CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT

"There they are, Colonel." Murdock's voice was calm, as he pointed past Hannibal's shoulder to the sedan pulling out from the side street ahead.

Hannibal watched a second dark vehicle as it pulled into traffic behind the first. Nondescript, expensive, darkly tinted windows. They had ignored oncoming traffic. Typical. He grinned.

"Okay, guys, this is it."

BA accelerated, passing the second car, pulling up quickly beside the first. Frankie pulled open the side door as Murdock aimed his Ruger past him. Three short bursts and the car flew off to the side. Frankie quickly pulled the door shut, grimacing as he held his left ear.

"Geez, Murdock!"

Murdock grinned. "Sorry, Frankie. Shoulda warned you about the percussion section."

Hannibal grinned, watching the side mirror. Traffic was just a bit congested behind them. He checked for the second car. If these guys were any good at all, they'd find a way around the mess, but it would take them a little time. Just more time for Face.

"They're turning, Hannibal. Think they're headin for the beach now."

"Okay, BA, keep an eye on them. I'll watch the rear. Murdock, Frankie, get ready. Stockwell's goons have probably figured out where Face is heading by now, too, so they may have a welcoming committee waiting. We want to be ready for that."

"At least we'll have Face with us for that."

"Maybe, Murdock. No doubt they saw the little scrimmage back there. They'll figure we're either on their side or we just don't want competition, so I don't know how they'll greet us. Again, it depends on what shape Face is in."

Murdock frowned. "You really think he's the one hurt, Hannibal?"

"I don't know, Murdock. I honestly don't know. The maneuvers have been like Face, yet not quite. And I'm sure he would've recognized the van by now, if he was in any condition to. We just have to be ready for anything now. At the very least, we gotta provide cover for them.

"And Frankie, I want you to keep your eye on that van. When you see Face, you keep on him. Don't - and I mean DON'T - lose him. Got it?"

Frankie almost shrank away at the tone in Hannibal's voice. He'd never heard him that harsh before.

"Don't worry, Johnnie. No way he'll get away from me. Count on it."


*****

"What the hell was that?!" Kurt stared in the rear view mirror.

He'd caught the two vehicles pulling in behind them, and had immediately recognized the style of both the cars and the maneuver. He knew it was a takedown. One would force its way in front of him, the other closing up on the rear. Inexorably, they would slow down, not affording him any room to maneuver away, and eventually the would force him off the road and to a stop. He could not let that first car get anywhere near him. He'd gently pressed on the accelerator, not wanting to let them know they'd been spotted. And then it had happened.

That black van, the one that had been following them for miles, suddenly shot up beside the lead car. He'd missed the next few seconds, having to watch the road ahead. All he knew was there had been a series of shots fired and the lead car had careened off across the road, cars running into each other before they had a chance to react. The entire street behind them was a mass of steaming, stalled vehicles.

Except for the black van, which resumed its steady pace behind them. He stared at Daryl, whose eyes were wide and confused. Who were those guys?


*****

Randy never noticed the commotion behind them. He'd been concentrating on his breathing, trying to slow his heart down, trying to stay calm. It seemed to be working. His chest still felt like there was vise around it, but it was loosening. He tried to get his bearings. He knew they had to turn soon. Go south.

"Kurt."

"Uh, yeah, yeah, Randy, what is it?"

"Turn left. On Prospect."

"You okay, Randy?"

"Yeah. Just drive."

Damn. Just talking had taken nearly all his energy. How the hell would he find his friends like this? Sam. Sam had to help him. Sam knew who his friends were. Didn't he? He'd told him about them. He knew he had. Okay. Sam would help him. Sam always helped him.

"Kurt."

"Yeah, Randy."

"Hurry it up."


*****

"Time?"

"We should make it. They just turned onto Prospect. ETA six minutes."

"Good. Our people in place?"

"Yes. One car at each entrance, all on tach-1 ready to move when we get the actual location."

"Good"

"Problem just before they turned onto Prospect."

"A-Team?"

"Apparently. Second car is just moving out of the tie-up there. First car is out of action."

"Figure on the second car going out soon. That'll take care of that problem."

"Right."

Clifton didn't mention the new instructions Barish had given him at the last check-in. No point in complicating things.


*****

Stockwell re-read the last report from Able 17. He looked out of the jet's window, watching the clouds drift by below him. Clifton had been turned, along with the majority of his men, expecting positions within Stockwell's organization in exchange for retrieving Peck alive. Able 17 had done well. Stockwell smiled. They would have the lieutenant in custody shortly.

Hopefully before Clifton realized he'd been...misled.


*****

"Our buddies are catching up, BA."

"Gottem, Hannibal."

"Murdock, you ready?"

"All set, Colonel."

"Frankie?...Frankie!"

"Yeah, Johnnie, but I don't like it."

"Don't have to like it, Frankie, just do it."

Frankie took a deep breath. He sat in the very back of the van, holding the handle to the back doors. A rope was tied tightly around his waist and over both shoulders. Murdock crouched next to him in a similarly rigged harness. He held the Ruger ready.

Hannibal watched out the side mirror. The car was getting closer. Hannibal could see the barrel come out of the passenger window.

"Keep to the side, Frankie. You're gonna be getting rained on. You, too, Murdock."

Frankie just swallowed. Murdock looked over at him, winked, grinned.

"Now, Frankie!"

Frankie pulled on the handle and shoved with all his might and felt himself flying forward with the door. If not for the harness, he'd have found himself laying on the hood of the car behind them. He felt himself slammed back into the van and hugged the floor. He heard bullets zipping past him. Before the doors could slam back shut, Murdock let loose with a volley from the Ruger. The hood of the car slammed upward, steam pouring out. The car jerked to the side and back again before screaming for the boulevard. It slammed into a palm tree and burst into flame. Several men scrambled from the wreck.

Inside the van, Hannibal checked himself and BA quickly before looking into the back. "Everybody still with us?"

"Yeah, Hannibal. Piece of cake." Murdock grinned maniacally.

Frankie just lay on the floor, wishing to God he'd never heard of Stockwell or Johnnie or the A-Team.


*****

"Randy?"

He heard the voice; it sounded far away. It took a few moments for it to register that he was being spoken to. He blinked, trying to focus. His whole body hurt, but at least his heart was no longer threatening to jump out of his chest.

"Randy?"

"Yeah, yeah, what?"

"We're here. But we've got company waiting. My guess is they've covered all the entrances."

Shit. He should've been paying attention.

"Have they seen us?"

"Don't think so. Not yet anyway. Only a matter of time."

"Okay. Move over to the far lane, stay there. We'll have to find a different way in."

"That's not gonna be easy. It's not like we're off in the wilderness here, Randy."

Randy smiled. His friends were close. He could feel them. He could ignore the pains now. He could ignore the sweating and the dizziness. He would draw up every last bit of energy he had left. He would focus now on the mission. That was the only thing that mattered now.

"Don't worry, Kurt. I know exactly how to do it."