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This page last viewed: 2017-12-17 and has been viewed 1906 times
Tooth Aches, Heart Breaks
by Joy Riddle
"I don't wanna go and you can't make me!"
Templeton Peck sighed in exasperation. Every time he tried to get Murdock to see he needed to go to the dentist and get that wisdom tooth out, he reacted like an overgrown child. "Murdock, you know it's hurting you -- a little gas, you're out, it's gone. No more pain!"
Murdock shook his head stubbornly, arms folded tightly across his chest. "They mess with my head, Faceman! They won't just pull the tooth, they'll drill into my skull and steal my brain! Then I won't be good for anything, I'll be dead and you'll be sorry!"
"You've been to the dentist before, haven't you?" Face tried a little gentler tone; have to soothe the firghtened child, bring him back to an adult, if that was possible. Murdock seemed to have so many personalities, sometimes, some very adult and some very insane, but the main personality always seemed to waver between a thirteen-year-old brat and young adulthood. *Well, he's not always a brat,* the con man for the A-Team reflected, *but he comes awfully close, what with his teasing B.A. and drivin' us all to distraction.* "Last year, wasn't it? All he did was clean your teeth . . . he didn't hurt you then, did he?"
"Well . . . yeah . . . I mean, no, he didn't hurt me." Murdock's arms slipped a little, meaning he was relaxing a bit; had to know a bit of body language to be able to con people, and Peck could usually read his friends' bodies like a book. The Texan was a bit of a mystery, since for each character, his basic moves changed somewhat, but his facial expressions and eyes usually gave him away. When Peck had to read him, that was; usually, he just played along with whatever game the pilot was playing and never tried to persuade him to do anything he didn't want to.
Problem was, this wisdom tooth was giving Murdock quite a lot of pain, keeping him from even being his normal mercurial self. And a sullen, tooth-achy brat was about all Murdock was capable of being right now.
Murdock must've been thinking along the same lines; he usually bounced from one personality to another, always had a quip, never down, light-hearted -- he wasn't considered dangerous, even if he was a certified lunatic. And sometimes that evaluation could come in for questioning, because when the chips were down, Murdock could -- and did -- act his real age and come through with flying colors.
Of course, Murdock's core personality was more intelligent than he ever let on; had to be, to incorporate so much of what he saw and read into the various people he became. That thought always frightened Face a bit; what could've snapped that brilliance into the sometimes raving lunatic, unco-ordinated scarecrow that seldom manifested except in extreme stress? Vietnam, of course . . . and near the end of the war.
No one quite knew why Murdock had snapped; even Murdock didn't know for sure, since he couldn't remember. But he still could've flown anything that had wings, because for some unknown reason, piloting various aircraft steadied Murdock, brought him back to sanity.
*Well, as close as Murdock manages to regain his senses,* Peck acknowledged. He was brought back to the present by a huge sigh, as the lanky pilot finally brought his arms down in defeat and hung his head.
"It does hurt, Faceman . . . an' you're right, it's gotta come out. Either the tooth drills through to my brain or the dentist does, an' the dentist is a lot quicker."
"Aw, come on, you know it's not gonna kill you. Heck, I'll be right outside in the waiting room -- you can yell if you need me." He patted Murdock on the back; he could tell by the expression on his best friend's face that he was far from happy with his own capitulation. "If we don't get called on a case, that is."
Murdock nodded miserably, head down, the duckbilled cap that he usually wore hiding his eyes. "I'm really scared, Face. I don't know why, but dentists scare me . . . maybe it's the sound the drill makes? Jus' seems to cut into my head, hurts my ears . . . "
"I don't know of anyone who's died from having a tooth pulled yet, and it's not like he has to cut it into sections. If you want gas to completely knock you out, or an injection, well -- that can be arranged. It'll be over before you know it!"
"Yeah . . . I guess . . . "* * * * * * *
As luck would have it, the day Murdock was scheduled to have his visit to the dentist, the others of the A-Team were on a case. He'd promised Face that he'd behave, be brave, and get the tooth pulled whether or not Face could make it, but there was that niggling doubt that his nerves might break and he'd run for it. It might be the first time the dentist ever had to work on a patient strapped into a straitjacket, but the tooth would be out by the time the Team got back.
As soon as he could make it, Peck headed towards the VA to check on Murdock. It was later the same day, and B.A. had tried to get there in time for Face to at least see Murdock as he came out from under whatever anesthesia he'd been given, but luck there had been against them.
"Darn speed limits," Face grumped to himself; the van had hit every red light it could. Always seemed to happen when they needed to be somewhere in a hurry and really couldn't call attention to themselves. Once they'd gotten back to Hannibal's current pad, they'd debriefed and B.A. had taken Face to his 'vette so he could drive to the hospital and check up on their missing member.
Due to the time, Peck didn't even don a disguise; the VA seemed to change personnel frequently -- the stress of having to deal with mental patients took its toll even among the most dedicated nurses and orderlies, although the doctors' roster seemed to stay fairly stable -- but strolled in and made his way to the admittance desk.
"I'd like to see Captain Murdock, see how he's feeling after that tooth extraction," Face smiled one of his brilliant smiles, guaranteed to melt most women, and waited for the nurse to smile back.
Instead, a look of horror and sorrow flitted across her face, and she turned in confusion to the head nurse behind her, the one that looked something like a bulldog dressed in a suit, and mumbled something. Peck caught a bit of the hurried conversation, and frowned, not knowing what was going on. " . . . doesn't . . . can't let him . . . "
Madame Bulldog finally tore herself away, taking the responsibility upon herself to give Peck whatever news there was. There shouldn't have been anything more drastic than Murdock running away, or still being under the anesthetic if he'd managed to delay the visit to the dentist -- what was going on, anyway?
She cleared her throat before she began, and Face had the sudden feeling he wanted to be anywhere but here. "I'm sorry, sir, but . . . I have some bad news for you."
"What? It was just a wisdom tooth -- did he bite the dentist? Is he being given treatment for that or something?" Peck felt himself shiver, although it didn't show outside; something was wrong, oh, god, what happened, what did Murdock do --
"Captain Murdock had a bad reaction to a new anesthetic . . . "
"Where is he? How is he? I -- "
Bulldog cut the frantic babbling with a sad look in her deepset brown eyes, eyes that reminded Face of Murdock when he'd finally accepted going to see the dentist. "He died, sir."
The room reeled around him, and Face lost consciousness, even as his mind screamed, *NOOOOOOOO!** * * * * * *
"I talked him into it, Hannibal, it's all my fault!" Face could still hear that last comment of Murdock's ringing in his mind, "I'll be dead and you'll be sorry!" It ran around and around, deafening him to almost everything around him.
He'd come to almost as soon as he'd hit the floor in the VA, convinced the nurses he was fine, he'd just been overcome by heat exhaustion and having forgotten to eat. Which was true, but all the stress combined with the bad news had just been too much. He still needed to get rehydrated, which was why he was slugging down cold water as fast as was feasible, and needed to get something in his stomach, as well, but he just couldn't eat yet.
He'd driven back to Hannibal's, and told him what he'd just learned. The colonel had immediately called B.A. back to his place, and the burly sergeant was on his way. Face didn't pay attention; he was still reeling from the bad news.
Murdock gone . . . and no one had been there with him. Peck could feel the tears gathering, but he didn't care. "How could it happen like that? Just . . . bad reaction, he's dead?!"
Hannibal sat back, his mind racing. "Did you see him, Lieutenant?"
"Huh?" Face straightened up, called his attention back to his commanding officer.
"Did you see Murdock's body?"
Face frowned; he hadn't even demanded to see his friend. What was he thinking? "Uuuh . . . no. No, I didn't."
"Doesn't that seem a bit strange to you?" Hannibal walked over and picked up the receiver of his telephone, dialed a number.
"Yeah, I'm a friend of Captain Murdock's," he said after he was connected with the VA. "I'd like to know where to view the body, pay my last respects . . . Oh, I see. Thank you. Sorry to have bothered you." He glanced over at Peck as he hung up the line.
"What?"Face looked up at him hopefully. "It's all a mistake, right? Some other Captain, and they thought it was Murdock?"
"No, not quite. But the dentist's office never returned his body. If I don't see a body, I don't believe anyone's dead." Hannibal pulled a cigar out of his pocket, bit off the end and spat it at the ashtray -- it did hit the ashtray, for once -- and then found his lighter and lit the thing. "The head nurse said something about one of Murdock's brothers claimed the body . . . "
"I don't think Murdock has any living relatives -- none that would claim him, anyway. He never mentioned a brother to me . . . " Peck pulled his mind away from the possibility of Murdock being dead to Murdock having been kidnapped for some unknown reason.
"Yeah, maybe he does, maybe he doesn't -- but how would this brother KNOW that Murdock died? And then to go and pick up the body before it even cooled, so to speak . . . " There was a knock at the door, and Hannibal went to let B.A. in. He outlined what little they knew, and was met with a frown.
"Murdock cain't be dead. Ah'd know if he was -- his ghost'd come jibber-jabberin' at me an' blamin' me fer not bein' there! That fool ain't dead -- Ah'd bet on it."
Peck and Smith glanced at each other, grinned, and then turned to B.A. "I think you're right, B.A." Face could feel his mood lighten, the threatened tears clearing away.
"O' course Ah'm right. Le's figger out how to fin' out whut happened ta him. Mebbe someone grabbed him fer some sort o' reward, mebbe Decker or somebody decided ta use him as bait." B.A. calmly sat down and directed everyone's minds towards finding Murdock, solving the mystery.
If anybody killed that fool, it had better be B.A Baracus and no one else!
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