fact that it was 'they'. There was just no way Murdock could deny that Face was an active participant any more.
"Out with it, Captain."
Murdock sighed. "That was Carla. Two men abducted Tommy Fiallos this morning when he arrived at his office. Tommy called Stockwell about an hour ago. In exchange for a full disclosure of his dealings with the General, he gets a guaranteed new identity."
had expected fireworks, he was in for a shock.
"Oh, it's a setback, but Stockwell really hasn't done anything that the government hasn't been doing for years. Keeping a snitch on the payroll, so-to-speak. It'll hurt, but it won't be fatal. No, what I really wanted to find out was if I was right."
closed his eyes and shook his head. He looked again at
"Right? Right about what?"
"Tell me, Murdock. What was our plan for Tommy?"
"Turn him over to the Feds in exchange for immunity."
"And what did that immunity entail?"
Murdock suddenly saw a light at the end of the tunnel. "A new identity."
"Exactly. Same plan, different method. Different only because they didn't have the Fed's on their side. It's going to work, Murdock."
you lost me again,
"Trust me, Murdock. It's going to be a piece of cake."
taking the newly 'minted' Tommy to
Watching Sam work out Tommy's new identity had been a mixture of awe and trepidation. He didn't miss a single detail. It had taken a couple of days but the necessary documents and forms magically appeared. Randy had checked them over himself and admiringly told Sam he would never have recognized them as forgeries.
"They aren't forgeries!" Sam had actually been upset at the suggestion. "These are perfectly legitimate. Every one of them. Forgeries..." he'd stalked off into the living room, still mumbling disgustedly.
The ease with which Sam had accomplished his task bothered Randy. He'd even asked him how he knew what to do, who to contact. Sam, engrossed in his task, had just shrugged.
"I don't know. Just takes a little finesse, that's all."
"But how do you..."
"Randy, c'mon. I can't get this done in time if you keep bugging me. I don't know how I know, I just do. Okay?" Sam was getting agitated, so Randy backed off. He knew Sam wouldn't have known how to do this. If he had, they could've easily disappeared when Barish was hunting them. Randy was very good as a con artist; Sam was excellent. But this guy...the man was a master.
And it worried Randy. He knew it wasn't Sam doing this. None of it.
When they had first discussed Tommy and how to handle him, Sam had made a few changes in Randy's plans, but had agreed with most of it. But a couple of days later, he'd suggested a completely new plan. It was definitely better than the original, but Sam had displayed an almost Puckish attitude while explaining it. It was that demeanor that alerted Randy, and so he had watched the plan unfold with more than his usual attention to detail. He'd watched the body language, listened to the telephone conversations. Sam had not even been aware of the changes, but Randy had noticed every one of them. The change in his tone of voice, the lighter step, the gleam in his eye as he gathered in yet another document, the way he was enjoying the challenge of coming up with a foolproof identity. And the gleeful triumph when they had finally abducted Tommy.
Randy knew he'd just been introduced to Face.
next on the list,
"There's been a change. A new name added, with a deadline day after tomorrow."
doesn't give us much time,
"Well, the target has already been sequestered, so it's going to be a lot more difficult for them to get to him. But this one has its own unique problems."
okay, Johnny. Out with it. Who's the next dude?" Frankie was still basking
in the relief of not having to portray Tommy Fiallos, but feeling somewhat anxious about
He glanced one more time at the door, forcing himself not to get up and actually look at those on the other side. He knew who they were, of course. Six of Stockwell's men, supposedly his best. Supposedly going to keep him safe until he could be escorted back to the States and hidden until this 'threat' was eliminated. Right. He wasn't naive enough to believe it was his safety Stockwell was concerned about.
He, himself, was not worried. He was more...insulted. Insulted that anyone could think they had even a chance of taking him. Ridiculous. He was a bit surprised that anyone knew who he actually was, however. Even the men in the next room didn't know who, exactly, they were guarding. He hadn't been known by his name since coming on board. He wasn't even known as an Able. He just...was. He used different names for different situations. Never the same one twice.
If he disappeared tomorrow, no one would know who to look for.
No, he knew it was what he could tell that worried Stockwell. As if he would say anything. That was also part of his reputation. He'd been in tight spots before and never sold out. He didn't have to, because his cover stories and backups were always planned out well in advance and to the smallest detail. He was the perfect employee for the people who needed his services. And over the past months, he had become the General's top 'problem solver'. He was good at what he did, always had been. He was discrete, he was invisible, and he was efficient. It was a source of great pride that he had yet to fail a mission during his career.
With one exception.
Dismissing that aggravation for the moment, he concentrated again on his current situation. Stockwell had contacted him personally this time. At first he had disdained the idea of body guards. He could certainly take care of himself. But the General was adamant; there was too much riding on this. And to a point, Stockwell would do whatever necessary to ensure he stayed healthy and safe. To a point. And that made this threat a possible problem for him in the future.
No, he wasn't worried. He was irritated.
"So far he's accepting the story that Face is tracking down leads. Stockwell always knew Face was good at detail. With Carla backing us up, Stockwell may never have to know. And if my plan works out..."
exactly is the plan,
"And then what, Johnny?"
"And then we wait for them to take the bait."
"You really think they're going to know how to find us, and go directly against us, to get to him?"
"Doesn't make sense, Johnny."
"Well, look at it this way, Frankie. Right from the start, they've had nothing but success. They've both been having fun with this, making Stockwell - and us - look like bumbling idiots. It's been a game. Too easy. That's why they changed the list. Upped the ante. They don't want it to be easy any more. They're looking for a challenge. And what bigger one than going after one of the people that not only can cause some serious legal problems for Stockwell, but also the one that tried to kill them both? The fact that they knew Stockwell would put us on him is icing on the cake. Because both Randy and Face have an axe to grind with us."
"Yeah, but we messed up. Big time. Now Face has something to prove to us - that he got away from us before we could screw him up completely. That he's not only better off without us, but that he and Randy make a better team than we do."
"It's that important to him to show us up? That doesn't sound like Face, even to me, Johnny."
"That's because it's not really Face. It's Sam. And showing us up is only part of it. He's got something to prove to himself. That he really does function better as Sam than he did as Face. If he can prove that, he can let us go without any problem."
"You think he can do that?"
"No. Not after Fiallo. Tommy's disappeared completely. Along with most of the money in his bank accounts. No trace. From start to finish, there's only one person who could pull off that operation in just that way, and it's not Sam."
"So how are they going to find us? We going to leave them a trail or something?"
"No, we're going to do our damndest to make sure they don't find us. Anything less would be so obvious to them they'd switch to another target, with or without warning. And God only knows what kind of damage that could do. No, our boys want a challenge, and they're going to get it."
"This is nuts, you know."
The comment was met with a chuckle.
"Of course it is. You don't want to be predictable, do you?"
"God, no. A fate worse than death." The first man stretched out in the back seat. "So what time do you think they'll be heading out?"
"Don't know for sure. But I figure late. Real late, when there's very little traffic. Easier to spot a tail that way, plus they can make better time wherever they're going."
"So how hard do you think this will be?"
"For us? Piece of cake."
Randy smirked in the dark. This was more along his line. He was feeling that familiar tingle inside, and he knew Sam was feeling the same. Mind games were one thing; after Fiallos, they'd both gotten bored with the idea of more cloak and dagger crap. They were ready for some real action. And tonight was just the beginning.
They watched from their vantage point as the lights in the house disappeared one by one. Only the security lights on the outside remained. They could see Stockwell's men making their rounds. Random pattern, of course. They waited another hour, until the occupants inside were asleep. Then they waited another thirty minutes, just to be sure.
Finally, Randy sat up, draping his arms over the back of the front seat, looking expectantly at Sam. With a quick wink and a grin, Sam pushed open the door that he'd left partially open. He'd also disconnected the dome light. Randy slid out of the back seat just as quietly.
Randy pointed to the left, and Sam gave him a thumbs up before heading in that direction. Randy immediately moved to the right.
He went from
window to window, cautiously peering out through the curtains. He could see the
Ables moving around the grounds. Stockwell had
increased security at all of his 'facilities', including the compound, although
Sam moved quietly through the trees toward the pool. Before stepping out into the open, he checked carefully for any Ables who might spot him. Once assured the coast was clear, he stepped boldly out of his cover and almost sauntered between the pool and the house. He was nearing the corner of the house when he caught a very slight movement at one of the windows. He deliberately ignored it, continuing his way toward the front of the house and his ultimate destination. Rounding the corner, he met up with his first Able.
"Anything?" he was asked.
"Yeah, over here, too. I don't understand what the General thinks is going to happen here. He won't even tell us what we're looking for. But nobody in their right mind would take on the A-Team on their home turf." The Able moved on, turning the corner.
"You got that right, bud." Sam grinned at the Able's back. For once he was glad of the time spent here. Not only did he know the layout, but he knew the Ables. Randy had been a little skeptical when Sam had first proposed this venture, but had soon been persuaded when Sam added a few details. Tonight was not just a mission; it was entertainment, a frolic, and a Halloween prank all rolled into one. Sam didn't care if the team or Stockwell knew they'd been here. In fact, he was seriously considering sticking around to see their reactions when they found out. He nearly chuckled aloud, picturing it.
Just now, however, he had work to do. He spotted his objective. At about the same time, he saw Randy strolling casually in the same direction. Good. Their timing was perfect.
Randy stood at the front of the van, glancing carefully around for interference. Sam stood at the back of the vehicle, and, after making sure the coast was clear, dropped and scooted quickly underneath. This was the only really tricky part. He and Randy had poured over the detailed drawings of this make and model, and had finally decided on the perfect place. Now he just had to translate from the drawing to the real thing, and it wasn't as easy as it had seemed. Finally, however, he found it, and carefully placed the bug.
He pulled himself out and grinned triumphantly at Randy, who mirrored his reaction. Now the fun could begin...
Sam added a few finishing touches to the van, smiling to himself when he thought about Baracus' reaction to them. He wondered, idly, which one of the team the guy would take it out on. He stopped for a moment, considering. Probably Murdock. BA seemed to prefer going after him.
Sam would actually prefer it be Santana. He wasn't sure why he had a dislike for that kid, he was generally less offensive than the rest of them. Except for that cockiness. Somehow the guy seemed to think he had some sort of special relationship with Smith, just because they made a couple movies together. Like that counted for anything. Face had been with Smith for a hell of a lot...
Shit. Face didn't even exist. Gotta remember that. Oh, that's funny, Sam. Real funny.
"Ready?" Randy stepped up, looking closely at him. Sam knew his slips back into that funny farm world of the team had been noticed, and that it bothered Randy. Well, he was working on it. It was getting easier not to.
"Yeah. You ready to do the Ables?"
"Any time. Got the stuff?" Sam could just barely see Randy's face in the dark, but he could hear the eager grin in his voice.
"Let's go, partner."
The two men started their hunt. They'd counted six Ables outside. It was possible there were more in the house, but Sam doubted Smith would have put up with that. He went left again, Randy right. They had to be quick and quiet for this gag to work. Anyone putting up an alarm would ruin everything.
Sam found his first almost immediately. Again listening to the status of security - ha ha - and then watching as the Able turned away to continued his rounds. A quick chop to the back of the neck and the first was taken out. He'd pulled his hit, so the guy would just have a tremendous headache when he woke up. He hoped Randy remembered to. Randy sometimes got carried away. But this was all for fun, not to get Stockwell on a complete rampage.
He quickly dragged his victim out of sight and went looking for the next. He kept watching the windows for any tell-tale sign of the occupants being awake, but saw nothing.
It took them less than a half-hour to incapacitate the Ables. Gleefully, the two men tied them up, and settled them against the van. Novelty glasses and springy antenna caps made up the final insult. Stepping back, Randy and Sam grinned crazily at each other.
"Well done, ol' chap!"
"Why, thank you, kind sir. Not bad yourself."
"Now, shall we get out of here before any one else joins the party?" Randy headed for their car.
"I'll meet you there in a minute. I've got one last thing to take care of." Sam looked toward the house, fun and games gone from his thoughts.
"Sam? I think we've done enough now. Anything else can wait."
Sam turned back to him, and Randy was surprised at the look on his face. "I said I'll be there in a minute, Randy."
Raising his hands in surrender, Randy backed up. "Okay, buddy. Just don't do anything foolish. We've still got the big fish to fry yet." There was just a hint of warning in his voice.
Sam relaxed, and winked at him. "Don't worry. I'm keeping the big picture in mind. Always."
Randy wasn't so sure, but he turned and headed back to the car. He didn't know what his friend had in mind, but he hoped it was Sam doing it, and not Face. He didn't need any messes to clean up.
"What's the ETA?" He was tired of the long flight. He didn't like small planes, regardless of how expensive or well-equipped. On a normal airliner he could just sleep away the Atlantic crossing. He hadn't been able to relax enough to do so on this thing.
"About an hour, sir. We'll be going below radar shortly."
Nothing like flying just above an ocean in a small plane. He should have taken
matters into his own hands when Stockwell first contacted him about this. He
could have disappeared in
He checked his sidearm one more time. Stockwell's men hadn't been happy that he'd insisted on keeping it, but he refused to go anywhere unarmed. One of the men had mentioned that Colonel Smith would not allow it, but he wasn't worried. He'd dealt with military types before. Often. They usually backed down when faced with civilians who refused to take orders. This Smith had no control over him, not if he didn't let him.
He looked out
the small window, watching as the moon reflected on the ever closer water of
He stood in the hallway, listening. This was crazy, stupid, foolhardy. Necessary. There was something here in the house that he needed, but he didn't know what it was. Not yet. That was what made it so crazy. But he'd know it when he saw it. He moved down the hallway, slowly, quietly. No one would hear him. He knew that. He came to Face's bedroom door and turned the knob, carefully, and opened it only enough to slide through. He knew it squeaked if opened too far. Quickly he closed the door behind him, and turned on his flashlight, darting the beam quickly around the room.
He saw it on the dresser. A small redwood box. Eyes fixed on it, he moved automatically toward it, opening it carefully, as if it would break at his touch. The object inside glittered in the light before he reverently picked it up and carefully stowed it in his pants pocket.
His mission accomplished, he moved back toward the door, turning off the flashlight and listening carefully before opening it and again sliding through to the hallway. He was about to leave, when something made him turn and head further along in the darkness. He came to another door, and again carefully opened it. This one didn't squeak, so he was able to open it more fully.
He stood in the doorway, breathing lightly, quietly, watching the man asleep in the bed. He stared hard at the face, desperately trying to pull a real and true memory into his mind. All he could do was bring up the memories they had forced on him. Nothing spontaneous, no warmth, no feeling of friendship, nothing. It just wasn't there.
He stepped back, pulling the door back with him. He left it open, just a bit. He wanted to let Smith know he'd been close. Very close.
Leave him with something to think about...
He heard the rest of the men starting to move around in their rooms, and pushed himself out of bed. He took a quick shower, taking the time to ground himself. He couldn't let something like a stupid dream bother him. They had a job to do and he would need his wits about him.
It was as he came out of the bathroom that he noticed the door. He knew he'd closed it last night. He always closed it, tight. Frowning, he stepped into the hallway. Murdock and BA were already heading for the kitchen.
"Hey, guys, either of you open my door last night or this morning?"
They stopped and looked at him, mildly puzzled. Both shook their heads.
"No, forget it." He'd check with Frankie but he knew he'd get a negative there, too. He looked around his room. Nothing out of place. And yet...
He finished dressing quickly and headed for the kitchen himself. He met Frankie coming out of his room, and got the expected answer about the door. He stood for a minute, letting Frankie continue on without him. Pursing his lips, he turned back and headed for Face's room.
It took him a
moment to see it. The box on the dresser, sitting open, empty.
"C'mon guys, we had company last night. BA, check the van. Murdock, you and Frankie check for the Ables. Now!"
Ten minutes later, the Ables were untied and sheepishly standing alongside the van. BA was checking every inch of it for bugs. When he finally located it, he was not happy.
"And we don't have time for that. Damn it!" He thought for a moment. He didn't like it. Sure, the bug had been hidden well, but still... He glanced at his watch. "Do a quick check of Frankie's Cutlass, BA. We'll have to take that. The 'vette isn't big enough."
BA headed for the garage, shaking his head angrily.
"All right, Murdock, you and Frankie get the gear out of the van, put as much as you can in the trunk. We don't have any time to waste."
"What do you suppose they'll do now that they don't have the tracker, Hannibal?"
"They'll find a way. Don't worry about that."
"Want to tell me why you had to go in the house like that, Sam?" Randy spoke quietly, but there was an obvious tenseness in his voice.
"Just something I left behind."
Randy looked at him, curiously. "Must have been important."
"It seemed like it..."
Sam closed his eyes, feigning sleep, gently fingering the rosary in his pocket.
"Funny Baracus didn't find it."
"I told you that casing would hide it. That, and a tank full of gas." He chuckled.
Randy shook his head. What Sam didn't know about up to the minute technology wasn't worth knowing. He'd never seen anyone who could get so engrossed in electronic journals the way he could. Anything new, anything weird, Sam wanted to know about it. All about it.
He glanced down at the little gadget Sam held. A bright red light was blinking steadily. It would waver now and then, going to one side or another depending on how the gas in the tank swept it around, but generally held steadily in a northerly direction. Sam hadn't bothered to turn it on when the Cutlass swung out of the compound. He'd waited, having a pretty good idea they were headed for the small, private airfield Stockwell used. Once the old car was out of sight, the two men had followed at a leisurely pace. Only when Sam was sure the team had arrived at the airfield had he switched on the remote tracker. After that, it was just a matter of following the little red dot.
Randy kept his eye on the road, letting Sam direct him. They had the radio on, music they both liked. Other than that, it was silent in the car for some time. Finally Randy had to ask.
"So, what was it you went back for, Sam?"
Sam could feel his face getting hot. It was embarrassing, for some reason.
"Oh, just a...a rosary. Don't ask me why I wanted it. It just seemed important to have it. Dumb."
Randy didn't say anything for a few minutes, thinking. "I didn't know you were religious, Sam."
"I don't know, I said! I don't even know where the thing came from. I just...didn't want to leave it there."
thinking, hard. When they were finished with
Maybe go back out to LA.
went smoothly, for the most part.
He was looking at this wrong, again. Get back on track. What would he do in this case? How would he find his target, knowing the team would be in charge...he thought back to the van. He wouldn't want them to have access to that, not with the cache of weapons it could carry. He'd want them to be handicapped that way. So the tracker was supposed to be found, but not so easily that they would know it was a ruse. The real trick was the brake line.
So far, the plan was working. They were without most of their weapons and communications systems. Only what the Cutlass carried, which was next to nothing. Sure, they could go back and get the van repaired and take it to the safe house, but it left them a man short when they were undermanned to begin with, plus opened more chances for the target to be found. So they were stuck with what they had.
That left the Cutlass. There had to be a tracker on it, somewhere. He wouldn't sabotage the van, force them to use the car unless he could follow it without being seen. It made no sense otherwise. But BA had gone over every inch and hadn't found anything. Where would he put it that BA couldn't find it? Where the detector wouldn't 'see' it?
He looked over at BA. If anyone knew about this stuff, it was BA. Time to start picking his brain. Before they got too close to the safe house.
"They've stopped. Pull over."
Randy immediately pulled off on the shoulder and waited.
"Think they've figured it out?"
"I think Smith knows there's something wrong. Probably talking it over with Baracus; he's the only one who might know how we did it." Sam pulled the map out of the glove compartment, made some quick marks on it. "There's a small town about fifteen miles from their current location. If they stop there for longer than it would take for a quick breakfast, we'll know they've figured it out." He closed his eyes, thinking. "Okay, we need to get there before they do. They'll switch cars. Smith won't want to take time to look for the bug. We'll pick up a second car, switch to close-up two man surveillance. But we have to hurry so we don't lose them completely." He looked at the map again. "Turn right up ahead. We can burn a little rubber and get there first."
Randy nodded and pulled back onto the road. This was good. This was Sam. All Sam.
BA had taken several minutes to discuss the problem. At first, BA was adamant
that he hadn't missed anything. But after
"Except for someone who can be anyone at any time. Someone who could forge the proper paperwork, the authorizations, the requisitions."
"Yeah, someone like that could get anything they wanted. And quick, too."
Randy had stuck on a moustache and cap before going into the rental place. Enough to draw attention from his real features, not enough to look odd or be remembered. It took only a few minutes to fill out the paperwork with his fake ID and take possession of the mom-and-pop sedan. He met Sam on the edge of town.
"They haven't pulled in yet." Sam glanced at his watch. "Should be any time now."
"Okay. See you on the flip side." Randy smiled and slid back into the rental. He would wait at the other end of the one main street. If they took any other route out of town, Sam would alert him in plenty of time.
Sam watched as Randy pulled away and drove out of sight. He could feel the adrenaline starting to pump faster now. This wouldn't be as easy as following the tracker. But it would be a hell of a lot more fun.
The team were all on guard as they pulled into the town. They saw the restaurant first, and dropped Murdock off. They spotted the rental agency a few blocks from there. Hannibal took care of the paperwork, using the ID's Stockwell had provided them with. He also asked about a place to store the Cutlass; Frankie was already complaining about leaving it here.
When he returned, their guest had fully awakened, and was not happy.
"I want my sidearm back, now."
"You'll get it back when I decide you'll need it. And right now, you don't need it. We're all the protection you have to have."
"Why doesn't that make me feel better? Listen, Smith, I know you've been trying to catch up with these guys for some time now. And I know they've been making fools of you and your team. So don't tell me how protected I should feel."
"Only that they're determined to bring Stockwell down. And they want me to be the next tree crashing in his forest. That, and what I already mentioned is all Stockwell would tell me."
then you don't know enough to make any decisions. You will keep your mouth
shut, and do what I tell you, or you will be tied and gagged like any other sleazeball we've dealt with."
you say, Smith."
Silently, the men drove the Cutlass to the storage garage, and then took the rental to pick up Murdock. Forty minutes after entering the town, they were once again on their way to the safe house.
They paid no attention as one car after another pulled into the beginning of the rush hour traffic around them.
Please Send This Author Comments!