CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN

"Maggie, what's going on?" Sam raised his head, trying to see Randy. He didn't have to ask to know things were getting out of hand; what he didn't know was how badly.

"Kurt's driving now, so don't worry about that. Randy's...not good." They were all speaking softly, although Maggie doubted that Randy would have noticed if they had been shouting at each other. "I don't know... I just don't know what the combination is going to do. I know he's not in control any more. One minute he's stable, the next...if we don't get stopped sometime soon, he's going to be in real trouble."

"Where are we?"

"Going down 190th, west."

"He's going toward Redondo Beach. Maybe the state beach. It's not far, not now. You have any more of that painkiller, Maggie?"

"Yes, I do. Are you hurting?"

"It's not for me. I want you to keep a small dose ready for Randy if we need it."

"I don't know that I can give him any, Sam. I don't think his system would tolerate it."

"It's just as a last resort, doc. Just enough so he can be controlled and safe. Daryl..."

"Yeah, Sam."

"You and Kurt will have to be ready for damn near anything once we get there. It almost sounds like he expects his friends to be there waiting for him. I don't know what he's gonna do when he realizes they're not. If he's in any shape to do anything."

"Just who are these friends?"

Sam closed his eyes. How to explain this? Just tell the truth, he guessed. At least, some of it.

"He saw them in a dream several weeks ago. I don't know if it was part of a repressed memory or just imagination. He's never named them or really described them. Hell, he could glom onto any Tom, Dick or Harry that happens to be on the beach as far as I know." Sam reached up and ran his hand through his hair. Despite what he'd told Maggie, he was hurting, and it was wearing him down. "We just have to be ready for anything. Literally."


*****

"They're headed for Redondo Beach, Hannibal. That could get hairy."

"I know, Murdock. We're gonna have to keep them close. With those choppers up there, we can expect company pretty much immediately after they stop. It's gonna have to be a quick snatch and go, okay?"

"Right, Hannibal. Ain't gonna give Stockwell a chance. That other bunch neither." BA moved up slightly closer behind the gray van. He wanted to be close, but not crowding them. "How you wanna play it, Hannibal?"

Hannibal thought about this. While not wanting to spook anyone, time was running short. He had no doubt that Stockwell and the other guys were already on their way to intercept the gray van. Hopefully they would have decided on the same strategy as Hannibal had at first, waiting for them to stop somewhere and taking them then. It was the discrete way of doing it, and Stockwell was definitely discrete.

Hannibal grinned. He didn't care about discrete.

"I think we need to clear the path for our lieutenant, gentlemen. Make sure he gets where he's going without any interference. So start looking for extraneous tail feathers, guys. Murdock, Frankie - break 'em out."

BA actually smiled. Murdock grinned, and Frankie frowned, as they reached in the back and started handing out the assault weapons. Look out, LA, thought Murdock. The A-Team is back in business...


*****

Able 17 glanced at his watch one more time. They were still a good ten minutes away from the van's last reported location. It was fairly clear the general area it was going to. He wasn't that familiar with the area himself, but the fact sheet they'd been faxed had shown a fairly large beach area just to the south of Redondo Beach proper. Redondo State Beach. Large. Crowded. If they went there, it would be hard to keep track of them. Hard to bring them in without a lot of notice. It was perfect. For Peck.

Clifton looked over at his new partner. They sat in the back of a small limo, just the two of them. The driver was separated by a plexiglass partition, one of the men Clifton intended to bring with him to Stockwell's group. He and Able 17 could talk freely.

"I think he's going to head for the state beach, here." Able 17 pointed to the map. "It's perfect for losing anyone who might be following. And difficult to take him down without witnesses."

"Why not Redondo Beach itself?"

"Too easy to get trapped. Especially since they obviously know there are a lot of people on their trail. No, the beach is where he'll go. Unless we spot him and then form a complete ring around him, he'll figure he can evade us. It's exactly the place he'd go."

Clifton conceded the point. "So how do you want to play this out?"

"You were able to separate your men from Barish's without causing suspicion?"

"Yes. They don't know there's anything to be suspicious of, yet, so it was just a routine placement arrangement. The A-Team still following them?"

"Yes, along with the LAPD choppers. I think we should send Barish's men to intercept Peck. Between Peck and his friends and the A-Team, that should take them out of the running long enough for us to do our job."

"You seem pretty confidant they can handle my...Barish's men."

"I've dealt with the Team before. And I know the men with Peck. You won't have to worry. Let's get the rest of our people over to the beach. If we're lucky, we'll beat them to it and pick them up on arrival."

"If we're not lucky?"

"Then we'll be looking for decidedly shy needle in a haystack. But," he smile slightly, "one that's not shining quite so brightly as it normally does."


*****

Randy was staring straight ahead, not really seeing the road, the traffic, the scenery. He was trying to think. It was hard, very hard right now. He was trying hard not to gasp for air, didn't want Kurt to know he was in deep shit. His chest felt on fire. It had started shortly after they turned off 190th and headed south toward the state beach. He kept telling himself it was nothing. Excitement. Stress. Something like that. It would go away. It had to.

Kurt kept glancing over at him. Randy knew he was sweating like a pig. His head no longer ached; it buzzed. Loudly. He couldn't let Kurt know anything was really wrong. Couldn't let any of them. They'd try to stop him if they knew he was weak.

He took a slow, deep breath. As deep as he could, anyway. He needed to calm down. Needed to think. He had to be ready when they got there. Had to know what he was going to do so he could just do it and not have to think about it.

God, please. Please. Just a little bit longer. They were almost there. Just let him hold out a little longer. Was that asking so much?


*****

Barish sat quietly, watching out the window, waiting. Clifton had reported earlier, letting him know that LAPD had picked up the gray van and were following its progress by air. From that point on, things should be simple. LAPD would lead his people to the target and they, in turn, would proceed with the cleanup.

With a slight alteration.

Barish lit a cigarette. Surgeon General be damned. Barish could teach the Surgeon General a few things about cigarettes. He smirked, standing and moving closer to the window. It looked out over a very quiet and peaceful campus, which housed a very quiet and private hospital.

Barish was not only a skillful researcher. He was also a very persuasive one...