CHAPTER EIGHT

Warning: Description of severe injury

"So now what, Colonel? You gonna leave us here, teach us a lesson?" Richie glared at his former commander, who stood grinning, cigar between his teeth, weapon pointed, as BA and Murdock securely tied their captives' wrists and ankles.

"Well, Richie, I think the first order of business is a nice, hot breakfast for my men. And then, we're gonna march you slimeballs outta here and into the waiting arms of the Mounties. How's that sound?"

"Sounds like you've got a long trip ahead of you, Colonel. A very long trip."

"Why don't you let me worry about that, Richie? You've got enough to think about." Hannibal, still grinning, headed over to check out the supplies and equipment in the camp.

Murdock, finished tying up the prisoners, looked over toward the streambed, expecting to see Face coming into the camp. He hadn't really noticed his absence before, thinking his teammate was finding a place to climb out of the gully. It shouldn't have taken him this long, though. After another look to make sure Spiro's men were securely under BA's glare, he started walking over to Face's position, straightening his hat. A Mountie had to look proper, no matter what the circumstances, after all.

As he got close to the edge of the gully, he saw where the ground had given way. Murdock stopped, grinning. It was obvious Face had slid down the bank and was probably down there fuming, too stubborn or embarrassed to call for help. The pilot shook his head. Face always thought he should be able to do everything perfectly, and just got into more trouble trying. One day he'd learn it was okay to be human. In the meantime, the team would just keep pulling him out of gullies and giving him shit about it.

Murdock thought of the fun he would have with this; Hannibal would be sure to razz him about it. Murdock could just see his face when he did eventually climb out. Although, Face had been a little less forgiving this trip. He frowned a little. Maybe he better just help him out of there and save the kidding for later. Yeah, that would probably be best. Murdock was crazy, but he wasn't dumb.

He stepped up to the edge of the ditch, watching his step. Finding a firm place he looked down, expecting to see Face all red-faced and angry.

"HANNIBAL!"


*****

Hannibal had just started looking through the camp. These guys were very well supplied, had damn near everything they could want for surviving out here on their own. Despite himself, Hannibal was impressed. Between the two camps, they could last for months.

"Hannibal!"

He jerked around, bringing his weapon up. He saw Murdock over by the bank of the stream, waving his arms wildly. He hurried over, seeing that BA had come to quick attention, watching the captives for any sign of a trick. Moments later Hannibal was beside the pilot.

"What's the problem, Murdock?"

Without replying, Murdock turned and slid down the bank. Hannibal stepped forward, totally confused. Then he, too, looked down and his stomach turned.

Murdock was kneeling by a prostrate Face, who lay pale and unconscious by the stream. It was the leg that shook him. Caught grimly tight in a trap nearly the size of the man himself. Without another thought, Hannibal skidded down the embankment, and rushed to his lieutenant's side.

Murdock had his hand on his friend's shoulder, bent down close to his head, mumbling fast and low. Hannibal checked Face's pulse, found it fast and weak. He glanced again at the leg.

"Murdock! We're going to need BA down here. Send the medical kit with him. You stay with the prisoners, and keep your mind on them!"

Murdock looked up, glaring at the last command. But command it was. Hannibal's voice was pure steel. The pilot gave Face's shoulder one last gentle pat, then stood and practically flew up the embankment. Barely remembering to pick up his dropped weapon, he ran back through the camp and into the woods where the team had left their own packs. He grabbed the first aid kit, glad for once that it was so cumbersome. They should have everything they needed in there.

He ran back into camp, thrusting the kit into BA's astonished hands.

"Take it down to the stream. Face got caught in a trap. It's bad."

BA didn't wait for further explanation. He handed Murdock his weapon and hurried away. Murdock watched him for a moment, until Spiro spoke up.

"Bear trap, right? Too bad, man. Might as well shoot the poor bastard now and put him out of his misery." He grinned up at his guard.

Amazingly, Murdock grinned right back and knelt down by the man's face, the barrel of his rifle nuzzling Spiro's ear. His eyes had a maniacal glint to them, which wasn't lost on Spiro.

"You know who I am, muchacho? They call me Howlin' Mad Murdock, 'cause I'm crazy as a loon. And you know what else? There's only one person I'm thinking about shooting, unless he keeps his fucking mouth shut..."

Spiro gulped, and looked away. He wasn't stupid, either.


*****

Hannibal checked the leg more closely after Murdock left. It wasn't pretty. The heavy jaws had it just below the knee, and had crushed it to less than half its normal size. The skin was literally split open; the large teeth on the underside were embedded in the muscle. Blood was seeping out, but thankfully was dark red - by some miracle, the arteries were intact. Hannibal knew once they had that god-awful thing off, the blood flow would be a lot worse. It would be something to get ready for before they released the leg.

He looked up as BA came sliding down and stepped to Face's side. Whatever BA thought about the situation, he was not letting it show. Except that instead of a scowl, his face was entirely blank. No emotion whatever.

"Open up the kit, BA. He's gonna bleed like crazy when we get that thing off. Well, when you get that off." He looked over at the sergeant, saw him looking at the trap. "You can get it off, can't you?"

BA stepped over to it, scrutinizing from a respectful distance. He sighed heavily.

"Yeah, I can, Hannibal. But not layin on its side like that. See, I gotta push down on these end pieces, that'll open the jaws. But it's gotta be upright." He looked at Hannibal, then at Face.

At first, Hannibal didn't understand. Then he realized what BA meant. He couldn't open the trap unless it was sitting up, and it couldn't be sitting up unless Face went up with it. If they tried to move the trap without moving Face, it would just tear at the muscle, pull on the bones...shit. Time was wasting.

"We need Murdock, Hannibal. If you're holdin him up, and I'm openin the trap, someone's gotta pull the leg out and get him clear. And it's gotta be fast, 'cause I don't know how long I can keep it open."

Hannibal looked at Face. He was still out of it, pale and starting to sweat. They would have to secure Richie and his bunch before they could bring Murdock. More delays.

"Okay. You stay with Face. Murdock and I will secure the prisoners and get down here. Fire off a round if...things..."

BA nodded, and Hannibal scrambled up the bank.

Murdock was waiting anxiously as he came into camp. "Is he okay? Have you got him out?"

"No. We need to tie these guys to the trees - tight. We need you down there to help." Hannibal grabbed Richie by the shirt. "You give me any trouble with this and I will shoot you. I'm not wasting any more time on you than I have to. Got it?"

Spiro nodded. With Murdock's gun trained on them, Hannibal quickly cut the ropes binding their ankles, and one by one tied them unmercifully tight to the nearest trees. Spiro was last. Hannibal gave him one last glare.

"My man dies, you're gonna get a taste of your own medicine, Richie. And I'll enjoy every minute of it."

With that, he and Murdock rushed for the streambed.