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The A-Team Has A Certain Air About It
Summary: While on R&R, The A-Team encounters a truly 'foul' foe.
Disclaimer: The A-Team characters don't belong to me. They have been borrowed strictly for fun and not for fortune.
The A-Team Has A Certain Air About It
It wasn't often that The A-Team received a bonus. Heck, most of the time, the Team's clients couldn't even afford to pay its normal fee, plus expenses.
However, Robert Alan Gibson III was so grateful for all the 'help' the guys had given him, he not only paid them in full, he also tossed them the keys to his seven million dollar mansion, and then told them, "I'm going to be traveling abroad. So, for the next month, 'MI Casa es su casa'."
The Gibson Estate was situated somewhere on the outskirts of Santa Monica. To say that it was secluded would have been an understatement.
Unaccustomed to such isolation, B.A. had spent the first few days at the Team's new 'casa' going completely stir-crazy.
When the Big Guy groused that they were 'stuck out in the middle a' nowhere', Face promptly pointed out that they were actually east of the Riviera Country Club and west of the Playboy Mansion.
Unappeased, B.A. finally confronted the Colonel and demanded to know why he had hauled them all out there.
The past few months had been particularly busy, and stressful, for The Team. With little or no time to decompress between cases, Hannibal noticed that his men were becoming more and more on edge. He knew that they couldn't function properly as a team when they were so uptight. To stay alive, they needed to stay loose.
So, when the Sergeant questioned his judgement, Hannibal patiently explained that The Team was there on mandatory R&R. They simply needed some time off.
B.A. was all for 'taking some time off'. Problem was, he wanted to do it back in L.A..
The Colonel denied the request and then ordered his Sergeant, who seemed to be wound tighter than any of them, to 'Loosen up!'. To make his order easier for B.A. to obey, Hannibal had Face 'find' their mechanically inclined friend a 'fixer-upper'.
The Colonel's plan to pacify the Big Guy came together.
As B.A. went to work on the wreck, the wreck went to work on him. The Sergeant could almost feel the stress flowing from his pores. Why, the Big Guy even caught himself smiling…on occasion.
Hannibal's other plan also seemed to be coming together.
By the time The Team was into its second week of mandatory decompression, the four, slightly frazzled friends were back to being one, big, light-hearted—and incredibly loose—family/unit.
Following another sun-and-fun filled afternoon of battling volleyballs and barbecue grills, the exhausted, and yet thoroughly relaxed, A-Team members found themselves reclining upon the comfy cushions of their spacious patio's outdoor furniture. Nobody spoke. The loungers just stayed right where they laid and allowed the sinking sun's warm rays to penetrate their taught, tired muscles.
Shadows lengthened. Still, the fatigued foursome continued to just lie there, savoring the serenity…the silence.
Suddenly, a plaintive cry came wafting out of the woods. The sound carried across the estate's expansive—and well-kept—grounds and clear over to the four half-asleep fellows.
Upon hearing the desperate plea for help, the men had snapped bolt upright.
A second cry followed the first.
"Sounds like it could be coming from the place next door," Face determined, as he and his teammates quickly scrambled to their feet.
Ever the Eagle Scout, Hannibal had them all procure some firepower before piling into the van.
B.A. turned down a deeply rutted road and followed it for a few hundred yards.
'The place next door' turned out to be an extremely rustic looking log home. The cabin was located on the edge of a little clearing, smack dab in the middle of the overgrown ten-acre wood lot, which bordered the Gibson Estate. Besides a chicken coop, tool shed, woodshed, and greenhouse, the clearing also contained a few fruit trees and a well-tended vegetable garden. There was no lawn, to speak of.
B.A. parked in the driveway and he and the guys exited the van.
The Team's arrival hadn't gone unnoticed.
"Thank God!" came a woman's voice, from just inside the cabin.
"We heard someone calling for help," Hannibal shouted back. "Is there a problem here?"
"I'll say! Robby is stuck up in that tree over there," the still invisible female obligingly informed them. The end of a crutch appeared through a crack in the screen door and was used to point out one of the fruit trees on the property.
Sure enough, halfway up the tree, and perched precariously on a limb, was an eight or nine year old boy.
"He been hurt?" B.A. demanded, immediately kicking in to his 'big brother' mode.
"No. But, his butt's pretty sore and he claims his legs have fallen asleep. Not too surprising, considering he's been sitting up there for over five hours."
"Why were you screaming for help?" Murdock inquired.
"Because poor Robby is stuck in that stupid tree!" the woman reiterated.
"I think he means…Why didn't you just phone for help?" the Colonel clarified.
Seeing as how the uninjured child was only ten or twelve feet off the ground, Face turned back to the porch and posed an even better question. "Why doesn't the kid just climb back down, himself?"
"I don't own a phone. And, as for why Robby hasn't come down on his own…I reckon you'll find out…soon enough," their out of sight hostess assured them.
The A-Team's four members exchanged mystified glances.
Its leader began heading for the treed boy. But, before Hannibal could reach his intended destination, a black and white fur ball came bounding around the edge of the cabin, and cut him off. "What the—?!" he exclaimed and started racing back towards the van, with his newfound furry friend in hot—but crooked—pursuit!
It didn't take long for the rest of the guys to realize why their fearless leader was so intent on retreating. All four combat veterans quickly clambered back into their vehicle.
The skunk's newest hostages sat there in the van, staring out at the brazen little beast in disbelief.
"Wildlife—one," Murdock Cosell announced. "A-Team—zip…zero…nada," he added, a bit breathlessly.
The Colonel's pursuer was now staggering around the van. The animal would stop, from time to time, to turn in tight little—seemingly meaningless—circles.
Murdock studied the bizarrely behaving creature closely. "That skunk is either square dancin' with itself…or doin' the Hokey Pokey. Whichever one it is, it ain't natural for a nocturnal animal ta be dancin' around like that in broad daylight. Believe me, I know all about abnormal behavior. And, I'm tellin' yah, that varmint out there is nuts-o!"
Face had been studying the animal as well. "Maybe it has rabies?"
The van's windows were down, so the woman heard everything that was said. "Bernie is not rabid!" she called out to them, through the cabin's screened front door. "Inebriated? Yes! Rabid? No! Pissed off? Apparently so!"
For the second time, in as many minutes, the members of The A-Team exchanged mystified glances.
"My flower bed, along the edge of the cabin here, is infested with slugs," the woman went on. "I've been picking them off by hand. But the slugs just keep right on multiplying, and devouring my poor plants. Then, yesterday, I read this article—in 'Mother Earth News'—about a 'natural' way to get rid of them. You sink some shallow containers into the soil and fill them with beer. The slugs crawl into the containers...drink the beer...and drown."
The four teammates glanced at one another again. Only, this time, the looks on their faces were those of dawning understanding.
Face was more than a little amused. "So, what you're saying is...Bernie, here, drank the beer...and then ingested the drowned escargot?"
"That about sums it up," the voice from the cabin came back.
Murdock looked thoughtful. "So, that's where the phrase 'drunker than a skunk' comes from!"
The rest of the guys couldn't help but grin.
Hannibal gazed thoughtfully down at the crazy-acting critter that was keeping them all captive. "Is Bernie a pet?"
"Then, how can you be so sure it doesn't have rabies?"
"Because Bernie's shots are all up to date."
"Yes. Shots. You don't think I'd let a wild animal live under my house if it wasn't vaccinated, do you?"
The Colonel failed to reply. It was more of a rhetorical question, anyway. "I don't suppose Bernie has been de-scented, as well as vaccinated?"
"Of course not! A skunk's only defense is its odor."
"Can somebody please get me down from here?" another voice suddenly blurted—er, begged, from out of the blue…well, from out of the fruit tree, actually.
All eyes riveted back on Robby.
"If he's been stuck up there for over five hours, why are we just hearing about it now?" Hannibal wondered.
"Yeah," B.A. joined in. "We been outside all day."
"I don't know...I guess we were both sort a' hoping that Bernie would just go back under the house and sleep it off."
"Christi wanted to yell for help right away," the boy on the branch confessed. "But, I told her not to."
"Robby didn't want to get in trouble with his Mom," Christi explained, as she came hobbling out onto her porch. "He's afraid that if she finds out about Bernie, she won't allow him to come over anymore. My friend, Charlotte, offered to help with chores until I'm off my crutches. So, I've been showing her the ropes. This morning, she called and said she wasn't feeling well, so she wouldn't be able to help out today. When Charlotte didn't show up, Robby volunteered to be the new chore trainee. He's such a little sweetheart! If it wasn't for this stupid cast and these crutches, I would have got him down, myself."
Hannibal turned to his brave band of rescuers. "All right, guys, let's go. Murdock, grab that fire extinguisher. If Peppy LePhew starts to lift his tail, you spray first."
"That is so typical!" the pretty, blonde cripple on the porch remarked upon overhearing Hannibal's plan. "Right away, you want to start spraying toxic chemicals all over the place! I—don't—think—so!"
"CO2 is perfec'ly harmless," B.A. assured the environmentally conscious girl.
Christi remained deeply skeptical. "Yeah...Right. I seem to recall them saying the same thing about DDT!"
"O-O-ka-ay, forget the extinguisher," the captive Colonel acquiesced and started reaching for his revolver.
"If you insist on spraying it with something, you're welcome to use my garden hose…" Christi aimed a crutch toward the left side of her cabin.
"No CO2. No bullets," Hannibal grumbled, beneath his breath.
"Why don't we all just stick some flowers in our hair and offer it some love beads?" Murdock proposed, as he reluctantly returned the fire extinguisher to its holder.
The guys were forced to grin again.
"Women!" B.A. complained, sounding every bit as annoyed as his colleagues.
"I heard that!" the feisty female up on the porch proclaimed.
"My butt's getting really, really sore..." the lad on the tree limb suddenly announced.
"Hang on, Robby!" Christi urged. "I'm gonna try something..."
The screen door banged.
A few moments later, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey, don't you know that I love you? In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby, don't you know that I'll always be true?" came blaring—stereophonically—out of the cabin...at full blast!
The raucous Rock & Roll distraction worked!
The skunk began ambling, sort of sideways, towards the cabin's front porch, being drawn towards the pulsating bass, like a moth towards a flickering flame.
"Well, what a' yah know," Murdock marveled. "Looks like Bernie's a big fan of 'Iron Butterfly'."
"A fact for which we can all be eternally grateful," their Supreme Commander muttered, as he and the rest of his team began removing themselves from the relative safety of their vehicle. Hannibal turned to his Second-in-Command. "You wanna 'man the nozzle', Lieutenant?"
"You can have the honors," Face replied. "I'll, uh, watch your back."
"You mean, you'll hide behind it," Hannibal corrected, and started heading—stealthily—for the garden hose reel.
Face faithfully followed after him, keeping one eye peeled on the drunk skunk's position.
B.A. and Murdock quietly collected Christi's stepladder from the tool shed and carefully began making their way over to the fruit tree.
The first drum solo ended and the groovin' group launched into some more incredibly loud lyrics. "Oh, won't you come with me and take my hand? Oh, won't you come with me and walk this land? Please take my hand!"
Hannibal charged their hose line and then he and his Lieutenant placed themselves between the inebriated little beastie—and the boy with the really, really sore butt.
The Team's rescue efforts seemed to be going quite well.
Hannibal was experimenting with several different hose streams, trying to find the most effective—er, protective spray pattern.
B.A. and Murdock had the ladder set up under the tree and the Captain was just about to start climbing...when the distracted skunk caught a sudden movement out of the corner of its beady little bloodshot eye and made a beeline—straight for the tree...and the intruders! Well, actually, being under the influence as it was, the line wasn't all that straight.
"Here comes Bernie!" the Sergeant warned, and immediately began searching for cover.
Murdock shot up into the tree and then clung there, contemplating whether or not drunken skunks were capable of climbing stepladders.
Cut off from his van, B.A. emitted a couple of choice expletives and began heading—at a rather high rate of speed—towards the bushes on the edge of the clearing.
The Colonel courageously stood his ground. Hannibal kept right on twisting the flimsy nozzle to and fro, frantically trying to find a viable drunk-skunk-stopping hose stream. Alas, his efforts proved to no avail and he finally ended up flinging the dang thing at the now soggy, but still rapidly approaching, animal.
The brass object struck the skunk on the head. The dazed critter stopped dead in its tracks, allowing Hannibal and Face the opportunity to depart the area in a more dignified manner than that of the Sergeant.
B.A. suddenly emitted several more shrieks of alarm and came backing out of the bushes, with a grimace on his face, and with his nostrils pinched tightly between his right thumb and forefingers.
Speaking of 'emitting' things…
"Phew!" B.A. commented. "Ughhh!" he added, before a coughing jag rendered him speechless.
Hannibal watched, with wide eyes, as four itty-bitty 'Bernies' came scurrying out of the same bushes, with their tiny behinds arrogantly elevated and their bushy little tails sticking straight up in the air.
Speaking of the air...
One whiff and the reason for B.A.'s confusing behavior quickly became apparent. The Sergeant had just been 'skunked'!
"I see you've found Bernie's babies," Christi suddenly said, from somewhere close by.
The grounded members of The A-Team turned around in time to see the lady of the house—er, cabin come hobbling up on her crutches, carrying a large metal tub.
The lovely young lady placed the basin over the baby skunks' brained Mommy? and then carefully assumed a seat upon its upturned metal bottom.
"B-a-b-i-e-s?" Face slowly repeated, appreciatively eyeing the beauty with the busted left leg. "I—we thought Bernie was a boy."
"Yeah...well...In case you still haven't figured it out," Christi teased, "Bernie is short for Bernice."
Murdock finally freed the treed boy. "How're the legs?" he wondered, on their way to the ground.
"They're kind a' all picky," Robby replied.
"That's a good sign. It means your circulation is returning to normal. Think you kin stand?"
The boy nodded.
So, Murdock carefully set his burden down, at the base of the tree. "Try stompin' your feet," he advised, and kept a steadying hand on the lad's left shoulder.
"Oh, palee-eeze!" Face pleaded, as B.A. approached. "Would you mind moving downwind?"
The Big Guy's only reply was an icy, un-amused glare.
Face stood there, smiling innocently back at him. That is, until he caught sight of the four odorous little denizens that were trailing in the Sergeant's wake. "It's a shame they have to smell so bad, B.A., because your…ehem...shadows sure are cute!" He snapped his fingers and then pointed one of them at Bernie's babies "That must be where the phrase 'You little stinkers!' comes from."
Murdock responded with a wry smile and a roll of his eyes.
"Nobody make any sudden movements," Hannibal advised.
The men gathered up the ladder and the garden hose and then slowly began taking their leave.
Hannibal glanced, ever so gradually, back over his shoulder. Sure enough! Bernie's babies were following, in single file, right behind them. "Let's just put everything back and get out of here, before Mama wakes up."
"I'll come back tomorrow, Christi," Robby promised. "If my Mom doesn't kill me," he added, conditionally.
Christi acknowledged her young helper with a gorgeous smile and then blew the boy a kiss.
Robby caught the kiss. Then he picked up his bike and pedaled off down the driveway, just as fast as he could pump his prickly little legs.
Murdock returned the stepladder to its proper place in the shed.
Hannibal shut the water off and rewound the hose reel. Then, he, and two of his associates began heading for the van.
Ever the gentleman, Face had stayed behind to escort the pretty cripple back to her cabin.
The girl, however, just continued to sit there.
The gentleman finally grew tired of waiting and extended a helping hand.
"Thanks. But, somebody has to stay out here. After you all leave, someone has to be out here to release Bernie," Christi went on to explain.
"Colonel?" Face quietly called out.
Hannibal stopped and glanced back in the Lieutenant's direction.
"There's no way she's ever gonna be able to move fast enough on those crutches," Face informed him. Then, to the girl, he said, "You should head back inside. I can let the skunk go."
But, again the young lady declined the gentleman's gallant offer. "You don't understand. I really need to see, for myself, that Bernie's gonna be okay."
The equally persistent gentleman turned back to his Colonel. "We'll wait 'til the skunk comes to. Then, I'll kick the tub over and whisk her inside."
Hannibal thought Face's plan through. It seemed sound enough. "It's your hide," he finally replied.
"I'll, uh, walk back!" Face called to the departing trio.
Right about then, the wind shifted directions.
The Colonel and the Captain caught a whiff of B.A.'s new 'cologne'.
"I, uh, think I'll walk back, too," Hannibal suddenly announced.
"And, I believe I shall join you," Murdock chimed in. "It's a glorious day for a stroll!"
Face watched, wordlessly, as the pair of hikers departed, leaving the Sergeant on his own. He couldn't really blame them for abandoning B.A.. He wouldn't want to ride back with the Big Guy, either. He shot the van's odorous driver a sympathetic glance and then focused all of his attention back on the pretty invalid.
"You like to live dangerously," Christi quickly determined and skooched over some.
"I'm not worried," her rescuer replied, as he cautiously assumed a seat beside her on the overturned tub. "As long as their business ends aren't aimed in our direction. Besides, nobody—in their right mind—would ever let a skunk live under their cabin, unless they had a really good 'natural' remedy for removing the od—" he stopped suddenly and aimed an anxious glance in the girl's direction. "You do have one, don't you?"
The look of high-level anxiety on the gentleman's handsome face and the nervous tone of his inquiry caused Christi first to grin, and then to start laughing. "You're right," the girl said, as she gradually regained some semblance of composure, "I do happen to have a really good 'natural' remedy for neutralizing skunk odor."
Face felt something brush up against his left pant leg. He glanced down and heaved a huge sigh of relief. He was relieved to hear there was a remedy—a-and that it worked—because Bernie's babies were now foraging around at their feet. "They really are cute little buggers, aren't they. So-o...you gonna give these guys names, too?"
"I don't know," Christi confessed. "But, I just realized something. There's four of them...and four of you..."
No sir-ree, it wasn't all that often that The A-Team received a bonus. And, it certainly wasn't every day that its members got to have a pack of polecats named after them.
Face flashed the pretty miss one of his megawatt smiles. "We would be honored."
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