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THE MULE KICKS BACK

THE MULE KICKS BACK

By Clairon

 

Rating: PG

Type: Adventure

Summary: When will Face take Colonel Smith's warnings about honey traps seriously?

Warnings/Content: Contains some violence – well it is the A Team, after all and maybe a couple of 'suspect' words.

Author's Notes: A tribute to the best TV show ever produced (in my humble opinion, obviously!)  I have tried to capture the feel and atmosphere of an A Team episode, so there is only superficial violence, very little sex and definitely no SLASH – the boys are all red bloodied heterosexuals here!! I have included many of my favourite bits from the show and tried to weave them together into a new story.  The result is, of course, rather Face-centric (but what else would you expect from a self confessed 'Dirk girl'?) but I have tried to involve the other guys as much as possible.  The story is set somewhere around Series 3 and 4, so the Boys are at their prime and have yet to be sucked into the world of Stockwell!

Apologies:  I fear I have taken the name of Navy SEALs in vain but hey, they are not Green Berets are they, therefore they are fair game.  I have also unashamedly reprinted lyrics and characters and asked no one's permission for which I fully expect to be thrown in jail at any minute.

Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team characters (or any others you may recognize that I have pinched!) and am making no profit from this story, which is a work of fan fiction only.

So enough of the preamble; I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing this……………………

 

 

THE MULE KICKS BACK

 

 

Part One:

A Bang on the Head

 

It really would be better if he listened to the Colonel, Templeton Peck thought distractedly.  After all Hannibal had been telling him for years he should learn to control his natural appetites, but how could he?  If she was pretty and available and giving him the 'come-on' with a sexy smile, Face felt he had a duty to oblige – making people, especially beautiful woman, happy was what he'd been put on this earth for, surely?

 

Peck sighed.  He really should learn to say no, or at least adhere to some sort of risk assessment process before he allowed himself to succumb to the charms of each and every lady who looked at him in that particular way.  He knew that he would be the first to complain if any other member of the Team put them in as much danger on such a regular basis as his philandering ways did.  But it had become a standing joke with the rest of the Team and even him.  Once he saw the look, and it was in the way a girl rolled her eyes at him hungrily, he was going to fall for it – Murdock and BA would snicker indulgently and the Colonel, well the Colonel may well shake his head but in the end he would come through and rescue his errant Lieutenant from whatever situation his red-bloodied libido had gotten him into!

 

Peck remembered all the times down the years – from the brothels of Saigon through just about every State in the goddamn Union, to this place now – the girl had flicked her yes, the Faceman had answered and the rest of the Team had leapt in, at great risk to themselves, to save him.

 

Face snorted, wondering if it was going to be the same now and acknowledging that it really was time that he stopped such immature behaviour.  Was this latest liaison just one risk too far?  He opened his eyes then to see her and instantly forgot his misgivings of a second before.  Man; she was so beautiful with long black flowing hair cascading over her dusky shoulders, a wasp-like waist and long, long legs; plus her eyes!  Those eyes were dark and limitless and when he looked into them Face could feel his control slipping – oh shit!  How was a guy supposed to cope, to walk away from the promise of ecstasy embodied in this lady's beautiful form?  Even as he dived on in there, he could hear the Colonel's warning voice but he had ignored it so many times already – why should this time be any different?

 

Next time, he promised, next time I will listen, Hannibal!

 

But not this time; this time he was going for it, whispering sweet nothings as he gently ran his hand down her smooth hair in a stroking motion.  "Rosa," he whispered as her name ran around his brain – never had a Rosa before!

 

He would have preferred champagne, satin sheets, the soft tinkle of romantic music, but he would take it in the rather less luxurious surroundings of the small Argentinean village where he found himself at the end of their most recent mission.  They had been here for three days, had tracked down the kidnapped son of a rich Spanish industrialist, Senor Jose Gonzales, liberated the kid from the scum balls who were holding him and seen the family reunited earlier that evening – piece of cake! 

 

So now, after the danger and stress of the last few days, Face thought he was entitled to play.  The rest of the Team were around somewhere but Face had got kind of absorbed in Rosa and the drink 'fernet' which she had plied him with. She had offered to teach him to tango and Face had to admit he had rarely experienced anything that was quite so sexually stimulating; to have Rosa's pretty body pressed so close and moving beneath him as she directed his own somewhat loose and uncontrolled limbs around the floor – was he really that bad a dancer or was it to do with the copious amounts of alcohol he had drunk?  Either way, deep inside of him a delicious desire was awakening and he was willingly slipping under her spell, prepared to face any danger for this chance of paradise.

 

Apparently unnoticed by the others in the smokey, smelly bar, she danced him out of the cramped cantina and around to the flimsy shack, chased out the chickens and lit a sweet smelling candle before manoevering him towards the blanket on the floor.  It smelt of wood, and warmth and wonder.  He felt his overwrought senses realing as she began to unbutton his shirt and then preceeded to run those small delicate hands across his chest, still humming sexily deep in her throat the music they had danced to.  Face groaned as his ardour ignited into hot flaming passion.  There was no going back now, he realised with only a slight sense of doubt, he was hers totally.

 

This was why he never listened to Hannibal!  This was why he ran the risk and would continue to do so as long as he could.  Rosa was smiling at him as he kissed her, red rouged lips opening to give him entry, tongues twisting and entwining as they continued the dance.  There was, quite frankly, nothing that could compare with the feel, the taste, and the sight of a pretty girl trembling in his arms, waiting for him to take them to places she had never seen before.  He was so ready for this, so up for it!

 

No matter what the Colonel ordered, he could not give this up… never… not for all the…..

 

……. And then it all went black, inexplicably so.  The passion that roared through him, and demanded such instant satiation that it tightened all of his sinews with the promise of extreme and ultimate completion, was suddenly extinguished, switched off like a light.

 

Face let out a slow, weak moan as he slumped backwards on to the faded, old blanket, completely senseless and frighteningly vulnerable.

 

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

 

 

"Wakey, wakey, little Facey!"

 

The familiar voice stabbed brightly into the hazy, dim heart of Peck's enforced slumber, forcing him to wake and let go of the blackness of oblivion that he had been clinging to.

 

"Doctor says you should wake up now."  The voice again, soft but probing.  "Come on you lazy little…."

 

"Arrrggggggh!" Peck snorted.  It may not have been English but it sure made him feel better.  His head was throbbing, he felt sick and the room he was in was so bright, too bright; its immaculate whiteness seemed to burn into the back of his retinas even through his closed lids.  He was thirsty and tired and every part of his body hurt.  "What… what happened?" he asked in a voice that could gravel a sidewalk.  Forcing his eyes open he stared up at the pilot uncertainly.

 

"What happened?"  Murdock parroted.

 

Face's shaking hand went up to his head which he believed was in danger of being blown from his shoulders by the ferocity of the pilot's raucous voice.  "Too loud," he muttered as he swallowed back the bile that was making a rush up his throat.

 

"Murdock!" Hannibal's voice came from beyond the limits of Face's restricted, watery vision.  "Give him some room – he has had a bang on the head!"

 

"Bang on the….." Face began.  "I thought I…."

 

"What did you think, Facey?"  Murdock's face bobbed in front of him animatedly like a buoy in a squall.

 

Peck rubbed at his eyes in the hope that the act would wipe away the moist mistiness currently encamped around his vision.  He sat forward a little but was unable to stop the harsh intake of breath that whooshed into his lungs at the pain of the movement.

 

"Easy, Face," the pilot's voice was suddenly soothingly sweet and his hands were on Face's shoulders, helping him forwards while puffing up his pillows so he could sit more comfortably.

 

Face gulped, still unsure whether his stomach's eject button was going to come into action.  Murdock moved close again, clasping hold of the other man's hand and stroking it lovingly.

 

"Murdock!" Face spat moodily as he snatched his hand away.  Then he noticed the bandage around Murdock's palm.  "What did you do?"

 

Murdock pouted.  "My, my, my, my, you have woken up in a bad mood, Face!  It's not my fault you hit your head!"  He glanced down at his hand, chuckled self consciously.  "I don't really know," he confessed.  "Guess you weren't the only one out of it, last night!  At least I didn't bang my head."

 

"Bang my head?" Peck repeated, his features contorting in confusion as he tried to remember what had been happening before… before…… Rosa!  The confusion was burnt off by a supercilious smile as he remembered those legs, those eyes and those…..

 

"Lieutenant!"  Smith's voice snapped him back.  "What exactly is the last thing you remember?"

 

Peck gulped.  He didn't want to go there, not in the present company but he also knew that Hannibal wasn't about to let him off the hook.  Still, he had to try!  "Where am I?" he asked weakly, affecting a swoon back into the pillows.

 

"Village hospital."  Murdock replied.  "Somebody found you in an alleyway last night, lying in a pool of blood."  He shook his head gravely.  "Sloppy, Faceman, very sloppy."

 

The Colonel let out a long sigh.  "Who was she, Lieutenant?"

 

"Who was who?"  Face decided to continue with the dumb act.

 

Hannibal moved into his line of vision, looming behind Murdock, his face set in an uncompromising scowl.  "The girl who brought that lecherous smile to your lips just now."

 

"There was a girl?"  Face tried to look as wide eyed and innocent as he could but it hurt; the light was still too bright.  He admitted defeat as the Colonel's frown only got graver so he cast his glance towards Murdock, looking for support there.

 

The pilot shook his head.  "No girl."

 

"So where'd you get the girl from, Colonel?" Peck asked.

 

"I didn't get a girl from anywhere, Face!  But you did, didn't you?  There's always a girl with you, so spill, Lieutenant, right now!"

 

"OK," Peck let out an overly dramatic sigh of defeat.  "I admit there was a girl."

 

"Tut, tut, Faceman never changes!" Murdock chuckled.

 

Peck threw him a condescending glance as he continued, "Last thing I remember, I was…. well, we were…"

 

"Templeton Peck don't be so bashful!" Murdock laughed.  "I normally can't stop you from reliving each of your conquests in graphic detail."

 

"Murdock, gentlemen never talk about such things!" Peck argued but Murdock only smiled annoyingly, so he continued, "Any way she was just teaching me to tango."

 

"Tango!" Murdock guffawed.

 

"Who was she, Face?"  Smith pressed impatiently.

 

"Rosa," Face replied somewhat sheepishly.

 

"Rosa?" Murdock repeated.  "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

 

"Rosa, who?" the Colonel ignored Murdock's Shakespearean rambling as the pilot fiddled nervously with his hand bandage.

 

Face shrugged.  "I don't know."

 

Smith rolled his eyebrows and held the younger man's nervous gaze pressing him resolutely.

 

Face fidgeted uncomfortably.  "She was the maid in the house where we rescued the kid."

 

"Face!" Smith snorted.  "How many times!"

 

"She wasn't a set up!"

 

"How do you know?"

 

"Because…. Because well, I'm still here aren't I?"

 

At that point a rather rotund nurse entered the room.  She immediately began talking in staccato Spanish.

 

Face felt suddenly very tired and lay back on to the pillows, glad of the respite from the Colonel's interrogation.  How many times had he woken up in a hospital bed pretending that everything was just swell?  Too many times!  He really needed to get his life into some sort of order – out of control was no where near close to an accurate description of the chaos!

 

He sighed and the nurse beamed at him in a motherly fashion before leaning forward and tweaking his cheek.  As she reached across him to puff up his pillows even more, Face sent a pitiful glance towards the Colonel.  Hannibal smiled knowingly and moved to put his arm around the nurse.

 

"Please, the doctor," he said as he manoeuvred her towards the door.  "Find the doctor please."  He gently thrust her into the corridor.

 

He turned back to the bed, his compassion gone.  "How many times have I warned you, kid?  How many times have you done it just the same?"

 

"But….."

 

"No, enough already!" Smith had lost his good humour completely.  "We've wasted enough time – we need to get home."

 

Peck pouted.  "I may not be fit enough to travel," he whined.  "My head hurts!"

 

Murdock shook his own head and flashed a 'don't-push-it' look at the blond but Face was too lost in his own performance to notice.  He closed his eyes and groaned weakly.

 

"It's not the only thing that will hurt unless you quit it now, Lieutenant," Smith snapped.  "I suggest you shut up and try to remember how a night with the tango teacher of your dreams ended up with you in a pool of blood in an alleyway."

 

Face pouted and opened his mouth to respond but caught the tensing of the Colonel's posture and that, added to his belated perception of Murdock's warning look, made him decide that it was probably not the time to argue at this point.

 

Instead he gingerly lifted his hand to his head and felt around where the thumping pain seemed to be coming from.  He touched the soft bandage and then threw a panicked glance towards Murdock who was still sitting on the bed regarding him with sympathetic eyes.

 

"My hair?" Face asked tremulously.

 

The pilot shrugged.  "I think they had to shave it to get to the wound and then to…."

 

"They shaved my hair!"  Peck lurched forwards.

 

"Easy, Face," Murdock leaned forward to gently ease his friend back to the pillow.

 

"Mirror," Face asked in desperation.  "I need to see!"

 

"No mirrors, Face," the Colonel's voice was authoritative and brooked no argument.  "Anyway your wound is all covered with a bandage, you can't see anything!"

 

"My hair!" Face muttered in despair.

 

"Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

 

Peck looked up to see a tall, blond man with the coldest, most lifeless eyes he had ever seen, in a white coat advancing through the door.  "I am glad to see you are awake, Mr Peck.  I am Dr Karl Brandt; I've been looking after you."  His voice was as clinically cold as his eyes, but he held out his hand.

 

Peck accepted it.  "Thank you, doctor," he said.  "Can I go now, please?"

 

Five hours later Face found himself sitting dejectedly on a scheduled flight to California from Buenos Aires that he had managed, bandaged head or not, to scam four places on by flirting admirably with the Check-In girls.  He hadn't heard Hannibal finding fault with that little scheme!

 

Beside him BA Baracus snored contentedly.  Face however, was anything but happy; his features were set in a grimace as he worried at his seatbelt with one hand and his bandage with the other.

 

"Face, you OK?" Murdock asked from the other side of BA.

 

Peck snorted.  "Oh, I'm just great, Murdock," he replied.  "Head ache, hair shaved, memory of last night completely gone.  I've never been better."

 

"Good," Murdock retorted sweetly.  "Cos I'd hate to think you were blowing this little bitty accident out of all proportion!  Just take it as a sign – you weren't born to tango!"

 

"I'm glad you think it's not important," Peck responded tartily and looked away moodily. 

 

As soon as they had reached the airport he had dashed to the washroom and a mirror to make a thorough investigation of the state of his hair.  The face that greeted him was familiar but pale; he didn't particularly like the black circles below his eyes and, rather worryingly, thought he could see a new wrinkle at the side of his nose.  He let out a brave sigh laced with anguish and then carefully turned his head to see the place where he had been injured.  Not much to see really – a big white marshmallow of bandage stuck to the side of his head; not exactly alluring but he could live with it.  He leaned closer to see if he could detect a perimeter of baldness beneath the plaster because the rest of his head was thankfully fully thatched!  Much to his relief there didn't seem to be any hint of bareness.  Damn Murdock!

 

Even so after the last few hours, his sense of humour was somewhat lacking and he was still feeling fragile enough to let his temper get the better of him.  He figured Murdock was fair game after he was the one who had told him about his supposed baldness, earlier.  "Of course," he turned back to regard the pilot icily.  "You've been losing your hair for a while now, so a little razor cut here wouldn't matter a damn to you.  I, on the other hand, am different!  My hair is …. priceless!"

 

"Losing my hair!" Murdock cried indignantly.  "I should have…"

 

"Enough!" Hannibal hissed from the other side of the plane.  He stood up and moved closer now the seat belt signs had flicked off.  "Just cos you've got a headache, Face, why the hell are you so intent on giving the rest of us one?  You deserve everything you've got, so quit it!"

 

BA snored softly in agreement.

 

Peck sat back in his seat and took a deep breath, the Colonel's words ringing in his ears.   He was being a fool, even he could see that.  "I'm sorry, guys," he said suddenly, changing his mood from arrogant to contrite in a moment.  "I shouldn't have done it."

 

Hannibal nodded.  "You put us all at risk, when you gonna learn?"

 

"He's just a guy who can't say no!" Murdock sang in a high pitched voice, ignoring the disapproving looks of the other passengers.

 

Peck snorted.  "Makes a change from Evita," he muttered.  Since they'd landed in Latin American, Murdock had been singing 'Don't Cry for Me, Argentina,' almost constantly and, although BA had threatened him frequently, the pilot had ignored him and simply sung even louder.

 

Smith smiled and sucked on his unlit cigar.  "I could say I told you so, Face, but I've said it before and it doesn't do any good.  You see a pretty lady and all the blood rushes away from your head!"

 

"I know and I'm sorry, Hannibal.  It won't happen again."

 

Hannibal chuckled.  "And you say it with such conviction, kid, like you really believe it, don't you?"

 

"I mean it this time, honestly," Face's eyes were wide.

 

Smith smiled.  "We'll see, kid, we'll see.  Luckily enough this time there was no lasting harm done.  Apart from your head we got out of there in tact.  Now get some rest, you've had a tough couple of days and as this plane is going to Frisco, I need you fit enough to find us transport back to LA."

 

"A con man's work is never done," Peck muttered cynically. "Even if it does mean chatting up the girl, eh, Colonel?"

 

"Admit it, Face, you love the challenge!" Smith's eyes twinkled with mischief.

 

Face snorted.  "Like I get a choice!"

 

"We couldn't do it without you, kid!"

 

 

 

Part Two:

A Hole in the Plan

 

"Hurry up, Face!"

 

Peck let out a long sigh.  "Sheer artistry takes time, Colonel," he muttered through clenched teeth, his eyes never once moving away from the safety deposit box on the rickety table in front of him.  Into its lock he twisted and wiggled his pick violently and with more than a hint of desperation.

 

"Haven't got time!" Murdock interjected as he rushed into the small room, gun in hand.  "Bad guys coming down the corridor, Colonel.  We gotta move now."

 

"Face!" Hannibal pressed urgently.

 

"Just a little more …." Face hissed.

 

The sudden staccato rhythm of gun fire spat into the quiet expectation of the room and preceded BA Baracus' entrance by only a few seconds.  "Suckers coming in the back," he growled.

 

"And the front," Murdock added.

 

"Which means we got no way out, Hannibal!" BA finished.

 

Smith rolled his eyes.  "Exciting isn't it?" he beamed.

 

"No!" BA snorted.  "We trapped."

 

"Done it!" Face exclaimed as the box clicked open.

 

"Too slow, Face," Murdock shook his head critically.  "You're losing your touch."

 

Peck threw him a withering glare but then turned his attention back to the box.

 

"What's in there, Face?" the pilot asked.

 

Peck looked up again.  This time his perfect features were crumpled in confusion.  "Nothing," he said.  "Not a damn thing!"

 

"But…." Murdock began.

 

"What do you mean, nothing?"  BA growled over him, glancing back up the corridor.  "What we doing here, man?"

 

"Damned if I know," Face muttered.

 

His eyes still flashing brightly in the dim light, Hannibal chuckled, "I think we're about to find out."

 

It had been a long day already, since they started to enact Smith's latest plan.  It was just over a week since their return from Argentina and they had started this case almost immediately.

 

An elderly couple, the Watsons, had sought out Mr Lee complaining that a wealthy store owner was pressurising them to sell their home to him so he could build a new retail complex in the area.  The Team had checked the couple out in the usual ways and everything appeared to be above board.  They had found out the name of the businessman was JB Rees.

 

Today's escapade had been the result of Mr Watson informing them that he thought the plans for the new shopping centre were being held in a safety deposit box and Rees was going to pick them up this morning but Watson did not know where.  Hannibal had been a little suspicious about the information but he had no reason to doubt the client and the plans would be useful to have.

 

They had intercepted Rees' hired limo and Face had taken on the role of driver, persuading Mr Rees that his regular driver had been taken ill.  In preparation and after much whining Face had swallowed a tracker so that the rest of the Team could follow at a safe distance.  Much to Peck's growing impatience Rees had made him drive around aimlessly for most of the day and it was well passed five o'clock by the time Rees gave him the instructions he had been waiting for.  On arrival at the storage facility on the outskirts of town, Face had overpowered Rees and left him tied up in the limo.  The rest of the Team had arrived and Face had talked their way in, gotten the box number from the guy at reception but not the key, so had had to break in to the box and use up precious time.  It was only once they were inside with Murdock stationed at the front and BA out back that they had begun to realise all was not as it seemed.

 

"Throw out your weapons, now!"  Came an authoritative voice from outside in the corridor.

 

The Team exchanged glances.  Supremely confident, the Colonel smiled around his cigar.  "Guess we won't find out until we do as the guy says, boys."

 

"It was a stupid plan," BA growled.  "Why are we all in here anyway?"

 

"I'm hurt, BA," Smith retorted as he carefully dropped his M16 out into the corridor so it slewed out of reach.  "It's a brilliant plan!"

 

"Brilliant!" Peck scoffed.  "It's got holes in it as big as the Grand Canyon!"  Still in his black chauffeur suit, with the hat pushed back on his head, he didn't have a gun to throw out so he simply fiddled with his tie nervously.

 

"There are holes in the information that we have, Lieutenant," Smith countered.  "And the only way to fill them is to flush out the vermin that's making them!"

 

Face just rolled his eyes in exasperation and looked over to Murdock who was standing pensively by the door.  "Here they come," the pilot warned.

 

Into the already cramped little room came six large, muscled men.  Each wore a black suit, touted an automatic machine gun and a scowl to match their close cropped hair while hiding their eyes behind the cowardly anonymity of dark sun glasses.

 

Hannibal snorted dismissively.  "Whatever happened to villains with individuality?" he espoused philosophically.

 

The suits with sun glasses filed around the room, guns pointing forebodingly at each member of the Team.

 

"Gentleman," a sleazy nasal voice came from the doorway.  It belonged to a shorter, weasel-like man with a narrow pallid face emphasised by his own pair of large framed sun glasses that he sported.  He wore a similar suit to the others but on his gangly and awkward frame it looked badly cut and creased out of shape.  Apparently unaware of the less than inspiring figure he cut, the newcomer continued, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

 

Smith sniffed insolently.  "I know."

 

"I am Cuthbert Grondyke and you must be the A Team." 

 

The Colonel's eyes narrowed suspiciously.  "What do you want?"

 

Grondyke chuckled and the sound was one of the least endearing that Smith had ever heard.  "What no small talk, Colonel?" he teased. "Cut straight to the point, eh?"

 

Smith curled up his upper lip in disgust.  "I make it a habit only to rap with people when I can see their eyes," he said.  "What's wrong – do you think I'll see the fear there?"

 

Grondyke seemed to hesitate, and then a slimy smile crossed his lips.  "Very well; I don't have time to make friends, anyway.  Stand together by the wall," he indicated to a point by the far wall and the sun glasses moved to push the Team there.

 

"Careful," Face whined, as a particularly big goon took hold of his arm.  "I bruise easy!"

 

"Mr Rees!" Grondyke called.

 

Into the room came the businessman.  Face groaned as he realised he had not succeeded in putting him out of the game earlier.  To add to his woe Murdock intoned solemnly.  "Sloppy, Faceman, very sloppy."

 

Rees was carrying a strange machine that seemed to be some sort of measuring device, like a Geiger counter.  On its top was a series of green lights and a large dial, while attached to its side by a wire was a form of scanner device.  It was emitting a dull humming sound.

 

"Do it!" Grondyke ordered.

 

Rees nodded and turned the dial so the lights began to flash and there was an audible increase in the volume of the noise.  He stepped forward and pointed the scanner towards Colonel Smith.  Hannibal stared at him, his features set in an indifferent glare.  There was no change to the lights or the noise.

 

Rees licked his lips nervously and moved to stand in front of BA.  The big guy growled menacingly.  Two pairs of sun glasses and matching suits hovered close to restrain him if necessary.  BA clenched his fists but Rees lifted the scanner regardless – the machine continued with the same pattern.

 

Next Rees pointed the scanner at Murdock.  The pilot immediately let out a long, high pitched squeal and began to shiver violently.  The machine, however, continued on the same behaviour mode as previously.

 

"Quit it, fool!" BA snarled.

 

Murdock stopped instantly.  "You know how I get nervous when somebody points something at me, BA!"

 

Rees shook his head and moved on to Peck, the last in line.  As soon as the machine scanner turned towards him the lights changed to red and began to flash; the sound ratcheted up a good number of octaves that could easily be described as ear piercing.

 

"Jackpot!" Murdock whistled through his teeth.

 

"Why is it always me?"  Face asked forlornly.

 

"Your magnetic personality?"  Hannibal suggested with a wink.

 

"Cuff him!" Grondyke ordered.

 

"Ow!"  Peck whined as the two goons nearest to him took a hold and pulled his arms out roughly.  "Hey, watch my suit!  My tailor wouldn't like it if…."  He was stopped in full moan mode by an unexpected and exceedingly vicious fist to his jaw which sent him down to his knees, head lowered and spitting out blood.

 

At that moment the rest of the Team surged forwards.  BA took on the nearest two goons to him, his gold rattling as he moved.  Murdock and Hannibal waded in too but not soon enough to get to Peck, who was being lifted to his groggy feet by the goons.

 

"Take him!"  Grondyke ordered.

 

He followed them out with Rees at his heels.  "Kill them!" he ordered over his shoulder to the rest of the goons.

 

Face was still stunned by the power of the blow – he normally got a lot further into his rant before the patience of his target ran out.  The result, this time, was he had been taken by surprise and been unable to mitigate for the blow as he normally would have, thus his jaw was throbbing horrendously.  He was dragged up the corridor, his hazy eyesight was further hindered as they stepped out into the fading but still brighter than inside evening sunlight.  The open trunk of a big Cadillac beckoned.

 

"No!" Face managed to gasp, trying to turn in the constricting arms.  "I get car sick!"

 

His whine fell on deaf ears as he was forced into the trunk and everything went black as the lid was thrown down with a ominous thump.

 

Back at the fight the rest of the Team though outnumbered, were struggling manfully and at last appeared to be gaining the upper hand.  BA landed a bejewelled right hook to the face of the last goon and he fell limply to the floor.

 

"Where's Face?"  Murdock asked.

 

"They got him," Hannibal responded.  "You both OK?"

 

Murdock nodded as BA flexed his fingers, banging his fist into his other hand menacingly.  "Be better when we get Faceman back," he growled.

 

"It's getting late – be going dark, let's get back to the van," Hannibal commanded as he bent down to pick up his gun.

 

Once there, Hannibal took a long draw on his cigar.  "So what we got?" he asked.

 

"Tracker coming through loud and strong, Colonel," Murdock reported, the receiver gripped tightly in his hand.  "Like a buzzy little bee leading us straight to his buzzy little hive!"

 

"OK, keep on it, BA," Hannibal said.

 

"Why'd they take Face, Hannibal?"  Murdock asked.  "They knew he had a bug, surely?"

 

Hannibal nodded.  "Makes you think they want us to follow doesn't it?"

 

"A trap?" put in BA.

 

"Decker?" the pilot said.

 

"But why?" Hannibal mused.  "They had us all together, why take only Face and want us to follow?  Unless…. Unless…"

 

"Unless what, Colonel?"

 

"They didn't want us, only Face and they don't know about the bug."

 

"But that scanner, it showed it up," Murdock replied.

 

"Did it, Captain?  It showed up something but how do you know that's what they were looking for?"

 

"But if not the bug, what, man?"  BA asked.

 

Hannibal let out a deep sigh.  "I wish I knew, BA.  I wish I knew."

 

 

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

 

 

Face lay in the trunk of the car.  Thankfully they seemed to have progressed over the bumpy road of the industrial site which had caused Face's spine to bang against the spare wheel painfully.  He took in a deep breath, wrinkling his nose at the smell of engine oil and sweaty shoes.  He shifted position and managed to move off the pair of smelly sneakers that he had been lying on.

 

"Jesus!" he muttered.  "Some people just have no conception of style!" He pushed the shoes as far away from him as his handcuffed hands would allow.

 

He closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe in deeply.  It had been a difficult week, what with the Argentina trip and getting into this case so soon.  At least his head wound was almost mended with little damage to his hair style.  For a moment he enjoyed the relaxation but he knew it wouldn't last.  Hannibal would not be far behind.  The Colonel would be working on a plan to get to him but it didn't do to simply lay there and wait for rescue particularly as he was getting hotter in the claustrophobic confines of the trunk.  It shouldn't be airtight surely – but he really should try something himself.

 

He rolled over thanking God that it was a big trunk!  He hitched his feet until they were close to the tail lights and he proceeded to kick the cluster out.  Fresher air came in and Face moved position again to get his head as close as possible to the hole.  He tried to see out, to get an idea of where they were going but they were moving at such speed that everything flashed by – they must be on the freeway at least.

 

He sighed, wandering what the hell was going on.  If he couldn't get out, he would have to think of something else.  It just didn't make sense; why had they taken him?  The same discussion that the rest of the Team were having in the van swirled around Face's head in a series of thoughts.  He came to a similar conclusion: it just did not make sense!

 

So, if he couldn't get away and he couldn't work out what they wanted, there was only one other thing for him to do and that was to be patient and wait.  He had been in a similar situation to this so many times that he wasn't particularly worried.  Experience had taught him that an opportunity would come up, all he had to do was wait, guard his strength and make sure that he took full advantage when the time came.

 

Still he was taken by surprise; the now gentle rocking of the car was quite soporific and he had missed out on some sleep recently, when the trunk was opened and the evening sunlight was strong enough to momentarily blind him.  Brawny but rough hands grabbed him and pulled him upwards while he was still blinking the glare from his retinas.

 

"Jesus!  Look what the little shit did to my tail lights!" A gruff voice spat.  "I'll….."

 

"No, not yet," An authoritative voice came – Grondyke.

 

Peck was forced to sit down and, as his sight came back to him, he thought he really ought to press his point home.  "Look guys, you got the wrong person!  I'm not who you think I am.  I mean all right I set off your bleeper but it must have been my pacemaker.  I got a terrible weak heart and all this excitement .. I could keel over at any minute.  I'm really quite fragile."

 

Grondyke bent close to him.  "Shut up!" he spat.  "It's not important anymore whether you're dead or alive."

 

Peck pouted.  "Not to you, maybe."

 

"Let's get on with this!" Grondyke ordered.  "Why do I always get the ones with the smart mouths?" he muttered as he turned away.

 

Face felt a push from behind and realised that he must be sitting in a wheel chair.  He tired to stand up but the barrel of a gun was pressed into the back of his neck.

 

"I don't know what you…." He began.

 

"One more word," Grondyke spat.  "Just one more and I will blow you away!"

 

Peck gulped, he looked at the man next to him, sizing him up.  Noting the tenseness in his body, the muscle flicking impatiently at his chin; Grondyke was close to the edge, barely holding on to his control.  Peck knew he could get a further reaction if he tried but what would that response be?  Too much and even the slightest push could be fatal, so Peck decided to button it, at least until he had a better feel for what was gong on.

 

"Quickly!" Grondyke pressed.  "I want this over with."

 

They approached a large building and entered through automatic doors, heading straight for the elevator.  Face noted the uniforms of the staff rushing past – they were in a hospital.  He smiled at the pretty, young nurse who inadvertently stepped into the elevator behind them as the door closed.  Instantly he felt the gun pushed deeper into his back.

 

Ignoring the gesture he rolled his eyes and gave the nurse his most startling smile to which the nurse responded with a wide grin.  She was blonde and young and sort of shy but she giggled and seemed thrilled by his attention.  Peck lifted his hands a little, noting the nurse's eyes widen as they fell on his handcuffs.  Face contemplated his next move, not wanting to put this pretty girl in danger but desperately hoping to find a way to alert her of his predicament.

 

Too quickly the doors opened and Face was pushed out into an empty corridor.  Grondyke threw a challenging stare at Peck as the doors clicked shut behind them, leaving the nurse to continue her journey alone.

 

"What?" Face said, the picture of innocence.  "A smile costs nothing!"

 

Grondyke shook his head.  "Keep it up, wise guy," he muttered.  "Just keep it up."

 

"Look, like I said before," Peck decided to try again.  "You got the wrong guy.  Hell, I haven't got any medical insurance so I'd never afford treatment in a place like this… if there was anything wrong with me, which there isn't!"

 

"What about your heart condition?" Grondyke questioned, his eyes sparking at his own quick wit.

 

"Oh, I live with it, you know!" Peck replied seamlessly changing his argument when his words of minutes before were thrown back at him.

 

They were moving down a brightly lit corridor, through a number of doors and then into a large room that smelt of cleanliness and antiseptic.

 

Peck gulped – his internal alarm bells had been increasing in volume and he really did not like what he was seeing.  As if to emphasise his disquiet, the gun was pushed into his back again.

 

"Get on the bed," Grondyke ordered.

 

"Look, I don't think….."

 

"Put him on the bed!" Grondyke's brittle patience snapped.

 

Peck fought as the goons grabbed him, but his hands were still restrained and he knew it was going to be ultimately useless.  Eventually he found himself sprawled on the operating table, his cuffs taken off but the two goons holding his hands brutally above his head.

 

Face strained to see what was going on.  It appeared that a number of other people had entered the room; they were dressed in theatre blues, their features hidden behind masks.  A surge of panic washed through Peck then and he began to struggle violently.

 

Grondyke was beside him.  "That's better," he mocked.  "Now you're beginning to get an idea of what's in store for you, smart ass!"

 

"What are you going to do?" Face demanded, unable to free himself from the goons' tight grip.

 

"You got something of ours," Grondyke said.  "We're going to take it back."

 

"I haven't got anything of yours!"

 

Grondyke smiled evilly and reaching out his skeletal fingers, took hold of Peck's chin and turned his head.  He stroked the area behind his ear where the almost healed wound was.  "But you have, asshole!" he said.  "How does it feel, a member of the famous A Team duped into being our mule?  How does it feel to be conned?"

 

"What?" Face gasped.  "I don't…."

 

A gowned figure loomed up before him and his right arm was pulled out straight.  Face watched mesmerised, his bowels freezing as the figure raised the hypodermic needle.  "No," he gasped and tried to struggle but he was held fast.

 

He watched completely helpless as the needle was forced into his arm and the drug was injected into him.

 

"Have a rest," Grondyke said.  "It'll all be over with very soon."

 

"No," Face repeated, trying to hold on to his wits as they slipped and slithered relentlessly into oblivion.  He gulped and blinked as he felt his arms released.  Now was his chance!  He wanted to run, to get out; his mind was screaming at him to move but he could not respond, could not even lift his head.

 

Fighting it desperately he grasped out blindly trying to force his deadening limbs into action.  Clutching hold of Grondyke's arm he was vaguely aware of a ripping.  Face glanced down as the blackness loitered threatening at the edge of his vision, saw something revealed by the ripping of that awful suit sleeve…. a tattoo on Grondyke's arm …. Peck recognised it but the foggy haze engulfed him, chasing away the imprint of the memory.  He collapsed back to the bed.

 

His very last sense was the noise of a razor.  "Not my hair," he tried to say but his mouth would not move and his brain ceased to function.  He could not stop his eyes from rolling upwards into his head, he was letting go as the nothingness claimed him as one of its own.

 

 

Part Three:

A Stitch in Time

 

Bang!

 

After following the tracker signal Hannibal, BA and Murdock smashed into the Operating Room with guns ready and adrenaline pumping to be met with an extremely bizarre sight.

 

Face lay flat on his back on the operating table, obviously completely out of it.  His head was on its side and a bleeding wound was very evident behind his ear in almost exactly the same place as his previous wound although it was slightly covered by a dollop of once white but now scarlet cotton wool.  The pad was being dabbed in the blood by a pale faced and anxious blonde nurse whose eyes were flashing their panic and who let out a terrified scream as the Team entered.

 

"Please!" she howled, tears forming in her eyes and rolling down over her beautifully chiselled cheek bones.  "Don't hurt me!"

 

Hannibal flicked his head to indicate to the other two Team members that they should secure the area.  Guns still very much at the ready they rushed to do so.  The Colonel, on the other hand, lowered his M16 and moved to the centre of the room.

 

The poor girl was petrified, shaking visibly as she tried to shrink away from him.  "Don't come any nearer and don't touch him – you've done enough already!" she said bravely.

 

"Calm down, lady," Hannibal soothed as he moved to the other side of the bed.  "How is he?"

 

The nurse stuttered, wondering whether she should hold her ground but aware that these guys had guns – and big ones at that.  "I dunno…." she ventured slowly.

 

Hannibal gently turned Face's head toward him, placed his fingers around the delicate hand that was still resolutely holding the pad over the wound and lifted both away gently.

 

"Lot of blood," he muttered as a spring of scarlet seemed to surge up into the hole that was the wound.  "What happened?"  He looked up; saw the name badge on the nurse's still frantically heaving, and  to Hannibal's appreciative eyes, rather attractive, breasts.  "Chrissie, is it?"

 

The nurse nodded.  "I thought you would tell me," she snapped back gravitating between absolutely terrified and bravely indignant, all the time just wishing that the fearful quiver in her voice was not quite so obvious.

 

"Nurse," Hannibal's voice was laced with patience.  "We only just got here."  He placed the absorbent pad back down onto Face's head.  "Murdock," he called over his shoulder.  "Watch Face.  I need to talk to the lady."

 

Murdock nodded, slung his gun on the strap over his shoulder and moved to take over the Colonel's position.  Hannibal took hold gently but firmly of the nurse's arm and manoeuvred her to a chair by the sink in the corner of the room.  It was a struggle for Chrissie to get her legs to work and, though she would never admit it, she was more than a little grateful for the strong supportive arms of the grey haired, bright eyed man beside her.

 

She shivered as she caught sight of the third man lurching towards them and the failing flicker of fear flared up in her chest once more causing her lungs to lurch in fright.

 

BA smiled.  "It's OK, little sister," he said.  His massive hand reached out to her with a plastic cup full of cool water.  "Here, take a drink and relax."  His eyes were incredibly kind and Chrissie forgot the rest of his frightening visage and smiled haltingly but sweetly, before taking a long, refreshing gulp.

 

Hannibal waited for the girl to recover her composure.  "So Chrissie.  That's my man there and we've come to rescue him not to do him more harm but we need to know what happened here.  So, can you tell us what you know?  Slowly, take your time."

 

Chrissie nodded, her hand unconsciously screwing at the hem of her dress nervously and squeezing it.  She took a deep breath before starting.  "I don't know.  I wasn't here.  I just thought it was strange, at this time of the evening for somebody to be getting out at Floor 13."

 

"Strange or unlucky?"  Murdock put in from behind them.  "Unlucky for Face, obviously."

 

"I mean, I knew there were no operating sessions scheduled," Chrissie continued her words quickening in pace as if now she had started she had to finish as soon as possible.  "They don't do elective surgery at this time and he didn't look ill enough to be an emergency case and then there were the handcuffs and he was so cute!"

 

Hannibal laid a gloved hand on to her knee and she hesitated.  "Where did you see him, Chrissie?"

 

"In the elevator.  He smiled at me and it was so sweet and I thought he was trying to tell me something but I was late and Nurse Morrow is on shift tonight and she's after me already for something that happened last week that wasn't my fault, well not really.  So I couldn't hang around.  I should have done something straight away but then she gave me bed pan cleaning and put me down for last break, I was kinda busy."  Hannibal nodded, concentrating hard to get the message as the words continued to tumble out.  "But I kept thinking about it, about him, and something just wasn't right.  Anyway when she finally let me take my break I came down here and saw this.  He was lying alone and there was so much blood…. I didn't know what to do …. I…"  Tears welled into her eyes again and she began to shake.

 

"You did really well, Chrissie," Hannibal said softly, reaching out towards her.  The young nurse hesitated and then accepted the embrace with a sad sniff.

 

"Christ!" she cursed, suddenly pulling away and sitting bolt upright.  "What time is it?  I only got thirty minutes break – Nurse Morrow is gonna kill me!"

 

"Calm down, sweet cheeks," Hannibal soothed.  "Did you see anyone here, when you arrived?"

 

Chrissie shook her head and tried to stand up.  "I gotta go!"

 

But the Colonel wasn't finished yet.  "Easy, easy.  If I promise to talk to your Nurse Morrow will you relax?"

 

"But what can you do?"

 

Hannibal rolled his eyes mischievously.  "I have a way with Senior Nurses.  There was one in Nam – Major Parrott – had her eating out of my hand, believe me!  You've done a very brave thing and maybe saved my man's life here.  I am not going to allow anyone to bawl you out because of it."

 

"Colonel!" Murdock's call sent them all scurrying back to the bed.  "I think he's coming round."

 

There was an accompanying moan from the figure on the bed.  Face tried to open his eyes and his first sight was a beautiful blonde staring down at him with wide blue eyes misted with concern.

 

"Oh," he groaned.  "An angel!"  He managed a pained smile which froze on his face as Murdock pushed into his view.  "Oh no!" he groaned.  "What are you doing here?"

 

"Saving you, Faceman!" Murdock pouted.

 

Face snorted with indignation.  "I like the other saviour best," he moaned as his eyes went back to the pretty face still hovering above him.

 

"How you doing, Lieutenant?"  Hannibal's voice came from behind the angel.

 

Peck tried to sit up.  "Ow, my head… not again!" he bleated pathetically, falling backwards.

 

"It's another hole," Murdock confirmed, peering into Peck's wound.  "And yes!  I can confirm," he switched to his TV commentator voice, "They tried it once before and failed but this time they have been successful!  Yes folks, it is official!  Templeton Peck's brain is missing!  Last time the hole wasn't big enough – it's amazing what that extra half inch can do!"

 

"Murdock!" Face whined, flailing his arms about in a wasted effort to push the pilot away.

 

"Don't fear, oh brainless, Faceman!"  Murdock stepped away just a little.  "It must be here somewhere."  He started to look around and bent to investigate beneath the bed.  "If I could just find it and maybe stuff it back in … then nobody need know."  He moved back and took hold of Face's hand. "It'll be our little secret!"

 

"Shut up, fool!" BA intoned.

 

Face pulled his hand dejectedly away.  "Hannibal, stop him, please!"

 

The Colonel managed to wipe the indulgent smirk from his lips by clearing his throat loudly when he saw Face's pleading eyes come up to his.  "Go look over there, Murdock," he instructed and then moved into the space the pilot had vacated.

 

Face threw him an exasperated look and then, proving he was really unaffected by the whole banter experience, turned his attention back to the nurse on his other side.  "Hi," he managed weakly.  "Have we met?"

 

"Hi," Chrissie responded with a genuinely thrilled smile.  "In the elevator earlier.  Are you OK?"

 

Face tried to shrug but it hurt so he just assumed a pained but brave expression.  "I think I may survive," he groaned.

 

"I think we'll have to stitch you up, Lieutenant," Hannibal said.  "Will you do the honours, nurse?"

 

Chrissie gulped and an attractive blush bloomed across her cheeks.  "Ah, I don't do stitching," she disclosed sheepishly.  "I'm not actually a nurse, well not yet.  Just an auxiliary.  I don't do much except clean bed pans but I hope to qualify, one day."

 

Hannibal sighed and glanced around the room. "Looks like I'll have to do it then."

 

"Awh, Hannibal," Face whined.  "You're never gentle!"

 

The Colonel guffawed.  "Where's your courage, Face?  BA watch the doors.  Murdock…. Murdock?"

 

The pilot was on his knees reaching beneath a sterile, stainless steel cabinet.  "I think I see it, Colonel.  If I could just….."

 

"Later, Captain!"  Hannibal replied.  "We need to stitch Face up now.  You know; a stitch in time!"

 

Murdock climbed back to his feet, his face horrified.  "But if we stitch him up where will we put his brain?"

 

"Murdock!" Face snorted in disbelief.

 

Hannibal chuckled and moved to put his hand around Murdock's shoulders, turning him away from the curious Peck who was straining to hear. The Colonel whispered, "Between you and me, Captain, Faceman's brain has actually been redundant for some time."

 

"No!" Murdock hissed doubtfully.

 

"It's true.  Think about it; all he does is smile and talk. And you know as well as I do that his mouth has a mind of its own.  So, we can close him up and believe me, nobody, not even you, will notice the difference.  Are you with me, Captain?"

 

Murdock threw a glance over his shoulder.  "Remarkable!" he muttered and then turned back to the Colonel.  "If you say so, Sir!"

 

Hannibal beamed and patted his back.  "Good man.  Get me the equipment then, please."

 

"What did you say to him?" Face demanded as the Colonel returned to his side.

 

"Nothing important, kid," Hannibal said dismissively but Murdock let out a horrific chuckle and rubbed his hands together like a character from a B horror movie.

 

"Hannibal!" Face repeated, shrinking away from the advancing pilot.

 

"It'll be like Frankenstein all over again!"  Murdock cackled in his best Boris Karloff voice.  "You will be invincible, my child!"

 

"Hannibal!"

 

The Colonel grinned.  "Murdock- focus!" he ordered and the pilot hesitated, nodded slowly and turned away to find a needle and thread.

 

Face gulped.  "Colonel, I ….."

 

"Relax, Face," Hannibal soothed.  "It's going to be fine!"

 

Murdock laughed horrifically and threw a hungry glance over his shoulder.  "Why's he looking at me like that?" Face whined.

 

The Colonel sighed.  "Come on, let's get this finished.  Chrissie, would you soothe the patient?"

 

The young nurse, who had watched the preceding interaction with a growing sense of disbelief nodded and took hold of Peck's hand.  Face looked up at her and smiled, his disquiet forgotten by the sparkle in the girl's eye.  She was definitely giving him the look!

 

"Will you think any less of me if I scream?" he asked.

 

Chrissie looked genuinely concerned.  "I think you've been very brave, so far," she ventured nervously.

 

Face nodded, assuming his pained but courageous expression again.  "Maybe there is one thing that can get me through this," he murmured.

 

"What?" she asked naively.

 

BA shook his head as he stood at the doorway.  He had heard all of the conman's lines too many times before and he marvelled at the simplicity of this girl.

 

Face was aware of it too, of course, but like the experienced flirt he was, he moved in for the pay off.  "I need something to hold on to …. Something to live for…."  Face continued weakly, his eyes downcast.  He gulped and lifted them to meet Chrissie's sympathetically innocent ones.  "Maybe you can help."

 

"Me?"

 

"You're a beautiful lady.  Maybe... the thought of you… no, you couldn't!"

 

"Couldn't what?"

 

"Well, the promise of a date, dinner, candlelight…. Maybe that would give me the hope I need, the strength to carry on."

 

"A date with me?"

 

Face nodded, solemnly hopeful.  Behind her Hannibal shook his head in silent admiration.

 

"It would help you through the pain?" Chrissie continued, seemingly completely taken in.

 

"Definitely!"

 

She smiled shyly and bent forwards to peck him on the cheek.  "It's the least I can do!"

 

Murdock strode up.  In his TV voice again he proclaimed, "Hello and welcome viewers!  Here we are at the Brainless Dating Agency.  Our courageous hero, Templeton Peck, although suffering from the slight setback of losing his brain, has indeed triumphed over adversity, sorted out his priorities and got himself a date.  Viewers out there in TV-land, I have to tell you it is true!  The Faceman needs no brain to do what he does – his mouth is capable of anything!"

 

"Murdock!" Face snorted.

 

"That's enough guys!"  Hannibal bit back his laughter and assumed leader mode.  He took hold of the needle Murdock proffered.  "Let's get this wound sorted."

 

"Hannibal, I…." Face began.

 

"Enough, already, kid," Hannibal cut him off and holding his Lieutenant's head firmly, he began the procedure.

 

Chrissie smiled encouragingly at Peck as he lay bravely on the bed.  He bit his lip at the pain and tears sprang into his eyes.

 

With a skill that comes only from much practise, Hannibal inserted four stitches into the wound to close it.  Then he waited.  Murdock threw him a curious glance and then smiled sharing in the conspiracy as he realised what the Colonel was doing.  Face still lay on the bed, tense as hell and whimpering feebly.

 

"All done, Lieutenant!" Hannibal said finally after a delay of a few minutes.

 

Face let out a long sigh of relief and Chrissie hooted with triumph and threw herself into his all-too-welcoming arms.

 

"Not soon enough!" BA said as he came back into the room from the corridor beyond. "Just saw out the window, Decker and his goons pull up."

 

"Decker!" Murdock gasped suddenly in sensible mode.

 

Hannibal chuckled.  "Well, who told him, I wonder," he mused.  "OK, let's move!  Murdock, BA get Face on a trolley and take him down the back elevator – you're going to the morgue, if anybody asks.  Chrissie, you're coming with me to see Nurse Morrow."

 

"We don't have time for that, Hannibal!" BA spat.

 

"Some people seem to have more time than others," Murdock put in.  "No brains but plenty of time!"

 

BA and the Colonel turned to see Face and Chrissie still deeply entwined in an apparently everlasting kiss.

 

"Put her down, Lieutenant.  Lieutenant!"  Hannibal called.

 

There was no reaction so the Colonel was forced to firmly pull the pair apart.  He pointed at Face.  "You – morgue!"  He took hold of Chrissie's hand.  "You – with me.  Now move it!"

 

"But Colonel…."

 

"No time, Faceyman," Murdock pushed a gurney over and he and BA helped to move a less than compliant Face on to it.  He then covered him over with a white sheet.

 

Face pulled the blanket off his head.  "Murdock, I …."

 

The pilot pushed him back and re-covered him.  Face came up for a second try but this time BA growled and firmly pushed him back, where Peck stayed this time, but he could be heard distinctly grumbling under the sheet.

 

"What are you going to do?" Chrissie asked.  The flush on her cheeks seemed to have intensified following the kiss.

 

The Colonel's eyes shone.  "Have you ever heard of that famous practitioner of Emergency Medicine Dr Arkansas Armitage?"

 

Chrissie shook her head blankly.  "No."

 

"Well you should have as you've just helped him perform a most delicate procedure and we saved the patient!"

 

"I did?" Chrissie looked confused.  "We did?"

 

Hannibal nodded.  "Come on; I have to sing your praises to Nurse Morrow." 

 

BA and Murdock pushed the gurney past them at that point.  Chrissie let out a wistful sigh.  "Will I ever see him again?" she asked.  "He was so cute and brave and such a good kisser!"

 

"Wasn't he just?" Smith sounded less than convinced. 

 

"And in such pain!" Chrissie said with a knowing smile.

 

Hannibal stared at her then with new interest, sensing a depth to her he had not noticed in her panicked state of earlier.  "Do I take it you weren't exactly taken in by my Lieutenant's performance?" he asked.

 

The young woman's smile was even wider.  "Who wouldn't be taken in when a guy like that asks you out?"

 

Hannibal shook his head and smiled.  "You promised him dinner, kid.  Now, I'm not saying Face is easy but I'd put money on him turning up – it's what he does best. Now come on; we haven't got much time!"

 

 

Part Four:

A Light in the Darkness

 

"Just what the hell is going on, Hannibal?" Face asked, his voice was strained by tiredness and vexation.

 

"I was rather hoping you could tell us, Face!" The Colonel responded as he eased himself to a comfortable position in his seat.

 

He had just leapt through the open door of the van, after running the gauntlet past Decker's men from the main hospital entrance.  BA gunned the engine and they had sped away in a cloud of rubber before the MPs could get to their vehicles to follow them.

 

Hannibal, eyes twinkling with mischief, deftly unwrapped a cigar.  "Chrissie sends her love, by the way," he continued.  "Says you are the bravest man she ever met."

 

Face perked up a little at that; he preened himself shamelessly. "Really?"

 

The Colonel nodded.  "I don't have to ask whether your intentions are honourable do I, Lieutenant?  She seems a nice kid and I don't want to see her hurt."

 

"Colonel, you know me!" Peck retorted with a piqued expression.

 

"That what he afraid of, Faceman!" BA chuckled.

 

"She seems an incredibly bad judge of character and a trifle naive," Murdock added somewhat pompously from his place behind the driver.  Hannibal chuckled significantly but said nothing.

 

"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Face snapped, his eyes flashing resentfully.

 

"Well, you're not always the most honest of men are you, Face?" Hannibal said.

 

"I don't know what you mean!" Face was suddenly the embodiment of affronted honour.

 

"Well," the Colonel pretended to muse on the point.  "How about your performance of earlier?  Do you really think that you conned any of us?"

 

"My performance?" Face spluttered.

 

"Uh-huh, all that brave biting of lips and gnashing of teeth, the tears in your eyes when the area I was stitching was obviously still anesthetised from your earlier experience!"

 

"It was not!"

 

"It most definitely was – admit it Face, you didn't feel a thing and yet, strangely, you were still groaning in pain five minutes after I'd finished stitching!"

 

BA chuckled and Murdock shook his head meaningfully.

 

"I was not!" Face argued indignantly.

 

"See, it's cos you have no brain, Facey.  You feel no pain!" the ever helpful Murdock put in.

 

Face let out a frustrated snort.  "Quit it with that having no brain stuff.  You make me feel like I'm something from the Wizard of Oz!"

 

Murdock clapped his hands with glee.  "That's right!" he beamed.  "It was the lion, wasn't it?"

 

Face groaned lamentably.  "Why do I put these ideas in his head?" he muttered.  "There's enough garbage in there without me adding to it!"

 

"No, fool!" BA retorted.  "Was the tin man, man!"

 

Hannibal let out a mouthful of smoke, thoroughly enjoying himself at his Lieutenant's expense.  "Guys, I think you'll find it was the scarecrow!"

 

"What does it matter!" Face said, shaking his head in dejected despair.

 

Murdock smiled and winked knowingly.  "It's OK, Faceguy.  Your secret's safe with me!"

 

"Secret?" Face gasped.  "What secret?  Hannibal, what did you tell him back there?"

 

"Nothing, Face."  His smile faded.  "Come on we need to get serious and think this through.  What do you remember, kid?"

 

Face snorted.  "I …. eh ….I … not much really.  That Grondyke guy was there."

 

"And?" Hannibal pressed.

 

Face shook his head.  "It's all hazy.  I can't …. Wait a minute," he leaned forward.  "Did they shave my head?"  His features twisted in acute misery.

 

Hannibal threw his eyes skyward in mock irritation.

 

"Don't worry, Face." Murdock said sweetly.  "No brain, no hair – what's the difference?  I like the Kojak look anyway!  Want a lollipop?"

 

"Hannibal!" Face was pretty close to losing his cool.  "I've been hit on the head, kidnapped, locked in the trunk of a car, operated on – I don't feel too good and," he threw a spiteful glance at Murdock.  "He's going way too far!"

 

Murdock bit his lip.  "See the Faceman with a brain; he never lost his temper at me.  He laughed at my jokes." He looked across to the Colonel.  "I reckon his sense of humour must have been in his brain.  You promised Hannibal, that I wouldn't see a difference!"

 

"You promised him!" Face threw his arms in the air in a gesture of abject defeat and capitulation.

 

"Face," Hannibal's voice of reason instantly calmed the rapidly degenerating atmosphere in the van.  "You got all your hair and your brain, honestly!"

 

Murdock threw the Colonel a huge wink.  "Yes, of course you have, Face!" He said in a phenomenally loud stage whisper.

 

"Oh, I feel so relieved now," Face spat caustically.

 

Hannibal turned to the pilot.  "Captain, Face has had a bad day – he's only managed to chat up one girl and get one date, so give him a little room, a little consideration, please."

 

"But …."

 

"No, Captain.  I must be firm.  I know you only want the best for him but we do have to be patient on this!"

 

"Oh for god's sake!" Peck snarled, shaking his head but stopping as a severe pain radiating from the wound in his head and accompanied by a wave of nausea rushed through him – the anaesthetic must be wearing off!  He let out a pained gasp followed by a series of noisy and ragged intakes of air.

 

Hannibal noted the authenticity of this groan compared with the others Face had uttered through the day.  BA too sensed the difference.  "Where to, Colonel?" he asked.

 

"I reckon we need to regroup BA.  Pull into one of the motels up here.  We'll get a couple of rooms and then see what our Lieutenant can remember."  He looked over his shoulder to see Face looking distinctly pale and weak, slumped slightly in his seat.  "Better make that quick, BA.  I think Face's drugs are wearing off!"

 

Murdock snapped his fingers.  "That's it –the bad temper, the strange behaviour; it must be the drugs!"

 

Peck groaned.  "Of course it is, Murdock," he responded feebly, just before he threw up the contents of his stomach.  The prefect end to a miserable day!

 

"Not in my van!" BA roared.  But it was too late!

 

 

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

 

 

"Face, you awake?"  Murdock peered into the dark motel room, screwing up his eyes to try to see in.  "Face?"

 

There was a frail groan from the bed, so the pilot moved inwards.  "Can I put a light on?" he asked.  "You need a light in the darkness!"

 

Another moan which Murdock took to be in the affirmative; he clicked on the bathroom light as he passed and closed the door slightly so that it wasn't too bright.  "How you doing, buddy?" He asked pulling up a chair and sitting down.

 

Face rolled over and groaned again.  "Murdock, it was awful," he murmured.

 

"What?"

 

"The dream I just had." Peck raised himself up onto his elbows.  Murdock noted he was still pale and drawn, his hair mused up after his sleep – certainly not the dapper conman the pilot had come to know.  "I kept getting hit on the head, put to sleep, operated on …. It was just awful!"

 

Murdock sighed.  "Eh, Face, that wasn't a dream."

 

Face lurched forward to grab hold of the pilot.  "It wasn't?" he wailed, to be quickly followed by, "Owh – my head!"  He fell back to the pillow groaning weakly.

 

"You still not feeling good?"  Sometimes Murdock had a talent for stating the obvious.

 

"No," Face retorted bleakly, his tentative fingers going up to the big bandage on his head.  "Why is it always me?" he asked.

 

"It's not always you, Face!" Murdock flashed his own still bandaged hand.  "Anyway, cheer up.  Can I get you anything?"

 

Face snorted.  "Water, maybe," he responded dully.  He looked around the dim room. "Where are the others?" he asked as the pilot disappeared into the bathroom to get him a drink.

 

"We just had a meal.  Hannibal's gone for a shower.  BA went to get his upholstery cleaned."

 

Face groaned.  "Oh, I didn't, did I?" he asked horror-stricken and ignoring the cup Murdock offered him on his return.  "I hoped that bit at least was a dream!  How'd he take it?"

 

Murdock sighed.  "Very well, considering."

 

"He did?"  Face looked unconvinced.  "Considering what?"

 

"Considering all you'd been through.  He said he'd overlook it, at least until you were feeling more like yourself."

 

"Oh great – a stay of execution!" Face said sarcastically.  "Now I have that hanging over me too.  Did he give any hint of what he might do to me?"

 

Murdock shook his head.  "Said it would give him time to think on it – he was quite cheerful considering the vomit on his seats!"

 

"Oh God!  I hate it when he's happy!" Face groaned.  He rolled away from Murdock and pulled the blanket over his head.

 

The pilot hesitated and then placed the water on the night stand.  He reached over nervously to lay his hand on the other man's back.  "Face," he began.  "We need to talk."

 

"I don't wanna talk," Face's muffled voice came back.  "All that happens is that you all have a go at me."

 

"But that's what I want to talk about, Face!" Murdock pleaded.  "I want to apologise."  He felt the conman stiffen beneath his hand.  Then an even more unkempt Faceman emerged from under the blanket.

 

"You want to apologise to me?" he said incredulously.  "Why?"

 

Murdock moved to perch on the bed.  "Well," he began.  "You have had it tough over the last couple of days and I don't think I've been as supportive as I could be.  I mean all those jibes about….."

 

"Murdock, stop!"  Face lifted his hands in a halting motion.

 

The pilot compiled, his face wrinkling in puzzlement, his mouth still open and his eyes asking why.

 

Face swivelled his hips and shifted to a more comfortable position in the bed, before continuing.  "I don't need to hear this."

 

"What?" Murdock was still bewildered.

 

"You and me, HM, we don't need to apologise.  We give as good as we get."

 

"But in the hospital and in the van, you were….."

 

"Doing what comes naturally, just like you, Murdock.  I don't want you to wrap me up in cotton candy.  I understand.  You're very good at what you do and I have to fight back with all I got.  That's the way it's always been and I don't want it to ever change."

 

Murdock pouted, eyes narrowing.  "Was that a compliment?" he asked.

 

"Good God, no!"  Face exclaimed.  "I may have had a couple of bangs on the head, even lost my brain but I would never compliment you!"

 

The pilot's eyes narrowed.  "Ah – so you admit you are deficient in a certain integral part of your anatomy that normally resides in your cranium, then?"

 

Peck snorted.  "I admit no such thing!" he deadpanned with his best poker expression.  "You'll get no admission from me!"

 

Murdock smiled.  "I want you to know when BA does whatever he does to you for puking in his van, Face, I will be there to pick up the pieces."

 

Face nodded.  "That's very reassuring, Murdock," he said.  "But it does make a rather large assumption.

 

"Which is?"

 

"That there'll be pieces of me left to pick up!"

 

Murdock threw his arms around Face's shoulders in a short, sharp manly hug.  "That's what I love about you, Face; your constant ability to see gloom and desolation in every situation."

 

Peck smiled enigmatically.  "What can I say - it's a gift," he responded.

 

"So, you feeling better?" Murdock asked "I certainly am after getting that off my chest."

 

Face sighed and ran his hand through his hair gingerly.  "I guess."

 

"You hungry?"

 

"No, water's good enough for now – I still feel a little fragile.  What time is it, anyway?"

 

"Just past midnight, I think."

 

"Where did BA take the van, then?"

 

"All night car valet service down on Franklin," Murdock snorted.  He hesitated, his attention seemingly taking by picking at the now grubby bandage around his hand.

 

"Something else on your mind, Murdock?" Face asked.

 

"You read me so well," Murdock replied eventually with a slight smile.  "Actually there is… that nurse, Chrissie, you really gonna take her out?"

 

"That's what I do with beautiful women," Face confirmed.  "Why?"

 

"Well, she's kind of …… not your type, if you know what I mean."

 

"She's beautiful and female; that's my type!" Face let out a lecherous chuckle.

 

"In your eyes anyone with a pulse and a come on smile is your type, Face!"  Murdock reposted.  "But she seems sort of pure and wholesome."

 

"What; you saying I've never had a virtuous woman before?"

 

"Name one," Murdock challenged.

 

"Oh, that's easy!"

 

"Go on then."

 

Face rolled his eyes and tried to think but it hurt his head.  Finally he came up with an answer.  "Lesley Bectall," he offered.

 

"Face – she became a nun!"

 

"How virtuous is that?"

 

Murdock shook his head.  "I just think that Chrissie is a little vulnerable, a little inexperienced.  Hell, she thinks you're the bravest man in the world – how naïve is that?"

 

"Very intuitive and perceptive, I would say," Face countered.

 

"You would!"

 

"Do I detect maybe a little interest from our lonely, sex-starved pilot on the Chrissie front?" Face probed teasingly.

 

"No!  Of course not," Murdock snapped too quickly.

 

Face smiled smarmily.  "Thought so!" he sighed.  "Look Murdock, I don't want to fall out about this – I mean, we're pals aren't we?  And we shouldn't let a girl come between us."

 

"And that's all she is to you, Face?  Just a girl?"

 

"What do you want me to say, Murdock?  I admit that I was feeling pretty stressed in that hospital and you know what I do in that situation."

 

"You flirt outrageously!"  Murdock confirmed.

 

"Less of the outrageous, more of the polished and effective, if you don't mind!" Face interjected with a confident grin.

 

"Whatever!"

 

"She was kind of cute, though," Peck sighed at the memory.  "And the way she kissed!"

 

Murdock sighed.  "I just don't think she knows what she is letting herself in for with a 'full on Faceman'!"

 

Face preened shamelessly.  "Few ladies do!" he grinned arrogantly.  "But believe me, they remember afterwards."  Murdock shook his head, so Face continued in a more demure tone.  "But I do take account of what you said – I am a gentleman after all."

 

"After all what?  No, don't answer that!"

 

"You're sure you're not interested in Chrissie?  Because if you ….."

 

"No, I'll stick to my dog," Murdock said firmly shaking his head.  "You remembering anything about earlier yet?"

 

"I suppose I do.  Can get Hannibal so we can go through this – I lived it so I really don't want to go through it again more than once."

 

"Sure thing, buddy!"  Murdock stood up and moved swiftly to the door.  As he opened it he turned back.  "Oh one other thing I meant to tell you."

 

"What?"

 

"I changed the name of my dog – he's not Billy anymore."

 

Face raised his eyebrows.  "Really, what is he now?"

 

Murdock stepped out into the darkness.  Over his shoulder he said, "Well, I got to thinking about the conversation in the van and I thought of a more appropriate name."

 

"Yeah, what?"

 

"Toto!" he cried.

 

The pillow that Face threw hit the exact spot where the pilot had been standing but he was already gone.  As he passed the window Face could hear him whistling 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road'!

 

 

Part Five:

A Cuckoo in the Nest

 

"This is the very last time!" Face muttered as he took his hand from the steering wheel to nervously straighten his tie.

 

Murdock threw him a questioning look.  "Last time for what, Face?"

 

"I am never putting on an army uniform, producing a fake ID, and never going to talk my way on to one more army base, well at least until I get my pardon anyway!"

 

"But you look so debonair in your uniform, Face – you always wore it well."  Murdock chuckled.  "I could almost go for you myself."

 

"Don't even go there, Murdock!" Face snapped as he drew up the car to the guard point in front of the gates of Fort Ingram.  The guard stepped forward and snapped off a salute which Face, making the instant change from depressed whiner to confident conman, returned.

 

"Hello, I'm Captain Murphy and this is Captain Grabham," he indicated to Murdock who smiled blandly from the other seat.  Face flashed his dubious ID as he continued "We've from the Pentagon Inventory Corps and we are here to conduct an inventory."

 

The fresh faced young Private looked as if he was about to wet his pants but he gulped his trepidation down and nodded.  "Just a second, Sir," he replied.  "I need to check the schedule."  He turned back to the guard house.

 

"Of course," Face waited, the picture of patience.

 

Murdock began to hum very softly.

 

Peck threw him an agitated glare.  "Stop it!" he hissed.

 

Murdock, rapidly descending into his most crazy simply smiled and hummed louder.  Much to Face's chagrin, the song was most certainly 'Over the Rainbow'.

 

"I'm sorry, Sir," the Private returned looking even more worried, as he gazed down at the clip board in his hand.  "What did you say your names were?"

 

"Murphy – Captain John Murphy," Face responded with the merest hint of impatience.  "And this is Captain Ulysses Grabham."

Murdock leaned over and batted his eyelids at the young soldier, stopping his humming to say in a high pitched voice.  "But you can call me Dorothy!"  He blinked and then continued quite seriously, "Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby."

"What?" the guard looked up in surprise.

 

Face snorted, threw Murdock his most infuriated stare and then got out of the car so quickly he managed to bang the guard's shin with his door.

 

As the soldier let out a wail and bent down to rub his leg, Face said, "It's a salutary experience soldier, isn't it?" he stepped forward.

 

"What, Sir?" the soldier said through gritted teeth.

 

"To see it at first hand."

 

"See what?"

 

Face sighed, eying the bemused young soldier minutely and lowered his voice.  "You've never been to war, have you, son?"

 

"No Sir – I only got posted here out of boot camp last week."

 

Face nodded, sagely ignoring the strains of Over the Rainbow;

"Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me "

 that now could be distinctly heard coming from the car behind him.

 

"Attention!" Face barked and the young soldier stopped rubbing his shin and assumed the position immediately.  "Well, you make a fine figure of a man, if I may say so, soldier – well turned out, handsome; you're a credit to this man's army. Now, I must be on my way."

 

"Begging your pardon, Sir!" the Private's voice was rather flaky and he looked quite sick but he forced himself to continue.  "You're not down on the list."

 

"Not down on the list!" Face stepped back.

 

"No, Sir," the guard proffered the clip board awkwardly.  "If I haven't been notified then I can't let you in… Sir."

 

"Can't let me in!" The flicker of impatience had been stoked into a fiery flame and Face was positively blustering now.  Murdock hit a particularly high note and Peck shook his head.  "Haven't you ever heard of the condition Combat Stress, soldier?  But of course not because you haven't ever been in a combat situation, have you?  Well, let me tell you, Captain Grabham was one of the best, if not the best.  He took out machine gun nests single-handedly, he liberated whole villages, why he could do anything!  Do you think a man like that wants to be assigned to Inventory?  Do you think he is pleased by the fact that he finally let it get to him, that he took one mission too many.  Of course he's not soldier but pride in a job well done is all he has left.  He might not be able to lead an assault or fire a gun any more but he can damn well count paper clips and that's just as important in this army – it's what makes us great!  So would you deny such a soldier, such a man, the god-given privilege he won in the mud of Vietnam and Cambodia, deny him the chance to make a difference?  Would you, soldier because it sure sounds like it to me!"

 

The Private gulped, his throat bobbing like an apple on water.  He was a bright boy and he read the unspoken message behind this Captain's words.  Jesus; they were Inventory Section – what harm was there in that?  The one in the car was obviously nutty as a Snickers Bar and, from what the other Officer was saying, he had become that way by doing his duty to his country.

 

"I'm not denying you anything, Sir," he began.  "It's just you're not on my list and….."

 

"Well damn well put us on your list!  Captain Ulysses Grabham deserves to be on any list in this army!" Face shouted in his best parade ground voice.

 

The Private hesitated again, one thought foremost in his mind – a Private did not argue with a Captain – not on anything!"

 

"Yes, Sir!"  His decision made, he wrote the names on the bottom of his list and then handed the clip board to the Captain.  "If you could just sign this, Sir.  Then you can be on your way."

 

"Very well, Private!" Face agreed and scrawled an appalling signature across the page.  "Keep it up, soldier!" he winked conspiritously.  "I am so glad we understand each other.  You'll go a long way!"

 

"Yes Sir!  Thank you, Sir!"

 

With another salute Face got back into the car.  Murdock was in full Judy Garland mode – those blue birds were definitely flying!  Face cast him another withering glance which was duly ignored, nodded to the Private and gunned the engine.

 

"Well that was easy," he muttered.  "Thank you so much for your inimitable contribution, Dorothy!"

 

Murdock batted his eyes and stroked the imaginary dog that was obviously sitting on his knee.  "Any time, Scarecrow," he beamed. "Never forget; I want to find your brain as much as you do!"  He then proceeded to finish his song;

"If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?"

Face snorted.  "This is the very last time," he promised himself.

 

He was still promising himself it ten minutes later as he sat hunched over the computer screen in the base's Supply Office.  Murdock, now whistling, was standing by the door watching the goings on on the parade square outside with great interest.

 

"You got anything?" he asked.

 

Face snorted glumly.  "No," he admitted.  "They must have changed the access codes to the personnel system since the last time I hacked in and I've never tried the Navy before – it keeps throwing me out."

 

"What can we do?"

 

"Maybe if I …."  Face pushed his cap back on his head, revealing the cotton pad still covering his wound, licked his lips, his attention completely taken by the computer in front of him.  "OK," he breathed out in triumph.

 

"You in?"

 

"Yep – now, Grondyke, where are you?"

 

Hannibal had come up with this plan after they had discussed what they knew in the motel room the previous night after BA had returned.  The big man had smiled broadly at Face who was still laying in bed.  Peck had been unable to quell the shiver that ran up his spine; suddenly he felt sick again.

 

"So, Face," Hannibal began.  "What happened?"

 

Pushing his disquiet away and refusing to look at the positively criminally happy Baracus, Face had taken a deep breath.  "I remember Grondyke," he said.  "I remember just as I went under he revealed some stuff.  God, it's hazy though!"

 

"What did he say?" Hannibal asked patiently.

 

"He said I had something of theirs and he wanted it back."

 

"What?" Murdock asked.

 

"I don't know.  He wouldn't say," Peck closed his eyes, tried to picture the scene and take himself back to the moment, to the OR and Grondyke's cold, despicable eyes shining with conquest.  He remembered the fear that shot through him with the realisation of the simple fact that they were putting him under, the drug was in his veins, pumping around his body; in seconds he would be unconscious, completely at their mercy, supremely vulnerable and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

 

He shuddered again.  "Mule," he whispered.

 

"What?" Hannibal asked.

 

Face blinked, pulled himself away from the pain of the memory.  "He said, 'How does it feel, a member of the famous A Team duped into being our mule?'"  Face gulped and looked up, his blue eyes wide with shock and the hint of another deep emotion.  "I couldn't have brought drugs in; not in my head, surely!"

 

"In your head?" Murdock looked dubious.  "It's supposed to be in your stomach.  Mules swallow them.

 

"What did he mean then?"  Face's shock was quickly overrun by the other emotion – anger.

 

"Murdock's right, Face," Hannibal said, noting the uncharacteristic flash of fury in his Lieutenant's eye.  "You couldn't carry drugs in your head, not enough, surely.  And if that was all they wanted to do they would have been better feeding them to you – that way they come out the other end of their own accord.  They wouldn't have had to risk picking you up again and having to go through an extraction procedure.  But you must have brought something in but why you?"

 

"My point entirely," Peck said dryly as he fought to maintain his composure.

 

"They knew you were a member of the Team.  They knew who we are – I reckon they probably tipped Decker that you were at the hospital earlier, just in case you didn't bleed to death.  They could have chosen anybody to bring in drugs which normally they do – why you?"

 

"Gee, you make me feel so special, Colonel," Peck muttered.

 

"It had to be small and light but valuable for them to choose this way," Hannibal mused, sucking on his cigar.  "They needed someone in Argentina at the right time and who was coming back to LA.  Someone they were pretty sure would make it out but they could keep tabs on at this end."  He sighed.  "I think we need to talk to our clients, the Watsons, they were the ones that put us on to Rees in the first place."

 

"Colonel," Murdock puffed out his cheeks anxiously.  "I got a real bad feeling about this.  You know the Argentina job went real easy – we even remarked on it."

 

"You don't think the whole thing was a set up?" Face replied.  "That would mean they went to a hell of a lot of trouble, for what?"

 

"To get you," Hannibal stopped.  "No, to get one of us – remember they scanned us all, so they didn't know which one of us had it."

 

"It making me mad, Hannibal!" BA spat and then flashed his teeth at Face.  "And I was happy before."

 

Face shot him a watery grin, anger being replaced by fear.

 

"They chose Face because he was easy to get alone," Hannibal reasoned.  "What was the girl's name again, Face?"

 

"Oh, she couldn't have been involved, Hannibal, I'm sure!"

 

"What was her name, Lieutenant?"

 

"Rosa, but …….."

 

"She's a lead at least," Hannibal cut across him.  "Not that I'm suggesting we go back to Argentina.  Well not until we've pursued leads a little closer to home."

 

"She was teaching me to tango," Face muttered belligerently.

 

"Can it, kid!" Hannibal shot back.  "And next time your interest is aroused by dancing or whatever else, remember this little lesson."

 

Face opened his mouth to argue but decided his head was throbbing too much and he was better off staying quiet.  He shut it again quickly.

 

"Don't worry, Face," Murdock said sympathetically.  "I always thought of you as more of an ass than a mule."

 

"Your support is so appreciated!" Face snapped back.

 

"What do we do, Hannibal?" BA asked.

 

"We need to talk to the Watsons and see how much they know about this.  It seems to me too much of a coincidence that they didn't know at least some of what was going on.  I'm sure you can persuade them to talk, BA." Hannibal stood up.  "Lets get some sleep – I got a feeling that this is going to get hairy before it gets better."

 

"There is another option, Colonel," Face offered.  Three sets of eyes turned to regard him.  "They got what they want; we could just leave it alone."

 

"Face!" Hannibal shook his head in disappointment.  "Tell me how did you feel just now when you realised what had been done to you?"

 

Peck gulped.  "Pretty stupid and then angry," he revealed.

 

Hannibal nodded.  "And you are really proposing we let these scum bags get away with making you feel like that?"

 

"I guess not," Face hesitated.  "I just think this is bigger than you think."

 

"Why?" Hannibal turned back to regard the younger man.

 

"Because I just remembered something else."

 

Hannibal smiled.  "Care to share it with us, kid?"

 

"Just as I went under, I reached out, ripped away Grondyke's sleeve, it was a tacky suit anyway, but I saw his arm beneath." Peck licked his lips.

 

"And?" the Colonel prompted.

 

"He had a tattoo."

 

"Lots of people got a tattoo," BA growled.

 

"Not like this; I recognised it.  I've seen one before."

 

"What was it?" Smith asked.

 

"It was a tattoo of the SEAL Trident, like the one Jackson had in Nam."

 

"Grondyke was a Navy SEAL?" Murdock asked.

 

"At some point, at least his arm was," Face responded bleakly.

 

Hannibal's eyes twinkled.  "If he was in the service they'll be records," he pronounced smugly.

 

"Oh, come on Hannibal!" Face whined.  "He will have changed his name, surely."

 

"It's a long shot," Murdock agreed.

"But that's the sort of shot I like!" Hannibal smirked.  "Tomorrow, while BA and I look up the wayward Watsons, you two can pop down to Fort Ingram and have a nose through the personnel computer – see what comes up!  We might have to look into Navy SEALs too – never liked them myself; smelt of fish!" 

 

"Oh joy!" Face sighed.

 

"Cheer up Facey," Murdock chuckled.  "We can look for your brain while we're there."

 

And that was why Face found himself in uniform again, hacking into the Pentagon Personnel Records System through a computer in Fort Ingram looking at the personnel records of NAVY Seals. "Nothing!" he groaned.  "I tried Grondyke, Blondyke, Klondyke; every sort of variation and nothing comes up.  He's obviously changed his name."

 

"Well at least we tried," Murdock said.  He stiffened a little as he stared out at the parade ground.  "It's looking like we may have outstayed our welcome, anyway."

 

Peck looked up.  "What?"

 

"Looks like a Two Star General, no less, is coming to investigate just who is doing this inventory survey."

 

"Two Star General? Either we're getting important Murdock or there's not enough for the army to do these days!"  He turned his attention back to the computer screen.  "I wonder, it's a long shot but ……" he mused and then typed in another name.  "Bingo!" he breathed.

 

"What you got?"

 

"Tell you later," Peck was busily scanning through page after page of information, he hit the print button and then began to close down the screens in front of him.  "Where's the printer?" he asked.

 

"They're coming," Murdock said.  "Guess we better go through the back door on this occasion."

 

Face nodded as he found the printer, grabbed the papers coming out of it and stuffed them into his pocket.

 

The door closed behind them just as General Malcolm Maddaford opened the front one.  He was a blustery old man who believed he ran a tight ship but did not much like to be woken from his pre-retirement slumber by any undue action at his base.  He had been alerted by a call from the Pentagon no less, informing him that one of the computers on his base was accessing classified information.  Computers were completely alien to the aging General and 'hacking' was a word he was not familiar with but he got the concept by the time the rather intolerant Pentagon IT expert explained it to him for the fifth time.  Once he finally understood about the cuckoo in his nest, he determined to sort it out and discipline the culprits himself.  So taking his long suffering XO with him and thirty men he lead a courageous mission to the Supply Office.

 

"Just what the hell ……" he began but stopped as the message finally got from his eyes to his doddery brain that there was no one in the office for him to string up!  "Damn!" he snorted.

 

"The back door, Sir!" his XO exclaimed.

 

Damn man is too quick for his own good, Maddaford thought, not for the first time.  "I know, I know," he muttered.  "Get after them and radio for back up!  These mongrels won't get off my base!"

 

Murdock and Face found themselves in a large warehouse which was apparently where the transport trucks were housed.  Long lines of green two and a half toners stretched out before them in perfect precision as if they had blundered into some anally retentive giant's toy box.  They could hear the General blundering about in the office.

 

"Do you think there's a back door to this place?" Murdock asked.

 

"Got to be," Face reasoned.  "Or how do they get the trucks in and out?  Crane?"

 

"Good point, Faceman!"  Murdock looked impressed.  "Maybe you don't need a brain after all."

 

"At this point I think the speed of a sprinter would serve me better. Come on!"

 

He began to weave his way between the silent waiting trucks.

 

"And the stamina of a marathon runner," Murdock added before following quickly behind his friend.

 

Face skidded to a stop as they reached the back wall and saw the pad-locked door.  "No problem," he breathed as he reached for his lock picks.

 

"Quicker than last time please, Face," Murdock requested, glancing anxiously over his shoulder.

 

The lock clicked open.  "Give me a challenge," Face breathed nonchalantly.  He pulled up the roll door as he stood and a shaft of brilliant sunlight arced through the dim warehouse.

 

"How about hot-wiring a truck?" Murdock suggested.

 

Face nodded and leapt into the nearest one as the pilot ran round to the other side door.  Peck bent down and ripped off the covering of the steering column and then, pulling out the wires, began to fiddle.

 

"Hey you!"  A voice came from their left.  "Get out of the truck!"

 

"Tut tut," Murdock pouted.  "Manners cost nothing and the 'p' word isn't in sight!"

 

Face growled but his grimace brightened to a smile as the truck engine roared into life.  "Definitely not refined enough to be worth our attention.  Shall we go?"

 

"You know, Templeton," Murdock's best upper crust English voice was suddenly to the fore.  "Your skills have no bounds do they – hacking into computer systems, hot wiring trucks, picking locks; you really are the most artistic and charming rascal I know.  Yes, let's go – tally ho!"  His face took on a severely serene aspect.  "After all, we really are not in Kansas any more, are we?"

 

Face slammed the truck into gear. "Don't start!" he warned.  Then they were off and running.  The clatter of bullets rattled on the outside of the truck as they moved away.

 

"We got company," Murdock said as they lurched out on to the main camp road and behind them a number of assorted jeeps and cars came into view.

 

"Not Decker, is it?"  Face asked squinting in his rear view mirror.

 

"No, just a few soldier boys upset 'cause you pinched their truck, I think."

 

"Can't trust anybody these days!" Face grinned.  "Those Captains from Inventory are definitely the worst!"

 

"Ain't they just!"

 

"Oh no!" Face said in sudden alarm.

 

"What's wrong, buddy?"

 

"Would you believe those distrustful swine store their trucks with only enough gas to get about… here!"

 

"No!" Murdock said, just as the engine coughed and spluttered and the truck came to a jittering but final stop.

 

Face banged the steering wheel in frustration.  "I guess that screws the getaway plan somewhat," he groaned.

 

"Get out of the truck with your hands up!"

 

"And still no 'p' word!" Murdock protested.  "What are we teaching our soldiers these days?"

 

Wearily they both opened their doors and climbed down to the ground, where they were instantly surrounded by a circle of excited action-starved soldiers, all with their guns ready.

 

"You are making a terrible mistake!" Face began out checking that none of the soldiers were ranked above Corporal and deciding that he still might be able to talk his way out of this one.

 

"Hands up!" The nearest one shouted.

 

Any hopes of escape were quickly squashed as General Maddaford was driven up.  "Good work!" he extolled as he tried to negotiate the delicate manoeuvre of easing his amble bulk out of the confines of the jeep.  "Now, what have we caught?"  He cast a jaundiced eye over the prisoners.

 

At that point there was a screech of brakes and a familiar black van screamed over the skyline with an M60 blazing.  The soldiers scattered and the General let out a most unmilitary shriek.

 

Face and Murdock took advantage of the distraction by diving in opposite directions and running.  Murdock hit lucky in that he chose the road and BA rolled the van to a stop just long enough for the pilot to leap aboard.

 

"Where's Face?" Hannibal asked from behind the M60.

 

"He went across country, Colonel!"  Murdock said nodding his head towards the cornfield that Peck had disappeared into.

 

The soldiers were rather belatedly becoming aware of the situation and some were even climbing to their feet.

 

"OK, BA," Hannibal ordered.  "Double back around the field.  We'll pick Face up at the other side and that way the soldier boys will chase us, not him, hopefully."

 

BA gunned the motor and the van lurched off back down the road.  A couple of soldiers had enough about them to jump into their jeeps and follow.  Some turned and ran into the corn field.  General Maddaford was still lying on his back, his limbs waving uselessly; he was unable to right himself; rather like a rotund and massive beetle.

 

Face was running hard through the rows of corn.  Breathing heavily, his head wound was beginning to throb and his legs were getting increasingly wobbly.  He was beginning to doubt he could keep this up for any great length of time.

 

However, the maize in front of him suddenly fell away and he lurched to a stop, tottering on the edge of a manmade irrigation reservoir that stretched before him.  He turned left, then right, gasping in air, knowing he was critically exposed.  Over the top of the corn he could see the top of the van as it circled around the field.  Behind him he could hear the shouts of the soldiers as they got nearer.  Gulping in more lungfuls he began to run along the wooden edge of the reservoir on a course that would take him to the patch of waste ground between the road and the water.

 

Behind him there was a louder shout.  He glanced over his shoulder to see a figure emerge from the maize.  He forced himself to run faster and was further inspired when the tell-tale whoosh of a bullet sped past his ear.

 

The van had stopped and he could hear gunfire in front as well as behind as the Team covered him.  He finally reached the end of the wooden walkway and stopped looking down at a larger drop than he had anticipated.  He wobbled on the lip above the drop and glanced anxiously about himself, his eyes falling on a hay stack that had been heaped up beside the wall just to his left.  He knew he had to move, so drawing in a resigned breath, he leapt into the relatively soft landing.

 

As the bullets flew over his head, Face wearily pulled himself out of the hay and made a run for the van.  Murdock reached out and pulled him in as the door slid shut behind him and they were off again.

 

Face lay on the van floor gulping and wheezing.

 

"I think you've gone soft, Lieutenant," Hannibal said.  "A little run like that should be easy for you!"

 

"I ……." Face started but stopped as he realised he had neither the energy nor the breath to argue.

 

"Oh, Colonel, I think he did really well," Murdock argued.  He sat down beside Face and looked at him with the glint of admiration in his eye.

 

Peck managed to pull himself up and looked down at himself dishevelled and rumpled from the run and covered in….

 

"Straw," Murdock mused as he reached out to pick a stalk from Face's hair.  "It's a good look for you, Face," he beamed mischievously.  "It reminds me of……."

 

"Don't say it!" Face managed to get out, staring aggressively at the pilot.

 

Of course Murdock ignored him entirely.  "A scarecrow!" he said.

 

BA let out one of his high pitched giggles and Hannibal smirked around his cigar in the front.

 

Face sighed but apart from that remained uncharacteristically subdued, shaking his head somewhat philosophically as he started on the long task of pulling all the straw from his uniform.

 

"You really jumped head first into that one, Face!" Hannibal guffawed.

 

 

TBC

 

 


The Mule Kicks Back by Clairon
The Mule Kicks Back 2 by Clairon

 

 


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