CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR

BA was starting to sweat. It hadn't taken a lot of effort to take out the first guy. Walked up behind him, arm around his shoulder like a good buddy, quick shift to put his fist over the guy's Adam's apple, a squeeze held just long enough, and the guy went down. BA had held him up long enough to move him off the boardwalk and settle him against a gate post; looked like he was asleep. Then he'd moved on to the next guy.

The next one hadn't gone quite so smoothly. He'd turned just as BA moved up next to him. Pretended to stumble, hit him in the gut, hard, fast. Let him down slowly again, with an added quick punch to the face, just to keep him down. Hadn't felt right, doing that, but BA hadn't had much choice. Couldn't have this guy come up on him unexpectedly later.

He kept moving, like a machine. Hurrying. The third guy knew. He was moving up on BA's guy. Watching BA coming toward him. This was trouble. Hand moving to pocket. The killer glancing over, knew it was coming, too. Didn't look at BA. Started slowing down, preparing. BA moved in closer. It was like a race in slow motion. No one wanting to make a scene, everyone wanting to take care of business before they were stopped. BA never hesitated. His hand grabbed the wrist in an iron vise, forcing it to the man's back, pushing him to the side. A quick jerk upward, bone snapping. The guy fell heavily, BA didn't bother to check his fall, let him go down to the side of the lifeguard tower. Quick look around to see if they'd been noticed. His eyes fell on the killer. For the first time he saw the man.


*****

Randy was moving more slowly now. It was getting harder to navigate. Too many bushes, trees. He kept running into the trees. Weird trees. They talked. He'd never heard of talking trees before. Talk, hell. They swore at him. Weird.

He didn't know how he came to be in this forest in the first place. One minute he was on the beach, looking for his friends, and then poof! here he was in the middle of a fucking forest. He had to get back to the beach, somehow. He stopped, looked around, trying to find a path. Oh, that wasn't good, man. Moved his head and everything else moved, too. Man. He grabbed for a tree, trying to get his balance. Damn tree moved! Shit! Where the hell was he?

He started walking again. Fuck the damn trees. If that one moved, the others could. Just shove 'em out of the way. Hell with it. He had to get out of here. Had to find the beach. Where was the fuckin' beach!? His friends were there. Were. They'd probably left by now. Got tired of waiting for him. Damn. Why hadn't he gotten there sooner? Why had he gotten lost? How? They should've waited. They knew he was coming. They knew that. Why didn't they wait? What was he supposed to do now? He didn't know anyone else out here...

Except Sam.

Sam was here. Sam had come out here with him. Stop. Think. Where was he now? Randy was supposed to meet him somewhere. Damn. Back at the beach. Some buildings. Shit. Shit. Shit. Everyone was at the fucking beach and he was stuck in this fucking jungle with the talking trees!

He felt like crying. God. That would be the end. A Green Beret crying. Because he was lost in the jungle. Crying, like a fucking baby. God. He rubbed his face, hard. Get a grip, man.

He couldn't. He just couldn't do it any more. His head was vibrating, the buzzing was so loud in his ears. His chest hurt, his eyes burned. His friends were gone. Sam was gone. He was lost in this hell-hole. It was no use. He would just walk away into this talking-tree jungle and keep walking until he couldn't walk any more. Until he died. Then it would be over. All the swirling around in his head would end. He forced himself to start moving again. It was hard. He felt like he was walking in quicksand. His legs felt cold, wet. He must be dying. The cold moved further up the farther he walked. That was okay. He could take dying. He welcomed it. Anything was better than being alone. Anything.


*****

BA hadn't seen anyone looking that bad since...Damn. The man was sick. That was so obvious. BA couldn't believe he was still on his feet. But the worst...there was absolutely nothing in those eyes. Not a breath of life. BA could only stare in dismay. How had he come to this? And then the man had turned and walked away.

For a moment, BA just stood there, watching him move away. It didn't matter any more that a man had died. Hell, BA wondered if he even realized what he'd done. He doubted it. Probably didn't even know he was walking.

He knew better than to try and stop him. He had known, from the moment he saw that half-turn and watched the Able fall, that he was dealing with a trained soldier. To try and stop him would be...messy. He would not go quietly. And BA had no intention of either one of them getting hurt. So he would just have to follow along and wait.

The big man shook himself and started after him. He didn't care who noticed him now. Didn't care if there were Ables or anyone else around. He'd deal with them as he had to. He would protect this man. Keep the bad guys away. And BA would be there to catch him when he fell.

It took maybe fifteen minutes and BA knew the end was coming. The steps were getting slower and slower; he was stumbling now, moving as if he were drunk. BA watched, fascinated, when he bumped into a surfer. The beach bum had sworn at him, and he backed off as if frightened. God only knew what he was thinking. If he was thinking at all. He stumbled along, moving toward the shore. BA moved closer. Watched as the man stopped, rubbing his face. When he looked up, BA saw the total despair on his face. He stumbled on once more, walking right into the waves. That was enough. BA strode forward, grabbing him under the arms, pulling him out of the surf. Wrapping one arm over his shoulders, BA started across the beach, heading for his van.

Anyone looking at BA's face would think twice about trying to stop him.


*****

Daryl was 'patrolling' up and down the boardwalk, watching for Randy to show up. It was getting late. The others, the "A-Team", had gotten restless. Kurt allowed the one, Murdock, to leave, finally, to get their van. He figured keeping the other two was enough incentive for him to come back without any reinforcements. There was a parking lot just behind and down a ways from the concession stands. Murdock was to bring the van there. Daryl had come out to the boardwalk when Murdock left. They wanted to be ready to roll as soon as Randy got there.

He noticed a commotion in the crowd just to his right. Down on the beach itself. The crowd moved somehow, like a wave coming up from the water to the boardwalk. And as it parted, Daryl saw a black man with an incredible haircut moving through. It took another second before Daryl realized he was hauling another man with him, arm up over his shoulder. And then he saw who that other man was.

"KURT!"

Daryl started running toward the two men, ignoring the stares and exclamations around him. God knew the pair had already created a stir. The black looked at him with a scowl that could've killed, but Daryl ignored it.

"Randy? Randy!" He stopped in front of them, raising Randy's head gently to look for signs of life. He sighed with relief when Randy's eyes met his, even if it was only for a second. Then they rolled up into his head, and his body sagged.

Daryl looked back toward the concession stand. He saw Kurt staring and then race toward the back again. Okay. Kurt would take care of that end of things. He turned back to the man holding Randy.

Under other circumstances, Daryl would have had second thoughts about issuing orders to someone who looked like this guy; hell, he wouldn't even have considered it. But today was different. Today he'd killed people to keep Randy alive. Today he'd issue orders to the devil himself.

"Bring him over here. Behind the stand. We've got transport." He started back toward the boardwalk, realized the man wasn't moving yet. "Are you deaf, man? We don't have time to waste! Move it!" He didn't wait for a response, just turned and started hurrying away.

BA stared hard at the retreating back. No one talked to him that way. Not even Hannibal. And speaking of Hannibal, why was this guy here and not any of the team? He didn't like it. Not one damn bit. But right now he had to take care of his charge. And if that meant taking shit from this other little twerp, he would.

For now.