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Into the Storm
Synopsis: Face is arrested and Decker decides to take him to the base personally. But everything goes wrong as they drive into a storm, leaving Face and Decker in trouble, with Hannibal, BA, and Murdock searching for them. Face h/c.
Warnings: Minor violence and language.
Disclaimer: As always, I don't own 'em, I just play with them.
Feedback: I love to hear from you.
A routine mission. That's what Hannibal Smith had considered it. Of course, that what he always considers it. The team was supposed to throw some fear into some bullies. The team had done missions like these countless times. They were routine. But on this particular mission, Decker had shown up and when all was said and done, Face was sitting in a jail cell, dealing with a very smug Col. Rod Decker.
Decker was not going to take any chances. He knew that the longer he waited at the small town jail, the more time he was giving Smith and Baracas to come up with a plan of escape for Peck. He decided that he personally would deliver Peck to the base, located four hours away.
Decker looked over at his prisoner. Face was playing solitaire with a ratty deck of cards. He looked up and smiled at Decker then continued with his game.
In less than an hour, Decker's car was gassed up and ready to go. He walked up to Face's cell, "Get up, Peck. Put on these greens. You're army property now. It's time to go."
Face stood slowly and stretched his legs. "Sure you don't want to wait for the guys? We could have a party. I'll even spike the punch so you can loosen up a little."
Decker pretended not to hear and said simply, "Move it, Lieutenant."
Face put on the uniform quickly and then walked to the door of the cell. "No need to be so formal, Rod. You can call me Face."
Decker growled and unlocked the cell door. "Turn around."
Face did as he was told and was cuffed with his hands behind his back. Decker led him to the car and opened the back door. Face climbed in. Decker got in on the driver's side and started the car.
About 10 minutes into the drive, Face asked, "Are we there yet?"
Decker ignored him.
Another 10 minutes passed by, then Face asked, "Are we there yet?"
Decker ignored him.
Face continued to ask "Are we there yet?" in 10-minute intervals for a full hour before Decker had finally had enough. He slammed on the brakes and turned to face his prisoner. "Don't make me come back there."
Face smiled. Mission accomplished, he thought.
Decker turned around and continued driving. He turned onto an unmarked road, knowing that it would add 30 miles to the trip, but he figured it was worth it. Decker knew that Smith had to be formulating a plan and an ambush would be the ideal way for him to free his lieutenant. Decker just hoped that Smith didn't know about the unmarked road.
The sun had set and darkness was flooding the sky. A flash of lightning lit up the sky and both men realized a storm was brewing. Face hated thunderstorms – the bursts of light and crack of lightning along with the rumble of thunder – these were all sounds he heard in the war. Too realistic. Decker looked into his rearview mirror and made brief eye contact with Face. Apparently he felt the same way.
It started to rain, a light drizzle at first and then the drops began to get bigger. Within minutes they are in the middle of a downpour. Decker slowed down, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.
Decker stopped at an old wooden bridge covered by water because of flash flooding. The bridge wasn't very long, but the water underneath it was deep with a forceful current. Face watched as Decker held an internal conversation in his mind on whether or not to chance driving across the bridge. Decker's grip tightened and Face realized the decision had been made.
Decker started forward, very slowly. He looked straight ahead, his brow furled, his hands tight on the wheel. Face noticed water coming in through his door and collecting at his feet. Suddenly, the car slid to the left and slammed into the wooden railing. The railing immediately gave way and the car slid into the river and then shifted onto its left side. Dirty brown water started pushing its way in, filling most of the car in a matter of seconds. Face pushed his feet against the door, trying to keep his head in a shrinking air pocket. Decker did the same. Face began to kick toward the back glass, desperate to escape the watery tomb. He heard a couple of "pops" and realized that Decker had shot the front windshield. Face tried to make his way over the front seats, but couldn't with his hands cuffed behind his back. The air pocket was gone, and Face was holding his breath. Lungs on fire, Face knew he couldn't hold the air in his lungs any longer. His mouth opened, releasing the precious air from his lungs, and then everything went black.
Hannibal looked to the sky and noticed a storm was brewing. He opened the door to the van and pulled a map out of the glove compartment. He turned his seat so that he could speak freely to both BA and Murdock.
"Decker's going to take Face to the base himself. I just saw them getting his car ready. If we move now, we may have enough time to set up an ambush and get Face."
"I can get a chopper, Hannibal." Murdock said, his voice anxious. "We could get there a lot faster."
BA started to protest, but Hannibal held up his hand. "Can't. There's a storm brewing." He turned his seat back to the front of the van. "C'mon, BA, let's go."
Hannibal had estimated that they had maybe a 20-minute head start of Decker. He had seen soldiers preparing Decker's car for the trip and heard them talking about Decker taking Face in alone. It wasn't much of a head start, but he had thrown together an ambush in a lesser amount of time, and was feeling confidant that he would be able to pull this off, freeing Face and humiliating Decker in the process.
They had driven just over an hour when BA pointed out a stand of trees just to the left of the main road and Hannibal motioned for him to pull over. Murdock hid the van with limbs while Hannibal and BA rigged up some nail slats to disable Decker's car.
Thunder clapped and it started to rain. Hannibal knew that if Decker was driving in a storm, he would be more concentrated on the road rather than his surroundings, and that in turn would help with the ambush.
Hannibal, Murdock, and BA were in position, each behind a tree. Hannibal kept his eyes on the road, looking through the binoculars, waiting for Decker to come. He said a silent prayer that there would no other cars in the next few minutes. If so, they would have to remove the slats from the road and then reposition them again, all without being caught.
The rain was coming down harder now. The men waited anxiously for Decker's car to come down the road.
It never did.
Decker managed to pull himself from the river and was dismayed to discover that he had lost his gun in the river. He turned in time to see the car make its final plunge into the brown water. Face was nowhere to be seen. Taking a deep breath, Decker dove into the cold water and swam to where the car had gone down. He took another breath and made his way down. He hit the top of the car with his boot, and pushed himself down toward the broken windshield. He could barely make out the form of a man in the front of the car. He reached in and snagged Face's collar and pulled him through the windshield then up to the surface. He gulped for air as soon as his head cleared the water. Decker held on tightly the unconscious man with his left arm and swam to the edge of the river. He pulled Face up onto the bank.
Face's lips were blue. Decker felt for a pulse and thought he felt a thready one, but Face was definitely not breathing. Decker positioned Face and began mouth to mouth resuscitation.
C'mon Peck. Breathe damn it!
Decker's head was throbbing, but he continued to breathe for the lieutenant. He didn't want to see this young man die, prisoner or no prisoner. He thought he felt a slight movement and brought his face up and checked Face's chest to see if he was breathing. Face began to cough and Decker turned him onto his side. Face continued to cough and then expelled the river water that had accumulated in his lungs. Decker held Face on his side with one hand, and dug in his pocket for the handcuff keys with the other. He fished them out of his pocket and removed the cuffs from Face's hands. Face turned over onto his back, inhaling deep breaths of air into his lungs.
"How do you feel, Lt.?"
Face opened his eyes slowly and found a drenched Decker looking at him with concern. He tried to prop himself up on his elbows, but discovered he had no strength and fell back to the ground. Decker reached out and put his hands on Face's shoulders.
"Take it easy soldier," he said. He left his hands on Face's shoulders and looked around the area. It was still raining and he knew he needed to get Face some shelter. He saw nothing but trees interspersed in a pasture. He thought he could see the outline of a barn off in the distance. It would be quite a walk, but he didn't really feel he had any choice. If he got lucky, maybe there was a phone near by as well.
Decker shook Face's shoulder. "Lt. Peck, I need you to open your eyes for me."
Face's eyes fluttered open; a look of confusion crossed his face. A bolt of lightning cracked through the sky, causing his body to tense up at the sound.
Decker continued. "I can see a barn in the distance over there. We've got to get out of this storm. I know you're weak, but we've got to get to shelter. Think you can walk?"
Face attempted to smile, but succeeded only in turning up the corner of his mouth slightly. "No problem," he half-whispered.
Decker stood and then bent down to help Face up. Face leaned into Decker. He tried to stand, but found he was too weak to do so on his own. Decker pulled Face's arm up over his own shoulder. "Let's go, Lt."
Decker supported Face's weight as they began to walk down the deserted road. The rain was heavier now, making the trek even more difficult. Decker knew the fastest way to the barn would be through the pasture, off the road. He turned and began to make a straight line to shelter.
Hannibal paced in the rain. Something was wrong. He could feel it. Murdock and BA stood side-by-side, watching Hannibal pace.
BA couldn't stand the silence any longer. "You come up with a plan yet?"
Hannibal shook his head. "We need to find them. Let's head back toward town. We passed a couple of unmarked roads. Maybe Decker took one of those to avoid us. Let's get in the van and check the map."
The men sprinted to the van. Once inside, Hannibal consulted the map. One of the roads they had passed earlier was on the map. The other wasn't. Hannibal pulled out a soggy cigar and chewed on the end.
"Okay, BA. Head back toward town. We're going to take the unmarked road that isn't even on this map. It would be just like Decker to take a road like that to throw us off his trail."
BA started up the van.
Hannibal turned to him and said, "Step on it BA. I've got a feeling Face is in trouble."
Ken Richards kicked the door of the old abandoned house and entered. The rain was really coming down now, and his truck had become bogged down in the mud. Richards entered the house, followed by his younger brothers, Gil and Donny.
"Whew, it feels good to get out of that rain," said Ken, shaking water out of his black hair.
"I know that's right," replied Gil. "Donny, why don't you see if you can get a fire going in that fireplace over there."
Donny walked over the fireplace. "I ..I ain't got no mmmatches."
Gil reached in his pocket and pulled out a cigarette lighter. "Use this. Now hurry up boy."
Donny caught the lighter. He picked up some old newspapers and stuffed them in the fireplace. He saw a broken chair in the kitchen and broke it down so that it would fit in the fireplace. Then he started a fire. He looked at his brothers and smiled. "Okkkay. Fffire's goin'."
Gil and Ken joined Donny at the fireplace and thrust their hands out, absorbing the warmth.
"Ken," said Gil, "You know we gotta make that delivery tonight. But with this weather and the truck…I don't know what we're gonna do. I mean, if we don't get the stuff to Beltran tomorrow, we're gonna miss our connection and the shit's gonna hit the fan."
Ken pulled off his wet jacket and walked closer to the fire. "I know, Gil. Don't worry. The rain's gonna let up soon and we'll get the truck out of the mud. We're only a couple of miles from the barn. We'll get it to Beltran on time."
Gil and Ken stayed by the fire, trying to get dry.
Donny slunk back to the corner of the room, watching his brothers. He sat down on the dirty floor and pulled a plastic soldier from his pocket. He adjusted the helmet on the toy and then placed it back in his pocket, giving it a pat.
Though he tried, Face just couldn't keep up with Decker. Decker ended up hoisting Face into a fireman's carry after the lieutenant passed out. At least it's not Baracas, Decker thought, smiling.
The field was saturated with water, the mud was ankle deep. Lightning flashed and Decker found himself with a déją vu from his time in Vietnam. He continued through the field, his hold on Face tightening with each step. He finally made it to the barn door and was able to open it with ease.
He stepped inside, the smell of hay meeting him at the door. He carefully laid the lieutenant down on a bed of hay, then went back to close the door. They were protected from the rain now, but the air was damp and cool. Decker knelt beside Face. He noted that Face's pulse was weak and his breathing was wheezy. He felt Face's forehead and frowned. The lieutenant was already starting on a fever. No telling what kind of bacteria was in that river water, he thought.
Decker stood and began to scout out the barn. He found a couple of old gray blankets, a flashlight, a saddle, and a saddle blanket. He noticed a bucket in the corner and some sacks of some kind of feed.
Decker took the old blankets and shook out as much hay has he could. The blankets were still dirty, but they were dry. He carefully removed Face's shirt, pants, boots, and socks; opting to the leave the underwear, even though it was wet, wanting to leave the lieutenant a little dignity. He took a blanket and swathed the lieutenant in it, hoping to warm him. He picked up the saddle and saddle blanket and brought them to where Face lay. He spread the saddle blanket on the floor of the barn, and placed the saddle at the head of the pallet he had just made. He carefully picked up Face and laid him on the saddle blanket, using the saddle to prop his head and neck, hoping this would make Face's breathing easier.
Satisfied that he had done everything he could for his prisoner, Decker peeled off his own shirt and pants and wrapped himself in the other blanket. He could hear the wind howling as it whipped around the corner of the barn. He wished he could start a fire, but knew that the barn was a tinderbox and didn't want to chance it. He had already taken too many chances today, and was now in this predicament because of that.
He pulled a bale of hay closer to Face and then sat down on the floor, using the bale of hay as a backrest. So this was Smith's second in command. He wondered what it is that Smith saw in the young man. Decker had read the file on Face. He knew the man was an orphan. He knew that Face had volunteered for Vietnam and had a pretty decent record up until the Bank of Hanoi incident. He knew the man had been a prisoner of war. Other than that, he knew only that the man was a con artist and had a smart mouth. He realized that he really didn't know much about the A-Team at all.
Despite being propped up, Face was finding it more and more difficult to breathe. Decker began to chew on a piece of hay and continued to watch Face. He knew he had to get help. Carrying Face through the storm was not really an option. He was exhausted and didn't think he could get much further carrying the dead weight of the lieutenant through the mud. He had seen no evidence of a house during the trek to the barn, and didn't know how far he would have to search for help. Should he retreat and walk back toward the main road, hoping the water had subsided enough for him to cross? Should he go forward and hope that help could be found much closer than that? Decker considered leaving the lieutenant and seeking help, but was afraid if he left Face alone he would return only to find a dead prisoner.
Decker remembered the bucket in the corner and placed it outside the door, hoping to collect rainwater in case they needed a drink.
He returned to the lieutenant and knelt beside him. He looked at Face and put his hand on the sick man's forehead, absently brushing away the hair from his face. Peck definitely had a fever, and his breathing was becoming steadily worse. Decker pulled Face up in the sitting position, hoping to get his breathing under control. Face's head rolled listlessly to the left, and rested on Decker's shoulder.
Face suffered through another coughing spell and began to awaken. He raised his head and looked at Decker with feverish eyes. "Get the hell off me!" He pushed at Decker and then fell back, his head hitting the saddle.
Decker reached out and felt the pulse in Face's neck. Thready, but at least it was there. Face once again roused, and looked at Decker through glazed eyes. "I told you to get away from me Chao. Touch me again and I'll kill you."
Decker inhaled sharply. General Chao. He hadn't thought about him in a long time. He knew that Chao had run a death camp and that Smith and his men had been prisoners there for a while. Decker didn't know what had happened to Peck in the camps, but he could imagine. A young "pretty boy" in the hands of the enemy – the thought caused him to shudder. Yet he seemed to recall something in Peck's records indicating he had voluntarily rejoined his unit after being freed from the camps…he could have been shipped home with honors. Decker could only conclude that he had done it out of loyalty to Smith.
Face began to shiver then and he pulled the blanket around himself trying to get warm.
Decker stood and decided to do another walkthrough of the barn. He grabbed the flashlight and walked to the bags of seed propped up against the back wall of the barn. He tried to see around them, but couldn't, so he pulled the top bag off and placed it on the floor. Then he pulled the next one down. He lost his grip on the bag and it landed hard, half on the first bag and other half on the floor. Kernels of corn scattered onto the floor. Decker bent over to right the bag, and noticed a white powdery substance on some of the kernels. He put his hand inside the sack and pulled out a plastic bag of white powder with a tear in the corner. He put his finger to the tear and put some of the substance between his thumb and index finger. He sniffed warily. Cocaine.
Decker stood and cast a glace toward Face. The young man was still shivering, his eyes clenched closed, his teeth chattering. Decker walked across the barn to the door and cracked it open. It was still raining and now it was getting dark. Decker's first instinct was to get the lieutenant out of the barn. What if the cocaine dealers came back to the barn? He had no gun, no means of protection. Decker decided to wait out the rain, or at least wait until it lessened in its ferocity.
He pulled his blanket around his shoulders and sat beside Face. The blonde was mumbling in his sleep. Decker couldn't make out what he was saying except for an occasional "stop" and "no." Knowing there was nothing he could do for the lieutenant, Decker simply watched. And prayed.
BA stopped the van. The men could see the remnants of a wooden bridge. They grabbed their flashlights and exited the van. Murdock swept his light over the river.
"Hannibal, BA – look over there. Does that look like a taillight to you?"
Hannibal and BA shone their lights to the area Murdock had marked with his.
BA spoke first. "Yeah, that looks like a taillight to me."
"It's Decker's car," said Hannibal. "Looks like he tried to make it across the bridge."
Murdock threw down his flashlight and prepared to jump into the murky water. "Face may be in there. I'm going in."
BA grabbed the captain by the collar of the jacket. "You can't go in there, Fool. You'll drown."
Murdock turned and looked at BA. BA couldn't tell if it was rain or tears sliding down Murdock's face, but he suspected it was the latter. "BA, we can't leave him down there."
Hannibal put one hand on BA's shoulder, the other on Murdock's. "He's not in there, Murdock. I can feel it. I'm sure he and Decker made it to the other side. Now we've got to find a way to the other side. Scout out, see what you can find." Hannibal prayed that he was right. He wanted to go into the water as badly as Murdock, but he knew that the current would kill them both. And if Face was in the car, then he'd be……no, he refused to think it.
BA and Murdock separated, one going left, the other going right; looking for a place they could possibly cross the swelling river.
"Hannibal, over here!" shouted BA. Hannibal ran to where BA stood, Murdock catching up to him in less than a minute.
BA pointed up to the tree on the opposite riverbank. It's branches reached over the river. "We can rig some ropes and swing to the other side."
Hannibal nodded. "Good, BA. Let's get the ropes. We'll need to pack up the first aid kit too and maybe some blankets too. Wouldn't hurt to take some weapons too, just in case some of Decker's men have found him."
Hannibal and Murdock rigged up some packs with the supplies while BA worked at getting the ropes securely in the limbs. BA insisted on going across first. He swung over the river and landed on the bank. He threw the rope back and Hannibal attached the packs and sent them over to BA. Then he and Murdock each swung across the river, guns strapped to their backs.
They made their way back to the road and noticed the remnants of footprints in the mud. Two sets, filled now with water. It looked like one man was walking and the other was struggling to keep up, possibly being held up, as long lines from where the toes of the boots dragged through the mud could be seen.
They continued to follow the tracks in the field. The two sets became one deeper set. One man carrying another. Hannibal's pulse quickened. Murdock and BA noticed the absent set of footprints as well, but neither said a word. Though they knew that technically there was a 50-50 chance that it could be Face carrying Decker, they knew in their hearts that wasn't the case. They could feel it.
Ken and Gil positioned the board under the truck tire. It was still raining, but at least it had finally let up some. Donny sat in the front behind the wheel.
"Okay, Donny, nice and easy," Gil told his brother.
Donny smiled. His brothers had never let him drive before. And now they were depending on him. He placed his hands on the wheel. He pressed his foot down on the gas pedal. The truck tire spun, spitting mud out until it found purchase on the board and Donny felt the truck go forward.
Ken shouted, "Stop, Donny, stop. You did it. Now put the truck in park."
Donny grinned. He took the toy soldier out of his pocket. "We dddid it, Soldier, wwwe dddid it." He put the toy back in his pocket.
Ken opened the door to the driver's side of the truck. "Scoot over, we gotta go."
Gil opened the passenger door and slid in. The brothers sandwiched Donny in between them.
Ken put the truck in drive and headed toward the barn.
Decker opened the door to the barn and noticed the rain had finally started to subside. He turned his head slowly, searching. He saw headlights in the distance. Decker froze. If they were the drug runners, he knew he was in trouble. On the other hand, if they were just passers by, they could get him and Peck to safety. He decided to get dressed and track the headlights. If they were headed straight for the barn, he knew he would have to get Peck out of there fast.
Decker closed the door to the barn and flicked on the flashlight. He dropped his blanket to the ground and put on his damp clothes, causing him to shudder. He picked up his blanket then and walked over to Face. The man was still shivering in his sleep. Decker placed his blanket on top of Face and tucked the sides around his body. Face seemed completely unaware of his actions.
Decker tied his boots and walked back to the door. He opened it a crack to check on the progress of the headlights. They seemed to be headed straight for the barn. Damn! Decker grabbed Face's clothes and walked over to his prisoner. The clothes were still damp, and Decker knew the last thing Face needed was to be in wet clothing. But he felt he had no choice. He placed the flashlight on a bale of hay, the soft light throwing shadows across the barn. He peeled off one blanket, then the other. Face opened his eyes then. They were unfocused. He reached up his hand and swatted at Decker, but then his arm fell back to his side.
Decker pulled Face up into the sitting position again. He managed to get his arms through the shirtsleeves, then lay the lieutenant back down and buttoned the shirt. Decker then slipped on his pants, socks, and finally his boots. Decker could hear the truck now. He turned off the flashlight and stuffed it in his pocket.
"Lt., we've got to go. I need you to try and get up." Decker tried to pull Face back up in the sitting position.
Face turned to Decker, seemingly searching for something.
"Party over already?" he attempted to smile.
Decker hesitated. "Come on, Lt. I need you go get up. We've got to get out of here."
Face pushed up on his arms, then fell back. He was breathing heavily. "Gimme a minute." He tried again, this time succeeding. He grabbed Decker's arms. "Help me up."
Decker stood slowly, pulling Face up with him. The blonde's knees buckled and he nearly fell to the ground, but Decker caught him. He put one arm around Face's waist, then took Face's arm and draped it across his shoulder so that he could hold him up.
Decker said nothing. He pulled Face through the dark barn to the door. The truck was close enough that Decker could make out three figures inside. He opened the door and managed to pull Face around the corner of the barn just as the truck pulled up.
Decker continued to hold steadfastly to the lieutenant, who was now sagging against him. He peeked around the corner. One of the men had gotten out of the truck and opened the barn door wide. He motioned for the other man to drive into the barn. The truck started forward. The first man held up his hand as something caught his eye. He motioned to the driver to stop.
The driver put the truck in park and exited. The third, smaller man quickly joined him. The first man was pointing to the ground. The driver ran back to the truck and retrieved two rifles. He tossed one to the first man.
Decker tightened his hold on Face and tried to slowly inch his away against the outside barn wall. He saw only a few trees, and tried to pull the lieutenant away from the barn and hopefully behind the trees. He knew it was a long shot, but felt there was no other choice.
He had only made it a few yards when he heard the rifle fire.
Hannibal held up his hand, signaling BA and Murdock to stop.
"Did you hear that? Sounded like gunfire."
BA spoke first. "I heard it Hannibal. It sounded like it came from the same direction these footsteps are heading."
Murdock turned to Hannibal. "What are we going to do Colonel?"
Hannibal pulled on the gun strap and repositioned the gun on his shoulder. "We keep going. No flashlights though. There's just enough moonlight for us to keep up with the tracks. Let's go."
Donny shook when the rifle was fired. Ken and Gil approached two men who were trying to hide from them.
Ken held his rifle steady. "Okay. Hold it. C'mere."
Decker turned slowly, bringing Face with him.
"Put your hands up where I can see 'em. And step away from each other," said Ken.
Decker tightened his hold on Face's waist. "I can't. This man is unconscious. I have to carry him."
Ken motioned to Gil. "Go check it out."
Gil approached the two men and shined his flashlight toward them. "Looks like he's telling the truth, Ken. But they're Army. Could be a trick."
Ken took a few steps toward Decker and Face. "Let go of him."
Decker kept his hold on Face. "I told you, this man is unconscious. If I let go of him, he's going to fall to the ground."
Donny ran up to Decker and Face. "You're sssoldiers, aaaren't you?"
Gil shoved Donny away. "Get back to the barn, Donny."
Gil walked up to Decker then and pulled Face away from him. Face fell limply to the muddy ground. Decker stepped toward Gil, stopping only when his face was an inch from the other man's. "I told you that man was sick."
Decker stepped back and knelt down to Face. He reached out to try and pull him up but was stopped by a kick to the chest by Gil. Decker fell to the ground. He started to get up, fury in his eyes. Ken fired another shot in the air.
"That's enough. Gil, drag the sick one back to the barn." He turned to Decker. "You, get up nice and slow." Ken searched for Donny, who was standing in the doorway of the old barn. "Donny, get the lanterns out of the truck and light them." He tossed a lighter to his youngest brother.
Donny returned with two lanterns illuminating the barn in shades of gold.
Decker stood slowly and followed Gil, watching as Gil dragged Face to the barn. Face was dropped onto the hay-covered floor with a resounding thud, landing on his back. He opened his eyes and scanned his surroundings, pausing when he made eye contact with Decker.
Face attempted to push himself up, but fell back to the floor. Decker took a step toward the blonde but was stopped by Gil.
"Just stay where you are," he hissed, then he hit Decker in the gut with the butt of his gun.
Decker gasped in pain and immediately wrapped his arms around his middle.
Face struggled to sit up once again. "Leave him alone!" He was stopped by a kick from Gil to his chest.
"That goes for you too, pretty boy."
Decker watched as hatred flicked through the lieutenant's eyes. Just stay down, Peck. He watched in fear as Face was finally able to push himself up to a sitting position.
Gil held the rifle above Face's head. "I told you not to move."
Face looked up only to find the butt of the gun crashing toward his head.
Hannibal, BA, and Murdock moved silently toward the barn. They saw the truck parked out front. BA scouted the perimeter while Murdock and Hannibal approached the barn, peeking through the tiny gaps between the boards of the barn.
Face was lying on the floor the barn, unconsciousness, blood on his face from a wound to the side of his head. Decker was sitting on a bale of hay near Face. His hands were tied behind his back and his ankles were tied together.
There were three other men in the room. One had greasy black hair and walked with a rifle slung over his shoulder. He was tall and muscular and appeared to be the oldest. Another man of similar size but with brown hair and a jagged scar on his cheek sat on a bale of hay across from Decker, his gun aimed toward the colonel's chest. The third man – or boy – Hannibal wasn't really sure – sat beside Face. He was shorter than the other two men and thin. He was pressing a cloth against Face's head and mumbling something Hannibal couldn't understand.
"Donny, quit messing with that man. It ain't gonna matter anyway," said Gil.
Hannibal and Murdock watched as Gil yanked the bloodied cloth from Donny's hands.
Donny looked up at the man. "But Ggggil, he's hhhhurt. Ssssoldier's hhhurt."
Ken joined his brothers and put his hand on Donny's shoulder. "Do what Gil says. Just leave him alone." He turned to face Gil. "We ain't got time for this shit. We've got to load up the stuff now and head to Beltran."
Ken walked to the bags of feed, the rifle still hung over his shoulder. Donny ran over to him. "Bbbbut what abbbout Ssssoldier?"
Ken looked away from Donny and toward his brother Gil. "He can stay here. They both can," were the words he spoke, but his silent message to Gil was Their bodies will stay here. Ken pointed Donny toward Face and Decker. "You go keep an eye on them. Me and Gil are gonna load the truck. Here, take my gun."
Donny took the rifle from his brother and walked to where Gil was standing guard over the prisoners. Gil looked hard at his brother. "You keep an eye on them, and if they so much as try to escape, you shoot 'em. Understand?"
"Yeah, Gggil. I undersssstand." Donny sat on the bale of hay, pointing his gun at Decker, just like he had seen his brother do.
Hannibal and Murdock held their breath as Gil opened the barn door and then drove the truck inside the barn. The men slunk to the outlying trees then, and BA joined them.
Hannibal adjusted the rifle on his back. "Okay, there's three men, but only two appear to be threats. The third man is…"
"Special," Murdock said.
Hannibal nodded. "Yeah, special. But he's armed. The other two seem to be the type to kill without question. They're loading their truck with what looks to be bags of feed, but my guess is that there's really drugs in the bags. Face looks unconscious. He's on the floor and I know he has a head wound, but I can't tell about anything else. Decker is next to him, sitting on a bale of hay. His hands and feet are tied."
He took a deep breath. "Once the truck is loaded they're going to leave. My impression is that they won't leave any witnesses behind. So we've got to act fast."
BA asked, "So, we goin' through the front door?"
Hannibal smiled. "I don't see that we've got a choice. But let's check out their progress first. Those bags of feed look heavy. They're going to have to set their weapons down in order to carry them."
The men made their way to the barn and looked again through the gaps between the boards. Gil had thrown a bag of feed to the back of the truck. Ken had tossed one on top. "Okay, that's it."
Hannibal inhaled sharply. That hadn't taken nearly as long as he thought.
Face began to moan and opened his eyes. He tried to sit up, but fell back to the floor.
"Stay down, Lt." Decker said.
"What? I don't understand. What's going on? Where are we?" Face asked weakly. He looked around the room, trying to focus. He stopped when he saw Donny.
"Who are you?" he asked.
Donny smiled. "Mmmy nnname's Dddonny. Are yyyyou a rrrreal ssssoldier?"
Face smiled up at him. "Yes, I am." He motioned toward Decker. "He is too. He's a Colonel. I'm a lieutenant." He coughed.
"Wwwow." Donny reached into his pocket and pulled out his toy soldier. "Sssee? I've gggotta soldier." He thrust the doll toward Face.
Face reached up for the toy and took it from Donny. "It's nice," he said weakly. "Looks just like me." He handed the doll back to Donny, who quickly placed it into his pocket.
"Shut up Donny. Quit talking to 'em. Just keep your eye on them and don't let them try anything," yelled Ken.
Donny glanced at his brother and then turned back to Face and Decker.
Decker looked down at Face. "How are you feeling, Soldier?" He watched Donny's expression as he said the word "soldier." It was a look of admiration, of…..joy.
Face smiled weakly. "I'm feeling just fine." He coughed a wet cough and wrapped his arms around his sides.
Decker saw Donny watching as Face. "He needs water. I've got a bucket of rainwater out front. Could you get it for him?"
Donny stood and took a couple of steps toward the door.
"Donny, what are you doing?" screamed Gil. "I told you to keep an eye on them."
"I was gggoing to ggget them some wwwwater." Donny replied frightfully.
"You stupid little –" Gil started.
"Gil. Leave him alone," Ken interrupted. He turned to his youngest brother, "And you. Go get the bucket of water."
Donny handed off his rifle to Ken, who promptly pointed it at Decker. Gil joined him after turning to watch Donny go out the barn door.
Hannibal, Murdock, and BA watched as Donny pushed open the barn door and searched for the bucket of water. Each man held his breath, not wanting to be discovered. They watched in silence as Donny located the bucket and headed back into the barn. They put their ears back to the gaps in the boards and continued to listen.
"What're you doin' Ken? They don't need any water. They don't need nothing but a hole in the ground." Gil sneered at Decker.
Decker returned the glare then looked down at Face. The lieutenant's eyes were open, but his breathing was ragged again and by the glazed look in his eyes, Decker knew the fever had to be rising. He said a silent prayer that Face would stay coherent.
Ken backed away from Decker and Face, pulling Gil with him.
"Look, the kid doesn't have to know. He thinks this sick one here is Soldier, like that damn toy he carries around. I don't feel like dealing with one of his meltdowns right now. So when he gets back, we leave the water, get in the truck, and after we back out of the barn, you say you forgot something and then come in here and finish them off, okay?"
Realization dawned on Gil and he smiled. "Gotcha. How you gonna explain the gunshots?"
Ken returned Gil's smile and pulled a hunting knife out of his pocket. "What gunshot?"
Both men laughed but stopped suddenly when Donny appeared holding the bucket of water.
"Okay, Donny, Soldier's got his water now. We gotta get out of here."
Donny sat the bucket of water close to Face. "Hhhere's your wwwater, Sssoldier."
"Thanks Donny," Face rasped.
Donny stood and saluted Face. He knew that's what you were supposed to do when you left a soldier. They always saluted on TV.
Face saluted with his right hand and smiled weakly at Donny.
Ken pulled Donny by his sleeve. "Get in the truck. We're leaving."
Donny slid to the middle of the truck seat.
Hannibal silently issued orders. BA was to go to the other side of the door; Murdock was to stay behind one of the trees. As soon as the truck was out of the barn, BA would snag Ken and Hannibal would snag Gil. Murdock was to be backup, and he would be in charge of taking care of Donny.
Ken slowly backed the truck out of the barn. BA prepared to pounce. Hannibal readied his rifle. That's when they both noticed that Gil wasn't in the truck. Both men slammed their backs against the barn wall. If they took Ken now, he could shout out a warning to Gil, who in turn would probably shoot Decker and Face on the spot. They couldn't risk it.
"Well, well, well. Some soldiers you are," Gil taunted. "Got one trussed up like a turkey, the other one just sick and pathetic." He accentuated his remark with a kick to Face's ribs. Face immediately wrapped his hand around his sides.
"Leave him alone, you little prick!" Decker shouted. "You're awfully brave when it comes to beating up on injured people. You untie me right now and let's see how tough you really are."
Gil just smiled. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? Well, I ain't stupid. I know you're trying to trick me. And I still ain't convinced he's as sick as he's making out." Gil opened the hunting knife and held it to Decker's neck.
The truck came to a stop. Ken tapped the steering wheel with his fingers, waiting on Gil.
"Wwwhat's hhhe doin?" asked Donny.
"Uh, he's getting a lantern. The soldiers will only need one and we're going to take one with us in case we get bogged down again. My flashlight's getting kind of low and I don't want to get stuck in the dark," Ken lied.
Ken revved the engine and continued tapping the steering wheel.
"Iii'll hhelp." Donny opened the truck door and ran to the barn before Ken could stop him.
"Little shit." Ken turned off the truck and ran toward the barn.
Face started to speak, his words interrupted by ragged breaths. "Look…you can….take him….with you…..hostage….may buy you….some time." And hopefully buy Decker some time as well. A deep, wet cough escaped from him and he continued. "Military's….looking for us….Take him."
Gil lowered the knife from Decker's neck. He hadn't considered the possibility that the military was looking for these men. He knew Ken hadn't thought about it either. Taking a hostage wasn't such a bad idea. He only needed one though, and the older guy would be easier to negotiate for.
"Thanks for the idea, Soldier," Gil spat. "No need for two though. Time for you to meet your Maker."
Gil knelt to the floor beside Face and raised the knife.
Decker tried to stand as the blade came down, but fell to the ground.
Gil laughed as he buried the knife in Face's chest. "There ya go, Soldier. That should help your lungs."
Donny screamed as he saw the blade enter Face's chest.
Gil looked up, startled. "What're you doing in here? Get out. Now!"
Ken ran into the barn, and pulled Donny to him. "C'mon, let's get outta here."
Hannibal and BA entered then. BA thrust his rifle at Ken's back. Hannibal pointed his at Gil. He saw Face lying on the ground, the knife handle sticking up out of his chest, blood escaping onto the floor beneath him.
"Step away from him now, or so help me I will kill you where you stand." Hannibal seethed.
Gil stood slowly, knowing the white haired man was speaking the truth.
"Murdock, get in here!" yelled Hannibal. He desperately wanted to get to Face, but had to make sure Ken and Gil were no longer a threat.
Donny ran over to Face. He put his hand on the knife handle, preparing to pull it out.
"No, Donny. Leave it in," said Decker. "If you pull it out he could bleed to death."
Donny released his hold. Decker struggled to sit up.
Donny untied Decker's binding. Decker massaged his raw wrists as he stood. He walked up to Gil, his face merely an inch from Gil's. "Welcome to hell." He thrust his knee into Gil's groin, making the man immediately fall to his knees, groaning in pain. Decker took the ropes that had been used to bind him and tied Gil's wrists and ankles.
He turned and knelt down beside Face. "Hang in there, Lt. You're going to be just fine. Hannibal's here now." He brushed away the blood-tinged hair from Face's forehead.
Face attempted to open his eyes, but clenched them closed as he was hit by a spasm of pain. He was finding it more and more difficult to breathe.
BA glanced at Decker and Face as he retrieved the now trussed up Gil and pulled him toward the corner of the barn where he had tied Ken. He stood there, his gun trained on the men, only allowing himself an occasional glance at Face.
Hannibal and Murdock dropped to the floor beside Face and Decker. Hannibal placed his hand on Face's forehead. "He's burning up. Murdock, go find us a board we can use to put him on. We've got to keep him as still as possible."
Murdock stood hesitantly, unable to take his eyes off Face.
Murdock went in search of a board. Donny scooted over next to Decker.
"Is Ssssoldier gggonna be okkkay?" he asked.
"Yeah, son, he'll be just fine. You took good care of him." Decker placed his hand on Donny's shoulder.
Murdock returned with a piece of plywood. "This is the best I can do Hannibal."
"That'll do. We've got to get him on this board and into the truck. Get those bags of feed out of there." He turned to BA. "BA, we've got to get those bags of feed out of the truck. Help Murdock."
BA turned and snarled at the men. "You stay right here. If you move at all, it'll be the last thing you do."
Gil and Ken sat silently, a look of terror on their face as they looked at the big, black man.
BA pulled the truck into the barn and he and Murdock began throwing out the bags of feed.
Hannibal and Decker sat beside Face, one on each side. Hannibal spoke to Decker, but didn't take his eyes off his lieutenant.
"We heard what you said to that slime ball, Decker. Face would be proud of you."
Decker spoke deliberately, "He tried to save my life."
Hannibal looked up then, his eyes locking onto Decker's. "That surprise you?"
Decker shifted uncomfortably. "Yes…no, not really. I never really knew him, Smith. I've got your files, I've read the facts, but I don't really know him. He thought he was in the camps for a while there…"
Hannibal inhaled sharply.
Decker continued, "I never thought about what he must have been through. But…"
Hannibal cut him off, knowing that if Face could hear any of this conversation it would only aggravate his condition more.
As if on cue, Face tried to open his eyes again. He began to cough, causing the knife to shift slightly. Hannibal held down his shoulders, trying to keep him as still as possible.
"Hannibal? You okay? The guys okay?" he asked, his voice nothing more than a raspy whisper.
"Yeah, we're fine. We're going to get you some help." Hannibal said.
Face looked past Hannibal to Decker. "You okay, Sir?"
Decker smiled. "I'm fine, lieutenant. You bought us the time we needed."
Face turned his head, looking for something, for someone. "Donny?"
Donny emerged from behind Decker
"You okay Donny?" Face asked.
"Yyessir," replied Donny. He knew the soldier was in pain. He pulled his toy soldier out of his pocket and tried to place it in Face's hand.
Face pushed it back into Donny's hand. "You keep it, Donny…..you take good care….of him…..like you….did me." His eyes closed and he lapsed into unconsciousness.
BA and Murdock rushed up to Hannibal.
"Truck's ready Hannibal. Let's go." BA said, glaring at Decker, daring him to try and stop them.
Hannibal and Decker carefully positioned Face on the plywood and carried him to the truck, putting him in the back. Murdock climbed in behind him.
Decker picked up Ken's discarded rifle and walked over to Hannibal. "I'm only going to say this once, so listen closely. This road will hit the highway in about 20 miles. Then you'll only be 10 miles from a hospital. Take Peck there, get him treated. Use the alias of Tim Roderick. I'll check with the hospital and keep updated on his progress. I ask only one thing, that you send some units out here to take this scum away. I'll tell them Peck escaped when the car went into the water. And don't worry about Donny. I'll make sure he's taken care of. Once Peck has been released, things will go back to the way they were. Me looking for you, you running from me. Got it?"
Hannibal stood there, speechless for a moment. "What about Murdock? The military didn't know that he was still a member of the team…"
Decker cut him off. "Murdock who?" He smiled then, and looked once more at Face. "You've got a hell of a man there, Smith. Take good care of him."
"I will." He turned to the truck, then turned back to face Decker. "Thanks Rod."
Then he stood back and saluted the man he had considered his nemesis.
Decker returned the salute. "Now, get out of here before I change my mind."
Hannibal crawled into the back of the truck with Murdock, both men hovering over Face. BA backed the truck out of the barn and headed back to the road.
Decker stood and watched as the truck pulled away.
Two months later…
The team was sitting in the van, headed toward a small town in Southern California for another mission. Face had an uneasy feeling, like they were being followed. He had voiced his concern to Hannibal, who only smiled and told him not to worry.
Murdock had chattered endlessly since being picked up at the VA Hospital. "I was serenaded by a hamster last night guys. I think I'm in love." Murdock stated, as he started to sing, "L is for the way you look at me….O is for the only one I see.."
BA snarled. "Hamsters can't sing, Fool. Now shut up."
Face rolled his eyes and leaned toward Hannibal. "Hannibal, I'm telling you. This doesn't feel right. One slip and Decker will be on our tails."
"Face, don't worry about it. We'll be in and out before Decker even knows we're here." Hannibal smiled, pulling a cigar out of the pocket of his jacket.
"THAT'S what you said LAST time, Hannibal. If I don't worry about it, nobody will." Face said exasperatedly.
BA stopped at the red light. Murdock had reduced his singing to a hum. BA looked to the side mirror and noticed a military car three cars down from him. "We've got trouble Hannibal."
The light turned green and BA floored the gas pedal.
Hannibal smiled. "Now that's the way it's supposed to be."
Three cars behind him, Decker smiled. "Let the chase begin."
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