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The Trial of HM Murdock
Summary: Murdock recounts the events of Trial by Fire
Disclaimer: I don't own the A-Team, I don't make any money from this. Most of the dialogue in this fic is from the episode and written by Tom Blomquist.
The Trial of HM Murdock
I was on trial too.
Richter said that if I could deal with it, with watching my best friends on trial for their lives, with giving evidence at that trial, and with doing things like finding myself somewhere to stay for a couple of days while I'm out of the hospital; if I could deal with all of that and stay on track then he'd believe I was ready to be released permanently.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. Everything is changing. However the team's trial turns out everything changes.
The doc suggested I wore a suit, but I just looked at him like he was the crazy one. He said it would show respect for the court. I said the court was gonna have to earn my respect first.
So I showed up in my usual get up. Getting off the elevator I checked out the area, exits, MPs. It was instinct born of years of training, the army's training, Hannibal’s training, other... training.
Frankie Santana was there. I was real pleased to see him, yeah. When he called the guys "our boys" I was ready to give him a pounding BA would have been proud of. Grabbed him, shoved him against the wall.
"It’s not our boys. It’s my boys. It’s not our boys."
He got that message, started whining about how Stockwell made him do it. Please, sir, the devil made me do it. And he had the nerve to start boasting about getting "the best lawyer" to handle the case. If this guy is the best how come I never heard of him? Does Frankie think I didn't try to get the guys a good lawyer? Does he think I didn't call and write to all of the most famous lawyers in the country. I know I've got no money, and the guys have got no money, well, not lawyer sized money; but with a trial this notorious big lawyers who like seeing their face on TV should have been queuing up to do it pro bono.
Unless they were warned off of course. I wonder who could have done that? Picture the scene. 'Mr Cochran, there's a General Stockwell on the phone.'
"What's he doing here?" Stockwell. What's that saying? Speak of the devil and he's certain to appear.
The sincere looking expression of disgust on Frankie's face almost made me like him then. But I couldn't keep the bitterness out of my voice nevertheless.
"Well, now you’ve got somebody you can watch the trial with."
He didn't of course. Conway was making a pretty good start, getting in an objection to that lying sleaze Curtis' testimony when Frankie parked his tush on the seat beside me.
"All right, check it out. My man, Benny! All his friends call him Benny. He’s gonna make mince meat out of these bozos."
Oh, shut the hell up, Frankie. Yeah I'm sure you and the lawyer are real good pals. I'm sure you go fishing together and have dinner and shoot the breeze. And I'm sure you call him at three in the morning when the walls are closing in and he complains about the time and listens anyway.
Face looked real tired when they brought the guys in.
They overruled the objection, Morrison's been exhumed, they found the... they found gunshot wounds.
"Just when exactly do we get to the mincemeat part, Frankie?"
The prosecutor Lascov was smart, sharp as they come. And I was going to have to face him soon. I studied him closely. Or as closely as I could with idiot boy buzzing in my ear with his running commentary. Remind me never to go to a movie with this moron.
Curtis, whose ass someone should definitely kick, was perjuring himself like there's no such place as hell. He was in 'nam, he should know better. He claimed he heard Hannibal arguing with Morrison right before the shelling. Well I know personally one hundred percent that's not true.
BA knew that too, but he wasn't prepared to sit and wait his turn to tell the real story. He lost it, turned over the table and all hell broke loose. I saw Face was shocked for a second, but Hannibal just stood up, walked around the table, calm as milk.
I jumped up to stand on the bench, Frankie jumped up beside me. Other people were running around, some screaming. The team mixed it up with the MPs. And then the chaos stopped and the team were all holding guns and the MPs were backing off and it's suddenly real quiet.
It could have really hit the fan then. Someone makes a wrong move and the bullets start flying. I glanced at the exit, took in the positions of the MPs, armed and disarmed. If the guys go for an escape do I help them? Is that what Hannibal would want? Or would he expect me to maintain my cover and stay out of it?
I've got Frankie right here too. Hannibal would probably expect me to protect him, make sure he gets on the floor and keeps his head down so he doesn't get caught in the crossfire.
The moment ended when Hannibal spoke.
"Your Honour, what Sergeant Baracus is trying to say is… we didn’t do it."
They dropped the guns on the floor and the tension flooded out of the room
Frankie never panicked. He was scared, I felt the fear pouring off him, but he kept his head. Maybe it's working with explosives. You need a cool head for that. And an eye for the fastest escape route. Maybe Hannibal saw something in him I'd not spotted yet.
I was meant to find myself a place to stay that night. Part of the doc's test. Not hard, check into a motel or something. What I did was find a bar to stay in till throwing out time and then walked around all night. I didn't get drunk or anything, just nursed a beer and looked pathetic.
I cleaned myself up in the men's room outside the court room. Cleaned my face, combed my hair. I wear the same clothes pretty much every day, figured maybe people wouldn't notice I had on the same T-shirt as yesterday. Frankie wouldn't, he's as sensitive as rhino hide.
I felt sick when the session started and BA was brought in chained up like an animal. He didn't even look at me. When he sat at the table he kept his head down on his hands. It wasn't just seeing my friend humiliated that way that sickened me. It was what it meant. That they, we, were up against an enemy stronger than we'd ever faced before. And I included the NVA in that comparison.
Things were getting very bad, very dark. And then Hannibal's old maxim was proved. It's always darkest just before it goes totally black.
It looked like he hadn't exactly started warming to the team since he was exiled to whatever boondock posting the army sent him to for failing to catch the guys. I'll bet he's spent the long winter evenings whittling that chip on his shoulder.
"I can tell you this, rules mean nothing to these men and they’re loyal to no one but themselves. I have no doubt that they are capable of the crimes of which they are accused."
A real sweetheart.
"What a guy." Everyone in the court heard Hannibal say it.
Conway did okay with Decker, getting him to admit that the team helped a lot of people, but I'm not sure how much ice that cut with the court. What the hell is it with Decker? He's a hardass jackass, but that time he came to see me at the VA, tried to persuade me it was in my best interest to help him catch the team, he was almost human. And the guys told me he let them ride in the van with me when I was out of it. Decker thought I was Face, thought I was dying. I was dying. He let Hannibal, BA and Tawnia ride with "Face" in case he/I didn't make it. So there's something there, some spark of warmth. But he sure hid it well giving his evidence.
The look that passed between him and Hannibal, wow. I wouldn't want to get in the way if those two ever meet up again. Face could sell tickets to a grudge match like that.
Then just when things couldn't get any worse BA lost it again. Even with the chains on he tried to get at another lying witness. How many people were going to lie on that stand? Swearing on the Bible then lying through their teeth. That's why I was sitting way in back of the room. Keep away from the possible lightning strikes.
My turn. Hat off. Best behaviour. Oh so formal voice. Twenty dollar words.
"Certainly. I flew the accused to the aforementioned Hanoi Bank, and then I returned, as per my orders, later that evening to Colonel Mor… er.. the late Colonel Morrison’s office."
No one could doubt how important and serious this was to me.
"Oh yes, that was just before the enemy shelling. There was a lot of enemy activity that night, that's why I had to come in fast and low."
And that's when I started in with it all. With the pirate ships and the Indians and the giant lizards. And I got a kiss in there too. Oh, Laskov's face was a picture. I'll remember it for a long time. He was cool as a whole bunch of cucumbers, but even he wasn't ready for that little performance.
I finished it up going into my Captain Queeg bit. Always been one of my favourite movies. I even had the ball bearings ready.
"Naturally, I’m trying to cover these things by memory, and if I’ve left anything out, just ask me specific questions and I’ll try to answer them one by one."
"No further questions." You bet, Major.
Lascov had to have been been planning something for me, intending to use me against the guys somehow. Well I'd put the kibosh on that.
Conway put Hannibal on the stand and the Colonel was doing well.
"Seems like a impossibly dangerous thing to do… To rob the Bank of Hanoi… How did you ever hope to pull it off?"
I almost laughed. I wondered if Hannibal had ever had a moment of doubt about their ability to pull it off? Impossibly dangerous was just how he liked it. Merely "very dangerous" and "terribly dangerous" was like a light warm up. Only when it got "impossible" did the colonel's blood start to sing.
Then Lascov started his cross and I didn't like the way it was going. Hannibal thought he was ready for it, I'm sure. He dealt with the accusation that they kept four million dollars from the robbery with the contempt it deserved. Like Hannibal ever really cared about money!
But that was just part of Lascov's strategy. He set that motive up for Hannibal to knock down and led him along to saying that killing the enemy was what you do in a war and then he pulled the rabbit out of the hat.
Morrison was working for the NVA, according to the testimony of a Vietnamese army colonel, named Quyet. He was passing information, for money. That made Morrison the enemy. And what did you do to the enemy? That's right.
It was devastating. I've not seen Hannibal speechless with shock very often, but I saw it that day. I'll never forget that.
I'd almost forgotten about Frankie. But he followed me out and he knew where I was going.
"I know where you’re going. You’re going after that Colonel Quyet, huh? You figure he would’ve known that Morrison sent you on that mission, right?"
Not as dumb as he looks. And right then he was staying a bit cooler than me. Well he didn't have as much at stake. Which could maybe be useful, because I was right on the edge.
"Besides me, who seems to know everything?"
Stockwell, of course. But whatever he might know he wasn't going to tell us about it.
Frankie's 'home number' for Stockwell was now a pizza parlour. Not that I expected anything else. But never mind, never mind. I could handle this. Or rather, the Fighting Nighthawk Commando could handle this. A proud band of soldiers, me and, well okay me. But Frankie now too. If he could stay cool under pressure let's apply some pressure.
"Now, repeat after me… Fly by night…"
"Repeat after me! Fly by night… "
He got that look in his eyes that people so often get when they look at me.
"You’ll get the hang of it."
The Fighting Nighthawks flew into action.
Blowing the cabinets had to be done right. Blow the fronts off without setting everything inside on fire. I was trusting Frankie to get it right. Hannibal said he was good and if Hannibal said... well I'd give him the benefit of the doubt at least.
After I gave the troops the pep talk we went to it. One small glitch in that Frankie left his damn cap on the damn desk and the damn guard, who had more attention to detail then Frankie, saw it and started to come in. Ten nine three two one.
Okay, one thing I'll say for this guy, Santana. He can blow shit up.
Frankie found the file. Kinda fast now I think back, but at the time I was buzzing too much to notice. A second night without sleep, and my blood caffeine level was starting to drop below nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine parts per million so I may have been a bit below par on the detail noticing front.
The file had the address of a restaurant so the Fighting Nighthawks headed over there in a cab. The driver gave us strange looks for some reason. Same at the restaurant. We met this Vietnamese guy, who said he didn't know Quyet, but he'd ask his co-workers. His co-workers included some really mean waiters and a big guy with a meat cleaver.
The Fighting Nighthawks were forced to beat a tactical retreat just in time to see Quyet making a break for it in a car.
But we knew his address. Nighthawks, ho!
I should have been thinking about the guys, about what was happening to them right then, but to be honest I was actually enjoying myself. I found out later that right around this time when I was bringing in Quyet they were trying to plead guilty, because they thought the prosecution was going after me. I just can't... well what the hell can I say about that, about friends who would literally put their heads on the block for me?
But I didn't know all that at the time. I was a little busy stealing a garbage truck - I like garbage trucks. We trapped Quyet into his apartment forcing him into trying to escape via a fire escape, which of course we'd rigged. The mouse ran up, the clock struck one, the mouse fell down into the dumpster on the garbage truck.
Nicely executed. Frankie handled the capture okay. I'm starting to think he's not so bad. Talks too much, but he's up for it. Likes the game. He thinks I'm crazy, but well I did sing him the Fighting Nighthawk Commando's theme song over the radio, so, well I can see where he gets that from.
Quyet preferred talking to being ground up in the compactor. Yes Morrison was a traitor, he sent the team to the bank as a trap, but the unit to intercept them never got there and the team got out with the money.
Okay, our boy could sing that song for the judge and since the Army showed up right then I judged it was time to retire from the battleground. The Army came after us of course, but I wasn't having any of that. We left them upside down spinning their wheels and drove off into, well okay the afternoon sun, but it should have been a sunset.
By the time we made it back to the court room I'd started to sober up a bit. Even so I enjoyed busting in yelling "stop these proceedings" like the eleventh hour witness on Perry Mason.
Perry Mason. He's the lawyer the guys needed. He'd have got them off, got them promoted and got Decker busted down to Private just for for good measure.
"Stop the proceedings. Your Honour, we have located a very important witness and I believe that he can finally shed some light on this case." My voice was cracking, I was right on the edge of cracking myself. The tension and the exhaustion were catching up on me and clubbing me over the head.
"Is that you, Captain Murdock?"
"Yes, it is, Your Honour. And if you’ll bear with me, I believe we can finally establish some testimony here that will once and for all and beyond a shadow of a doubt prove that the A-Team is innocent of all charges."
"You may continue."
That's all I wanted to hear.
They swore Quyet in and Frankie and me went over to the guys, smiles and shakes. Face gave me kind of a worried look. I guess the axle grease and the ninja outfit threw him a bit.
It was all going to be over any second, Quyet's testimony would finish it.
"Would you give us your version of the famous mission on the National Bank of Hanoi, sir?" Conway asked Quyet.
And that's when it all started to go wrong.
"I was shocked when it happened."
I jumped like I'd been shot when I heard that one. "Wait a minute! That’s not what you told me!"
"We should have anticipated that the A-Team was capable of such a mission. I wish Colonel Morrison and I could have recruited them."
"What do you mean by this?"
"I had many times said to Morrison that we should make them a offer. But he always said no. He said they were loyal American patriots."
"Loyal American patriots? Colonel Morrison, the man these men were supposed to have killed? He in fact held them in high regard?"
I wanted to yell, scream and make Conway and Quyet stop talking because I could see everything getting sucked down into the seventh level of hell.
It's meant to be the lawyers that twist what the witness says, make them say something to hurt their testimony. But this guy was too smart for that. Almost like he'd been coached, prepared for this moment.
"No. He feared them. Colonel Morrison told me that if Colonel Smith and the A-Team discovered that he was an agent, they would not hesitate to kill him."
And that was it. There was more after that, the lawyers summed up. But I knew Quyet had turned it.
The panel went out to deliberate and came back really quick, which I was sure had to be bad.
"Colonel Smith, Lieutenant Peck, Sergeant Baracus, it is my duty as president of this court to inform you that in closed session on secret ballot, all the members present concurred in finding you guilty as charged and sentencing you to be put to death."
Hannibal barely reacted. No shock. No surprise. Face looked like he was going to throw up. Maybe he'd really believed there'd been a chance. BA just gave this little nod at the panel, his face a deeper scowl than usual. His little nod said, 'yeah, shoulda known.'
"The accused are remanded to Military Custody, and sentence will be carried out as soon as possible. This court is adjourned."
They wouldn't let me say anything to the guys before they were taken out.
My fault. I brought in Quyet and his testimony finished them. God, he probably wasn't even lying. I know the team didn't kill Morrison, but if they'd found out he was a traitor maybe they would have. I know I...
"Okay, come on, leave the man alone."
Frankie's words cut into my thoughts. I was walking, didn't even know it, stumbling. And the reporters were squabbling, wanting lumps of me. Frankie just pulled me along and fended the vultures off until we were out in the fresh air.
"My fault." I said, weakly.
"Murdock," Frankie said. "I've worked on court room drama movies that were less tightly scripted than that farce."
I looked at him. He was unusually serious for a moment. Was he right? Was the outcome decided from the start? If it was who wrote the script? Let me think about that for 0.01 of a second.
"Let's get a cab. Where'd you wanna go, Murdock?"
"Home." I said. "Hospital."
"The VA? Right, come on man, you're going to be okay."
Was I? That was for Dr Richter to decide maybe. I knew I had to get my head back together before I got back there. The state I was in right now it would be straight jacket city when I showed up. Better get cleaned up too, Richter wouldn't quite get it about the Fighting Nighthawk Commando. He'd think it was nuts.
I had to get back to the VA and get my head sorted out, get my strength back.
Because I had to start planning whatever it took to help the guys.
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