CHAPTER ONE

Gordon Benford stood nervously in front of the laundry. This was supposedly the final step he had to take, and thinking of the possible consequences to not only himself, but his family, he debated whether to open that door or not. Well, he hadn't come almost 2000 miles and gone through a gauntlet of odd characters and out-of-the-way places just to turn tail and run. Nerving himself, he pushed the door open and stepped in.

At first he thought no one was in the shop, until an elderly Chinese man popped up from behind the counter. They stared at each other for a few moments before the older man spoke.

"I help you?"

Gordon started to answer, couldn't, cleared his throat. "I was told to talk to a Mr. Lee. Are you he?"

"Yes, I Mr. Lee. What you want?"

"I need to get in touch with the A-Team. Can you help me?"

Mr. Lee looked closely at Gordon. "Maybe. Maybe not. Why you want this A-Team?"

Gordon sighed. He'd been through this story so many times already. "I need help getting rid of a bunch of poachers who are killing black bears."

"Mounties not help you?"

"They're trying but they don't have the manpower...how did you know about the Mounties? Who are you?"

Mr. Lee didn't answer his questions, only smiled and motioned to the back of the shop. "This way, please, Mr. Benford." He had suddenly lost his accent.

Gordon moved behind the counter and through a doorway. In the backroom, he saw three other men waiting. The first a muscular black man with a Mohawk haircut; another, wearing a baseball cap, was idly moving his hand in the air, as if petting something; the third, a slim blond, looked back at him with a confident smile.

Mr. Lee followed him in, pulling off his wig and glasses after closing the door. Indicating each of the three men, he introduced Gordon to them. "This is BA Baracus, H.M. Murdock, and Templeton Peck. I'm Hannibal Smith. Now, you want to give us a few more details about these poachers of yours, Mr. Benford?"

Gordon had one more moment of hesitancy before plunging ahead.

"The area I live in is almost total wilderness. A few towns along the main highways, otherwise mountains, forests, a few scattered lakes and rivers. Beautiful, wild country. In fact, just two years ago they opened a huge wildlife park north of us.

"The last couple of months, though, we've had trouble with a gang of poachers. There are always some now and again, but these guys are staying. They move around, and seem to know how to live in that kind of country without being seen. They're also becoming more and more bold as time goes on. Some of the shooting is getting close to the few homesteaders that live out there. Not to mention the havoc they're wreaking on the bear population of the area."

"They're poaching bears? Why? Fur?"

"No, body parts. In traditional Chinese medicine," he glanced ironically at Hannibal, "nearly every part is thought to have some use. The gall bladder is the most valuable, used as a remedy for a whole array of problems. The price per ounce is about 20 times the street price of cocaine."

"Good Lord."

"Yes, which is why there's so much poaching worldwide. I can't do anything about that, but I really would like to put a stop to some of it at least. Especially now."

"Now?"

"Somehow they found out that I was working with the Mounties - reporting the areas where the poachers left evidence of their slaughter, or where they'd had their camps. After the government authorized a reward for their capture, they started making threats against me, and my family. Two days ago, they left a bear's head on the hood of my truck. Luckily I found it before my kids did. But if they're getting that brazen..."

"Understood, Mr. Benford. Any idea how many there are?"

"Not precisely, but from the campsites I've found, I'd estimate no more than four or five. But like I said, they know how to survive out there. It's rough country."

"The Mounties have any idea who they might be?"

"They're guessing the leader is a fella named Rick Spiro. Apparently it's not the first time he's been involved in this type of thing."

"Well, fellas, what do you think?" Hannibal looked around the room, knowing already what the answer would be.

"Whereabouts is this place?" Murdock looked up from petting Billy, having noted that Gordon had ignored his gestures.

"British Columbia. Northern BC, actually."

"Oh, wow, communing with Mother Nature! Conversing with Flora and her sister, Fauna! Saving the bears of Jellystone! Dudley Do-Right, reporting for duty, SAH!" Murdock jumped up and smartly saluted.

"Oh, no..." groaned BA. "Count me in, Hannibal. Don't like guys cuttin off animal heads or puttin 'em where little kids can see 'em." He glared at Murdock. "But if the Fool's gonna be pullin this Dudley Do-Right thing..."

Ignoring the comment, Hannibal looked over at his XO. "Face?"

"Going to be expensive, Hannibal. Travel expenses, plus the gear we'll need for an area like that, supplies for an extended stay..."

"That's not necessarily a problem. I mean, if you can wait for the reward. It's not a large amount, except it's for each poacher captured, not just the whole gang. If you get all of them, it would really add up."

"Sounds good to me, Face. We're not wanted in Canada, after all."

Face just shrugged his shoulders. The idea of tramping around the Canadian wilderness did not exactly appeal to him, but it was for a good cause.

"Okay, Mr. Benford." Hannibal grinned, the Jazz already starting to simmer. "You've just hired the A-Team!"