Shades of Gray
The Euphonious Jingle of Precious Metal
By Cimmerian Willow
Summary: B.A. and Murdock are waylaid by some overachieving bigots in
a southern town (just like the one I grew up in).
Rating and Warnings: PG-13, mild swearing, several RACIAL SLURS, and
some violence. Heavy B.A. angst.
Talking with B.A. Baracus was like playing a game of chance. Sometimes you rolled the dice or flipped a card and your lucky number came up.
If you were Hannibal the odds were normally stacked in your favor. If you were Face you did what you had to do and manipulated the numbers until you came out ahead. But if you were Murdock, well, you were lucky to break even.
B.A. was irritable and beyond caring, and Murdock was venting his own frustrations by antagonizing B.A.. The push-pull combination was deadly, especially after eleven hours of driving. Murdock leaned his face against the door window of the van, sighing.
"Are we there yet?"
A moment of silence passed.
"Are we there yet?"
Ten seconds and three lampposts later, "Are we there yet...Scooter?"
"Murdock! You keep your mouth shut before I throw you out the back doors of this van!" B.A. grabbed the front of Murdock's jacket and jerked him forward for emphasis.
"Then where in the Sam hill are we?!" the other countered, feeling particularly brazen. He pulled back peevishly in an attempt to wrench free. He didn't feel like being manhandled. B.A. reluctantly released the pilot, finding it difficult to steer, and Murdock straightened up his jacket. He looked over the collar just in case it had ripped. "Well, where are we? That is, if you even know."
B.A. shot him a disgusted look and grunted, "South Carolina."
"Oh." Murdock replied, somewhat disappointed that B.A. had an answer.
"You sure this is a short cut? I mean, it's all back roads. We're out in the sticks."
"Of course I'm sure, fool." B.A. retorted. He had other issues to worry about anyway. The little orange gas gauge arrow was floating on E, and it didn't mean endless. "Gotta stop and get gas." He murmured. Fortune winked as a gas station eased into view.
"I thought you weren't going to call me that anymore." Murdock belatedly complained, just for the sake of rebuttal.
"Once you stop actin like one I will."
Murdock scowled. B.A. was so insensitive sometimes, and Murdock wasn't always sure that he didn't mean it. The big guy had mellowed out considerably since the team's partnership with--Hannibal would call it exploitation by--Stockwell. Less gold, more tolerance, and quieter. But B.A. could still be a beast when he was in a foul mood. While Murdock decided whether to be offended or aloof, B.A. got of the van to pump the gas. Murdock heard him gripe something about the prices in his usual gruff murmur.
The captain stepped out to stretch his legs. It had been a long drive from the tip of Florida to this dirt hole. They were in little traveled valley town, snug between high mountains, probably miles off course even though B.A. wouldn't admit it. The papers that Stockwell wanted so vehemently were secured neatly in the back under the gun box. It was amazing how corrupt the Cuban government was. With a handful of American dollars a man could buy everything from drugs, to tax exemption, to eternal salvation. It had been a straining mission, demanding lots of brute force and finagling that was suited more to Face than Murdock. Stockwell had actually provided the ID that they needed to get over the border, as well as the boat that took them to the island and back, despite his typical hands-off stand. Murdock pondered why only he and B.A. had been sent. Stockwell was strange in his demands, his ideas always selfish but usually sound. B.A. was black and blended better with the locals, Mohawk and all. It was Murdock's own role that escaped him. Stockwell had called it "compulsive cooperation."
But that was just an extraneous reason. Stealth in anonymity and all that, the fewer the better. Murdock could also fly them out of the country if he had to. If he could get B.A. into the air, that is.
Murdock peered into the store through the main door, past multiple cigarette posters, looking for B.A., wondering what delayed him. He noticed him at the cashier paying for the gas. B.A. shook his head once, waved his hand, and then stormed out of the store, walking in such a frenzy that it was almost a jog. He sat with a thump in his seat, the entire van sinking as he slammed the door and turned the key. Murdock still had one leg hanging outside as B.A. tore out of the gas station lot.
"Uh, is somethin wrong?" the pilot finally asked.
B.A. didn't answer back, his eyes focused on the road, hands strangling the steering wheel. Murdock, ever the antagonist, didn't take to the silent treatment well.
"Don't tell me. This isn't a short cut after all and you just don't want to admit it. That isn't something you should be mad at me for."
B.A. was silent again, his forehead scrunched with those little valleys of worry that settled between his brows. Murdock became a little concerned.
"Hey, big guy, what's wrong?"
"Nothin, Murdock. Nothin." The tone of B.A.'s voice was odd. Angry, yes, but defensive, as opposed to his normally offensive, uncontrolled ire. There was the touch of restraint in his voice now.
"Okaaay...well then, how about we get some food? I'm starving. It's dinnertime, you know."
B.A. merely nodded, Murdock's jabbering floating past him. He pulled into the first diner they came upon, a twenty-year-old truck stop that showed every bit of its age. The sign was no longer readable, and what used to be a gravel parking lot existed now as puddles of mud. A conspicuously excessive number of Confederate flags waved hello from the roof top. Murdock didn't complain; he was too hungry to care. And as long as they had fresh milk, who was B.A. to be picky? As they stepped out of the van, Murdock sidling up next to B.A., the pilot noticed something valuably important that had escaped him for years.
The black man half-turned and grunted.
"I'm taller than you."
B.A. whirled around in alarm, "Huh?"
"I'm taller than you. See?" Murdock measured from the top of his head and let his hand float over B.A.'s, just barely grazing the top of his Mohawk. B.A. shook his head, face contorted in disbelief, unwilling to confront this horrid revelation, and started for the diner. "I'm taller than you." Murdock chimed, in awe of this momentous occasion, repeating the phrase until B.A. finally stopped at the diner door and turned to face him.
"Then maybe I should knock off your head."
"Er...what's a few inches between friends?" Murdock hastily amended.
B.A. was apparently unfazed that his eyes had to travel up an inch. He could always pull Murdock down to his level. They ambled into the restaurant, a cowbell over the door ringing to alert the waitress that she had a customer. Two other couples and one group of five guys occupied the diner as well.
"Must be the dinner rush." Murdock whispered sideways into B.A.'s ear as eight heads, plus the waitress and cook, turned to stare at them. More precisely, turned to stare at B.A.. The two couples returned to eating, and the booth full of men immediately engaged in chattering. Murdock hurriedly sat down at a corner booth, tugging B.A. by the sleeve.
"Well, welcome friend. Why are all Southern towns like this?" he mumbled to himself.
"Like what?" B.A. asked, sounding suspiciously naïve. Murdock glanced up. B.A. wasn't always the most "with it" kind of guy. It you punched him, expect to lose your jaw, but if you danced in circles he'd never see you.
"Nothing." Murdock changed the subject, his gaze casually skirting over B.A.'s shoulder to the back booth of men, several of whom were watching them and nodding. "So what're you gonna get? A hamburger, chili, a hamburger, or chili?"
B.A. made a vexed face. He was getting tired of always eating burgers.
"Chili, " he replied flatly.
The comely waitress made her rounds to the other three tables first before strolling up to Murdock and B.A.. She smiled at Murdock, who noticed the unfortunate absence of two lower teeth, while tapping her pencil against the notepad in her hand. She seemed oblivious of B.A. "What'll you have?"
It was such a great line. Right out of every southern diner in every movie that Murdock had ever seen in the VA hospital. "Chili and a coke please."
"And what about him?" The waitress' eyes didn't shift from her notepad to B.A.. Murdock's mood dropped in annoyance.
"He can answer for himself."
B.A. sat there, stubbornly looking at his lap.
"Chili and a glass of milk," the pilot sighed when the waitress failed to turn and B.A. failed to give an answer. "Nice town."
The pretty waitress with the bad teeth brought them the drinks and chili soon enough. Murdock poked at the chunks of meat, suddenly less hungry than he had been before. B.A. took a long drink of his milk and wiped at his neatly trimmed mustache. Some motion from behind B.A. caused Murdock to clear his throat.
"Bogey at six o'clock B.A.," he muttered into his glass of coke. The four men who had been sitting together collectively crossed the diner. They circled B.A. and Murdock's booth. One wore a large hat decorated with a string of Indian beads. He tucked his hands in his pockets and leaned forward towards Murdock.
"Hi. You just passing through?"
There was a sickening air of false friendliness to the voice that Murdock had heard many times. "Maybe. My brother and I have been looking for a nice place to settle."
"Oh, does your brother live around here?"
"He's right there."
B.A. growled at the man as he turned in confusion. "What?"
"Yeah, it's funny what laying out in the sun can do for a tan."
"A wise guy, huh? Listen up, we don't want any colored folks stinking up our favorite restaurant and dirtying our dishes. I'll have to ask you kindly to leave."
B.A. slowly rose, still wedged in the booth but leaning dangerously forward. His gold jingled. "Ask away, sucker."
"B.A.." Murdock shook his head, indicating that he had something else in mind. He reached for the glass of milk resting beside B.A.'s bowl of chili. His hand wrapped around the thin glass and slowly, deliberately raised it to his lips. Keeping his eyes turned on the man with the hat, Murdock drank down the last half of the milk, making an intentional slurping sound at the end. Then he wiped his upper lip with an exaggerated motion of his forearm and sighed. "Milk is good for you."
The entire restaurant fell into silence. The hat man stepped back, his face blank with shock.
"Sorry I didn't save you any." Murdock coolly smirked. "Come on, B.A., I think I've lost my appetite."
B.A. pushed through the group and he and Murdock left for the van. A moment before pulling out, an older lady pecked on Murdock's window. "Excuse me."
"Not you, too." he groaned as he rolled down the window and studied the small woman.
"I don't recommend you and your friend hanging around these parts. Some of us don't mind colored folks, been living too long for tired wounds, but Curtis and his boys are part of The Aryan Way and they're crazy. They got a lot of pull here."
"Part of the KKK, man." B.A. mumbled.
"Oh. Well, don't you worry none ma'am." Murdock said, turning back to the tiny old lady. "We'll be careful."
After they had pulled away and were back on the road B.A. punched the dashboard. "Murdock, why didn't you let me throw that guy through the window?" he fumed.
"Come on, B.A., you heard the lady. You punch that guy and the whole town detonates. The sheriff is probably even a Klansman. Or Aryan Way, or whatever the heck they are. Don't think I didn't want you to. Let's just get out of here."
"I'm tired. I'm staying the night here and leaving in the morning."
Murdock couldn't believe his ears. "What? B.A., don't be stupid. I'll drive if you're tired."
"You aren't touching my van. "
The pilot rolled his eyes in defeat. B.A. would do what B.A. wanted to do, foolish or not. They pulled into the only hotel in town, a small one-story dig with halls shaped like a three-sided square.
"I'll get the room. You stay here." Murdock ordered. He wondered if B.A. would get out of the van anyway, just to spite him. He walked up to the reception desk and tapped the bell. In a moment a sleepy looking farmer came around to check him in. "Yes?"
"Room for two, separate beds."
"Sign here, please. Your name and party."
Murdock signed them in under H.M. Murdock and Scooter Baracus, quietly reveling in his own depravity.
"Cash up front, fifty dollars."
"Fifty dollars! For this dump?"
"Heh. One of the perks of being the only hotel for another seventy-five miles either way. Here's your key."
Murdock took the key from the man's callused hand which betrayed years of hard work, probably before the man had come into the fortune of owning his own hotel.
"I hope you're happy, B.A.." Murdock snapped indignantly. "This piece of garbage room just cost us a Grant. I could have driven us clear through North Carolina, and then you could have taken over, and then me when you got tired..."
"Murdock! Shut up! I'm tired. I'm sleepin in a real bed, and you aren't driving my van. Not after the last time."
"Aw, B.A., that was an accident running off the pier. And it was a long time ago."
"I still remember it fine."
"You can't forget anything." Murdock grumbled as B.A. headed back out the hotel room door. "Now where are you going?"
"I need some milk before I go to bed."
"What?!" Murdock nearly fell over. "Now?"
"Yeah! I like milk before I go to bed. Helps me sleep."
"But you said you were tired!" the pilot protested.
"I still need milk, otherwise I don't sleep well."
Murdock threw up his hands, the last half week of frustration swelling suddenly like blown glass. It shattered, along with his endurance. "I have never seen a grown man act the way you do. You won't fly, you're afraid of monkeys, no one can touch your van, and now you have to have milk before you go to bed. I just don't believe this."
B.A. glared but only swatted his hand while searching for the van keys he seemed to have misplaced.
"And you're stubborn! You never admit when you're wrong. You bully everyone except Hannibal into doing things how you want. You never ask how I feel about anything. You always hurt my feelings when you do..."
B.A. turned, looking a bit shocked at Murdock's sudden tirade, as well as almost injured. That didn't happen very often. Murdock sighed again, his point made. He rested his hand on B.A.'s shoulder, surprised when it wasn't rejected.
"B.A., look, it's not safe for you to go out. Not here."
"Even rednecks have to sleep man."
Murdock shrugged. "Yeah, well, I'd feel a lot better if you stayed here. I'll run down to the store."
"Don't worry about it. I'm fine." B.A. still resisted.
"No, I insist." Murdock was out the door, shutting it soundly in B.A.'s face before the other could react. He started up the van with the keys he had lifted from B.A.'s pocket. You didn't hang around Face that long without picking up some pointers. He headed for the small grocery store that they had passed down the road. It felt strange driving the van. It always did, like he was holding on to a precious part of B.A.. Like he was hugging the big man's firstborn child. The sky had darkened quickly, fall hurrying the days into night. The full moon was out, painted with the melancholy color of blue slate, seeping into view between the tall tops of trees. It looked almost sad, hanging there with a thousand wounds from a thousand meteors. It reminded Murdock somehow of B.A., so large and distant, but still so vulnerable and rough to the touch. At least he could be there for his large friend when he needed him, could keep him within arm's reach. As long as B.A. didn't push him through a window. Murdock's mind wandered to the episode in the diner. It was clear that it upset the mudsucker more than he would admit. Murdock had never thought about it before, the way B.A. was the only black member of the A-Team. His ethnic origins had never even been the vaguest of issues...until now.
Sorrow sneaked unwelcome over Murdock's always vulnerable heart, stirring up usually slumbering emotions, like the way a cold front moved in on a warm day and caused a tornado. He hated those men in the diner. He'd beat the life out of them if he could for what they had said to B.A., to his friend. Very little made Murdock angry accept when someone screwed with his friends. Then it was personal. Then all bets were off. The anger could make him a different person... He took a deep breath as he pulled into the store parking lot just in time. It closed in ten minutes. It was small and stocked with only the barest of essentials, but the milk was fresh at least. Murdock pulled out two half gallons, not being sure how much B.A. would want to drink, and made his way to the front cashier.
The man rang up the milk and smiled, tobacco evident between his lower lip and teeth. "Four twenty seven."
"What?! For a gallon of milk?"
"Yep, comes from being..."
"I know, I know, the only grocery store for seventy-five miles either way."
"Yup," the man spat, "and flip that sign on your way out, friend."
Murdock rolled his eyes. The bell jingled on his way through the exit as he turned the sign from 'open' to 'closed'. He got into the van just as headlights appeared from behind. Reaching under the passenger seat, he pulled out whatever weapon the colonel had stashed there. It turned out to be a .357 magnum automatic , one of Smith's favorite firearms. He tucked it away into the front of his pants where it was hidden under his flight jacket but still easily accessible. Then he waited, one leg hanging out of the van.
The car skidded to a halt just behind the van, blocking any easy escape, with the sound gravel flinging onto the back doors. Another car pulled up to the side.
"They'd better not have dented this van." Murdock growled, foolishly concerned more for B.A.'s prized possession than his current situation. He stormed to the tail of the van and immediately bent to check.
"You'd better be glad you didn't dent this baby, cause I've got a friend that you don't want to make mad," Murdock babbled as he rubbed for the dings he couldn't see in the glare of the headlights. He had yet to turn around to face the five sets of footsteps that had approached from the huge Buick. A hand clamped on his shoulder and jerked him up.
"I'm not afraid of your black friend. In fact, I'd love for him to join us."
It was him, the one with the large hat that the old lady had called Curtis.
"Like hell he will," Murdock spat, feeling defensive anger swelling his head. He eased his hands to his waist, edging towards the gun. "You have to find him first."
The man laughed softly. "That won't be hard to do. Unless you left him along the roadside there's only one place he could be. And just hold it right there before I fill you full of holes. Harry."
One of the men came around and jerked up Murdock's jacket. Then he removed the gun.
"We may be from the country, but we're not stupid. Harry, tie him up nice and strong. Hands together behind his back and feet together. Make sure you tie him good and sturdy."
The man tied Murdock up for a full three minutes, one rope efficiently binding both hands and feet.
"I think that's good enough. Even if he grows a second pair of arms he won't get loose."
"Good work Harry. Keep the gun for yourself. Go on home to your wife now, she's probably waitin up for you, worried."
"Ok, Rick," the man named Harry answered back, "but you have any problems with that nigger..."
"I've never met a nigger I couldn't handle, but I'll call ya if I need to. And have an extra piece of pie for me, huh?"
Harry nodded with a smile, got into the side car and pulled away.
"And what about MY wife and eleven kids? What about MY apple pie?" Murdock sardonically quipped from his seat on the Buick hood.
"Friend, your apple pie days are over. I hope you don't have a wife waiting cause you ain't never gonna see her again."
B.A. pulled back the curtains, wondering where in hell Murdock was. That when two sets of headlights pulled into the hotel parking lot. One set was definitely from his van, but the other he didn't recognize. He waited. After some movement and slamming a knock came on the hotel door.
"Hey black man! I know you're in there, cotton picker, so just listen up if you can." The voice paused briefly. "We got you're crazy friend out here. You don't come out and he starts breathing through his brains. Well, black man, what do you have to say to that?"
It was habit for B.A. to carry a gun with him. A habit that a person forms when they are always hunted. He couldn't let them hurt Murdock, but he might get a chance to use the pistol. He rapidly untied his oversized army boot, forced down the gun, and then tied them back. He jerked his camouflaged pants down to conceal the bulk of the gun, and the way his boot was barely fastened. Then he unlocked the door. Slowly, he cracked it until it was fully open. Hands up, he edged outside into the glare from the headlights.
"Ok black man, you just keep those two toned hands up and take it easy. One itch and your friend eats dirt. Remember that. Ok, Sam, tie him up."
B.A. could see Murdock's eyes, wide and regretful, shining against the harsh lights. Murdock shook his head with a pleading look but it was no good. B.A. stood still as he was tied like Murdock, only with a long chain, and heaved into the trunk of their car.
"Better put the other one in there too. I don't trust him. Robbie, you drive that van again. We'll have to cut it up for scrap later. Follow me."
Murdock was pushed in, crammed against B.A.. The trunk was roomy, but not big enough for two large men. Murdock could hardly breath. His chest was pressed against B.A.'s but his head was turned down, forced into the crook of B.A.'s neck and shoulder. His legs were bent upward against the hood of the trunk and awkward. Murdock felt B.A. shift slightly, unknowingly allowing him more breathing space. Murdock twisted until he was able to position himself even with B.A., their faces parallel, even if it was impossible to see in the dark trunk.
"Why in hell did you come out of that hotel?" he suddenly blurted out, his voice betrayed by anger.
"Why didn't you stay in the hotel?"
"What are you talkin about? And let them kill you?" It was B.A. who now sounded outraged.
Murdock felt B.A. shifting again, his chest expanding oddly and his arms pushing out.
"They'll do that anyway." The pilot vainly pointed out. "At least you could have been alright."
"Hey man, we're a team. We go out together."
Murdock smiled in the darkness. "Yeah, I seem to remember you saying that to me before."
"You imagine stuff."
B.A. made a softly questioning noise while Murdock sighed. "Can't you break these ropes?"
"Ropes, yeah. I'm in chains, fool. What do you think I've been trying to do?"
"We just jump out of the trunk and we get filled full of lead." B.A. stated, anticipating the rapid formation of a plan.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. Then we just have to wait for the right opening to make our escape."
B.A. agreed. "Got a gun jammed inside my boot, just in case you need it and I get knocked out. And don't shoot my foot off tryin to get it out."
Murdock snorted with an appreciative nod. "Good going, big guy. Not that you'd EVER get knocked out." He groaned as a cramp wrenched the muscles in his leg. "I feel like two chickens trapped in one egg."
The remainder of the ride passed in silence, save for the steady crunching of gravel under wheels. The Buick slowed to a halt. The two captives lay listening. Muffled voices burned through as metal scratched and the trunk popped open.
"Easy now." A voice warned. "Nice and slow."
Two pairs of hands grabbed Murdock, one on the shoulders and the other around the knees, and hoisted him out of the little hole. He sprawled to the ground, a pain burning his shoulder. He shifted to see an old nail partly exposed in the ground. It had punctured through the skin.
He gritted his teeth but remained silent. He rolled over, cupping his hands around then nail, when he heard the men grunting and straining and B.A. protesting. The large man was stood up, his boots in front of Murdock's face. Murdock eased up, careful to make no abrupt movements.
He felt a sudden weight between his shoulder blades as a heel dug in and forced him to bend over.
"Do you know what I hate more than I nigger? A nigger-lover. Disgusts me."
Murdock forced a harsh laugh. "You're the one who's disgusting, with your antiquated superiority garbage."
"Quiet." the man behind warned, the sharp heel grinding deeper.
"You think anyone regards you people as anything more than ignorant fools, searching for a cause to give meaning to your miserable, tick-riddled existence?"
"Shut up!" One shove and Murdock's face was one with the ground. He sat up and spat out dirt.
"You want white supremacy? Try using your brain and surprise everybody."
Curtis' rifle cracked the back of Murdock's head.
"Murdock!" B.A.'s voice reverberated into the silent night as he surged forward. He buckled over a moment later from a blow to the gut.
He glared up defiantly from his knees, until sweat trickled down into his eyes and burned them shut.
"You touch him again and you'll regret it, sucker." B.A. threatened, his voice tightly warning.
The Indian beads swung as Curtis bent at the waist. He smiled dryly as he twisted one hand in Murdock's hair and pulled. Murdock grimaced and B.A. growled. Only Murdock's steady gaze kept B.A. from bolting forward, chains or not. B.A. was directly in the aim of Curtis' rifle, at a distance that promised a very untidy hole, and Murdock wasn't willing to risk it yet. Two of the other men had guns as well, but it was Curtis who proved the most volatile threat. He was blinded by hate, but still no fool.
"Worry about yourself, mudman. He gets lucky. You, on the other hand, get the county tour. You'll just love some of the main stops. Like the valley where we dump your rotting carcass." He kicked B.A. in the face to give him a sample of things to come. The sharp toe of his boot caused B.A.'s lip to split and instantly swell. Murdock's jaw tightened. His eyes narrowed, his hands busily working unseen all the while.
Curtis released the captain's hair and stepped closer to B.A., smiling coldly. Until B.A. spit on his boot.
Curtis' eyes froze. He kicked him again, this time in the side. Hard. B.A. gasped from the blow.
"Sam. Harry." Curtis motioned to the men, who positioned themselves. One stood with his shotgun focused on Murdock, the other in-between Murdock and B.A., watching to insure that B.A. took his forthcoming beating without resistance.
The blows started then. At first BA managed to keep up his head, shrugging off the punches the same way he did any other. But he could only keep that up for so long. Not even he was invincible. Curtis was stronger than he appeared and the strikes wore B.A. down. He felt his eyes burning with blood, his mouth splitting in two, his cheeks aching, pulsing with agony. His head throbbed. He swooned, feeling sick, but managed to glance at Murdock those few feet away. If he moved, Murdock died. If Murdock moved, he died.
B.A. fixed on the pilot's gaze then, even as he felt his back being struck. Murdock's severe stare was more demanding than the pain. It was frightening, so potent and filled with smoldering hate. B.A. actually shivered, the chill running up his back and tingling his scalp. Maybe it was just from the cool night breeze.
The beating stopped. B.A. barely noticed, his body still humming with numb ache. The sergeant turned his eyes, swollen and bleeding, up to Curtis. Then he smiled so confidently, so darkly, that even Hannibal would have been proud. He spit out blood...right onto the toe Curtis' boot, mimicking his actions of before. Surprisingly, Curtis only smiled grimly back, apparently finding the display more amusing than insulting. He turned to Murdock.
B.A.'s heart dropped. He'd made a horrible mistake. He HAD just set Curtis off, and the man was about to take it out on Murdock. "What are you gonna do to him?" the smaller Aryan Way student, the only one without a gun, asked, motioning to Murdock.
"What do you think I'm gonna do?" Curtis replied, stooping down to see Murdock better.
"You gonna shoot him? He's white." The smaller man looked nervous.
"The friend of my enemy is my enemy, Robert. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"But he's white! It ain't the same as killing a nigger!"
Murdock and B.A. exchanged knowing glances at the upheaval in the enemy camp. B.A. strained, every muscle and nerve in his body straining against the restraints around his hands. Had the chain not been rusty, one link not been so weak, he wouldn't have been able to do it. The pain of breaking the loose link, of even moving, was numbing, and perhaps that was how he was able to succeed. That and he couldn't let them hurt Murdock anymore. The chain gave quietly, with only a slight jangle, B.A's movements going entirely unnoticed. He eased the chains from around his feet. He looked again at Murdock, who nodded, bringing one hand a bit around his back. He'd picked apart the rope using the old nail that had pierced his shoulder.
"Robbie," Curtis began, his voice strained, " If I didn't know better, I'd think you were a nigger sympathizer."
"You know I'm not! It's just, I think you're letting what happened to your wife cloud your judgement."
"Don't you EVER speak that way of her again!" Robert reeled against the side of the Buick as Curtis struck him across the cheek.
That's when B.A. and Murdock threw themselves into the men. Murdock went straight for Curtis, and B.A. was left with the minimal challenge of knocking the guns from the two other stunned men, while Robbie still slumped against the Buick. A few gold-knuckled punches were enough to render them inoperable, their rifles and teeth flying into the shrubbery several yards away, but B.A. smashed both faces into an oak tree for no extra charge. Robbie dropped before he'd even been punched.
"Lacking conviction, huh sucker?"
Robbie threw up his hands for mercy. BA glared at the young man. His dark skin glistened with sweat, blood dripped from swollen lips, and his eyes were frightening, black against red. Robbie was terrified just by looking at him. B.A.'s sight was blurry, but he could see well enough for what he had to do.
Several feet away, Murdock had lost any semblance of control. "You think you're some kind of god?!" he yelled at Curtis, who was swooning on the ground. Blood spurted from the man's nose as Murdock crushed it with his fist. He struck him again, with a sharp crack of bone. Curtis slumped over, apparently unconscious. Murdock hovered over him, breathing heavily while he stared at the man beneath. He shivered at the sight of the blood on his hands, and it was like the tide rolled away from the pilot's brown eyes. He shook his head and stood, legs shaking. Then he bolted for the Buick. B.A. was tying two of the men together with the ropes that had previously been on Murdock.
"The keys are in the ignition. Forget about these dirt bags, B.A.. Let's just get out of here. You take the van and I'll take their car to keep them from following us."
B.A. started to protest that he could hardly stand, just before the bright gleam of metal grabbed his attention.
The blast ricocheted into the ebon sky, startling the stars and waking sleeping birds from their safely hidden nests in hickory treetops. Murdock turned to catch the numb gaze of B.A., just before his friend tumbled forward. The heavy thud amalgamated with the musical jingle of golden chains as the large body collided with the earth, and Murdock cried out in denial.