CHAPTER FORTY NINE

"They've been spotted - turning off Torrance, going down Esplanade. They passed the first entrance to the beach, though."

"Think they spotted our guys?"

"Possible. That van is full of experts, you know."

"Damn. Okay, move the first group out. Put the rest on high alert. And hope they don't spot the others."

"Right." Clifton grabbed the radio.

Maggie helped Sam sit up, getting his balance. She'd given him a short dose of painkillers, but could tell he was feeling like shit, sitting up after being prone for so long. She shook her head, sitting next to sliding door. She looked at him, concerned.

"Sam, you ready for this?"

"I think so."

Randy looked back at him, winked.

"Just run like hell and hide, buddy. I'll pick you up on the backswing."

Sam shook his head. He hoped to hell this worked. He hoped to hell he could make it. He didn't like to think what would happen if Barish or Stockwell caught up with him first.

Just past Sapphire, Kurt jerked the van to the side of the street. Daryl jumped out and took off running for the beach. Kurt immediately pulled back into traffic.

"Damn! Which one was that?"

"Don't know, BA. Frankie - follow him! Don't lose him!"

BA slammed into almost the exact spot Kurt had stopped, Frankie sliding the door open and leaping out almost before it stopped. Murdock didn't bother to shut the door.

"Murdock, you take the next one. Damn, I should've expected something off the wall."

"We'll get him, Hannibal. Don't worry."

Kurt swung over at the Knob Hill cross street, jumping out of the driver's door while Randy swung over to take his place. They were there and gone in seconds.

Murdock practically flew out the door, BA shortening the distance between the two vehicles.

Randy pulled over at Avenue C. Maggie shoved the door open, Sam slid out and started running as best he could. There was a set of small cabanas just a short distance away, with wall to wall people around them. Sam headed for them, hoping he could find a place to sit down where he'd be out of sight. He was much slower than the other two, but Randy held his position longer, too, giving their pursuers a diversion. He watched Sam disappear into the crowd before gunning it. He saw the black van pull in almost on his tailpipe.

He didn't see Hannibal jump out and start running after Sam.

The next stop would be the trickiest. It would be him and the doctor and he really didn't trust her to do her part.

"Ready, doctor?"

"No, but I'll try."

"You better do more than try, lady."

Maggie didn't say anything, just watched him. She knew he was running on adrenaline alone, and did not like the looks of him. By rights, he should've been down and out. Pushing himself any more and he could end up dead. But she knew better than to try and talk him out of anything. She'd seen the 'jazz' and, withdrawal or not, she recognized the same signs in Randy.

They passed Avenue H and Randy pulled the van over and leaped out. Maggie shoved herself into the driver's seat and hit the gas. She was supposed to keep driving, pulling any other pursuers far away. She went two more blocks before turning, moving up a block and paralleling Esplanade. She'd glanced back, recognized the black van. Somewhere on that beach were four men she cared deeply about, one of them very ill, and no way in hell was she deserting them.


*****

"Alright, what is going on? Where are you guys? Did anyone pick up the first one? Or the next? Report! Report!"

Able 17 slammed his fist against the door. Damn! This was not supposed to happen. It was supposed to be a fairly simple pickup, surround the van and take them. The only complication was not knowing which entrance they would use, and possibly the A-Team. It had been assumed the pickup would be completed before the team got to them. Now...fiasco.

He watched Clifton speaking on the radio. Calm, but fast. Rushing the troops to try to find the errant men. Forget trying to pick up the trail of those already lost. Most of the men being rushed to the beachfront itself, hoping to surround the men as they tried to mingle in. The others, trying to catch up with the van before it dropped off the last of them.

Clifton had no frustrations with the situation. He had known it would not go down as Able 17 had expected. The man may know Peck, but he didn't know Randy or Sam. Didn't know the 'training' they had gone through. He smiled grimly to himself.

Even Sam didn't know the half of it...