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Warnings: Some violence, possibly some language, and definitely some angsty, dramatic moments for our heroes!
Episode Spoilers: None that I know of, but if that changes, so wilst this section.
Plot: A kidnapping, guns, and a stand-off that has only one solution . . . or does it . . .
Disclaimer: None of this, but for the general plot is mine, and the bad guys. :-D Mssr. Cannell owns all of them, and it is with his
graciousness that we writers get to do the most awful and horrendous things to his characters. As always, you have my eternal gratitude, Mssr. Cannell. Hee-Hee.
Comments: If there are those that darest, and you dost desire to throw some commentary on my plot, then most certainly all comments that you choose to put forth will be received, although some of them might find their way into a special file marked '13'. ;-D
Author's Notes: This Space For Rent
"This is it." A muffled male
voice sounded over the radio headset. "There he is. You know what to do.
And don't get fancy. He may look like a
pansy, but he WAS a Green Beret. Speed and quiet ARE the essentials here,
"Yes, sir." Another male voice answered.
"Got it." A second male acknowledged, and the radios all went silent.
The two operatives were professionals and resented the added warnings, though neither spoke of their discontent. Each knew their current boss would hand them their testicles in a baggie and then make them eat them, baggie first, should the unthinkable actually occur, and they botched their assigned job.
There was no extraneous conversation as they made visual contact with the man they'd been hired to kidnap, and silently, they crept forward as their quarry crossed the busy street and entered the parking garage. Suddenly, as though the handsome, blond man sensed something amiss, he stopped and looked around, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. The two predators froze in their tracks and watched as the man frowned, shook his head, and continued into the garage.
Slowly, nonchalantly, the two parted and flanked the man as he opened the door of a flashy, white Corvette convertible that bore a large red stripe across the side. He slid into the driver's seat,
and one of the men pulled a garrote from a fanny pack, while from his pocket, the other removed a baggie that contained a white cloth. He removed the cloth from the plastic bag, then dropped the bag onto the ground.
On an invisible signal, the two men struck as one.
The man with the garrote threw it over the blond man's head as he reached to put the keys into the ignition, and pulled him up straight. Their victim made nothing more than a small, pain-filled
gasp, as he struggled vainly to escape the stranglehold of the thin wire, and the keys fell to the floor of the car, forgotten. A moment later, the other attacker brutally shoved the cloth against the
helpless man's nose and mouth. Automatically, the blond man arched against the sickeningly sweet smell of the chemical that was on the cloth, but the wire of the garrote sliced into the delicate skin of his throat and drew a thin line of blood around the circumference of his neck.
What amounted to only seconds later, the blond collapsed, unconscious, and hung over the door of the car. To make sure the man truly WAS unconscious, The two attackers stayed where they were for a few more moments, and a small trickle of blood ran down the pristine surface of the white door, and blended into the red detailing that cheerily decorated the Corvette's side.
A non-descript, beige van, its license plate half-covered in mud, almost sidled up to the three men, and just as smoothly as they'd pulled them out, the attackers replaced their weapons. While
one of the men removed the unconscious victim from the car, the other picked up the mobile phone, wrote down the number, and then replaced it in its cradle. Together, the two attackers lifted the blond into the open side door of the van, deposited him none-too-gently on the floor, and carefully closed the door. As slowly as it had driven up, the van pulled away from the Corvette and exited the garage, headed for a destination unknown, with the victim who'd been kidnapped for reasons unknown, firmly ensconced inside.
All told, the entire kidnapping had taken less than three minutes to complete.
Hannibal looked around and frowned. Something wasn't right. It wasn't anything that he could name, specifically; he just knew that something wasn't right. He looked over at B.A. as the bigger man worked on the van, and knew that B.A. was okay. He looked over at Murdock, and watched for a moment as the pilot frolicked on the grass with his invisible dog, Billy, and knew that things with Murdock were normal . . . or as normal as Murdock ever got. And as for Hannibal himself, well, he puffed contentedly on a cigar that Face had given him, and knew that he was okay. Then his mind turned to Face. Face was not supposed to report to him for another hour, and there was no reason that Hannibal should have been worried about Face, but he was . . . of course he was.
Face was almost always his private worry when the kid wasn't with the Team. And the reason FOR that worry was that somehow, the kid always managed to find some sort of trouble, somewhere. Usually, Face was able to get out of whatever scrape he'd gotten into, but more often than not, it took the entire Team to pull him out of whatever misfortune had befallen the blond.
Of course, though Hannibal would admit it only to himself, and then only when he was so drunk he never remembered WHAT he's admitted, Face WAS his favorite of his team. Not only by virtue of the fact that Face was the youngest, as well as the last to join the Team, but also because of the kid himself. Hannibal smiled indulgently. Face came off to the rest of the world as a self-assured, smart-ass Con-man, but Hannibal knew differently. He knew that the handsome blond man, with his smooth mannerisms and impeccable clothing, hid the fact that he was a seriously vulnerable kid . . . man . . .who barely had a clue about things that most people took for granted . . . like closeness and caring, and indeed, even love.
And that was what made him Hannibal's favorite. Face was vulnerable, more vulnerable than most, and in need of protection, and mostly from himself. He had a huge heart that gave, and continued to give long after there shouldn't have been anything TO give, or even why, and usually, only the Team saw it.
And, again, as Hannibal would admit to only himself, Face truly was the son he'd . . .
A familiar pain gripped Hannibal's chest, and he closed his eyes as it passed. He so rarely went where his thoughts had taken him, and he seldom allowed himself to even think along said lines. Losing children was painful, horrifying, and if Hannibal ever lost Face that way, even if Face weren't of Hannibal's blood, well, the older man didn't know what he'd do, or what he'd be capable of.
"Hey, Hannibal. You okay, man?" Hannibal looked up and saw that B.A. hovered over him, and the older man grinned.
"Yeah. I'm fine, B.A.. Why?"
"You looked sick." The bigger man understated, and Hannibal's grin widened.
"Nah. Just thinking about things. That's all."
"You wouldn't, by any chance, be thinking of Face, would you, Colonel?" Murdock asked, and Hannibal raised his eyebrow at the pilot.
"Yeah, I was. Why?" He asked, his tone guarded, and Murdock shrugged.
"'Cause I was just thinkin' 'bout him too, that's why." The pilot answered quietly.
"So's I." B.A. suddenly confirmed, and the three men looked at one another seriously.
"Uh . . . you think we should call him?" Murdock asked, and Hannibal inhaled, then exhaled slowly.
"Yeah. I don't like the feeling I'm getting. If we're wrong though, you KNOW we'll hear about this from him for a year." Hannibal warned, even as he smiled, and B.A. opened the door of the van and held out the phone.
"Ain't nothin' new about that." B.A. commented, and Hannibal took the phone and dialed. The other two were silent, and they watched as Hannibal let the phone ring several times, then he scowled deeply and blackly.
"He should be on his way here now, which means that he should be near his phone. Get this thing moving, B.A.. There's no answer." He ordered, and then threw down his cigar, hopped into the passenger's seat, and hung up the phone. Murdock threw the door of the van open, jumped inside, and slammed it shut, at almost the same exact moment that B.A. slammed down the hood of the van and jumped into the driver's seat.
No one said a word as B.A. slammed the van into gear, squealed the tires, and burned rubber out of the parking lot. A maneuver that was to the loud consternation of the other drivers on the road they'd suddenly swung onto.
B.A. made the hour drive from their temporary residence to Face's, in less than fifteen minutes, and he jumped the speed bump that would have normally 'protected' the garage from such insane intrusions. He spun the wheel of the van, and did a 180 degree turn as he roared up to the Corvette and parked directly, and expertly, beside it. The three men jumped out, and contemplated the empty, cold car for a moment.
"Fan out, and examine everything." Hannibal ordered, and the three men did just that.
"Colonel. Got a baggie." Murdock announced, and held the plastic to his nose, gingerly inhaled, exhaled, and shook his head. "Chloroform." He announced, and Hannibal took the baggie, and confirmed Murdock's diagnosis.
"Colonel . . ." B.A.'s voice was soft. "There's blood here." He pointed at the door, and silently, Hannibal examined that as well.
"You . . . you think it might be Face's?" Murdock asked, and Hannibal looked at the placement of the trial of blood, then bent over and picked the abandoned keys from the floor of the car.
"No one else's it could have been." Hannibal confirmed, and wrapped the keys in a tight fist.
"This doesn't make any sense, Colonel. If they chloroformed him, why did they need to make him bleed?" Murdock's question, if not slightly garbled from the force of his emotions, was valid, and with a practiced, and tired , eye, Hannibal once again looked over the scene.
"I think they may have subdued him first." He announced. "This was obviously a professional hit...."
"What makes you say that?" B.A. demanded. "They dropped the baggie . . ."
"On purpose, I'd say, B.A.." Hannibal nodded, and tried to answer his men's questions, and not think about the one question that no one had asked, which was 'why' Face had been kidnapped in the first place. "Look around you. No other cars have been disturbed, and there's no sign of struggle . . . with those fancy shoes Face wears, if he'd been able to fight, there'd be scuff marks on the pavement." He clenched his teeth and forced himself to remain professional. "I'd say someone got the drop on Face, more than likely, two someones, as its hard to subdue a victim AND chloroform him at the same time. Especially when that victim is a trained Ex-Green Beret. They must have flanked him, and while one held onto him, the other chloroformed him."
"You sure he ain't dead, Hannibal?" B.A.'s voice was harsh, and they all knew he hated to ask the question, but they also all knew that it HAD needed to be addressed.
"At the time of his kidnapping, I'd say he was still alive. There's not enough blood to indicate they did any major damage to him, and if they were going to kill him, there'd be no point to chloroforming him."
"But, why, Colonel?" Murdock finally asked the one question they had avoided for as long as they could. "Why would they go to all the trouble of kidnapping him, and then leaving all this? I mean, if, as you say, the baggie was left behind on purpose, then it was obviously left for someone to find . . . maybe for US to find, since we are the closest people to him."
"And that's the thousand dollar question that needs to be answered, isn't it, Gentlemen?" Hannibal frowned deeply, and his pale blue eyes glinted steel. "And you can bet we're . . ." He was jolted, though he didn't show it, as the phone suddenly rang through the stillness of the garage, and the three of them stared at it for a moment. Slowly, deliberately, Hannibal picked up the phone, and straightened his back, obviously in full protective, 'Colonel Smith' mode.
"Face?" He asked without preamble, and the voice on the other end laughed.
"What quaint nicknames you all have for each other." An unrecognized, male voice said, and Hannibal held the phone from his ear so that all of them could hear. "But no, as you may have guessed, this isn't your handsome, blond friend. However, I DO know where he is. And I bet you would too."
"You're right." Hannibal's voice was carefully neutral, and the others looked at one another briefly, as the voice continued.
"However, we have a situation here, and I think, as former . . . forgive me. I mean, as soldiers, I think you can appreciate my dilemma. However, before we get started, I must say, you have surprised me. You showed up much earlier than I thought you would. However, I was prepared for such an eventuality."
"If I wanted to go dancing, I'd've worn ballet slippers." Hannibal growled. "Cut to the chase before I get bored."
"Impatience never got anyone anywhere, Colonel Smith." The man on the other end snorted. "As for what I want, that's very simple: I want the reward that's been offered for you. Now, given that reason, I know that I certainly don't want any permanent harm to come to any of you, as that would seriously defeat my purpose, and I have as yet, to see any Wanted: Dead or Alive posters out for you. However, I am more than aware of the fact that you won't simply walk into my arms, either. Of course, I'm sure that, by now, you've figured that I've been monitoring the garage, so I'm not going to mince words. I've got your Lieutenant, and if you want to see him alive again, you'll follow my instructions, and to the very letter, or I promise you, the next time you see him, he'll be missing a goodly portion of his head."
"How do I know you haven't killed him already?" Hannibal demanded, and the man sighed.
"Well, technically, you don't. But your proof WILL have to wait for another hour, I'm afraid, as your Lieutenant is still under the influence of the chloroform, and is still quite unconscious. To wake him unnaturally at this most delicate point in time, would be most disastrous for HIM, and extremely messy for ME, not to mention the fact that I will lose my one and only bargaining chip with which to sway YOU. However, if you will return here in exactly one hour, and then direct your attention to the video monitor in the toll booth, you will see that your Lieutenant will indeed, still be alive."
"What's to prevent us from looking there now?" Hannibal asked, and the man laughed.
"Nothing. But then, that's just what you'll see too. Nothing. I'm not a stupid man, Colonel Smith, and neither are you. I'm not going to leave anything to chance. Too many people have done that with you, and too many people have ended up paying quite dearly FOR that mistake. You get one chance, and one chance only here, Colonel. In fact, if you attempt to do anything other than what I've told you to do, then I am afraid that there will be some rather gory parts delivered to you at some very unexpected times and locations, which would be such a shame, as I don't generally like to waste money, especially on postage. If you do things the way I tell you, then you ALL get to stay alive, including your Lieutenant, I get my reward, and the Army gets their fugitives. That being the case, then I'm sure that you and yours will once again find some chance to escape them . . . they aren't particularly bright, obviously, anyway. However, you screw with me, Colonel Smith, and no one gets anything, except a VERY dead Lieutenant Templeton 'Faceman' Peck."
The phone clicked in Hannibal's ear, and a moment later, went dead. Slowly, Hannibal hung up the phone, and looked at his two Team members.
"It's your call, Hannibal." Murdock said, his voice quiet.
"I'm behind you, Colonel." B.A. assured him, and he knew they'd follow him into the depths of Hell if he asked.
"Unfortunately, Gentlemen . . ." Hannibal clenched his teeth and his fists which let the rest of the team know that he was forced into the one thing he hated beyond anything else, which was inaction. "Until we know more of what we're dealing with, there's nothing we can do. I'm not willing to risk Face's life, IF there's a chance we can save it."
"So we just sit around an' do nothin'." B.A. scowled, and Hannibal blinked.
"No, we wait our hour, and I make plans."
Face came to slowly . . . slowly, groggily, and painfully. The first thing he realized was that he'd been attacked and kidnapped . . . again. He knew that because the last thing he'd known, he'd been getting into his car, there was a brief flash of pain, and then unconsciousness. Then there was what he knew at the very moment he'd opened his eyes. He was completely immobile.
If he hadn't been kidnapped, there would have been no reason for him to be immobilized. If the military had taken him, then his capture would have been far less subtle, and he would have been publicly arrested and humiliated. Decker wouldn't have missed that chance. Face tried to swallow, but realized that a hard, unyielding pipe shaped thing pressed . . . no, pressed was too weak a word for whatever was. Embedded was a better word. A hard, unyielding pipe-like thing was almost EMBEDDED into his jaw just under his chin. In the semi-darkness of the room, he tried to turn his head to get away from the pain of whatever poked him in the jaw, but a dim light came on directly over his head, and he blinked in the sudden 'brightness'.
"Ah." A disembodied male voice spoke, and through the fact that it was slightly distorted, Face knew that it was piped through a microphone, and once more tried to turn his head, but the voice sounded again.
"I really wouldn't move around too much if I were you, Lieutenant Peck. You may want to look straight ahead . . . although, even that movement should be made pretty slowly."
Face did as he was bid, and when he saw what was before him, his eyes opened wide, and there was no way that he could stop the sudden rush of panic that flooded him. He looked into a mirror. It was a beautiful mirror, of that there was no doubt. It was a very expensive mirror too . . . and rare. After all, one didn't often find pristine Louis XIV, gilt edged, pedestal mirrors with ornate and gold covered feet very often. However, it wasn't the mirror that had caused his sudden terror . . . it was what the mirror reflected.
He saw that he sat . . . no, sat was not an accurate description of what position he was in. Actually he was leaned back against a wall and was duct taped into a hard, ornately designed, straight-backed chair. His legs were open wide and his thighs were duct-taped to the seat of the chair, the tape wrapped around the back legs of the chair. His knees were bent, and his calves were duct taped to the bottom rungs of the chair, while his ankles were duct taped to the back legs of the chair, until his feet rested flat against the wall. His torso was duct taped to the back of the chair, and duct tape was woven through the ornate design of the back of the chair, and wrapped tightly around his shoulders and chest. One of his arms was duct taped to his side, completely unusable and the other . . . well, that was the part that had panicked him.
Slowly, he ran his eyes over the length of his right side, from his chin on down. The thing that pressed under his jaw was definitely NOT just a pipe. It was the barrel of a shotgun. The shotgun was duct taped, mummy style, to his right arm. He followed the duct-taped arm down to his wrist, and saw that it too was duct taped. However, his hand was literally swathed in duct tape, and his fingers were curled around the trigger of the shotgun, his thumb on the trigger itself. He looked beyond his swathed hand, and saw that the shoulder stock of the shotgun was placed a scant millimeter above the floor. Face knew that if he moved even a fraction of an inch in any direction, then it would be a very messy last movement, as he'd blow his own head off.
NOT an attractive proposition in any way, shape, or form!
"Who are you?" Face squeaked out, and tried to clear his throat, but the end of the shotgun barrel that was pressed deeply into his flesh prevented much sound.
"That's really of no importance right here and now, is it? Especially to a man in your position." The voice said, and Face had to admit the man had a point.
"Why'd you do THIS to me, then?" If he could have moved, he would have indicated the elaborate set-up he'd been ensnared in. He tried to inhale, but the positioning of the gun made even that much movement impossible, and Face knew that even without his gestures, the voice knew what he'd meant.
"To get you. To get those you run with. To get the reward." The man's voice was extremely calm and pleasant, and Face blinked.
"Then, if you know who you're after, who I am, and who we are . . ." Face said. "Then you know this isn't going to work."
The voice guffawed, and Face's blood ran cold. He knew that laughter like that, and the calm manner in which the man spoke, indicated only one thing: Criminal Insanity. "Well, I certainly MUST compliment you, Lieutenant." The voice spoke, and the laughter was still in the voice. "That's a MUCH more inventive way of saying 'you'll never get away with this' than I've heard yet. However, as you can see, I've already gotten away with this. And, now that you're awake, I can get on with the rest of my plan . . ."
Face really DIDN'T want to know what the rest of his plan was, but he sure as HELL wasn't going to let the insane voice know that he was scared of, or even worried about the situation, and he put on his 'smart-assed' Con-man personality.
"Well, since we both know where we stand, or in my case sit, then I hope you know, this makes it real hard if I need to go to the bathroom." He complained, and the man laughed.
"As a friend of a friend would say, Lieutenant: Too bad. So sad." And with that, Face was left alone.
"Okay, Hannibal." Face sighed. "I'm out of ideas. I REALLY hope you have a REAL good plan for getting us . . . me . . . out of this one."
"It's almost an hour, Colonel." Murdock swallowed, as he finished a cup of coffee that he hadn't really tasted, and looked into the cup of coffee that Hannibal hadn't touched, and the seven empty glasses of milk that B.A. had drained in quick succession. Murdock's quiet announcement broke into the older man's harried, but deadly organized thoughts, and he looked up at Murdock, his eyes once more steel . . . and resolved.
"So, what's the plan, Hannibal?" B.A.'s voice was calm, confident, and Hannibal blinked at him, and then inhaled.
"I've thought of several." He announced, and Murdock tilted his head.
"Aren't you going to let us in on them?" He inquired, and Hannibal inclined his head.
"I would . . . and will . . . when we have more information. I'm afraid you won't like any of the ones I've come up with, and most of them involve . . ."
"The front door." The two men responded, and Hannibal's grin, though it was his own, was almost feral, and one the others hadn't seen since Vietnam.
"We may have to get dirty on this one." He told them, and waited for their response. What he'd expected them to say no one knew, but they just looked back at him, and finally Murdock smiled.
"God made dirt, and unless it's full of rocks, dirt don't hurt. Let's rock, Colonel." He answered grimly.
"Yeah!" B.A. declared and clenched his fist, while Hannibal nodded, satisfied with his men and their resolve. As one, three chairs scraped back, three dollar bills landed on the table, and three very silent, very deadly men left the small café. Still without a word, they climbed into the van, and B.A. drove to the parking garage, then slowly pulled in. Hannibal grabbed a parking ticket from the slot, and then frowned as he looked at it.
"Pull in and go to the toll booth." He read as he looked at the ticket, and his tone was sharp with barely restrained fury as he recognized the trick that he always used when he got especially creative, stylish, and sneaky, and wanted to let a client know they'd not only found, but hired, the A-Team without actually revealing himself to them on-the-spot.
"Hannibal . . ." Murdock began, and the older man nodded.
"I know. Whoever this person is, Murdock, he knows our methods." Hannibal told the pilot, and B.A. snorted.
"Don't like this, Colonel. Feels like a trap." He announced, and Hannibal nodded.
"Don't park too close to the booth, B.A., it can be used as a blind for us just as easily as for them, and we can use the smaller vehicles for cover if we have to. Be extra alert, here, gentlemen. Guns drawn, eyes, ears, and noses open, and mouths closed. B.A. you're on the left. I'm on the right. Murdock, sit in front of the windshield, but be prepared to dive for cover. Wait thirty seconds for B.A. and I to get around the sides of the van, then take the back. I want all of us in view of one or the other at all times."
With that the three men did as ordered, and with the military precision they'd used in the forest jungles of Vietnam, and rarely had to use in the concrete jungles of Los Angeles, they exited the van. When all three had cleared the van, they spread out and flanked the tollbooth. Hannibal waved for Murdock and B.A. to stop, and on his signal, Murdock took the right side of the booth and faced forward. Hannibal signaled once more, and B.A. took the left side, and faced backward. Cautiously, Hannibal approached the door of the booth, then examined it carefully for traps. He didn't find any, inhaled deeply, held his breath, and opened the door of the booth.
He waited for a long moment, and when nothing happened, he entered the booth.
B.A. fought the urge to watch what Hannibal did, and clenched his jaw as he watched the exits, and protected Hannibal and Murdock's backs. He thought about Face, and almost sighed with frustration. Why was it almost always Face who got the worst of things?
He was just a poor orphan kid from almost nothing, who hadn't had a lot of breaks growing up, though indeed, things COUD have been a LOT worse. B.A. knew that though he too had been poor, he'd also had more advantages than Face as he'd grown up, and he certainly included his mother in that category. He knew that without her, he'd've wound up . . .
B.A. forced his mind from that train of thought, and swallowed. He NEVER went where his mind was taking him, and he was NEVER going to go there. It hadn't happened, plain and simple, and if it didn't happen, it wasn't worth contemplating.
However, as for Face, well, he could have gone THERE, heck, he probably HAD gone there, but he just didn't talk about it. After all, Face wasn't a saint, and if he ever DID qualify for that position, it'd be ONLY because he'd scammed the Pope into it. However, B.A. honestly liked Face. He liked him a lot. He was like the kind of little brother you looked out for. The kind of little brother that could have gone astray but for the influence of an older brother who had just the right combination of caring and kicks that kept the little brother in line, and on a semi-straight path. B.A. almost growled aloud, but held it in.
He and Face weren't the same color, they weren't the same ethically, they weren't the same physically, and they certainly didn't share the same interests. However, B.A. WAS Face's older brother. You didn't go through what the Team had, and NOT become a family . . . even one as dysfunctional as they were, and nobody laid a hand on your family. The man that had taken Face . . . B.A.'s 'Little Bro', was goin' ta' pay, and he was goin' ta' pay hard.
He risked a quick look at Murdock's back, and returned to his own vigil.
Murdock felt B.A.'s eyes on his back, and knew, from the advantage of the long association and exposure to the bigger man's many moods, that he was angry. Very, VERY angry. B.A. had never said anything, but Murdock knew that Face was special to him. Hell, Face was special to ALL of them. They'd watched him as he'd 'grown up' with them in a place that no kid, no matter whether Face WAS 19, should have had to have grown up, and it should never have been the WAY he had, either.
Murdock snorted. Nineteen. Yeah, right. The jury was STILL out on that one, just as the jury was still out on whether or not Murdock was REALLY crazy. Murdock smiled. Face never asked whether Murdock was crazy, and he never . . . well . . . hardly ever, criticized Murdock for his fantasies, or how often, and to what extent he indulged in them. In fact, on several occasions, Face had even joined him on them. Murdock knew that Face enjoyed their joint flights of fancy, and half the time, Murdock went over the top just to watch Face as he responded and relaxed around him. After all, Face so seldom was relaxed around anyone.
To Murdock, Face was far too concerned with his appearance, which not always extended to only his looks. Whenever he could, Murdock loved bringing out in Face what would have been a very open, affectionate boy had life been different. It was the very same boy who lived in the intensely shy man, who felt that he had to wear masks and project fronts and sham personalities in order to be accepted. Hell, they didn't call him Faceman just because he was cute.
Murdock wanted nothing more than to be the kind of eccentric, fun-loving Uncle that kids, and relatives, talked about long after he'd passed away into the Wild Blue Yonder, where God truly WOULD be his co-pilot.
It was the kind of an Uncle that Face needed, and Murdock planned to be that Uncle for Face as long as the younger man needed him to be. No evil son of a biscuit was going to change his plans for him and Face, which was for them to grow old together as the best of friends they were, and have more fun than they'd EVER had before, for the next one hundred years. Murdock had never felt more serious than he was at that moment, and he hoped that once the Team grabbed hold of the villain that had nabbed Face, Hannibal and B.A. would leave a little of the man over for Murdock to help make who-ever-it-was pay for taking Face from them.
Hannibal took a moment, and gazed at the rigid backs and alert posture of his men, and pride flashed through him, even as he looked at the monitor console in the toll booth. He knew that they were truly a Team, and not merely a Unit, as he had told Doug Kyle what seemed a hundred years before. Even though they hadn't been in a truly challenging fight where they'd needed to break their vows of never purposefully taking a life since Vietnam, that didn't mean they'd lost their training . . . and not just the physical conditioning he forced them to re-do on occasion. No, they were still, despite the styles of living they'd 'enjoyed' since coming home, the disciplined, number one, A-Team they were in Vietnam. They'd kept their ideals, their morals, and their values, despite their fugitive status, as well as their closeness, and Hannibal nodded. He knew that whatever he deemed needed to be done in order to resolve the 'situation' they, and face, were in, they would. They'd worry about the consequences of and to their consciences later . . . after they had Face back with them safe and sound.
Hannibal suddenly frowned as one of the video monitors went blank, then was filled with snow. A moment later, the video cleared, and Hannibal saw that a placard was held in front of the camera, though nothing else could be seen.
"Hello, Colonel Smith." Hannibal read aloud. "Welcome to My nightmare." As if to add insult to injury, there was a bright, cheerful smiley face at the end of the sentence. "You wish to see your precious Lieutenant. Here he is."
The placard was removed, and it was all Hannibal could do to NOT shoot out the monitor. As it was, he gripped the edge of the counter until his knuckles were white, and his fingernails dug into the upholstery of the chair, and actually punctured the fake leather.
Face was extremely well secured, by duct tape, to a chair, and a shotgun, and a man stood beside Face with his hand on the younger man's shoulder. It was clear that his intention was to push Face forward, which would have made the gun stock hit the floor, the fingers that were swathed in the duct tape would clench around the trigger, and Face would, quite literally, lose his head.
A moment later, another placard replaced the first.
"Please, Colonel Smith, feel free to invite your colleagues in as well. I'm sure they want to see this. I'll wait." Hannibal scowled, resisted the almost irresistible urge to look for whatever camera was so obviously focused on him, and knocked on the tollbooth door. When he had his Teammates attention, he waved them into the booth, though he made sure that each continued their watchful vigil. They glanced, in shifts, at the monitor, and Murdock inhaled deeply, then narrowed his eyes, even as and B.A. clenched his fists so tightly together that his nails bit into his palms.
"Colonel . . ." Murdock began, but Hannibal waved him silent, and he nodded.
Yet another placard filled the screen, and Hannibal read that one as well. "You see, A-Team, I'm VERY serious about this. You have one of two choices: Leave with the men who are to pick you up, or watch your Lieutenant die a VERY messy, and oh so unnecessary, death." Yet another placard covered the camera. "My men are in constant contact. One moment of silence from them, and Lieutenant Peck dies. You have one minute to decide his immediate fate."
The screen went blank, and the Team looked at one another. They'd been offered a choice that was a no-brainer. As one, they turned, left the booth, and stood, at rigid military attention. A moment later, a non-descript, beige van pulled into the garage, and slowly stopped before them.
The Team was the very picture of restraint and decorum as three goons efficiently disarmed them, bent their arms behind them, then cuffed each of them at the wrists and forearms.
The team was then pulled into the van. A moment later, the side door slammed shut, and as it had with Face, drove slowly away from the scene of yet another extremely efficient kidnapping.
Face sat, or leaned actually, as he had
leaned for God only knew how long, and involuntarily tried to swallow. His
watch had beeped six times since he'd regained consciousness, and knew that six
hours had passed.
Six hours. He shook his head, and frowned. It was almost impossible to believe that so much time had passed . . . and yet, it seemed to go as slowly as it had gone quickly. He tried to account for the time, and mentally counted everything that had happened to him since he'd been woken up. There had been that brief conversation with the lunatic who'd kidnapped him. Then there'd been the time when the mirror had been removed. Then there was that time when the two goons had entered, and while one was positioned at his shoulder, another held placards in front of what was obviously a camera.
Face knew at that point that the Team had been contacted, and it had been an hour or two, maybe a little more, after he'd been kidnapped. Since then, he'd been left completely alone, and in the dark. Sweat dripped down his forehead, and itched intolerably. He scrunched up his face and tried to make the drop slide down further, but it was a useless effort. It was a small thing, but, caught as he was, when everything added up, it was literal torture. Yet, even though Face knew that though things looked bad . . . really, REALLY bad . . . Hannibal was out there in the world somewhere, and had a plan of escape and rescue for him. None of the Team ever left one of their own in trouble, and Face knew that Hannibal, and the others, would indeed come for him, and heaven help the goon that had nabbed Face in the first place.
Hannibal was really good about always having a plan, and Face consoled himself with that thought. He knew that he could always rely on the fact that Hannibal always had a plan of some sort of action, and he wasn't worried . . . wasn't too worried . . . was only a little worried . . . actually, he was just . . . concerned. Yeah. That was it. He was merely concerned. However, the more time that passed, the more concerned he became. Nope, the time wasn't right for worry, or, once the initial moment of panic had passed, even to be frightened. Hannibal and his plans were out there pulling for him.
Face's thoughts turned to himself and his own penchant for plans. He had to be honest with himself, especially when sitting, duct taped to a chair, waiting to make a wrong move that would end up with him blowing out his own brains. Plans were not his forte, nor were they necessarily his spheres of expertise. He just went along and did whatever seemed right to him at the moment, whether it involved a sudden change of plans in a Con, or doing something that ultimately turned out to be an ill-advised bit of un-thought-out action.
But, in his current situation and position, what the hell could he do for himself? The only answer was nothing . . . without committing the Sin of Suicide, at least . . . and it frustrated the hell out of him.
However, his body WAS starting to resent being held in one position for so long. His upper shoulders and upper torso ached so badly that the area between his shoulder blades seemed to have caught FIRE, while his back felt as if his entire vertebrate had fused into one long steel rod. And then, of course, there was his bladder, which was a problem in and of itself. Not only did it hurt almost unbearably, it also felt as if it had swollen to twice its size, and was getting bigger every nano-second. His groin muscles, where his legs were straddled apart, felt as if they'd been stretched to beyond their endurance, and hurt so badly, that agony was too mild a word to use for the pain. As for everything below that, well, his knees and ankles had long since gone numb, and he knew he'd not be able to walk on his own, even if he did manage to escape.
Ever so delicately, he squirmed in the chair, and tried not to think about how long it'd been since he'd actually gone to the bathroom. He almost choked as he tried to swallow . . . he hadn't been given any water in the entire time he'd been there either, which, upon reflection, was probably a good thing, but the whole situation was really starting to piss him off. However, he knew that aggressive anger would get him nowhere fast . . . except dead . . . which wasn't a consideration for him at all, especially as the Team would be really disappointed in him when they came for him, only to find he'd done something stupid and gotten himself killed.
Man, he really, really HAD to go to the bathroom. However, if he released, that meant more humiliation than he was willing to deal with, but it made a difficult situation even more difficult. He squirmed once more, sighed, then froze in place as boots sounded in the long hallway.
The last time he'd heard those same sounds, was when the goons had entered his prison room and contacted the Team. A key scraped in the lock of the door, and even though he was unable to look over at it, he felt the soft whoosh of a breeze as it blew into the warm room. He shivered in the sudden chill, and went absolutely ghost white at what he saw.
Hannibal, Murdock, and B.A. were literally thrown through the door, and then none-too-gently shoved into the middle of the room.
Face saw that they were tied with their hands and arms folded behind their backs, and their wrists had been riot-cuffed together. However not only were their wrists cuffed, but their upper forearms were cuffed as well, so any use of their arms was a moot point. It was also clear from the disarray of their clothing, that they'd been thoroughly searched. However, there was more . . . and it was a much more ominous sign that things hadn't gone exactly according to whatever plan Hannibal had come up with, than the fact that the Team was tied up. THAT was normal. Even the fact that all three of the Team was unconscious could conceivably be considered as normal.
What WASN'T normal, was that Hannibal's coat and boots were missing, Murdock's ever-present leather jacket and baseball hat were gone, and as for B.A., each and every piece of jewelry he always wore, even in his sleep, had been stripped away, up to and including his feathered earrings.
Face was almost completely demoralized.
He sighed as he realized that the people that had captured them obviously knew
them, and knew them well. To have taken the overt symbols of whom they were,
and what they stood for, was meant to do exactly what it did . . . no matter
how briefly. It was meant to make Face . . . and maybe the others . . . feel
hopeless, if not helpless, especially as there were several little items on
their persons, and in their particular items of clothing that could have helped
them get out of even riot cuffs, that were gone and in the possession of their
Face watched as the goons left the room, and he swallowed as he looked down at the unconscious forms of his Teammates. They didn't look any the worse for wear. There were no bruises, no cuts, no signs that they had been beaten into submission, and Face felt rage as it flared through him. Obviously, the Team had done just what was required of them, and sprung the trap on themselves for his sake. "Damn you, Hannibal." He cursed the older man, and yet even as he did it, he knew that he would have done the exact same thing for any of the three that lay on the floor, helpless, before him. He knew that he was responsible for their current situation, but he also realized there was nothing that he could do about it. After all, they all knew the risks they took as they walked . . . or ran as the case may be . . . outside the law, and they all knew that though they normally led charmed lives, there would come the one time that they were, indeed, surprised. Although, the fact that they'd finally been gotten the drop on, sucked royally. "Well. Now what?" Face asked the unmoving men at his feet, and knew the answer to his question was only time.
His watch beeped once, and then twice, and Face gave up on any and all movement on his part. It was just easier to sit still and let his entire body go numb . . . at least, every part of his body but for his bladder, and he knew it was only a matter of time until his body took matters into its own hands, so to speak, and his moment of ultimate humiliation arrived.
Two hours. One hundred and twenty minutes that seemed absolutely interminable when all you could do was watch unconscious men, your friends, your family, as they slept off whatever drug had been given them. However, finally, one by one, they started to stir. B.A., of course, due to his long association with knock-out drugs, was the first to awaken fully, and Face almost grinned when the bigger man roared his displeasure with, and at, the situation.
"Hey, B.A.. Welcome to the party." Face greeted with forced joviality. "Have a good nap?"
B.A. struggled to sit up, and he looked over at Face, and his furious expression softened, even as he tried, desperately, to come up with a way to free his little brother. "Foo's gassed us in the van they put us in." He succinctly filled the Lieutenant in on what had happened, and then he looked down at himself. "And they stole my gold!" He roared, and fought to stand. "Someone's gonna' pay!"
"Sergeant Baracus." The voice that Face decided he hated, came over the microphone and B.A. growled as he looked around wildly and tried to find it. "I suggest you calm down. You are putting your friend in some jeopardy. As for your gold, I have it safely in my possession." The man actually laughed. "Where it's going to stay after you have been taken away, as my own personal War Prizes."
"Tha's MY gold!" B.A. declared, although he quieted down, though obviously reluctantly, as he realized that, for once, his brute strength was NOT going to get them out of the mess they were in.
"Not any more." The voice pleasantly informed him.
"I guess the same goes for my hat and jacket too, then." Murdock said as he grimaced and forced himself to a seated position.
"Of course, Captain Murdock." The voice continued conversationally. "And I must say that I AM pleased to find that I was right in my suspicions of YOU. Although I absolutely MUST congratulate you on your Emmy award winning impression of a lunatic. I'm sure the Military is going to LOVE questioning you about your activities . . . although, I am afraid your actions WILL endanger your Veterans Benefits. But, unfortunately, that is the chance we take when we aid and abet criminals. So, now, Sergeant Baracus, if you would kindly sit down . . ."
"Ain't goin' ta' sit!" B.A. declared, and they could almost hear the shrug in the voice on the other end of the microphone.
"Suit yourself, but if you insist on defying me, I will merely send a few of my people into the room, one will gently place his hand on the Faceman's shoulder, and BOOM! He falls forward, and you get to not only wear the results of your defiance, but you will also get to stay in the same room with it until the military claims you. A direct gunshot wound to the head is extremely messy and the blood almost never comes out of your clothing. Headless corpses are also really smelly too, especially after a day or two of being locked in a small room with them. I'm sure you remember THAT experience from Vietnam? Oh, and one more thing you might want to think about, is that his position against the wall is really quite a precarious one, so I would therefore seriously reconsider approaching him in your severely movement challenged conditions . . . and this goes for all of you, and not just the behemoth. I'm afraid there'd be very little you could do to save him if the chair fell forward in a well-meaning, but un-advised attempt to help him."
"B.A., stand down." Hannibal finally sat up, and his sharp blue eyes flashed over the room. He'd been awake for several minutes, and had quietly gathered his wits about him before he'd said anything.
"Ah. And welcome to our gathering, Colonel Smith. Isn't this a wonderful sight? All my little fugitives bound and helpless."
"Not to mention the fact that my feet are cold." Hannibal frowned. "Don't you know it's not polite to take a man's boots until he's actually dead? And what IS it with you lunatics and my boots? I continually have to keep retrieving them from you guys when we invariably escape from, and then defeat you. I'm beginning to get really annoyed with that."
"Maybe you should start wearing sneakers." Face suggested, but his voice was gravelly, and Hannibal looked over at him seriously.
"You doing okay, kid?" He asked, and saw the disbelief and surprise that flashed into Face's eyes, but was replaced a moment later by exhaustion, and he knew that Face was almost completely at the end of not only his physical rope, but his emotional rope as well.
"I've really, really, really GOT to go to the bathroom, Colonel." He answered in an attempt at flippancy, but the joke was flat, and the entire Team knew it, and he dropped the smart-assed attitude. "As for the rest of it, well, I've had better days."
"Haven't we all." Murdock commented, as his eyes narrowed in thought, and he knew that he studied Face's position no more carefully than the others had, and, just like they, saw no way to get Face out of it without killing him. Of course, with their arms clamped behind their backs the way they were, there was very little chance of ANY of them freeing themselves and being able to anything for anyone at anytime, especially soon.
Hannibal looked up at the ceiling and frowned as he tried to triangulate the position of the camera based on what he'd observed of the room from the video monitor in the tollbooth. "Well . . ." He said. "You obviously know who we are, what we do, and how, so at this point in a grade 'B' movie, which I assure you, I'm VERY familiar with, and as the hero talking to the villain, I'm supposed
to demand who you are. I'd ask what you intend to do with us, but that's obvious, and asking again would be a waste of my time."
"A waste of YOUR time!? How DARE you talk about YOUR time?! I've wasted MOST of my LIFE with you and your men, Colonel Smith! I'm someone you've humiliated too many times, in too many ways to even BEGIN to be able to make you pay for how much of my time I've wasted! Which is why you're going to literally PAY for my time now!" The voice raged, and Hannibal laughed as he shifted position and turned his back to the camera, which he'd finally found.
"Well, that takes in quite a list of people who've tried to catch us, failed miserably, and were humiliated in their efforts, so all that information's not really helpful now, is it? Want to give me more of a clue?" He grinned and his tone was jaunty and smug.
"You are treading on really thin ice, Colonel Smith!" The voice hissed. "Or I should say your LIEUTENANT is! I told you before, Colonel, don't SCREW with me . . ."
"I wouldn't dream of it." Hannibal said. "I don't swing that way . . ."
"Hannibal. Why don't you just go ahead and offer to dig my grave here as well? I'll just sit here with this gun embedded in my chin, while you make jokes that can get me killed!" Face's voice trembled, but whether it was from anger or fear no one knew, but everyone knew that to Face, the situation had become more than he could handle on his own, and none of the team could, or would, blame him for his moment of weakness.
"I'm sorry, Face." Hannibal apologized to the shaken man, and the Team knew that he was serious, even as he glared at the camera. "So, with all that in mind, I'll tell you what, Mr. Who-Ever-You-Are. I'm not really into guessing games, and I'm really tired of doing this little Two step number with you. Why don't you just come here and face . . ." He grimaced. "Come here and confront us yourself. Stop hiding behind a camera and a microphone like some lily-livered coward, and let us actually SEE who we've humiliated too many times. In fact, I what I really want to see, is if you're actually worth all this trouble I've gone to, to reunite my Team."
"Trouble YOU'VE gone to?" The voice was almost apoplectic with anger and restrained rage. "I did this! I brought down the all mighty A-Team, and I'm going to make you EAT your own jokes, Hannibal Smith! In fact, I'M going to make you sorry you ever heard of ME!"
"Well, since I don't know who the hell you are, what I'm sorry for is the fact that we have to sit here and listen to this melodramatic rhetoric. If you don't have the stones to show yourself, then don't bother giving me nay speeches." Hannibal shrugged casually. "It's all the same to me. It's time to crap or get off the pot."
"All right, Colonel Smith. You want to see me, then you've got it. You can finally face me as my prisoner . . . My prisoner! The way it SHOULD have been! And, if you know what's good for your precious Lieutenant, you will face me ON YOUR KNEES!" The microphone was literally slammed off, and the Team looked at one another.
"And they say I'm the crazy one." Murdock muttered as he stared at his Commanding Officer, and no one knew if he referred to Hannibal, or the lunatic that had captured them, and he didn't elaborate.
"You IS the crazy one." B.A. told him, then he too looked at Hannibal. "But you just as crazy. Why you makin' him come here? You only makin' things worse, Hannibal."
"Maybe, but I really want to see who this is, B.A.. I want to put a face, AND a name, to the person who's done this to us so that I can make SURE, when this is all over, he can NEVER do this to us again." A small smile played over his face, and he blinked as he lowered his voice. "Not to mention that if he's in here with us, he's not looking at us through that camera, which means that he can't monitor every one of us at every moment." His blue eyes once again turned steel grey, and his visage was completely expressionless as he looked over at Face, and took note of his flat aspect, almost colorless complexion, and his exhausted demeanor.
"I'm assuming then, that you have a plan, Colonel?" Face asked quietly, as if he couldn't quite allow himself to believe it, and Hannibal nodded, then crawled quickly over to Murdock.
"I do." Hannibal smiled with more confidence than he felt, though he'd never give that fact away to his men, especially under their present circumstances, and looked at Murdock. "And now, before our insane host arrives, undo my belt buckle, and then get the belt off me as fast as you can, because Face's life depends on this."
"Uh . . . okay." Murdock said, and turned his back to Hannibal, then used his thumbs to lift the stubborn leather from out of the buckle, and it hung open. As quickly as he could, Murdock slid the belt from around Hannibal's middle, and Hannibal sat on the loose end, even as, with more than a little difficulty, he gripped the buckle in one hand, and boots pounded up to the door.
"Don't know what you're going to do with that, Hannibal, especially with your arms clamped behind you like that, but I've been like this for over eight hours, and the human body can only take so much, so don't let the attitude fool you. Inside, I'm doing cartwheels." Face smiled apologetically, and tiredly, and he tried to yawn as the adrenaline, which had fed him as he'd waited for his rescue, wore off. However, the yawn ended abruptly in a pain-filled choke, and he bit his lip.
"You just hang in there, Face." Hannibal's voice was determined, and grim, and he frowned in concentration. He exhaled, and thanked Providence that, though he hadn't had to use the particular item he had in years, he did, indeed, have it. He held the end of the belt buckle prong, whose tip he'd flattened and sharpened to a razor edge years before, against the plastic edge of the one cuff that held his wrists together, and tried to saw the cuff apart.
It was hard, it was awkward, it was worse than a slow process, and it hurt like hell to have his wrist bent so far upward that his entire forearm muscle was stretched beyond it's normal capability, and almost beyond its endurance. However, if he could keep the lunatic who'd captured them talking, long enough for him to get at least his wrists free, then they all had at least a small chance of getting out of the situation alive.
The door burst open, and the entire Team looked over at it, as light suddenly flooded the room. Four men stood in the door, but it was the one in front that demanded all their attention, even as he silently waved one of the men over to stand by Face, and the other two stood guard over B.A. and Murdock.
The face that gazed at them, was, beyond question, insane. and the color was an unusual shade of bright, scarlet red, and raw, unadulterated rage filled the eyes. To say they were shocked and surprised at the identity of their captor was more than an understatement. Not to mention that finally knowing who they'd been pitted against was actually something of an anti-climax, considering how evil the actions had been.
Although they knew the face, well, that was where all reasonable recognition stopped. Where there had been fat, there was only lean, raw muscle tone, though it made the figure look more gaunt than buff. What had been slicked back dark hair, was only a short, utilitarian, military cut, with only a hint of wave to it at the very top. Where there had been an ostentatious, rather stupid looking mustache, there was only bare skin. The over bearing, egocentric, dress military uniform had been replaced by an olive green t-shirt, khaki pants, and Army issue boots, and an army issue gun in an Army issue hip holster. And where there had been mere hatred before in eyes that had gazed at the Team from one hundred different humiliating positions, there was only the proud, insane gloat of a man who had been pushed so far over the edge, he wasn't EVER coming back around.
"No WAY." Murdock stared; absolutely fascinated by the immense change their nemesis had gone through.
"Perfect. Just . . .perfect." Face grimaced, and briefly closed his eyes.
"Yo' a dead man!" B.A. declared, and the man laughed.
"Then, I, who am about to die, salute you." The man grinned, and tossed B.A. a jaunty salute, stalked over to Hannibal, and looked down at him from his lofty perch of insanity.
"So, Colonel Smith. What do YOU have to say to me?"
"I like the look." Hannibal grinned, and then grunted as he was viciously kicked in the side. The fact that he had managed to keep upright was a feat in and of itself, and he grimly kept his tight grip on the belt. "So, I guess this means you aren't military any more."
"Oh, you're right about that." The man snarled. "In fact, even though I had come closer than anyone to getting you after I'd hired that fake Team, the Army was going to put me back on a desk job . . . in their Antarctica station. All I needed, Smith, was a little more time to perfect some more ideas I had." He waved his hand at Face. "One of which was this one, but they decided that they'd had enough of me. They would have sent me to Alaska, but it seems there's a Commander Crane there now. My successor would have been there, but I guess Colonel Decker decided retirement to Maine was a better option. But you know what?" His grin widened, until Hannibal could almost count each and every one of Lynch's straight, shiny, white teeth, and he wished the mustache were back. "I took a page out of your book." Lynch actually giggled, and it was one of the most insane sounds any of the Team had EVER heard. "And I went AWOL. Took a few pieces of equipment I thought I'd need, and 'poof'! I just up and left. And you know something, Smith, they MUST really BE as stupid as you made them look, because they're STILL looking for me." He actually giggled again, and chills ran down each of the Team's spines as he knelt in front of Hannibal and looked him directly in the eyes. "And you know what? I like this being on the run stuff, Smith. I like the freedom I have to move around. I like the freedom I have to do things that I couldn't before, because of the Military's ridiculous policy of catching criminals to prosecute them, rather than just to kill them outright. Now I can honestly say that I know why you did it . . ."
"Lynch, listen to me." Hannibal tried to inject some reason and calm into the situation. "We didn't rob that bank for the money for ourselves. We were under or . . ." Hannibal would have continued, but Lynch laughed loudly.
"You know what, Colonel Smith? I believe you. I guess, for quite a long time actually, I've known that. But, at this point, I really don't care. This has NOTHING to do with the military, or the crime, or the death of Morrison. In fact, ALL of this has EVERYTHING to do with me, my hatred of you, and revenge for humiliating me time and time again, destroying not only MY career, but those of several people who had been in my command, and who have since joined me in my crusade against you. Contrary to popular opinion, Smith, I DIDN'T start out in the Army stupid, NOR was I the laughing stock that you made me. In fact, Smith, I'd made it all the way to Colonel, and you don't GET to be a Colonel in the Army by being stupid. YOU, of all people, know that, COLONEL Smith. And you CERTAINLY don't get put in charge of military prisoners OR the prisons they're in because you look GOOD in the uniform, or because you brown-nosed a few Generals. I WAS smart, and I WAS a good Officer. Unfortunately for me, I was also arrogant and I underestimated you . . . not just once, but more times than I even WANT to begin to remember . . . including the last time we met." His grin was positively evil, and his tone was quiet, though it was far more frightening than someone else's shout would have been. "But no more. This time, and I mean this, Smith, you're MINE, and you're going to STAY mine, until I'VE decided I've had enough of you."
"I see." Hannibal answered, and he truly DID see. The capturing and threatening of Face had nothing to do with the military, or even with getting the reward. It had EVERYTHING to do with capturing Smith himself. Alarms that had long been ingrained into Hannibal's psyche from being captured, no matter how briefly, in two wars, and being held as a Prisoner Of War, sounded off louder than any alarm he'd heard in quite a number of years, and he fought to keep his voice normal. "So, now that you have me, what about my men?"
"What about them?" Lynch stood and clapped his hands together, then bowed at the other three. "I turn them all over for the reward, of course . . . sans their intrepid leader, who has mysteriously disappeared without a trace." He looked over at Face. "Although, I just may keep your wise-mouthed second too. The jury's still out on that one." He shrugged. "But as for you, Colonel, well, you'll get to enjoy the hospitality of my own personal prison." He bounced on his heels. "The one that I have set up JUST for you. You see, you may have escaped one prison I was in charge of, but you WON'T escape THIS one. I don't have namby-pamby little rules I have to follow now, Smith. You know the ones I mean. I mean, all those rules that have been set up by small-minded liberals that prevent inhumane treatment of prisoners, the ones that prevent harsh punishments for insubordination, and all that kind of wishy-washy garbage. After you've enjoyed my hospitality for a little while, Colonel, I'm sure that you'll wish you'd never heard of me. Or at the VERY least, wish you'd treated me the way I DESERVE to be treated."
Hannibal was pissed off, and royally. "What you DESERVE. Lynch, is to be thrown into a nuthouse, is what you deserve! Insanity has done absolutely NOTHING for your personality, and if you'd wanted me, you should have come directly after me, and NOT messed with MY men!"
Lynch threw himself on the older man, and Hannibal lost his grip on the belt. Hannibal immediately cursed himself for his inability to keep his mouth shut, as he'd only gotten halfway through the cuff, and there was no way that he could even begin to fight back... not when one of Lynch's mob had his hand on Face's shoulder, ready to push him forward at a word from Lynch.
"Whatever you say, Colonel." Lynch smiled his horrible, insane grin, and pushed Hannibal aside, as he picked up the thick leather belt. "But tell me, just WHAT were you planning on doing with this?" He asked as Hannibal struggled to sit up. Lynch doubled the belt in half, and with a quick snap of his wrists, pulled the ends out until the belt cracked like a whip. "Nice." He nodded, and a
slow grin spread over his maniacal, gaunt features. "You know, Colonel Smith, attempted escape is a punishable offense . . . and I get to determine the punishment." He snapped the belt again, and Hannibal drew himself up to his knees, and raised his head proudly, and his calm blue eyes met insane dark ones, as he knew what was about to happen.
Everyone else in the room knew what was about to happen, and the other two on the floor squirmed desperately, as they tried to free themselves, and Face inhaled deeply. Blood flowed down forearms, hands, and wrists as the men fought to get free of their bonds, but there wasn't anything anyone could do.
"Colonel . . ." Face rasped, but Hannibal looked over at him, and merely blinked, then looked back at Lynch. There hadn't been anything said, but Face knew, simply by that look, that as long as he was in the position he was, Hannibal would take anything that Lynch had to give out . . . and from the expression on Lynch's face, and in his rage-filled, insanity driven eyes, he had a LOT to give out.
"Colonel Smith." Lynch said, almost
pleasantly, as he gazed at the struggling forms of Murdock and B.A.. "If I
were you, I'd tell those two to settle down, unless you want your Lieutenant to
suffer the consequences."
"Captain Murdock. Sergeant Baracus." Hannibal gazed steadily at them, his voice calm, and resolved. "Stand down."
It was more than a little startling to hear their ranks and names used by Hannibal, and they blinked, then, with much reluctance, they obeyed their Colonel's orders. Briefly, they looked over at Face, who met their gaze head-on, then raised themselves to their knees, and knelt, no less proudly, than Hannibal had.
Face looked over the trio of his Team, and had to smile at their defiant show of solidarity. No matter how defeated the Team, and the situation was, or seemed to be, they could always be counted on to do things as the Team they were.
However, technically, they weren't defeated. Face'd seen them, hell, he'd been one of them, when they'd literally had to fight with their hands tied behind their backs to escape the Prison camp. Not to mention they'd all been trained in Special Forces. Face could tell just by looking at the three men that guarded him, Murdock, and B.A., they were only regular Army, and, unless they got their guns out, wouldn't be able to defeat the others, particularly, B.A., who could just run one of them into a wall, and use his body mass to knock the wind out of the one over him. Murdock would just run rings around his guard, until the man grew dizzy and confused, and then he would knock him down, and probably sit on him. As for Hannibal, well, Lynch would have been a smear when the two wars, battle-tested Colonel went after him . . . especially for endangering the lives of his men. Face knew they'd all have been able to prevail over their captors and render them incapacitated for what few vital moments they'd need to cut themselves loose, and then the REAL battle would be joined . . . IF there was actually any fight left in their adversaries after the initial round.
However, NONE of that would happen. Not as long as his own completely helpless position was used to subdue the others. Face inhaled deeply, and tried, once more, to swallow, though his mouth had long ago dried out.
Actually, when he thought about it, his position wasn't really all that helpless either. After all, he had a weapon, even if he could only use it once. Hell, for that matter, he WAS a weapon. He bit his lip as Lynch raised the belt over Hannibal's head, and saw that everyone in the room had their eyes focused on Lynch and/or Hannibal. Anger, raw and powerful, surged through him, and he knew that under no circumstances could he, WOULD he, allow Lynch to use him to torture Hannibal, and have the older man actually sit still for it. That little scenario had happened too many times in Vietnam, and Face had sworn, on his life, and on everything he held dear, that it would NEVER happen again, and he knew just what he had to do to prevent it.
Face looked around the room once more
at the people who were as still as extras in some sort of movie that had paused
for dramatic effect, and he sighed. He knew exactly what he had to do in order
to make the entire mess go away . . . and it would be a relief in more ways
than one. He thought back to his early Army days when he had called his rifle a
gun, and had to march for several hours in front of the barracks, back and
forth, his rifle held Parade Ready against his shoulder. And he remembered the
chant he'd had to repeat.
"This is my rifle . . ." Slap rifle, sharp turn, right foot forward. "This is my gun . . ." Grab crotch, sharp turn, right foot forward. "This is for shooting . . ." Slap rifle, sharp turn, right foot forward. "This is for fun." Grab crotch, sharp turn, and right foot forward. And he had to do that over and over again, until his Drill Sergeant had thought he'd learned not to call his rifle - his weapon - a gun.
However, it wouldn't be the Rifle that saved them this time, it'd be the Gun. How ironic that the last thing Face would do in his life was to be a living pun, and literally piss off the bad guys. He knew it'd be the last thing in his life he'd do, because once his bladder released, since he'd held everything in for so long, his body would automatically contract in sudden pain, which would push his feet
against the wall, and boom, his head would make J.F.K.'s look neat.
He smiled as an odd calm washed over him, and he realized that he wasn't scared. He certainly didn't look forward to what would happen, but if it had to happen, then saving the others was as good a reason, if not the best reason, as any, for it.
He didn't see Hannibal's eyes as they flashed over to him, nor did he see the look of sudden comprehension that filled them. All he saw was the belt that hovered over Hannibal's head.
Hannibal knew that the belt was going to fall, and he knew that his men were with him, but that didn't make the knowledge any easier. He looked at Murdock, and saw brown eyes so filled with anger and hatred, they were almost were frozen in his face. It was a face that was usually so animated it appeared to have a life of its own, but the only look it had at that moment was one of cold, calculating hatred, and Hannibal knew that if looks alone could have killed, Lynch would have been fried instantly. He turned his gaze briefly to B.A., and saw the massive arms as they bulged and strained at the bonds that kept him prisoner. However, Hannibal knew that even if the big man could have gotten free, there was little to nothing he could have done to help, especially considering the position Face was in, but he certainly appreciated the effort. He finally turned his gaze to Face, and was surprised as the younger man smiled, and the blue eyes that had been so filled with the chaos that had been Faces emotions, suddenly, and completely, calmed.
Fear stronger than any that Hannibal had felt in a VERY long time suddenly flared through him. He knew that smile, and what it meant, as surely as he knew his own name. Two wars had taught him what that smile represented, and he liked it no more at that moment than he had in the past. That damnable smile was that of a brave man who faced his own destiny, and decided to take it into his own hands and give it one last squeeze. However, Hannibal wasn't ready to let ANY of his men go . . . not after they'd been through, and not after they had survived, so very much.
And yet, Hannibal also realized that he didn't have much a choice, not only because of how he and the others were tied, but because the anteceding events happened so fast, he couldn't keep track of them. Yes, he saw the slow blink that Face did, as he looked for a heartbeat at each one of his Teammates, as if he memorized their faces. Hannibal also smelled the sudden acrid smell of urine that had been held inside a person too long, and was suddenly released, and he saw the disgusted dance away from Face, the man that hovered over his shoulder did. It was then that Hannibal watched with horror as Face's entire body contracted with the force of its agonized release.
As if in slow motion, he saw B.A. and Murdock's heads as they whipped around away from Hannibal toward Face. All three of them saw the chair as it moved forward, as Face's feet, which had been held so long immobile, scraped against, and then pushed against, the unmovable wall he leaned so precariously against.
And then there was motion.
Hannibal would never be able to tell who moved first. Bound as he was, B.A. smashed the man over him into a wall, Murdock kicked out with his feet, and literally stomped the guard over him to the floor, and Hannibal, without any thought for his own safety, all but threw Lynch over his shoulders. However, it wasn't Lynch that Hannibal was concerned with.
"Face, PLEASE don't tighten your hand. For God's sake, Face, DON'T let your fingers close over that trigger. Keep your hand relaxed. Don't DO this to us. We're NOT ready to let you GO yet!" Hannibal entreated Face, and prayed with more fervency than he'd ever prayed before for anything, that Face's fingers WOULDN'T tighten around the trigger, and he shoved his head into Face's chest, and held him back.
He knew that his own position wasn't all that stable, as all of his own weight rested on knees that were bent into almost a squat, while his back bore all of Face's weight. His head, pressed as it was, against Face's Solar Plexus, was the only thing that kept Face from falling forward, or sideways, as the chair was suddenly wont to go, and that whole tenuous position was the only thing that kept the stock of the rifle from hitting the floor. Hannibal couldn't move, and he felt Face as he trembled under his head, and Hannibal's bootless feet soaked, as they were in the urine, slipped backwards."Don't move, Face." He entreated. "Don't breathe, don't flinch, don't twitch. If either one of us moves . . ."
"I . . . I know." Face whispered. "It was supposed to be that way. "
Hannibal cursed as men cursed, grunted, and fought behind him, and knew that he wouldn't be able to help. "And damn it, Face, if you ever do this to me . . ."
"Hannibal!" Face tried to move, but Hannibal pressed into his chest harder. "Look out. Lynch is behind . . ." His eyes opened wide, as Lynch suddenly stopped, and then grinned down at him.
"Now. Now. Now. Don't be scared, Lieutenant." Lynch's insane voice sounded from behind Hannibal, and all the hairs on the back of Hannibal's neck stood up. "You see, I wondered how far you people would go to protect the other." He shook his head as he looked around at the three goons on the floor, then at B.A. and Murdock who had freed each other in seconds, and appropriated Lynch's men's guns, and frowned. "You know, with the kind of people the Army turns out these days, it's really hard to get good help." He shook his head. "But, the situation we have here is a real dilemma, isn't it?" He put his foot under the raised front leg of Face's chair, then pointed a pistol at the back of Hannibal's head. "You shoot me, and I take the Lieutenant, AND the Colonel out. You let me go, and maybe, just MAYBE, IF you can get the Lieutenant un-taped with a complete minimum of movement, and, assuming that Colonel Smith here can keep this rather disgusting, if not amusing and painful, little pose until you DO manage to free Peck, we can ALL do this again someday."
"What!?" Murdock demanded as he stared at the scene before him, and couldn't believe what Lynch had said, and he knew the others couldn't either.
Lynch sighed, and infuriated the TEAM as he spoke to them as if they were dense children. "Well, say I pull my foot out, and the Lieutenant goes over? You'll shoot me, right?"
"You better believe it sucka'!" B.A. declared, and leveled the gun directly at Lynch's head, as opposed to where it had been before.
"And by the same token, if I take out your Colonel, and by default, the Lieutenant, you'll shoot me."
"In a second." Murdock confirmed, and Lynch's smile grew wider.
"BUT, IF you were to let me walk out of here, there is a chance, small though it may be . . ." He smiled down at Hannibal as the older man's legs trembled visibly as the strain started to show. "You COULD get a chance to save one, or both of them, and then we can all survive." He laughed. "You know. I REALLY like being on this end of things. I get to walk away while YOU get to watch, helpless to do anything but watch me walk. This is really quite a rush. So, this is what it's like being on the Jazz. One could really get used to this feeling." His grin widened, and to the Team, hearing their Leader's words as they came from Lynch's mouth, somehow made them sound foul . . . almost evil.
"Get out of here, Lynch. But you can damned well bet that this isn't over." Hannibal's voice was gravelly with the force of his restrained rage, though it was muffled by Face's chest, and was actually almost comical . . . if it had been the other way around, and Lynch had made that speech.
"I certainly hope not. The shoe's on the other foot now, Smith. And I take leave of you with as much pleasure as you've always taken leave of me." He laughed, and slowly, with his gun aimed directly at Hannibal's head, backed out of the room. The sound of boots pounded away from them, and they knew that Lynch had run the minute he'd left the room. A few moments later, the sound of a helicopter blasted above them, and they knew that Lynch had indeed, made good his escape in much the same way as they had made so many escapes from him.
"Don't move me." Hannibal
finally said as the other two joined their Face and Hannibal. They both looked
down, unsure of exactly what they could do, and Hannibal spoke once more.
"Don't worry about freeing me." He told them. "I'm all that 's
keeping Face upright. Face, where, exactly, is your fingers in relation to the
"Basically right on it." Face told him. "I was only able to keep my fingers from closing around the trigger because I spread them as wide as they could go, away from the trigger and held them there. It . . . it was just long enough for you to set me back, and when you did that, all the tape pulled back into its original position. I.E. Off the trigger, and slightly loose. I . . . I wasn't sure if I could move them, as I can't feel anything in any part of my body any more, except pain." His voice had ground to a raspy whisper, and he gave up on trying to swallow. He yawned, or tried to, as the adrenaline from the last few minutes, for that really was what t had been, was only a few minutes, rushed out of his body as quickly as it had pumped through him. "I'm really, really tired, guys, and I'm . . . I'm sorry about . . ." His voice lowered until it was almost silent as his face flushed with shame, and they all knew to what he referred. No one really knew what to say to him at that point, because they knew that the danger hadn't passed, and no one felt like being flippant, yet, they didn't know if they could handle anything serious either. That would have felt too much like a
goodbye, and none of them wanted that.
"Talk later, Face." Hannibal told him. "Murdock, tie those bastards over there up and make sure they don't move. B.A., you're used to handling delicate electronics, so you get to cut the tape away from his hand and the trigger."
"You got it, Colonel." B.A. nodded, knelt by Face's hand, and bent to his task as Murdock attended to his with almost sadistic glee. B.A. lightly ran his fingers over the thick padding of duct tape, and knew that he'd have to have more patience than he'd ever had in his life. If he jerked the tape, or cut into too many layers at once, he knew that he'd inadvertently make Face's fingers tighten around the trigger.
"Face." He said, and his voice was quiet, and he didn't move until Face's darkened, humiliated, pain-filled blue eyes met his calm, compassionate brown ones. "Ya' gotta' stay relaxed. If ya' tighten up while I'm cuttin', ya' might pull away from me, and the gun'll go off."
"Rifle." Face corrected, and B.A. looked at him oddly.
"Rifle. Before the Rifle goes off. The gun already went off." He chuckled, almost hysterically, then gurgled briefly as he managed to pull himself together. "Stay relaxed, B.A. Right. No problem." His answer was normal, or as normally sarcastic as he could be under the circumstances, but they all saw that his aspect was pale. They also saw, and felt, Hannibal's back as it trembled harder than it had before, and he couldn't stop the grunt of pain that accompanied the shudder, and he didn't know how much longer his backs and legs would be able to hold out.
"No more talking. Cut." He ordered, and B.A. inhaled deeply and focused on the task in front of him. He cleared his mind of everything but the hand that was surrounded by the tape, and he even forced himself to forget that it was one of his 'Li'l Brothers' he worked on.
Hannibal tried to ignore the fact that his knees ached, his back was in flames, and the fact that he squatted in a foul smelling puddle of urine that had soaked into his shirt from the juncture of the chair between Face's straddled legs. He concentrated only on the fact that he had managed, even though Lynch had gotten away, to save Face, and the others, even though it had been mostly by accident. He'd hoped to have his wrists at least free at the rescue, but as was so often mentioned before, his plans never worked right they just worked. He ignored the spasm that went through his back, and listened to Face's heart as it beat, extremely rapidly, through the thin cotton of his shirt, and was glad just to hear that it beat.
Murdock had done as Hannibal had said, and tied Lynch's men up . . . hell, he hadn't just tied them up, he'd trussed them up as if they were Christmas turkeys ready to be delivered to a grocery store, but he was a bundle of nerves. He would have loved to have gone over and helped Hannibal keep Face from falling over, but he'd seen the precarious position of the chair. He'd also seen how it had shifted with every move anyone made around it, and he knew that his added weight would only overbalance the chair and he'd end up killing Face, rather than helping him. Murdock bounced on his toes and then paced around the room. B.A. looked up and scowled at him, which let him know that he'd disturbed the bigger man's concentration, and quietly, he slipped out of the room.
B.A. scowled at Murdock, as he paced around the room, but he knew it wasn't Murdock he was upset at. Sweat dripped into his eyes and the salt burned, but he compressed his lips and bore it with the fortitude he was famous for, and continued without a pause. He'd cut away seven layers of tape from around Face's fingers, and he couldn't tell how many he still had to go. Silver pieces of duct tape lay around him like futuristic mummy wrappings, and he dropped another piece to the floor. Two more pieces fell to the floor, and he was able to tell the outline of Face's individual fingers. He saw that a thumb and the second and third fingers were involved in the trigger mechanism itself, and B.A. sighed. One more layer came off, and B.A. saw that only one layer remained before he actually exposed Face's fingers. However, that layer was the problem.
If he moved it too much one way or the other, then Face's fingers would move, and they'd quite possibly lose him, despite all of their efforts. B.A. decided there was only one way he could go, and keep Face relatively safe, and that was to cut the tape from BETWEEN Face's fingers, and then cut off the strips at the knuckles of his hand.
"Faceman." He said, almost in the same voice he used to calm the children in his daycare center. "You gonna' feel me cuttin' the tape away from your fingers, okay? But I ain't gonna' cut your fingers, so ya' don't have ta' worry. You just keep your hands as still as ya' can, and when I'm done, we can get your fingers away from the trigger."
Face was silent for a moment, then looked at B.A.. He blinked once, and then a small smile crossed his aspect, and the trust and faith that he so obviously felt for his friend was almost humbling. "I trust you, B.A.." Was all he said, but to B.A., those simple words spoke volumes.
He nodded once and slowly drew the blade between the tape that separated Face's thumb from the rest of his fingers by what amounted to less than two inches. Only a few of the threads parted, and B.A. almost cursed with frustration, and then drew the knife down again. Briefly, from the corner of his eye, he'd noticed Murdock as he'd almost snuck out of the room, but he returned to his task.
Murdock walked through the complex, and
searched for a way out, and as he explored, a horrible suspicion of where they
were, developed in his mind. Finally, he found not only an exit of sorts, but
also a room that was marked 'office'. Curiosity got the better of him, and he
gazed carefully at the doorknob, then the jamb for dirty tricks, and when he
saw none, he experimentally tested the doorknob. To his immense surprise, it
turned easily and he pushed it open, then cautiously, entered the room.
He looked around, surprised, as he saw that the 'office' was more of a communication's center than an actual office, and it was utilitarian to the extreme. There was an entire bank of monitors along one wall, whose controls were at a large desk, and there wasn't much else. However, a large cardboard box at the end of the desk, and the edge of what looked to be a piece of leather hung out of the box. Murdock almost danced over to the box, and looked into it. He grinned widely at what he saw, reached in, and joyfully pulled out his baseball hat and leather jacket, then put them on.
He felt MUCH more like himself, and jauntily sat at the desk and randomly pushed the buttons that controlled the monitors, until they all came on. He leaned over the desk, closer to the bank of monitors, and saw that most of the cameras were focused on the room the other members of the Team were in. He gasped as he saw what B.A. was doing, and zoomed the camera in close on B.A.'s hands. Briefly he thought about turning the microphone on, but knew that'd only surprise the others, which would DEFINITELY be hazardous to Face's health. So, he kept quiet, and merely watched the proceedings.
B.A. finally, after what seemed an hour of very slow, careful cutting, separated the tape from between Face's thumb and forefinger, and swallowed hard as he placed the tip of the knife over the tape that covered both Face's forefinger and his third finger, both of which were separated by a mere fraction of an inch, and if pressure was brought to bear on one of them, then they'd both move, and it would be over, and not pleasantly. He barely laid the very tip of the knife on the tape, and watched as the threads in the duct tape parted extremely slowly. However, just as he was about to lay the knife over Face's fingers for another pass, he was suddenly aware that Face's hand trembled under his, and he looked up at the blond.
"Face?" Hannibal asked, who had also felt the shudders that passed through his friend's body, and his voice was muffled from where he had his head still buried in Face's Solar Plexus.
"S . . .s . . . sorry." Face stuttered, as his teeth all but chattered. "I . . . I'm just really cold a . . . a . . .a all of a sudden."
B.A. and Hannibal closed their eyes, and knew what that meant. It meant that Face was going into shock. All things considered, they were actually surprised that it hadn't happened sooner, but it was VERY bad timing.
"Faceman, ya' gotta' stay calm." B.A. told him, and was privately pleased to note that his voice was as steady as his large hands. "I'm doin' the best I can, and once we get these two fingers separated, we can get them away from the trigger. Ya' got me?"
"Y . . . y . . . yes, B.A." Face stuttered, but both Hannibal and B.A. could tell that Face was VERY close to losing it completely, and B.A. couldn't trust Face to remain as still as he needed him to, to cut away the last of the tape. He didn't even TRY to put the knife where it had been, and he lowered his big head in fear and worry that he knew Face didn't need to see, particularly at that moment.
"You are my sunshine . . ." Hannibal's voice suddenly reverberated against Face's chest, and Face blinked, in surprise that Hannibal would have chosen that moment, of all moments, to suddenly want to sing.
"Hannibal . . ." Face whispered, but Hannibal scowled.
"Sing, Lieutenant." The older man ordered, and Face bit his lip.
"I . . . I don't really feel that now is really a good time . . ."
"Now is a PERFECT time, Lieutenant." Hannibal barked sharply. "And, I ORDER you to sing." Hannibal hated to use the militaristic tone he had with Face, especially right then, but he knew that the only way he could get Face to calm down, even if it were only for a few moments, was to be The Colonel. However, the song he'd chosen, though well-used for a variety of situations, had more meaning to him at that moment than any other, and he hoped that Face would get the message, if only it was in his subconscious.
"Y . . . you are my . . . my s . . .s . . .sun . . . sh . . . shine." Face stuttered, and Hannibal joined him.
"My only sunshine. You make me happy when . . ." Hannibal joined in, and slowly, the disjointed chorus faded to a background buzz in B.A.'s ears, though in his mind, he sang with them, and willed Face to remain steady for just a few moments longer.
Again, the knife touched the tape, and B.A., as carefully and as delicately as he had ever worked on any tiny, sensitive, electronic item, once more drew the tip of the knife down the small path between Face's fingers. Several more threads parted, and then several others, and finally, B.A. saw flesh. He bit his bottom lip so hard that blood dotted it, but he didn't feel it as he lightly,
delicately, put the flat of the knife blade under the joints of Face's fingers, and ever so slowly and carefully, straightened them.
Face's fingers slipped out of the trigger guard, and B.A. rested them long side of it, along with his thumb, then inhaled deeply.
"Yo' fingers are off the trigger." He announced. "But I need another minute to get the gun away from yo' head." He reached up and gingerly cut through the tape that held the gun to Face's shoulder, then his neck, and slowly pulled the gun from Face's jaw, where the barrel, and the small, pointed sight had left a large, black, circular, blood-dotted, bruise. A moment later, the barrel pointed away from Face's head, and B.A. exhaled. "Ya' gonna' be okay, now." He announced, and, despite his pain, a huge, bright grin plastered itself across the blond man's face, and his eyes were watery as he looked at B.A., who cut the cuffs off Hannibal. Together, the two men gently placed the chair back on the floor.
"Whoo-Hoo!" The loud yell reverberated through the empty corridor, and those in the room heard Murdock's feet as they thudded up the hallway. A moment later, the door was kicked open, and the pilot jumped into the room, the box in his hands. "I knew you could do it!" He shouted to B.A., dropped the box, and threw his arms around the bigger man.
"Get off me foo'!" B.A. declared, and they were all happy when Face chuckled weakly at them.
"And look what I found! Presents!" He threw open the box and pulled out not only Hannibal's coat, but his boots as well, and Hannibal grinned. "And for you, Big guy . . ." Murdock continued no less enthusiastically, then dipped his hand into the box and literally came up with a handful of B.A.'s jewelry.
"Be careful wit' that!" B.A. scowled. "Ye're gettin' it all messed up!"
"Sorry, B.A.." The pilot apologized, but it was hardly sincerely, and he continued. "I also found the way out of here, AND the
transportation to go with it."
"Good work, Captain." Hannibal said, and Murdock grinned.
"Thanks, but you sure as hell aren't going to believe where we are."
"Probably not." Hannibal answered and grabbed his belt as Face coughed, then gurgled. "But we've still got some work to do here. Let's get Face out of this mess, you, and then you can tell us where we are, and then we can all get the hell out of here." He growled in anger, and used the sharpened prong to cut at the tape that bound Face's feet and ankles. Murdock used the knife he'd appropriated from what had been his guard, and cut at the tape that held Face's arms to his sides, even as B.A. continued to strip off the tape that bound the gun to Face's body.
"He'd loaded both barrels." B.A. finally announced, and severely dashed the one thought, hope, and indeed, even prayer that the others had, that Lynch might have used the rifle merely as a mind game, and Face had actually been in no danger. Viciously, B.A. unlocked the rifle and pulled out the cartridges, then set them on the floor. Face choked as he tried to swallow past not only the swollen jaw, but the pain from the ever-blackening bruise as well, and his eyes followed the progress of the cartridges as they slowly rolled across the floor. The others looked at him, concerned as his breath wheezed out of his mouth and sounded horribly forced.
"We'd better get him to Maggie." Hannibal decided, but Face shook his head.
"No." He rasped. "I . . . I just want to go home. Give water and I'll be fine."
"You already gave water, mi Muchacho, and lots of it, but you don't look fine." Murdock grinned, and rather than the jaunty response they'd expected, Face colored scarlet.
"Sorry." He looked at Hannibal and dropped his eyes, obviously ashamed. "No . . . no other way." He started shivering again, and they knew that the ordeal was far from over for him, especially as he continued to stare at the cartridges that had stopped along the edge of one of the walls. "Couldn't think . . ."
"You did fine, Lieutenant." Hannibal was fast to assure him. "Actually, that was one hell of a distraction, AND it saved me from what would have been a MOST unpleasant evening." He looked down at his soaked clothing, and knew that Face's peace of mind was more important at that moment than what he smelled like. "You know we've all had to deal with worse, and I wash." Hannibal soothed, and they cut the last pieces of tape away from their traumatized friend. Face flopped forward, as all of his extremities were numb, and wouldn't support his weight, and Hannibal and Murdock caught him.
"What about them, Colonel?" Murdock asked, and jerked his unoccupied hand at the guards still trussed up on the floor.
"B.A., help hold Face, while I go talk to our 'friends'." Hannibal's voice was cold, his eyes steel, and the A-Team knew their Leader was pissed. His back straightened, and he strode over to the three men on the floor.
"Now." He said calmly as he stood over the former Army men and experimentally tapped them with the toe of his boot. "We can do this one of two ways. I can either have B.A. over there beat the crap out of you, and believe me, he's VERY good at his job, especially when one of us has been kidnapped, threatened, and/or otherwise endangered, OR you can make this easy, and tell us everything you know about your former, insane boss."
"We don't know anything." One of them answered, and Hannibal allowed a cold, humorless grin to spread across his face. It was the same grin that had turned several Viet Cong Commanders blood to water, and it had the same effect on the army men.
"I was SO hoping that'd be your answer." He said, and motioned to B.A..
"He's telling the truth!" Another of the men practically screamed as B.A. gleefully trotted over and picked him up by the collar.
"He never tells us anything!" The third one nodded MOST enthusiastically, and in complete agreement with the others. "He asked us if we wanted to get back at The A-Team and get rich doing it, and we signed on! As for what we know about him, OR his operations, the answer is nothing!"
"He says no one but him can be trusted!" The first man told Hannibal, even as his eyes followed B.A. as he walked around the trio of trussed up turncoats. "He just paid us to do our jobs, and if we asked questions, or questioned his authority, he'd KILL us! Hell, we didn't even know he had a helicopter until it flew out of here!"
"Hmm." Hannibal looked over to where Face sagged in Murdock's arms, and then at B.A., and then down at the former guards. "I'm going to choose to believe you . . . for now. BUT, if I EVER find out that you've LIED to us . . ."
"We haven't! We swear!" The second one to have spoken promised, and Hannibal stood.
"Then c'mon. Let's get out of here." The Team's leader ordered, and, almost disappointedly, B.A. grabbed the cardboard box of jewelry, and Hannibal put his arm back around Face's waist, and together, he and Murdock half-carried, half-dragged their injured, emotionally exhausted Teammate to the door.
"Hey!" A panicked voice called from the floor. "You aren't going to leave us here like this, are you!?"
"Not permanently." Hannibal grinned back. "As soon's as we're far enough away, we'll send someone here for you. I'm sure that General Fullbright will be VERY interested in you." He waved at them, and Murdock led them from the complex to the parking garage, where they found the beige van . . . and more.
"I hate that van." Face commented, as they placed him in the back, and Murdock sat near him, and pillowed Face's head on his lap, while Hannibal and B.A. sat up front.
"I know, Face." Hannibal told him, and they all looked around. "They must'a' driven us around in circles, Hannibal. We at the VERY top of the parkin' garage. We was in the maintenance part of the building!"
"That's what I was trying to tell you back there." Murdock jerked a thumb in the direction they'd come from. "We may have left the place, but we never LEFT it. I hate to say it, but Lynch was pretty diabolically clever about that."
"Well, that explains how they could monitor everything in the garage without us knowing." Hannibal snorted, no less disgusted than B.A. or Murdock. "They simply used the cameras that were already THERE."
Face sighed weakly. " And that's how they were able to keep an eye on and be able to get the drop on me so easily. My place is right across the street." He motioned over the edge of the roof to the larger townhouse that sat across the street. "But, Hannibal, since we're so close, I'd really like to go home now."
"Face. You need medical attention." Murdock told him sternly.
"Murdock. I need a shower. HANNIBAL needs a shower, and there's laundry . . ." Face rasped, no less sternly, though he fought to inhale, and Hannibal rolled his eyes at B.A. and Murdock as Face choked, leaned back, and closed his eyes. Murdock leaned forward as Hannibal gestured to him, and placed his hand gently on B.A.'s arm.
"Face needs someplace to feel safe." He whispered. "We'll call Maggie from his place. I think, men, we've grown a little too comfortable, and are forgetting we're still on the run. As soon as Face's up to it, we'll move him out of there, and make sure neither he, nor any of us for that matter, stay in one place any longer than absolutely necessary." He grimaced. "As for you, Murdock, now that Lynch knows for sure that you're one of us, we'll have to be especially cautious with your safety . . ."
"I'll be okay, Colonel." Murdock assured him. "The V.A.'s still pretty safe. I'm telling you, if Lynch tries going in there after me, he's so obviously insane, I might just get him as a roommate." He grinned. "Besides, due to the rather frequent breakouts of inmates . . . excuse me, the new watchword is 'clients'. . ." Murdock looked decidedly innocent. "Security's gotten a little better there in the last year."
"Okay, Murdock. I'll take your word for it, for now." Hannibal glanced back at the almost unconscious face of his second, and nodded out the front of the windshield. "But the minute something happens, you're with us, permanently. Now, B.A., get us the hell out of this maze, so we can get Face some medical treatment." B.A. nodded, and drove down to ground level, where he parked beside the 'Vette, and the REAL van.
Face trembled as they helped him out of the van, and he gritted his teeth as pain assailed him from ever part of his formerly numb body.
"Face?" Murdock asked, and Face shuddered.
"Returning circulation." Face ground out. "Whole body on fire. Jaw and throat hurts. Abdomen hurts too. Come to think about it, I hurt all over." He suddenly started laughing, loudly and uproariously, and they stared at him.
"Uh . . . Face. You okay?" Hannibal asked, and Face threw his arms around the older man.
"I'm fine!" He yelled, but it was choked, and he gurgled, then coughed. "But I hurt! I'm frakkin' alive TO hurt, Hannibal! Isn't that wonderful!? I hurt like hell!"
"That's wonderful, Face." Hannibal said carefully, and Face laughed louder and almost danced, even as he grabbed Murdock and almost fell over.
"Murdock, I'm alive!" he shouted into the pilot's face, and kissed the man's forehead jubilantly.
"I see that." Murdock said, and his grin was as wide as Face's. "But I can also smell it. I thought you said something about a shower . . ."
"But I hurt! Oh man, I hurt! And I DO I need a VERY hot shower, and then a bath, and then a drink . . . no, I need FIVE drinks, and TEN women . . ." Face almost exploded in his happiness to be alive, and his plans on what he wanted to do with his life in the next hour.
"Five drinks and TEN women!?" B.A. stared at the jubilant man, and noted that that the Lieutenant could barely stay on his feet, and Face laughed.
"You're right, I'll need some for you guys too, and we'll celebrate! They've got GREAT room service! We'll order in and we'll get caviar and lobster and steak! I'll call Hef, and he'll send over some Playboy Bunnies to serve it to us. . ."
The other three looked over his shoulders at each other, and they laughed, just as happy as Face was that he was alive. However, just as suddenly as he had started jumping around, the adrenaline absolutely emptied from his system, and he almost collapsed to the ground. The others had been ready for that. Murdock and Hannibal caught him, and his head fell limply against Murdock's shoulder, as his entire body sagged in their arms.
"I'm tired." He complained, and Murdock shook his head.
"Can't imagine why, Buddy." He told the exhausted Con-man, and B.A. grabbed their gear from his van, and together, A-Team stumbled into the townhouse to care for their wounded Teammate.
Part 12 - EPILOGUE
"How's he doing?" Hannibal looked at Maggie worriedly as she exited the room they'd placed Face in after he'd showered and cleaned up to his satisfaction, though it hadn't been without their help, and dropped into bed immediately afterward. He fell asleep immediately, even though his breath wheezed past his tortured throat, and he couldn't inhale very easily at all, though indeed, he DID still breathe. While Hannibal cleaned up, B.A. watched over face and made sure he continued to breathe, difficult though it was, and Murdock had called Maggie.
She'd come in almost immediately, then barricaded herself in with the patient, and made the others wait. Maggie smiled at the man that had been her former, though brief, lover, and shook her head. "Well, he's a stubborn one, that's for sure. You realize that he should be in a hospital . . ."
"Maggie . . ." Hannibal frowned slightly, if not helplessly, and she smiled softly.
"I know." She sighed. "As you can tell, his throat's swollen, and not only from the garrote, but also from having that gun wedged under his jaw for so long. I've put him on oxygen, just until the swelling goes down and the air can get to his lungs a little easier. He's got a urinary tract infection, but the antibiotics'll take care of that, and from what little I was able to get from him before he went back to sleep, he's absolutely physically and emotionally exhausted. I don't think he'll wake up, but I've left a couple of mild sedatives, just in case he does. As far as I can tell, there's no other injuries, and he should be fine in a few days, five at the most. However, John 'Hannibal' Smith . . ." She poked Hannibal in the collarbone with each word for emphasis. "He needs rest, and I mean it. No running, no being beaten up, no fighting, nothing."
The effect her words had on the Team was amazing. Each and every man almost collapsed in on himself, and the collective sigh of relief was loud, and she shook her head. It hadn't taken a genius to note that when one man on the Team suffered, they all suffered, and she could easily understand why, and more importantly, how, they'd stayed together for so long.
"Maggie, I really can't tell you how much we appreciate this . . . not only coming out here, but being willing to put yourself in danger like this . . ." Hannibal ran a tired hand over his forehead, and she smiled.
"Someone has to take care of you guys." She rolled her eyes. "I can only imagine what you had to do before you actually found a proper doctor."
"It was scary." Murdock told her, and nodded like one of those bobbing head dogs in the backseat of a pickup with no shocks, and B.A. snorted.
"Had ta' do a lot o' readin' from Murdock's weird and crazy books." The bigger man scowled, and though his words were gruff, Maggie knew that he was no less grateful than the other two.
"Hey!" Murdock declared, and it was clear they were going to go off into one of their prolonged, and mock battles, and she scowled at them.
"Now, as for you guys, Face isn't the ONLY one who needs to rest. And if you all don't go and get some sleep, I'm going to prescribe sedatives for you too, and you WILL take them."
"Awww, Maggie." Murdock pouted and ground the toe of his shoe into the carpet, but she scowled at him.
"Don't 'aw, Maggie' me. I know how to handle your type." She told him sharply, and Hannibal grinned.
"You'd better do what she says, guys. You won't get away with anything around her." The older man was almost giddy with relief, and Maggie smiled at him.
"And that goes for you too, Mr. Charming." She poked him in the chest. "And don't think for a minute I didn't see you grimace as you bent over. I know you're back's acting up again, and if you don't want to be put in traction, you'll lay down and sleep too."
"Yes, SIR!" Hannibal saluted her, and she mock-punched him in the shoulder, then frowned, as B.A. opened the door to Face's room.
"And just where do you think
YOU'RE going?" She raised her eyebrow at him and put her hands on her
"You said we was ta' rest." B.A. told her with the sincerity and innocence that only HE could pull off. "But ya' didn't say WHERE we was ta' rest, Lil' Mama." And with that, he walked into Face's room and shut the door.
"Hey! The Big Guy's right!" Murdock exclaimed with a grin, grabbed a blanket from the couch, and entered Face's room as well.
"They'll be okay in there with him, Maggie. They won't bother him. They're just worried about him, and don't want to let him out of their sight just yet. When they saw him with that rifle jammed under his neck, and the tape . . ." Hannibal told her, and swallowed, and Maggie sighed as his eyes flickered around the room, and settled on the door the others had just gone through "He's special to them . . ."
"They aren't the only one who's worried about him, nor are they the only one he's special to, John, and you know it. I know how you feel about Face. Hell, I've seen actual parents who care LESS about their own kids than you do him." She kissed his cheek. "You go on in there with them, and I'll just show myself out. But, Hannibal, IF his breathing gets worse, or you need anything, and I mean ANY of you need anything, you call me, okay?"
"You got it, Maggie." Hannibal smiled, and his blue eyes were sky blue with the force of his relief. "And thanks . . . for everything."
"No problem. We may have decided that we're better off not dating just yet, if ever, but we are friends, and I meant it when I said you could call on me whenever you needed me."
"It's good to finally have people we can count on." Hannibal told her, and she winked, then walked to the door.
"You just make sure you get some rest. I promise I'll call tomorrow and see how Face is. Good night, John."
"Night, Maggie." Hannibal watched as she left, locked the door, and followed the other two into Face's room.
He had to smile as he saw that B.A. had claimed the couch, while Murdock was curled up on the large Ottoman at the end of the bed. There was a large, plush chair that had been pulled up to the side of the bed, and Hannibal knew that was for him. He grinned at the other two men as they looked up at him, and sank into the softness of the chair. His back spasmed for a moment, then settled, and he was DEFINITELY grateful for the fact that Face could always be counted on to provide the luxuries in life.
"Life." Hannibal said aloud, and smiled as he leaned over the bed. He was careful not to knock over the portable oxygen tank whose hiss sounded so very reassuring, every time Face took a breath, and watched the younger man's chest as it rose and fell with each admittedly, labored breath, but it was breath, and for it, Hannibal was VERY grateful.
Face was alive.
His Team was alive.
And that was all according to his plans.
"I love it when a plan comes together." He said, and the others pretended that they didn't see him as he smoothed Face's disheveled bangs back from his forehead, as his entire features softened. They also pretended not to hear the word 'son' that Hannibal whispered as he looked down at the blond man.
"So do I." Murdock grinned a moment later, as Hannibal sat back in the chair, and sighed as it wrapped comfortingly around him.
"Me too." B.A. nodded once, in satisfaction.
"Yeah." Face's whisper was quiet, but each Team member had heard it, and one by one, content in the knowledge that they had once again fought against unbeatable odds, and had triumphed, they followed Maggie's advice, and slept.
They all knew that there was a new maniac out there in the big bad world with their names printed on his dance card, but they also knew that they could, and would face him as they had faced everything before . . . as a Team.
As The A-Team.
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