Rating: PG, flashbacks
Premise: This is strictly a Murdock encounter. It just wrote
itself on my computer-all I did was provide the fingers for typing.
Comments: By all means; this is my first attempt at A-Team fanfic, so
let me know what you think.
You never know who you're going to meet in your lifetime, or the
impact a total stranger can have on your life. And then, out of the
blue, a soul touches yours for a moment, and you'll never see the
world or yourself the same ever again.
My own encounter happened in about as common a place as there is on
this planet — a bridge, overlooking a river, in a city full of a
million strangers. It was a gray day, with the single-shade sky that
threatens but never actually drops any rain. Fog wandered in
disorganized packs around the city, creating a mystical curtain.
The sky matched my mood; things looked pretty bleak, all in all, and
I had come to this place to contemplate. I have to admit, the
subject I was contemplating unnerved me then, and downright terrifies
me when I look back on it. But I couldn't think of any other way
out from under the emotional load crushing my heart. And, if a way
out didn't manifest itself pretty soon, I was in the right place for
creating my own final way out.
"Pretty day, isn't it?" A male voice interrupted my thoughts.
"Yeah, sure," I replied, not looking at the speaker.
"I love days like this. Billy and I walk a lot when it's foggy;
there's just something about it that sets a mind at peace."
"And you need peace from...?"
"Oh, memories, voices in my head, stuff like that. Stuff that clouds
one's search for greater meaning in life."
"There isn't any." The words chilled even me.
He was silent for a moment. Then, he spoke again, understanding
his voice. "Ah — you're here for a reason, aren't you?"
"What do you care? Just go away."
"And desert a fellow traveler on the road of Life? Not a chance."
He leaned against the bridge rail. Out of the corner of my eye, I
could see that he was tall, with dark hair and rugged features. He
gazed out over the river. "Want to talk about it?"
"Not particularly. And why are you so interested?"
"Because I know where you think you are, and I've been there."
"Uh-huh." Sarcasm tinged my voice. "What are you, a shrink?"
He chuckled. "No, not exactly."
"So why do you think I need to talk to someone? And what makes
think you can understand, anyway?"
He turned around and leaned back against the stone rail, putting his
hands into the pockets of his jacket. "Try me. What have you got to
lose, except the chance to execute the perfect swan dive off this
His putting my thoughts into actual words hit me hard. Until that
point, suicide had been an abstract concept, something floating
around like the fog, but without substance. This stranger had given
it solid form and placed it directly in front of me.
"What makes you such an expert?" I asked, finally turning to face the
man. He was in his mid- to late-thirties, I guessed. I had noticed
earlier that the back of his leather jacket was graced with a tiger's
head, with words at the top that I couldn't make out.
Dark brown eyes looked into mine, and I saw the shadows there,
shadows that echoed the ones creeping through the corridors of my
"Two years' sojourn in Hell on Earth, a bird's eye view of everything
mankind can come up with to inflict pain on each other, watching
friends die while I stand helpless...you want me to go on?"
"Let me guess — a war veteran. Vietnam?"
"And none of the rest of us have ever experienced the like, so we
should just get over it, huh?" Bitterness spilled over my words.
"I don't want to hear it. Just because I've never carried a gun
and waded through the bush, doesn't mean I've never been in a
"Do you mind if I put my own words in my mouth, instead of you
doing it for me?" His eyes had gained a spark, but his voice stayed
"I never said anything of the kind — wasn't going to. There are
million different kinds of war fought every day, on a thousand
battlegrounds. `Nam was just one — well, actually it was several.
Physical, mental, emotional — Vietnam covered them all. And a
us still fight a war over it even now, fifteen years later." Again
the soft chuckle. "Some of us have more creative ways of fighting it
"My friend Billy here." He gestured toward his feet. I looked,
could see nothing but damp pavement.
"He's invisible — I have an invisible dog. Weird,huh?"
"Why weird, or why the invisible dog?"
"Why the invisible dog?"
"Because sometimes it's just nice to know somebody's there, who
understands you when no one else can or will. Because there are
things you need desperately to share with someone, but you're not
sure who to trust." He laughed. "Because sometimes your friends
just can't take any more weirdness from you, but you still need an
outlet to drown the voices in your head."
"Ah. Uh, how'd you find Billy? I mean, it's not like you
can go to
a pet store or an animal shelter." *Why am I talking to this guy?* I
thought. *Probably so I don't have to really think about what I came
here to think about. Coward.*
He turned back to look out over the river, memories softening his
"Well, you might say we found each other. During my last tour
`Nam, my unit was shot down and captured. We spent six months in
a POW camp, and the NVA weren't the most gracious hosts, if you get
"We were a special commando unit, and the NVA, having heard of our
reputation for creative genius, knew better than to put us in any
proximity to each other. I was alone in a six-by-six pit with a
bamboo ceiling for six months, listening to guys being beaten and
tortured, not knowing when they were going to come for me next.
"One day in particular was real bad. The guys in my unit were
you know — still are — but everybody has a breaking point. I
know to this day what the NVA did to the Colonel, but I remember
hearing him screaming, over and over. I couldn't take it any more
I guess I snapped. All I know is when reality came back I was
shaking like a leaf, my face was wet, my throat was raw, and I was in
a corner of my cell, rocking back and forth with my hands over my
ears. I didn't know if the Colonel was alive or dead, and I wasn't
sure how to deal with either possibility."
I found myself staring at this man, completely caught up in his
narrative. I had heard the emotion in his voice as he spoke of his
Colonel, and knew he was also speaking of a good friend.
At that moment, my own burdens seemed insignificant, and I realized
that while I might indeed have my own wars to fight, I had never,
NEVER had to listen to a friend being tortured, and I was amazed that
he still had any sanity left at all after six months of it.
"Well, that night we had a terrific storm — lightning, thunder,
rain, you name it. Somewhere in all that noise, I swear I heard a
dog whimpering. He sounded scared and lost, a lot like I felt right
then. I love animals, and wanted nothing more at that moment than to
go comfort this one who sounded so sad.
"Then I looked across my tiny cell. Against the opposite wall,
saw a dog cowering in the corner, whimpering like his heart would
break. I knew it was a hallucination, but he looked so lonely that I
just held out my hand and whistled softly to him. His head came up,
and he looked at me for a moment, then he crawled over and laid his
head in my lap.
"As I stroked his head, I heard a voice from outside begin to sing
over the storm:
When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,
`Though your dreams be tossed and blown;
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone."
Tears ran down the man's cheeks at the memory, and he made no move to
brush them away.
"The singer was my Colonel," he said softly. "I'd have known his
voice anywhere. It was cracked and hoarse, but I've never heard
such strength before. Then another voice, and another - the other
two guys in the unit. Wasn't the most polished sound, but it was the
sweetest thing I'd ever heard. And at that moment, I knew that
everything was going to be all right, no matter what happened. We
were still together, and we would always be together, whether we
lived or died.
"Then I looked down at the dog beside me, and I knew I couldn't let
him back out into the world alone. He'd been there for me when I
needed a friend, and now I needed to be there for him. I asked him
how he'd like the name Billy, and he wagged his tail and licked
my face. We've been together ever since."
He turned to look into my eyes again, and a strange intensity filled
his dark features.
"We all have wars to fight, every day of our lives. Memories,
conflicts, just the day-to-day survival and stresses. Some people
seem to handle them fine. But then there are those of us who just
need a little help now and again, and if we have to create the help
ourselves, that's okay. There's a lot of Billys out there, just
waiting to provide a little comfort and a listening ear, if we're
willing to accept it and occasionally return the favor.
"But it all boils down to this: Even when things seem darkest,
are never alone. As long as you believe that, and hang onto it with
all your might, things will work out."
He held my gaze until he saw the spark of hope he had planted in my
heart reach my eyes. Then he straightened and patted his thigh,
looking down to where Billy was reposing.
"Come on, Billy. We have to get back. We're only on a day pass."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "A day pass? From where?"
An enigmatic smile stole across his features, lighting his
face. "The Psychiatric ward at the V.A. Hospital, up there on
the hill. Didn't you know? I'm crazy."
I smiled back at him. "Crazy, maybe. Definitely wise. Thank you."
He stuck out his hand, grasping mine firmly. "Anytime. See
around." With that, he turned around and started back toward the
"Wait!" At my cry, he turned around again. "I don't even
name. I'm Denise."
That smile again. "Pleased to meet you, Denise. Just think
me as a fellow traveler." And he disappeared into the fog.
I never got up enough nerve to go look for him at the V.A. hospital,
though I have waited many a foggy day on that bridge, recalling his
story and waiting for him to reappear. Perhaps he was my Billy --
there when I needed him most, but not real to anyone else.
I have shared his story many times with fellow travelers along Life's
road; it seems that the more we try to help others along their
journeys, the more satisfying our own becomes. If my dark-eyed
friend is indeed real, then I wish him well in his journey, and will
never forget the lesson he taught one day in the wanderings of the
* FINIS *