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DATES WRITTEN: April - July, 2001
RATING: A soft NC-17
DISCLAIMER: The A-Team created by Stephen J. Cannell and owned by Universal. This story was written for fun and not profit. With two kids to put through college I sure as Hell am not worth any money.
WARNINGS: A bit of con and non-con touching, both het and M/M. Nothing too serious. If you don't like the idea of our guys killing for any reason whatsoever, you probably won't approve of some things in this story. Cuss words.
EPISODE SPOILERS: Children of Jamestown
SUMMARY: An old enemy of the team resurfaces and wants revenge.
COMMENTS: Bring 'em on
AUTHOR'S NOTES: John Saxon was just such a creepy bad guy, wasn't he?
He stood alone upon the rocky knoll. The writhing mass of demons below taunted him from the fetid mists that curled about his feet. Sulfurous fumes and the stench of rotting corpses assailed his nose. Amongst the malformed spawn of Hell, he could see members of his flock, once devoted and loving, now jeering and hateful. An occasional rock was thrown along with the insults. He ignored them. The mists boiled in turmoil momentarily before parting to reveal a large demon climbing the slight incline toward him. A grotesque apparition with the body of a bull and the head of an albino crocodile. The slavering demon strode forth and grinned with needle-toothed malevolence. Noxious fumes trickled from the demons nostrils as he laughed and called to more of his Hellspawned legions.
Another demon approached, lion-headed with a glorious mane, a serpents body and a flickering, forked tongue. Venom dripped from long fangs as the creature grinned as well. A third demon emerged, silhouetted against the crimson sky. One with a hulking brown bear-like semblance, scaly skin and the head of a massive bulldog. The third creature snarled and circled to the left behind the man on the knoll. A hyena with large, bat shaped wings laughed hysterically as it appeared behind and to the right. Out of the corner of his eye, the man could just make out a fifth abomination. A snake-headed woman with a chitinous spider body. A black widow design flashed briefly upon her back as she slunk tentatively around the group.
Without warning the four large creatures surrounding the man closed about him, each snatching a limb in their slavering jaws. The man felt the poisonous fangs of the lion-headed snake burn through the blood of his right arm as the noxious smoke from the mutant croc assaulted him from the left. The bear like horror and the bat-hyena each held a foot firmly in their grasp. They all began to laugh.
The man cried out to his God. He had been forsaken. His enemies were all around. His mission; lost. As he felt his limbs being rent by the Hellspawn he called upon the heavens for salvation. A light split the firmament and poured down upon him like fluid electricity. The lesser demons and the humans milling about below fell back in wonder. The snake headed woman paused uncertainly. However, the four ravenous Hellspawn that held him firmly refused to acknowledge the light and continued to knaw upon his flesh.
The man was abruptly filled with zealous might. He felt the burning glory and saw clearly his path. With sudden inhuman strength he broke his right arm free of the lion-serpent and clutched its throat in his hand. With an audible snap, the demons neck fractured and it fell lifeless at the mans feet.
The albino croc-bull howled its anger and renewed its assault. The man ignored him, however, and turned to the hyena-bat upon his right leg. With a mighty blow the demons brains were smashed and it, too, fell lifeless. Once again the
croc-bull roared in fury as the lesser demons below began to know fear and silently slunk away. The humans who had once been the man's followers began to look upon him with respect once again and it was revealed to the man that the four demons were the source of his estrangement from his flock.
With renewed determination the man flung himself upon the bear-bulldog, even while still being attacked by the last and largest Hellspawn. The bear-bulldogs demon heart lay suddenly in the mans hand, bloody and dead. The croc-bull wailed and for the first time knew fear.
The man's followers were now moving forward, cheering and calling his name. With righteousness blazing through his veins like liquid fire, the man smote the last demon and the albino crocodile-bull, now without the strength of the other three, shattered the air with an unearthly shriek as his back broke. The man's followers surged forward to touch their savior, pleading for his blessing, anointing him with their kisses and calling for his forgiveness. He caressed them, accepting their supplications and forgiving them. His path was clear now. The four demons of the underworld, Lords of Perdition, were the key. They held back his faithful, led them astray and raped his strength. They must be sent back to the fires of Hell if he were to regain his flock.
The man stirred, opened his eyes and smiled.
Martin James had once again begun to dream.
H.M. Murdock shifted impatiently on the edge of his bed and waited for the seemingly endless commercials to end. He glanced at the clock and mentally tallied where each of his teammates would probably be. They had long ago made it a habit of informing at least one other team member as to their likely whereabouts when on down time. It was a matter of survival, at times, to be able to move swiftly or issue warnings. Murdock, having the most stable and dependable residence, was usually the one that the others left their messages with. As an Alka Seltzer commercial began, Murdock quickly tabulated what he knew. Hannibal; poker at Bud Johnson's house in the Hollywood Hills. Bud, a set gaffer, and some of his other behind the scenes buddies, could be counted on to keep quiet about their infamous pal. Face; a date at Deadwood Dick's HonkyTonk with his girlfriend of the last two months, Bonita. B.A.; where was B.A.? Ah, yes. Evening umping a Little League game and then back to his apartment.
The pilot's thoughts turned back to the television and his face brightened as the National Geographic Explorer Special on the Wonders of Nepal resumed with a panoramic shot of the Himalayan Mountains. The narrator had hardly begun speaking, however, when the click of a key in his door announced someone's arrival. Murdock sighed in frustration when an orderly entered with a medicine tray.
"You're early. You're not supposed to be here until 1100 hours. It's only 0930 hours! You're interrupting my show and they're about to demonstrate how to make Yak Butter Tea!" The tall pilot paced in irritation, trying to see around the sandy haired orderly who was now obstructing his view of the television set. The orderly spoke up smoothly.
"Change in the schedule tonight, Mr. Murdock. Sorry. Now take your medication and you can get back to your show."
Murdock paused at the tone in the orderlies voice and surveyed him quickly. The man was not familiar to the long time resident of the V.A. Alarm bells began to tinkle gently in his head and he searched for ways to feel out the situation.
"Do you know how to make Yak Butter Tea? 'Cause I've got a sudden hankerin' to try it. See how they're doin' it? They gotta milk a Yak first. Ever milked a Yak?" He rambled on for a moment and watched as the man shifted anxiously from one foot to another. The orderly held out a small Dixie cup with pills in it. The alarm bells were ringing clearly.
"Here you go. Now be nice and take these."
Murdock peered into the cup and backed away with his hands in front of his body.
"Oh no. Those are blue pills. I never touch blue pills. They make my hair fall out! See this?" He pointed to his head. "Six months ago I looked like Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees. Hair out to here! Then I took a blue pill and BLAMMO! Fell out in chunks! Uh uh. No blue pills for me. Red pills, sure. Maybe even a green pill or two. Yellow ones are nice. But no blue pills!"
The strange orderly was beginning to look agitated as his hand began a slow creep to the bulging pocket of his jacket. The alarm bells were now in full clamor. Murdock made a quick decision.
"Oh! These aren't blue pills. Why didn't you say these weren't blue. These are indigo. I can take indigo pills just fine. Give 'em here. I can still see the rest of my special. They might show Yak babies! Gotta see some Yak babies, ya know?" The lanky pilot grinned disarmingly, palmed the pills expertly up his sleeve and made a great show of swallowing them down with the glass of water the other man so obligingly held out. Beaming at the confused orderly he flopped back upon his bed and began humming contentedly. The other man simply scratched his head and turned to leave. Murdock studied the departing man surreptitiously as he casually dropped the pills out of his coat jacket to the floor on the far side of his bed. The sandy haired man was familiar somehow, if only the Texan could place him. The Nepal program droned on as Murdock, show forgotten, wracked his brain for a plan of action and a name to the man's face. He stared blindly at the set, ignoring the smiling Breck girl. Obviously, he was being set up for something, but for what, he didn't know.
A flash of memory darted across his synapses and a quick glimpse of a dusty compound in the California desert triggered more memory. Murdock placed the man now. He couldn't remember the name but a sudden cold shiver ran up his spine as he remembered the event. The rescue of a girl from the hands of a cult leader six months before. The orderly was one of the Jamestown cult. A minion of Reverend Martin James. Murdock had to get word to the others. He couldn't call. That would tip off his intruders that he was on to them. The pilot could now hear two men hanging about outside his door. He had to get out. That meant playing along.
Templeton Peck surveyed the crowd once again. It was a habit that had kept him alive for many years and he was very good at spotting anyone who didn't seem to belong. The carousing throngs at Deadwood Dick's Honkytonk, however, appeared to be just what they were; mostly drunk and disorderly. The honkytonk wasn't the trendy, upscale establishment he usually liked to take his dates to but then Bonita wasn't his normal type of girlfriend. The sloe-eyed, dark haired beauty had a "thing" for this type of bar, made popular after the 1980's hit "Urban Cowboy". She claimed that watching the young men thrash about on the mechanical bull turned her on. Face had had a hard time believing anything could work his lusty and imaginative lover into greater heights of passion until he had finally been cajoled into bringing her here two weeks ago. To his delight, she proved her claim. Over the course of the last two weeks they had come back four times. He knew he was pushing the limits of his luck by frequenting a place on such a regular basis but when she had brushed her full, heavy breasts up against him and asked once again in her whisky mellow voice he knew he wouldn't be able to deny her again tonight.
He swung his gaze back to her; watched as her full lips parted slightly and her little tongue darted out to moisten them. Her dark, brown eyes sparkled as she watched a young man being thrown about rather violently on the back of the mechanized beast. She slowly swung her head around and caught her lovers eyes on her. Lips curled hungrily as she reached for Face's hand, sliding it beneath the table and up her smooth thigh. The young, blonde man was astonished to discover his date had nothing beneath her skirt but his questing hand and it was quickly guided to the juncture of her legs. Grinning wickedly, he slipped two fingers into the hot, moist heat of her and was pleased to see her eyes widen in pleasure. As she ground her hips onto his hand Bonita reciprocated in kind by running her hand over his jean clad legs until it was resting on his now raging hard-on. She kneaded it gently and leaned to whisper huskily into his ear.
"Take me home and fuck me, Tem. I want you to ride me like I'm that bull."
He grinned again. She was going to prove her point again tonight. He would be exhausted in the morning but it would be well worth it. He rose, pulled out a fifty dollar bill and dropped it on the table.
"Pay for the drinks, baby. I'll pull the car around and meet you out front."
Face paused in the exit, scanning the street carefully, noting all the details around him. He moved around back of the building to the parking lot, wary as always. Seeing nothing alarming, the Lieutenant made his way to his latest scammed vehicle, a black Porsche convertible, and began to fish out his keys. A soft "phut!" alerted him a millisecond before the sting in his right shoulder told him something was amiss. He stared in astonishment at the large dart protruding from his body before yanking it frantically out. The blonde knew it was most likely already too late but he could do nothing less than try. He was furious at himself for letting this happen and furious at the cowardly, skulking sniper who had laid in wait for him. Purposely throwing the dart onto the floor boards of the car he lunged over the car door and scrabbled to open the glove compartment where his .357 magnum lay hidden. Already he could feel the numbing effects of the dart as his fingers became clumsy and useless. Darkness tinged the edge of his vision. As a wave of dizziness crashed over him he heard footsteps approaching. His hearing quickly diminished until he heard, nor saw, anything more.
Outside the main entrance to Deadwood Dick's Honkytonk, Bonita waited impatiently for a man who wasn't coming.
Brother Steven slipped back into the patients room, wheelchair in tow. Murdock lay limply on the bed, head lolling and drooling slightly. The "orderly" quickly switched the TV off and signaled to his partner. Brother John stepped into the room a made his way to the sleeping pilots form. Together they lifted Murdock into the wheelchair and rolled out of the room.
A scant ten minutes later the two acolytes had placed the lanky Texan on the bottom of an old, rusty white van and were driving slowly through the streets of LA The kidnap victim lay still, seemingly dead to the world. His ears, however, were wide awake.
"You think Benny and David had any trouble with the other?" Murdock couldn't tell which of his captors was which but the question had come from the driver. He listened closely.
"Hope not. We've been sitting outside this damn hospital for a week waiting for Peck to surface so we could collect "bozo" here. Hopefully we've got the timing right on this and we can all four meet up at that Youth Center in the morning. For sure, if we've got these three then Smith will have to come out of hiding. I'll tell ya, though, Stevie, I sure as hell am glad we've got all four of us on Baracus in the morning because he scares the shit out of me. David better have that tranq gun on target. I don't want to try to take that big guy down any other way."
"Well, we better not go back to the Reverend without him. He's been planning this for two months now and I don't want to face him if we screw up."
"Got that right, Brother. Got that right."
Murdock had heard what he needed to hear. Now it was time to make his exit. Rising silently, he crouched and readied himself. With one swift move he had crossed to the side door of the van and thrown it open. The driver, startled, began to curse.
"He's awake!! Damn it! Stop him!"
Murdock sprang from the moving van before the Brother in the passenger seat had time to turn. The lanky man hit the street hard, hands first, and felt bones snap in his right forearm. Skin from his palms and face slid away on the rough surface as he rolled several times. He ignored the pain. He was up and running before the van could even screech to a halt. Down a dark alley, the stench of urine and garbage strong in his nose, then up a street and down another alley. He could hear the old vans muffler pop and growl as his kidnappers desperately searched the streets for their escaped prey. Murdock didn't slow down. He had to get far enough away to safely place a call.
The lights of an all night supermarket beckoned from a block away and the pilot put on a burst of speed. He knew he must look a sight, bloodied and disheveled, with one arm cradled to his chest, but he had no choice. He slipped into the entrance and ducked behind a row of shopping carts a split second before the van rolled into sight. It cruised slowly by, faces peering out of its windows, looking through the plate glass doors of the supermarket. Then it was gone. Murdock sighed in relief and crossed quickly to the bank of pay phones next to the kiddy rides. He dialed the operator and placed a collect call.
When the phone connected he could hear the operator asking a grumpy sounding B.A. if he would accept a call from a "Red Ball One". B.A.s voice instantly became alert as he quickly accepted the charges. Murdock didn't waste any time.
"B.A.! Somethin' bad is going down. You gotta come get me. I'm at the Piggly Wiggly on Vine. Be careful. There's some bad dudes after me. I'll be in the men's room. I'll explain when you get here."
"I'll be right there, fool. You just hang tight." B.A. severed the connection and was gone.
Murdock was trying to gingerly dab at the raw patches on his face with a damp paper towel when B.A. found him less than twenty minutes after the call.
"Who did this ta you, Crazyman? Whatchoo doin' out of the V.A.?" The large man thundered angrily. B.A. observed the pinched look of pain around the pilots eyes and the pale wash of the undamaged skin of his face. He softened his voice in concern. "You hurt bad, Murdock? Let me see."
Murdock raised his brows slightly at the use of his given name by his large friend but ignored the chance to comment.
"We got trouble, Big Guy, and we don't have time to look at my owies just now. Later, after we've checked on Face and Hannibal." He steered B.A. quickly out of the men's room. They made their way without incident to the shiny, black GMC van parked in the back parking lot. B.A. took advantage of the time to give his lean friend a quick once over. The pilot was cradling his right arm and moving somewhat gingerly. Bloody, oozing scrapes covered his hands and face but his beloved leather jacket had saved Murdock from being torn up even more. The Seargent could tell a good case of road rash when he saw it. His friend had obviously jumped from a moving vehicle. B.A. was getting a very bad feeling.
Once in the van, Murdock directed B.A. to head downtown with as much speed as possible while he used the car phone to dial Bud Johnson's house in the hills. When the voice on the other end was replaced by his commander, the pilot heaved a sigh of relief.
"Hannibal, thank God. We got big problems, Colonel. Two men tried to kidnap me out of the V.A. tonight. I got away, but not before I figured out who they were. They're from that Jamestown cult we busted up about six months ago." Murdock saw B.A.'s eyebrows raise and his eyes widen before continuing. "I heard them talking about takin' Face down tonight, along with me. They plan to lay in wait for B.A. in the morning at the Youth Center. Their hopin' to draw you out, Colonel. We're on our way to the nightclub where I think Face is tonight. He was supposed to take Bonita to Deadwood Dick's Honkytonk on Willard and 5th."
B.A. couldn't hear the exact words that his commander spoke through the phone, but he heard the tone. Anger and worry. Murdock simply replied "Gotcha" and hung up.
"He'll meet us there, B.A. Step on it. We've got further to go than he does." B.A.'s foot tromped the gas and they sped through the night.
Hannibal kept his eyes peeled as he pulled into the parking lot of the nightclub. It wasn't hard to spot Face's Porsche. It stuck out like a sore thumb. He eased his gray Olds 442 into a parking lot several spaces down. The car was one in a series of cars he ran through but he liked this particular make and model for its power and speed. He took a moment to scope out the parking lot and surrounding area. Aside from the loud western music coming from the honkytonk and an occasional not-so-steady pedestrian, all looked quiet. He didn't let his guard down, however. That's the type of thing that could get a man killed. He was cautiously making his way toward Face's car when B.A.'s van pulled in. The three men quickly joined up by the side of the Porsche. Hannibal took in Murdock's ragged appearance.
"You look like Hell, Murdock. Face's car is here so he's probably inside with his new girl. We'd better check it out, though. B.A., you two stay here while I go on in. I won't stand out as much as you guys." The colonel waited for his Sergeant to acknowledge his order but B.A. wasn't even looking at him. "B.A.?"
"Somethin's wrong, Colonel." B.A.'s gruff voice hid his worry as he bent over the side of Face's convertible and picked something up off the floorboards. The large man placed a feathered tranquilizer dart in his commanding officers outstretched hand. Hannibal's face turned grim. He scanned the surrounding area again before sighing heavily.
"OK. We've got to assume Face has been taken. I'll check the nightclub anyway, just to be on the safe side." The older man pulled a wallet from his back pocket and fished three cards out, which he handed to B.A. "While I'm doing that I want you two to get over to Century City Hospital and have Murdock looked at. Here are a couple of I.D.s that Face made up a while back for just this kind of emergency. B.A., your drivers license says Joshua Rupert and the other card is a Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance card, also in your name. Murdock, your license is for Billy Richter."
Hannibal smiled at the surprised look on his Captain's face. The Lieutenant had a strange sense of humor at times, but his covers were very thorough. Hannibal didn't know how he did it but the insurance card would clear the hospital, if only this once. He continued.
"Tell them you were out riding motorcycles and Murdock skidded on some garbage. I'll meet you there as soon as I check this place out."
Murdock nodded in agreement. It was getting harder and harder to ignore the pain and his teeth were clenched too tightly to answer properly. B.A. acknowledged Hannibal and led the pilot back to the van. Hannibal watched them go, took one more piercing sweep of the parking lot and headed for the nightclub.
An hour later, the Colonel joined the other two at the hospital. He found B.A. sitting in the hard, plastic chairs of the emergency waiting room and was quickly informed that Murdock was still being attended to in one of the cubicles. Hannibal nodded.
"I've got to call Amy. Sit tight."
"She in Washington, Hannibal. On assignment."
"I know. But she gave me a number where she could be reached before she left. I need her to do some digging for me. I'll be right back."
Within moments the silver haired man was back and together he and B.A. waited for news of their friend. The Sergeant was fast losing patience when a slightly glazed looking Murdock was escorted back to them. The young intern who steadied the pilot turned to B.A.
"Your friend took quite a tumble. He's got a clean break of both the radius and ulna of his right arm so we were able to set it and cast it tonight. It's going to be hurting pretty bad for the next couple of days until the bones start to knit. I've given him a shot for the pain and cleaned up his scrapes. They look pretty ugly but they should heal without scarring if he keeps them clean. Right now, the best thing to do is to keep them in the open air. Keep them cleaned with soap and water and apply this antibiotic gel after each cleaning. After they scab over, I'd suggest covering his hands with loose gauze to help protect them but otherwise just let nature take its course. They are going to weep and look ugly for a couple of days but don't let it scare you. I've given him a prescription for pain killers for the arm. Two as needed, not to exceed four doses a day, which means he can't have any less than six hours apart." The young man beamed up at B.A. as he handed over a small, plastic sack with the prescription and ointment. "I'm going to need to see him again in six weeks to take the cast off, or you can have his regular physician do it for him. He should probably have it checked again in a week or so just to make sure there isn't any unusual swelling or tenderness. Keep the cast dry. Wrap it in plastic when he showers. Right now I suggest you take him home and put him to bed.
Hannibal grinned at the intern and turned to Murdock.
"Ready to go, pal? I think we'll take you back to my place tonight and let you sack out."
The Texan's dilated eyes struggled to focus on the older man.
"There . . . there's a squirrel sitting on your shoulder, Colonel. A fluffy gray one."
B.A. snorted and led the drugged man out the door. Hannibal smiled at the confused looking intern and followed, leaning in close to the black man.
"B.A., you did tell the interns that Murdock was on other meds, didn't you?"
The larger man looked worried, then contrite.
"Forgot, Hannibal. I can't 'member the names of the stuff he takes anyway. You think he'll be all right?" He looked down into the dreamy face of the pilot.
"A little too late to worry about it now, Sergeant."
After agreeing to leave the Colonel's car in Hospital parking, they quickly settled Murdock into the van and headed toward Hannibal's apartment. The Colonel produced a cigar and worried at the tip in thought.
He reviewed everything he knew about the Jamestown cult, thinking of their trip to the compound just miles from the Oregon border. Amy had written up the initial capture story. He tried to remember the article. His thoughts were interrupted by a slurred voice from the back.
"Sciurus carolinensis, the common gray squirrel. They have a habit of calling to one another by "barking" or making a series of sounds that end in a sort of snarl, often distinctly audible for up to an eighth of a mile. Colonel, you really shouldn't let it chew on your hair. It'll make the ends split."
Hannibal grinned, turned in his seat and spoke authoritatively to his doped up pilot.
"Murdock, do you remember the article Amy wrote on Martin James capture?"
The Captain straightened a bit, tried to focus his eyes. In an astounding impersonation of famous newscaster Walter Cronkite, he sonorously began.
"Redwood, California. Late Thursday afternoon, at the home of Jackson County farmer Tim Coulton and his daughter, Carolyn ..."
"Skip that part, Murdock." Hannibal interrupted. "We know it. We were there. Jump to the back history on Martin James."
"Martin James, known as Reverend James to his followers, purchased the land for the Jamestown compound five years ago. Born in 1941 to Dr. Arthur James and his wife, Francis, Martin's father was a pioneer in the pharmaceuticals industry. Both parents died in the crash of a small private plane in 1975. Martin James was left with a 5.5 million dollar inheritance which he liquidated into cash. There is no record of where the money is now, although local real estate agent Marty Higgs stated that the Jamestown compound was paid for in cash. Previous to the purchase of the compound and his self-appointed status as "Reverend", Martin James was a 1963 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a twin degree in Psychology and Philosophy. Little is known about his activities following graduation."
B.A. was astonished.
"How you 'member all that!" The Captain simply gave his friend a slightly cross-eyed look and replied evenly.
"Because Amy wrote it, B.A. I read everything she writes." He grinned. "I'm sleepy now." The long-limbed man promptly curled up as best as possible in the bucket sleep and began to snore softly. Hannibal looked at the pilot fondly.
"He's something else, isn't he?"
"Yea, but I don't know what. And you're carryin' him in, Hannibal!"
The Reverend was furious. Not only had his men come back without the lunatic pilot, but by now Baracus would have been warned off of the impending ambush in the morning. All he had to show for two months of efforts lay in a limp heap before him. Granted, it had taken that long to track the wily Lieutenant down, but it was not the results he had wanted, nor expected. It had taken many, many trips to countless nightclubs and bars before they had hit pay dirt. It was true that Peck's photo had been recognized elsewhere, but not as a consistent customer. Only when they had approached the bartender at Deadwood Dick's had they gotten lucky. He recognized the young man as one of the steadies, a woman named Bonita's, latest love, providing the information that the couple had become somewhat regular in their appearances at the nightclub.
That was the break James had been waiting for. Captain Murdock's whereabouts where well known. Intimidation, violence and bribery had given him the location of B.A. Baracus. It was a shame that the military was too soft to use such methods. They would have secured their prey long ago if they had. Martin James had been astonished to discover that the infamous A-Team had been the instruments of his downfall. He was determined to bring about theirs.
Then things began to slip. First the woman reporter, Amy Allen, had left town before the plan could be set into motion. Now this. He would just have to salvage what he could. The plan could still work. Instead of three hostages to bring in one, it would have to be one hostage to bring in three. It could still work.
He kicked the still form and was gratified when it stirred. Two blue eyes opened slowly and peered about in blurry confusion. The Reverend was impatient.
"Get up, sinner, and face your future."
Face moaned, bringing his bound hands up to scrub at his face as the image of his captor became clearer.
"Oh Fuck. I definitely must be in Hell if you're here."
Martin James turned an alarming shade of red.
"You blaspheme! You mock the Hand of God!" Reaching down he gathered a handful of the blonde man's shirt, hauled him to his knees and backhanded him smartly across the mouth. He was pleased to see the blood that burbled over his prisoners lips. Calm again, Reverend James smiled. "You will be my lamb upon the alter, sinner. You will bring me the demons of my torment. Brother John, set the video camera up and prepare our lamb, here." With another blow that made Face's nose erupt with a flow of blood, he stepped back and let the groggy Lieutenant slide back to the floor.
Hannibal yawned and stretched. It had been a very long night. He had tried to stretch out on the couch but knew from the beginning that it was a futile gesture. Worry and frustration had eaten at him too voraciously to allow for sleep. Inaction left too much time for contemplation; something Hannibal disliked intensely. He preferred fast and furious activity rather than the slow, torpifying introspection that had plagued him during the lonely, small hours of the morning. He was frightened. It was a feeling that he hated. He knew the feeling, even acknowledged it, but loathed having to dissect it. Inactivity and time forced him to stare it down whether he wanted to or not. Thoughts of his missing Lieutenant were uppermost in his mind, nibbling at the corners of his reason, threatening to overbalance his logic. He had to actively fight his distress over Face, knowing that reason and planning were called for, not sentiment. Emotions made a person, a team, sloppy and that would get Face killed. It was damned hard, though, to contain the terror over a loved one's fate.
Then there was the trepidation over Martin James. Hannibal was astute enough to realize that he feared the man. He'd never admit it publicly, of course, but the zealot down right scared the Colonel. Hannibal was used to dealing with people who had understandable goals. Military ambitions were his forte. Greed he understood. Revenge was a simple motivater, as was love, hate or fear. But the mind of a mad man terrified Smith. He felt unsure of himself when dealing with James. Like walking on quicksand. There was no one sure way when going up against an unstable mind. No visible path through the minefield of James' convoluted thoughts. The Colonel felt uncertainty claw at him. Another deadly emotion. Worry and self doubt. A very long night, indeed.
Hannibal heard the shower turn on in the bathroom down the hall and knew that B.A. was up. When the large man joined him a few moments later, the Colonel was already fixing breakfast. From the haggard expression on the black man's face, Hannibal knew B.A. had been fighting his own battles during the night. As the two men sat down to eat, Murdock limped stiffly from the direction of Hannibal's bedroom. His pale features were drawn in pain, making the raw scrapes on his face stand out in stark relief. He eased himself gingerly into one of the chairs, carefully arranging the sling that held his casted arm so that it would not bump the table.
"I think I'm going to need one of those pain pills, B.A."
The Sergeant nodded silently and dug into the bag from the hospital. Murdock looked at his commanding officer.
"Please tell me you have a plan, Colonel. Facey is in it big time if that psycho has him."
Hannibal pushed his scrambled eggs around aimlessly.
"I wish I did, Murdock, but I don't even know where to start looking. James is too smart to go back to the Redwood compound. He wants something, or someone, namely me, and I'm betting that he's going to try to use Face as bait. He'll have to contact us if that's the case. At the moment, that's all I've got to go on. Amy is looking into a few things that may give us some more information but right now our only option is to sit tight." He grimaced, thoughts returning to the endless merry-go-round of his wee hour contemplations. Murdock nodded unhappily.
After they had made a pretense of eating, B.A. cleared the remains of their meal and declared that it was time for Murdock's scrapes to be bathed and anointed with antibiotic gel. Hannibal would have been amused at the big man's unusually solicitous and gentle ways this morning if he could have found it in him to smile. He couldn't. They settled in to wait impatiently for Amy's call.
It came just past 10:00 a.m. Hannibal put the call on the speaker phone. Amy's voice came through tinny and tired sounding.
"Hi guys. It took a little work and some favors but I think I've managed to round up all the information available. Since I was in Strykersville with you guys during the trial I didn't cover it, but I know you read the accounts of it like I did. I don't think any of us were surprised when Martin James was sentenced to the State Psychiatric Hospital.
Murdock interrupted, his voice taking on the classic Freudian Germanic lilt.
"Ze patient vas diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic vith delusions of grandeur." He snorted and resumed in his own voice.
"Hell, I could have told them that. Classic case! That's what makes him so damned charismatic. He really, truly believes in the stuff he says. What else?"
"Well, as you also know, most of the others that were with him had an easier time of it. Seems the court had a hard time getting anyone to come forward to testify, remember?
B.A.s face became thunderous.
"Yea. Farmer Coulton and his daughter, Carolyn, backed out, didn't they. Right after they're barn mysteriously burnt down. An' only two of them girls testified. Sheila Rogers and some other little girl. Said James an some other guy was doin' things to them!" He scowled at the memory.
"That's right B.A. The other man did get jail time, but he was the only one. Most of James' men got off on technicalities or minor sentences because all the kids had voluntarily joined the group so they couldn't say they were coerced or kidnapped."
Hannibal shook his head.
"Yea. They were charged with False Imprisonment for not allowing the kids to leave voluntarily but they had a very good lawyer and, without any witnesses, they got off with mostly suspended sentences and fined. I really hated that, you know. I hate it every time we can't stick around and take care of the aftermath. I heard that the kids were either too afraid or the parents just wanted to put it all behind them. It's very frustrating, Amy. I'm sure you know that. Face wondered why none of the boys ever came forward. After all we went through, you would have thought that at least one of them would have testified. Or that the parents would have wanted something done. The two girls did, but in the end it wasn't enough. We didn't do enough." Hannibal shook his head in frustration. Murdock put a hand on his shoulder.
"We can only do what we're able to under the circumstances. You know that, Colonel." The white haired man nodded.
"Go on, Amy."
"One of the minor acolytes said Martin James came down to the slum district and recruited his muscle by promising good pay and food for anyone willing to 'follow the way'. As we saw six months ago, he didn't have much trouble rounding up his muscle and in fact, at least two of the men were quite devoted. The family money came in real handy. Here's the real kicker, though. This wasn't in the papers and it cost me a dinner date with my informant so you owe me big time. My friend, a reporter on the police beat, said Martin James was pretty despondent during the trial, saying that he couldn't dream anymore. He was actually very docile. The only thing he seemed to be interested in at the time was asking Lynch and the other M.P.s almost as many questions about you guys as they asked him. They had no doubt that you were there. They showed up soon after the National Guard arrested him and his followers."
Murdock spoke up again.
"Gee, ya think? Maybe it was the big, white 'A-TEAM' letters on the Coulton's roof?" B.A. just rolled his eyes.
"Shut up, fool! Let her finish."
"Anyway, no one thought he posed much of a risk and he was put into a medium security ward at the State Hospital. Two months ago he just walked out. He evidently bribed one of the hospital orderlies, a Dave Craig, to help him escape because they haven't seen this guy since. Some drugs, tranquilizers and a tranq gun also disappeared so the authorities are thinking that this Dave Craig went with James. It fits in with what you found in Face's car. Hannibal, I'm catching the first plane back to LA"
"No, Amy. I want you to stay there. I don't think it's safe for you back here. If James is trying to take us down, I'm betting you were originally part of the plan. The fact that you went out of town may just have saved your ass."
"No 'buts', young lady. Have I made myself clear?" Hannibal scowled at the speaker as if his young friend could see him through it. He could hear a heavy sigh.
"OK, Hannibal, but you have to keep me informed. I'll go crazy otherwise."
"We'll call when we can. Right now we're playing a waiting game, too. James has got to make a move soon and, with your information, I think I've got the first glimmerings of a plan."
The phone rang again at half past four that afternoon. Mr. Lee, the kindly Chinese gentleman that Hannibal sometimes impersonated, informed them that a man dressed as a monk had dropped off a video tape. The Colonel sent B.A. to the laundry to pick it up.
Murdock was pacing restlessly by the time the Sergeant returned. The pilot knew that B.A. had taken extra precautions and extremely circuitous routes both to and from the laundry to safeguard their privacy but, between the pain from his injuries and the worry over Face, the lanky Texan's nerves were frayed to the breaking point.
"It's about God damned time, B.A. We were beginning to think Lynch had caught up with you."
"Shut up, Fool. Ya know what I was doin' and Lynch catchin' me? That'll be the day." The black man glared at the slender pilot. Hannibal broke in.
"Cut it out, you two. We can't let this start to get to us. We've got a long road ahead of us and we need to keep our heads. B.A., let's see what's on this tape."
The three men gathered around the video cassette recorder, watching the tape turn from white snow to a view from the inside of a house. From the architectural style Hannibal surmised that it was most likely an older home in the farmhouse fashion, empty, slightly run down, probably deserted or up for rent.
A dozen men in brown, hooded robes knelt in supplication upon the floor. Lined up in three rows of four, they were all bent forward at the waist with hands clasped in prayer under them and foreheads barely touching the floor. Hoods drawn, not a single man was identifiable but Hannibal was sure that they were probably the dregs of society, hired off the streets of the rougher sections of LA
Martin James, looking little different from his appearance six months before, stepped in front of the camera.
"Colonel Smith, I presume?" The man's eyes glittered black and manic. "I have been looking forward to meeting you again. I must admit that I was surprised to learn who you were from your military colleagues, but no matter. You may be soldiers in the service of the Devil, but I am a soldier in the service of the Lord." The Reverend began to pace back and forth before the supplicants.
"I dreamed about our meeting, Colonel. I have dreamed . . . many dreams. They come again. I breath them in, my dreams. They are my wine and bread. You are there, Colonel, in my visions, my dreams. You and your unholy band of demons." The grin splashed across James' face was chilling. B.A. sighed and shook his head.
"He more dangerous than ever, Hannibal." The older man simply nodded silently without taking his eyes off the screen. The Reverend had stopped pacing and was facing the camera. His voice became sonorous, compelling.
" 'He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.' You were told that there is no appeal from my justice. You will submit to me."
Murdock snorted. "Really out of touch with reality, isn't he?" The three men watched intently as the dark-haired man in the video walked to one of the supplicants kneeling in the first row. With a quick, angry jerk, James reached beneath the man's hood, grabbed a handful of hair and pulled the "monk" to a sitting position.
"Oh Fuck." Hannibal breathed low. Templeton Peck rocked back onto his heels in the video tape; fresh, red blood streamed from his nose and battered mouth. His half-lidded eyes were glazed and dilated, obviously a combination of tranquilizers and brutality. Hannibal could hear the harsh breathing of his two companions as they all stared at their barely conscious colleague. James shook Face's head slightly, like a rat terrier with a favorite toy.
"You will be at the public phone booth on the corner of Sunset and Vine at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Wait for a call. If you don't pick up, at 9:05 your friend will be dead." His voice rose as he shook the captive vigorously. " 'Remember, therefore, how thou has received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come for you'!"
The video abruptly ended.
"Revelations. Why do the religious ones always quote out of the Book of Revelations?" Murdock murmured into the silence. B.A. switched the machine off. The two younger men turned to look expectantly at their commanding officer. Hannibal remained silent, lost in thought. When he finally spoke, his voice was tired and soft.
"I know what he's doing. He's going to string us along phone booth to phone booth until he's got us where he wants us. That way we are kept off balance, no way to plan ahead. No reconnaissance." He paused, then smiled slowly, a spark beginning to grow in his eye.
"Well, we'll just have to shift the balance back to our favor, won't we? Somehow we've got to keep at least one of us on the outside. Maybe, if we're really lucky, we can arrange two on the outside." The older man was grinning openly now, his eyes dancing. Murdock and B.A. exchanged glances. Hannibal turned to his Sergeant.
"B.A., you've still got the tracking equipment in the van?"
"Good. My guess is that they'll make us ditch the van at some point and take us in their own vehicles. We need to be able to follow. Where would be a good place to stash the homing device on me?" They thought carefully for moment before Murdock spoke up.
"The heel of your boot?"
Hannibal shook his head. "No, too much chance to step in a puddle or jiggle it and short it out. Besides, these guys seem to have a 'thing' about footwear."
"Can't use your pockets, they'll check them first thing. Can't sew it into the seams of your clothes. It's too bulky." B.A. pondered aloud. Hannibal took a fresh cigar from his pocket, placed it into his mouth, then quickly withdrew it again to contemplate the long cylindrical object.
"B.A., could you get one to fit inside a cigar? Even if it was taken off me it would still stay with the group, I'm betting."
"Ain't never been done before in that shape. They's square." Hannibal's face fell. B.A. continued. "Don't mean I can't do it, man. Just said it ain't never been done before. I'll tear one apart and redesign it into a long, skinny shape. Course I can do it!" He angrily plucked the cigar out of the older man's hand and stalked off toward the van and his tool kit. Hannibal and Murdock could hear him muttering as he went.
Face slowly opened his eyes. His head pounded and his mouth felt as if fungus had taken up residence in it but he was clear headed for the first time in hours. He vaguely remembered his brief conversation with James, being manhandled into a brown robe and positioned on the floor. His limbs had felt heavy and sluggish as had his head. There had been yelling and lights, a fist clamping about his hair, jerking him upright. More angry, buzzing words had followed before he was dragged away and dumped unceremoniously in a cold, dark room. He had promptly drifted into oblivion.
Now, struggling to a sitting position, Face had the opportunity to take stock of his situation with his reason more or less intact. He was in a windowless concrete room. Judging by the temperature and humidity, the blonde decided it was probably below ground. Dim light showing around and under a poorly fitted wooden door revealed dark, blackened ceiling joists above him. A small, metallic circle with a red Texaco star glinted in one corner. The young man pooled all the facts and decided he was most likely in an old coal room in the basement of an older home.
Raising himself gingerly to his feet, cramped muscles protesting, the Lieutenant moved to the door and attempted to peer through the crack surrounding the ill fitted door. He brought his bound hands up to steady himself and put his eye to the crack of the door jamb. Two men stood on the other side. From their stances, they had been there for awhile. Guards, obviously. He looked beyond to what was quite apparently an unfinished basement with old, wooden stairs leading up. At that moment, a pair of feet, then legs, came into view descending those stairs. The rest of Martin James rapidly followed. Face retreated to the far corner of the coal room.
The Lieutenant stood with his back to the wall as his captor entered.
"Ah. I see you are awake." James smiled at Face. The young man's skin crawled but he plastered an insincere smile on his face despite himself.
"Yes. Seems I missed my morning wake up call. Could you have someone draw me a bath? I seem to be a bit disheveled this morning." Face indicated his blood caked visage. The Reverend scowled.
"I remember your smart mouth, young man. You have the tongue of a serpent. Yes. I saw that, too. Lion maned and forked tongue. Hell will have punishment enough for you."
Face rolled his eyes at the older man and moaned fretfully. "I don't think you have to worry about that. Have you any idea how pissed off Bonita is going to be at me for leaving her at the club like that? 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned', right? So she'll punish me for you. You're really cramping my style here, you know, so if you could just direct me to check out, I think I'll be leaving . . . "
Face widened his blue eyes in mock surprise at the other man's anger and took the opportunity to inch unobtrusively to his left. His captor continued.
"I care not for your harlot's ways or feelings. You lie, steal and whore about and yet I would reclaim you for the Lord if I could." James looked into Faces' startled eyes with an intensity that chilled the younger man. He felt frozen to the spot, as if pinned there by the force of that manic gaze. James moved closer, his eyes boring into the blonde man's skull.
"You are not beyond redemption. I could save you. 'If they sin against thee, and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives into the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee, saying We have sinned and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;' " The Reverend was standing only inches from the younger man, his eyes blazing. Face had ceased his inching toward the door and seemed rooted to the spot, his breathing quick and shallow, his eyes wide. James continued in the same mesmerizing, sing song voice.
" 'And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies. Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven and forgive thy people'. Join me, Templeton Peck. Sit at my right hand. I will give you power and riches. We shall build a new world together." Dark eyes met with bright, blue as Martin James smiled again, oily and evil.
Face stared into the face a mere three inches from his own. His mind raced as his heart beat a trip-hammer tattoo in his chest. He would pretend to go along with James. It was a simple con, already set up and ripe for the picking. He would submit, play repentant and adoring acolyte. At the first opportunity he would flee this raving madman who scared the bejeezus out of him. It would be easy. So easy. As long as he didn't look too long into those eyes.
Face opened his mouth to speak, to accept James' proposal. Before he could utter a word, however, the sudden image of kindly, patient, loving Father McGill appeared in the young man's head.
Face was as surprised as Martin James when that word popped out, but it felt right. The Lieutenant had never flouted, nor indeed lived, his religious beliefs. Actually, he rather conveniently ignored them at will, but they were none the less deeply ingrained in the Catholic boy turned man. He spoke with stronger conviction, amazed that he, Templeton Peck, was taking this particular stand.
"No. You are a perversion against everything I was raised to believe in. You twist The Word to suit your needs and warp the meanings behind them. No way in Hell would I willingly stay near someone as foul as you, you raving lunatic."
The hands that clamped about his throat were strong and relentless. Finely honed survival techniques kicked in and Face swung his bound hands sharply upwards between the arms of this tormentor. The death hold around his throat broke and the blonde brought his fisted hands down on top of James' head, driving it into the conman's raised knee. The Reverend dropped like a rock.
Face spun toward the door, only to come up short against the muzzles of two AK-47's pointed straight at his head. The guards from outside glared menacingly at him, backing him once more into the corner. Martin James stirred and painfully shook himself awake. Rising, he fingered his sore jaw as he contemplated the man before him. His words, when they finally came, were cold and harsh.
"Our sinner needs to contemplate the error of his ways. Strip him to the waist. Take his shoes and socks and bind him to the oak tree in the front yard. Perhaps a night in the fresh air will cool his anger. Unfortunately, I still need him."
Face, freed from his bonds, reluctantly shed the warm monks robe, his shirt and footwear. Clad only in his jeans, he was prodded out the door and up the cement steps to the outside. The day was overcast, a fine drizzle sifting from the clouds. The Lieutenant estimated that is was late afternoon. Several other acolytes appeared, all armed, from outbuildings that lay about what looked to have been a family farm at one time. Now it simply looked sad and forlorn, buildings sagging and in need of paint. The house Face and his captors had come from was large, two storied and many windowed. The young man was dismayed to see the acres and acres of flat farmland around them. No cover. Either for him or anyone coming to his rescue. The only tree in sight was the one he was led to, some twenty five yards from the house. Large and old it spread huge limbs in every direction. Face was backed against the tree, his hands once again bound securely with heavy rope, this time behind and around the tree.
Martin James placed himself in front of the bound man.
" 'For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.' You have turned away from me, Templeton, and I will root you out like a weed. But first I must bring your friends to me."
Reverend James and his followers turned their backs and walked back to the house, leaving Face to his own thoughts in the cold, drizzling rain.
B.A. tinkered with the delicate equipment of the homing device. Solder gun and tiny jewelers tools lay nearby. His large, sausage like fingers moved delicately, surely over the minute wires and connections. The furrow between his brows bespoke his concentration.
Murdock moved quietly up to observe. It was fascinating, really. Like watching a painter paint or a sculptor sculpt. He craned his neck a little more to see better, unknowingly placing his head between B.A. and the florescent light above.
"Crazyman, get out of the light 'fore I break your nose!"
Murdock jerked back. "Sorry, B.A. Just wanted to see how it was goin'."
"It's goin'! Now git outta my way, Fool! Always pesterin' me when I'm trying to work. Can't you do somethin' useful?"
"Hey, Mudsucker! I was useful enough to warn your sorry ass and keep you from walkin' into a trap at the Youth Center, now wasn't I? Huh? Yea. Don't see you thankin' me for that, now do I?" The pilot thrust his chin out, eyes sparking angrily. B.A. set his tools carefully aside and rose, fists balled at his side.
"Shut up, Crazy Fool. You all busted up now, too. How you gonna help like this?" The large man gestured to Murdock's broken arm and oozing scrapes. The Texan stepped forward and pushed his face close to the black man's.
"You just worry about workin' miracles with that homing beacon and let me worry about how useful I can be." They glared at each other for a moment more before B.A. broke the contact and sat down heavily again. He looked vacantly at his tools. Murdock felt the anger drain out of him as understanding dawned. He hesitantly placed a hand on his friends massive shoulder before speaking softly.
"I know B.A. I'm scared for him, too. I'm worried for all of us, but it's eatin' at me that Face is out there alone."
B.A. looked away, nodding.
"They's hurtin' him, Crazyman. I know it. Ain't nothin' I can do to help." He replied softly. "They hurt you, too. I got a rage in me and it scares me sometimes. Don' know what to do with it. Can't help my bruthas. Just sit around and wait. Don' like it. Don' like it at all."
"None of us like it, B.A. But we gotta go with the flow for now. You keep workin' on that transmitter. Right now that could be the difference between life and death for all of us." B.A. sat up a bit straighter, determined. Murdock continued. "I'll go back and see if I can help Hannibal. He's trying to cover all the bases. Think of all the scenarios. Maybe I can think up a few crazy ones. After all, maybe it takes a crazy mind to catch a crazy mind."
"You ain't nothin' like James' type o' crazy, Murdock! Don' you even think to try. You a special kind of crazy.
He . . . he's just plain twisted in a dark kind of way. My Momma says 'Evil is as Evil does'. Never made no sense to me till I met that man."
Murdock nodded. There were places in himself he dare not look. He didn't like to think of them. They were black, blasted, contorted voids left behind long ago. He would not willingly look into those terrifying places. Perhaps . . . not even to help Face. He hoped he wouldn't have to find out. He started to move away when the doorbell brought both men to abrupt attention. B.A. leapt to his feet, motioning the Captain to silent stillness. Moving quickly and surely to the door, plucking a handgun off his workbench as he went, the Sergeant positioned himself next to the door. Carefully stretching forward, B.A. glanced through the peephole . . . and uttered an oath before slamming the door wide open.
"Amy! What you doin' here! Hannibal . . "
"Move it, B.A. You're blocking the door." Amy Allen pushed calmly past the blustering man. Hannibal rounded the corner, coming from the living room.
"What the Hell are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay in Washington!" Amy eyed the angry, silver haired man in exasperation.
"Last time I checked I was still a private citizen here in the United States and, correct me if I'm wrong, Hannibal, but allowed to move about the country as I please. And I know you must hate this, too, but you can't court martial me for disobeying orders, either." The slender, dark haired woman moved past the flabbergasted B.A. and the seething Colonel into the living room. Murdock had followed the proceedings with glee.
"God, don'tcha just love it when she gets on her high horse like that? Just makes me tingle all over!" He bounded after the disappearing reporter, an Aretha Franklin song bursting from his mouth.
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me . . ."
Hannibal sighed and followed the pair. "Women. Can't live with 'em. Can't kill 'em."
B.A. followed, grumbling. By the time they had all gathered in the living room, however, Hannibal, as was his nature, was beginning to see the positive aspects of the situation. Murdock, now in quiet conversation with the slender woman, looked up as the silver haired man walked in.
"Amy wants to see the tape, Colonel."
Hannibal nodded and the pilot popped the tape in. They once again watched as the lunatic they thought was safely put away ranted at them, then jerked Templeton Peck's blood stained face up for them to see. The older man watched carefully as Amy's face drained of color. He nodded approvingly to himself as her face turned angry, then determined. Yes. This might work out after all. The reporter turned to her friends.
"I want in, and I don't care what you say. I know I was terrified when we last faced Martin James, and I don't deny that he scares me now, but I've come a long way since then and you know it." She watched as Hannibal and B.A. slowly nodded. Murdock was grinning again and singing softly to himself.
A sound roused Face from his stupor. He raised his head, straightened, and looked about warily. The drizzle had tapered off around midnight, he estimated, and the clouds had moved away, giving way to a crescent moon surrounded by faint star shine. It was probably around two or three a.m. by now, he mused. He couldn't be sure, of course, but it just "felt" like that time of the morning. He'd had plenty of experience in the wee hours to know the feel of it.
He shifted, shrugging his shoulders to ease the strain, tugging fitfully at the bonds around his wrists. His jeans were clammy and cold on his legs, his flesh lightly dimpled in the cool night air. The conman tried to ignore it. He had endured far worse. Even tied, standing with his back against the rough bark of the tree, he had managed to doze off and on, catching what rest he could, Hannibal's lectures on survival running through his head.
The noise came again from behind him, a rustle of cloth, a sigh. The Lieutenant froze, straining his ears. He didn't have to wait long. Brother John came into view, his shaggy, unkempt, dishwater blonde hair a paler patch in the moonlight. He gazed at Face.
"It's my turn at guard duty, now till breakfast." He stated conversationally, moving closer to the conman. The prisoner remained silent. The brown robed man looked the slender blonde in the eye for a long moment, eyes gleaming strangely in the diffuse light, before dropping his gaze slowly, slowly down the prisoners well toned form. Face's eyes widened. A chill not borne of the night air crawled over his skin. Brother John licked his lips hungrily.
"You're older than I usually like them but you'd never know it by looking at your body. You're beautiful," he reached out to touch an old scar on the conman's shoulder, "and exciting. I don't think I'll have to worry about you going to the cops to testify, either."
Face's thoughts raced in panic, remembering bits and pieces of newspaper accounts of the trial and his comments to Hannibal about the lack of boys coming forward. He now knew why. The empty, shell-shocked eyes of the young men in the compound at Redwood. The fear in their faces. "Brother" John had been preying on them, savoring a banquet of young flesh, all available for his choosing. Martin James had preyed on a few of the girls. John had preyed on the boys, then threatened them with further abuse and humiliation if they testified. No wonder he was so loyal to James. The good Reverend had provided the sex offender with easy pickings.
John stepped up to Face, letting his fingers trail down the lightly defined pectoral muscles of the blonde man's chest, down over the rib cage and onto the flat, hard belly. He leaned into the Lieutenant, taking a sudden lick of the damp, dimpled skin. Face shuddered, the revulsion almost overwhelming. There was no way out of this, what was about to happen to him.
John's hand wandered down to Face's crotch, found what he was seeking through the damp jeans and began to squeeze. The conman clenched his teeth tightly, determined not to scream his disgust. Bile rose in the back of his throat as rage rose in his heart. He could not, would not, endure this violation, not after all that he had withstood and survived in the P.O.W. camp.
Brother John opened the front of his robe, revealing fish white, naked skin underneath. He pressed himself up against the bound man, caressing, pinching, licking. Face let him. When John clamped vicious teeth around his nipple and bit hard enough to draw blood, Face remained steadfast. Other bites followed, rough hands clutched and fondled. Face ignored it. Only when John forced his tongue into the blonde man's mouth did Face falter. The probing tongue, plunging in and out of his mouth, sucking cruelly on his tongue, nearly broke the Lieutenant's resolve. Thoughts of the countless victims before him brought him strength.
Finally, John drew back, breathless, aroused, his eyes aflame with desire. Face smiled seductively.
"You're pretty good with that tongue. I can think of someplace else where it would be even more appreciated."
John closed his eyes momentarily in bliss, licking his lips. He reached for the snap at the top of the conman's jeans.
"Now, now! Where's your sense of adventure?" Face chided good-naturedly. John paused, confused. Face gave him a smoldering look.
"You're tongue. It's . . . very talented. Like a living thing. It's driving me wild! Please, let it find it's way to the target. Make it last. Don't just plunge in. I want this to be good for both of us." The conman raked his abuser with a lustful gaze. John smiled again, bringing his tongue up to lick the side of the Lieutenant's face, then trailing a line of saliva toward his collarbone, where he left another vicious, bloodletting nip. Face moaned, pain masked as pleasure. He gulped and squeezed his eyes shut as he felt that tongue sliding, slithering lower, lower, down his belly, across the fine, blonde, baby hairs that led from his navel down past his waistband. He felt the thud in the dirt when John dropped to his knees in front of his pelvis. He couldn't look now. Couldn't look.
When he felt the snap come undone on his jeans, the Lieutenant braced his back against the tree and pulled the rope around it as taut as possible, forcing it to bite brutally into his wrists. When the zipper shuddered down, tooth by tooth, Face tensed his legs.
John gazed at the lightly curling, blond pubic hair that peeked out from the open V in the jeans. His treasure lay just out of sight. He grinned, noticing the absence of any underwear.
"Hey, you go commando!" The voice that answered him was strangely distant and cold.
"Yea, well, I had other plans last night." Then strong, athletic legs were wrapped about the acolytes neck, as swift as a cobra's strike. Ankles locked, hips swiveled sharply, knees jerked and the bones in Brother John's neck parted. The robed man slid silently into a limp puddle of limbs, eyes wide, mouth open. His breath would not come, his chest would not rise, his arms, legs would not serve him. Mouth working soundlessly, he stared in horror at the bound man above him who never, ever looked down. The light slowly faded from John's eyes, his bowels released and his heart stopped.
Templeton Peck stared unseeingly at the stars, tears coursing down his cheeks, whispering brokenly.
"Hail Mary, full of Grace. The Lord art with Thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Hail Mary, full of Grace . . . "
Amy padded barefoot into the living room. She had the beginnings of a good sized headache and, not knowing where Hannibal kept his medicines, knew she had a stash of aspirin in her purse. She passed Murdock, snoring ever so lightly on the couch and spotted her quarry on the far side of the coffee table. The reporter paused, spotting a small, orange glow from the corner of her eye. Turning her head, she spied the faint, dark outline of a body on the "balcony", little more than a concrete shelf with a railing, if truth be told. The soft glow from the lit end of a cigar briefly flared again and Amy changed directions toward the sliding glass balcony doors. The aspirin could wait for a few more minutes. She slid one of the doors silently aside and sidled up to the standing man, the aromatic fragrance of the cigar smoke greeting her on the damp night air.
"Morning." Amy murmured softly. Hannibal glanced down at the slender woman, her features soft in the pre dawn light. He turned back to his contemplation of the lightening sky. The very faintest tinge of pink stained the lowest edge of the horizon, seen over the rooftops of the LA buildings. He studied the gradations of the light along the pink line, fading to lavender to purple to indigo blue to black and took another slow pull on the cigar. Amy studied the Colonel.
"Have you slept at all?"
He smiled down at her then. "A little."
The reporter nodded, looking out into the far distance again.
"Hannibal, there's something I didn't tell you over the phone or last night. I . . . I didn't want to say anything in front of Murdock or B.A." She saw that she had the Colonel's undivided attention now. "My reporter friend said that one of the boys from the Jamestown Compound committed suicide about a month after the trial. Evidently he left a note that boiled down to the fact that he had been repeatedly raped by one of the Brothers at the compound. He didn't say who but he said he couldn't live with the memories and the knowledge that 'He' was still out there. I don't know if this man went back to James or, if he did, whether he could be a danger to Face or not but I thought you should know."
Hannibal closed his eyes for a moment before focusing them back on Amy.
"Thanks for telling me. I don't think it's something we'll have to worry about but I'll keep it in mind. Face can take care of himself. He's been through tougher situations and come out the other side." He smiled at her reassuringly. She smiled back, patted his hand upon the railing and slipped back into the confines of the high rise apartment. Hannibal turned back once again to watch the coming dawn, frowning, lost in memories of times best forgotten.
The beauties of a bright, new morning seemed so incongruous to Face. The sun, just above the horizon, cast a golden glow around everything as birds sang greetings to the new day with unbounded enthusiasm. It all seemed such a cruel mockery to the exhausted man. He was stiff, sore, cold, hungry and thirsty. The rain of the previous evening had provided some moisture, caught in a mouth held open to the weeping heavens, but now he was parched. His eyes were crusty, bloodshot and red-rimmed from tears and sleeplessness. The conman tried to avoid looking at the corpse laying at his feet. He had come to a kind of grim, fatalistic acceptance about the event but he still could not bring himself to look into those dead, staring, accusing eyes. When he finally heard a pair of feet approaching through the tall grass he carefully arranged his features into a blank mask. It wouldn't do to show weakness in the presence of the enemy.
Brother Stephen and Brother Benny looked around curiously. They had expected to find Brother John guarding the prisoner. It was time to relieve him and water the captive. As they came around the far side of the large tree they drew up short. Their prisoner glared balefully at them, bound, bruised, disheveled, jeans slung low on his lean hips and zipper down. The bloody, obviously human bites on his torso caused Benny's eyes to widen in alarm and Stephen's to narrow suspiciously. Another step revealed the still heap of Brother John's body lying before Lieutenant Peck.
Brother Benny gasped in horror. Brother Stephen raised an eyebrow as he viewed the corpse with disgust. As one of Reverend James' original followers he was aware of John's predilections. Raising his eyes back to Face's, he nodded slightly.
"I'd heard about you Special Forces types and how you are supposed to know, like, 100 ways to kill a man. Must be at least part true."
Face's grin, feral and fey, never reached his eyes.
"Why don't you come over here and find out?" His voice was a croak, raspy and hoarse from thirst. Benny took a step back, then turned and fled toward the farmhouse. Stephen hefted the water jug he had brought, regarding the conman calmly.
"You want some of this, you'd better let me get close without any tricks."
Face eyed the water covetously for a moment before nodding his head in acquiescence. Stephen stepped around the body of his former "Brother" and lifted the jug to the blonde man's lips. Face gulped greedily, water trickling around the corners of his mouth to meander down his chest and disappear into the fabric of his jeans. When Stephen stepped back again the conman looked at him curiously.
"You don't seem too upset by all this."
Stephen shrugged. "He was a filthy pervert. I've known it for a long time. No big loss." They could hear people approaching in a hurry. "I'm afraid Reverend James won't feel the same way, however."
Martin James arrived in a rage, viewing the corpse of one of his most devoted acolytes with anguish.
"You whore mongering Son-of-a-Bitch! You have murdered one of my flock!"
Face eyed the black haired man with disgust.
"Look at me, James! He attacked me. Look at the marks. Just like he molested the innocent boys at your compound. He was sick! You think I would want something like this? I was protecting myself!"
Martin James was not to be swayed.
"You seduced him. Your serpent tongue and harlot body confused his mind and brought him close enough for you to assassinate him! You must pay!" His face had leeched from red to cold, white fury. " 'FOR THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!' "
The world seemed to slow in the eyes of Templeton Peck, movements and words caught in amber as his heart pounded in triple time. As if in a dream the Lieutenant saw Martin James draw his pistol.
//Hail Mary, Full of Grace. The Lord art with Thee.//
The madman's eyes appeared to blaze as his lips drew back in a rictus of snarling hate.
//Blessed art Thou among women and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.//
A movement out of the corner of the conman's eye, Brother Stephen leaping toward James.
//Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now . . .//
The pistol leveled off and Face stared down the barrel, aligned straight between his eyes. Martin James squeezed the trigger.
//. . . and at the hour of our death. Amen.//
A hand slammed down on the Reverend's arm as the sharp report of the pistol echoed in the early morning air. Face felt a ripping, tearing explosion of pain blossom in his leg. An agonized, hoarse scream followed the pistol report into the surrounding countryside. The conman vaguely realized that it had come from him.
Reverend James turned angrily to the man who had spoiled his shot.
"Brother Stephen! Why did you rob me of the justice this man deserves? Has he warped your mind, too?" The half dozen acolytes who had accompanied James to the tree took a step toward Stephen. He raised his hand in supplication.
"Reverend James, please. I don't blame you for being angry with me, but right now we still need Peck alive to bring us the rest of the A-Team. They're smart. They'll want proof that he is still alive before coming to us. I know how much it means to you to punish them all. Especially their leader, Colonel Smith."
James paused, then nodded his head slowly, reluctantly.
"Yes. Yes, you are right." He murmured. "I'm sorry I doubted you, Brother Stephen. In my righteous anger . . . " The black clad Reverend took a deep breath to calm himself before turning to his acolytes. "Remove Brother John to one of the upstairs rooms and prepare his body. I will preside over a service for this loyal and good man tomorrow to properly honor him. He has served me well." He gestured to the captive, now slumping, half-conscious and bleeding profusely.
"Brother Stephen, bind his wound. We can't have him bleeding to death before his task is done, now can we? We shall save his punishment for a later date. It will be a fitting end for the crime. I will make sure of that." He glared murderously at the Lieutenant once more before turning on his heel and striding toward the farmhouse.
Stephen snagged one of the acolytes not currently lugging John's corpse to the house and sent him after a bed sheet, then stepped over to the gasping prisoner. The bullet had passed through the right leg about six inches above the knee and was bleeding fast and furious. The robed man looked up into the captives face and was surprised to see slitted, pain-filled blue eyes staring back at him.
"I thought you'd passed out."
"Wish." Face gasped. "Why . . . why'd you save me?"
Stephen snorted. "Don't be thinking I did it for you, Lieutenant. I did it for the money. It's always about the money. Once the rest of your team gets here I don't think they'll last too long against the good Reverend's "justice'". I wasn't looking for it but here you and your team just dropped in my lap. The military is offering a ten thousand dollar reward each for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the A-Team. Well, the arrest and conviction part will be a moot point when I show them where I "stumbled" across your bodies but the reward will be just as valid for closing the case. Nothin' personal. Just business." He smiled at the panting man. Face shook his head, trying to think of anything but the overwhelming pain radiating from his leg.
"Why are you with James? He. . . he can't be paying that good?"
"Oh, he doesn't. But I've got millions of reasons to stay."
The conman tried to wrap his muddled thoughts around that statement. He gritted his teeth as a fresh wave a pain overtook him, leaving him gasping and shaking. The blood was still flowing and he could feel himself getting light headed. The answer to Stephen's statement incongruously popped into his head. He spoke through clenched teeth.
"The . . . the millions that . . . that James inherited and turned into cash and stashed. That's what your after." He did a rapid calculation in his head. "Even with the expenses he's had, the compound, the men he's hired, he's . . . he's had slave labor and intimidation . . . to get some of his goods. He should . . . should still have around three million . . . or more left out there."
Stephen looked at the wounded man with something akin to respect.
"Very good, bright boy. Go to the head of the class! I'm getting closer and closer to figuring out where he keeps the cash and one of these days . . . Well, one of these days James will be just another homeless nut on a street corner shouting that the end is near." He chuckled. "Ain't going to do you any good knowing, though. James isn't going to believe a thing that comes out of your mouth. It's too bad, really. I kind of like you." Before Face could think of a retort the acolyte sent to find bandages returned with a dusty, tattered bed sheet. Stephen eyed it in disgust for a moment before shrugging and setting about the task of tearing it into strips. The conman watched the proceedings with trepidation. He was panting heavily now.
"You're . . . going to have to tie it very tight. I . . . I think the femurs been shattered, too." The thought of survival was uppermost in Face's mind now. Survive and hope to God that Hannibal had a damn good plan.
Stephen nodded and set about his task with care. The bullet had entered straight on in a small, neat hole but had exited the back of the leg slightly to the right and leaving a larger hole, suggesting that the blonde had been correct in assuming that the projectile had been deflected somewhat when it had hit something solid. In this case, a bone. He bound the strips of cloth tightly, causing the Lieutenant to bite his lip and stifle a moan. Face was leaning as far forward, now, as his bound arms would allow, his chin tucked almost to his chest and his hair hanging down as the sweat poured off his brow. Stephen worked as quickly as possible, trying to stanch the bleeding. He heard the captive cry out only once, when he had to shift the leg a bit but ignored it to continue at his task. When he was finished he looked up to see how Face was doing but saw that somewhere during the process, the blonde had passed out. Just as well. He wasn't willingly cruel. Just very greedy.
Murdock drained the dregs of his coffee, placed the cup in the sink and checked the time yet again. 0715. Five minutes after the last time he had checked. Hannibal entered the kitchen, followed closely by Amy. The pilot brightened.
"Hey, Chiquita, want some coffee?"
The reporter shook her head. "No thanks, Murdock. I'm nervous enough as it is." She pulled out a chair and sat down. "Is B.A. back? I didn't even hear him leave last night."
Hannibal leaned against the counter, arms folded.
"He left after he finished with the tracking cigar. I had him take a cab and pick up Face's Porsche. We're going to need it today."
Murdock handed Hannibal a cup of coffee which the older man gratefully accepted. He was tired. The jazz had a hard time making an appearance when one of his men found themselves in danger. Oh, not that it didn't happen at those times, but only when they were actually doing something. Waiting and worrying could kill the jazz faster than a cold shower stifled a hard on. He sipped thoughtfully on his coffee and watched Murdock mugging it up for Amy, trying to bring a smile to her weary face. The sound of the doorbell broke his thoughts.
Amy opened the door for B.A., who entered carrying a large duffel bag. The Colonel smiled. Now things would begin to move. They all gathered again in the kitchen, the silver haired man commanding the attention of the rest without even asking.
"I also had B.A. swing by the warehouse for a few things. Most of them have already been put in the van." He looked to the black man for acknowledgment. B.A. nodded and grumbled.
"That car of Face's is no good for haulin' things. Too small! I was eatin' my knees th' whole time I was drivin' it. But I think I got everythin'. I don't know what we gonna come up against, so I threw a little of everythin' in. Got two Colt M1911s, an Uzi, four M16s, the M60, " Hannibal smiled indulgently at the thought of his 'baby', and listened to B.A. as he continued. " one Stoner 63A1, a coupla Claymores, a dozen grenades, two tear gas canisters and both of Face's sniper rifles. Probably too much, but I'd rather have it than not. It's stored and locked in the van. I also checked out the first aid kit an' made sure we had a coupla blankets. The rest of the stuff you wanted is in there." He indicated the duffel on the floor.
Hannibal nodded in satisfaction as he began rooting around in the old, olive drab, army issue duffel.
"Nice, B.A. Very nice. Now, as I was saying, the cigar homer is finished and the tracker is in the van." He pulled an ordinary looking cigar from his shirt pocket and flourished it for a second before returning it to it's resting place. "Murdock, you and Amy will take the van. B.A. and I will take Face's Porsche. You've got the phone number for the mobile in it?"
Murdock nodded before asking. "How you going to explain the fact that I'm not with you, Hannibal? Martin said he wanted all of us."
The Colonel grinned his infamous I-know-the-answer-to-the-joke grin and fished out a small item from the bag.
"Leave that to me. Amy, I've got another of those transmitter buttons we used on that dirty S.W.A.T. team a few months back. I need you to sew it on my shirt. You'll be monitoring both the tracking device and the transmitter. Remember, you'll be able to hear me but I won't be able to hear you."
The young woman nodded quietly and reached for the specialized button. Hannibal gave it to her, carefully laid aside his cigars and proceeded to strip out of his shirt. He went on.
"If it works, I've got a plan to keep B.A. from going with me. That'll give you one more on the outside. If it doesn't work, though, I want you two to keep out of sight. Stay just within tracking and listening range until we end up where ever it is we are going. Scope out the situation. You know the drill, Captain. If at all possible, wait until night to make your move. Better cover. Amy, have you got any black clothes with you?"
"Some black jeans, black boots. That's all." The reporter scrunched up her face as she tried to recall exactly what she had packed when she left Washington. Hannibal placed his palm up, indicating that that was fine.
"We keep clothes stashed at the warehouse. I knew you wouldn't have cammos so I had B.A. bring some of Face's. If you have to sneak in during the daylight hours, you'll want to wear the camouflage gear. Just tighten the belt and his stuff should fit you fine. There's also a black turtleneck of his in the duffel as well. All black if you go in at night. Hopefully you won't need any of it and you can just drive in and swoop us up. Better to be prepared, though. Murdock?"
The pilot nodded as he searched for his own cammos and blacks. This was all standard operating procedure on the team's part. He knew the Colonel was going through most of it for Amy's sake. He looked up.
"Got it. You going armed? You know they'll search."
B.A. reached into the duffel and brought out two small, lightweight weapons, a Colt Detective Special revolver that Hannibal took and a COP Derringer pistol for himself. He proceeded to tuck the tiny weapon behind the large muscle belt he preferred to wear. The Colonel took his revolver, pulled up his pant leg and placed it into the top of his boot.
"They'd be stupid not to search and stupider still if they think we won't at least try to bring something in. They'll most likely find these, but just on the off chance that they don't . . ."
Amy swallowed hard and tried to smile. This was all so deadly serious. She'd been with the team on several missions, of course, but never one that was plotted out with such tactical skill. Usually they were flying by the seat of their pants, winging it through one of Hannibal's off the cuff plans. This one seemed more like a military maneuver with every contingency covered. It was chilling. She watched in fascination as B.A. slowly, methodically, almost ritualistically removed his gold chains, one at a time, and placed them carefully on the kitchen counter. The large man caught her watching him.
"Ain't goin' to let 'em take these offa me. Best to leave 'em here, anyway. If I go in with you an' Murdock, I need the silence. Make sure you keep my gear in th' van, hear?"
The reporter nodded carefully, then left to dig through her suitcase for her black jeans and boots. Murdock frowned and turned to Hannibal.
"You sure this is a good idea, takin' Amy with us? She looked a little green around the gills there."
Hannibal paused for a moment before answering.
"She chose her path, Captain. My father used to say 'if you're going to run with the big dogs you gotta piss in the tall grass.' Time for Miss Allen to see if she's really ready to run with the A-Team, Murdock."
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