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Part 3: Abandoned
Hannibal and Salim were let out
of the box not long after . The two men were dragged
back to the barracks and thrown down on cots. As soon as the guards left
"Easy, easy," came Face's voice and
"Johnny." Frankie tried to mask his concern for the colonel. "I shoulda known you'd get yourself in trouble in about five minutes flat."
"Now that's unfair," said Face, "It was nearer ten."
"He'll be okay," Face said, soothingly, was sure
that Salim would be and that it was down to Hannibal,
the man had a way of making you hang on to life, to hope, even if it was only
by your fingernails.
"Are you okay, Frankie?" he asked, Frankie didn't
have the same training in resisting interrogation as the team, Hannibal hated
to think of him suffering what the rest of them had without the coping
mechanisms they had to call on. He feared this every time, hated Stockwell for
forcing them to take Frankie on missions. He was useful sometimes and had
courage but he was a civilian and it was just too dangerous for him. Frankie
turned his eyes away from
"I'm fine." His tone was not convincing.
"I couldn't help it,
"Easy kid," Hannibal softened his tone. "Just tell me." Frankie wrung his hands, apparently tormented with guilt.
"They made me read a statement, a confession and they
video taped it. I just read what they said to, Johnny, I had to."
"Don't worry, Frankie, like you said, they forced you." Frankie didn't look convinced.
"You wouldn't have done it," he said.
"If they threatened to kill you all then I probably
"Yes, I did like you said, I kept my voice flat, and I didn't correct any bad grammar."
"Then everyone who sees the video will know you're just reading a confession written by someone else." Clearly under duress he added mentally, looking at Frankie's blackened eyes and bruised and cut face. "Don't worry about it for another second." He was rewarded with Frankie visibly relaxing and even smiling a little. Good, he needed his men ready, not mired in guilt.
"Did you get enough water into him?"
"I think so."
"Good, let him rest."
"You too, Colonel." Murdock said.
"Okay, everybody get some
sleep. We have a lot to do and we can't do it in the state we're in now."
He didn't post a guard, didn't think any of his men were in good enough shape
to stand guard right now. He would rely on his instincts to wake him if any
trouble started. One by one the others lay down and were quickly unconscious.
"It should be along here, on the left." Mrs Baracus said. Amy slowed the hire car and began to watch for the gate.
They had flown in overnight to
"Is that it, do you think?" Amy said as, nearly hidden by the trees and offset from the road, she spotted a pair of high gates. She stopped the car and they got out. There was a notice on the gates warning it was private property. There was no sign of a bell to call the house she could see in the distance and the gates were locked. Of course if this was the place there didn't need to be a bell, whoever was in the house probably already knew they were there. Amy looked around. She couldn't see any cameras, which didn't mean they weren't there.
"Okay." Amy said, quietly. She could probably climb the gates, but Mrs Baracus couldn't. She turned to her companion then, with a smile.
"Adele, do you have a couple of hair pins?" Mrs Baracus fished one out of her bag and took another from her hair. Amy bent one into a 90-degree angle and the other straight then made a shallow hook shape on the end of it. She said,
"Face taught me a few things while I was working with the team, let's see if I remember them." Carefully she slid the straightened pin into the lock on the gate, as she worked she became aware that Mrs Baracus was grinning.
"What's so funny?" Amy asked.
"Oh, I was just thinking about the idea of Face 'teaching you a few things'." Amy blushed, said,
"Adele!" She sounded scandalised, then smiled. "There was never anything like that. I think BA told Face he'd kick his butt so hard he'd never sit down again if he tried anything on." She could feel the pins in the lock moving. She slid in the bent hairgrip. "BA always made me feel safe. I guess I was pretty scared of him at first, but when I got to know him... well I don't need to tell you what sort of man he is." Amy pulled the hooked hairpin out quickly and turned the bent one and the lock opened.
"Oh, well done, Amy!"
"I'm not sure Face would approve. I think I just raked it rather than picked it, he says that 'lacks finesse'."
"It worked, that's the main thing." Amy pushed open the gates, which creaked. They got back into the car and drove up the drive towards the house. As they drew up in front of it Amy said,
"Be careful when you get out, there could be dogs, be ready to get back to the car quickly." Mrs Baracus nodded, looking tense. They got out and approached the front door. Surely they weren't going to be allowed to walk up and ring the bell, Amy thought. Security was going to be on them at any moment. She looked around, nervously. The only sound was birds and the swish of the trees in the wind. Okay, if that was the game, Amy would play. She walked boldly to the front door and pressed the bell. She heard it chime inside the house.
Five minutes later the two women had to conclude that no one was going to answer the doorbell. They tried to peer through the windows, but blinds were drawn over them all. They walked right around the house and found the back doors and windows also locked and with the blinds down. Even the garbage cans by the back door were empty. They walked back round to the front of the house and Amy took the hair pins out of her pocket and began to work on the door lock. This one was slightly harder to get into, but after a few minutes work it yielded, and she pushed open the door, called out "hello?" Her voice was swallowed up in the murky interior. Scared, but trying not to show it she stepped inside, Mrs Baracus came in behind her, staying very close.
They walked through the dark hallway and into a large, open plan living room. There was no furniture. Amy went to one of the windows and raised the blind; a shaft of sunlight pierced the room and lit the dust motes stirred up by the passage of their feet. Dust lay thick on the floor and every other flat surface.
"It must be the wrong place." Mrs Baracus said quietly, "No one's been here for months."
"Let's look around some more." Amy said. They considered splitting up, but the heavy silence and gloom of the house was too daunting and they went through the rooms together. In the kitchen they found more dust and also an empty shipping crate. There was a newspaper sitting on top of the crate, apparently carelessly discarded. Amy picked it up. It was a copy of the Washington Post, dated eighteen months ago.
"Damn, they're good." Amy said softly, fingering the yellowing newspaper. Mrs Baracus frowned.
"You think it's the right place?"
"The location and layout matches the description in the manuscript."
"But this house looks as if it's been deserted for months."
"Yes, that's what it looks like."
"And we got in pretty easily, no offence, dear."
"Exactly, too much security would draw
attention." Amy smiled. It wasn't only Face that had taught her things;
she had learnt to think around corners like
"What now?" Mrs Baracus asked. "If Stockwell was here he's long gone." Amy shrugged.
"We go back to plan A." She held up the old newspaper and grinned. "Hold the front page."
"All of you, up, now!"
Well this guard spoke English Hannibal thought, memorising the man's features as the team were rousted from their cots. It was morning; they'd slept till evening the day before, then eaten and gone back to bed straight away. Although his men groaned as they got up they all looked better, stronger, Face was living up to his name a little more, BA's back seemed to be giving him very little trouble. They were ready.
They stumbled out into the early morning light and were
herded towards buildings that
"Ah, gentlemen," the man said, "Welcome. My apologies for not greeting you earlier, the pressure of work, you understand." His accent was excellent, with a very English inflection.
"Yeah, I can see you have a lot of paperwork,"
"I am General Ziyahd, it is my duty and honour to command this installation. And you are also, I believe, military men." He opened a drawer, removed a newspaper and tossed it down on the desk, their own faces looked back up at them. "The famous A-Team, rogue American commandos." He pulled the newspaper back towards himself, picked it up, "In fact it says here that your own government tried to execute you."
"It didn't take." Face said.
"That's right," Murdock said, smiled, "We're actually superheroes, impervious to bullets."
"Very amusing," Ziyahd
said. "And easily tested." Murdock didn't
stop smiling, but his eyes flickered. "It seems, gentlemen, that your
government doesn't actually want you back. We expected frantic diplomatic
efforts, even threats of military force, but instead you have apparently been
abandoned to our mercy."
"And just how much mercy can we expect, General?"
"As much as you earn, Colonel
"You already interrogated us, you got all the information you are going to get." The general shook his head slightly.
"A mere preliminary effort, using the resources available at the time. I know you are trained to resist interrogation so we have... specialists en-route who will get past that resistance." The team exchanged glances. "Of course you can save them and yourselves much trouble if you would care to give me the information before then." Ziyahd looked at them speculatively, scanning each man for a sign of weakness.
"I'm sure we could."
"Very well, as you wish." He picked the newspaper back up and returned it to the drawer. As the drawer was closed a small but distinct clinking sound was heard. "You must accept now that you will spend the rest of your lives here. However long that may be, Westerners rarely last very long here."
"Oh we aren't planning on staying very long."
"Of course, you are famous for your escapes. Well I have little doubt you could escape from here eventually, but to what end?" He spread his hands, "The desert surrounds us, Colonel Smith, the desert would welcome you with open arms, and when they closed..." he smiled, tapped the ash from his cigar.
That was the end of the interview; they were taken back outside and left alone.
"The desert, Colonel, the desert, is three weeks in every direction." Murdock said in an uncanny imitation of General Ziyahd. Face grinned.
"That ain't that he meant by 'impressions'," BA growled.
"I heard a bottle in that drawer," Face said, "If it's not cough syrup then he's not being a very good Muslim."
"I don't trust a man who keeps his desk so tidy that
it ain't got nothing on it at all."
"Hannibal, I..." Frankie said. "I really
didn't like that part about 'specialists'."
"Okay, so the sooner we go to work the better. Face, Murdock, I want you to mingle with the other prisoners, make friends, find out what kind of people we have to deal with here." He turned to BA. "Sergeant, find out what hardware they have around here that we can use, weapons, machinery, and especially vehicles." BA nodded.
"What about me?" Frankie asked, "What can I
"You and me, Frankie, are just gonna relax and watch the world go by." The others nodded in understanding but Frankie looked baffled.
Part 4: Ultimatum
As the air cooled towards evening the team
gathered again, in the exercise yard, stood in a tight circle.
"Going native, guys?"
"Just being smart," Face said, "Sunstroke is no fun." That was a good point Hannibal had to admit, his own head was pounding from the glare of the sun, he made a mental note to get hold of something similar for himself, Frankie and BA.
"Okay, guys, lets hear your reports. Face, Murdock, you first."
"Well," Face started, "We spoke to a lot of the inmates, a lot of them speak English. There's two hundred or so of them and they're all political prisoners, put here for opening their mouths too much about the government."
"The usual suspects," Murdock said, "Journalists, academics, doctors, students, writers, a few clerics, you know, various intellectuals. None of them have been here more than two years."
"Just after the new
regime took power."
"This is the best part," Face said, "Seventeen army officers, mostly lieutenants and captains, one major, name of Madari. He's the man we need to get on our side, Hannibal. He's the senior officer and he used to serve here when this camp was an army base."
"It lost it's strategic value a few years ago," Murdock said, "Was mostly abandoned, until the new regime wanted somewhere isolated to store inconvenient people."
"You think this Madari and his men would help us take the camp?"
"Take the camp!" Frankie hissed. "Are you crazy, Johnny, I thought we were talking about escaping here, not trying to take over the place!"
"Taking over the place is likely to be
the only way for us to escape."
seems like a smart guy and a good officer, but he doesn't seem all that
friendly, I think you'll have to work on him, Colonel."
"I took Salim with me," BA said, "You said he was an engineer, I figured they maybe had him work on some of the hardware around here."
"Yeah, he told me they got a motor
pool and a machine shop, he's been in them, they're fully equipped to repair
the vehicles or anything else that might break down around here."
"Makes sense, middle of the desert you can't just call triple A if you blow a gasket."
"The generator house is right by the machine shop. Vehicles, I could see three trucks and five jeeps."
"Sounds good. Fuel?"
"There's a fuel dump right beside the motor pool."
How well guarded are all these?"
"Well, I can't see all the entrances from inside the inmate area, but from what Salim told me and what I saw when they took us to the general's office I'd say one man on each building. Except the armoury, which is beside the guard house, I can see that entrance and that's got two guards."
"Anybody figured how many guards there
"Thirty, including the general." Murdock answered quickly. "I got that off one of the army officers."
"What did you and Frankie find out about the routine of the camp?" Face asked.
"That it's sloppy for one thing,"
"That's good to know." Murdock said.
"They patrol the wire that surrounds the inmate area with one man patrols, each with a dog, it takes them about twenty minutes to walk right around and they have three men doing it at any one time. They all change shift at the same time, so they all three ended up standing at the gate waiting for their relief together. I really hope they do that every time."
"So there's no one round the back?" Face grinned. "Nice."
"They don't keep many guards in here with the prisoners, in fact there were several times today there were no guards in here at all, they were all outside the wire. Like I said, complacent. You can all see the watchtowers, one on each corner of the camp perimeter. There's only one man in each of them. That's never a good idea, two men keep each other alert, one man gets bored and drowsy."
"Bored and Drowsy, didn't they have a Saturday morning show on CBS in the early sixties?" Murdock said, then was silenced by a glare from BA.
"There must be deliveries of food and
"Prayers." BA said.
"Pre-dawn, , afternoon, sunset and night." Murdock reeled off quickly, earning a slightly odd look from Face.
"How useful do you think it is to know
exactly which way your enemy is facing at a specific time? Somebody find out which way
"It's that way, Colonel," Murdock said, pointing. The others looked at him a little strangely.
you sure, Captain?"
"Fool don't know nuthin'," BA growled. "Fool just pointin'." Murdock stopped pointing and turned to the sergeant.
"Are you suggesting I would provide our commanding officer with inaccurate tactical information whilst in a combat zone, because I object to the inference most strongly." This came out in an upper class English accent, which simply riled BA even more.
"Ah'm suggestin' you a fool."
Face decided to resolve things by snagging a passing prisoner gave him The Smile and asked,
"Excuse me, Professor, which way is
"Are you thinking of converting, Mr Peck?" the professor asked.
"I'd have a hard time explaining that one to the nuns," Face replied, the professor went off chuckling.
"Nice guy," Face said turning
back to the others. "Did his post
graduate work at M.I.T., got a sister lives in
"Sometimes I forget just how good at
that you are,"
"Dinner!" Murdock said. "I'm starved." He headed off towards the hut that housed the
kitchens and dining area and the others followed. As they made their way there Face pulled
"I'm worried about Murdock." Face said. "He hasn't had his meds for several days now and it's starting to show." The concern, usually well masked, was very evident on his face.
"I'll do my best,
"A game? Here?" Face just gave a smile and a sort of one
"Just making friends, Colonel, as per orders."
"Well keep the 'making friends' part
in mind and keep the cards out of your sleeve."
"I've seen you cheat in games of Happy Families, with kids."
"I've seen you cheat in a poker game with a gang of Hells Angel's who would've nailed your hand to the table if they'd caught you."
"They didn't catch me though."
"You cheat every time we play cards."
"I gotta practice…."
Two days after visiting the deserted
She looked up at the floor numbers, lighting up in turn as the elevator went down. The lobby button lit up, then went dark again and the elevator continued on down.
"What the hell?" she was sure she'd pressed the right button, she stabbed at the panel, there was no effect, the elevator continued on to the sub basement, two levels down.
"Oh no." She whispered, fear gripped her and as the doors opened she hugged the briefcase to her chest defensively. She got a brief glimpse of two large, dark suited men, their faces covered in gas masks, then one of them threw something into the car. A cloud of white gas flew up and in seconds Amy hit the ground, unconscious.
She came to in a leather chair, her hands and feet were not bound, but she at once had the feeling that trying to get up would be a bad move, not least because her head felt as if it would fall off if she moved too fast. The room she was in was dark; in front of her was a desk, with an angle poise lamp creating a small pool of light. The only item on the desk was her briefcase; it was open, without any apparent signs of being forced. Sitting behind the desk, seemingly deeply engrossed in the manuscript was a man, dark hair, dark suit, yellow tinted glass, untrustworthy looking.
"General Stockwell." Amy said. He looked up, gave her a thin, artificial smile.
"Ah, Miss Allen, you're awake. I trust my men were not too impolite."
"No, they kidnapped me with excellent manners." Amy said dryly. There was someone standing behind her chair in the shadows, she could feel it. As her eyes adjusted she could make out a bank of video monitors, currently dark, on the wall.
"What have you done with Mrs Baracus?" She demanded. Stockwell affected a look of surprise.
"Mrs Baracus is in her hotel room where you left her." He gave that humourless smile again. "I'm aware of what happened to the last people who caused that lady some inconvenience, and since her son is still alive I thought it best…" Amy sat up, excitedly
"You know for sure they're alive, all of them?" There had been no new word since the Frankie Santana video had been released and Amy had feared the worst.
"My sources indicate that they are." Stockwell said. Amy couldn't help smiling widely, relaxed back into the chair. Stockwell picked up the manuscript that he had laid down on the desk,
"This is a very interesting document."
"No, it's a copy of a very interesting document." Amy sounded a little smug.
"Of course." Stockwell was not apparently surprised, "one of several I expect."
"My expenses claim for Xeroxing is going to be rather high this month." Amy admitted. "And I don't even know how many copies Mrs Baracus made."
"All no doubt placed strategically with friends and colleagues, with instructions to publish them should anything… untoward happen to you."
"Listen, Stockwell, we can play these games all day, but if you don't want to see your face on the news there's one way to prevent it. You get them out."
"You want me to rescue the A-Team?" His voice was neutral; he seemed to be asking simply for clarification.
"You sent them in there, you have a duty to them." He raised an eyebrow at that; apparently she'd mentioned a concept he didn't understand. "You have a lot of goons at your command, I know you could do it. You have a responsibility to get them back."
"That wasn't the arrangement and the A-Team knew it. They were aware of the risks and accepted them, they are soldiers."
"Frankie Santana isn't." She watched his face carefully for the slightest sign of guilt; a twinge of conscience, there was nothing.
"Mr Santana threw his lot in with the A-Team when he participated in their escape from execution. He made himself a criminal."
"To help save the lives of innocent men." She pointed out.
"How noble, is that an angle you play up in your story?" He smiled again, infuriatingly, and then said. "Believe me, Miss Allen, I should like nothing more than to retrieve the A-Team from their current situation, they are a valuable asset, but now their capture has become public it is impossible for me to act."
"You have influence, General, high up
"I think you overestimate my influence. I am simply a small part of the defence of our country."
"Well, perhaps we'll all found out how small a part, in tomorrows paper." Amy said and Stockwell glared at her sternly.
"I cannot allow this story to be
published, Miss Allen, not for my own sake, but for the sake of the
"No, as a journalist I see things in black and white, especially headlines." He was leaning forward on the desk, his eyes searching her for any sign she would compromise. She met his gaze steadily, though her heart was pounding. This was it, this was the moment. He could turn around and order her shot. Oh, the story would get out eventually anyway, but a posthumous by-line wasn't much comfort. Finally Stockwell relaxed and sat back in his chair, with a small sigh.
"It seems you learned a lot about stubbornness from the A-Team." He drummed his fingers on the table, the first nervous or irritated gesture she had seen him make, the first sign of genuine emotion. "Very well, I will see what I can do."
"Three days. I want to hear some good news in no more than three days." Now he looked truly irritated.
"Then you publish?" The fingers drummed some more as she nodded. "That's not much time, for what you want me to do."
"I'm sure you'll manage, General." She grinned impishly, "this time you have to do it 'my way'." His eyes narrowed behind his glasses.
"Three days then. You will be at the same hotel?"
"I'm sure wherever I am you'll find me," she said. "And if anything happens to me or Mrs Baracus…" he had pulled himself together and closed his emotions down again.
"Miss Allen, that reporter's imagination of yours is running away with you again. I have no intention of harming yourself or Mrs Baracus. I work for the United States Government, do you know what that means?"
Amy looked at the bank of video monitors,
"It means that I am one of the 'good guys'," he said, entirely seriously. Amy stared at him and then began to laugh. She laughed so long and hard that Stockwell got annoyed and waved a hand to the shadowy man behind Amy's chair, who stepped forward and chloroformed her into unconsciousness. Stockwell shook his head, wondering what he had said that she found so funny.
"Take her back to her hotel and tell the pilot to get ready for take off."
"Yes, sir. The destination?"
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