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This page last viewed: 2017-04-27 and has been viewed 3013 times
...And Into the Fire
By the Closetfan
Summary: Face's scam has gone south, leaving Murdock and him high and
dry. It's up to Hannibal and BA to bail them out.
Warnings: unbeta'd; many bad clichés in the summary.
"Let me leap out of the frying-pan into the fire; or, out of God's blessing into the warm sun."
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
The scam had been going really well and was moving towards a brilliant crescendo, in Murdock's layman opinion. Face had sailed along as only he could, his words a virtual siren's song drawing the small time mobster in. Murdock was almost beginning to believe Face's scenario himself...till he'd noticed that momentary flash in the mark's eyes.
It had bothered him, and he'd tried to quietly alert Face to his misgivings. Living where Murdock did, noticing even minute changes in a person's demeanor could be the difference between a good day and a couple of stitches.
"Nah," Face had said confidently, his lips barely moving as he turned to smile at the hood. "He doesn't have a clue. We're gold."
Murdock tested the ropes tying his wrists together and glared momentarily at Face, similarly bound in the chair across from him. Face gave a slightly embarrassed grin and shrugged his shoulders.
Murdock hung his head and sighed. Gold.
BA's van sat across the street from the office building where he and Hannibal had dropped the other two off. BA shook his head slightly, remembering how weird it had looked to see Murdock dressed up like some kind of banker. He was just as glad he hadn't had to be the one squeezing into a suit and tie to play backup while Face smooth talked some low life thugs.
Not that he was happy with the two going in at all. This Gibranne guy was not very high up in the mob, but he had a reputation for instability and was trying to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, that type of guy usually tried to scare everyone in sight by creating a high body count, and BA would prefer that his friends' bodies not be among those littering this psycho's way to the top.
"I don't like it," Hannibal said, pulling back his cuff to look at his watch. "They should've been back by now."
"Told you not to send them in there."
"We had to send someone in, BA. Gibranne has already seen me, and you really don't look like the businessman type."
"Then they shoulda been wired."
Hannibal shot an annoyed look at BA. "The man's not an idiot. When I went in there they searched me right off the bat. It's lucky I wasn't wired, or I'd be dead." He skipped a beat and let the words sink in. "Did you want to take that chance? I know Face and Murdock didn't."
BA growled in frustration.
The Colonel turned to look at the building and chewed the end of his cigar to mask his impatience. "Five more minutes, then we go in."
"Nice scam. We're gold, huh?" Murdock glared at the wall in front of him. They had hopped the chairs around so they were now sitting back-to-back.
"Well, anyone can have an off day. Say, how're those ropes coming?" Face asked, hoping to stem off some of Murdock's annoyance.
Murdock grimaced. He had managed to get the small saw blade Face kept in the hem of his suit coat free, but it was scraping his finger as he cut at the rope binding the other man's wrists. "Almost done. Hold still.
"What I don't get, Face," he said as he continued to saw, "is why you never listen to me. I told you that guy was going hinky."
"I thought I could get him back in line," Face said as he pulled his wrists apart to stretch and break the rope. He exhaled in relief and shook his hands to get the circulation flowing again as he got out of his chair to untie his friend.
"You always told me, first rule of the con: if the mark gets wise, get out." Murdock looked over his shoulder at Face, clearly still annoyed.
"Well we really didn't have anywhere to go, did we?" Face reasoned as the ropes fell, freeing Murdock's hands. "We're on the 8th floor. Not like we could just jump out a window."
Murdock frowned. The logic was inescapable, which was a frustrating as their current situation. "Just listen sometimes, okay?" he said, still sounding put out.
"Can we talk about this later?" Face asked. "I promise you can be as pissed at me as you want once we're out of here."
Face turned away to examine the lock on the door. Though he could see Murdock was annoyed, this was no time for an argument. Like Murdock understood the ins and outs of a finely tuned line of patter. He could've gotten the guy back on the hook again. He'd really only needed another few minutes....
"Not much of a lock," he announced with a confident smile. Without looking back towards at Murdock, he held out his hand. "Pick, please."
Murdock turned his back slightly and unzipped his pants. He fished inside his boxers for the secret pocket which was sewed next to the front seam, and placed a set of lock picks in Face's hand.
"Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is to sit for very long with those things in your drawers?" he asked as he refastened his belt. "Next time you carry them. They're your picks."
"The boxer pocket was your idea, as I recall." Face leaned over to get a closer view of the keyhole. "That makes it your job to carry them. Besides," he added, looking over his shoulder, "I don't wear boxers."
"I don't want to know." Murdock leaned closer, watching him manipulate the two slender tools in the keyhole.
Face straightened up, smiling. "See?" He rattled the knob to show it turn. "Piece of cake."
"Just like that scam. We still gold?"
Face spread his hands and smiled. "Of course." He slipped the lock picks into his inside jacket pocket. "I'll hold on to these now."
"Sure," Murdock muttered. "Now that you don't have to sit on them."
In the back of the van BA removed his necklaces and earrings and placed them in a small lock box he kept for such occasions, and watched Hannibal put on a fake mustache.
They had both put on coveralls left over from the Beller Air job. Hannibal fit into the one Murdock had worn, though it was a bit tight - the two men were built differently - but BA figured no one would notice. The "Beller Air" markings were still on the back. They'd discovered that the coveralls were a simple way into most buildings. Add a toolbox or two and the appearance of knowing where they were going, and everyone assumed they were there to fix the air conditioning. Bits and pieces from previous jobs really came in handy sometimes.
"Ready?" Hannibal asked as he zipped the coverall up.
"Yeah," BA responded. He made a final check of the padding around the gun in Hannibal's long, thin toolbox, replaced the tray of miscellaneous nuts, bolts and fittings on top to hide the weapon from view, and snapped the box shut. He picked up his own, larger, box. They were confident that no one would check the toolboxes, but just in case BA had placed a tray of fittings over his revolvers as well. He double-checked the lock on the van's gun box - leaving the van locked in the event they needed to make a quick get-away would be foolish, but leaving a locker of unsecured weapons would be simply stupid.
Satisfied that all was ready, Hannibal slid the van door open. He hopped out and looked back at BA, the shadow of a grin on his face. "Let's go."
BA scowled. They were going into the lion's mouth - more than likely to pull Face and Murdock out of someplace they never should've had to go into - and Hannibal actually looked like he was enjoying it.
The two men weaved their way across the street and through the downtown crowd. Some looked like they were bound for meetings, others for a quick lunch before returning to the office. BA shook his head. Everybody's different, he thought, but he knew there just had to be something wrong with the fact that heading out to mount a rescue was just another day at the A-Team office.
"Stairs," Murdock hissed quietly as he looked nervously up and down the hall. "Why are we taking the elevator? It's stupid."
"No it isn't," Face replied in a low, casual tone, straightening his tie. "We're blending in - hiding in plain sight, right? What would attract more attention? Two businessmen on an elevator or two businessmen sneaking down a back stairwell?"
"Two businessmen getting shot, that's what'd attract more attention...."
"Just relax." Face looked around the hallway again as he pushed the down button again. "None of Gibranne's men are here, are they?" He waited a moment, and when Murdock didn't respond he plowed on. "I think they're on another floor. Probably getting ready to clear out, now that they think someone is on to their little scheme. I bet they have an alternate headquarters all set up. These kind always do."
They both started involuntarily as the elevator bell rang. Face noted with some relief the downward-pointing arrow as it lit, and smiled confidently at Murdock. "Our ride is here."
"I just gotta see the work order," the security guard repeated. Hannibal gave a world-weary sigh.
"Fine, buddy," he said, giving his voice a more nasal tone. Hannibal loved his New York persona. It gave him license to be snappish, sarcastic and grammatically incorrect. It really was his favorite character. "It's your hide, not mine, while they're roasting up there." He turned to BA, trying to imagine what a guy who looked like him be named.
"Antoine, you got them papers?"
Antoine? BA suppressed a grimace. Where in the world did Hannibal come up with those names? He nodded and handed him a sheet of folded yellow paper from his pocket. It was carefully smudged and rumpled, the carbon on the date just light enough to be indecipherable. The right fit for any air condition repairing occasion. Good thing they had a whole pad of these.
Murdock thought he might have enjoyed seeing Face's self-satisfied smile disappear when the elevator doors opened to reveal Gibranne and one of his men inside it. That is, if he hadn't been so busy running for his life down the hall.
He made sure Face was in front of him; the old Faceman was oh for two today, and with luck that ran like that Murdock was damn sure not going to let him out of his sight until they were both safely out of the building.
They turned a corner and Murdock almost immediately saw an emergency exit stairwell. Face, about four feet ahead of him, glanced back at Murdock. They were both on the same page this time.
Without slowing down, they curved left and Face straight-armed the door so hard it slammed against the stairwell wall. "Down!" he called back, taking the stairs as quickly as he could.
Down was as good a direction as any, Murdock thought - they might get ahead enough on the stairs to get onto one of the other floors and hide out before Gibranne and his men were sure which direction they'd gone in when they'd left the stairwell.
Murdock was taking the steps two at a time when Face stopped short, causing him to nearly fall onto Face and send them both tumbling down the stairs.
"What the -- "
Gaining his balance again, he looked over Face's shoulder. Coming up the stairs was one of Gibranne's goons, his gun at the ready.
Murdock looked back where they'd come from - another armed man was heading down the stairs, with a distinctly unhappy-looking Gibranne following behind. Oh for three, Faceman, he thought. Next time, he was going to make the decisions and drag Face along for the ride.
"Leaving so soon?" Gibranne said, looking down at them with an oily smirk.
"We're late for an appointment," Face began. "You know cross-town traffic at lunchtime.... We thought we'd show ourselves out."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Gibranne said. "As a matter of fact, I'd be happy to give you a ride."
"Oh, that's okay. Our car is right outside." Face's smile never faltered, even as the gun was pressed into his side. "Of course, if you insist...."
"Actually," Murdock said as they headed back up the stairs between the boss and his henchmen, "carpooling is a very earth-conscious thing to do these days. What with rising fuel costs and pollution the way it is...."
Even Murdock wasn't sure how he'd managed to move from air pollution to saving the whale in the span of time it took them to go up only one floor on the stairs. Sometimes this kind of rambling resulted in someone hitting him to shut him up, but the goon next to him was merely at the heaving-heavy-sighs stage. Murdock kept his monologue up (sometimes he didn't even have to think, the words just kept pouring out) as well as a close eye on Face. He hoped he wouldn't make the first move. Luck simply had not been with the Faceman today.
He climbed the stairs slowly to give time for the expansive gestures that went with this run of patter. Suddenly he noticed Face's shoulders tense and eyes harden behind the casual smile he turned to give the guy escorting him. His hand began to form a loose fist.
Murdock groaned inwardly. Face never admitted to a run of bad luck.
The bell rang on the service elevator, and Hannibal and BA looked around quickly as they exited onto the 8th floor. They took turns keeping guard as they removed the weapons from their tool boxes and stuffed them as best they could into pockets and inside the coveralls. BA glanced behind them as they walked away from the boxes. The stuff inside was junk, just for show. But he had liked the boxes. It was going to be a shame to lose those if they couldn't come back for them.
Hannibal lead the way down the hall towards the office he'd been in during his previous meeting with Gibranne. They listened carefully outside the door. BA covered him as Hannibal cracked the door open, and after a peek inside, opened it wider.
"Empty," he said quietly. He closed the door and looked up and down the hallway. There was no telling how many offices Gibranne had on this floor, and whether Face and Murdock, or their foe, would be in any of them. Maybe Gibranne was using a different office. Maybe they'd moved the meeting to another floor. Or maybe they were on the roof....
He shook his head. No, that wasn't Gibranne's style. Disturbingly, pitching two guys off a building held a little too much finesse for him. No, they were somewhere near.
He's gonna do something stupid, Murdock told himself. Face's gonna make a move on his guard with a more-than-likely armed Gibranne standing right next to him. Well, he sighed to himself, if anyone can beat Face to a stupid move and probably outdo him, it'd be me. Who knows, it might even work. I'm not the one on Fortune's wrong side today....
Murdock focused on timing. The next wild gesture put his hand in front of his guard's face just long enough for Murdock's fist to be unnoticed until it landed squarely, with all his strength, in the man's side.
The sounds of the man hitting the stairs alerted Face's guard who, moving with a speed Murdock had not anticipated, had Face in a choke hold at almost the same time Murdock managed to retrieve the gun which had fallen from his guard's hand.
The sound of the gunshot filled and echoed through the stairwell.
Hannibal had turned to say something to BA, but immediately forgot what it was when he heard the gunshot.
"That way!" BA growled, pointing towards the emergency stairwell.
"The next time, no warning," Gibranne said, lowering his gun, his eyes fierce. "The only reason I don't kill you right now is I want to know who sent you here. After that, we'll make up for this little transgression."
Face was still in a choke hold, facing down the stairs towards Murdock and the man who'd been guarding him. The guard struggled to his feet as Gibranne went down the stairs to stand next to him, encouraging him to hurry with none-to-gentle kicks.
The guard scowled as he retrieved his weapon from Murdock and shoved him threateningly against the wall.
Murdock looked up at Face and shrugged his shoulders with a ghost of a smile. Sorry, he seemed to say. I tried.
Face could see his captor's gun peripherally; it wasn't pointed directly at him -- more of an upward angle. He also noticed that while Murdock was heading up the stairs with Gibranne directly behind him and the guard stumbling to catch up, his own guard stood still, waiting for orders.
As Murdock reached a point six steps away from them, Face's plan formed. Five steps, it was gelled into a plan of action. It wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever done, but the way things were going today, that meant it should work.
Four steps, three steps....
Face grabbed the arm his captor had around his neck for support, raised a foot, and kicked Murdock squarely in the chest.
He'll thank me later, Face thought as he fell backwards onto the guard.
BA burst through the fire door. Face was near the top of the stairwell, straddling a guy who was trying to wrestle his gun hand free. Further down, at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next floor, Murdock was tangled up with two other guys on the floor.
BA knew Hannibal was right behind him and would be able to help Face. Since Murdock was potentially in a two-on-one situation, and he wasn't sure of the gun situation, BA nearly vaulted down the stairs to make sure neither of their foes would be in any condition to reach their weapons. He yanked Murdock to the side and as Gibranne attempted to stand, BA rectified that situation with a roundhouse punch to the jaw. The other man weakly put up his hands in submission as BA kicked both weapons out of reach.
Murdock accepted BA's hand and struggled to his feet. He had begun to bend over to retrieve the pistols from the floor when something dark and heavy was flung down the staircase, bounced off the wall and past BA and hit Murdock in the shin.
"OW!" Murdock stooped to rub his leg, and discovered that the object that had hit him was the gun for which Face had been grappling.
"Hey!" Murdock said loudly. "Are you trying to kill me? That could've gone off, you know!"
"He kicked it, not me," Face responded, with a defensive tone.
"Sorry!" Hannibal called down the stairs.
BA growled to himself. When Face and Murdock started arguing, the whining and picking could go on forever. He wasn't in the mood for it at the moment - though to be honest he probably wouldn't be in the mood for it later, either. Right now he wanted to get back to business. Let 'em nitpick on their own time, away from him.
"Hey, Hannibal," BA called, "you want to lock these guys up somewhere or leave 'em here for the cops?"
"Let's bring them back to their office and do the gift wrapping there."
BA turned to Murdock, who was brushing what looked suspiciously like a footprint from the front of his shirt. "C'mon, fool. Gimme a hand with these guys."
Murdock nodded, then cast an annoyed look up the stairs at Face. "Oh well," he said to no one in particular, "If he was only going to have one thing go right today, this was the thing."
"I'm telling you I knew what I was doing, Murdock. The other two guys were behind you to break the fall."
"And I didn't kick you. It was more like a shove."
"With your foot."
Hannibal looked at BA and they both rolled their eyes. Face's explanations sounded defensive at best. Murdock's responses were terse, but Hannibal could tell that his annoyance was fading. Pretty soon he'd chew Face out, Face would act put out, and they'd be friends again by dinnertime.
The Team had left Gibranne and his hired help tied in his office along with a large box of files as evidence, and had returned to the van several minutes ago. They planned to stay only long enough to be sure the police got there in case Gibranne and his men somehow figured out how to get out of the office. However, with the door handle chained to the receptionist's desk, Hannibal didn't figure they'd be going anywhere soon, even after the police arrived.
The sound of sirens in the distance rose above the bickering in the back of the van.
"Hey Colonel," Murdock said, "did you make that call sound like an emergency? I mean, something siren-worthy?"
"Didn't think so," Hannibal replied, looking in the side view mirror. He couldn't see much of the vehicles, which were a good two blocks away and mired in traffic, except their flashing lights.
"Uh-oh. Red lights, guys."
"Not blue?" BA started the van and immediately pulled out, causing two cars to stop just short of rear and side impacts with the van. He peeled out, leaving the cars honking their horns, stalled, and conveniently blocking traffic.
"MPs?" BA asked as they made their way down the street.
Hannibal squinted for a better view. "Yep," he said. "We seem to have a good start on them, though. These downtown drivers don't seem to pay much attention to sirens." He grinned and puffed his cigar. "Some people have no respect for the law."
Face leaned forward. "I know a faster way to the highway from here...."
"He's having a bad day, BA," Murdock called from the back of the van. "Don't listen!"
"Turn left up here, then right. It's a shortcut to the interstate - those MPs are probably from out of town, they'll never know about it...."
The van approached the turn, but BA switched the planned left into a wide turn to the right.
"That's a one way street, sucker!"
Face nearly tumbled out of his seat as the van swerved. "Sorry," he called out. "I meant right...."
"Told you he was having a bad day!"
"I said I was sorry! I said I meant right. If BA had looked at the sign...."
"Ain't my fault, sucker! You better shut up before I come back there and turn you to the right."
"That makes no sense at all!" Face sputtered.
"Yes it does," Murdock said. "I've learned from experience, it means shut up before your bad day turns a lot worse."
The Colonel looked in the side view mirror to check their pursuers, and was able to see Face sitting back in his seat, arms folded, looking hurt. "Fine," he said. "I won't say another word."
"Good," Murdock said.
"Not another peep out of me."
"I won't --"
Murdock inclined his head towards a still-growling BA. "You're kinda digging your own grave, here."
There was a long pause before Face responded.
Hannibal grinned and gripped the dashboard as they veered towards the on ramp. The MPs became a distant problem as BA wove through traffic.
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