“Face? Listen to me Face,” Hannibal held his hands out to show that he didn’t hold any weapons. “Everything’s going to be ok.” Hannibal looked around the room. He had to come up with a plan. Face had backed himself into a corner but he knew that if the kid bolted now they might not be able to find him again. Or worse, he might injure himself in the attempt to escape.
Face had a wild look in his eyes that Hannibal had never seen there before. He didn’t know what those bastards had done to him but it was clear that it had been a traumatic experience for the young lieutenant. He could tell that in his current state of mind, Face didn’t even recognize him…
His mind snapped back to the problem at hand when Face tried to edge his way out of the corner. He had to calm him down.
“Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see.,
Bluebirds singing a song, nothing but bluebirds all day long…”
Face had stopped trying to edge away when Hannibal started to sing. He hoped that somewhere in his muddled brain Face recognized the song and knew that he was trying to help.
“Blue days all of them gone, nothing but blue skies from now on.
Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies do I see…”
Hannibal held very still with his arms outstretched. Face had started to move again but instead of shrinking away he had started to come forward. “That’s right Face. Everything’s OK now. Come here and I’ll take you home…”
He was almost there when BA burst into the room, “Hannibal! We couldn’t find…”
Murdock, behind BA, tried to push his way past the big guy when he saw Face. “Face! Man have we been looking for you!” Much to his dismay, Face shrank away from his voice and was looking from side to side for an escape. “Faceman? What’s the matter?”
“BA, get Murdock out of here?” At the same time he yelled Face bolted. Hannibal grabbed him around the waist and tried to hold him still.
“What?!” Murdock tried to run toward them but BA grabbed him and started pulling him toward the door.
“Get him out BA!” Hannibal had tackled Face and now they lay struggling on the floor, “It’s OK Face, I got ya. I got ya now. Everything’s OK” He could tell that Face was tiring, his struggles became less and less until he just lay there in Hannibal’s arms, “I got ya, Son. I got ya. Shhh…Shhhh…It’s OK now, nobody’s going to hurt you.” He rocked him back and forth, and he could see face’s eyes start to close as exhaustion hit him. Hannibal brushed a golden curl from his eyes and continued to talk to him. He tried not to think about why Face flinched at his touch…
“BA! Let me go! I gotta go!”
Murdock might as well have been handcuffed, as he couldn’t break free from BA’s grip.
“Hey Crazyman! Hannibal said out,” BA shook the struggling pilot, “You hear me fool? Let the Colonel take care of the Faceman.”
Murdock stopped trying to get away but he stared at the warehouse they had just exited, waiting for any sign of his friends, “I knew something was wrong! You guys should have listened to me sooner!”
BA didn’t know if he could handle a distraught Murdock, the crazyman was shaking and he could see the worry in his face, “I know little brother. It’s gonna be all right. Why don’t we get the van ready for the Colonel and Face? OK?”
Given something to do that would help Face settled the pilot a little and he jumped into the van and started pulling out blankets.
Once it appeared that Face had passed out, Hannibal gently picked him up and headed toward the exit. He was grateful to note that BA had pulled the van closer and he could see that Murdock was ready with blankets and the medical kit.
He settled Face in and Murdock wrapped him up. Hannibal thought about giving Face a sedative but he didn’t want to complicate matters. After all, they didn’t know why Face was in the condition he was in. “BA, let’s get out of here,” He spared a glance at Murdock who was figiting over the lieutenant and lowered his voice so that only BA heard him, “I think we need to call Maggie.”
Part Two by Linda Shan
“What they do to him Hannibal? B.A.’s grip on the steering wheel tightened noticeably as he diverted his eyes from the dangerously narrow road to take a quick glance at his commander.
“I don’t know B.A., but he didn’t recognize me. I don’t know what will happen when he wakes up. ”
“I think we’re gonna find out sooner than you hoped, Hannibal.” BA heard a low moan coming from the back of the van and saw Murdock’s pale face in his rear view mirror.
“Colonel, he’s waking up.” Murdock’s voice was hoarse with concern.
Suddenly, Face began to scream incoherently and struggle frantically against the hands trying gently to restrain him. Horrified, Murdock watched the beautiful features of his friend grimace in agony — the muscles in his straining neck standing out in alarming detail.
“I need help back here,” Murdock cried, kneeling to get a better angle to pin his friend to the floor of the van.
“BA, pull over now!” Hannibal terse command was still ringing through the vehicle as it lurched to a stop. The passenger door slamming followed seconds after that as the Colonel ran around to yank open the rear doors.
A blur of gold and black hit Smith squarely in the chest, knocking him to the ground. He gasped, momentarily deprived of the necessarily air to breathe. When his vision cleared, he sat up to see the large form of BA pulling Murdock out of the van. The pilot was cradling his chin in his left hand, blood dripping from between his fingers.
“Where is he? Where did he go?” Smith barked, as both he and BA spun in a circle.
Mutely, Murdock pointed with a shaking finger 40 yards away to the side of a road which dropped off into nothing. The object of their search was teetering on the edge, his arms thrown out behind him, temporarily holding a precarious balance against a long fall.
The three men by the van all froze in shock at the sight. The only sound that was heard was the harsh breathing from the blond man at the edge of the chasm and the blood falling from Murdock’s mouth spattering on the loose dirt.
With a moan, the figure on the precipice dropped to one knee, eliciting a collective gasp from the three men standing painfully out of reach of their colleague.
Face bowed his head, still breathing hard. With desperate intent he frantically removed his black, leather jacket, then clawed at his chest, ripping the buttons from his shirt. He pulled the material so violently from his body, he almost lost his balance and fell. Once naked from the waist up, he paused, his balance centered on one knee.
As if on cue, the three men began to move with the utmost care. Without even the need for signals, each man moved to a different approach angle to their friend. Hannibal took the position closest to Face. He waited until BA had circled around to the right and Murdock took a position closer behind, before Hannibal called softly to Peck.
“Face. It’s Hannibal. Please step back from that ledge. Take a few steps back and we can talk about this. You are in danger, Face. Please move back!” The silver haired man stretched out a hand that had no chance of reaching Peck, but Hannibal’s stomach-churning fear for his friend made him desperate.
Face didn’t respond to the entreaty. He just began muttering to himself. The younger man seemed oblivious to Smith as well as his other friends, who were gradually inching closer.
“No!” The sudden roar from Face froze all movement again. Peck stood up and threw the remnant of his shirt into the air, watching it flutter down the steep drop. Taking a small step to bring both feet to the edge of the cliff, the con man stiffened his body and leaned forward into the wind.
Hannibal swallowed convulsively. His brain struggled frantically for answers. His mind screamed at him, //What is happening here? What is happening? Do something now. God! Do something! // He saw Face close his eyes, and Hannibal watched his perfect features settle into a peaceful expression.
>From behind Face, Murdock whimpered. He was as puzzled as the rest of the Team as to the cause of his friend’s behavior, but he had seen this act play out on another occasion on the roof of the V.A., with the patient from the room across the hall from his, with disastrous results.
“This is what Murdock was trying to tell me about flying.” Murdock flinched at the first words Face had spoken that he had been able to understand since they’d found him.
Horrified, Murdock watched Peck lean forward even further, the wind whipping his ash blond hair wildly.
“Hannibal, BA, we are out of time.” Murdock growled the words without taking his eyes from the lean body before him, just out of reach.
In the only apparent acknowledgment that he was not alone on that cliff, Face turned and looked directly at Murdock, smiling gently at him. An unbidden thought crossed Murdock’s mind that in that moment, his friend had never looked so beautiful.
Then he jumped.
Part Three by Theresa
The three men shouted “NOOOOOO!” as they ran to the edge of the cliff. Each of them wanting to look down, but hesitating for none of them wanted to witness the sight of their friend and comrade twisted into a heap of unrecognizable material..
Murdock was the first to look over the ledge. A wave of relief hit his body like a mac truck as he noticed Face laying precariously on a ledge about fifteen feet down.
“Colonel! He’s on a ledge!”
Hannibal began shouting instructions to the remaining team members. “BA, get the gear from the van! Murdock, bring a blanket and the first aid kit!” The two men hastily carried out their orders.
BA came back with the climbing equipment. Hannibal reached for the harness, but BA stopped him. “No, man, let me do it. Face is going to need someone to carry him up.” Hannibal realized BA was right and they quickly fashioned the harness and locked the ropes into place. They secured one end of the rope to a large tree and BA attached the extra harness to his belt, grabbed tightly onto the other end of the rope and began propelling himself over the side of the cliff. Murdock and the Colonel steadied the rope that was straining under the weight of the hulking sergeant.
Meanwhile, back at the office building of Hadley and Hadley. The blond-haired man behind the desk methodically tapped his pen on the ink blotter, as his brother threw darts at a dart board with a picture of the A-team posted to it.
“So, you think by this time Peck has bit the big one?” Brian asked.
“Well, with all the drugs we pumped into him, I would say he probably took a flying leap off some cliff somewhere. OK who will be next?” Richard replied as he threw another dart at the picture.
His brother got up from the desk and removed the dart from the smiling face of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith. “Looks like their leader is the next to go…and then there will be two..”
“Sergeant, can you reach him?”
“Yeah man, I am almost there.” BA replied as he looked for a place to set himself down next to the injured lieutenant. He gently eased his muscular body onto the ledge and stoop down next to Face.
“Face! Face! can you hear me? Come on man answer me! Hannibal!!!! He won’t answer me!! I think he is dead man!!!” BA shouted sorrowfully.
Part Four by Minot Mogul
The two Hadley brothers were rudely interrupted by a figure kicking open the door. The man simply took out a cigarette and walked over to the dartboard. He took out a match and struck it on the face of Colonel John Smith. He let out a sick, maniacal laugh and sat down on a chair. He just sat there and stared at the two men for ages.
“So you think you got the ATeam? You two idiots haven’t got squat. You let him get away. Stupid. Very stupid. Strictly amateurs.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“My name is really not important. Consider me a “business consultant” with a vested interest in a mutual enterprise. Now I heard one of you two geniuses saying you plan on going after Colonel John Smith.” The man gave a chuckle.” I have gone after the good Colonel and trust me; you are not in his league. Now I do have to say that you were off to a promising start. You did manage, through sheer blind luck I’m sure, to find the one Achilles Heel of the great Colonel. You see, the only way one can even hope to get to Smith is through Peck.”
“He’s dead by now, probably jumped off a cliff or something.”
“You are right about one thing. He did jump off a cliff. From the description of my associate, it was a really beautiful sight. Wish I could have seen it. Maybe later, after he has served his purpose, I can see if I can convince Mr. Peck to recreate the performance. But he is not dead. Hurt badly, yes. Dead no. Now before I go any farther, how badly do you want the ATeam?”
“The ATeam ruined our father and ruined our lives. We should have been rich, living it up in the Bahamas instead of stuck here in this chicken shit office.”
“all right. You lack brains, but you seem to have the desire. I will lend my expertise. Listen up though, stooges. I call the shots. You will follow my orders and will not ask any questions, got that?” The man pulled out a list of items and handed it to the two men. “You will get me everything on this list. I will be back in an hour and trust that everything will be ready. Now, do you still have the bottle of the drugs you so kindly gave Mr. Peck?”
Richard reached into the drawer and pulled out a clear glass bottle and handed it to his knew boss. The man looked at the bottle and smiled. “Crude. Very Effective poison, but very crude. Makes the victim go insane, reliving his worst fears. After 24 hours, the mind clears up and the victim has no recollection of the ensuing time. It seems everything is back to normal. Than after another 48 hours of normalcy, than the fun begins. The body begins to convulse in terrible pain as the poison attacks the internal organs. The antidote must be administered within 24 hours of the convulsions or it is too late. They get to watch the victim’s agony intensify until he mercifully dies. Crude but effective. After everything Mr. Peck has done to me, I shall rather enjoy watching him scream in pain. The poor kid looks absolutely adorable suffering. Too bad I can’t limit his suffering to the poison, but I must have my fun.”
“Say, how in the hell did you find us anyway?”
“I stalked you. You see, Mr. Peck is kind of a pet project of mine. I have him followed constantly. He doesn’t do anything without it being reported back to me. He is the key to the demise of the ATeam. Their demise is my mission, some might say my calling in life, and so I never lose sight of the key. Now I will be leaving. Wait 5 minutes and than call the telephone number at the bottom of the paper. Tell him “Kyle says the plan is in motion and the chick is in the pen.”
“Kyle, the Kyle? I thought you were dead or in an insane asylum by now. We tried to find you.”
“I know. The thing is, you never find me, but I will always find you.” Kyle turned around and left the office. The Hadley brothers sat staring at each other in stunned silence. Finally one of them spoke. ” We are in deep. Real deep.”
Back at the cliff, the world had come to a crashing halt for the aforementioned ATeam. It appeared to them that the worst that could have happened had. Hannibal blinked to clear the sweat and tears out of his eyes.
“Did you check for a pulse yet? Just because he ain’t answering does not mean he’s dead.”
“OK, man. We got a pulse. He ain’t dead.” BA answered in a relieved voice. “He still ain’t moving or saying nothin.”
“BA, you call me a crazy fool and you scare the shit out of us, declaring someone dead before you even check for a pulse. I knew we should have sent you down instead, Hannibal.”
“BA is stronger and younger than me. He is the only chance Face has got. Now both of you can the damn bickering and get it in gear. BA pick him up and hold him tight. OK. Lets take this slow and easy. We don’t want to jar him anymore than we have to.” It seemed like an eternity before BA finally crested the cliff with his precious burden. Hannibal immediately grabbed Face from BA, shocked into momentary silence by the blood that covered BA’s chest and the scratches and bruises littering Face’s chest. He felt a wave of pure anger and rage course through him. He did not know who or where the bastards that did this were, but he made a silent vow that they would pay. He would find them, even if it took the rest of his life. He would make them pay. He caught Murdock out of the corner of his eye. HM was looking on the verge of panic. Hannibal tried to shoot him one of his most confident and reassuring smiles. Murdock returned the smile in kind but neither one of the smiles made it up to their eyes. Hannibal looked down and gently kissed the golden curls. “Hang in there, kid. Don’t check out on me know. You’re going to be OK, I promise you. No one is going to hurt you again.” “God, help.” Hannibal silently prayed, “please help him. Don’t make me a liar.” The Team hurried back into the van in silence. The door closed and BA drove off in the direction of Maggie’s clinic as fast as the trusty van could safely be driven.
A dark figure reported the proceedings through a cell phone. Kyle picked up the phone and listened to the figure on the other end with a malicious, evil smile on his face. He then hung up the phone. “You’re going to be OK, I promise you. No one is going to hurt you again.” he repeated, his voice oozing with sarcasm. He laughed long and hard and took out a box he had stashed on the floor. He opened the box with an almost reverent care. He stroked the bamboo lovingly and contentedly. “Well, Colonel Smith, this is one promise that you will not be able to keep. I have waited and plotted for too long to be denied. Its payback time, Hannibal, and you know what they say about paybacks. They’re a real bitch.” Kyle started laughing again and signaled the driver to drive off.
Part Five by Terri Spencer
As the van sped through the quiet countryside, the team was silent. All were lost in their own thoughts. None of them had ever seen Face act like that, and none of them wished to ever see it again.
It was especially painful for Hannibal. He had never seen such hopelessness in Faces eyes before. Before tonight, he had always believed that Face could make light of any situation. But seeing Face flip out in the warehouse, and then jump off a cliff, had changed Hannibal mind.
He looked down at the young man, seemingly asleep in his arms. He hugged him closer to his chest, and softly kissed the hot forehead. Face whimpered.
“How long before we get to Maggies, BA?” Hannibal asked.
“About another 2 hours, Hannibal.” The big man answered.
“Try to make it there in less time, BA. He’s getting hot. Murdock, hand me that water, will you? And see if you can find a rag.”
“Willdo, Colonel.” A rag was stuffed into Hannibal’s hand, along with a water jug. Hannibal damped the cloth, and put it to Faces forehead.
That revived Face a little. “Hannibal?”He said plaintively, holding out a hand. Hannibal grasped it, and Murdock grasped the other. “What happened?” He whispered.
Hannibal fought back the tears that came to his eyes. “You’ve had a little accident, Face. Just relax. We’re going to Maggie’s.”
Face looked like he was having trouble breathing, so Hannibal propped him up higher against his chest. “I don’t feel good.” Face said, and promptly vomited all over Hannibal. Then he looked frightened. “Please don’t hit me! I didn’t mean to! I’ll be good, I promise.” The tears rolled down his face, eyes begging Hannibal not to hit him.
Hannibal hugged Face tighter against him. “I won’t hit you, Face. I promise. You rest now. Ssshhh, don’t cry. I’m not mad at you. Close your eyes and go to sleep.” Hannibal saw the eyes close. He noticed that Murdock started humming a lullaby, and joined in.
They pulled into Bad Rock, and pulled into Maggie’s. driveway. BA pulled open the side door, and reached into the back. As BA cradled Face in his arms, Hannibal and Murdock knocked on the door. “Face is hurt, Maggie. He’s on something, and he jumped off a cliff. He would be dead if a ledge hadn’t been there.” Hannibal stated to the weary eyed doctor.
Maggie Sullivan opened up the door, stunned speechless by what Hannibal had said. “Through there, BA.” She said crisply, and followed the big man to her surgery. The first thing she did when Face was lying down was take off his shirt. “Hannibal, mix some water with rubbing alcohol in a bowl and bring it over here. BA, Murdock hold his hands. I’m going to draw blood to see what we are dealing with.” As she got the syringe, she noticed Hannibal already wiping at some of the scratches on Faces chest. After drawing the blood, she felt around his ribcage. “He’s got three broken ribs.” She felt Faces arms and legs next. “His right tibia is broken. He’s going to be laid up for a while. You said he jumped off a cliff?”
“Yes, We found him at a warehouse. He’d been drugged, but we don’t know with what. He didn’t even recognize me, Maggie. And on the way over here, after he got sick on me, he acted like I was going to hit him.” It all came out of Hannibal in a hurry. He was too tired to try to sugar coat it.
“Well, he’s here now, so he’s safe. BA, Murdock, go on upstairs and hit the sack. Hannibal, go into the other room and change that shirt. Then come on back here. I know that you will not leave Faces side, so I won’t ask you to. I’m going to go to the lab and figure out what this is. Try to keep him calm. I’ll be back soon.” Maggie left for her lab, and Hannibal looked down at Face. Face looked so much like a child that Hannibal stroked his cheek.
“Don’t worry, kid. I’m here.” He said softly.
Meanwhile, a dark shadow emerged from some nearby trees. He pulled out his phone, and dialed. It was answered on the second ring. “Yeah, it’s me Kyle. I’ve followed them to a town called Bad Rock. They took him to a woman doctor who’s name is Sullivan…”
Part Six by Lou Cashmore
Murdock lay on the bed; his eyes wide open with fear. He couldn’t sleep, not with his closest friend dying downstairs. ‘Fitting really,’ H.M thought to himself. ‘The times I had tormented him….’ His thoughts trailed off leading him to sit up. Murdock felt there was a gaping hole within him. He looked over to B.A, who was rubbing at his ‘holy cross’ chain on his chest. The silence in the room was suffocating H.M and he couldn’t stand it any longer. He got off the bed and walked over to the window.
H.M stared out into the garden of trees and flowers. He tried to clear his mind by using the visualization techniques he had picked up from the V.A – he never thought it would come in handy. As he seemed to relax, his sight sharpened. H.M spotted something in the corner of his eye, something that wouldn’t had been seen through his stressed, worrying eyes.
“Hey B.A,” Murdock whispered, trying not to give off any signs or sharp movements.
“Fool, I ‘ain’t in the mood for your jive – how can you even think about it?” B.A replied with his eyes closed. His silent prayers for his friend continued to pass through his mind.
“No B.A, come and look at this,” he told, trying not to move his mouth and to act natural. “There’s something out there…….WATCHING us!”
B.A opened his eyes to see the white-washed ceiling briefly before seeing the back of Murdock’s head framed within the window. He pulled himself off the bed and made his way over. B.A positioned himself next to H.M and looked deep into the distance where the horizon met the top of the trees.
“Don’t look directly,” Murdock spoke. “At 3 o’clock there’s some movement behind the bush, possible a pair of binocs.” B.A innocently looked above where Murdock had mentioned and came to the same conclusion as the pilot. B.A turned around and sat on the window ledge.
“I think I should tell Hannibal – you keep an eye out and warn us if there is any change.”
B.A got up from the ledge to move away, but he felt a weak hand grip at his arm. He turned around to find Murdock looking directly into his eyes. He saw the pure fear in them: searching for answers that they couldn’t find.
“See how Face is doing – let me know.” Murdock said, his voice full of emotion.
B.A nodded and as he headed down the stairs, he wondered if he was man enough to see Peck writhing in pain. He knew Murdock couldn’t and left knowing that he needed some time to release the pent-up tears in his eyes.
“You FOOL!!” Kyle shouted down the phone. “I told you to be careful you idiot! I warned you to be diligent around there – you’re not stalking the runt of the litter now,” he continued to fume down the phone.
“Who made you out?” The voice on the other end replied but was only heard by Kyle. The other two were acting like they were sitting on a knife edge: the atmosphere was overflowing with tension.
“The pilot?! Why him of all people: he has eyes like a friggin’ hawk!! Who else?….Well you better get out of there before the mohawk comes and gets you – he can pack a punch like a brick wall falling on you!” Kyle felt his jaw. He still had problems with it to this day.
“Why did I even think of letting you do this job you so-called military man?” Kyle finished slamming the phone back down on the desk. “What are you looking at?!” He turned his anger onto the two men in the room.
Both of them shrugged and backed away from the enrage madman.
Hannibal had a clean shirt on and was sitting there besides the unmoving Lieutenant gently stroking at his golden hair as if he was only sleeping. A low thudding came from the other side of the door and with a deep, depressive sigh, Hannibal tore himself away from Face and headed towards the only exit from the room. Sullenly, he opened the door to reveal a very ‘on edge’ Sergeant.
“Colonel, we have a problem.”
Hannibal was still full of anger towards whoever did this to his friend and not thinking about it, he let loose.
“You’re telling me! Face could be dying in there and those sons-of-bitches are at fault! Like hell we have a problem!” Hannibal fiercely said. Though B.A knew it wasn’t directed at him.
“We have a snoop and he’s got binoculars and everything – the crazyman spotted him.”
The anger was in Hannibal’s eyes and B.A could see it. Hannibal turned to look at Face then back at the Sergeant. He stepped outside of the room and closed the door to the room.
“Let’s do this for Face, let’s get the bastard!” Hannibal vowed.
B.A took Hannibal to where Murdock had seen the person in the back garden. The snoop spotted his hunters and took off, but the sharp eyes of the Colonel’s spotted the fearing person and took chase, closely followed by BA
Murdock was still at the window and saw everything unfold. “He took a right at the gate Colonel!” He shouted out of the opened window. As he had said, Hannibal turned right and was hot on the trail. The trees now stopped Murdock from using his aerial expertise to help his team mates. There was nothing left for him to do other than face his fear that lay in the room below…….
Part 7a by Ms. Coyote
Murdock waited at the window, staring into the trees, until Hannibal and BA were out of sight. Then he stayed there a while longer, just wishing he could do something to help them. But it was okay, he told himself. BA and the Colonel, they were smart guys, highly trained soldiers. They could take care of themselves and deal with whoever was out there in the trees. He was a pilot; on the ground, much as he hated to admit it, he was out of his element. Besides, someone had to stay behind and look after Face.
Face. The name echoing in his thoughts brought him abruptly back to the present. Pulling himself away from the window, he left the bedroom and walked quietly down the hall and down the stairs to the infirmary. He went to the bed where Face was lying and bent over him, anxiously examining the still, pale form for any signs of change. He found none, and was about to turn away when Face opened his eyes. Eyes that were clear and lucid, although slightly confused. “Murdock?” he asked sleepily. “Is that you?”
Murdock wanted to run up and down the hallways whooping and hollering for joy, but he willed himself to stay quiet. “Yup, it’s me, Faceyman. How you feeling?”
Face raised one hand weakly to his forehead and rubbed at it. “How am I feeling? Like I have the world’s biggest hangover–and I don’t even remember being at the party the night before!” He raised his head from the pillow, trying to look around. “Where are we, anyway? What is this place?”
“We’re in Bad Rock, and this is Maggie’s place. Thought you’d remember it from all the other times.”
“Bad Rock? Oh, that’s just great! Who’s the casualty this time?”
“You are, Face…no, wait! Don’t!” Murdock laid his hands on Face’s shoulders as he tried to sit up and carefully eased him back down again. “You’ve got a broken leg, couple of ribs…might be best to stay put for now.”
Face nodded in agreement, wincing slightly, then frowned. “How’d I get– I mean, what happened? I’m trying to think, but everything’s so fuzzy….”
Murdock hesitated, unsure of how much to say. But then he decided the truth was their best weapon against whatever it was they were fighting. “You jumped off a cliff,” he said quietly.
“What??” Face sat bolt upright, oblivious to any pain he might have been feeling, his eyes blazing with anger. “Murdock, that is *not* funny! I ask you a simple question and you try to make some kind of sick joke out of it–!”
“I’m serious! Face, do you think I’d be joking at a time like this?” They faced each other, wounded brown eyes staring into fierce blue ones. Murdock took a deep breath, willing himself to be calm, putting the story together carefully in his head before speaking. “Four days ago, you got dressed up and went out. You said you had an important business meeting and you’d be back in a couple of hours. We didn’t think much of it at the time, figured you were just ‘producing’ or something like that–but when the hours passed and you didn’t come back, *then* we started to worry. And when it got to be the next morning and you still weren’t back, well then, we were more than worried, we were scared! Hannibal just about went crazy…you know how someone gets when they’re all churned up inside, but they’re not gonna let you see it for all the gold in Mexico? Well, that’s the way he was: wired on the inside, but on the outside–just like a rock. He had that look in his eye that I haven’t seen on him since ‘Nam, and me and BA knew better than to get in his way. We went out to look for you–he didn’t say a word except to give us our orders, and we didn’t let out a peep either. We just got real quiet and followed him where he led us.
“It took us a long time to find you…I won’t bother you with the details right now. But when we did, you were out of your mind, you didn’t even recognize us! It was some kind of drug you were on that was giving you hallucinations. You thought we were your enemies, and when we tried to help you, you fought us off and ran! We chased you all the way to the edge of the cliff, then we tried to talk you down, but you gave us the strangest look and then–you just jumped off! You’re lucky there was a ledge down there, or else–Face! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to– Face, what’s the matter?”
At the words “jumped off,” the young lieutenant had started to tremble. It grew worse and worse until he was shaking violently despite his best efforts to control himself. “No,” he whispered. “No! That was a dream! It wasn’t–it couldn’t be real!”
“Face, listen….” Murdock sat down carefully on the edge of the bed. He reached out to Face, reassuring him with his touch, kneading his shoulders gently. “Face, c’mon, talk to me. I’m really sorry I sprung it on you like that, but real or dream, it’s over now. You’re awake and you’re gonna be all right.” I hope, he added silently. He continued his ministrations, touching and talking softly, until at last the other man’s body began to relax. Face’s breathing was uneven for some time; he tried to say something, but at first he couldn’t seem to make a sound come out. Murdock watched him as he struggled with his fear, thinking over what he had heard and trying to be rational about it–literally scamming himself back into shape. When the process was over and he finally did speak, he seemed very close to his old self once more.
*”I’m* sorry, Murdock. I don’t know what got into me, overreacting like that. It’s just that–well, I’ve had a hard day, you know? And it can be a bit of a shock to have someone tell you you’ve been trying to act out your dreams in real life, especially if they’re as strange as this one was!”
“I know…dreams can be really weird sometimes….Look, Face–I didn’t mean to upset you, honest! It’s just that I didn’t know how else to tell you–”
“It’s all right. Like you said, I’m awake now, and I’m over it…or at least I think I am….” He shivered again, almost imperceptibly. “God, what a dream…!”
“Would you like to try telling me about it? They’re always asking us about our dreams at the VA, and a lot of the time it helps us to talk about ’em.”
Face looked doubtful. “You really think that will help? I’m begining to think I’d rather just forget it…
“Suit yourself…but I can tell you from personal experience that if you’re confused, if there’s cobwebs in your head, sometimes talking about it is a good way of sweeping ’em out. Clears the old brain box up real good.”
“Well, all right….” Face closed his eyes for a moment, collecting his thoughts, then looked up again. “You know how dreams are…just symbols strung together that don’t seem to mean anything. That’s the way it was with this dream. I was…somewhere, I don’t know exactly where. Maybe it was a city, maybe a jungle or a forest, I just can’t remember. There were enemies after me–could have been NVA, or gangsters, or even monsters from outer space, for all I could tell! All I knew was that if they caught me, I was a dead man! So I ran from them. I used every trick I ever learned to get away (and you know how many tricks I know, don’t you?) I was doing all right for a while, until I started to get tired; then they started closing in. They cornered me, they took me prisoner and tried to get me to talk. They had all kinds of clever disguises to try to trick me, and they knew all kinds of things, things they never should have known! One of them pretended to be Hannibal and acted so kind and good, and even sang ‘Blue Skies’ to me! Now you tell me, how did he know about that?” For a moment he looked frightened and bewildered, then he gave a short laugh. “Of course–he knew everything I knew! It was a dream!…Anyway…where was I?…I wasn’t fooled by any of it. I let them think I’d passed out; I let them load me into a truck, but I was watching all the time, when they thought I was unconscious. I waited for the moment and when it came, when they let their guard down, I broke free of them and ran again. I kept on running until, all of a sudden, there was a cliff in front of me. I stopped then–I had to!–and I turned to face them. I really was preparing to die, Murdock! I can still feel the fear, and the struggle to get past it and accept death, the way we learned to do. But then….” He paused, searching for the words to explain himself. The silence lengthened.
“Then what?” Murdock prompted gently.
“Then I suddenly realized that everything was just fine. I remembered I had a good friend named Murdock who had taught me to fly, and that meant I didn’t have to be afraid of the bad guys or anyone else! I could fly away and escape them any time I wanted! So I looked at them, and instead of seeing their faces, I imagined I saw yours. I smiled at you, just to let you know I understood what you were trying to tell me…and I stretched out my arms…and I flew away.” The corners of his mouth lifted in what might have been a smile had he been stronger. “Crazy, huh? Maybe I should go back with you to the VA and check myself in for a little vacation….”
“No, no, Face! I’ve been in the hospital long enough to know crazy when I see it, and that’s not you! It was a drug, that’s all. We don’t know what kind of drug, or who dosed you, but Maggie’s down at her lab finding out the what, and we’re gonna find out the who, and make them pay. That’s a promise!”
“My friends….” Face said softly, then he shivered again. “There was a ledge, you say…? I guess I’m lucky to be here talking about dreams at all!” A strange look came over him then. It was as if his eyes were looking past Murdock into another world. “But you want to know something funny? It felt absolutely wonderful–flying, I mean. If I could be sure that the cliff wasn’t real, that it really was just a dream, I’d do it again like a shot. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you, Murdock?”
“I sure do. It’s a beautiful thing, flying is….But listen, Face, you gotta promise me one thing. Next time you fly, use a plane. Trust me on this, it’s the best way to go. That other way–your arms get too tired!’ He smiled at Face and received the ghost of a smile in return.
“I promise.” Face lay back down and closed his eyes. Murdock moved off the bed to give him room. Suddenly Face’s eyes opened again. “There’s more,” he said. “That is, if you’re up to hearing it.”
“You know I am, Face. Go on ahead.”
Face took a deep breath and lay staring at the ceiling for a moment, composing himself before he began. “All right–Face’s Nightmare, Part Two, which may be just a nightmare, or it may be an actual memory from my childhood. I don’t know which…I never have known. I talked with Father Magill about it when I was at the orphanage; I’ve seen therapists, but nobody seems to be able to tell me anything for sure. It used to bother me a lot, but not anymore; I hardly ever think of it, except once in a great while, if I’m under a lot of stress…and I suppose this would qualify as a lot of stress….” His voice trailed off and he looked vacantly off into space for a few seconds, then shook himself back to reality.
“Right. The dream. I’m in a big house…everything looks even bigger because I’m a real little kid. Four years old, maybe five. There are three people living in the house: me, a woman–my mother, I think, she must be–and a man. A big, angry man, always shouting about something. I never see his face, just his hands, huge hands like slabs of meat…and I hear that big, roaring, angry voice, and it scares me, because I don’t know what will happen when I hear it, only that it’s bound to be something bad, real bad.
“In my dream I’m in bed, sick with the flu. *He* comes home, mad as hell about something; he drags me out of bed and stands me up in front of him and starts yelling at me in that voice, telling me to stand up straight, be a man, not a whining little sissy! Then I…I can’t help it–I throw up, all over his shoes! When that happens, he yells even louder, and he starts to hit me. He hits me over and over again with those big hands. It doesn’t matter if I cry, or beg him to stop, in fact I think my crying only makes it worse. She screams and tries to pull him off me; I think he hits her too, but I can’t be sure because that’s when I always wake up.”
“It doesn’t matter, Murdock. Really, it doesn’t. I’m a big boy now, not a little boy anymore. I can handle a little thing like a bad dream. I’ve been doing it for years!” His expression grew suddenly thoughtful. “This time, though, it was different. This time he had hold of me, and I didn’t just puke on his shoes, I did it all over him! His shirt, his pants, everything! I was so scared I thought my heart would burst; I was begging him, please don’t hit me, but I knew it wouldn’t help, I knew he was going to kill me for sure this time! I almost wished he would, because then it would be over and nothing would hurt anymore. But he didn’t! The big man didn’t hit me, not even once! He just held me close and said he wasn’t mad and soothed me to sleep, just the way I’d always wanted him to. Just like a real father.” His eyes were filled with wonder. “What do you think that means, Murdock? Why was it different this time?”
“I think…..” Murdock spoke slowly and carefully. “I think it means your father really does love you.”
“Ah.” Face smiled at that–a blissful, dreamy smile that all too soon faded, to be replaced by a look of drained exhaustion. “I still don’t feel too good…tired….Murdock, would you mind….”
“Of course not! Face, you’ve been through so much. Sleep is the best thing for you right now. I’ll stay right here with you and stand watch, if you want me to….”
“That’d be good….Thanks, Murdock, you’re a real friend….” Face mumbled, already slipping away into sleep. Murdock found a chair in one corner of the room, dragged it close to the bed and eased himself into it, watching his friend’s face all the while. He watched as the weariness and pain slowly disappeared and peace and contentment took their place. In that moment Murdock thought that Face looked beautiful again, the way he had at the edge of the cliff.
//Please, God, if you love him, don’t let him fall any further!…//
Time passed. The two men, one in the bed and one in the chair, remained motionless. Suddenly Face stirred in his sleep and murmured something. His voice had changed; it was a small boy’s voice coming from a grown man’s throat.
“Ssshh, ssshh….Go to sleep now, baby. Everything’s all right.” Murdock reached out a hand to stroke Face’s forehead, smoothing his hair. “Daddy’s just…gone out hunting. Big brother BA is with him too. They’re gonna catch the big bad wolf. They’re gonna make the woods safe again, so you can sleep sound….”
A puzzled frown creased Face’s features. “Dad’s gone?…Big brother’s gone?…Who’re you, then?”
//Careful, Murdock! He’s in another world now! You don’t want to flip him out again!// “I’m your friend Murdock, who’s gonna stay with you when you’re alone, so you don’t get scared.”
“Oh, good!” the little boy said happily. Then he continued in a worried tone, “But you better make yourself invisible, okay? ‘Cause if anybody sees you, we might both get in a lot of trouble!”
“Right you are! Invisible it is!” Murdock waved his hands in front of his face like a magician performing a trick. “Poof! Now you see me, now you don’t!”
“You’re funny, Murdock!” Templeton giggled and settled himself down–then he opened his eyes one last time. “You won’t leave me, will you?” he asked anxiously.
“I won’t leave you, Temmy. I’ll watch over you till your Daddy comes home, and after that too, for as long as you want me. I’ll always stay with you, I promise. Now you be a good boy and go to sleep, all right?”
“All right.” The little boy inside the man’s body closed his eyes again. After a second or two he began to speak softly in a singsong voice, as if telling himself a bedtime story.
“I’ve got an invisible friend, no one can see him but me. His name is Murdock, and he’s the best pilot in the world. He can fly any kind of plane. One day he’ll teach me to fly, and then I’ll fly away from here…forever….”
The story ended in midsentence. He was asleep, the look of peace back on his face.
Murdock felt tears gathering in his eyes and blinked them back fiercely. //Not now!// he scolded himself. //You gotta be strong now, and watch over Face, like you promised you would!// He settled down into the chair and focused his eyes on Face, concentrating on keeping his vigil.
More time went by–how long, exactly, Murdock couldn’t tell. All of a sudden Face gave a harsh cry and clutched at his stomach with both hands.His handsome face was no longer peaceful, butcontorted into an awful mask of agony.
“Face!” Murdock cried out in alarm, jumping up from the chair to his friend’s side. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing…just…a cramp….’M all right, Murdock….” The spasm seemed to pass and he drifted off once more. Murdock slumped back into the chair. He could feel the fear now, gnawing at him from the inside out, freezing him to the bone….
Hurry back, Colonel, he pleaded silently. Hurry back soon. We need you to make us a plan to save Face and get him out of this. Because, honestly, I don’t think he’s got much time left…..
Part 7b by Ms. Coyote
Hannibal and B.A. moved through the forest, guns drawn, on the trail of their quarry. The trees stirred slightly, moved by the air; there were the usual insect sounds, but nothing else. No sound or movement out of the ordinary, and nothing abnormal visible. Had Murdock gone delusional? Was he playing another one of his crazy games?
No, Hannibal decided. He knew his men almost as well as they knew themselves – better in some ways. Murdock might like to play the fool, but he also knew when to fold the game and get serious. It was unthinkable that he would be clowning around at a time like this. Furthermore, his eyes, unlike his mental processes, were in perfect working order. If Murdock said he saw someone out there, then someone was definitely out there. The only question was, where?
They inched forward silently, all their senses alert for some sign of their enemy. Suddenly, there it was. A rustling in the leaves that was just that much louder than the normal night sounds, a shadow larger and darker than the others. Hannibal stopped short and waited, listening. Behind him, B.A. did the same. The forest was quiet once more. Whoever had cast the shadow was waiting as well.
“What do you think, B.A.?” Hannibal asked quietly.
“I heard somethin’, Hannibal. Sounded like it came from over there.”
“Right. We’ll check it out–but be careful!” He pointed toward the left. B.A. understood and melted into the shadows, moving with surprising grace for so bulky a man. Hannibal followed him for a short distance, covering the rear, then he stopped, concealed himself behind a tree and waited. There was a long pause during which nothing happened. Then all at once the forest erupted into a torrent of sound. It was as if a big angry bear had awakened and was charging through the trees intent on killing something. And the bear–if it was a bear–was coming closer!
Hannibal smiled. Everything going according to plan so far. Now if the mystery man would only cooperate….
A larger shadow separated itself from the ones cast by the trees and began creeping away, trying to avoid the noise. Hannibal had been expecting just such a move. He followed, shadowing the shadow, drawing closer. Suddenly B.A. burst into view, taking huge strides and growling menacingly. The shadowy figure bolted in panic away from the big man with the mohawk and right into Hannibal, who leaped on him and brought him crashing to the ground. The man scrambled to his feet, instantly ready for battle, but a blow from B.A.’s huge fist flattened him once more. The sergeant hauled the limp, semi-conscious figure up by the front of his shirt. Hannibal looked closely at the man’s features, then let out a small exclamation of surprise.
“Well, well! Look what we’ve got here! Some of the pieces are beginning to fall into place!”
“I don’t understand, Hannibal. What we got? And what’s fallin’ into place?”
What they had was a smallish, ferret-faced man with black hair chopped off short and beady little dark eyes. His face had been utterly slack, but as he regained consciousness it took on a look of defiance only slightly marred by the anxious glances he kept darting in B.A.’s direction.
“What we have is a phantom–a ghost. The Army’s ultimate secret weapon. Sergeant B.A. Baracus, I’d like you to meet Captain Vince Rodman, surveillance expert second to none and practitioner of other less savory disciplines, if the price happens to be right.”
“Lies,” the thin man mumbled. “Nothing but rumors and innuendoes. They never could prove anything.”
Hannibal ignored him and went on. “According to legend, our boy here could hide anywhere, even in plain sight, without actually being seen. ‘The Invisible Man,’ they used to call him over in ‘Nam. If you ever wonder who’s following you, or who stuck the knife in your back, don’t turn around looking for Rodman, because Rodman wasn’t there!”
“I wasn’t there again today. Leastwise, neither of you two would’ve been able to spot me!” Rodman shook his head, disbelieving. “I’d still like to know how your pilot friend managed to make me out.”
“Captain Murdock sees things that aren’t there on a regular basis. He’s *our* secret weapon, you might say.” Hannibal grinned. “Well, now that we’ve all been properly introduced, let’s talk, shall we? Specifically, who do you work for? Who’s been paying you to creepy-crawl us?”
Rodman shook his head again. “Sorry, Smith, no can do. That’s strictly on a need to know basis, and you most definitely do *not* need to know.”
“Oh, I beg to differ with you…but never mind. We’ll find out everything we need to know, one way or another.” He turned to B.A. “Sergeant, does this remind you of anything?”
“Like something that happened a while ago. Remember when that slimeball Kyle tried to take us out one by one?”
B.A. frowned. “Yeah, I do. They put poison in my milk!” He turned on Rodman with a ferocious look on his face. “You trying’ somethin’ like that, fool? ‘Cause it won’t work. We’re still a team!”
“Yeah, well, I hate to break it to you, but your precious team is gonna be smaller by one, real real soon!”
“How soon?” Hannibal’s voice was quiet but dangerous.
“That’s classified information, Smith!” Rodman sneered.
Hannibal felt the anger that had been simmering inside him for days boil up into rage and explode. Face was hurt, sick, maybe even dying, and all because of this bastard and whoever it was he worked for! Without warning his fist shot out and slammed into Rodman’s face. The spy went down again. He came up snarling like a wildcat, but was seized by B.A. and held in a tight unyielding grip. “You want me to start taken’ him apart now, Colonel sir?” the big man asked.
“No, hold off a minute, B.A. Let’s give him a little time to change his mind first. Then if he still insists on being stubborn, you can go ahead.” He fixed his gaze on Rodman. “How about it? The sergeant’s getting impatient, and I for one don’t see much reason to hold him back any longer.”
Rodman darted his eyes back and forth from one man to the other. “You’re bluffing!” he said at last. “I’m your only lead! If you kill me, you lose any chance you ever had of finding out what you want to know!”
“Who said anything about killing you? ‘Take him apart’–those were, I believe, the words Sergeant Baracus used. Right, Sergeant?” B.A. gave another menacing growl and nodded. “Now, you may end up wishing he’d kill you before too long, but well, that’s your problem. And it’s your decision to make. Hope you make the right one.” He smiled at Rodman like a jolly old uncle; only his eyes remained hard and cold.
Rodman swallowed hard several times. He looked his captors up and down, sizing them up, weighing his options. At last he seemed to come to some sort of decision in his own mind. He relaxed visibly; the sneer even began to return to his face. “All right,” he said. “I don’t suppose there’s any harm in it; after all, it’s not like you could do anything to change things. What you’re dealing with is a slow-acting poison–not very subtle, but very effective. First come the hallucinations…you’ve already nursed your man Peck through most of that, haven’t you? Then it’s back to normal for about forty-eight hours–makes the victim think he’s over it and everything’s going to be all right. Then the *real* fun begins!” He laughed shortly. “That’s the beauty of it: your friend dies real slow and in a *lot* of pain, and all you can do is stand around and watch!”
Hannibal’s jaw clenched; his eyes burned; but he kept himself under absolute control. When he spoke, his voice was calm, the calm that comes before the storm. “You still haven’t answered my question. How much time?”
“From now, about seventy-two hours, max. There’s nothing you can do in that short a time, Smith. You don’t know what the drug is, you don’t have the antidote–and there’s no way I’m going to tell you about any of that, even if your man does take me apart. There’s worse fates than being in pieces, you know.”
“Like I said, that’s your problem, and you’ll have to deal with it. It might interest you to know, though…we have Dr. Sullivan working with us. She’s at the lab right now, analyzing a sample of Lieutenant Peck’s blood. She’ll get the answer for us.”
“A simple G.P. in a one-horse town like Bad Rock? Why don’t you try getting serious! She’ll never find it–not in time to save Peck, anyway.”
“Then we’ll have to speed things along just a little bit, won’t we?” Hannibal reached out and took the phone from Rodman’s belt. “Let’s just see how this little gadget works.” He pushed a button, listened for a moment, then spoke.
“Smith here. Hannibal Smith. You the guy that’s been taking such an interest in me and my men?…Well, I’ve got an up-to-the-minute news bulletin for you. Sergeant Baracus and I were taking a nature walk in the woods, and guess what we found under a rock?…That’s right. Now, you can have this specimen back, if you want him, but I’m not Santa Claus and Christmas doesn’t come for another six months. What I propose is a trade: your hired stalker for the antidote to the poison you used on Lieutenant Peck. You know where we are–that is if your boy has been keeping in touch.” He listened some more. “Yeah, well, I’ve heard all those threats before, and they didn’t impress me then either. I’ll make this brief so as not to run up your phone bill: you’ve got till noon tomorrow to think it over. Then I’ll expect to see you here with some good medicine else Mr. Invisible is going to be feeling might sorry about it all!” He hung up. “Nice guy, your boss. I hope for your sake he cares about the welfare of his men enough to come through for you. I’d really hate to see you get hurt.”
“Your concern touches me, Smith.”
“That’s just the way I am: tender-hearted. But not so much that I won’t do exactly what I said I’d do if my friend dies.” He prodded Rodman, none too gently. “Come on, let’s go. We’re going back to the house now, and you’re going to be a good little boy and come along quietly.”
“Hannibal, I don’t like this–bringing those people to Maggie’s house. She ain’t gonna like it either!”
“I know, B.A. I don’t like it myself, but what else can we do? Face shouldn’t be moved, and we can’t leave him alone. Besides, we’ll need a doctor close at hand in case Mr. Big tries a double-cross.”
“Yeah, I know you’re right…but still, I ain’t so sure it’s a good idea….”
“Tell you what: I’ll put you in charge of Rodman when we get back. You can guard him personally, make sure he doesn’t try anything funny. Then when the rest of them come, we’ll be ready.”
B.A. nodded agreement and fell silent, though the look of doubt remained with him.
When they were about halfway to the house, Rodman broke the silence.
“Since we seem to be such good buddies now, I might as well tell you something else. My boss and I have these two…associates who think they’re real mafiosos.. Actually, they’re just a couple of amateurs, at least where poisons are concerned. They tend to get overeager and administer too high a dose. That seventy-two hours–that was the *projected* timetable for the drug, but just between you and me and the trees, I think you’re looking at a lot less time than that.”
Hannibal gave no outward sign of his feelings, or even that he’d heard what Rodman said. “Keep moving,” was all he said.
“Yeah, you heard the man, sucka. Move!”
The rest of the walk back was made without anyone saying anything more. Rodman marched along between his two guards, an enigmatic smile on his face.
Part 8 by Terri Spencer
Hannibal and BA led their captive back through the woods to Maggies house. Hannibal kept a wary eye on Vince Rodman. Even in Nam, Rodman got a record for escaping under peoples noses that Hannibal at times envied. If Rodman hadn’t been also a weasel, Hannibal would have considered letting him on the team.
Rodmans words haunted Hannibal. A slow acting poison that would kill Face in less then three days if they didn’t get the antidote. And Hannibal had no doubt in his mind that Dougie Kyle would just assume let Rodman rot then to turn over the antidote to Hannibal. Hannibal knew that Kyle would enjoy watching Hannibal suffer. And he had found just the way to do it. Through Hannibals secret favorite: Face.
He didn’t know when Face had become his favorite, only that he had. Maybe the kid reminded Hannibal too much of himself. Maybe it was the vulnerability that Face desperately tried to cover up. Maybe it was because Face needed him more then either BA or Murdock did. But whatever the reason, the moment that Hannibal first laid eyes on the young lieutenant, lying on the floor of the stockade in Leaven worth, Hannibal felt a strong urge to protect the young man. And now, Hannibal felt that he was failing Face.
They finally arrived at Maggies house, and Hannibal led the way down to the wine cellar. Making sure that there was no way that Rodman would get out, and nothing that he could use to escape, Hannibal pushed Rodman inside. “You better say your prayers, Rodman.” He said, and closed the door. “Sit down, BA. It’s gonna be a long night. If he tries to escape, shoot him.”
“What’re ya gonna tell Face and Murdock, Hannibal?”
“I don’t know, BA. But I know this. I’m not going to let Murdock watch Face writhe in pain. Murdock won’t be able to handle that. I’ll send him down here. But I don’t want Murdock left alone with Rodman. Rodman’ll take great delight in letting Murdock know what is going on with Face.”
BA slowly nodded. Despite his outward hostility to Murdock, he really cared about the sensitive pilot. And there was no way that Murdock could take seeing Face in pain for any given amount of time. Murdock was almost as fragile as Face was. It was just that Murdock could show how he felt, while Face couldn’t, not even after all these years with the team. Fate had dealt Face a cruel deck. And Face, like thousands of other children that slipped through the cracks, had learned not to trust those around them. As Hannibal slowly made his way back up to Faces room, BA knelt down and started to prey.
Feeling old, Hannibal made his way up to the room where Face was. He heard Murdock softly singing. Without knocking, Hannibal gently pushed the door open and looked inside. He saw Murdock sitting on the side of the bed, cradling Face in his arms and singing. Hannibal recognized the Beatles song that was being sung.
But of all these friends and lovers,
There is no-one compares with you.
And these memories lost their meaning
When I think of love as something new.
Though I know I’ll never lose affection,
For people and things that went before.
I’ll know I’ll often stop and think about them,
In my life, I’ll love you more.
As Murdock repeated the last verse, Hannibal somehow managed to get hold of his emotions. It would do no good to let the others see him cry. It would frighten both Face and Murdock, and the two of them were scared enough as it was. After all, Hannibal was the leader. It’s just that sometimes, Hannibal wished that he wasn’t.
Hannibal walked into the room, and laid a hand on Murdocks shoulder. Large tear-filled puppy brown eyes looked up at Hannibal. But seeing Hannibals grim expression, and the unshed tears that were Hannibals eyes, Murdock knew that the news wasn’t good. He gently placed Faces body back down on the bed, and followed Hannibal out into the hallway.
The two men stood there for a few minutes, looking at each other. Murdock finally gestured back at the room where his friend lay sleeping. “He had a nightmare.” After a beat, Murdock asked: “What is it, Hannibal?”
Hannibal took a deep breath. He had to tell Murdock what was coming, and why in a short time he was going to be banished from Faces room. He had the right to know. “Someone gave Face a slow acting poison. It causes hallucinations, which we’ve seen, followed by two days of clarity, in which the patient feels fine. Then the patient has severe stomach pain.” Hannibal noticed the startled look on Murdocks face. “What is it?”
Murdock didn’t have to guess what would follow the severe stomach problems. “He’s already had a few stomach cramps Hannibal.” He stated.
Hannibal took a deep breath. “Murdock, I don’t want you to go back into the room.”
“Why? He needs me!”
“Keep your voice down, Murdock!” Hannibal hissed. He took a deep breath. God, this was difficult. Telling a man that he couldn’t visit his best friends sickbed because the best friend was going to die a terrible and painful death. “I don’t want you to see what is coming, Murdock. It may undo all the progress that you’ve made during the last twelve years.”
“But it’s not too bad now, Hannibal. And I can help him now by being with him.”
“What about when the pain really starts, Murdock? What then?”
“When the pain really starts Hannibal, there won’t be a place in this house that I won’t be able to hear. I’ll get out then, I promise. Just please, don’t make me stay away. He needs me, and I need him.”
After a moments hesitation, Hannibal nodded. He couldn’t argue with Murdocks logic. The two young men were as close as brothers, even closer. The supported each other when push came to shove. And if Face died without Murdock being able to say good-bye, that could be the final push that sent the pilot permanently over the edge. And besides, he didn’t have the energy to argue with Murdock. He needed all the energy he had to tend to Face. He followed the younger man back into Faces room.
They had no sooner sat down on either sides of the bed when Face woke up. “Hannibal? Murdock?”
Hannibal squeezed the young mans hand, then started stroking Faces hair with his other hand. “Yeah, kid, we’re here.” He said softly, then was startled when Face took his own hand from Murdocks grasp, and touched Hannibals face.
Seeing his friends startled expression, Face smiled. “I wanted to be sure it was you. I don’t know what’s real anymore.” He said in a small voice. Then his voice changed again. It became younger. “Did you catch the Big Bad Wolf, Daddy?”
Murdock watched as a confused look crossed Hannibals face. Then the look gave way to a look of extreme tenderness. Hannibal took Faces hand again, and held it against his cheek. “Yes son, I caught the big bad wolf. It won’t scare you anymore, I promise.”
“Good.” Face said, and drifted off to sleep once more.
Murdock leaned over towards Hannibal. “Sometimes he’s lucid, Hannibal. He came around when you and BA were outside. He believed that whole thing at the cliff was a dream.”
“What about this wolf thing?” Hannibal asked, as he gazed upon his sleeping lieutenant. Face calling him Daddy touched a cord deep inside him.
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” Murdock shrugged. “But as a patient, I can take a guess.” Hannibal looked up at him sharply. Murdock continued. “While he was hallucinating, he had a memory from childhood of getting sick on a man. That man beat him.”
Hannibal was startled again. “That bastard. That’s why he was so afraid in the van after he threw up on me. He begged me not to hit him.”
“Exactly. But this time, he hallucinated that the man cradled him, making him feel safe and loved.” Murdock knew that he didn’t need to say another word. Hannibal understood.
The two men heard a front door open. Less then a minute later, Maggie stood in the bedroom door, looking pale. “Hannibal…”
“We all-ready know, Maggie. We have one of their spies locked in your wine cellar.” Hannibal told her.
“Oh.” It was all that Maggie could think to say at the moment. Long association with Hannibal Smith and his Merry Mavericks had taught Maggie Sullavan to expect the unexpected. Coming into the room, she looked at the two men on either side of their ailing friend, and tried to gauge who needed rest more. Finally deciding, Maggie put a hand on Murdocks shoulder. “It’s back to bed for you, Murdock. You’re going to need your energy for Face. You’ll relieve Hannibal in four hours.” When she saw that both men were about to protest, she put her hands in front of her and spread her fingers. “Case closed. You are on my turf, gentlemen, so you’ll do as you’re told. Goodnight, Captain.”
Murdock was about to argue, but he saw the look in Maggies eyes. It was the ‘obey me, or else’ look, and Murdock wasn’t about ready to find out what ‘or else’ meant. So he said “goodnight, Major, Colonel.” And with a look that spoke volumes to a sleeping Face, Murdock went up to his room. He laid down on his bed, and immediately fell asleep.
Meanwhile, in Faces bedroom, Maggie left Hannibal alone with his second in command. She went down to her lab to try to come up with a cure. She knew that she didn’t have an antidote. But she was very fond of Templeton Peck, and wasn’t about ready to give up on him without a fight. There was a quality in Face that made Maggie want to put her arms around him and mother him. And the way that Hannibal was acting, Face brought out his paternal instincts. Maggie couldn’t help but wonder why.
Hannibal put a damp cloth on Faces forehead. The younger man stirred, and his blue eyes fluttered open. He gave a small smile to his commanding officer. “You would have made a great father, Hannibal.” He said softly.
“Thank you, Face.” Hannibal said just as softly. Face calling him Daddy before, and his simple words now, almost made Hannibals eyes wet. “I almost was a daddy. Did I ever tell you that?”
“No, You didn’t. Tell me now. Please.” Face asked.
Hannibal couldn’t deny him anything. So he gently cradled Face in his arms, like he had seen Murdock do only a short time ago. “I was around 21 or so. It was 1956 and I had been married a very short time to a woman when she told me that she was pregnant. Well, needless to say I was ecstatic. I was going to be a father. And I was going to be a better father then my father had been to me. Well, the tests were good, and the pregnancy was going well. We had decided to name the child Jesse if it was a boy, and Jessica if it was a girl. That way, the child could be called Jesse either way. And we both liked that name.
“Well, there were complications during childbirth. I don’t know what happened. But one minute, I was holding my wifes hand as they wheeled her into the delivery room. The next minute a doctor was telling me that my young, beautiful, healthy wife was dead. And that my son was in critical condition.” Hannibal looked down at the young man, seeing love, sympathy, and some shock. Face reached up and touched Hannibals cheek. It came away wet.
Hannibal grasped the wet fingers, and again held the smaller hand against his cheek. He had never talked about his wife and child, except for a gentle, kind woman that he had met in a small town down in Georgia. “I buried my wife and baby three days later. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never even visited their graves. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.”
Face squeezed his hand, offering quiet sympathy. “When I get better, we’ll go and see their graves. And then you can say good-bye.” Face yawned widely. He was so tired. He muttered “goodnight, Hannibal” and then went to sleep.
Maggie, who had watched and listened from the door, turned around and walked away. She had tears in her eyes.
Hannibal never noticed.
Hannibal had been relieved by Murdock exactly four hours later. It seemed to Hannibal that he had no sooner laid down when BA came bursting into his room. “Hannibal! Wake up, Man!!!”
“What is it, BA?” Hannibal asked sleepily, while looking at the clock. It was 0600 hours. He had just gone to bed two hours ago.
“It’s Rodman, Hannibal. He’s gone!”
That brought Hannibal wide awake. “What?”
“I went to get him some breakfast, and myself a glass of milk. When I came back, he was gone!”
Hannibal threw back the covers, and forced himself out of bed. It was so tempting to just lie there, just let someone else take care of things. But he couldn’t do that. His second in command was slowly dying two doors down the hall, his pilot wasn’t able to face reality half the time, and his sergeant was too hot tempered. “Let’s go.” He said, forcing his legs to respond.
They found him outside, lying face down in the mud. After rolling him over, Maggie, who had come with them, bent down and felt for a pulse at Rodmans neck. “He’s dead.” They carried the body back to the house.
They put Rodmans body in the wine cellar, which was the coldest room they could find. They couldn’t call a coroner to take it away. And Maggie couldn’t do the autopsy at her office. She didn’t have the equipment. She was more concerned with keeping Face alive right now anyway.
Suddenly, a loud pain filled scream came from upstairs. Hannibal raced upstairs with Maggie on his heels. BA brought up the rear.
They ran into Faces room, and were shocked by what they saw. Face was curled up in a fetal position, grasping his stomach. His usually handsome features were scrunched up in a mask of pain. Tears were coming out of his eyes as he gasped for breath. He had vomited.
Murdock sat beside his best friend, trying to wipe his forehead with a wet cloth. With tears in his brown eyes, he looked up at the rest of the A-Team. In a voice that was so calm that it scared Hannibal, he stated: “It’s started.”
Part 9 by Sabrina Helayna Ardeloes
The lieutenant groaned and buried his face in the pillow, biting his lip. Hannibal looked at Murdock. ” Captain, I’ll take over here,” he offered, darting glances at the lieutenant.
” Not on your life,” the pilot mouthed back, brushing Face’s hair out of his eyes as he curled tightly again, moaning softly then breaking into a coughing fit. Hannibal quickly sat down on the other side of the bed and pulled the lieutenant into a half-sitting position, leaning against his chest. After a few minutes, Face sighed as his breathing started to return to normal.
” Hannibal… How long have I got?” Face rasped.
” Hey, kid…” He saw that the lieutenant was biting his lip again, his hand curled into the bed-clothes and digging into the mattress through the coverlets. The colonel looked between Maggie and his two other team-mates, trying to come to a decision. Someone needed to go after Kyle and get the antidote, but he wasn’t prepared to leave Face in so much pain. He definitely wasn’t about to leave with the chance of the lieutenant dying while he was gone. He couldn’t send Murdock- the captain was in far too fragile a mental state, and he wouldn’t go anyway… But Hannibal couldn’t bring himself to leave and go off on a probably futile quest when Face needed him. ‘ Face is going to die if someone doesn’t go… but he might die anyway and I have to be here…’ Hannibal sighed heavily. He didn’t know what to do, but he was distracted from further thought by Face collapsing onto the bed with a whimper that escaped despite his best efforts to stay silent. ” Maggie, isn’t there something we can give him for the pain?” he asked as he gently rubbed Face’s back in an attempt to comfort him.
The doctor shook her head. ” Nothing that won’t react with the drug.”
” Damnit,” Hannibal cursed under his breath, knowing that BA and Murdock were waiting for his decision- his miraculous plan that would save Face’s life, because Colonel John Hannibal Smith wouldn’t let his lieutenant die… The colonel always had a plan. ” Easy, kid,” he said reflexively.
Murdock was muttering things, trying to distract his friend from the pain. Come on, Face. Just breathe… It’ll be gone in a minute… just hang in there…”
And eventually it was over, for the moment. Face uncurled slightly, gasping in breaths of air that were starting to sound more like sobs. Eventually the lieutenant opened his eyes to look at the colonel briefly before closing them again.
The pains had been going on for an hour now, growing worse, if that was possible, with less and less time in between bouts until they started to merge. Face looked grey with exhaustion and there were black marks under his eyes and around his cheekbones making him look drawn and aged. His face twisted as the racking pains started again and he only just managed to strangle a cry of pain. Hannibal was sitting at the head of the bed now, gently supporting the lieutenant in his arms in an effort to provide some comfort, while Murdock was sitting on the edge of the bed, occasionally wiping the lieutenant’s face with a damp cloth. He felt Face’s head turning into his arm as he gave a soft moan that he tried to smother. He had to do something, figure out a plan and do it now… He’d been trying without success for an hour because he couldn’t even bring himself to think of leaving Face like this…
Face tried to pull out of his arms, doubled over as he started choking, then retching helplessly again. ” OK, Face… OK…” he soothed as he drew the young man back against him, still coughing. The lieutenant groaned, wiping a hand across his mouth and smearing blood over his face. He opened his eyes and looked briefly at the crimson mark across the back of his hand and then closed his eyes again, relaxing into Hannibal’s embrace bonelessly. Murdock’ s hand had frozen just as he was about to bathe his friend’s face again. He looked briefly at what Face had brought up, which was mostly reddish liquid. He put the bowl down and sat, blinking for a few moments. Finally, he swallowed and started to wipe the blood away while Face gave a quiet whimper and bit his lip again. The captain took his friend’s hand in his own and squeezed it, not even flinching at Face’s fingers closed around his until the knuckles were white. Finally, the pain subsided a little and Face’s features relaxed a bit, as he opened his eyes and looked up at the captain.
” Murdock… you should go…”
” Uhuh, Faceyman. Ya don’t get rid of me that easily…”
” Murdock, maybe you should,” Hannibal interrupted, looking at the captain worriedly.
” Uhuh. No way.”
” Murdock… you can’t help me… shouldn’t stay…”
The pilot clasped Face’s hand with both of his. ” Do you want me to go? Honestly?” Face opened his mouth to say yes, whimpering as a spasm ripped through his body. When he could see the lieutenant had relaxed a bit, Murdoc gently cupped a hand around his friend’s face. ” Do you really want me to go- and no lying or scamming me here…”
” I… No,” Face admitted, closing his eyes of tears of pain and hopelessness. ” But you should… shouldn’t… Yes… want you to go… Now!” With an effort he opened his eyes and looked into the captain’s fiercely.
” Liar,” Murdock chided gently.
” But…” The rest of his argument was lost to an agonised gasp of pain. ” Oh God… Hannibal…” The young man’s face contorted into a grimace. ” Just… please… end it now. Hannibal, please!” The desperate words faded in a soft whimper of pain as the lieutenant choked briefly, gasping and moaning still.
Hannibal closed his eyes. Face was almost surely going to die. The chances of getting the antidote in time, if they could find it… Maybe it would have been kinder… but he couldn’t. He turned the young man’s face to look at him. ” No. You got through the camps and you will get through this, lieutenant. Do you hear me?” he demanded sharply.
” Hannibal, please. Oh god, it hurts so much.”
The colonel closed his eyes at the echoing pain. When he looked up BA was watching him, having come back into the room silently while they were talking, torn by the pained request for release. Face’s chances of survival were slim to none. And he was in pain. But Hannibal couldn’t- not even to give him release. If Face died it would be fighting and with the team fighting right beside him. ” Just try to breathe easy, kid,” he said gruffly. ” You’re going to be fine.” Blue eyes flickered up to his face in despair. ” I will not let you give up, Lieutenant. You’ve survived before- I will not take the coward’s way,” Hannibal said angrily. He didn’t care if it wasn’t true that suicide would be cowardly in this case… it wouldn’t even be suicide as the boy would die anyway, but if goading Face kept him fighting then Hannibal would say or do anything.
” That is an order, Lieutenant. I order you not to die.” His voice dropped to a softer tone. ” Come on, kid. We need you to fight a bit longer.”
” OK,” Face whispered though it was half sob.
” OK,” Hannibal answered, brushing back the lieutenant’s sweat soaked hair and turning around. ” BA we need an idea.” The sergeant frowned worriedly. Captain?” Hannibal looked down at Face’s golden hair and sighed deeply. You still with me, kid?” Face nodded very slightly into Hannibal jacket. OK… you’re doing good, kid, real good.”
” Sorry… ’bout before…”
” Shush up, kid. We aren’t having any sorry’s here.”
” Don’t want… you to see me… like this… should just go…” Face murmured weakly in halting gasping. ” God, I don’t want to die like this.”
” Ya ain’t dyin’, Faceman. I ain’t havin’ it, ya hear? Ya hear?” BA repeated more loudly, until the lieutenant’s eyes came open. He looked up briefly at the colonel holding him, then at BA and Murdock, who were sitting on either side of him on the bed, watching him with frightened eyes. He sighed and closed his eyes, swallowing. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad way to die… Hannibal holding him, his friends right there beside him… His family with him… He had to remember to tell them that he loved them before he died. Loved. He’d never been able to say anything like that before though he had always wanted to hear it… He swallowed down again on rising tears. Not yet. Soon…
An agonised scream ripped from his body without warning, followed by a slightly softer cry of pain, which he lost a brief battle to suppress; he didn’t have the strength… Had to tell them now… quickly… He struggled to open his eyes, hearing moans and whimpers of pain in the distance, and, further off, Hannibal and Murdock, one ordering and the other pleading for him to stay… Then BA threatening something…
Couldn’t go yet… hadn’t said it… With a struggle that made him shake with effort, he forced his eyes open. It was like seeing the room through a pane of glass-verything moved slightly too slowly, delayed… He opened his mouth but the words refused to be forced out. He fought back, only managing a weak, hoarse whisper that faded before he had the first word out. A tear of frustration slid down his cheek coolly, similar tears were welling up in Murdock’s eyes…
But he couldn’t fight any more and relaxed, dropping into the grey distance where he floated, vaguely aware of things happening around him…
He opened his eyes slowly. ” Face?” Murdock asked, leaning in towards him, his voice shaky. He blinked at his friend then turned slightly to look at the looming figure of BA on his other side, right by him… no longer separated by that strange grey window… He had more time… not much, but a reprieve that he had better make the most of.