Scars, Part 1
Face cursed his luck. What was it about Italian restaurants? And why did he always get the worst of it when Hannibal’s plans went wrong? He was just supposed to walk in the restaurant, sit down and get the lay of the land. But now this.
“Nobody try to be a hero,” said the thug, a large brown-haired man holding an Uzi. He made a special point of glaring directly at Face while he spoke. Probably a response to the fact Face had tripped the man earlier, allowing six people to escape and getting Face a large gash on his forehead for his efforts. The end result was that Face was now sitting in a small hallway with seven other hostages listening as the police bullhorns outside urged the goons to give up and release the captives. Putting on a brave show for the others, Face made his best effort to grin at the thug.
When he saw that the goon had turned away, Face decided to take a chance of contacting Hannibal. He whispered, quietly so as not to be heard by the gunmen, but loud enough to be heard over the hidden microphone.
“Hannibal . . . Can you hear me?”
A flood of relief flowed through him when he heard the colonel’s voice in his ear. “Hey kid. Can’t we take you anywhere without you causing trouble?” Without waiting for Face’s response to the jibe, Hannibal’s voice became serious. “Report, Lieutenant.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Face made sure the thug was far enough away before he replied. Face knew the other hostages were watching him, so he hastily hissed at them. “Don’t look this way.” Lowering his voice further, he described the situation. “Two gunmen. Uzis. Semis, not converted. Not sure what they’re looking for. Roughed up the maitre d’ pretty good. Nine hostages total. Eight here in hallway by the entrance. At least four dead inside.”
At least that was how many he had seen when the brown-haired thug had dragged Face out of the back room of the restaurant. Face could tell what Hannibal was probably thinking. If the thugs had already killed four people, they wouldn’t be too concerned about killing the rest.
“So what brought the cops out?”
“A waitress and the kitchen staff managed to get out a back door.”
He could almost see Hannibal smile and he flushed slightly as Hannibal commented, “I can probably guess who made that possible.” Then, Face detected a serious note in his leader’s voice. “Listen kid. We’re trying to get close, but I don’t think we’re going to have much luck with all those cops out there. You may have to handle this yourself. Are you armed?”
Not wanting to alert anyone, Face discreetly answered, “yes, shoulder,” so that Hannibal would know that the goons hadn’t taken the .357 from the shoulder holster. Hannibal would understand. Thugs like these rarely used their brains for anything more than finding an entrance.
“Okay, kid. Got it. I’ll get back to you.”
Face looked over the seven other hostages. Directly across from him was a barely conscious waiter who had taken a blow to the side of his head. To his side was an overweight middle-aged man, who looked ready to have a heart attack and, from the look (and smell) of things, had already soiled his tailored suit. Probably a lawyer, Face thought. No help there. Next to the lawyer was an equally middle-aged woman — probably the lawyer’s wife — and the pretty blond hostess with the large dark eyes with whom Face had flirted when he came into the restaurant. He sighed. Though the hostess had some of the most soulful eyes he had ever seen, neither she nor the other woman would be particularly helpful in a fight.
He studied the other three hostages in the hallway, two teenagers and their mother. Face remembered how the teens had been bickering at the table next to him. He just hoped they could keep their mouths shut until this was all over. So far, they had. The girl, who he guessed was thirteen, was curled up and crying in her mom’s lap. The older teen, a boy who seemed catatonic, probably wasn’t much younger than Face had been in Vietnam. Still, Face thought, I can’t risk using him.
From the front of the restaurant, Face heard a sharp cry. Probably the maitre d’. He wasn’t sure what the thugs were after, but they obviously figured the maitre d’ knew about it. Well, from what Face could hear, the maitre d’ wasn’t going to be any help either.
Shit, Face thought, I’m on my own.
Very slowly, almost imperceptively, he pulled his gun from his holster and set it down on the ground. A sudden movement from across the hall made him realize that the mom had seen him. Wide-eyed, she stared transfixed at where he’d set the gun. Cursing himself when the brown-haired goon started walking back towards them, Face feared the woman would start a panic or, in a mistaken attempt to save their lives, reveal that he had the gun.
Calmly, he looked the woman in the eye and tried to send her a mental message. Trust me, he urged. Then, he twitched his lips and cheeks slightly in the direction of the thug. Somehow she got the message and looked away. Letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, Face saw that the brown-haired goon had missed the exchange. Face also realized that the thug was sweating profusely and looking extremely nervous.
“So Chuck, how’re they doing?” That must have been the second goon speaking. At least, Face figured, I now have a name for Mr. Sweaty-Brown-Haired-Thug.
Before Chuck could reply, the second goon came into view, allowing Face his first close look at the guy. From his thinning blond hair, yellow eyes and acne, Face could tell the guy was a serious steroids case. Granted, that he was 6’3 and musclebound helped in the assessment. Great, Face thought, two guys who both outweigh me by at least sixty pounds and one of them is likely to go into ‘roid rage. Cursing his luck again, he wondered why BA couldn’t get these assignments.
“They’re quiet right now,” said Chuck. “But shit, Joe, what the fuck are we going to do? I’m not doing a murder rap. This was gonna be easy. Remember? Remember what he said? Get the package and get out. Now we’re fucked. The fuckin’ gas chamber.”
The blond steroid case — Joe — snapped. “Shut up, Chuck. If ya hadn’t let the hero over there trip you up, we woulda been outta here before anyone noticed. But you fucked it up. So damn it, shut up.”
“Hey. Asshole. You’re the one who started blowin’ holes in people! What the fuck did ya think you was doin’?!?”
“THEY PISSED ME OFF!” Joe momentarily let the steroids take effect. “Now just shut the hell up! Calm the fuck down, damn it! Okay! We’re gonna get out of this! I told the cops we want a car, so we’re gonna each take a fuckin’ hostage for cover and take off.”
Face listened to Joe think out loud. “Thug logic” was how Hannibal would have succinctly put it.
“SO CALM THE FUCK DOWN, CHUCK!!!”
Joe did not exactly seem to be the “calming” influence. If anything, Chuck was getting more antsy. Face could see the thug’s trigger finger flexing involuntarily. He could only hope Chuck’s gun wasn’t pointed at someone when it accidentally went off. Actually, reconsidering that thought, Face hoped the gun would be pointed at Joe.
As the minutes ticked away, Face’s uneasiness grew. He had not heard from Hannibal since that initial contact. Finally, after what his watch said was 30 minutes, but felt like 30 hours, Face heard the colonel’s familiar voice in his ear.
“Face, come in. Can you hear me?”
Seeing that Chuck was too close for him to answer, Face sniffled, trying to make it look like he had allergies caused by the October winds.
“Okay. You can’t talk. So listen. BA and Murdock are on the roof, but it could take some time to get to you. The cops are pulling up a car, so there should be movement soon.”
Face understood Hannibal’s words, but he also understood what Hannibal wasn’t saying. Movement might occur before BA and Murdock were able to help.
“Face. The car is a four-door sedan. It’s not big enough for all of the hostages. Can you tell me if you think the gunmen are going to let the others go?”
Face looked at Chuck, who was nearly bouncing around with the Uzi, and at Joe who was studying the approaching car with a grim determination. Face coughed, hoping that Hannibal could catch the hidden “no” over the microphone.
“Damn, kid. This is my fault. If we can’t get to you in time, do what you can to protect the others. Try to stall as much as you can. Give us as much time as you can.”
Face could tell from the approaching goons that time was running out. Chuck was dragging the semi-conscious maitre-d’.
Joe and Chuck were now facing the eight people in the hallway. Joe motioned to the pretty blond hostess. For some reason, her name suddenly came back to Face: Allison. “I’ve got her,” Joe told Chuck. “You keep the maitre d’. That way, if he remembers anything, he’ll still be alive to tell us. Get rid of these others.”
Before Chuck could aim his gun, Face piped up. “Aww, guys. Why don’t you let them go? You don’t need more blood on your hands”
“Shut up hero. I’m going to enjoy wasting you,” Chuck replied.
Face fell back to plan B. “How ’bout a business proposition?”
“What the fuck would you have fo’ us?” said Joe coming back to the hallway. He was holding the terrified blond woman in front of him. That was going to make things harder. Not only was he going to have shoot over all of these other people, but he was also going to have to shoot around the girl.
“What about the A-Team? There’s a pretty big price on their heads and I know where you can find them.” He gave the two thugs his most winning smile. “I’m sure a couple of capable guys like you could take them out.”
“The A-Team? Huh, Joe. That would be somethin’.”
“Shut up Chuck. He’s bluffing. There’s no way a dick like this would know the A-Team. Their mercs, not pretty boys like this guy.”
“Ahh, but even the A-Team needs an agent.” He flashed the smile again. After all, this was Los Angeles and he could probably convince these bozos that he was an agent. “Think about it. Chuck. Joe. You’d be heroes. The men who captured the A-Team. Let the hostages live and I’ll lead you to them.”
He could tell that Joe was studying him. His right hand gripped the gun, which was still hidden from sight by his coat sleeve and the lawyer. Face stealthily pulled it into his sleeve, so that it would be easy to use if necessary. As he finished the little task, Joe nodded his head.
“Okay, pretty boy. You’ve got a deal,” Joe lied.
Nobody in the room believed the thug. The teenage girl began wailing louder.
Joe gave a quick smirk to Chuck, who continued to aim the rifle at Face. Motioning to Face, Joe said, “Come here. I guess we’ll take three hostages and the rest of these good people will be free to go.”
As Face stood and began to walk past the others, the mom grabbed his leg. “Please,” she begged, “you know they’re lying. Please don’t leave us here.” Face couldn’t look at her but pulled his leg free. From behind him, he heard the lawyer call him a coward. At that moment, Face wondered what had happened to BA and Murdock. It should not have taken them so long to get down from the roof.
“You go first.” Joe held the hostess close to him and motioned for Face to move to the front and lead them to the door. “Walk slowly in front of us.”
As Face moved past the two thugs, he heard Joe’s voice behind his right shoulder. “What are you waiting for? Waste them.”
Face dropped the gun from his sleeve and spun around to his left. Chuck had his back to Face and was preparing to fire. With no option, Face aimed for the brown hair and pulled the trigger. Before Chuck’s head had finished exploding, Face had turned the gun in the other thug’s direction.
That’s when he discovered Joe had never turned to face the hostages.
The bullet slamming into his left shoulder spun Face around. He lost his balance at the very instant he fired and missed his target. Sprawling, Face felt another bullet whiz by him and realized that the first shot had knocked him out of the path of the second. Face also knew that he would only have one more chance before Joe got a lock on him. Seeing that the blond man had lost his human shield, Face quickly aimed and fired. He didn’t need to see the other man fall to know his aim had been true.
It was a good thing. Face suddenly noticed a searing pain in his right side and found himself collapsing to the floor. As he hit the ground near the door, Face knew he had only a moment before he lost consciousness. But before the blackness overtook him, he looked across the floor straight into the wide, brown eyes of the blond hostess.
Even if he hadn’t seen the hole in her forehead, he would have known she was dead.
A sudden thought crossed his mind. “I killed her . . .”
BA and Murdock were in the ventilation shaft when they heard the shots. Five or six quick bursts and then no more. Knowing there was no longer any point in keeping quiet or trying to reach the hostages through the shaft, they found the quickest exit, landed in the kitchen and raced for the front of the building. As they entered the restaurant, they saw a middle-aged man shouting from the front door to the police outside.
“We need help in here . . . Get a doctor . . .”
Rushing forward, they saw the limp figure lying against the wall. Face’s slight build and blond hair were unmistakable.
Without pause, Murdock slid down next to Face and quickly assessed his best friend’s condition.
Face was deathly pale. His shoulder was bleeding profusely and, from the location, Murdock thought the bullet had struck a lung. The second wound was to the abdomen. Murdock needed only one look at it to tell that the bullet had done serious internal damage. Face needed to get to a hospital right away.
“You . . . you must be the A-Team,” said a woman who was huddled in the corner. “He mentioned the A-Team . . .” Murdock saw that she was cradling two kids who were nearly hysterical.
Through his ear, Murdock heard Hannibal’s voice. “Face, Murdock, BA, the cops are about to storm the place. You’d better get out of there now.”
“Hannibal” was all Murdock could say. He knew the colonel would pick up the shaking in his voice.
“Oh God.” Hannibal was silent for a moment. “Is he alive?”
“He needs a doctor. He’ll die unless . . .” Murdock couldn’t finish the sentence.
Murdock then heard the words he never thought the colonel would utter. “Captain, Sergeant. You have to leave him . . . It’s the only way. You two have to get out of there now. Hurry.”
Years of ingrained training struggled with his conscience. Murdock knew this would be far more difficult than the last time he left a wounded comrade. He also knew his training would win out, but he had to give Face some hope. He quickly removed the listening device from Face’s ear. Then, putting his mouth close to his friend’s ear, Murdock whispered, “We’ll be back for you buddy. We won’t abandon you. Fight this.”
As he started to pull away, Murdock saw Face move his lips. “I killed her, Murdock . . . I killed her.”
Murdock could feel the tears start. He didn’t want to leave Face in this condition, but he had no choice. Turning to the woman with the kids, Murdock begged, “Please make sure they take care of him. We’re his friends . . . but please, don’t let anyone know we were here . . . It’s his only hope.”
Tears streaming down his face, the training finally won out. Murdock leapt up and ran after BA, hoping they could reach the ventilation shaft before the police entered the building. The stunned survivors watched him leave.
Over the next two days, details of the “Il Trovatore Shootout” rapidly emerged. Local television, which had been live on the scene during the hostage situation, switched their attention to Cedars Sinai Medical Center. At all hours, they broadcast “live and breaking” news from the hospital, repeatedly reporting that the condition of the heroic man identified only as Jacob Temple was unchanged. He remained in critical condition, unconscious following life-saving surgery.
A candle-light vigil, led by an elderly priest from a downtown orphanage and a couple of local rabbis who assumed from his name that the hero must be Jewish, became the place to be seen. Or so a couple of B-list celebs seemed to think.
The other participants in the little drama became overnight celebrities. Richard Lattimore, managing partner of Roberts, Lattimore & Stone, the large, conservative law firm downtown, gave several television interviews. He repeatedly praised Jacob Temple for saving the lives of the hostages and even went so far as to admit that he was ashamed that he had momentarily thought Jacob Temple was a coward. Lattimore failed to mention what had become of his suit.
Others also spoke out. A few members of the kitchen staff described how a blond man who must have been Jacob Temple had blocked the path of the gunmen, allowing them to escape out the back door. A waiter, Roberto Davino, described how Jacob Temple had tricked the gunmen into letting him move for a clearer shot. The two teenagers, Joey and Jennifer Samuels, peppering their interview with terms like “awesome” and “killer,” claimed they weren’t scared because they saw how cool and calm Jacob Temple had stayed. The boy referred to him as a “real-life Rambo.”
None of the survivors mentioned the large black man with the chains or the crying man in the leather jacket and baseball cap.
On the third day, the tenor of the news broadcasts started to change. Although the news crews continued to report from the hospital — “no change” — they began mentioning the “mystery” of the man at the middle of the news storm. A few “business associates” of Jacob Temple came forward to be interviewed about their recent dealings with the man, but where was the grieving wife? Parents? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Reporters tried to find out where the man had gone to school and grown up, but they found nothing. The man seemed to have no past, reporters breathlessly told their viewers, having emerged from the shadows to save the lives of complete strangers in the restaurant. Even his car had somehow disappeared from the Il Trovatore valet.
Then Channel 7 reported that the police had visited Jacob Temple’s apartment only to find it empty. The furniture was still there, but every personal belonging appeared to have been removed. Reporters could not even find a photograph of the man to run on their evening broadcasts. The mystery deepened.
Also on the third day, Allison Chandler, the unfortunate restaurant hostess who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, was buried in a private service at Forest Lawn. Her grieving parents in Sherman Oaks refused to speak to the press. The police report on her death conveniently omitted any mention of the calibre of bullet that killed her and none of the reporters thought to ask. Why would they when they had a “mystery” to report?
On the fourth day, the early morning arrival of a large detachment of military police alerted the reporters at the hospital that something was going on. By noon, the rumor was rampant: Jacob Temple was not Jacob Temple; he was Templeton Peck, member of the mysterious A-Team. Archivists rushed to gather their A-Team files, publishing photographs from the trial right before the team’s supposed execution. Speculation had always existed that the A-Team had escaped the firing squad, but now there was proof. Richard Lattimore and Roberto Davino confirmed that the blond lieutenant in the photos was the man who had saved their lives in the Il Trovatore shootout.
The military leader at the hospital, a Colonel Roderick Decker, officially confirmed the report just before prime time. He announced that the fingerprints of Jacob Temple matched the fugitive Lieutenant Templeton Peck. He told the press that the detachment of military police had cordoned off the area surrounding Lieutenant Peck’s room. When the man awoke, he would be formally arrested and placed in military custody. His execution for murdering Colonel Samuel Morrison would be carried out forthwith.
The response was like wildfire. Out of the woodwork came hundreds of people with stories of how the A-Team, and Templeton Peck — Los Angeles’ newest hero — had saved them, their property or their neighbors from brutal mobsters, vicious gangs or rural tyrants.
Amnesty Internation declared Templeton Peck a “prisoner of conscience” and announced a worldwide letter-writing campaign. A letter from the Vatican decrying the penalty made its way to Washington.
By day five, a large crowd had gathered at the Federal Building in Westwood. Signs calling for a pardon for the A-Team and Templeton Peck in particular were rampant. Concession makers sold camouflage ribbons for $2.00 apiece. Richard Lattimore spoke at the rally and promised to use his contacts in the Bush administration to work for the man who had saved his life.
From the grounds of the Veteran’s Administration hospital just down the road and over the 405 freeway, the chants of “Free Peck” could be heard plainly. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how one looked at it), the one man who might have been most affected by the chant, Captain H.M. Murdock, had long since disappeared from the grounds. Not realizing the connection between the psychotic Murdock and the heroic Peck, the press failed to mention Murdock in their reports.
On day six, the crowd gathered on Beverly Boulevard outside the hospital. It booed the armed soldiers. It chanted and prayed for the injured lieutenant. Veterans groups held banners pleading for the nation to pardon the A-Team as a sign of healing the rift left by Vietnam. Reporters interviewed old soldiers who called for the pardon, particularly in light of the current military build-up in the Persian Gulf. The young communists argued that Templeton Peck was a victim of military imperialism, the same forces that were about to wage an imperialist war in Iraq. Even the everyday Joe on the streets criticized the treatment of the hero, though most of them could barely spell Iraq let alone discuss its impact on the Templeton Peck case. What was clear is that people from all walks of life uniformly agreed that the A-Team should go free. The reporters lapped it up, always concluding with the same questions: What was going to happen to the heroic Templeton Peck and where were his comrades, the A-Team?
On the seventh day, Templeton Peck woke up.
His world would never be the same.
“I killed her” was his first thought.
“Where am I?” was his second.
He heard beeping and whooshing and when he opened his eyes, he saw a white light. Was he dead? No, he thought, probably not. He couldn’t imagine God tormenting the angels with those damn beeping and whooshing noises.
A hospital. The light bulb went off in his head. I must be in a hospital. He tried to turn his head, but discovered the large tubes feeding into his nose and throat. Uh, oh, he thought, this can’t be good.
“Doctor, come quick. I think he’s awake.”
“Mr. Peck, can you hear me?” Face looked up into the dark eyes of a beautiful Asian doctor. Japanese, he thought, judging by her facial structure. Looking at the way her hair was severely pulled back in a ponytail and the authoritative air around her, he mentally noted the she was definitely not his type.
He tried to talk, but stopped when he realized it was futile. Instead, he nodded slightly.
“Good. I’m Doctor Tanaka.” She paused as she started to explain the rest. “Mr. Peck, do you remember what happened?”
His blank look probably answered her question.
“Mr. Peck, you’ve been seriously injured. You’ve been unconscious for nearly a week. Do you remember being shot?
Actually, no. He did not remember.
“You were shot twice at close range with a high power firearm. The first shot shattered your scapula — your shoulder blade.”
He nodded at that. So that explained why his arm was bound to his side.
“We performed surgery to repair some arterial damage and to reset the bone. You were very fortunate, Mr. Peck. That bullet barely missed your lung. If it had hit, I very much doubt that you would be here today. Your shoulder and the surrounding muscles will be painful and weak for a while, but other than some possible residual stiffness, you will probably make a full recovery from those injuries. The second bullet, on the other hand . . .”
Why didn’t he like where this was leading?
“That bullet struck your midsection, close to where it looks like you had an earlier injury.”
Just my luck with Italian restaurants. The thought just popped into his mind. Wait. What about Italian restaurants? He remembered being shot at Villa Cucina in D.C., but he knew that wasn’t the whole story.
“The second bullet did significant damage to your large intestince, the transverse colon to be exact, and your stomach. We managed to repair a lot of the damage in surgery, but we had to remove a section of the intestine. You also have suffered some damage to your right kidney, but we don’t think we’ll have to remove it. At the moment, we cannot know the long-term effects of those injuries. Nonetheless, I would say that, overall, you’re very lucky to be alive Mr. Peck.”
Yeah, he figured. Then it dawned on him. Il Trovatore. The gunmen. He remembered. Yeah, I am lucky. I’m lucky those bozos didn’t know how to convert their guns to full automatic. I should have been cut in half.
Suddenly, he saw the blond woman’s dark eyes staring at him from behind the doctor. He saw the hole in her forehead and instinctively knew there was a much larger hole in the back. “No!” he mind screamed. He tried to block out the thought — “I killed her” — but it was useless. “I was trying to save her, but I killed her.” Though he couldn’t speak, he could hear himself howling the words in his head.
“I killed her. I killed her.”
Noticing that her patient was shaking and starting to get restless, Doctor Tanaka tried to calm him. “Mr. Peck. Please. You must try to stay still and rest. Please. Don’t move.”
His right hand jerked up and he was startled from his internal strife when he heard a clang of metal. His arm felt like it had struck a wall, but he couldn’t see what had happened. As he felt his arm fall flat back on the bed, he looked quizzically at the doctor.
Before she could answer his unasked question, the truth dawned on him. “Mr. Peck, your right arm and left leg have been shackled to your bed. There are military police immediately outside both doors, monitoring the halls and guarding every exit on this floor.”
As she paused, his mind flashed to the team. What had happened to them? BA and Murdock were in the restaurant, but had not been able to get to him in time. Had they been captured? Did the army have them in custody? He barely heard her continue.
“My understanding is that, when you have recovered a bit more, you will be taken into custody . . . Then you will be executed.”
Her last words got his attention.
The doctor leaned over him and looked at him sadly. “I’m sorry. I will keep you here as long as possible, but there is nothing I can do. Please don’t try to escape. You are in no condition to run and I have already patched up enough bullet holes.”
He could see in her eyes that she was trying not to cry, so he simply nodded. As she left, he silently promised that he would not try anything stupid. He wasn’t going to get anyone else killed.
Hannibal sat in the motel room, his mind replaying the events of the past week.
They had gone to the hospital almost immediately after the shooting, but they had not been able to see Face. Security was high even before Face’s true identity became public. With all the media trying to report on the wounded hero, a taskforce from the LAPD, Beverly Hills PD and West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department had converged to cover the hospital grounds and keep the press away. That many police, plus the nosy reporters, made it too likely that someone would recognize him or BA. And with Murdock’ fear and worry driving the captain to the cusp of madness, Hannibal had decided that they could not leave Murdock behind.
“We can’t leave Face alone, Hannibal. I promised.” There had been a seriousness in his tone not normally associated with grown men waving hand puppets.
“We cain’t do anything for the Facemen right now, ya crazy fool,” BA had intervened before Hannibal could respond. “The Faceman ain’t even awake if the news is tellin’ the truth.”
“Murdock, BA is right. We’re not doing Face any good here. And we won’t be able to do him any good if we get spotted and thrown in jail.” Trying to sound convincing, Hannibal also had added, “We’ll be able to keep tabs on Face from outside the hospital.”
“No.” Murdock had flatly insisted, as he crossed his arms in front of him like a child throwing a tantrum. “I’m not leaving.”
Hannibal had motioned to BA, who walked over to the smaller captain and picked him up.
“Ya shouldn’t go arguin’ with Hannibal like that, fool. We gotta go and you’re comin’ with us.”
Hannibal had held out the slim hope that Face’s true identity would not be discovered, but that hope had been dashed quickly. Looking back on his decision, the colonel knew that he really had no choice, but he still felt like they had left Face behind.
It had always been an unspoken promise among the team. No one would ever be left behind.
They had broken that promise only once — not by choice — when Stockwell had ordered them to leave Frankie. It was on that day that Hannibal concluded they could no longer live under Stockwell’s yoke. That day, the colonel decided the team would be better off on the run. Better than continuing with Stockwell’s suicide missions in the faint hope of pardons that might never come. So, on their very next suicide mission, the A-Team had disappeared.
For the last eight months, Hannibal had entertained no second thoughts about that decision. Despite the renewed military presence chasing after them, there had been renewed life in the team. Face, in particular, had begun to let go of the simmering anger that had marked their two-year confinement in Langley. Hannibal knew that Face relished their newfound freedom, even if it meant returning to a life on the run.
Now, for the first time since they had left, Hannibal found himself regretting the decision. He had been forced to leave another man behind and it was the hardest decision he had ever made.
Hannibal knew that no matter how much he had liked Frankie, Frankie was never really one of the team. This time, though, they had abandoned Face. And the thought of losing his lieutenant ripped at Hannibal’s soul.
“Amy! What’s the latest?” Murdock knew his concern was evident as he asked the reporter to update them. Since Face had been shot, Amy had been using her press pass to act as the team’s eyes and ears.
“According to the last briefing, Face regained consciousness about two hours ago and is resting. He’s still critical, but stable. The hospital spokesman said that he understands his condition and the military presence, but is unaware of the situation outside the building.”
“How can that be, Amy?” asked Murdock. “With all those folks chanting, shouldn’t he be able to hear it?”
“Not really,” she answered. “Face is in an internal room on the sixth floor. It’s normally used as a surgical prep room, but Decker insisted that it be converted. He claimed it was more defensible than a room with a window.”
Hannibal inhaled on his cigar. “Well, can’t fault Rod for trying. True, it will make things more difficult, but we’ll figure something out. Amy, did you get any sense of how long Face’s going to be in there?”
“Not really. The military is preventing the hospital from releasing that information. National security.”
National security my ass, Murdock thought. Probably Decker’s promotion. The pilot looked at Hannibal expectantly.
“For now, we’re going to have to leave Face where he is.”
“No-no-no-no-no, Hannibal. That’s not good enough,” Murdock retorted. “I promised Face that we wouldn’t abandon him.”
“We’re not abandoning him, Captain. Right now, he’s probably not in any shape to be moved and we’re not in a position to go get him. Charging in there now would be suicide. Think of this as a strategic pause for some recon. Right now we need some more information.”
Hannibal turned to the reporter and took another drag on his cigar. “Amy, can you try to talk to Face’s doctor? See what you can dredge up. Maybe the Los Angeles Courier can get an exclusive with the ‘doctor who saved the hero of Il Trovatore.'”
“I’ll see what I can do.” She smiled. Murdock knew it was more for his sake than the colonel’s.
“Murdock,” Hannibal instructed. “Go get some rest. When BA gets back with the hospital floorplans, we’ll start working on a way of getting to Face.”
Murdock thoughts turned to his best friend lying in the hospital. Face was probably terrified.
“Hang in there, muchacho,” he thought. “Hang in there.”
Time passed slowly in the hospital. The first few days were the worst. For someone whose lifeline was his ability to convince people that the sky was green and the grass was blue, being unable to talk was a nightmare. Almost as much as the dark brown eyes of the apparation that he kept seeing before him.
Moreover, with one arm in a sling and the other shackled, Face couldn’t even write. He felt completely helpless.
Thankfully, once it was clear he could breathe on his own, they took the ventilator away. The next day, Dr. Tanaka decided they could take out the feeding tube. It took nearly a day longer before Face’s throat felt good enough to speak. Unfortunately, that was right about the time that Decker decided it was time to start gloating.
“Good morning, soldier.”
Face rolled his eyes. Decker was going to play “military prisoner” and refuse to use Face’s name or rank.
“Go away, Rod.” Face croaked. He knew that using Decker’s first name would get under the other man’s skin.
“That’s ‘Colonel’ to you, soldier.”
“Yeah. Right. So tell me. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Rod?”
Face nearly laughed when he saw how red-faced Decker was getting, but he knew he wasn’t going to like what the colonel was going to say. Finally composing himself, Decker pulled himself to his full height and announced:
“Lieutenant Templeton Arthur Peck, you are under arrest. You will be taken to the United States Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where you will be executed by firing squad.”
Face tried to suppress the glare in his eyes. He knew the smug colonel was enjoying this opportunity probably more than any in his lifetime. So much, in fact, that Decker forgot about the name thing as he hissed, “Yes, Peck, you’re a murderer, a thief and a liar. The world will be a far better place without you. Notwithstanding your little stunt at the restaurant.”
The mere mention of the shootout sobered Face. His anger and desire to mock Decker dissipated in an instant. Silently, he just stared at the ceiling. The same thought kept running through his mind . . . I killed her . . . I killed her . . .
“What? No glib response, Peck? I was expecting more from you.”
Face just remained silent, trying to drown out the voice in his head.
“Funny, figuring you’ve only got a few more weeks to live, I thought you’d probably want to get everything out of your system now.”
Face said nothing.
Decker leaned over Face and growled. “Tell me where Smith and Baracus are.”
Even though the words meant that the team had escaped, and should have cheered him, Face barely heard them over the anguished cry in his head. He did not respond.
Decker, apparently tiring of his sport and realizing that his target wasn’t going to answer, turned to leave. At the door, he paused and looked back at the man lying shackled to the bed. “We’ll talk again, soldier. Soon.”
Once outside Peck’s room, Decker leaned against the wall. Something about that exchange troubled him. Peck initially had behaved exactly like Decker expected: exactly like Smith behaved in the brief periods when Decker believed he had captured the A-Team. Especially in his weakened condition, Peck should have made an extra effort to tried to needle his captor as if to show that his injuries were superficial.
But instead, Peck had simply clammed up and seemed to disappear into himself.
Admittedly, Decker did not know as much about Peck as he knew about Smith. When he had known Smith in Vietnam, Decker had paid scant attention to the babyfaced lieutenant. He had known Peck’s reputation — the smart-ass, know-it-all con artist who stayed out of the brig only by the grace of his commanding officer — but that was about it. All he knew about Peck after the war was a collection of phony names and scams. The silent, brooding man in the hospital room did not jibe with any of Peck’s known behavior.
Maybe we just don’t know as much as we thought. Certainly, the army knew very little about Peck’s life before he joined the army. Add nearly twenty years on the run and who knows how the man was supposed to act?
Something still nagged at Decker, though. Something told him that there was something very wrong with his prisoner.
Dr. Nancy Tanaka was pissed. First, she had to get past the news crews and demonstrators outside the hospital and now she was being forced to run some stupid military gauntlet. And for what? So she could save the life of a patient only so he could be shot in a few weeks.
She thought about the new patient. Definitely not her typical case. She was a surgeon, for god’s sake. She patched people up and then passed them off to someone else. But the higher ups had decided almost immediately after he had been brought in that she would take primary responsibility for the city’s new hero. Even though she knew it was a big responsibility to oversee and coordinate the myriad of specialists who would treat the man, she knew it was mostly for p.r., a way for the hospital could display its new “diversity.” It also was a total crock. The endless press briefings with the older, white doctors invariably ended with her just sitting there while they talked. But she suffered through it, reminding herself that her career was at stake. Damn, she hated being a token.
Still, it was not like her anger towards the hospital was getting in the way of her duties. She took good care of her patient and was worried about his condition. Since his conversation with Colonel Decker the day before, the man had not said a word. She could tell the signs of depression and assumed they were only natural given his circumstances. From what she had seen of Decker, the smug bastard had probably gloated about Peck’s execution. No wonder the blond man had been depressed. She hoped things were better today. But, as she showed her ID to the guard and entered the room, she knew they were not.
Peck was still staring at the ceiling with the same blank look he had the day before. She could tell that he had not noticed her enter. To avoid startling him too much, she cleared her throat.
The noise had its intended effect. Her patient jerked his head in her direction momentarily, but when he saw it was only her, his gaze returned to the ceiling. She knew this was not going to be easy, so she tried injecting some levity as she approached his bed.
“So, checking out the cloud formations?”
“See any elephants or cars?”
“I’ve always been partial to dogs. Big dogs — retrievers and shepherds — not those little rats that the ladies in Beverly Hills call dogs.”
“I’ve always thought that any dog that needs more time at a beauty salon than me does not deserve to be called a dog.”
“What do you want?”
Not wanting to flaunt that she had broken through his reverie, she stopped herself from smiling. “I want to talk about you, Mr. Peck. About how you feel. Or, if you would prefer, I could continue my dog monologue.”
He glanced at her quickly before returning his eyes to the ceiling. “I don’t really feel like talking.”
“That’s not good enough. You know, I didn’t think soldiers got a whole lot of say in what they do.”
“I haven’t been a soldier in a long time.” His monotone betrayed no emotion as he spoke.
“Well then, if you’re not a soldier, then what are you?”
He looked at her again. This time, his gaze did not leap back to the ceiling. She could sense that he was studying her, but his eyes never left hers. She stared right back into his, refusing to break eye contact. She did not even blink.
Finally, he looked away. Slowly, in an almost whisper, he answered her question.
“Don’t you know?. . . I’m a killer.”
She looked at Peck. Not “looked” at him like a doctor examining a patient, but, for the first time, she looked to see the man actually lying there. She knew doctors rarely did this. To avoid getting too close to their patients, doctors insulated themselves inside an armor of indifference. But something about this man intrigued her, so she deliberately threw away her armor.
“I don’t believe you,” she said. “Killers don’t risk their lives to save other people.”
“Yeah.” His voice oozed sarcasm. “Well, if that’s so, why don’t you tell Decker?”
“Oh, that insufferable putz? He doesn’t need me to tell him,” she teased. “He’s got plenty of people telling him that.”
His interest obviously piqued, she continued. “Oh, don’t you know, Mr. Peck? You’re a hero. Outside this hospital, there are hundreds of people chanting your name and praying for you.”
His response surprised her. “I guess a lot of people have too much time on their hands.” The sarcasm was gone; he was completely serious.
“Those people out there are trying to get you pardoned,” she insisted. “They’re trying to save your life. Don’t you understand that?”
He sighed. “Yes, I understand. Those people could be putting their time to better use. I’m not worth the effort.”
“So you’re just going to sit here until it’s time to execute you?”
His eyes locked on hers again. A random thought popped into her head as she wondered what color those eyes were. They seemed to jump from blue to green to almost gray. But regardless of the color, right now they displayed no emotion.
“I guess I’ll have to take what life gives me,” he said evenly. “I always knew my luck would run out someday. I guess this is just the time.”
Hearing the defeat in his words, Dr. Tanaka struggled to respond. Before she found some words, he spoke again.
“Doc., I’m pretty tired. I don’t feel like talking any more.”
She knew as his eyes faced the ceiling that there was no point in prodding him. She’d save the rest of her dog monologue for another day.
After three days of nothing new, Hannibal was going stir crazy. Amy had been trying to get close to the doctor, but the military had the hospital sealed tight. All this time trying to come up with a plan to rescue Face was starting to wear on him. He needed a diversion and, maybe, he had just found it.
Hannibal looked down at the newspaper. “Owner of Shootout Restaurant Takes Life” read the headline. The rest of the story detailed how Marc Spencer had committed suicide in a secluded part of Malibu Canyon. Spencer, who had been missing for several days, owned Il Trovatore, the restaurant where two gunmen had taken hostages and had been killed in a gun battle with A-Team member Lieutenant Templeton Peck. Police speculated that Spencer killed himself because he could not cope with his guilt over not being at the restaurant when some of his patrons and employees were killed.
Hannibal didn’t buy it. The team had tried to contact Spencer since shortly after the shootout, but could not find him. The restaurant was closed of course and there was no answer at Spencer’s house. Hannibal had debated going to the house, but he knew better than to visit someone who might be talking regularly with the police in the aftermath of a shooting.
And now the man who hired them to investigate the restaurant was dead. Call it a gut instinct, but Hannibal did not believe Spencer killed himself. Maybe it was just his mind playing tricks on him, a way of diverting his attention from worrying about Face. But there seemed to be more going on. Suicide was just too convenient.
Amy Allen stood in the darkness and waited. How did she wind up in these situations? Why couldn’t Murdock or BA do this? Okay, she knew why BA couldn’t be here. With all the MPs around, they would have spotted him in a second. But ever since the A-Team had returned to LA, she kept getting these types of messenger jobs.
Not that she minded helping the team. When she heard about the execution shortly after returning to her job at the Los Angeles Courier, she was heartbroken. Then, two years later, Hannibal had shown up at her house dressed as a delivery man. When he had removed his disguise, she had learned that the team had cheated death yet again. Joyously, she had gone back to the role she had played years earlier.
Yeah, the team had cheated death more times than she could recall. But, for the first time in ages, she wondered whether the A-Team’s luck was running out.
From her corner of the parking garage, Amy saw the Asian doctor leave the staff entrance of the hospital. Since the military police had staked their claim on the facility, staff members had been forced to use a back entrance. The army said it made it easier to control access. Amy could not help but notice that it also kept the staff away from the news vans staked out on the other side of the building. But once Amy learned that the military was also making the doctors park in the large parking structure on Third Street, she waited there for Dr. Tanaka and hoped that her contact at the DMV had given her accurate records.
Sure enough, Amy soon saw the doctor exit the elevator and begin crossing the lot towards Amy’s position. When the other women got close enough, Amy stepped out of the shadows.
Amy nearly laughed as the other woman jumped. Then she saw the can of mace in the doctor’s hand.
“Wait! Stop! I didn’t mean to startle you. I need to speak with you. It’s important.”
Still aiming the spray in Amy’s direction, the doctor asked suspiciously, “Who are you?”
Taking a deep breath, Amy answered. “My name is Amy Allen. I’m a reporter with the Los Angeles Courier.”
The doctor lowered the can of mace. “I’m sorry Ms. Allen, but I don’t give interviews.”
“I know . . . I know that doctor . . . I’m not really here in my official capacity . . .It’s just that Face is a friend of mine.”
“Face?” queried the doctor. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Face. Templeton Peck. He is your patient, isn’t he?”
The doctor immediately became nervous, rubbing her hands together as she looked around hastily. Carefully, she spoke, “He is my patient, yes. But I’ve been instructed not to talk about him. Particularly to reporters.”
“Please doctor. Templeton Peck is a friend. And I’m here on behalf of some of his other friends — friends who can’t come check on him, if you know what I mean.” Amy normally hated to beg, but she had no qualms right now. “They’re worried sick and the military isn’t giving any detailed information.”
Amy stopped and carefully studied the doctor. The reporter realized that the other woman was not going to talk here, not with the military police swarming the building next door. Amy pulled out a pen and piece of paper from her purse and started writing something.
“Look. Let me give you a telephone number. The man on the other end will probably answer the phone with something like ‘Lou’s Delivery’ or ‘Pete’s Pizza,’ but just tell them who you are. They’ll probably want to speak with you face to face. I assure you, they won’t hurt you. It’s just that they’re the closest thing Face has to a family and they’re desperate for some news.”
She passed the sheet of paper to Dr. Tanaka. Before walking away, Amy begged once again. “Please take care of him.”
She had only taken five steps when she heard the other woman speak. “Your friend . . . the ‘face’ . . . what’s he normally like? I mean, how does he normally act?”
Turning back to the doctor, Amy thought for a minute before answering. “I’m not completely sure what you mean . . . But if you’re asking me how Face comes across to people, I would say he comes across as supremely confident. Some might call him egotistical, but it’s an act. Underneath that surface, he really cares about things. He’s probably hurting right now, but doing everything in his power to put on a brave show . . .”
She stopped as she saw the doctor staring intently. The other woman had begun to open her mouth to speak, but stopped to allow Amy to continue.
“I’m sure you’ve seen that. Face has probably spent every waking hour flirting with the nurses and making snide cracks at the soldiers.” Amy paused as she thought about what to say next. Then, in a quiet voice, she tried to explain. “You see, doctor, no matter how bad things are, Face would never let anyone know how it’s getting to him. He’ll make stupid jokes and keep a grin on his face the entire time. Just to keep up a front.”
A long moment passed as the doctor allowed this to sink in. From the way the doctor was chewing her lip, Amy could tell something was wrong. Slowly, the other woman looked at the paper and then back at the reporter. “The man in that room is not acting like you just described,” the doctor said slowly with a frown. “Give me an hour or so and I’ll call.”
Mr. Lee slid into the back booth of the Silverlake coffee shop at10:45 p.m. He didn’t see anyone who could pass for Dr. Nancy Tanaka, so he waited. Approximately five minutes later, the woman entered.
As she looked around, he appraised her carefully. He figured she was in her early 30s — young, but not necessarily too young. Her shoulder-length black hair was carefully kempt and her makeup was effective, but discreet. Her long skirt and sweater were not overly conservative and she carried a small backpack, not a purse. Mr. Lee noticed that, even in this uncertain situation, the doctor carried herself with confidence.
Mr. Lee felt relieved. He had made a career of studying people and, watching the attractive, confident doctor approach his table, he knew Face’s care was in excellent hands.
It was finding a way to keep the lieutenant in those hands that troubled him.
“Mr. Lee?” the woman asked. “Are you Mr. Lee?”
“Ah so,” responded the old man, motioning her to sit.
“Umm. The guy at Pete’s Pizza told me that I should meet you here to discuss your friend.”
“Ah, yes. Friend. Confucius say friend is like precious pearl. Take long time to cultivate and must be kept on very strong string.”
He was startled from his act by her giggles. She was trying to cover her face to stop the tears of laughter.
“I’m sorry,” she exhaled. “I’m really sorry . . . But do you actually get people to believe you in that get up?” Unable to control herself, the doctor buried her head in her hands to avoid attracting attention. From behind her hands, she continued giggling. “Has anyone ever told you that lines like that are truly offensive? Besides . . . you . . . you look my grandfather.”
Hannibal pursed his lips. Yep, he thought, Face is in very capable hands.
Five minutes later, the doctor was in the back of a black van. She thought it had a red stripe on it, but it had been pretty dark in the alley. She had tried to get the license number too, just in case.
She hoped she hadn’t offended the guy dressed in the Chinese costume. She just had not been able to control herself. Did he really think people wouldn’t notice the blue eyes and the fake accent? She found herself wondering if he was an actor. Probably so, but a bad one. He was now in the passenger side of the van, removing his fake mustache and hair.
She looked at the other two occupants of the van. Next to her was a nervous, twitchy type in a leather jacket and baseball cap. Something in his manner made her think that this man was both harmless and deadly at the same time. She could not figure out why she thought that, since it should have been impossible to reconcile the two. But she felt that way nevertheless.
She had no conflicting thoughts about the driver. The African-American man was huge and his tight shirt displayed his strength. From the grim look on his face, Dr. Tanaka knew this man was not someone to make your enemy.
“Are we being followed, BA?” Now that the passenger had removed his Mr. Lee costume and leaned forward in his seat, Dr. Tanaka could see the white hair that had previously been hidden by the wig.
The white-haired man turned to her and she shrunk back in her seat. For some reason, even though this man looked like hundreds of grandfathers, there was a quality about him. Like the nervous man next to her, she could just sense that this man could be lethal.
“I’m sorry about the shop,” she said. All at once, the danger of her situation dawned on her. She was in a strange van, going God knows where, with men who she assumed were wanted murderers. “Um . . . I, umm, told my boyfriend that I would be checking in by eleven. I told him to call me if he didn’t hear from me.”
“Relax,” said the white-haired man. “Calm down. We’re not going to hurt you. We just want to find out about Face.”
The nervous man jumped up in his seat and tucked his knees under him in one fluid motion. “Oh please, please. Tell me Faceyman’s okay. Please, oh pretty please . . .”
“Murdock,” said the older man, “let her speak.”
Dr. Tanaka thought about the recent press reports that she had seen about the A-Team, but she couldn’t recall any mention of someone named Murdock. Now that she had been able to relax slightly, she identified the white-haired man as John “Hannibal” Smith and the driver as Bosco “BA” Baracus.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Tanaka. It’s just that Captain Murdock sometimes gets overexcited. And he’s particularly anxious about Face.”
Unable to stop herself, she asked, “Why do you call him that? What kind of name is ‘Face’?” Her tone was a little more exasperated than she would have liked, but it got a response from the leader.
“I’ll answer that doctor. But then you have to answer our questions. Is that a deal?”
“We call him ‘Face’ because, with a face like his, he has the ability to get you to say ‘yes’ before he has even asked the question.”
She suspected there was more to it, but didn’t want to push her luck. Not here.
“Now my questions,” the older man continued. “First, what is Face’s condition?”
She looked him squarely in the eye. “I assume that you are Colonel John Smith?”
He nodded. “Yes. Call me Hannibal. This is Sergeant BA Baracus and the man next to you is . . .”
“Captain Murdock. I caught that before. I normally would never discuss a patient’s condition with someone that I know is not a relative, but I’m going to assume that Mr. Peck” — she caught herself — “Face would want you to know.
“Your friend was shot twice, once in the left shoulder and once in the lower right of the midsection. We immobilized his broken left scapula and he suffered extensive injuries to his intestine, stomach and right kidney. He also lost a lot of blood and went into shock.”
She could see the older man — Hannibal, she reminded herself — absorbing everything she said. Murdock had stopped twitching and was listening attentively.
“All in all, I’d say your friend is very lucky to be alive.”
“So, Doc.,” said Murdock. “What’s his prognosis?”
“I expect he would make a full recovery.”
“Would. You said ‘would’. What do you mean by ‘would’?” Murdock twitched impatiently.
“Yeah, Lady!” She jumped as she heard the gruff voice of the driver for the first time.
“What I meant is that, with some time, Face would recover fully. But he’s not going to get that time, is he?”
She noticed that the leader had pulled out a cigar and put it to his mouth. He fumbled in his breast pocket for a match or lighter. Finding none, he tried his pants and then scanned the van. Finally, dejectedly, he put the cigar back in his pocket. With a grim look in his eyes, the white-haired man turned back to face her.
“So when’s Decker going to move Face?”
“I don’t know.”
“Doc.,” he said slowly, the edge in his tone perfectly clear. “I like you, but I’m not in the mood to play around. Tell me the truth. When’s Decker moving him?”
“Honestly,” she said hurriedly. “I don’t know. I’m trying to keep him at Cedars as long as possible.”
“Okay,” he smiled. “I believe you. I didn’t mean to scare you, but I just needed to make sure you were telling us everything.” He turned away and sat back in the passenger seat.
Maybe he’s not such a bad actor after all, she thought. Then she realized that there was something she hadn’t told them.
“There is something else,” she offered.
The leader — Hannibal, she told herself — swung around quickly. She could see the concern in his eyes.
“Mr. Peck’s — Face’s attitude is worrying me. You see, when I spoke with the reporter, she gave me the impression that your friend is outgoing; that even injured, he would joke and flirt.”
“That’s Faceyman, for you,” the man next to her — Murdock — concurred.
“But you see, that’s not how he’s acting at the hospital.”
“What do you mean, Doctor?” Hannibal leaned forward. Without realizing it, he had pulled the cigar out of his pocket again and was fingering it.
“Well, for the most part, he just stares at the ceiling. He barely notices when other people are in the room and almost completely refuses to talk. When I asked him how he felt about being executed and told him about the people trying to get him freed, he acted like he didn’t care.”
The three men all took this in slowly. After a minute, Murdock spoke. “It sounds like Face is depressed. That seems pretty normal considering what’s happened.”
She was somewhat surprised by the man’s response. She had some ideas about soldiers and she didn’t expect them to be particularly insightful about mental health issues.
Obviously her surprise showed, because Hannibal explained that the team, especially Murdock, was familiar with the signs of depression.
“Look, umm, Colonel. Captain. You’re right in part. Your friend is depressed, but there’s more to it.”
“Do you think he’s suicidal, doctor?”
She thought for a moment before answering. “Perhaps, Colonel.”
“No way.” Murdock was vigorously shaking his head. “Uh uh. Faceyman would never consider suicide. He was raised a strict Catholic. I mean, even in the camps, he refused to consider it. He talked other men out of it.”
Doctor Tanaka did not completely understand what Murdock was saying. She got the gist of it; her patient would have to overcome a lot of ingrained barriers before he might kill himself. But what did Murdock mean by “the camps”?
“You’re right, Murdock,” Hannibal added. “Face wouldn’t do it. But the Doc’s right. Even if he was in horrible pain and Decker was hovering over him every minute of the day, Face would be doing his best to make it seem like things weren’t getting to him.”
“So somethin’ else ain’t right with Faceman,” interjected the driver.
The doctor watched as the twitchy man looked at her and then back at the colonel. Murdock put his right hand over his mouth and ran it over his nose to his brow before speaking. “Colonel,” he said quietly. “There was something Face said in the restaurant. I was so upset about leaving him there that I didn’t give it much thought.”
Hannibal raised his eyes and stared at the other man. The colonel’s jaw was locked tight and the icy stare he gave Murdock would have frozen most men. “What did Face say, Murdock?”
“He wasn’t really conscious, but he kept talking about killing someone. I don’t completely remember.”
“Y’know Hannibal, li’l brother wasn’t with it. I was there. I didn’t hear nothin’. Either he or the fool might have been hallucinatin’.”
Hannibal turned to face the driver so Dr. Tanaka could not see his face, but she heard his terse words. “Maybe BA, but Murdock should have told me about this. You all must know how hard it must have been for Face to kill those men. It had to be a last resort. Face may be trying to come to terms with that.”
Dr. Tanaka took in his words. Guilt? Her patient might feel guilty after saving all those lives. It seemed hard to reconcile with what she had heard about the A-Team. Why would her patient — a convicted murderer — feel guilty about killing men who were about to murder a group of innocent people?
They drove in silence for a few more minutes and then BA stopped the van to let her out in the alley behind the coffee shop. She was surprised when Hannibal got out of the van with her and escorted her to the end of the alley. Then she realized that he wanted to say something out of hearing range from the others.
“Listen, Doc.,” he said.
She saw him look down as he shuffled his feet. In the van, he had seemed like such a strong presence — a leader in every respect. But in the alley, under the street lamp, he suddenly looked like an old man.
“I’m going to say this because I trust you. I’ve never said this before to anyone. Murdock and BA probably sense this, but Face . . . Face is special, kind of like a son to me. I’d do anything for him, so . . . please . . . I beg you . . . take care of him. Let him know his ‘family’ is looking out for him and will get him out of there.”
She nodded, trying to prevent herself from crying. She knew this was a man who rarely displayed these emotions, and she could see he was struggling with it.
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
He patted her on the arm and mouthed the word “thanks.” She could tell he no longer trusted himself to speak.
Watching him walk back to the waiting van, Dr. Nancy Tanaka swore that she would do everything in her power to protect Templeton Peck. If he would not fight for himself, she would. For him and his family.
End Part 1