Send Comment Card

Please Send This Author Comments!
This page last viewed: 2017-08-18 and has been viewed 5168 times

Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours

By Mandy Hall


It was very early in the morning, and the weather was fine, with little of the early morning mist remaining. Face smiled to himself. Even the faint breeze rippling through the open windows of the car and into his sandy blonde hair didn't disturb him. Last night had been wonderful; Charlene had made the perfect dinner, and then he had made perfect love to her.

Now the team had two, or even more, weeks of R&R to look forward to. Their last job had finished on time, and the client had paid well for the job, so Hannibal had given everyone a couple of weeks off. Hannibal had already headed down to Maggie's, and BA had arranged to meet his mother somewhere in the Midwest. Face didn't know what to do; ideally, he would have spent some time with Charlene, but she was going on a business trip out of town for a week, so he had arranged to spend some time with Murdock.

He glanced in his mirror and grimaced. "Oh jeez, how long have they been there?" Behind him were two military police cars.

Face put his foot to the floor and darted out into the next lane of traffic. Horns blared as he cut across the path of more than one car. He could hear the sirens start to sound as the M.P.s realised that he had seen them.

******

Decker spat out to Crane, "Keep on his tail; it is not every day that one of the A-Team gets this sloppy."

Decker looked at the map to see what the possible turnoffs that could be used along this road to try and figure out where Face could be heading. He smiled when he saw that the Westwood V.A. Hospital was just off the second turning, 2 miles ahead. He picked up the radio and ordered three units to the grounds of the hospital.

******

In the other direction, a truck was heading down towards the centre of LA. Its driver had been driving all night to deliver a load of vegetables to the central market. He felt himself getting drowsier; he had already opened his window and set the cold air blowing from his heaters.

He thought to himself, only another ten minutes or so to go; if I stop now, I am likely to get stuck in the worst of the rush hour. He nodded again, waking himself up with a start.

******

Face swore aloud as his weaving to and fro throughout the traffic had failed to shake Decker and his goons off. He was a good driver, but not as good as BA. He whipped past the turnoff that would take him to the V.A.; that would have to wait for a few days, unless, of course, Murdock could spring himself. He just thanked his lucky stars that he had filled up with gas as he had set out from Charlene's this A.M. As he looked in his mirror to gauge the distance between himself and Decker, he caught sight of his ruffled hair. He sighed; he would have to wash it when he got home. He looked ahead; the road was clear, so at least he could put his foot down without any civilians being involved. The car sped off.

******

As the cars passed the V.A., Decker called one of the units to join the chase. It came up the access ramp just after they passed. Decker smiled to himself; he was training his drivers well.

******

The driver of the truck was fighting a losing battle with sleep. He slumped over the wheel, and his head drooped forward. The truck swung to the left towards the oncoming traffic, the driver's head now resting on the horn.

******

Face glanced back over his shoulder. He muttered to himself,"These army guys may be good drivers, but they sure don't have good cars." He relaxed as a gap began to open up.

Hopefully round the next bend, there would be a turnoff that he could use before Decker caught up with him again. They must have trailed him from Charlene's. Damn, Hannibal would have his hide for this...

He heard the sound of the truck's horn coming towards him. He turned back and paled at the sight of the truck coming over the carriageway towards him; he jammed his brakes on and tried to swerve around the truck. The car went into a skid in the direction of the lorry. Face put his arms up to try and protect his face, and all went black.

******

Decker growled at Crane, "Is this all the speed this thing can do?" and damning BA silently for his mechanical skill.

Peck was going to get away. From the distance, he heard squealing brakes and the crunch of metal on metal. Crane looked at Decker and without asking started to pull back on the speed. All of a sudden, they were on the scene; the 'vette was lying partly crushed by the side of an overturned truck. Crane jammed the brakes on and just managed to stop before hitting the Corvette in the rear. The cars behind weren't so lucky, and they hit the bumper of Crane's vehicle, which then careened into the Corvette.

Decker jumped out of the car, checking on the truck driver first. He hung out of his cab. Decker reached up to check for a pulse.

Crane rushed up. "Paramedics and police on their way, sir."

Decker shook his head. "This one won't need any help."

Crane nodded and then looked at the Corvette, where a soldier was checking the driver's side. "Sir - we have a pulse - weak, but there is one."

Decker ran over. He looked to where Face was still in his seat; the car was so wrecked he couldn't tell whether it was the driver's seat or not. "Peck, Peck, can you hear me?"

No reply, not even a groan. Decker went into combat mode, assessing his injuries. Facially, there were a few superficial cuts; a small amount of blood was leaking from a head wound. Decker checked the abdomen and legs, but it was difficult to tell anything for certain as the superstructure was so twisted. It was obvious that his arms were broken and quite possibly his ribs. Decker checked his airway and could hear breathing sounds; at least he wasn't choking. He leaned over to locate the ignition and turned the key to turn it off. He checked Peck's pulse again. It was there, a little fast and a bit weak, but it was there.

He shook his head. Typical. He got one of the A-Team, but, as usual, they didn't make it easy. He could hear the sirens of the police and paramedics in the distance.

He groaned inwardly. This is going to take some explaining.

******

It was a beautiful day in Bad Rock. Hannibal stretched as he relaxed in the early morning sunshine. Two weeks off and most of those would be spent down here with Maggie. He smiled as he thought of BA; he had checked in early and said he was in a hotel, en route to meeting up with his mum. His smile became even broader as he thought of Face, who had rung in just before the deadline. Obviously, from the murmuring in the background he had spent the night with someone. He tried to work out who it could be - Lorraine - no, that was last month - no, Charlene - that was it. Face had said that he might spring Murdock from the V.A. for a few days, but that was as far as he had got in making a decision about anything. They had agreed on contact details for the next few days, and that was it. Inside, the radio was playing music from one of the LA stations that could reach up here; as the traffic news came on, he heard Maggie switch it off and come out onto the porch.

"John, breakfast!" she called as she placed a laden breakfast tray on a table.

Hannibal wandered over. "What do you fancy doing today; are you free?" he asked, as he sat down.

"Well, I've got a few calls to make up in the hills; they shouldn't take long. Hey, I've just had an idea. Why don't we ride up there and take lunch? I know a great spot for a picnic." Maggie smiled at the prospect.

"Why not?" Hannibal matched Maggie's smile. "Have you got a tent? We could camp out under the stars, then get back here just after first light."

"Sounds wonderful." Maggie sighed inwardly. She was so pleased to see John so relaxed and carefree; whenever they had spoken recently, he had seemed so tired and careworn.

******

BA was listening to the same station as Maggie as he headed onto the interstate from his motel. The signal was getting weak though, and, before the traffic news came on, he decided to put a tape on instead. He rummaged through the tapes and found a gospel album. He smiled to himself - this was his mother's favourite.

He sighed; this would be his first meeting with his mother in a few months. Man, I wish I could bring her to live with me in LA. He shook his head; he knew that was an impossible dream. The music started, and he started singing - one advantage of having the van to himself: no complaints about the noise.

******

Back at the V.A., Murdock had eaten his breakfast, for once, in his room. He had spoken to Face the night before, and he knew that he was going to be dropping by to pick him up sometime early. He idly wondered what they would be doing. He had decided to pack for every eventuality and put extra treats in for Billy just in case Face had forgotten to pick some up in his shopping. Murdock looked at his watch for about the sixth time in five minutes; Face was late. He looked out of his window, but he couldn't see the car park from there. He decided to wander out and go to the day room; the car park was visible from there.

******

Back at the crash scene, the paramedics were working on Face; they had a cervical collar on him together with an airway. They were busy putting IV lines in. Decker went over. "How's he doing?"

One of the paramedics turned round and reported, "Holding his own, sir, but we can't move him; he's trapped. We're waiting for a fire crew to come to release him. We've called for air evacuation to take him to UCLA; we're concerned about his coma score and, of course, the traffic. Did he regain consciousness at all when you spoke to him?"

"No, he didn't." Decker sighed.

"Colonel, do you know who this man is and if there are any next of kin, just so the hospital can inform them?" A policeman was holding a notebook and a pen.

"His name is Lieutenant Templeton Peck - he is a wanted military convict. I will contact his next of kin," Decker stated flatly. The policeman nodded and walked away. Decker turned to Crane. "Please ask Father Magill to meet us at the hospital, then get to the V.A. and pick up Murdock and meet us there." Crane saluted and turned away to find a serviceable car.

The fire crew arrived and proceeded to quickly and efficiently cut up the Corvette to release the trapped driver. The evacuation helicopter arrived and landed. The fire crew amd paramedics transferred Face to a stretcher and carried him quickly over to the helicopter.

Decker shivered. He had seen this scene of evacuation far too often in Vietnam.

Decker moved to climb into the helicopter, but the paramedic stopped him. "Sorry, Colonel, not enough room - and I don't think he will be going anywhere for a while."Decker nodded.

As he turned away, he heard the sound of the police and the TV helicopters, monitoring the traffic jam now building up, bringing the memories of Vietnam even closer.

A policeman came up beside him. "Colonel, I am Lieutenant Daniels. I would appreciate an explanation of what happened here."

Decker turned to him and said, "I'll tell you on the way to the hospital, Lieutenant. I need to get there to make sure my prisoner is secure; you don't know how slippery these characters can be."

The policeman looked up at the fast disappearing helicopter and thought, 'From the comments of the paramedics, he is not going anywhere fast,' but sighed; the orders had come down from on high to give this colonel all the cooperation he required. "Yes, certainly, sir; we'll have to go by helicopter." Turning to one of the uniforms, he asked them to bring the helicopter down.

As they sped over the city to UCLA, Decker looked at the traffic jams below and wondered if he could get Peck on dangerous driving charges. He smiled grimly; the death of the truck driver would mean that he certainly would have to answer for that.

******

Murdock continued his observation of the car park. When he saw the three squad cars arrive and then one leave, he half smiled to himself. 'Oh, Facey baby must be having some fun this morning.' Because he now knew that Face wouldn't be arriving for some time, he decided to settle down and watch the morning news. One of the orderlies came in to collect the breakfast dishes.

"Hey, Louie, I thought you were night shift; aren't you a bit late going home?" he joked with the orderly.

"Half of the early shift haven't turned up yet; there is a big traffic problem on..."

"Oh, right. You all should be issued with helicoptersÖsolve any traffic problems."

Louie just smiled at that, typical thing for a pilot to propose. "Yeah, Murdock, and we'll all win the lottery, too."

Murdock idly flicked through the channels. He found the local cable channel. He stopped; he liked this channel, 'cause they had the traffic helicopter up every morning. Murdock thought that would be a good job and tuned out for a little while, thinking about how great it would be to swoop up and down the roads of L.A. He came out of his thoughts when he heard the route number that Face would have taken.

"And this is the scene now; they have released the driver of the car and are now taking him to the helicopter."

Murdock paled and started to gasp for air as the camera zoomed in on the car to show the paramedics transferring the driver to the stretcher. The camera clearly showed several personnel and cars littering the scene, but all Murdock could see though was the crushed white Corvette with a red stripe.

A hand grasped his shoulder; Murdock turned. Dr. Richter stood there with Crane behind him.

Murdock moaned, "Noooooooo," and curled into a ball.

"H.M." Richter hugged Murdock. "He's still alive... They are taking him to UCLA; the captain wants you to go there with him."

Murdock looked up at Richter. "Can you come, too?" he asked, his eyes begging the doctor.

"No, I can't, but I think Louie will go with you." Richter looked at Crane, daring him to say no. Crane just nodded.

Murdock uncurled and said, "Louie?"

"I'm here, Murdock," Louie said. "We'd better go." Murdock nodded and allowed himself to be guided out of the room by Louie.

******

When they arrived at the hospital, Decker was already there and had started to organise guards at the entrance. Decker was standing in the central area, talking to several policemen. Crane went up to him. "I' ve brought Murdock, sir," he said, gesturing to the pilot, who was looking round him in bewilderment.

"Who's that with him?" Decker queried.

"Dr. Richter thought it was best if one of the orderlies came with him; they know his moods, sir."

Decker grunted. "The hospital has given us the use of that interview room over there. Take him there."

"Sir, is there any news, sir?" Crane wanted to tell Murdock something. He had been so quiet in the car.

Decker shook his head "No, they are stabilising him still. When the priest arrives, I'll send him over."

Crane nodded and went over to escort his party to the interview room indicated. Murdock found a corner and curled up tight, his face hidden in his jacket. Louie sat near him. Crane looked out at the door.

An old priest entered the casualty area at a run, looking wildly around. He saw Crane, Decker having moved away to supervise the setting up of a perimeter guard. He came over.

"How is he?" Crane shrugged his shoulders and let the priest enter the room.

Father Magill saw the hunched-up shape of Murdock and went over to comfort him. Murdock reached up with his arms; the priest drew him to an embrace.

After a few minutes, the priest came over and asked Crane, "Is it possible to find out something?" Gesturing to Murdock, he added, "He is not going to go anywhere." Crane nodded and went to see if he could find someone.

He came back with both Decker and a doctor in scrub greens. The doctor looked at the men in the room; Decker sensed the reluctance of the doctor and said, "You can speak."

"Well, Lieutenant Peck is critical, but he should pull through." A gasp of relief was heard from Father Magill and Murdock. "He has several fractures, the most severe being a fractured skull and ribs; he also has fractures of his arms and right leg. He will need surgery to fix the fractures in his skull and ribs."

Father Magill asked, "Will there be any lasting damage from these injuries?" half-fearful of the answer.

The doctor smiled and said, "Hopefully not. We think the skull fracture is uncomplicated and no brain damage has occurred. The ribs do mean, however, that we will have to keep him sedated and ventilated for a week or so; he has what we call a flail chest. We do need to take him to the OR for treatment of the skull fracture and to fix his ribs - is there anyone who can sign the forms for him?"

"I will do that," Father Magill answered before Decker could. "Is it possible to see him?"

The doctor looked at Decker, aware of his patient's status. Decker, after a long moment of hesitation, nodded. "Come with me; we're just getting him ready."

******

They followed the doctor down the corridor and into the trauma unit. Face lay on a trolley, a ventilator breathing for him. His facial cuts had been dressed. Murdock hoped that they hadn't used stitches, because Face would be unhappy at that. His arms and leg were set in temporary splints. There was a little blood in his hair. Murdock smiled as he heard Father Magill recite a prayer at the head of the bed; he was content just to clutch his friend's hand.

After a while, the Father said, "Murdock, they want to take him to the OR now." Murdock looked up and nodded.

"See ya in a bit, Face." The Father supported Murdock as they went back to the interview room.

******

A nurse came up to the Father. "Father, I am sorry to disturb you but..."

"What do you want, my child?" the father gently asked, as he handed Murdock over to Louie.

"Well, I know I shouldn't ask, but the driver of the truck...well, he died. They've brought him here, and his wife, well, she is distraught..."

The father sighed and nodded silently and walked off with the nurse. He could hear the sobbing of the woman as he approached the cubicle where the body had been put.

When Father Magill entered the cubicle, he saw that Decker and another policeman were already there.

Decker looked disappointed. "Well, Father, it looks as though your protÈgÈ has got away with it again." He stalked out of the cubicle.

The policeman took Father Magill to one side. "Mrs. Alvirez has told us that her husband had been driving all night. From what we could see at the scene, it looks like he fell asleep at the wheel; your friend unfortunately got in the way." The policeman left.

Father Magill did not whether to feel relief or anger; Face had been injured and captured due to this man, but at least he would not have the stain of his death on his conscience.

"Father, FatherÖ" The plaintive voice of Mrs. Alvirez broke through his thoughts. "What am I going to do, Father?" She clasped his hand tightly.

"Peace, my child. Do you have any relatives that we can contact?" he gently asked.

"No, you don't understand, Father; my problems are only just beginning..." She proceeded to tell the father the reasons behind why her late husband had been driving all night.

******

Hannibal was just saddling up when cold shivers ran up and down his spine. He grunted whilst he shook the feeling off.

Maggie had just entered the stable and caught the action. "What's up, John?"

"Nothing, Maggie." He smiled, glad to be free of the feeling. "Decker must be thinking of me!" They both laughed.

He led the horses out. They both mounted up and headed out into the hills.

******

BA had stopped for a drink and a rest; he had made pretty good time. As he climbed back into the van, he suddenly felt cold. Damn, must have left the air con on too low, he thought, reaching over to turn it up. The feeling passed.

******

Murdock looked over at Louie, who had nodded off in his chair. Now that he had got over the initial shock, his brain was going around in circles. How to get hold of Hannibal and BA. Did Face have his contact book with him? He hoped not. No doubt Decker was searching his room as well to find if he had such a book. He smiled. All the years they had been on the run had honed their memories so that there were very few contact numbers that needed to be written down. Father Magill had not yet come back from wherever he had gone. Crane had disappeared somewhere also. He felt in his pocket; damn, he didn't have any money on him. He just knew he had to get in contact with Hannibal somehow, to warn him not to come here, at the very least. He slipped out of the room, hoping to find a telephone he could use.

Murdock looked over at Louie, who had nodded off in his chair. Now that he had got over the initial shock, his brain was going around in circles. 'How to get hold of Hannibal and BAÖdid Face have his contact book with him?' He hoped not. No doubt Decker was searching his room as well to find if he had such a book. He smiled. All the years they had been on the run had honed their memories so that there were very few contact numbers that needed to be written down. Father Magill had not yet come back from wherever he had gone. Crane had disappeared somewhere also. He felt in his pocket; damn, he didn't have any money on him. He just knew he had to get in contact with Hannibal somehow, to warn him not to come here, at the very least. He slipped out of the room, hoping to find a telephone he could use.

********

Mrs. Alvirez had finished telling her story; Father Magill leaned back in the uncomfortable chair. He couldn't help, but knew some people who could, but would they?

"Mrs. Alvir..." he started to say.

He was interrupted by the sound of Decker shouting, "What are you doing out here? Get back in the room, Crane. Crane!"

Father Magill stood up and looked out to see Murdock being marched back into the interview room by an MP. He turned round and said, "Wait here. I'll be back." The woman nodded; where else could she go?

Father Magill walked over to the interview room and walked in on Decker screaming at Murdock. "NOW STAY HERE - YOU DON'T MOVE UNTIL I SAY SO." Murdock cowered behind Louie.

"What's going on?" asked Father Magill quietly.

"This person went walkabout without permission," stormed Decker.

"Is he under arrest?" countered Magill.

"UGHHHHÖ" was all he got from Decker as he left the room. Everyone concerned with the A-Team was awkward, even the clergy.

"All I did was to take Billy for a walk - he was getting restless," whimpered Murdock.

Father Magill looked at Louie and coughed. "Why don't I take Billy for that walk, Murdock?" Louie suggested.

"Will ya?" The pilot smiled.

Louie left the room. Father Magill turned to Murdock and said, "Murdock, Face didn't cause the accident."

Murdock's face lit up. "I' ve just been speaking to the widow of the truck driver, and it seems he was driving all night, because they had problems with..."

Murdock angrily butted in. "What about the problems he's caused Face? He's injured and captured by Decker and, and..."

"Sssh, Murdock, listen to me; we can sort Face out when he is on the road to recovery. The hospital won't allow him to be moved for at least a week or so; Mrs. Alvirez needs the team's help now."

Murdock let the Father's words sink in; it was true that with Face having to be ventilated, he wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, and he knew Face trusted the judgement of the Father almost more than he did any member of the Team, even Hannibal. He looked up and said, "Bring her here, and I'll see what she has to say..."

The Father sighed with relief and then asked a question. "Did you get in touch with the anyone?"

Murdock shook his head; the answer phone answered at Maggie's, and he hadn't had a chance to try BA's place or the van. He could only hope one of them would see the coverage and contact him, but then what was the chance of that?

******

Father Magill brought Mrs. Alvirez to the interview room, fearing the reaction of Murdock if he saw the dead body. Mrs. Alvirez told Murdock of the property developers who were trying to lever the family off their land so that they could develop a resort area. She detailed the harassment that had started when they had refused the last offer. They had little spare cash to pursue the group through the courts. The harassment had increased to the point that all the labourers had left, and it was just the two of them running the farm. This meant that her husband had been working all day and driving all night to get the produce to market, as no one else would take the risk of delivering it. Murdock clenched his wrists in frustration; he just knew they had to help, but he also didn't want to predict how Hannibal and BA would react.

A nurse came in and said, "Lieutenant Peck is out of surgery and has been transferred to ICU; you can see him in a few minutes."

Father Magill spoke to Mrs. Alvirez and rapidly wrote an address down and gave her the money to get a cab. Murdock and Father Magill went to the lift, accompanied by an MP.

******

Upstairs, Face had been installed in an isolation suite. There were armed guards at the lifts and the doors of the isolation suite.

The doctor spoke to the two of them and assured them, "The operations went smoothly, no complications; he is as well as can be expected."

They both nodded, Murdock strengthening himself for what he was about to see.

There was no noise in the room apart from the regular noise of the ventilator and the bleeping of the monitors. The top of Face's head was bandaged; he had a tube sticking out of his nose, which the nurse explained was just there as a precaution in case of internal bleeding from the bruising he had suffered. His arms were encased in plaster together with his right leg. Two IVs were going into his chest, one with blood in and another with a clear fluid.

Oh, Face thought Murdock as he clutched the fingers of one hand as they hung out of the end of a plaster cast. His face was pale next to the sheets.

Father Magill whispered in his ear, "It's going to be difficult to get anyone in here, Murdock; Decker is out there getting a prescribed list of staff who will be allowed up here - no exceptions."

Murdock turned and flatly stated, "Hannibal will get him out."

The Father left after a few hours; he whispered to Murdock, "I'm going to make sure Mrs. Alvirez is all right; she is staying at the orphanage tonight."

Murdock nodded. "We'll be in touch tomorrow."

Murdock sighed and settled in a chair by the side of Face's bed. After a while, Louie came up and said that he was going. Murdock absently nodded; his focus was on the figure in the bed. Louie sighed and left.

******

BA stopped for the night at a roadside motel.

As he booked in,the clerk asked, "You come from LA?" noting the number plate on the van.

"Outside of it," BA replied warily.

"Oh, you'll have missed that big traffic jam then this morning."

"Yeah," BA growled, wanting a shower, a glass of milk, and then an early night.

Once he got in his room, he turned the TV on for background noise and lounged back on the bed.The news was showing.

"The ethics of high speed police chases were called into question today, after this morning's rush hour accident, which claimed the life of one man and severely injured another and jammed up south LA for several hours this morning." BA vaguely thought this must be the jam the guy was talking about. "As these pictures show, the chase must have been proceeding at high speed." The television pictures showed the jerky footage from the helicopter. 'Man, that pilot must be worse than Murdock,' BA joked to himself. He took a sip of the milk. "However, this was no ordinary police chase. Analysis of the pictures would seem to indicate that this was the military police." The picture zoomed down onto several khaki clad figures who were swarming around a white and red car.

BA dropped his milk and turned the TV up. "Neither the LAPD nor the military police will confirm who the driver of the white car is; all they would say that he is in a critical but stable condition at an unnamed hospital in LA."

The pictures showed the paramedics taking a person from the car and putting the stretcher in the helicopter. BA didn't need the zoom lens to guess what colour hair the person had. "Face, I'm comin back."

He was on the road in twenty minutes, pausing in his packing only to call his mother to say he wasn't going to be able to make it.

******

Hannibal and Maggie were relaxing under the stars. They had had a good ride in the afternoon after Maggie had finished her calls and had spent the evening talking and dreaming. The air was so clement, they decided just to use the sleeping bags and not bother with the tent. They finally fell asleep, holding each other in their arms. They woke up before dawn and were up and away quickly.

They arrived back in time for the check in calls. Maggie listened to the calls on her business answering machine. There was a strange one - the tone went, and there was a long pause as if the person were trying to say something but couldn't and some noise in the background, and the phone went dead. She shrugged. Whoever it was would call back.

She wandered back into the living room to find Hannibal slumped in front of the TV. "Any calls?"

Hannibal shrugged and said, "No, not yet." He couldn't understand it; Face late - yes, but BA? That wasn't usual.

Maggie started fixing some breakfast in the kitchen and decided to switch on the TV for the weather forecast. She was a little early, and the traffic helicopter was showing. She smiled to herself - she really could see Murdock doing this job. The pilot was commenting on the traffic jam yesterday. She continued smiling that was another thing she didn't miss from life in the city.

The reporter was still talking. "The biggest mystery, though, is: who is the driver of the car that was being chased by the MPs?" Maggie's attention was fully fixed on the reporter now. The station replayed the pictures of the Corvette being loaded onto a tow truck. "Although the military police refuse to confirm or deny anything, it is now believed that the car driver was taken to UCLA hospital." The pictures showed the driver being taken out of the car and being loaded into the helicopter. "This station, through the use of advanced technology, has managed to maximise the small view we have of the driver's face - DO you recognise this man?" A picture of a bloodied and bruised Face filled the screen. Maggie dropped her knife and ran through to the lounge.

Hannibal was staring wordlessly at the screen. At the same moment, the sound of a vehicle screeching to a halt outside came through the door. The door clattered open, and BA came through. "Hannibal - I think Face has had a..." He stopped, looking at the screen.

BA was ordered to rest for a few hours whilst Hannibal and Maggie tried to get some more information. Murdock was unreachable, his phone line ringing unavailable.

Maggie had better luck; she had a friend in the UCLA Hospital administration, so she phoned her mid-morning for a friendly chat. She managed to elicit from her friend that the military were indeed swarming all over the place and that the isolation area of the ICU had been cordoned off. Her friend told her that all the staff were complaining of the increased supervision with everything being checked and no, absolutely no, unauthorised staff or visitors being allowed up there. She didn't know what the injuries were or the condition of the patient or even the identity of the person. She said there were no records available; it was all being kept on the ICU floor, which was very irregular.

Maggie sighed as she put the phone down. "Decker's got everything sewn up as tight as a drum, Hannibal." She flopped down in a chair. "Nothing is coming in or out of the ICU floor; no information is leaking about how he is doing or what injuries he has or who is with him."

BA had woken up and was on the sofa next to Hannibal "Where is the crazy man ?" he queried.

"Decker's probably ripped his phone out; more than likely, he is with Face, and Decker knows he can give us the information we need to get him out. It is up to Murdock to find a way to get that information to us." Hannibal sighed.

At that moment, Hannibal's cell phone rang. They all looked at it in hope... "Yeah?" Hannibal snapped into the phone.

The voice on the other end said, "Is that the pizza man?"

"What is your order?"

"Ah, I would like a Heavenly Cross No. 9 with extra tomatoes."

Hannibal smiled. "Hello, Father Magill. How are you today?"

"I'm fine; I tried to call you yesterday." Hannibal grimaced at that; he had left the phone behind when they had headed up into the hills.

"I think you might want to hear about someone. I can't talk for long, but the person in question has a fractured skull, a 'flail chest,' broken arms, and a broken right leg. They are doing the breathing for him - for his chest, I believe. Otherwise, they say he is should be all right soon. He is asleep at present and will continue to be so for a few days. H.M. is with him; Decker won't let me back. I must go; you all have my prayers..." The priest put the phone down.

Hannibal looked at Maggie. "Did you hear that?"

"Yes," said Maggie, chewing her lip. "It has its advantages and disadvantages."

"How so?"

"Well, with a flail chest, the patient is sedated and ventilated for 3-4 days at least, more in worse cases to ensure that the ribs begin to knit before the patient breathes for himself. So Decker won't be able to move him for at least 5-7 days, but that also means that we can't either. The fractured skull doesn't seem to be a problem; he may have a few headaches, and the other fractures - we could deal with those. But his chest, Hannibal..." Maggie chewed her lip. "At least Murdock is there with him."

"BA, Maggie, the least we can do is go back to LA and find out how the ground lies."

"Makes sense to me, Hannibal." BA jumped off the sofa, glad to be doing something at last.

******

Murdock woke up and thought, those beds are getting worse,as he rubbed his neck. As he woke up further, he remembered where he was, in a lounge off the isolation unit. He stood up and wandered out of the door towards where Face lay.

An M.P. followed him. Murdock ignored him. He called to Billy. "Billy, where are you, boy? Oh, there you are now, now don't bite the man. You'll have to have a tetanus jab." The MP grimaced at him. My, he has less humour than BA on a bad day.

He went into Face's room. He had stayed there until about 3:00 AM, and then the night staff had wanted to check Face and make him comfortable, so he had left for a nap. He looked at the clock on the wall: 7:30 AM. Face looked much the same as when he had left. He sighed and sat down and clutched the limp fingers. He hated seeing Face like this. Eventually, his mind drifted back to Vietnam, to the time they first met.

**

Murdock was in one of the little bars around the base with Hannibal, discussing the many ways that they could occupy themselves that night. They eventually found two, drink and women. Hannibal went up to the bar to get some more beer.

Murdock caught sight of a group of Green Berets walking through the door; leading them was a blonde young man. He couldn't have been more than 20. His lieutenant's bars reflected the whiteness of his smile.

"Oh, they must be the new ones, flew in today," commented Hannibal, as he laid the beers down; he had followed Murdock's gaze on the way back from the bar. "They have a few days of orientation; then they are off up to the forward bases," Hannibal commented.

Murdock turned to him in surprise. "How do you know what their orders are?"

"Because I need a supply officer for this team I'm putting together, so I tried to get one of them - but apparently they are all allocated, even that one." Hannibal pointed out the leader who was now at the bar.

"What's wrong with him?" Murdock queried.

"Strange background and a record ever since he joined up," Hannibal mused. After a few minutes of silence between the pair, they turned their attention to other matters.

Suddenly, shouting erupted in the corner where the Green Berets had congregated. One of the group, not the blonde one, Murdock noted with interest, had got rather merry, rather fast, and had spilt his beer over a regular soldier, who wasn't happy about having his uniform soaked with beer. Murdock observed the blonde guy move over to try to calm the man down, and he seemed to be doing a good job of it. But Murdock also noted the cockiness of the other Berets and thought, 'Oh-oh.' He turned to Hannibal, who just turned and smiled at him.

The fight erupted out of nothing. The blonde had got a beer for his new friend and was making sure he was looked after, when another of the Berets decided to throw a punch at another of the army guys.

Murdock dived under the table; it was safe there. He watched the bar erupt. Where Hannibal was, he didn't know. He heard a voice say, "Don' t hit me me about the face; that's not nice!"

He looked out to see the blonde being held by one soldier and being hit by another. He would have a nice collection of bruises tomorrow. Murdock launched himself at the legs of the guy holding Face, as he decided to call him. The guy collapsed under the unexpected assault, and Face dealt with the other one.

The blonde turned round and shouted, "Thanks, pal."

At that moment, whistles were sounded. Hannibal dragged Murdock into a curtained alcove. Murdock peeped through the curtains to watch his new pal being dragged off by the MPs, protesting his innocence until he was silenced by a couple of blows to his body.

Murdock turned round to Hannibal and said, "You can't just let them take him away like that..."

"You don't mess with the Military Police, Murdock. It's ok; I'll go and see what they are going to do with him in the morning. Mmm, it may be that he won't be going forward at all..."

Two days later, Hannibal summoned everyone together: BA, Murdock, Brenner. "I've managed to acquire a supply officer after all; you can come in, Lieutenant Peck."

Murdock turned round to see the bruised but smiling Face walk in. Murdock looked at Hannibal wondering whether the fight was really as 'accidental' as it had appeared. Hannibal must have caught Murdock's train of thought; he just smiled and said, "I love it when a plan comes together - don't you, Captain?"

Murdock laughed to himself at the expression that he had seen flicker across the face of Face when Hannibal had said that. After that beginning, they had never looked back.

**

"Excuse me, sir." Murdock turned round to see a young nurse there.

Murdock smiled. "Call me Murdock."

"I'm Cathy"

"Oh, right."

"I just need to check his IV sites; can I get past?" Murdock got up and moved his chair away.

Cathy came past. "Oh, dear..." she said to herself.

"What's the matter?" Murdock looked up worriedly.

"I think one of the drips has tissued; it has come out slightly, and the fluid has been going into the tissue around it," the nurse replied, silently swearing under her breath as she looked at the puffy site. She traced the line back; she found it was the line that held the IV sedation. 'Even worse, better inform the docs.' She smiled at Murdock. 'He looks so sad,' she thought. "I am just going to get one of the doctors to replace the line, and then we can start the drip up again." She switched the pump off and left the room.

Murdock nodded, and moved back to the side of the bed and clutched those fingers again. This time, he felt a tightening of those fingers. He clutched them back and smiled to himself; Face was waking up. His next thought was, he's supposed to be sedated... He looked up. If Face came to now...

Murdock reported to the doctor that had come to check on the IV, that Face had squeezed his hand. The doctor chewed his lip and turned to the nurse. "We need to get this line in stat; we'll try to see if there is a site on his left leg we can use."

The nurse gave him a tray with a fresh IV catheter on. Murdock hated the sight of needles, so he turned to stare out of the door - but Decker was standing there, watching the proceedings with interest, so he turned back in time to see Face's eyes snap open. Murdock read the panicked expression and realised what was going to happen next. He moved to the top of the bed. "Doctor, I think..."

Too late, Face started to moan and thrash his head around. Murdock tried to calm him down without success. The ET tube became dislodged. Monitor alarms started beeping. The doctor cried, "Respiratory arrest - get the crash cart."

Somehow, Murdock found himself out of the room, looking through the observation window.

******

Face could hear noises; he was sure he could hear Murdock. Where were they? He remembered the helicopter noises and a bang, but not the order; had the helicopter been in a crash? His ribs hurt like hell, and he tried to talk, but he was gagged or something. He opened his eyes; all he could see was a bright light. His legs were heavy, and he couldn't move his arms. All of a sudden, he felt a prick in his leg; that's it! Chao must have got them again, and he was trying to interrogate him. 'NO, NO, he can't do that, not again!' Face moved his head from side to side to try to free himself of the gag; he tried to sit up. 'Must get to Murdock, must help Murdock, mustn't let them get to Murdock.'

From far away, he heard Murdock's voice cut through the noise that had erupted since he had come to. "Face, Face calm down, sssssshhhhh, sssssshhhh."

The sounds of a familiar lullaby came gently to Face's ears, but it wouldn't calm him. He couldn't breathe now; it hurt so much to breathe. The blackness came roaring down on him again.

******

Twenty long minutes later, the crash team came out of the room. Cathy came over to Murdock. "He's OK...the docs will tell you everything in a few minutes."

Murdock slumped against the window in relief. The doctor who had been replacing the line came up to him. "The IV line must have been failing for a while to let his level of consciousness come up so well," the doctor commented. "It would appear from this that his skull fracture isn't too serious. We've re-intubated him and re-sedated him, but this time we have also paralysed him - just to make sure. We don't want him to do that again; he'll be fine. You can see him now if you like."

Murdock wearily nodded. He went in to see Face; the room was silent apart from the ventilator. Cathy was there, doing observations. She smiled at Murdock as she came over to his side, and a piece of paper dropped into Murdock's lap. Murdock looked at her, but she seemed to be engrossed in reading the monitors. He moved slightly, so the MP on the door couldn't see him; the paper read '555 - 5687.'

He looked questioningly at Cathy. She whispered, "I think your friends would like to have a contact in here, don't you?"

He nodded and said, "Why?"

"I have read about your friends and what they have done and why." He smiled. Cathy said loudly, "If you want to go back to the VA to have a rest and maybe be come back much later, you can be assured we'll look after him."

Murdock weighed it up in his mind. If Face is paralysed and sedated, I can't do much here, and Mrs. A. needs some help, and I'll be more use outside than cooped up in here. Besides, Decker is so confident; he needs shaking up. He merely nodded his head. He knew Face would get great care whether he was here or not.

After a while, he started to yawn and stretch. He wandered out and said to Crane, who was sitting in the lounge, "Can I go back to the VA? Billy needs a walk and some food."

Crane replied, "Wait here," and went out to discuss it with Decker, who was eyeing some intelligence reports.

Decker was mystified; his sources had not reported any team movement at all, even after the pictures that were published this morning. Still, I've got you this time, Smith.

He went to see Murdock with Crane; they found him asleep and almost unrouseable. Decker thought, we've taken out his phone, and he'll be supervised whilst he's there. He is no threat to the operation. He remembered the panic-stricken face of this morning. "Take him back, Crane."

Murdock left the floor supported by an MP. The guard and Crane loaded Murdock into the back seat where he curled up and dozed off. The guard decided to sit in the front seat with Crane. The traffic was heavy, and they seemed to catch every stoplight. They heard the door slam at one and looked up to see Murdock run quickly up the street.

"Damn!" Crane jumped out and ran after him, but he was soon lost amongst the alleyways. "Damn. Damn. Damn."

******

Murdock stepped from his hiding place to see Crane turn the car around and drive back in the direction of UCLA. He smirked, thinking of the reaction that Decker would have. He was glad that Face was unconscious and that Decker wouldn't be able to do anything to him. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and thought what to do next. He didn't have any money for a phone, and then a thought came to him when he saw a payphone - if it worked for Mathew Broderick in War Games, why couldn't it work for him?

He looked around and found a ring top from a soft drinks can lying on the floor next to the payphone. Murdock smiled; looks like someone else has tried it. He managed to use the ring top to get a dialing tone. He dialed the van, crossing his fingers and toes that they were in it.

******

The van was making good time, although they had decided to take an alternative route back into the city just in case Decker had his goons out. The journey had been silent, BA concentrating on the road, Hannibal sucking on an unlit (for once) cigar. Maggie sat in the back, worrying over Face. The phone rang, breaking into their reveries.

Hannibal and BA looked at each other for a long moment before Hannibal picked it up and switched on the speaker. "Joe's."

"Hannibal," Murdock broke in.

"Murdock, where are you? What's happening?"

"Can't talk for long. I'm in a hot zone; can you arrange pickup? I'm at Prince and Albert?"

"Yep, we'll arrange that; where do you want to meet?"

"The baby factory."

"OK. Pickup should be within the next half hour, and we'll meet up with you in an hour. Bye." Hannibal clicked the phone off. He picked up the phone and dialed a number, "We need a package picked up and delivered from Prince and Albert. The freight will be addressed as to where it needs to go to." He ended the call.

"BA, head to the orphanage."

BA had already started to head that way. "Hannibal, that place is going to be knee-deep in MPs; Decker will have it staked out."

"Don't think so. If he did, the Church would be on him like a ton of bricks - and, after the little incident yesterday, I don't think he needs any more bad publicity. Besides, we'll use the back entrance."

******

Down on Prince and Albert, the restaurant delivery van pulled up. Murdock smiled and got into the back. "Long time no see, Lin," he greeted the driver. "Thanks for this. Can you take me to the orphanage?"

Lin smiled. "Of course, Murdock. How is Face doing? When we saw yesterday, the family made several prayers to our ancestors for his safekeeping."

Murdock replied, "Thanks, Lin; he's as well as can be expected."

The journey was quiet until they reached the orphanage.Lin spotted the observation car and sighed. "What do we do now?"

"There is a back entrance; take the next left and then the next right." Lin nodded. Murdock shook his head; Decker was so one dimensional at times.

******

It wasn't long before the team was assembled in Father Magill's office. Murdock explained what he knew of the accident and of Face's condition.

They looked to Maggie, who sighed. "Well, it's hard to tell from here, but from what you have said, H.M., he should be all right; the ventilation is just standard procedure in a case like this. He won 't be going anywhere for a week." Maggie stared hard at Hannibal. "And I mean ANYWHERE, not even with us, and even after he's come off the ventilator, it is a bit of a risk, especially as he will be laid up for several weeks. It would be easier if we could get some information out of there." She sighed.

Murdock put his hands in his pockets and moved away; BA looked out of the window, and Hannibal just puffed on his cigar.

Murdock felt the paper in his pocket and smiled. He pulled it out and said, "Lefty says, 'Look what I have found.'"

BA muttered under his breath, "Not crazy Lefty, not now, man."

Maggie opened it up and saw that it was a number; she looked at Murdock. "One of the nurses looking after Face gave it to me." His eyes danced. "She said anyone could ring it; she thought we might want it."

Father Magill coughed; Murdock had also told the team about Mrs. Alvirez. "Can you do anything to help Mrs. Alvirez?"

BA said, "Yeah, let's get those suckas; they're the ones responsible for the crash." Hannibal looked pensive.

Maggie surprisingly stepped in and said, "Hannibal, look, you can't do anything for Face for about a week at least; Decker won't be able to move him before that, and the longer you are in LA, the greater the risk Decker will get you as well." Hannibal looked up as Maggie continued. "I can go back to Bad Rock and act as contact for you with this person. If it is a trap or some other trick..."

There was a long moment of silence, and then Hannibal said, "OK, Maggie, but, before we split up, we need to arrange somewhere to take Face when we get him out."

"I think I can help you with that; there is a retreat in the hills that we don't use at this time of year." Father Magill looked up. "You 'll be safe there; it is very isolated and is warm and comfortable. Take it as payment for helping Mrs. Alvirez out."

Hannibal smiled and said, "The week will give us time to work a plan out. Thanks, Father; I'll think we'll take you up on your offer. Maggie, can you make your own way back home? We'll ring you every night at 10:30 PM., obviously, if anything happens, call us immediately. Father, we'll take Mrs. Alvirez back with us."

******

Four days later, Decker had still not received any sightings of the A-Team, a fact that made him more nervous than relaxed. He jogged up the stairs to the ICU - part of his morning routine now. When he got to the unit, he went down to the isolation unit to observe his charge. The MP on the door saluted. The usual nurse was in with Peck. Decker smiled to himself. At least he had got this one; the others would follow, he reassured himself, and now he had definitely got proof that Murdock was one of the team; why else would he run off like that?

"How is my prisoner today, Nurse?" he asked the nurse who was just tidying up her trolley.

"The patient is satisfactory, Colonel. He has just had some x-rays taken of his chest." Cathy didn't like Decker, a feeling she gathered was shared by Maggie. Those phone calls had made her feel as though she were helping. Her dad had been a Vietnam veteran, and he had told her many times about the A-Team and the fact that they had saved the lives of his unit on one occasion.

Decker went to find the doctor to see if he had results of those x-rays yet; he was frustrated by the fact that he had to keep Peck in this civilian hospital, which was partially out of his control. The doctor came along the corridor. "Ah, Doctor, any progress?"

"Yes, the x-rays came back fine. The ribs are stable and are starting to knit. We can start to wean him off ventilation and sedation."

"How long before I can move him?" Decker queried.

"Oh, not for another three days at least; oh, and we are going to trim the plaster off his right arm a little bit."

"Why?"

"So he will be able to use his hand to eat and drink, at least. I don' t suppose your prison hospitals are so overstaffed that they can cope with helping the lieutenant with everything, are they?" the doctor challenged the colonel. He hated the army, and in particular, the way the colonel was treating this seriously injured man. Decker coloured but didn't deign to answer.

******

Later that night, Maggie called Cathy. "Hi, Cathy, it's me; how's things?"

"Maggie - good and bad news: his sedation and ventilation are being weaned down; in fact, he is virtually breathing for himself. They will probably pull the tube out over night, but he isn't conscious yet."

"That's great; what's the bad news?"

"As of now, there are new security arrangements. I overheard some of the MPs talking; there is going to be an MP inside the room, and we won't be allowed to have anything other than essential conversation with him and, and..." Cathy tailed off.

Maggie prompted, "Go on Cathy..."

"Well, I heard them say that, once he is awake, Decker will shackle his left leg."

Maggie closed her eyes. How did he think that Face would get away? By setting a world hopping record? That will make Hannibal really mad...

"Any news on how long he is going to stay there, Cathy?" she continued.

"I heard Dr. Preston say this morning, at least three days, once he is off the ventilator."

"OK, thanks a lot, Cathy. For all your help"

"That's OK, Maggie. The A-Team saved my dad's life in Vietnam once. It 's the least I could do. Bye, take care of him for me when you get him out..."

"That we will, Cathy. Bye." Maggie put the phone down and sighed; they would have to move fast.

******

The 'developers' who were trying to buy the Alvirez's land turned out to be petty mobsters, much as Hannibal had suspected. They had turned up almost immediately as the trio had arrived. Hannibal had told them that he was now the owner of the land to try and get their attention off Mrs. Alvirez. The plan for the most part worked, and the local police were shocked when the trio walked in with the whole gang tied and gagged. Hannibal silently handed an envelope to the policeman on the desk and left. The envelope contained details of the gang's identities and details of the crimes that had been committed.

They called in on Mrs. Alvirez, who was resting at the farmhouse; the funeral of her husband would be held tomorrow. She embraced each one of the men who had so selflessly helped her at a time when she knew their thoughts were mostly someplace else.

She held Hannibal the longest. "I will pray for your friend. I am sure he will be all right; please make sure he knows that he had nothing to do with my husband's death. You'd better go. You will need time to set him free."

Hannibal nodded. "Thanks. I am only sorry we didn't get to meet you sooner. A lot of things could have been prevented. Anyway, thanks again for your hospitality." He turned and climbed into the van. It was going to be a long drive to Bad Rock.

******

Hannibal and Murdock tried to catch a little bit of sleep as BA drove; they would need to have plenty of energy in the coming days. Just before 10:30 P.M., they drove up to Maggie's place. Maggie opened the door of the house and flew out to the van. She embraced Hannibal.

Hannibal looked at her. "Any problems?" he asked, noting her serious expression.

"You've got two to three days to get him out; he is virtually off the ventilator now."

"OK, that's good; why the long face?"

"Erm, it's just the security procedures Decker's going to put into place overnight..."

"Like what?" Hannibal let the others go in and kept Maggie outside.

"MP in his room, no conversation with nurses and, and...they are going to shackle his left leg," Maggie reported flatly. Hannibal swore under his breath and crushed the cigar he had in his hand. "Come in and get some food and rest; it's no good trying to think of plans tonight." Maggie coaxed Hannibal into the house; she thought he looked as though he wanted to take off there and then.

******

Face could hear himself coughing. My throat feels disgusting;like I 've had a stick down it for days. He wondered where he was; it didn't feel like his or Charlene's bed. He tried to move his arm to feel for Charlene. That's funny, my arms feel stiff. His head and chest hurt, and now he explored his lower body. His right leg felt stiff and achy. He tried to move his left leg, which felt ok, but there was something stopping the movement in that leg. He paid attention to what he could hear; just some murmuring some distance away. He drifted off for a while, but then surfaced again as he heard movement somewhere close and a slight aroma of perfume. His eyes opened to see a figure in white bending over him.

"Doctor, I think he's waking up."

Face blinked in the dim light; he remembered a bright light and helicopters and Murdock; when was that?

"Good morning, Lieutenant. Welcome back."

Face just nodded; he still felt very dopey. He heard someone else come into the room and the doctor move away. Face struggled to open his eyes, but squeezed them shut as he heard Decker say, "You're under arrest. As soon as you are medically cleared, you will be transported to Fort Leavenworth to face charges of escaping, deliberate damage to military property, and whatever else I can find in your files. The police will also want to talk to you about your driving."

Face groaned. The noise of the truck's horn sounded in his ears. He opened his eyes. A straw was pushed into his mouth; he sucked and felt some cool water slide down his throat.

He managed to stutter, "How long?"

Decker's voice replied, "Five days, Lieutenant. Five days and no sign of your precious team, not one sighting; even your crazy friend ran away. I'll see you later this morning, Lieutenant."

Face groaned inwardly: five days and no sign of the team? He remembered Murdock being here once and singing a lullaby, but why had he run? Face drifted off back into blackness.

******

The team was up early and was on the road within a few minutes. Maggie had arranged for a local colleague to cover her practice for a few weeks. She packed the van up with medical supplies and equipment. For the first half-hour, the team was silent.

Murdock broke the silence and said, "How do we get him out, Colonel? It's not as if we can just walk him out."

Hannibal puffed on his cigar. "We need to explore the weak spots in Decker's security. The plans of the hospital should be available for viewing at the central library. Maggie, Murdock could you get us copies? BA and I will reconnoiter the security set-up at the hospital."

"How are we going to do that, Hannibal? They will be on the lookout for the van," BA growled. He just wanted to go in and grab Face out of there.

"Well," Hannibal smiled, "we are going to become a television company. After the publicity a week ago, it will be a natural thing to happen, and also Decker wouldn't dare to move on a camera crew, would he?" The team relaxed; they were doing something at last. "We'll meet up at one o'clock at the beach."

Hannibal and BA managed to 'borrow' a broadcast van from one of the local networks. They made a circle of the hospital, taping what they saw for reference later. They wondered where the chink was in the security.

BA kept a careful eye out for trouble. He kept his eye on the entrance. After a few minutes, he muttered to Hannibal, "Hey man, look who's doing a press conference."

Hannibal looked up. Decker had come out of the main entrance and had a small crowd of reporters round him. Hannibal went to get out; BA stopped him "Are you crazy? Amy's over there. We can pick her up when she has finished." Hannibal nodded slowly. Face didn't need any stunts from him.

******

Down at the press conference, Decker had just read a statement denying any knowledge of any high security prisoner in the ICU. The MP's and the hospital were participating in an exercise designed to test certain security protocols; hopefully this testing would be complete in a few days. Decker decided to take a few questions to which he generally answered no or no comment, infuriating the gathered press.

Amy took a breath. "Colonel Decker, sir, what would you think if the American public knew that you had banned a priest access to one of his parishioners?" She calmly asked, waiting for the explosion. She had got back into town two days ago and instantly had picked up on the stories that were flying round. She had called Father Magill straight away and had been told some of the story though he had left out what the rest of the team was doing.

"I have not banned him, just suggested that until the prisoner regains consciousness, it would be pointless for the priest to come up to see him. After all, I know that these priests are very busy men."

Amy smirked; she had got him to admit he was holding someone prisoner.

One of her colleagues picked up on what he had said. "So, Colonel Decker, you are now admitting you have a high profile military prisoner up there; is it possible for you to identify him to us?" Amy was giggling behind her notebook, she loved it when Decker tried to play the press; he always got it wrong.

Decker simply said, "No." and walked off back towards the hospital. The pack of journalists pursued him.

Amy drifted away. When she walked past the TV unit that was parked in the grounds, a voice whispered out to her, "One o'clock, the beach."

She nodded. 'Good. Hannibal was back' Face would be out of there soon.

******

Decker stormed into the hospital and jogged the stairs to the safe, calm haven of the ICU.

Crane was waiting for him. "Sir, we have a request from Daniels to interview Peck."

"Has Peck come round again yet?"

"Not yet."

Decker took a breath in "When he next wakes, tell me and ring Daniels to come over. Oh and, Crane, ask the base at Bragg to send over a medic and a nurse."

For when?" Crane was mystified; the doctor hadn't released Peck yet.

"Whenever they can make it in the next 24 hours. The sooner he is under military medical care the better." Crane saluted.

******

Face opened his eyes. This time, he knew where he was. The light streaming in from the windows was bright. He blinked until his eyes could cope with it. His mouth felt awful. He ran a dry tongue over his lips. He tried to raise his head, but it still felt achy. He managed to go, "Uuuuuugggggghhhh."

A male voice, 'MP,' thought Face, called out, "Nurse."

Someone entered the room and walked into Face's vision. "Hello. Are you ok? What do you want?"

Face was momentarily confused, wondering where the other nurse had gone. The nurse seemed to know what he was thinking and said, "You first woke up 5 hours ago - it is 10 AM now. Do you want some water?"

The nurse picked up a beaker, filled it with water and put a straw in it so Face could have a drink. Face nodded and sucked greedily on the straw. The water was cool and soothing to his throat and mouth. The nurse took the straw away. "You can have some more later. How is your pain?"

"Not too bad," he croaked. He was lying, but he wanted to know what had happened and what his situation was - he couldn't do that with pain relief on board. He smiled. "What's your name?" Face asked.

The nurse shook her head slightly. Face raised his eyebrows in confusion.

"Prisoner will keep his remarks to essential questions only," the MP barked.

'Ah, so that's how it is going to be,' Face thought. He just smiled at the nurse, who smiled back. He decided to explore his injuries. He raised his right arm up and saw the plaster and experimented moving his hand. He noted his left arm was also in plaster. He felt the top of his head and realised he was bandaged there. He looked under the sheet and saw a plastered right leg and the glint of chain leading to his left - that's why he couldn't move it very far. He thought he might as well go back to sleep. There wasn't a lot he could do, so he would just have to wait for Hannibal.

Before he could go back to sleep though, a voice jerked him back to reality. Decker. "Peck."

Face blearily opened his eyes, "Well hello there. We'll have to stop meeting like this. You know, people will talk."

"Do you remember what I told you earlier on this morning?"

Face opened both his eyes."You're going to tell me you were joking." Face grinned. Anything to rattle Decker's chain.

"No, just going to confirm it. You have a few broken bones but you'll live to serve the rest of your sentence." Decker wanted to get rid of his frustration and who better to relieve it on than Peck who had caused all the trouble in the first place. He picked Face up by his gown and lifted his head up.

Face said warily "I wouldn't do that if I were you." He had suddenly paled.

"Why not?" Decker said angrily. Why did Peck always manage to get him riled up?

"Because, because " Peck looked at the doorway, a stunned Dr Preston was standing there, "I think I am going to Ö." He vomited, just the water he had drunk but it still seemed to go everywhere. Decker managed to avoid it, but quickly dropped Peck back in his bed. Face felt that he would blackout from the pain as his back hit the mattress.

******

Dr Preston moved in, shooting black looks at Decker; he shooed both him and the MP out. Cathy came rushing in. Eventually Face stopped retching, he saw Preston and Cathy preparing an IV injection he looked up worriedly.

"It's only an anti-emetic and a painkiller; you need to sleep. We'll give you some ice to suck on if you need to have anything to drink." Dr Preston said as he injected the drugs into his IV. Face's back felt as if it was on fire, so he didn't object. He was soon asleep. Cathy, with the aid of another nurse, quickly and efficiently changed the bed when he had settled.

******

Dr Preston left the room in search of Decker when he was sure Peck's recovery had not been set back by the rough handling he had just witnessed. He found him in the waiting room talking with Crane. Preston was riled up.

"Right, let me get a few things clear, Decker, I know he is your prisoner but he is also my patient. If I see anything like that happen again, I will be straight onto the LA Times."

Decker paled. He didn't know that Preston had picked a paper at random. He thought the Times is where that minx Allen works and if she gets to hear of anything... He decided to eat humble pie. "I am sorry Doctor, I wrongly assumed that if Peck's mouth was fit enough then his body would be too. I apologise. I won't do anything like that again."

Preston looked at him; he wasn't about to let him off the hook, "I need to know that you mean that."

Decker looked up in confusion "How?"

Preston took a while to decide what angered the staff most. MP in the room, no that's not too important. Be great if we could. No, the chain and the banning of his recorded next of kin were the actions that annoyed his staff the most. But he wasn't going to let this tin pot Colonel off by telling him, let him figure it out. "I'll let you figure that out and, by the way, until you do, that MP is staying outside the room and the nursing staff will have orders not to let you see Lieutenant Peck if they warrant that his condition is not good enough." Preston grinned as he left the room; he been wanting to do that all week.

Crane swallowed several times. Decker fumed and paced the floor for half an hour.

******

The Team, Maggie and Amy rocked with laughter at the tape of Decker's press conference. Hannibal had tears coming out of his eyes.

Murdock turned round and said, "Lefty's glad that you're back Amy." BA growled.

"Thanks, Lefty." She turned to Hannibal and said, "What do we do now?"

Hannibal spread his hands; they were still no nearer a solution.

They all jumped when Amy's cell phone rang; she picked it up. "Yes?" She listened to the caller and smiled at the end. "Thanks, Father, but I am sure I didn't have anything to do with it. Can I give you a call later?" She ended the call.

She turned to the Team. "For some reason, Decker has personally been on to Father Magill and has personally said he is allowed to visit Face whenever he likes. I said I'll call him back later. Shall we get some lunch?"

Hannibal walked jauntily at the head of his Team; although it was still one member short and he didn't have a plan as yet, things were starting to change in their favor.

******

Decker put down the phone to Father Magill and then went along to Face's room with a bunch of keys. Cathy, came to the door of the room and said, "He is not awake, I don't think you should come in, Sir."

Decker swore under his breath.

Dr Preston arrived, "What is the problem, Cathy?"

Decker butted in, "I have considered what you said and believe that he doesn't need the shackle at the moment. I do, however, reserve the right to put it back on." Dr Preston nodded. Decker continued "I have personally contacted Father Magill and told him he can come and go as he pleases," Decker ground out "Is that sufficient Doctor?"

Preston slowly nodded.

******

The three of them moved into the room. Cathy assisted Decker in removing the shackle and Preston checked the circulation in Face's foot. He nodded when he found it was all right. Face remained asleep.

******

Face woke up, the light coming through the window had dimmed a bit; he must have slept a long time. He heard a rustle: a nurse he thought and then a voice saying "Lie still, Templeton, lie still."

"Father, Father Magill?" Face held out his right hand, the one with least plaster

"Sssh, child, ssshh."

Face lay back. It was like it had been when he was a child and he had had a bad bout of flu; Father Magill had been there too. He lazily moved as best he could into a comfy position. He sat bolt upright; he had been able to move his left leg. He drew the sheet back and smiled. Decker had removed the chain. He looked up to see a mean looking MP still in the room though. He lay back wondering why? His mood changed from gladness and relief to the overwhelming belief that the team had been captured: that was why Decker's stepped down the security. He closed his eyes.

Father Magill thought he must be in pain, and asked the MP to call the nurse. The nurse arrived, Face only nodded when she asked about pain relief. He wanted something to put him out of his misery, so he could sleep and not think about the future.

The pain relief was given quickly and Face drifted off again, Father Magill held his hand until he felt the grasp weaken as sleep claimed Face again. He said a prayer of blessing and then slipped out, promising to be back before dawn in the morning.

******

The Team was cooped up in Amy's apartment. Murdock and BA were arguing about flavors of Popcorn and Hannibal and Maggie were sitting, talking quietly. Amy was trying to concentrate on a piece of writing. The phone went. Amy picked it up. She flicked on the speaker so everyone could hear.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Amy. It's Father Magill. I've been to see Face."

"How is he?"

"He's come round; they are very sure there won't be any long term damage. He is in a lot of pain though."

" Ah right." Amy paused, as she was trying to read the piece of paper that was held up by Hannibal: it read security? "Ah, what's his status as regardsÖ."

"Tell Hannibal that he isn't restrained any more but there is an MP in the room and obviously everywhere you go. I think Decker has had a flea in his ear from the doctor, though. I don't know what about but something upset the doctor. I'll be going back in tomorrow, any messages?"

Hannibal shrugged, what could he say? Murdock interrupted, "Tell him that Lefty says hello."

Father Magill said, "Mmm I'll say that you all send your regards. I'll be probably in there before dawn so there's someone there when he wakes up."

"Thanks, Father." Amy put down the phone.

******

BA turned to Hannibal and asked, "Any plans yet, Hannibal? If Face is getting better, Decker won't want him hanging around."

Murdock put his gloved hand over BA's shoulder and shook it.Amy, who was opposite BA and Murdock, stared at the glove and giggled. BA looked round and saw the hand draped over his shoulder. Too late Murdock tried to take it away; BA snatched the glove off Murdock's hand. He looked at it and at the two eyes that Murdock had painted on the knuckles. He growled and got up and put the glove in the trashcan in the kitchen.

Hannibal prevented any further mayhem by commenting, "Plans? We could always use the fancy dress costumes we used last year to rescue the corvette from the pound."

Murdock replied, amazingly in a sensible voice, "Er don't you think that it would be rather obvious. I'm sure Decker remembers Face's costume at least."

"Yeah and you're not getting me back in that Incredible Hulk costume" BA muttered.

Hannibal was silent for a minute or two, and then he looked up. "I don't have any feasible plans at the moment, we need someone to do an internal inspection." All eyes turned to Maggie. Hannibal asked, "Didn't you say you once worked at UCLA?"

"Yes, for six months, it was a fair while ago." Maggie sat back in thought.

"So there is not likely to be anybody left who will recognise you?"

"Well, erm, Dr Preston might." Maggie flushed "We had a fling, that was all."

Hannibal smiled. "That'll do perfectly."

Maggie tentatively asked, "What'll do perfectly?"

Murdock interrupted catching Hannibal's flow of thought. "You can be the Face substitute: the smooth, romantic infiltrator, who manages to glean the required information from an unwitting participant in this great drama." He ended the speech by lying across Maggie's chest and looking into her eyes. She looked over at Hannibal for some support. He just clapped and said, "Beautifully said Murdock."

Maggie rolled her eyes and thought for a moment, "I'll do it, it might be fun. You know I've always wondered about whether me and GraingerÖ" She giggled at the startled expression on Hannibal's face. "Come on, let's get to bed. I'll need my beauty sleep if it's to work."

******

Back at the hospital, Decker was looking through the window at the sleeping patient. He was thinking about how long before Peck would be back safely in the system again and when he could can turn his attention to the rest of the Team. After checking the security arrangements, yet again, he left the unit for the night.

******

Face woke up early the next morning; the dawn light seeping in through the blind. He turned to his side and saw Father Magill. He sleepily smiled and then he remembered where he was and what had happened yesterday.

Father Magill saw the movement and change of expression; he leaned forward and asked, "Templeton, how are you feeling?"

Face sighed. "Sore." He looked round in confusion. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Most of yesterday. You woke up and then you were sick, do you remember last evening? I was here when you woke up and then you had some more pain relief; you fell asleep again." Father Magill smiled; even as a child, Templeton always had had no problem in sleeping, just the waking in time for school or for mass. He continued, "Do you wish to make confession now or later?"

Both pairs of eyes traveled in the direction of the MP, who was standing by the door. Face looked at Father Magill, still trying to focus; confession, this time in the morning? "Erm, yes, now would be a good time, I think."

Father Magill looked at the MP and coughed. "Excuse me, could you leave us alone for a few minutes? you know that the confessional is sacred."

The MP pursed his lips, the Colonel had given him strict instructions but he was Catholic too and knew what it meant. He looked at his watch and thought for a second. He said, "Ok. Ten minutes. No longer."

Father Magill smiled, "Bless you, my child." The MP left the room and closed the door. Father Magill quickly drew the blind down over the observation window. Face looked at him quizzically through half open eyes. The Father leant over him and said, "Hannibal sends you his regards."

Face's eyes went wide, "When, when did you speak to him?"

"He was at Amy's last night when I phoned her after leaving you here."

Face smiled, I'm going to get out of here.

His smile was premature as Father Magill said, "I'd better not make that MP a liar, so shall we start?" The Father had got out a little bible and his purple stole was round his neck. Face looked a little unsure. "Well it's either an Army Padre or me, so whom would you rather have?"

Face gulped, he had always hated confessing to Father Magill, as he always seemed to ask you those awkward little questions that found out anything you had conveniently forgotÖ. " Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been erm one year since my last confession." Face thought how am I going to get through it all in ten minutes?

******

Face decided to refuse any pain medication. He wanted to be awake and aware if anything went down. Decker had shown his face briefly about 8AM and then disappeared.

Dr Preston looked in and said, "We'll have you off that oxygen later this morning." He hesitated. "Decker has asked the lieutenant in charge of the accident investigation to come and speak to you this morning. Unfortunately, I couldn't delay him." Face shrugged, he couldn't say much as he was in the process of sucking an ice cube. " He'll be here about 9AM." Preston turned away and then remembered, "You can start taking fluids again, but slowly, just a few sips now and again. Ok?" Both the other men nodded.

******

Cathy came in just before 9am and made Face comfortable. He smiled after her until he met the withering gaze of the MP. Shortly afterwards, Decker and an unfamiliar man came into the room. Father Magill stayed where he was.

Decker ignored him. "Well Lieutenant, this man is Lieutenant Daniels of the LAPD. He wants to have a word with you about your driving exhibition of the other day." Face shifted uneasily. Decker left.

The policeman sat down beside the bed. "Lieutenant Peck, we need to know what exactly happened in the chase and the accident. Can you remember anything?"

"I'll try." Face told him all he could. He didn't remember going into a skid, just turning back and seeing the truck coming towards him. Face paused for a moment. "Nobody has told me anything about the driver." Face reflected they hadn't told him anything at all.

Daniels's face clouded. "He was dead on arrival. Our investigation has shown though that he most likely fell asleep at the wheel, so the accident wasn't your fault."

Face leant his head back with his eyes closed for a short time, and then shook his head in irony at the whole situation. After a while, he asked, "What happened to my car?" Daniels reached into his briefcase and brought out a picture of the wreck.

"Ouch." Face turned it over - he couldn't bear to look at it.

Daniels was wondering whether to say anything about the strange rumors that had come back from Mrs. Alvirez's county police force about a trio of men who had helped Mrs. Alvirez sort out her harassment problems. He shook his head. This man had been asleep all week, and he didn't think that it would matter to Peck where he was heading. "Thank you, Lieutenant. I don't think we will be calling you back for any further investigation."

"Oh, I fancied a few trips back to LA." Daniels shook his head at the man's capacity to joke. He nodded to the doctor as he passed.

******

Dr Preston decided to check his patient again after the interview and was pleasantly surprised at the readings from the monitors. The lieutenant hadn't been too stressed. He commented to Face, "I'm going to discontinue your oxygen, that'll make your nose less uncomfortable."

"And bring that transfer ever closer, lieutenant," a voice said at the door.

"Decker, you ruin a guy's morning, don't you? First the police and now you talking about taking me from this wonderful hospital," moaned Face. He was worrying about when Hannibal would make his move; it had better be soon.

******

Back at Amy's, Hannibal was briefing Maggie, making sure she knew what time they were expecting her to get back to the drop off point in central LA.

"Look, Hannibal, I know the time."

Hannibal bit down on his cigar. "Wish I could send you in there with a radio," he commented.

"We've already been over that; mobile phones and radios will interfere with the equipment."

"You know, if there is a problem, just ring us straight away and we'll be over." Hannibal was nervous.

"There won't be; don't worry about me. Come here, I want a good luck kiss." The two had more than one kiss.

******

Maggie made her way to the hospital by taxi. She didn't see the TV broadcast van pull up in the car park. BA had seen no point in returning it just yet. Hannibal took a pair of binoculars and followed Maggie as she went passed the MP's. He knew she was the only choice; Decker didn't know of her and she could blend in well with the staff of the hospital. She had brought an ID badge from one of the hospitals she occasionally worked at with her so hopefully everybody would assume she was a visitor.

******

Maggie took a deep breath as she entered the hospital. She went into the ladies and pulled her white coat out from her bag and put it on. She put her ID badge on so that her pocket would cover up the hospital's name. She walked around the first floor looking purposeful and trying to observe the placements of the MP's.

She noted that one of the lifts was reserved for the ICU department only and there were three guards stationed there. She walked past them as if she was heading towards the staff restaurant. She wondered what to do; it was obvious she couldn't get up onto the ICU floor. She couldn't exactly page Grainger. She sighed; this was pretty useless. She looked ahead and saw her quarry turn into the restaurant. She hesitated; what would Face or Hannibal do? She decided to follow him in.

******

Grainger had decided to leave the floor for a while. Peck was stable off the oxygen and more cheerful than he had been late on the day before. He idly wondered what had changed. All he could see was the transfer coming soon. Decker had already cornered him about it three times this morning. He thought an early lunch might be useful. He headed into the as yet sparsely populated restaurant. He got his meal and sat down at an empty table; he didn't want any company.

He was startled out of a reverie by a voice asking if she could sit down. He jumped and then said, "Um, yes, ok." He turned to look at the owner of the voice and cried out in surprise. "Maggie! Haven't seen you in years! How are you?"

"Fine, fine. Busy bee as ever. I'm up here at a conference in the conference center. How are you? Keeping busy?" Maggie hoped this wouldn't sound too intrusive.

Grainger didn't notice; he was eager to talk to someone "Very at the moment, I'm only looking after one patient but he is enough to keep anyone busy."

Maggie nodded and carried on eating.

Grainger carried on, "You know that car crash last week on the freeway? Well, he's that guy. Well, I've got the MP's on my back with him; apparently he is a convicted criminal. He is a nice guy though. That colonel is a disgrace, mind you I'm not comfortable at all with army people."

Maggie continued nodding and umming as Grainger continued to talk to her about Face, Decker and the strains of the last week. She concentrated on what he said; it didn't sound as if it would help in getting Face out but Hannibal might pick a clue up.

She was startled out of her reverie by a voice asking Grainger, "Mind if we sit here, Dr Preston?"

"No, of course not; it's a free country." Maggie looked up and saw Decker and someone, she presumed to be Crane standing there with trays. They sat down.

******

At that moment, Grainger was paged. He got up and said, "that'll be some test results" and walked off. Maggie wondered what she should do. She still had half of her meal left, would Decker think it suspicious if she got up now? She decided to stay. She was glad she did.

******

"Well, Crane when did they say the medics would be here?"

"Their flight lands about 2pm, so hopefully before 3, Sir."

"Good. Hopefully by then I will have persuaded the good doctor to sign Peck's release form. That means we'll have him on his way this evening. Any sign of the rest of the team or any unusual activity?"

"No, sir, even Amy Allen appears to be acting normally. She keeps ringing up for an exclusive interview with you."

Decker ignored the comment about Amy, "Crane, make sure that all the paths are cleared for this evening and into the early morning. I want to be prepared for a fast move."

"Yes, Sir."

Maggie looked down at her finished lunch. She had better get out of here and back to the Team; they would have to move fast. She got up and walked away from the table, half expecting a voice to call her back or an MP to arrest her.

The two men at the table didn't even realise that she had gone.

******

As she walked into the foyer, she bumped into Father Magill. She smiled and asked, "How's Face?"

Father Magill looked around before answering, "Better. He is off oxygen now, but he is in a lot of pain, though he refuses to take anything for it, he wants to be alert, you know if anything happens."

Maggie smiled. "Typical, Face, being ornery about pain relief." She paused wondering whether or not to speak about the transfer plans she had just overheard and then decided she wouldn't. "Are you leaving him now, Father?"

"Just for a short while. I have to take afternoon mass. I'll be back later." He laid a hand on Maggie's arm and looked into her face. "I will pray for successÖ." She put her hand over his and patted it.

She watched him as he went down the corridor.

******

Grainger had gone to the laboratory and picked up the results, it was a peculiar quirk of his; he liked to pick them up himself. The technical section of the hospital was close to the conference and educational center so he wandered by.

He was interested in what conference would make Maggie to make the effort to come back up here. He looked down at the list and found that there were none scheduled for today. Strange.

He thought back on his conversation and realised she had never specified what conference she was at and that she had made any conversation at all. She had patiently listened to him. Then he remembered her face when Decker had sat down; the sort of look that happens when rabbits get caught in the spotlights of your car. He retraced his footsteps quickly, he was just in time to see Maggie talking to Father Magill, the looks and body language passing between them indicated a long acquaintance.

******

Maggie was looking down the hallway after Father Magill and estimating when it would be all right to follow him, when she was pushed into an empty office. She looked wildly around and saw Grainger.

She opened her mouth only to be beaten to it by Grainger. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked. Maggie's face fell; she could tell he had guessed something. She hesitated "well I'm waiting..."

Maggie wondered whether this is what Face felt like when one of his scams fell apart. "It's a long story, just say I have the best interests of your patient at heart" Maggie hoped that would suffice.

"You're not with the press are you?" He questioned her further. Maggie shook her head. "So that means you're..."

Maggie was miserable; she knew it; he was going to turn her over to Decker. Grainger moved towards her and said, "Don't worry, I don't usually do this but I don't think it would be in my patient's best interests to be turned over to this colonel right now. I can't do anything to actively help you but I can get you to see him. It might help."

Maggie kissed him.

******

Back in the broadcast van both BA and Hannibal were anxiously checking their watches. Maggie was almost overdue. Hannibal hoped that nothing had gone wrong.

******

Grainger and Maggie used on of the non-restricted lifts to get up to the floor above the ICU and walked down the little used back stairs. Grainger had a key for the door that was usually kept locked. They snuck onto the floor. The MP's on the floor didn't turn a head as Maggie walked past them; if she was on the floor then she must have been checked through.

Grainger had already told Maggie that it would be impossible for her to go into the room, but she would be able to see Face through the observation window. Maggie nodded. She was content with that. They walked along to the isolation suite. Grainger kept a careful eye out for Decker.

Maggie looked in at the window, trying to keep out of the line of sight of Face and the MP. Face was awake and staring into space. Cathy entered the room. Maggie saw her give Face a drink, and she noticed the wince when he turned slightly. Damn it, Face, have some pain relief. He sank back into the pillows and smiled as Cathy plumped them up. Typical too, getting the women running round after him. She sighed as Face's head sank into the pillows and she really noticed how pale he was.

A warning voice muttered in her ear, "Decker." She jumped and looked around in confusion. Grainger pushed her into a store cupboard and closed the door.

******

Face had drifted for a while after Father Magill had left. He woke up and looked at nothing in particular for a while; he was bored and worried. The team knew he was here: why didn't they just come and pick him up? He thought he saw the Doctor through the window; he looked a bit closer and saw another one appear. That was strange. The other one drew back a little so he couldn't get a close look at whoever it was. Cathy came in and offered him a drink. He smiled at her as she fussed about him. He could tell the MP was getting jealous. He saw Decker and Crane walk past. He decided it would be better to drift again for a while.

******

Grainger let Maggie out of the cupboard after a short while and took her back to the stairs where they had come down. She whispered her thanks. She walked quickly down the stairs this time and was back on the first floor and into a ladies toilet where she took off her coat and packed it away. Maggie looked at her watch and thought, oh no. Hannibal will go mad. She was at least twenty minutes overdue.

She rushed out of the hospital and hailed a cab that just happened to pass. Thank God she thought. Hannibal will be having kittens. She gave the location in downtown LA where she wanted to go to and leant back in the seat, trying to marshal her thoughts.

She came out of her thoughts and looked at outside at the route. She frowned, the driver was taking a long route she thought; she tapped on the window and asked, "Where are we going, I asked for..."

"Mr. Lee say that when he gives a time for a meet. There must be a reason behind why you don't make it" The driver turned round to Maggie without his hat and teeth.

"Hannibal, don't scare me like that!" Maggie shouted.

"Why were you late? Problems?" Hannibal smiled, his eyes were twinkling at Maggie's expression of shock.

"Yes and no, I saw Face!" Maggie thought it best to give the good news first.

"Good, how was he?" Hannibal's face clouded over with anxiety for his second in command.

"Not good, but better than he has been. He doesn't require oxygen anymore. Hannibal," Maggie paused, "you'll have to move today. Decker's got a couple of army medics headed over and he will transfer him as soon as he can. Dr Preston won't be able to hold onto him for much longer."

Hannibal gripped the steering wheel a little tighter; he didn't have a plan yet and he could hear the clock ticking. If Decker managed to get Face into proper military custody, it would be extremely difficult for them to locate and free him and Face wouldn't be able to help them for a few weeks at least. As they approached the warehouse the doors, swung open and the cab entered. The doors closed silently behind the cab.

BA and Murdock gathered round to hear Maggie's debriefing. At the end of it, there was silence; nobody knew what to do. Hannibal puffed on his cigar silently. He went back over Maggie's information; there must be clue in there somewhere. He went back over it again and then he saw it.

He looked up at Maggie "Can you repeat to me the conversation that Decker and Crane had at lunch? Murdock, Murdock!" HM was indulging Lefty by letting him stroke one of Hannibal's false beards that had 'dropped' out of one the make up boxes. He looked up and paid attention "Listen to this again and give me your impressions." Murdock listened to Maggie intently.

After Maggie had finished, he turned to Hannibal and smiled. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Colonel?" Glowing brown eyes met twinkling blue eyes.

BA brightened as he finally saw the JAZZ appear. "What are you thinkin', Fool?" he questioned, wanting to be let in on the conversation. Hannibal wondered whether telling all to BA at this moment in time would be a good idea.

He looked at Maggie, who was equally as interested. "Yes, tell us please..."

He straightened out his line of thinking, "Well, we know that some medics are coming in from somewhere else when there is a perfectly suitable army base with its own facilities here. So why the fuss? Unless they are coming in from a specific high security prison who are used to dealing with transferring prisoners..."

"Bragg..." BA supplied, his mind filling with the bleakness of that prison.

"Yes, but Decker will think that we will expect him to take Face to a holding base in California, at least initially. Murdock will you check with ATC about any permission given for flying helicopters within the city tonight."

"Right on it, Hannibal."

Hannibal turned to Maggie. "Get on the phone to Preston and ask him to clear Face for transfer this evening. Then you and BA prepare the van, make sure that your medical supplies are sorted and packed and that there is plenty of gas, and that there is room for a stretcher. BA you might need to take a seat or two out."

They both nodded their agreement.

******

Grainger was sitting at his desk in his small office on the ICU floor. He had just had another round with Decker and it had only finished because Crane had asked to see Decker. Decker had gone off promising to be back. His pager went off. He sighed; an outside call by the sound of it, probably another journalist. He picked up the phone and smiled at the voice on the other end."Dr Sullivan, nice to hear from you."

Maggie cryptically replied, "Just a call to say, that bed I asked you to save, well it can be released now if it is in working order to do so."

"Oh right, that's fine. We'll be glad of the spare bed, thanks for calling. Bye." He put the phone down. He sat at his desk for a minute or two, wondering how he could change his mind without Decker becoming suspicious.

Crane popped his head round the door and said, "Colonel Decker wants to see you immediately if that is at all possible." Grainger nodded his agreement.

******

Decker was in the dayroom with three others. Decker turned round when Grainger walked into the room. "Ah, Doctor, you know the Director of the Hospital Board, of course, and this is Captain Walter Jones of the Army Medical Corps and Lieutenant Hopper, Army Nurse."

Grainger thought this could be to Maggie's advantage. "Captain Jones will be in charge of the transfer of Lieutenant Peck, and Lieutenant Hopper will assist him. Your director is impressed by their credentials." Decker left the threat unspoken.

Grainger thought fast. "Well, having thought about my patient's condition and, if he is going to be in the care of expert staff, I don't think I have a problem anymore." Grainger hoped Decker wouldn't consider his change of mind suspicious.

******

Decker heaved a sigh of relief. At last the doctor was behaving himself. He turned to the two army medical staff. "I'll leave you with Dr. Preston here. You can acquaint yourself with the medical records. I'll come back in half an hour and introduce you to him."

Decker called to Crane as he left the room, closely followed by the director, who was glad to be getting rid of this problem at last.

******

Back at the warehouse, Hannibal had phoned Amy and had asked her for a big favor. "Amy can you go and do some watching for us?"

"Sure, Hannibal. Who and where and for how long?"

"Could be all night but probably before midnight: LA Air Force Base. I want you to watch for a helicopter taking off and radio the information to us."

"That sounds all right, what's the cover?"

"You'd heard rumors of a move."

"That's all? Will he believe me?"

"Yes, because that's all we've heard, so it is the truth. Thanks, Amy. We'll give you a call when the dust has died down. Face will be all right, trust me."

"Give him my regards, Hannibal."

Hannibal put the phone down and wandered over to where Murdock was skating around. "OK, Murdock, what are the plans?"

Murdock looked up, "Open permission to fly a helicopter into UCLA any time after 7pm this evening and open plans for a military cargo plane to fly out of LAAFB any time after 8pm. Where are we going to get a military helicopter from, now?"

"Remember that movie I did about the monster meets the Air Force? I believe I saw the helicopter we used on that movie still up and flying when I was on the lot the other day" Murdock smiled.

"Are we going to liberate it?" He loved any excuse to fly.

"Just borrow it for an hour or two, I know where the keys for the fuel pump are kept."

"When are we going to tell BA?"

"Tell BA what?"

"We're going to be flying up to the retreat?"

"We're not." Hannibal gave one of his enigmatic smiles at Murdock's confused expression. "Let's go and find some fatigues."

******

Face had drifted off to sleep and woke up feeling refreshed. Father Magill was still away. He felt thirsty. Cathy was in checking the monitors; he turned to her and asked her for some water. She brought the bed up so Face was sitting up so he could drink better. Face noticed that she had been crying and vaguely wondered why.

******

Decker, followed by two other people, walked into the room, breaking Face's reverie. Face smiled. "Colonel - you are such a regular visitor! Did you bring those grapes I asked you to?"

Decker ignored him. "Captain Jones, Lieutenant Hopper, this is Lieutenant Peck." He now turned to look at Face and smiled as he said, "Peck, I would like to introduce you to your new medical team, Captain Jones and Lieutenant Hopper. The good Dr. Preston has finally seen sense, and it is likely you will be cleared for transport to a more suitable facility this evening." Noting Face's non-reaction, he went on, "So your pals have only got a few hours in which to come and rescue you; but then again, will they be bothered?" Decker laughed as he saw the pale face wince and then flush slightly. He turned to the medics and said, "He is all yours, Captain." He left the room humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic under his breath.

Face sighed inwardly. Guys, where are you?

The MP smirked at the change in personnel. I bet you won't want this male nurse plumping your pillows up too much, Peck.

******

Captain Jones moved to his bedside and said, "Do you mind if we examine you?"

Face grimaced and said, "Not a lot I can do to stop you, is there?"

The room was silent for a few moments whilst the medics sorted themselves out. The MP was dismissed to the outside of the room. Face decided to see if he could get any more details off the doctor than the sparse ones already given by Decker.

"Excuse me, sir," Face queried, remembering the doctor's rank. "I don't really know anything about my injuries - could you tell me some details?"

The two medics looked at each other. The doctor thought, It can't do any harm - it's not as if he can escape. "Well, let's see, a small uncomplicated fracture of the skull, surgically reduced, your ribs were severely damaged - that's why you were ventilated for five days, fractured right elbow and left ulna, and your right tibia and fibula, and some internal bruising. You were lucky to get out of the car alive."

Yeah, real lucky - no car and no freedom, thought Face. I know Father Magill has spoken to Hannibal but did Hannibal know he was scheduled for transport tonight? Face commented sourly, "You would think with all that, Decker would keep me here for a while - I mean from what I know of Leavenworth, the hospital is basic."

"Leavenworth? Who said anything about taking you to Leavenworth?" the nurse commented and then stopped when he realised what he had said.

Oh, this gets better and better; Hannibal would probably work on the basis that I was going to be transferred there, Face thought as he was being examined.

The doctor commented, "You've not requested pain relief since this morning," noting Face wincing as he gently examined him.

"Don't need any," Face flatly said.

The doctor arched his eyebrows. "I'll make sure you get some before the journey; the bumping around will be painful." The doctor hesitated and continued, "And it'll probably convince Colonel Decker not to restrain you too much." The doctor, although he was army and knew the record of the man before him, still found what Dr Preston had told him about the leg shackle to be distasteful in the case of a seriously injured man.

Face nodded. The examination had been extremely painful, and he was glad just to rest back in his bed. He wanted to be alert when the time came. The pain overwhelmed him, and he slept for a while.

******

Father Magill had arrived shortly after Decker and the medics had entered the room, he watched sadly through the window. Dr. Preston stood beside him silently watching; both men saw the expression on the lieutenant's face when Decker introduced the two medics.

Don't worry - your team are coming, they thought.

******

The Father was allowed into the room when the medics had finished. He watched the army doctor write up his notes and take a long assessing look at Templeton. His heart sank further. He sat by the bedside, watching his charge sleep. He prayed that the team was going to come up with something.

******

On exiting the room Captain Jones went to look for Dr Preston. "The prisoner is not well, I agree, but I believe he is fit to fly. He will be under medical supervision all the way."

Grainger nodded. "Come this way. I'll sign the release forms. What about pain relief for the journey?" he asked as they walked across the floor to his office.

******

Face slept for about 2 hours. When he woke and looked at the sad face of Father Magill, he knew the transfer was about to happen. Father Magill had guessed what the activity and increased security during the afternoon had meant. They didn't say anything much to each other; there was nothing much that needed to be said. The Father knew that he was down as the official next of kin for Face so that he would be allowed to visit at some point, if the team didn't manage to...

Deep down in his heart though, he knew he could be no replacement for the man who was his real father. He smiled as he remembered some of those first few letters from Vietnam after Templeton had been transferred to the A-team.

**

March, Father,

This team is weird; the commander is like no other (a bit mad if you ask me), the sergeant definitely fits his name, Bad Attitude, and the pilot we use most of the time - well, his nickname, Howlin' Mad, describes him well enough. Hopefully after a few missions I should be able to wangle myself back into stores or somewhere more peaceful.

May, Father,

Got a few minutes to rest up so I'd thought I would write you. This guy Hannibal is a pain. He would put Sr. Bernadette to shame; he's got me on early morning PT for two weeks just because I was late back from Saigon. Well, OK, I was three hours late and I had the jeep, but what's a man to do when he finds a damsel in distress and has to take her round town shopping?

August, Father,

Just a short note to include a picture that was taken whilst we were doing some R&R in Saigon last month. Sorry it's taken so long, - I've been busy.

**

Father Magill still had that picture of the four of them in his wallet. It showed a younger Face with BA, scowling as usual, Murdock and a protective figure overshadowing them all. Face hadn't labeled it, as usual, but he had managed to pick everybody out. He remembered too the sober and changed Templeton who came back to the Orphanage on leave after escaping from the prison camp. He remembered his first meeting with Hannibal and the tinges of jealousy that came when he realised that someone else had truly taken over as his charge's guide and mentor.

******

Face didn't see the faint smile that was on the Father's lips. He just lay there wondering when and what was going to happen.

******

Decker was discussing his final plans with Crane. "Right, Smith will follow the ambulance, he will expect us to take him to Leavenworth: that will set off at 7pm. I'll be in that. We will observe radio silence until I see a move from Smith; we don't want him to suspect anything. Then you move in. Follow about 15 minutes behind us. As soon as you pass the city limits, move up as near as you can without alerting suspicion. The helicopter will pick up Peck at about 7.30pm. It will take them about 15 minutes to get to the Air Force Base and Peck will be on his way to Bragg immediately." Decker rubbed his hands. What was it that Smith usually said at this point? He couldn't remember; it wasn't important.

"What time shall I tell the doctor to sedate Peck then?" Crane asked.

"About 45 minutes before and tell him to make it powerful and long lasting. I don't want any problems on the plane."

Crane nodded and went off to find the doctors.

******

Early evening went by slowly for both Face and Father Magill. Neither of them said much. Face appreciated the priest staying. It would be a while before he saw him again. Even if the team managed to reach him, Decker would be actively seeking them for a while, and they would have to keep their heads down. He smiled a little at the thought of him doing anything other than keeping his head down at the moment. He winced at the pain in his chest when he chuckled.

Just then, Drs Preston and Jones entered the room. Face saw that Preston had a syringe in his hand. The doctor calmly went to his IV line and started to clean a portal.

Face realised what he was about to do. He grasped Father Magills hand and looked up with tired, hopeless eyes. "Aw, doc, you don't have to put me out, you know - I want to look at the scenery."

******

Grainger wanted to smile at Peck, but couldn't without arousing suspicion from the guard and Dr Jones. "You've been fighting the pain all day - you haven't had anything, and can you imagine what the ride will be like in an army ambulance?" Grainger said as he swabbed the IV inlet, but Peck had looked away from him towards the priest.

The drugs were emptied into the line. Face tried to fight the effects of the drug. Hannibal, Murdock, BA, where are you? Why aren't you here? I can't do anything...

******

After Face had become unconscious, Decker came in and asked Father Magill to leave the room. He was guided to the day room and was told he would have to wait there until Peck had left. The Father sat glumly down.

******

Decker turned to the figure on the bed and said, "You're properly mine at last."

He turned to Captain Jones and checked, "You know what is happening? The helicopter is scheduled to get here around 7.30, get Peck in first and then get in yourself. The pilot is under orders to lift off immediately if there is any trouble." A thought occurred to him. "How deep is his sedation?"

Captain Jones said "Fairly deep. I couldn't put him under much more without suppression of his breathing functions."

Decker nodded; he thought it was better not to offend these civilians here with the shackle again: that could wait. He wondered how long it would be before Peck's hearing.

******

Outside the Air Force Base, Amy had noted the readying of a cargo plane on the runway and the warming up of a helicopter. She looked at her watch. 7.10pm, it lifted off. She picked her radio up and opened the channel."Red three to red leader, red three."

The radio squawked back. "Red leader, what is it, Amy?"

"We have lift off."

"Understood. You can leave now, Amy. Thanks. We'll be in touch."

******

Hannibal sighed as he put the radio down. He nodded to Murdock. "Take us up, Murdock."

Murdock quickly got the bird in the air and headed towards the hospital as fast as the rust bucket would let him. He had sighed when Hannibal had shown him the helicopter; yes it was coated with camouflage paint and had army markings but it was rusty and didn't look as if it was very air worthy, but it was their only chance. He had his toes crossed for the plan. Hannibal was taking a big risk but if it worked it would be great.

******

At the same time, Decker was caught up in the late rush hour traffic, he had smiled when he had seen the van at the hospital; the plan was working, and had smiled even more when the van followed him.

******

BA watched as the van pulled off after the ambulance, he prayed that Hannibal hadn't been out thought for once by Decker. He shouldered his weapon and quickly made his way to the helipad at the side of the hospital.

BA snuck down in the bushes opposite the helipad. He noted that it had been cleared of any stray people. He checked his rifle again. He waited for the helicopter to land.

******

Maggie drove the van carefully, following Decker. She chewed her lip and kept a careful eye on the clock, she had to turn around soon.

******

Face woke up a little when they transferred him to the stretcher but closed his eyes again as he realised what was happening. They took him down to the door opposite the helipad to await the helicopter.

The guards looked up as they heard the rotors as it came into land. The doctor made sure the notes and x-rays were secure behind Face's pillow. They pushed the stretcher out; the doctor and nurse waited behind as per orders.

******

Back in the bushes, BA flicked his tongue over his dry lips and waited until the helicopter was hovering just over the ground. He saw Hannibal lean out and maneuver the stretcher in. Once it was in, he opened fire, a low raking wave of fire which missed everybody but was enough to cause panic. He laughed to himself as he saw the guards first frantically wave the helicopter off and then turn round to fire at his position, just as Hannibal had predicted.

He moved quickly out and ran to the pick up point for the van. He thought he could see it in the distance. Maggie moved over as soon as she stopped to let BA drive. The tires squealed as he gunned the engine. He knew ways to skirt the traffic.

******

The guards lay, shooting into the bushes for five minutes, then they ran over and started searching fruitlessly. They were still there when another helicopter landed.

******

Murdock howled as he took off. Decker was so predictable. The two conscious occupants of the helicopter laughed with relief.

He realised they were landing. He hoped Maggie and BA had met up.

Murdock climbed out of the cockpit and thought as he looked at the helicopter good job we're not flying up to the retreat, we wouldn't be able to outrun a military helicopter in that thing.

******

Decker looked in his mirror, and worried slightly that he couldn't see the van anymore, but then he thought that wasn't surprising in this traffic. Even if they tried to corner him by cutting round, they would have a nice surprise when they opened up the back. He was tempted to turn on his radio and find out what was going on but he decided not to; he was confident his plans would work out.

******

The van arrived at the helipad just as Murdock and Hannibal were getting the stretcher out of the helicopter. Maggie ran to it and did a quick check of Face by the light of a torch. She nodded and said, "Let's get him in the van.".

They fitted the stretcher in, just. Maggie was content to sit on the floor by Face's head and keep an eye on him.Murdock joined her; his eyes lit up at the right hand peeping out of the plaster. He found a glove in his pocket and said, loud enough for BA to hear in the front "Lefty's got a friend now." BA just growled.

He cheered up when Hannibal told him quietly what he had in mind to do next. He put his foot to the floor. The van squealed out onto the freeway.

******

Decker was getting worried; the van was still not in sight. He decided to turn the radio on, see if he could see if anyone knew what was going on.

******

Back in the van, Hannibal was tuning the radio in to the military frequency. He heard Decker call out for information. Perfect Timing!

He picked up the microphone and said in a neutral voice, "Central dispatch for Colonel Decker, I have a message for you."

Decker was relieved "What is it?"

Hannibal spoke in his normal voice, "Decker, I love it when a plan comes together!"

Maggie laughed at the stream of expletives that came over loud and clear on the radio. She laughed even more at the faint voice that came up from the stretcher, "So do I."

She turned to look at Face but he had already gone back to sleep. She pulled the blankets up higher.

Murdock was holding the Face's gloved hand with his, and again said loud enough for BA to hear, "Lefty and Righty are having a bonding session. Care to join us, BA?" BA softly growled.

Hannibal leaned back in his seat, smiling to himself; the team was back together again.

******

Six long weeks had passed for Decker.

He was dictating the final report on the incident for the file. "Although the investigation has been extensive by ourselves and the LAPD, there is little or no clue as to how the A-Team got their information about Peck's status. There was no siting of the helicopter other than in the air space of the city. Murdock turned up about two weeks after Peck escaped, with no memory, or so I am informed, of the intervening two weeks. Dr. Richter's diagnosis is that he went into a psychotic state, and so would not remember anything to do with this episode. Interviews carried out by Crane and myself of him have not progressed this line of the investigation." Decker sighed. He was sure that the pilot was hiding something, but he couldn't find out what it was. He continued, "Investigation of the hospital staff has not turned up any information of interest either. The nurse that looked after him is the daughter of a respected Vietnam veteran, and there are records of several daily telephone calls, unfortunately untraceable, to her house at this time. These are claimed to be from an old friend calling about another friend, who was ill at the time. Dr. Preston, who despite his initial reluctance, co-operated well with my staff and myself at the time of the incident has also been investigated, and there are no suspicions in that direction." Decker sighed again - why does Smith always get away like this? A knock came at the door.

Crane knocked on Decker's door and entered. He carried a parcel "This arrived for you downstairs, sir."

Decker looked up from the file and wearily said, "Open it." Crane did so and whistled. "What is it, Crane?"

"Erm, sir..." Crane pulled out a collection of x-rays and hospital notes.

A typewritten note was attached to the first x-ray. Crane gave it to Decker. It read: 'Thanks for the loan of the notes and x-rays. As you can see from the latest x-rays, the bones are healing quite nicely, and the patient is now up and about. No doubt soon he will want to tell you personally how much he enjoyed your recent hospitality, but for the time being, a card for your office has been chosen...'

Decker opened the card, which had a big THANK YOU written on the front. Inside, it read, 'Thank you from Lefty and Righty.'

Decker screwed the card and note up. "I'll get you and your team someday, Smith..." He paused as he wondered where could they have got the recent x-rays taken...



ten note was attached to the first x-ray. Crane gave it to Decker. It read: 'Thanks for the loan of the notes and x-rays. As you can see from the latest x-rays, the bones are healing quite nicely, and the patient is now up and about. No doubt soon he will want to tell you personally how much he enjoyed your recent hospitality, but for the time being, a card for your office has been chosen...'

Decker opened the card, which had a big THANK YOU written on the front. Inside, it read, 'Thank you from Lefty and Righty.'

Decker screwed the card and note up. "I'll get you and your team someday, Smith..." He paused as he wondered where could they have got the recent x-rays taken...




 


Visiting Hours by Fingers

 

 


Send Comment Card

Please Send This Author Comments!