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Bounty

Bounty

By Josta

 

Rated:  PG-13

Disclaimer:  I don't own the A-team and I'm sure Murdock in particular should be grateful.

Warnings:  This chapter contains graphic torture and a near-death experience, so be warned. I don't have a beta-reader so there may be linguistic mistakes in this story (as a matter of fact I'm sure there are) but I hope that won't stop you from reading it…..

Notes:  I am no doctor and the only thing I know about medicine is that you can take an aspirin when you've got a headache. All medical actions in this story are therefore totally, completely and utterly non-sense.

Summary:  This story is based upon the episode 'Bounty', because I don't have what it takes to make up a complete story. I just make up 'what ifs'…I was wondering what would have happened if those bounty hunters were a little less friendly. The story takes on from the moment Murdock has been abducted by the two hillbillies and an Indian and is taken to a cabin in another state.

 

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Chapter 1

 

Murdock hasn't stopped his 'jibber-jabber' all the way from the VA to the cabin and Tannen just can't take it anymore. He lashes out at Murdock and hits him hard in the face, using both fists. An older man comes outside and calls him off. He asks Murdock to follow him inside.

 

Once inside the cabin the old mans' demeanor changes very quickly. All at once he isn't friendly anymore….. Murdock is gun butted between the shoulder blades and forced on a chair. The old man orders the Indian to tie him up which he, very sadistically, does by using barbed wire which shreds Murdock's shirt and wounds his arms. While the Indian is occupied tying Murdock up, the others check over the rifles they want to use for capturing the A-team.

 

Murdock is visibly scared and very nervous. He chatters: "You know, you look like a Chippewa. Are you a Chippewa? No you're not Chippewa, you're Chumash, Chumash! No, the Chumash roam California. You're not Chumash, you must be Cheyenne. Are you Cheyenne?"

 

The Indian doesn't answer; he just stares at Murdock who asks:

 

"Does he always stare like that?"

 

"The Indian? Yeah, when he gets mad….."

 

Royco, the eldest son, is very excited at the thought of being very rich in just a few hours from now. The fact that four lives will be destroyed for that purpose is completely insignificant. "We are going to catch the A-team!"

 

Murdock is looking scared from one face to another. Compared to these men most inhabitants of the VA are completely sane…..

 

The father interrupts: "We catch them when I say so! I've been a bounty hunter for thirty-five years now and I know what I'm doing. The A-team bounty is the one I've been waiting for all my life and I'm going to make very sure everything goes as I plan!"

 

Royco reassures him. "We'll get them, pappy, don't you fret none."

 

"Well, we better get them!"

 

He grabs the phone and shows it to Murdock.

 

"And now you are going to call your friends because I assume they will be very worried about you by now."

 

Murdock hesitates and stares at the phone. When the old man suspects Murdock is going to refuse he hits him merciless with the rifle in the face, breaking Murdock's eye-socket and cheek-bone. On top of that he threatens to charge the barbwire. Murdock comes down a peg or two.

 

 

In the Van the phone rings, Hannibal answers. "Yeah?!"

 

Murdock tries not to show his fear but his voice quivers and he lisps, due to the beating he received.

"Colonel, there's someone here who wants to talk to you."

 

"We got your man here, Smith. I hear you and your boys are hard to get….."

 

"What do you want of Murdock?"

 

Well, it ain't Murdock we want. It's the three of you we're after. The government is offering a big bounty on you and I aim to collect on it. Now, if you wanna see Murdock again, you and Peck and Baracus will come to me. Take this down; I'm only gonna say it once. Go out of town on route nine up to Bedford Falls. When you get there, go to the bar called the Hat Rack. There's a payphone in the back of that bar. You go there and wait for my call. And remember….. Somebody is watching you every second from the minute you get into town. Now, if you don't answer it when I call, your buddy Murdock here….. is dead meat.

 

 

Hannibal races into the bar, the phone is already ringing. He picks it up. "Yeah!"

 

"Well, hello friend, I'm mighty glad you made it. I was about to hang up and your buddy Murdock would not have liked that!"

 

Hannibal is breathless of the running, he pants: "I'm here now. What do you want now?"

Now you're gonna take the road out of town, that's what I want. Follow along the road till you come to Pine Crest Drive. You take a right; follow that along until you come to the junction. Take the left fork; go on till you find an abandoned camp site. There you're gonna stop and you all gonna take off your jacket. Then you're gonna get out of the van and put your hands in the air. If I see any of you guys packing something I'm gonna gut shoot every-one of you.

 

He replaces the receiver and Hannibal does the same. He checks his watch and runs out of the bar.

After he leaves a man stands up from the stool he was sitting on and goes over to the payphone. It's the youngest son, Tannen. He dials a number. "They just left; they're on their way, pa!"

 

BA is in top of a telephone pole and is listening in.

 

"All right, son, you better get home right now, or you'll miss all the fun. Royco and Chazz are toying around with that fool. You know Chazz's specialty, so if you're not fast, you won't have to hurry at all. Maybe they can teach him to only shut up when he's told to do so."

 

"Tell them not to kill him, pa, I would love to try out my running iron again."

 

"He's pretty much damaged but they will keep him alive, boy. He ain't worth nothing when he's dead. Besides….. you already played with him."

 

"Jeez, pa, a shiner and a split lip! Knowing you, you messed him up a little yourself too."

"You know me well, boy, but I only hit him with my rifle. He's got a broken jaw and a concussion, I think."

 

"Compared to what Royco and Chazz are doing to him, that's not much indeed."

 

 

Hannibal calls BA over the walkie talkie. "Found out anything, BA?"

 

"Yeah, some dude used the phone after you left. I heard him tell his pa we're on our way. I've got the number; it's 5552944. But we better hurry. The father said two men are working Murdock over because he won't tell them anything and the son who rang already beat him up but wants to use his running iron on him. He's hurt already. It seems he's got a broken jaw and a concussion. They were bragging about that."

 

"All right, be ready, we'll pick you up."

 

They drive as fast as possible to pick up BA, who takes Faces place behind the wheel. Hannibal is very worried; he doesn't even want to think about what those men are doing to Murdock right now.

 

Murdock survived severe torture in Vietnam, but that was a lifetime ago. Who knows what damage it will do to his psyche now?

 

"Face, I must have the address of this number within five minutes, if possible. Every minute it takes further endangers Murdock's life. They haven't been nice to him so far and I fear the worst."

 

"All right, five minutes it is. But I will have to lend BA and his toolbox."

 

"Me? But I'm not good at running scams!"

 

"I'll do all the work, okay? The only thing you have to do is get in on cue and say what I tell you to. It's just like acting."

 

Hannibal turns to Face and just looks at him…..

 

 

At the national telephone company a phone rings. The operator answers it. "Operator!"

 

Anything else she says can't be understood because at this moment Face enters. He's wearing a blue overall, a helmet and a toolbox. He's making a lot of noise.

 

"Can I help you, sir?"

 

"Oxlead Construction Company. I should be done in about fifteen minutes."

 

"What's the meaning of this?"

 

"Well, the power's off it. We've got to catch in on the main cable."

 

While Face is explaining this he is hammering paper crosses into the floor, folding back the carpet to succeed.

 

"Well eh….. no-one told me about any of this."

 

"You mean you didn't get the paperwork of the main office?"

 

"Paperwork? No, I didn't get anything."

 

The phone rings again, Face is still making a lot of noise. The operator gets very nervous and tries to make herself heard. "Operator. Yes….. eh….. please hold, I'll connect you."

 

She turns to Face again. "What company did you say you were from?"

 

"Oxlead Construction! Baracus! You got those drills?"

 

BA enters; he's wearing a hard hat too. Color? Gold! He hands Face the drills.

 

"Thank you! Now, I just got to drill a couple of holes."

 

He starts doing so, while BA walks up to the operator. She recoils as he comes close and looks up at him. He's very impressive at close. He stares back at her. "Hey, man, she ain't got no hat!"

 

"No hard hat, eh? Oh, according to rule 114, section 29, everyone working in the area constructing has to wear a hard hat."

 

"I'm the only operator on duty. I can't just leave."

 

"Baracus take her to the truck and fit her with a hard hat."

 

"But I can't leave the board."

 

"Oh, the board, don't worry about the board; I'll take care of the board. No problem, here you go!" And he shoos her out of her office

 

BA and the operator leave. Face hurries to the computer and feeds it the phone number 5552944.

 

He gets the address: 125 South Mason Road.

 

When BA and the operator get back he's just finished writing the address down. She's wearing a white hard hat now.

 

"Well, that's perfect! Nice fit, nice color too. Baracus, can I see you in the truck?"

 

They leave the building and get in the Van.

 

"125 South Mason Road. Four minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Not bad, huh."

 

Hannibal consults the map. "When we take this road, we get at the backside of the house. Let's go, BA, we need about twenty minutes to get there. Let's hope we're not too late."

 

 

Meanwhile, at the cabin of the bounty hunters…..

 

Murdock is standing against a tree, facing the trunk. His only clothing is a pair of trousers. It's a little optimistic to state he is standing, because the only reason he doesn't fall down is that he's tied securely. Chazz is a real handyman with the whip he is using on Murdocks back.

 

The knots of the whip make deep marks, but Murdock bites his tongue to prevent himself from crying out. He won't let them have their fun. At last he loses consciousness, but Chazz keeps on beating, so Murdocks back becomes one large open wound, gushing blood. The old man comes outside.

 

"Enough already! He doesn't have to die just yet. Get him inside and bring him round."

 

They loosen the barbed wire. It inflicted a lot of damage because he was tied up real tight.

 

 

Inside, Murdock again is tied to the chair. A pool of blood forms underneath it. Bringing him round isn't very easy. He only gets into a state of semi consciousness because he is in too much pain, but the old man is satisfied.

 

"I'll tell you what we plan to do. We are leaving to catch your friends. The bounty is for 'dead or alive' and in our book that means 'dead'. We are going after them now because I heard that colonel, Decker, got wind of the fact they're in this area too and we don't want him to catch your friends. We'd miss out on that bounty if he did. You won't be alive for long after we get back with your friends. You will be useless to us by then so we will let Tannen use his running iron on you before finishing you off."

 

Tannen puts his double-barreled rifle against Murdocks chest and squeezes the trigger. He only wants to give Murdock a taste of what he has in store for him and wants to scare him a little bit more, if possible. He assumes the rifle is empty. But alas….. Two bullets leave the barrels and hit Murdock. Missing from a distance like this is absolutely impossible! The impact throws the chair off balance and it crashes to the floor. It shatters immediately. Murdock groans and pants but tries his best to remain conscious.

 

The old man is very angry at his son. "You stupid fool! What d'you do that for? Killing of our decoy!"

 

Royco's got a good idea. "Don't worry, pappy. If we don't catch the A-team now, we can always pick up Mrs. Baracus. We know where she lives, don't we? She's as good a decoy as this fellow here; maybe even better."

 

Murdock is now even more determined to get away. He's got to warn the others…..

 

 

The bounty hunters leave the cabin, on their way to the abandoned camp site where they expect the A-team to be. The whip remains behind as a silent witness.

 

Murdock tries to shred himself of the remains of the chair and the barbed wire. It takes a lot of effort and pain to succeed, but he does. He crawls towards the door; he has to get away *now*. He doesn't know whereto and he doesn't care either; he just knows he must get away! A trail of blood forms on the wooden flooring. Ten minutes later he has reached the door which the men, in their hurry to leave, left open. He slides down the veranda, panting and groaning of pain and exertion and crawls towards the brushwood. He has to pause occasionally because black spots flash before his eyes and his sight fades. He *can't* lose consciousness now, he has to go on! He hears the car come back and panics. The fear drives him on….. Away, he has to get away! And with every last bit of strength he can muster he reaches the brushwood and struggles to get in, moaning as the rough branches scrape against his naked, abused backside. He goes on as if on autopilot and guided by his instincts of self-preservation he drags himself on…..

 

 

The car comes to a halt at the backside of the house. It's not the bounty hunters; it's Hannibal, Face and BA! Hannibal and BA enter the back while Face goes through the front door.

 

When Hannibal and BA see the trail of blood, from the remains of the chair and the barbed wire to the front door, they stand stock-still for a moment. The fresh trail of blood leads them right to the front door through which Face enters, just as they reach it. He too looks very worried.

 

"And? Did you find him?"

 

"No, he's gone. Looks like we're too late. Only his clothes are left behind. And this." Hannibal points at the whip. "I'm afraid this is not good for if they'd taken him with them, they wouldn't have left those behind."

 

Face grabs Murdock's clothing and turns towards the trail. "Hannibal, we've got to follow this trail! We might find him."

 

"All right, if all this blood is his, he can't have gotten far. BA, take the lead, Face take the rear. I'll cover the flanks."

 

The trail isn't hard to follow and after about a hundred yards BA finds Murdock. He is hardly conscious and still makes, though moaning and groaning, crawling movements but he doesn't make progress anymore. He's fallen into a ditch which turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle due to his injuries. Sweat pours down his face, which is smeared with blood and mud. BA wasn't entertaining great hopes, but still is shocked at Murdock's condition.

 

"Hannibal! Face! Over here, hurry!"

 

He falls on his knees besides Murdock and takes him by the shoulders to prevent him from useless straining. "Easy buddy, relax. We're here, hang in there….. Just relax."

 

He's getting slightly desperate because Murdock doesn't seem to notice he's there, he is too far gone and is still trying to crawl, groaning in pain and exhaustion.

 

Hannibal and Face come running and are shocked at the sight of a struggling Murdock with his beaten face and bloody back and arms. Hannibal quickly gives orders.

 

"BA, get the Van and Face, you check the map for the nearest hospital. We have to act fast 'cause they've beaten him almost to death. That must have been done with that whip. We'll make them pay later; right now we have to take care of him."

 

Face and BA leave to get the Van. Hannibal stays with Murdock and examines his wounds. The ones on his back are deep, very deep, some about a centimeter and some of his ribs are visible through the bloody mess. Due to his crawling through the brushwood the wounds are very dirty, but Hannibal doesn't dare to do anything about that right now. It's very clear though that professional help is acquired, and fast, or Murdock might not survive.

 

Murdock stopped his crawling at last, exhausted as he is due to pain and blood-loss. He doesn't even notice it's Hannibal sitting beside him. He thinks his escape-attempt failed. He's desperately looking for a way out and finds he's lucky; his guard is facing the road and he uses all strength he can muster to crawl a few inches more through the ditch, but that's the end of it. He's extremely tired, chilled to the bones and the pain is excruciating….. His chest and back are burning….. He feels like he's falling….. falling….. He just keeps on falling and then there's complete darkness surrounding him…..

 

But then, in the distance….. there's a light….. Curiously he walks towards it. The pain is gone as if by magic, he feels comfortably warm and the exhaustion falls off of him like a cloak….. And there….. the woman standing over there, doesn't he know her? Indeed he does! Getting closer he recognizes his mother. But that can't be possible! She died years ago. He only knows her face from pictures he's seen, because he was very little when she died. Still the same, she's standing there and smiling at him. He reaches out to hug her, but when he walks towards her she raises her hand with the palm facing him as if to stop him. She points to where he came from, insistent, commanding….. He hesitates, he wants to go on, but she shakes her head and keeps turning him away.

 

In the distance he hears a voice.

 

"….. going to be all right, Murdock. Hang in there! Don't desert me, you hear? You just can't give up now; it's going to be just fine. You hear? Stay with me, son, don't give in now!"

 

After a final glance at his mother he retraces his steps. Again he feels an excruciating pain and moans loudly.

 

He raises his eyes and is vaguely aware of Hannibal, who's bending over him and checking his pulse. He doesn't recognize him but when he wants to ask who's with him the only sound he can make is a weak grunt. He shivers and convulsions wreck his body.

 

This worries Hannibal a lot and he gets to his feet to see if the others are coming yet. When he hears the Van approaching he runs to it.

 

"Face! BA! Hurry, guys! Come on, he's in a bad way. For a moment I thought we lost him. I can't imagine all the things they did to him but he's in a lot of pain. Face, did you find out where the nearest hospital is?"

 

"Yeah, but it's too far away, about 75 miles, the River View."

 

That's too far indeed. It will take them about an hour to get there, time Murdock doesn't have, that's only too clear!

 

"He won't make it that long, no other options?"

 

Face already checked that, of course. He too knows an hour is too long and Murdock needs help fast. "There's a doctor nearby, Dr. K. Stevens, on this road, number 45."

 

"Let's hurry, it's better than nothing."

 

Murdock lost consciousness again and imperceptibly cries out when BA picks him up to carry him to the Van. Just then they notice the gunshot wounds. BA grits his teeth. "Those scumbags! Look at that! It's a miracle he's still alive!"

 

Hannibal rapidly checks the bullet wounds, angry at himself for not finding out sooner. "He's been shot from a short distance, see, there's a burn mark on his chest."

 

Aghast they look at each other; the pain he is in must be excruciating. They would never have believed someone with such injuries to be able to crawl the distance their friend did…..

 

Hannibal gives short shrift. "Get the gurney, we have to be cautious."

 

They hurry to get him to the Van and head to number 45. Luckily its not far to travel. Face en Hannibal sit alongside the gurney to steady Murdock and prevent him from rolling on his back or chest. In spite of his unconsciousness he moans all the way to the doctors' house. They can only hope this doctor will be able to help him because he is visibly deteriorating. He has trouble breathing and is obviously in shock.

 

Hannibal is very worried. "Faster, BA, or we'll lose him! His pulse is almost 140!"

 

 

Chapter 2

 

The doctor is a pretty brunette. Four men, who wanted to search her house for refugees, just left after not finding the four wanted men or their black Van. They've told her one of the men is wounded, told her what they look like and warned her. If she sees them, she must contact them immediately because the men are dangerous and wanted by the law.

 

When she sees the black Van on her drive she gets scared, takes a gun out of the glove-compartment of her car and calls her dog. When Hannibal gets out she takes aim at him. The dog doesn't react and wags his tail. He yawns. She watches the dog uncertainly and looks back at Hannibal. She doesn't think he looks very dangerous and what's more important; the dog doesn't mind his approach. She lowers the gun.

"I'm sorry, but I just had unwanted visitors and was afraid of a reoccurring event. My name is Kelly Stevens, what can I do for you?"

 

Hannibal introduces the four of them. "Hannibal Smith, Templeton 'Face' Peck en BA Baracus. Our friend got shot and on top of that nearly beaten to death. We don't have time to take him to the hospital because he's in a very bad way. I wonder if the doctor can help us?" He looks at her beseechingly.

 

"That's me. Bring him in, I'll do my best."

 

Face and BA pick up the gurney and walk to the house. A trail of blood drops marks their path. Murdock is still unconscious and has a grayish tint. He shudders, his teeth chatter, he is panting for breath and a trace of blood runs from the corner of his mouth. Kelly runs ahead to show them the way to her consulting room. They lift him on the table and turn him, ever so careful, on his side. She rapidly performs an examination.

 

"The gunshot-wounds first! The bullets went right through, I suppose as a result from the short distance they were fired from. There's a box of first aid dressings in the closet over there. Can you take it out please?"

 

She puts a dressing on the wound to stop the bleeding and checks his pulse. She worriedly shakes her head and looks at Hannibal. "He is in severe shock. We need a donor fast or he won't survive!"

 

BA steps forward. Murdock and he share the same, pretty unique, blood type.

 

She beckons Face to hold the bandage in its place en gets BA ready for transfusion. "I have to stitch him up first to prevent him from losing all the blood we're giving him. I could use some help with that for there isn't enough time to wait for the anesthesia to work. He needs to be held down firmly."

 

Hannibal holds Murdock down by the shoulders and sets her mind at ease. "That should be no problem. I once removed a bullet from his shoulder without anesthesia. He can handle it."

 

She administers a heavy sedation and starts stitching. Hannibal has to strain to keep Murdock still because he's shaking heavily due to shock. Murdock moans weekly but gives no further reaction.

 

"Luckily his lung isn't punctured. I wouldn't be able to do much for him if it was."

 

Hannibal is happy about this, but is suspicious anyway. "If his lung isn't punctured then where's all that blood out of his mouth coming from?"

 

She quickly, but professionally, examines Murdock's face. "He's been hit pretty hard; his cheekbone and eye-socket are broken and he's bit his tongue."

 

She checks his eyes too. "He's got a heavy concussion too. Do you have any idea who did all this to him?"

 

"Four men. One older man, his two sons and another man."

 

"That sounds like my uninvited guests of earlier today; the fourth was an Indian. They warned me about you, I was told to let them know if I saw you."

 

Hannibal looks at her questioningly. "Are you….?"

 

"No, people who can do such things should be imprisoned themselves."

 

The stitching is ready and she lubricates a disinfectant on the stitches. The wounds in his chest are covered with bandages and they turn him over on his belly. Shocked, and a little desperate, she looks at the bloody mess which has to become a decent back again.

 

"Oh, my God, look at that! What kind of animals are they to be able to do things like that?" She sighs. "We'll give him blood first now, after that I'll stitch this too."

 

BA donates about a liter blood. Under normal circumstances that's too much, but he doesn't care because Murdock, more than once, returned the favor. He doesn't admit it of course; imagine they might think he cares about 'that crazy fool'….. But he can't wait to lay his hands on the men who tortured Murdock. He'd love to make 'em pay!

 

Kelly tries to let him rest, but he refuses to let Murdock out of his sight until he's sure he's taken good care of and will be al right. Kelly now goes on with treating Murdock. His pulse, thanks to BA's donation, is nearing normal, but there's still a lot to do. She cleans his back as good as possible, stitches the deepest cuts and lubricates his back with the same disinfectant she used on his chest. After that's done she bandages his back. At last she treats his face and the deep cuts in his arms.

 

"All he needs now is rest. I'll lead the way, if you carry him."

 

She leads them to the guestroom and they carefully put him down on his side. A pillow is put against his stomach so he won't roll over on his chest. He's still unconscious, but his breathing seems to be easier and he doesn't look as pale as he did anymore. They carefully tug him in because he still feels very cold.

 

"Someone has to stay with him until he's stable," Kelly says.

 

Hannibal sits down in the cane chair besides the bed and prepares himself for a long wake.

 

"It's possible the medication I gave him causes hallucinations when he comes round. If that happens you have to warn me immediately because in his condition stress can be fatal."

 

"Face, you stand guard outside! If those men get back here I don't want to be taken by surprise. I do expect them because they know about Murdock's condition. If they don't find him at the cabin when they get back, they'll go looking for him and this practice is a good place to start. We're shorthanded as it is, since BA got visited by a vampire."

 

The mild joke's intended to hide his relief that Murdock will be al right, though for a while it looked like they'd gone through their last adventure together. Face heads outside but Kelly calls him back.

 

"Take Homer with you, he's got a good nose for trouble."

 

And so Face stands guard with the German shepherd by his side.

 

 

A few hours later Murdock returns to the land of the living. Hannibal is lost in thought and is startled by a soft moan.

 

"Welcome back, captain!"

 

Murdock looks bewildered at him. Who is that man? He doesn't recognize him! Due to the concussion he's very confused. He only remembers the torture he endured. When they start over he's going to crack; he's sure of that. Cold perspiration forms and he'd want to scream, but he'd rather bite off his tongue. He won't show weakness because that's what they use against you and he won't betray his unit. Ever!

 

"Dê mäc tôi dùng co chòng tôi. Tao nói vói ai diêu gì không tu do ý chí!" He whispers hoarsely. Mortal fear and desperation contend for the mastery. Hannibal tries to calm him down by putting his hand on his shoulder, but Murdock only panics. He tries to get away but rolls over on his chest in the process. He moans but still tries to flee. Hannibal is shocked to see Murdock thinks he's back in Vietnam. That mortal fear in his eyes….. Just like back in Da Nang where he was tortured by the VC for information. Murdock told them nothing and isn't willing to now, but he's desperate because he can't flee or defend himself. He pants fearfully and gets really upset. Hannibal holds him down firmly and calls out to Kelly.

 

She and BA come running.

 

"It's going the wrong way! He's going crazy!"

 

BA looks worried at Murdock. "What's going on?" he asks.

 

"He doesn't recognize me and thinks he's back in Vietnam. He is terrified. If we can't get him to calm down I fear the worst."

 

 

Kelly runs to her medicine cabinet and takes out a small, brown bottle. "This should do it. Do you know his weight? Too much can be fatal."

 

"140 pounds, I guess that's about right."

 

Murdock is completely deranged and is in a shellshock-like state; the kind of shock soldiers in a war can get in when they've been in a shelling. His senses are keen but he's unable to move. This increases his fear because he can't flee which prevents the shock from lessening…..

 

Kelly injects the struggling Murdock with the tranquilizer. "Now all we can do is wait."

 

The tranquilizer immediately works and Murdock sinks into a deep, dreamless sleep.

 

"BA, stay with him, I'll get Face."

 

 

Outside Hannibal quickly informs Face.

 

"Have you noticed anything at all?"

 

"The grass has grown about one millimeter, that's all."

 

"Come inside with me, I'll trust the dog to warn us. Murdock isn't doing very well. His nerves are shaken. We have to decide what to do now."

 

Once inside they go straight to BA to see how Murdock is doing. He seems calm, though shaky but his breathing is very irregular and even in his sleep he's moaning. This worries Hannibal but Kelly says it's quite normal because he's gravely injured and in a lot of pain. The painkillers she's got aren't strong enough to kill the pain completely. Logically Hannibal worries about Murdock's mental state too. He's endured a lot and it's an, until now, unanswered question if his psyche suffered irreparable damage.

 

 

It's Faces turn to sit with Murdock when he awakes again, bathing in sweat some time later. He looks around bewildered, wondering where he is. He sees Face and smiles faintly.

 

"Hi, Faceman," he whispers hoarsely.

 

"Hi, buddy. How do you feel?"

 

"Terrible, but I'll live…..What happened?"

 

Face tells him. Murdock doesn't remember much of it, but the things he does remember, he's got to tell.

 

"Hannibal….. Where's Hannibal…?" he asks softly.

 

"He's around, I'll get him." Face runs out of the room.

 

"Hannibal!"

 

Hannibal is startled, he fears something is wrong but Face quickly reassures him.

 

"He's awake and wants to see you."

 

"How is he doing?"

 

"He's in a lot of pain but he says he'll live. You know how he is, don't you?"

 

"Yes, I do," Hannibal grins relieved.

 

Together they go to see Murdock. He is very pale but tries to keep up appearances so not to worry them.

 

"Welcome back again, captain. How are you doing? Can you manage?"

 

"Yeah….. I'll be okay."

 

He won't admit it takes everything he's got to stay conscious. If he doesn't succeed anymore they'll notice soon enough. Hannibal pretends not to see Murdock's predicament. Although the room is comfortably warm, Murdock's still feels very cold…..

 

"You asked for me? Want to tell me what happened?"

 

Murdock has to dig deep to remember and he's sweating profusely. It strains him too much and the effort it takes makes him groan. But when Hannibal tells him it can wait until he's slept some more he carefully shakes his head.

 

"No, now," he pants. "Have to….. tell….. after that….. I can sleep."

 

The information he's got is far too important, it can't wait.

 

By fits and starts he tells his story. His voice quivers when he tells them the things they planned with Mrs. Baracus and of his fear not being able to get away to warn the others when he heard the car approaching. Fear which gave him enough strength to go on and hide, albeit without realizing the trail he left could be followed by a blind man.

 

"That was your luck," Hannibal says. "You wouldn't have made it otherwise. You came very close to dying."

 

Murdock is exhausted after he's finished and closes his eyes. His breathing is difficult due to the burning pain in his chest. He shifts carefully and groans but he is relieved he was able to inform the others.

 

"Sleep now, captain, we'll find them," Hannibal promises.

 

"You bet, fool, and then we'll make 'em pay."

 

While thinking he's answering them, Murdock falls asleep.

 

Tiptoeing, so not to wake him again, they leave the room.

 

****************

 

Chapter 3

 

They look at each other worriedly.

 

"What's the plan, Hannibal?" Face wants to know.

 

"BA, you call your mother and tell her to meet you somewhere. Pick her up. Hurry and you might be in time."

 

Kelly interferes. "Bring her here, my house is big enough."

 

"Thank you! You heard, BA, now go! Face, we got to check the perimeter, you take the front, I'll go round the back. If they come back here, we'll be ready for them."

 

Kelly goes to check on Murdock. She's very worried because the pain is exhausting him and having a negative influence on the healing process.  "Hannibal, he needs stronger painkillers to prevent him from deteriorating. And he's burning up, I'm afraid he's running a fever."

 

"We'll have to do something about that first. He mustn't endure more than he already did. Lieutenant, you take care of that. In the meantime I'll stand guard alone. Hurry!"

 

Face gets the keys to Kelly's car and she gives him the address to the pharmacy.  "I'll call them to tell you're on your way so you won't have to wait for them to collect the things I need."

 

Face rushes off and Hannibal goes out to check the perimeter. Kelly checks Murdock. He is very restless, obviously suffering a nightmare. She decides to wake him and gently touches his shoulder. He gasps awake and looks at her flabbergasted. She explains: "I'm Kelly Stevens, a doctor. Your friends brought you here because the nearest hospital is too far away. Can I get you something to eat?"

 

He cautiously shakes his head which is still very painful. "No….. thanks," he whispers. He feels far too sick to be able to eat; the thought alone makes him nauseous and he breaks out into a sweat.  "Do you want something to drink?" He nods and she gets him something out of the kitchen.

 

"BA….. Where is BA?" he wants to know.

 

"He went to fetch his mother. When you told your friends what those men had in store for her, he left immediately."

 

He is reassured. This will turn out fine. He tries to get some more sleep but he doesn't succeed. Something is bothering him…… He can't remember….. It's vaguely there in his memories, but he just can't recall. What….? What….?

 

He tiredly closes his eyes, but it keeps nagging at his brain. It was something the old man told him before they left for the team….. All of the sudden he remembers! He sits up wildly, a movement which causes a virulent pain to wreck his body. Kelly tries to calm him down, but he groans: "Hannibal! Get Hannibal!" And panting in pain he eases himself down in the soft pillows again.

 

Kelly runs to get Hannibal who immediately comes with her.

 

"Take it easy or I won't understand what you're saying."

 

Murdock is way too excited by what he remembers to take it easy so it is absolutely impossible for him to relax! He grasps Hannibal's sleeve to make him listen.

 

"Decker!" he gasps, his face disfigured in pain. "Decker knows that you….. are somewhere around here…. He is in the….. in the neighborhood!"

 

"Okay, I get it. You just relax now, we'll take care of Decker. All you have to do is get well."

Relieved he was able to warn him, Murdock is going back to sleep in the knowledge Hannibal will find a solution.

 

 

******************

 

Hannibal is making his rounds. He is very worried about Murdock, his most favorite man, although he will never speak a thing like that out loud. And he is boiling raging! Cowards! It sure takes a lot of courage to torment a man who's outnumbered four to one. They nearly killed him and he's sure Murdock was all but dead when they found him. He could have sworn Murdock's heart stopped for a moment back then. He can only hope Murdock will be all right for he's in a real bad shape. His back! And those shot wounds! He must have suffered tremendously, and still is suffering! He wishes Face was back with the painkillers…..

 

 

******************

 

Hannibal doesn't have to wait long for Face to return. The conman must have been speeding because he's back already. He runs inside to give Kelly the medicines and to see how Murdock is doing. Murdock is still asleep, but it isn't a healthy rest; his fever is sky-high and Kelly is glad to see Face back so soon. Only because of the medication he brings though! He seems nice enough but she admires Murdock who, in spite of the pain he is in, only cares about the safety of others.

 

Hannibal too comes in for an update. He questioningly looks at Kelly, who just administers an injection with antibiotics.

 

"His fever is very high, but this antibiotic should stop it. He'll be feeling much better in just a little while. He will be fine, I guarantee. In about two weeks he'll be as good as new."

 

Hannibal looks at Murdock, who moans and shivers and seems very helpless at the moment. He has to see it to believe, but on the other hand….. Murdock has been in poor condition before and always came through. No 'Mens Sana in corpora Santo'…..

 

"Good, in that case we are going to see if we can't throw Decker of the scent."

 

Hannibal and Face leave and Kelly sets herself down besides Murdock. He mumbles in his sleep, but she doesn't try to understand what he's saying. It's a sign he's waking up and she hopes to get better acquainted when he does. A few moments later he really awakes and with a groan feels at his head.

 

"How do you feel?"

 

"If not for that headache, I'd feel fine."

 

She knows that can't be true; his back must give him more trouble than his head. The way it looked! "Do you want a painkiller?"

 

He does and if Hannibal or the others had been around to hear him say so they would have been very worried although it's likely that if they had been around, he would have refused the offer….. She helps him to sit up, a movement which is painful enough to make his breath fail. He tries not to show it because that's not in his nature, but his face pales visibly.

 

"As soon as this painkiller takes effect I'll get the bandages off your back and fill the bathtub. I'll add a disinfectant to the water to clean your wounds thoroughly because there was a lot of dirt in them. When they're cleaned I'll bandage them again, you'll see you'll feel a lot better then."

 

He smiles at her with gratitude and it makes her blush. She could drown in those beautiful brown eyes…..

 

"Doesn't your boyfriend mind you letting strangers sleep in your bed? I mean, when he gets out of work later, aren't you going to get in trouble? When BA gets back here bringing his mother you'll be having five guests. Isn't he going to be upset?"

 

She blushes. Does he like her too? The way he's asking about the competition is pretty obvious. "I don't have a boyfriend."

 

He's glad to hear because he's attracted to her, but on the other hand he knows he can't maintain a relationship. He has to go back to the VA! He hopes to get out someday, but when? He's been there for almost ten years now and as long as the team is on the run he has to stay because it's the only way they won't be linked together. As it is it's the only way not to be caught by the army. But still Murdock can't believe she doesn't have a boyfriend that easily.

 

"What do you mean you don't have a boyfriend? You have to have a boyfriend! What? You've been living behind drawn shades and shut doors? I mean….. You….."

 

He stops, seeing that he's making her bashful. He doesn't keep quiet for long though.  "You have to have a boyfriend! You're a pretty girl!"

 

Kelly bursts out laughing.  "Well, I have never thought of myself as pretty."

 

He thinks that's near to impossible. She's about the prettiest girl he's ever seen and she doesn't think she's pretty?  "You should look in the mirror more often. You'd see what I mean if you did."

 

She abruptly changes the subject, she doesn't want him to notice she likes him a lot. Besides it's pretty obvious the conversation strains him. His sight is troubled and his breathing is getting ragged.

 

"You just rest easy now and I'll fill the tub and get you something to drink. Does that sound like a plan to you?"

The idea of a bath sounds great to him; he feels dirty and yes, he's very thirsty indeed! The cup of tea she brings him is gratefully accepted. He drinks it and she helps him to settle back. Exhausted he closes his eyes. He hopes the others will be back soon because he knows they're not safe as long as those bounty hunters are at liberty. He's afraid they'll find out where he is and will take revenge on Kelly. And the way he feels he isn't able to protect her..…

 

 

****************

 

Hannibal and Face have spotted the army cars. Decker's men have put up a roadblock and are thoroughly searching all passing cars. Hannibal and Face watch their activities from the bushes, then Hannibal hands Face a small package.

 

"Okay, Face, pick one and call me on the walkie talkie."

 

Face sneaks through the bushes and chooses a car in the middle of the roadblock. He attaches the package to the bumper.  "Ready, Hannibal, now what?"

 

"Count to twenty, push the red button and run! I'll pick you up." Face does as he's ordered and just seconds after he's reached Hannibal a giant explosion blows the MP cars sky high. Then they're off, followed by the two cars not damaged by the explosion.

 

After a wild, long chase they finally shake off the MP's.

 

 

*******************

 

After his bath Murdock feels a lot better and decides to stay out of bed for a while. He needs some fresh air and takes Homer out into the garden. Kelly too is keeping him company. She monitors him closely since she fears he's overtaxing his strength. He was very ill only hours ago and a concussion takes time to heal as well. It's obvious he feels a lot better thanks to the antibiotics, but he's certainly not fully recovered. And to be honest; he's glad he made it as far as the garden-seat so he can sit down. Twenty yards is a long distance when you're not feeling well.

 

"How long ago did BA leave?" he wants to know.

 

She checks her watch. "About five hours."

 

He shows his relief. BA should be back soon, unless he ran into some difficulties on his way.

 

"How are you feeling now?" she asks. She can't imagine he feels good at all but she doesn't expect him to admit it. But….. wonders will never cease…..

 

"Not too good, I'm dead-beat," he pants, "but if those bounty hunters should show themselves I don't want them to see it. They have to think I can take 'em on all at once. I can't let them know a gust of wind is enough to knock me over."

 

She's pretty worried. If those men do come back what can the two of them do against such superior power?  "Do you really expect them to come?"

 

"I don't know, but I do hope BA gets back soon, just in case they do."

 

He rests his chin in his hands while perspiration stands in beads on his brow. No matter how much he wants to look strong, he just isn't. He feels too wretched. Kelly reaches out to him.

 

"Come on; let's get you back to bed. As long as they don't show you can rest. Homer will warn us if anything happens. If BA gets back in time, you don't have to worry at all."

 

He gets up laboriously and grateful takes her arm. She takes him inside and back to bed.

 

 

*******************

 

Fifteen minutes later Homer gives the alarm! A pick up truck tears through the garden and they don't have to wonder who it belongs to or what business the occupants are here for…..

 

Murdock, who had only just fallen asleep, awakes with a start. Kelly comes running into the guest room. "Kelly, do you have a shotgun?" He doesn't really expect her to, but she does. As well as the handgun she threatened Hannibal with when they arrived. There's plenty of ammo too.  "Okay, get Homer inside before they shoot him. I'll do the best I can to keep them off till help arrives. Try to reach the Van. Hopefully BA is close by."

 

All hope is shattered when they find out the telephone wire is cut. Murdock orders Kelly to hide in the basement with Homer. The entrance is well hidden beneath the carpet. They should be relatively safe. He urges her to stay there and under no circumstances show herself.

 

He tries his best to ward them off but he's hopelessly outnumbered and in his weakened state not able to last long. In no time at all he's in pain, dizzy and completely exhausted. The bounty hunters don't have a hard time overpowering him then. The old man sneers at him.

 

"Well, son, here we are again. Remember the promise I made for when we got back? All is not lost that is delayed!"

In spite his desperate resistance they drag Murdock outside and hang him by his wrists on a thick tree branch. Pain flashes through his back and chest. Royco and Chazz build a fire and Tannen puts his branding iron in it. The old man looks at his youngest son.  "Go ahead, Tannen!"

 

Tannen grins bloodthirstily and takes a cattle prod out of the car. He stabs Murdock in the back with the prod and laughs as the jolts of electricity make the other man moan and convulse. Tannen enjoys himself tremendously. He knows exactly where to stab Murdock to inflict as much pain as possible since he's well aware of all the injuries he's suffered. He repeatedly and mercilessly stabs Murdock in his chest and back until the pilot almost passes out and in spite of himself Murdock screams in agony. This maltreatment on top of the previous day is more than he can take. But just as Tannen picks up the red-hot branding iron to finish the job, a shot is fired. The bullet disappears in the foliage above Tannen's head and surprised he turns to see who the marksman is.

 

It is Kelly! She heard Murdock scream and has come to his rescue. With courage made strong from desperation she approaches the men, closely followed by Homer.

 

"Beat it!" Her voice is shrill and stupefied they watch her as she fires another round. The question is whether she would have succeeded in chasing them off on her own but right at this time BA arrives. He isn't alone for out of each windscreen of the Van there is a machine gun sticking and its spreading lead.

 

The bounty hunters run for their pick up truck and make themselves scarce.

 

****************

 

Chapter 4

 

BA and Kelly run to Murdock, who's still hanging from the wrists. They quickly untie him and carefully lower him to the ground. He groans dully and looks at them with an expression filled with pain and relief.

 

"Just in….. in time, big guy….. Your mother?" he pants.

 

"I brought her, man. She's fine. What happened?"

 

Murdock doesn't answer, his sight falters and he's about to faint. Kelly answers for him.

 

"He couldn't ward them off. He tried so hard, but they got to him anyway. I'm glad you came back in time."  BA looks at her.

 

"If you hadn't fired those shots, I would have been too late; they would have killed him for sure."

BA takes Murdock, who lost consciousness, in his arms and brings him to Kelly's consulting room. The pain makes him come round again. It's pretty obvious he's suffered a great deal again, for the bandages are soaked with blood. They remove them and see the sutures are torn. His back aches almost worst than before and his heart rate is far too high. Kelly injects a tranquilizer to get this back to normal and starts stitching all over. She can't use an anesthetic on top of the tranquilizer because that could cause cardiac arrest. Murdock moans loudly and Kelly is about to cry because he's in so much pain again, but she just hurries as much as possible. After she's done BA gently picks up Murdock, who is like dead weight in his arms, carries him back to the guest room and gently lowers him into the bed.

 

"You try to rest, fool, I'll be around."

 

BA is mad and would love to go after the men like a raging bull but he knows he can't leave now. Just imagine what would happen if they got back to find his mother, Kelly and a completely helpless Murdock….. He can't bear to think about what could happen to them. He's due to stand guard until Hannibal and Face get back.

 

 

 

It isn't long before Hannibal and Face do come back, spotting the Van right away. They hurry to the house to see how Murdock is doing. BA meets them on the steps.

 

"Good to see you back, BA, everything okay here?"

 

He shakes his head and they visibly pale. Murdock can't be…..

 

"No! I was in time to pick up my mother, but I just barely made it back here in time. Those bounty hunters have been back and beat up Murdock again. He is badly hurt and if Kelly hadn't interfered they would have killed him for sure."

 

They get inside and meet up with Kelly. She gives them a detailed account of what happened. When she tells them about the desperate battle the injured Murdock had to fight against four men, followed by the extremely cruel torture with the cattle prod, Hannibal pales with anger.

 

"It's time to take those men out of the circulation, guys." He asks Kelly: "How is Murdock doing now?"

 

"He's doing even worse! He is in excruciating pain and I had to redo the stitching. I can't give him anything for the pain because I had to give him a tranquilizer to get his heart rate back to normal. He is very weak due to the strength of the current. He should be hospitalized."

 

"How's his chance of survival if we keep him here?"

 

"Probably good, but I have no idea how much more he can take and in a hospital his recovery will be much quicker."

 

"Sadly we have to take the slower option. We are wanted men, you know. If necessarily we will take him to a hospital, of course, but if there is another option….."

 

"You can stay as long as needed. I only hope they won't come back again."

 

"I do!" BA growls. "We'll give them a warm reception…..And squeeze the life out of them!"

 

 

 

Hannibal enters the guest room. Murdock is just barely conscious, his skin is pale and the pain makes him nauseous. His breathing is fast but shallow; his eyes are missing their usual gleam and his whole body is screaming agony. "How are you doing, captain? Can you bear it?"

 

"Don't ask….. colonel, so I won't….. have to….. to lie," Murdock groans panting.

 

Hannibal hides his surprise well. Murdock admits he isn't feeling very well and that's not something he usually does! He truly must be in a lot of pain!  "We will take you to the hospital," Hannibal decides.

 

Murdock is getting anxious. If they do and get caught those bounty hunters are allowed full play….. He sounds panic stricken: "No….. don't….. do that….. Too dangerous….. for you! I am….. just….. just….. tired….. So….. very….. tired….."  His voice falters.

 

Hannibal understands only too well this isn't true. Murdock is in a lot of pain but Hannibal sees his confusion and gives in to spare him. "Okay, you get some sleep now, we'll wait three hours, but not a minute longer. If you aren't doing better by than, we will take you to River View Hospital. Agreed?"

 

Murdock just nods.

 

Hannibal leaves the bedroom and looks worriedly at the others. "He's really not doing well, guys. He's in a lot of pain and admitting it as well! Kelly, he's getting exhausted. Is there nothing you can do for him?"

 

"If I give him a painkiller he might die. The tranquilizer I administered doesn't work well with painkillers. They conflict and that could cause a stroke. That's too great a risk to take because that cattle prod did a lot of damage. His resistance is just about zero."

 

Hannibal nods understandingly, but he just can't accept Murdock is sentenced to inhumanly suffering.

"We must do something! If he's not doing better in three hours, we'll take him to the River View."

 

It sticks in Face's throat too his friend is doomed to endure such pain.  "Wouldn't it be better to take him there right away, Hannibal?"

 

"No, Face, he doesn't want to hear about it because it's too dangerous for us, but I told him we will decide what to do in three hours."

 

BA's mother gets up. "I will stay with him to keep an eye on him."

 

The others come with her and Kelly checks Murdock's heart rate. His breathing is irregular and every now and then he writhes with pain. He seems to be unconscious, but Kelly says he isn't.

 

"He's asleep, but his heart rate is very irregular and way too fast. If there's any change, you must warn me immediately."

 

 

 

Now all they can do is wait. They make themselves as comfortable as possible in the living room and after mature deliberation they decide to wait the three hours Hannibal promised Murdock. After that they will decide whether to take him to the hospital or not. They are of course talking about today's events and about how lucky it was Kelly was only just in time to save Murdock from being tortured to death.

 

"If I hadn't heard him scream in agony I would have stayed in the basement, like he ordered me to. He probably would be dead by now if I had."

 

Hannibal, Face and BA look at each other shocked. Screaming in agony? Murdock? That gives them a good notion of the amount of pain he must have been in, because, except for the period Chao in Vietnam, they've never heard him do that.

 

Kelly gets them all something to eat and then checks her patient again. Hannibal wants to stay updated and joins her. Mrs Baracus is worried because Murdock is extremely restless; it's obvious he's haunted by nightmares. They don't have to guess where those come from. In his dreams he is reliving all torture over and over again and he's drowning in a pool of mortal fear and excruciating pain. They can only hope he's able to overcome them without developing a new psychosis of fear like he did after Vietnam. His fever too is back with a vengeance but until his heart rate is back to almost normal, Kelly can't do anything about that.

 

She stares sadly at Murdock who is literally shaking with fever and has trouble breathing while sweat pours down his ashen face. She turns abruptly; she doesn't want Hannibal to see she's crying, but he understands her weakness. He too is horrified by Murdock's suffering and is afraid of a bad ending.

 

BA relieves his mother besides Murdock's bed. No power in the world can make him leave now. Until this crisis is passed he will stay, no matter how long it takes. Kelly says he must warn her if anything changes and they leave the room.

 

 

 

A few hours later Murdock wakes up moaning and shivering and sees BA sitting beside him.

 

"B….. BA….." he mumbles.

 

"Hey, buddy, how do you feel?"

 

"Pain….. So much….. pain….. can't….. take….. any….. more…..," Murdock pants.

 

BA is terrified. If Murdock says a thing like that, he must be on the verge of succumbing. The time he almost died of traumatic fever he didn't even say something like that…..

 

BA runs into the living room: "Kelly, hurry! There's something wrong!"

 

Kelly runs to the guest room, followed closely by Hannibal, BA and Face.

 

"What's going on?"

 

"We have to do something about the pain. He's succumbing. He says he can't take anymore!"

 

They look at Murdock who indeed looks like he's about to die. In the short while it took BA to get the others he's worsened. His breathing is hardly detectable and he's trembling in pain. His face is ashen and he's only barely conscious. Kelly checks his heart rate and looks shocked. It's looking bad…..

 

"Come on, H.M., bear with us! Don't go to sleep now! I know you're tired, but you have to stay awake! Hang in there, you hear? You mustn't give in!"

 

She explains to the others, who are looking puzzled, why they have to keep him awake: "If he surrenders to fatigue and falls asleep, he will never wake up again!"

 

It's clear Murdock tries to stay alert, he's groaning with the effort and perspiration stands on his brow but no matter how hard he tries, he just can't do it. He seems to be abandoning the fight and is slowly slipping away…..The pain seems to be beating him…..

 

"We don't have a choice anymore, I must give him a painkiller. There's a slight chance it will work. The end justifies the means, without help he's doomed."

 

Hannibal agrees and she administers the injection. The painkiller is strong and almost immediately takes effect, but in reaction to the medicine Murdock starts convulsing and he foams at the mouth. He spasmodically vomits and seems to suffocate. His eyes turn in their sockets and he loses consciousness completely. Hannibal, Face and BA are scared to death by this; they are sure Murdock is dying and it's understandable; it looks horrific!

 

"What did you give him?"

 

"Morphine, a high dose." And to Murdock: "Come on, wake up! Show us some life, boy. Come on, you can do it, I know you can. Wake up! Bear with us!"

 

It takes some time but at last he's reacting; Murdock is regaining consciousness. He is disoriented and pretty upset but he soon improves. They wash him and change the bedding and he's terribly ashamed to have to be changed like a little kid but of course the others don't mind this at all. When he's settled Murdock is dead-beat and feels extremely wretched.

 

"Give him something to drink if he wants," Kelly says. "After what he's just been through he can use it. And it's okay for him to sleep now."

 

BA gets something to drink for Murdock out of the kitchen. He helps the pilot to sit up and wants to hand him the glass but Murdock isn't able to hold it. He is still shaking so BA helps him to drink and gently lowers him back into the pillows. Murdock is, although exhausted, still fighting sleep. He does want to sleep but he doesn't dare to. He is terrified those bounty hunters will come back again to assault him….. He pleadingly looks up at BA: "Stay….?"

 

BA sees, as do the others, mortal fear in his eyes. Each one of them is overrun by feelings of pity. BA nods, the 'big guy' has a very tiny heart. …..

 

"Of course I will stay, buddy, as long as you want me to. You rest easy, I won't let you down."

Murdock is reassured and closes his eyes. He falls asleep like a log.

                                                                                                                                  

 

 

Night.

 

The house is quiet, everyone's asleep, but outside…..

 

A soft breeze whispers through the foliage, no other sound is heard.

 

It's new moon and pitch black. The only light comes from the lantern at the back door which casts a soft yellow glow on the surroundings. In the dark shades of the garden four man stealthily move. It's the bounty hunters…..

 

Very carefully, making no sound at all they sneak to the house and go to the room in which Murdock is fast asleep. BA is nowhere to be seen.

 

The Indian uses his knife to jerk open the window and they calmly climb in. It's almost as if they always come to visit like this.

 

Royco and Tannen sneak on both sides of the bed towards Murdock. They are armed with cattle prods and smile viciously at the thought of being able to torture a completely helpless man. Tannen has a red-hot burning iron in his other hand. Here's his chance!

 

Their father and Chazz both are holding a double-barreled rifle aimed at the sleeping man and Chazz has his inseparable whip in the other hand. Should Murdock be able to resist the cattle prods and the burning iron, he's determined to actually beat him to death this time.

 

Tannen lays a hand on Murdock's mouth and holds the burning iron just inches from his chest, ready to pound.

 

Murdock wakes up screaming in terror; he is in total panic…..

                                                                                                                              

 

****************

 

Chapter 5

 

BA lays his hands on Murdock's shoulders.

 

"Easy, buddy, I'm right here."

 

Murdock doesn't hear him: he's having a terrible panic attack….. BA forces him to look at him. "Look at me, I'm here! Listen to me, man! I'm right here with you, it's okay! Nothing's the matter! I won't leave you….."  He still doesn't get a reaction and BA can think of nothing else than to hold Murdock in his arms, all the while talking to him reassuringly. Slowly Murdock calms down, but he clings to BA, panting in fear.

 

Hannibal, Face and Kelly come running in, startled by the commotion.

 

"What's going on, BA?"

 

"He was having a nightmare. He's all upset! If I ever lay my hands on those bastards….."

 

They look at Murdock worried and pitiful. He's still shaking and panting and clinging to BA like he'll never let go again. Each of them would take over his suffering if they could, but that's not an option!

 

Kelly administers a sedative so Murdock calms down and can get some more sleep because that's the thing he needs most so he will be able to get up and about again.  "This should keep him calm for awhile," she assures the others.

 

 

She was right because Murdock sleeps for twenty-four hours before he wakes up again. He still doesn't want to eat, but they manage to get some fluids in to him. After that he falls asleep again, exhausted from the effort, but that's good for him. Rest, rest and more rest, that's all he needs.

 

It's good Kelly has a double bed in the guestroom; otherwise BA could never last long. Now he's able to sleep at night without having to leave Murdock who regularly startles awake to see if BA is still with him. The nightmares keep haunting him and one night, when Hannibal comes to check on them, it appears BA had to let Murdock sleep in his arms to assure him he won't leave. That's something he's unconsciously very afraid of. Murdock is hiding away in BA's arms like a scared child. His nerves are heavily shocked; he's lost all confidence and has withdrawn completely. BA is the only one who can still reach him…..

 

"He's not doing well, Hannibal! He just can't cope; he's terribly scared, I'm afraid he's going to have a heart attack."

 

"Don't leave him even for a second, BA. Your presence alone can help him. He's got great faith in you."

 

They are very worried about Murdock's injuries; physically he's going to be okay, but mentally he's had to endure too much. Undoubtedly it will take a lot of time to heal.

 

 

But, after six days of anxious suspense a great transformation has occurred: when BA wakes up, Murdock is standing besides the bed. Though a little shaky, he's actually standing!  "Hey, man! What are you doing out of bed? Shouldn't you be lying down?"

 

"I don't know how to lie anymore. Do you know where Kelly is? I want to ask her permission to take a shower."

 

"You lie back down again and then I'll see if I can find her. She'll have to remove the bandages first to examine your wounds."

 

Murdock impatiently does as he's told and a moment later Kelly comes in.

 

"Well, what do I hear? You're doing better? Come and sit up, so I can take the bandages off."

This very moment Hannibal enters.

 

"Morning, captain, how do you feel?"

 

"Like my own grandfather, only thirty years older. I'm terribly rusty, but I think it's going okey dokey otherwise."

 

Kelly has removed the bandages and is satisfied with the healing progress.  "It's alright for you to take a bath, but try to keep those gunshot wounds dry. They're not completely closed yet. Your back is better than expected. If you promise to take it easy, you may stay out of bed for an hour."

 

He is a little disappointed but hides it well. One hour? Only one hour? That's nothing, is it? Yes, it is! But he only notices when he stumbles to the bathroom like an old man. It's disappointingly difficult. A hundred yards hurdle-race isn't something he will be able to do in the near future!

 

He doesn't last the whole hour, but it's a start.

 

 

Since he's making progress at last, the others can finally turn their attention to the bounty hunters. They are still to get their just deserts!

 

"Got a plan yet, colonel?" Face wants to know.

 

"Yes, Face. We must find out where Decker is. We need him to pick up the pieces after we're finished. But we can't all leave, that's pretty obvious. I don't want to take the risk of those goons getting back here to finish the job to only find two women and a wounded man."

 

"Okay, man, let them come….. I'll be here with open arms!"  It is all too clear: BA is mad! Mad because of all the things those men did to Murdock and mad because he's unable to help his friend who is going through hell all over again.

 

Physically he will be fine, but he's lost a lot of weight caused by stress, pain and not eating. He still isn't eating and often retreats in his own little world where he's unreachable to the others, sometimes even to him!

 

That's why BA hopes the bounty hunters do come back, preferably at a moment Murdock can think straight so he can witness his attackers suffering for what they did to him; maybe that can give him a mental push…..

 

 

Together they go the guest room to discuss their plans. They also want Murdock to be part of the operation, but he isn't in the guest room. They get slightly worried, but then they notice Kelly and Homer are gone too. They hear the dog barking somewhere in the garden, but it doesn't sound as a warning and when they go out to see what's going on, they see Murdock sitting on the garden bench throwing a stick which Homer fetches and retrieves. Kelly is looking at the scene from a distance, careful not to be seen by Murdock. She goes back inside, leaving Murdock and Homer to their game.

 

The others meet her and look at her questioningly. She laughs. "Never underestimate the therapeutic power of animals. If someone can help him to get over his experiences, it's Homer. They like each other."

 

They look at the pair in the garden. They seem to be having a serious conversation. That's to say:  Murdock is talking and Homer is listening very attentively his head slightly tilted and his ears pricked up. Hannibal turns and smiles.

 

"Let's hope it works. Homer lends an ear and what's more important….. He can keep a secret!"

 

"That's a fact," Kelly says blushing, "I for one am glad he can't talk."  The only one she's told about her secret love for Murdock is Homer. Little does she know that right this very moment one of the things Homer hears is that a certain H.M. Murdock has fallen head over heels for his mistress…..

 

 

They hear Homer barking again and when they turn to see why, they see Murdock slowly walking to the house, the dog jumping around him like an elated puppy.

 

"Physically he's recovering much faster than I would have expected," Kelly says. "All things considered he should have died after such injuries."

 

Hannibal thinks back to the moment he was alone with Murdock, when BA and Face were getting the Van and he thought Murdock would die just there and then.  "Murdock is tough, he doesn't die easily." Hannibal is lost in thoughts for a moment. "Face, I've got a job for you."

 

Face looks at him expectantly.

 

"You go to the cabin of those bounty hunters and wait for them to come home if they aren't there yet. If they are there or get there, whatever happens first, you call us. Make sure they don't leave until I tell you to lure them here to get the dressing down of their lives before Decker arrives."

 

Kelly looks at him stupefied.  "How do you plan to get Decker here?"

 

He laughs. "You call him and tell him you've seen us. Just watch him run!"

 

BA looks hopeful. "What are we going to do?"

 

"We will get the Van ready."

 

 

Murdock comes in with Homer. He's looking tired, but not as vacant as in the last few days. With his physical condition getting better he's able to mentally deal with the events too.

 

"Good morning, captain. Do you think you are able to help us?"

 

Before he can answer the question, Kelly flares up.  "No way! He is in no condition to fight! He's going straight to bed, before he collapses."

 

"I really love the way the corners of your eyes scrunch up when you get angry." Murdock says grinning, but since he's really very tired he does as he's told and goes to bed. Hannibal looks at Kelly apologetically.

 

"I don't intend to let him fight, but we have to build something so we can take a firm line with those bounty hunters. I want him to help with that so he has the idea he's working on their downfall. I guess that's very important to him."

 

She nods. "I shouldn't have flown of the handle like that, but….. Well, you know how it is….."

 

Indeed he does, he's a perceptive man and it's very clear to him they're both hiding their feelings. Why Murdock does this he knows of course but he doesn't understand it from Kelly. Why doesn't she want them to know she more than likes Murdock? He doesn't ask her though, in the end it's better this way. "We've got time enough. When he's rested he can help."

 

 

After exactly four hours Murdock gets up. Under the circumstances he's looking well. Although skinnier than ever, he's lost a lot of weight, he seems very alert. He seems to have everything in order now, which they are very glad about. Hannibal explains what he wants done with the Van and they cheerfully start working.

 

BA keeps a very close eye on Murdock to make sure he doesn't strain too much. Although he likes to call him names like "idiot" and "crazy fool", the last week has taken it out of him. He is extremely glad Murdock is doing better now and he wants to make sure nothing endangers the progress he is making. They work on steadily. The Van gets equipped with a remotely controlled, revolving double machine gun which is stationed behind the grill.

 

 

When they're ready, Hannibal orders BA and Murdock to guard the road from atop the hill behind Kelly's house. You never know if those bounty hunters might arrive earlier than expected. There's no certainty that Face will find them at home and Hannibal doesn't want to be taken by surprise. That's happened too often in the past. He looks at Murdock from the corner of his eyes, again amazed how fast he's up and about again.

 

Murdock weakly protests:  "Can't we eat first? I'm starving!"

 

That sounds like music to their ears; at last he wants to eat! Better proof he's getting better can't be found.

 

"Yes," Hannibal agrees. "That's fine, captain. BA can start out alone so you can eat first. You can join him later. Pack something for later, because I have no idea how long it will take for those men to show up. I haven't heard from Face yet."

 

Murdock disappears into the house and BA leaves to stand guard on the hilltop. A few minutes later Murdock comes out again, carrying a bag which is filled with bread and milk. In spite of their continuous squabble there are no better friends than him and BA, and instead of eating alone inside and letting BA wait, he's packed enough food for two so they can eat together.

 

 

About half an hour later Face calls; the bounty hunters just came home. He hasn't shown himself yet, for now Kelly has to call Decker to tell him she's seen the A-team Van.

 

Kelly calls and speaks to Decker in person.  "Good afternoon, Colonel Decker, this is Kelly Stevens. I'm a doctor on South Mason Road number 45. When I came home from my home visits this afternoon I spotted a Van very much similar to the one used by the A-team. If I'm correct they're hiding out on number 125. I saw them there. Could you please sent someone over? I live here kinda isolated, all alone and I don't feel at ease with outlaws running loose around here."

 

"Miss Stevens, I'll get over myself with a few of my men. We'll be there in an hour."

 

"Thank you; I appreciate that very much, colonel. I'll see you then."

 

She puts down the receiver and looks at the others.  "He'll be here in an hour."

 

"Good," Hannibal says. "We'll tell Face to get those guys here in half an hour."

 

 

Of course Face does this very well. He lets himself be seen strikingly unobtrusive and when he 'finds out' he's been seen he turns tail. They fall for the trap completely. Hannibal and BA are hidden very well and when the bounty hunters think they have an easy target in Face, Hannibal hits the button of the remote control; the grill of the Van opens to show the two machine guns. These start firing immediately. The bounty hunters take cover so they won't be hit but they don't get a chance of escaping. Face jumps over the paling of the veranda, behind which Tannen took cover. Although Face hates fighting and always tries to stay out he's absolutely no coward and he will fight if necessary; and right now it is! He shows Tannen as much mercy as Tannen showed Murdock; none at all. He knocks him out with a few well aimed punches and throws him off the veranda.

 

BA in the meantime is fighting Chazz. His entire pent up wrath is released on him, and that's a lot! He only regrets Chazz didn't bring his whip because he would have loved to pay him back with his own coin. All the while Murdock sits in the Van on the drivers' seat, ready to leave as quickly as possible should Decker arrive earlier than expected. Royco spots him and drags him off the seat. Murdock is fighting for all he's worth, but that isn't much yet.  Royco tries to hit Murdock with a heavy tree branch but he misses because Murdock ducks just in time. While doing so he stumbles and falls backwards against the tree he was standing in front of, leaving him breathless. Royco lashes out again, but Murdock manages to roll aside. This can't go on forever because Murdock isn't nearly recovered enough to last long. Thankfully BA, who's beaten Chazz, comes to his aid. He seizes Royco by the collar and reels off his lines mercilessly. He is raging after he saw Royco trying to smash in Murdock's brains. His rings make a great knuckle-duster and it isn't long before Royco is bleeding out of numerous deep and less deep wounds. When BA finally releases him Royco feels as though every bone in his body is crushed. It's not that bad, but he does have a concussion, his right arm doesn't look as it should and a few ribs are cracked, if not broken. He's lucky the doctor is nearby although there's the question of whether she's willing to treat him... Hannibal is setting accounts with the father in a short but severe fight. Hannibal smashes the man through the door, rendering him unconscious.

 

Hannibal takes a cigar out of his shirt-pocket, bites off the tip and says to Kelly: "They never learn! You got to know when to hold them and know when to walk away!"

 

BA steps out of the brushwood, wiping the dirt of his sleeves. Murdock is right behind him. Sirens are heard and BA cries out: "Hey man, Decker!"

 

He rushes into the drivers' seat while Face gets in the back.

 

Hannibal turns to Kelly: "Give Colonel Decker our regards and ask him to throw these slime balls in jail for us, would you? Thanks again for everything you did for us; we are in your debt for ever."

 

Murdock kisses Kelly goodbye: "I got to go! Come visit me?"

 

He runs for the Van which is already pulling away. Face hoists him in and BA puts the pedal to the metal. Kelly watches them leave, a little disillusioned…..

 

 

Some time later, at the V.A. a male nurse approaches Murdock, who is, all by himself, sitting under a tree.  "Murdock, you have a visitor."

 

Murdock reacts with surprise. "A visitor? Eh, do me a favour, will ya? Will you go find out if it's a bill collector? If it is, just tell him eh….. Tell him I ran out of stamps a couple of months ago. He'll understand. He really will. He really will!"

 

"It's not a bill collector. It's a lady."

 

Murdock is even more surprised at that. "A lady? Where is she?"

 

The male nurse guides him to a nearby tree. "Waiting right over here!"

 

"Thank you," Murdock stammers and follows him confused. Then he sees…..Kelly. She smiles a little shyly at him.

 

"Well, you said I could come visit you!"

 

He closes his eyes and pants giving her a fright. After all she doesn't know how well he is.

"What! What's wrong?"

 

"Nothing! Nothing!"

 

He opens his eyes again, almost expecting to see no-one is there, but she's still standing right in front of him.

 

"I was just comparing you to a mental image I was carrying around in my head. Sort a like a….. a mind projection. And guess what?"

 

"What?" she asks tensed.

 

"It doesn't compare to the real thing!"

 

They both laugh.

 

He hesitates. "I missed you too….."

 

"You never called." It sounds a little reproachful.

 

Of course he didn't! There's no future in a relationship. Why would he want to hurt her feelings? It would have been better if she'd thought he had forgotten about her, but how could he? He is so happy to see her….. He starts walking and she follows. She's carrying a flat box.

 

"Well, you know, they don't eh….. They don't give you any dimes in this place. I think they're afraid you gonna choke on them. You know what I mean?"

 

She gestures around them.  "Murdock, what are you doing here?"

 

"That's a long story."

 

"Wanna tell me over pizza?"

 

She puts the box she was carrying on the table. Murdock's eyes sparkle.

"Pizza? You got pepperoni and mushroom on it?"

 

Kelly sighs apologising.  "It's got pepperoni, but we have to do without the mushroom."

 

Murdock opens the box and cries out in disgust: "Aaaaaaaaah, you already took a bite!"

He looks at her and starts laughing.

 

Relieved she joins in.

 

 

The end

 

Many thanks to Clairon who made a few suggestions to make this a better story.....

 


Bounty by Josta

 

 


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