CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

The ferocity of the attack took Hannibal by surprise. He'd been dumbfounded by BA's behavior, but had, in the back of his mind, expected a couple of hard punches to the guy and that would be it. Instead, BA's blows took Andy back against the wall, where the hard fists kept pummeling, pounding the man's head and body. It took a moment before Hannibal realized he would have to stop BA or he might just kill the man.

"Murdock!"

Murdock jerked, as if he, too, had been mesmerized by BA's actions. Quickly, Hannibal tossed his gun to him and in three strides was behind BA, grabbing him around the shoulders. It was like trying to move a boulder.

"BA! BA! Knock it off! That's an order, Sergeant!" He shouted right into BA's ear, tightening his grip until his arms ached. "BA! Stop it now!"

Whether BA stopped because of Hannibal's shouting, or because he found it difficult to take a swing with his arms pinned, he finally did stop. He shook Hannibal off almost absently and stepped back, breathing hard. Andy slid to the floor, unconscious.

"BA, what the hell were you doing?" Hannibal was breathing nearly as heavily as his sergeant, who blinked hard as if just waking up.

"Hannibal..." Murdock's voice was warning. Hannibal looked over, saw Murdock had moved Les over to the window. He was glancing outside while trying to keep an eye on the prisoner. Les kept looking between the door and BA.

"Sit down, slimeball." Les sat immediately. "What is it, Murdock?"

"We got company, Colonel. Not military, but I'd say Charlie got his message through."

Hannibal strode over to the window and looked down. Damn. If those weren't standard issue government cars gathering in the parking lot, he'd give up his birds. When the FBI assault van pulled in, Hannibal just shook his head.

Damn.

"Hannibal..." The colonel turned and looked at BA, who was back at Face's side, gently kneading his shoulder. "He ain't good, Hannibal. We gotta get him outta here."

"They're coming in, Hannibal. A lot of 'em." Murdock tightened his grip on his rifle.

Definitely time to make a strategic withdrawal. "BA, tie the jerk up, good and tight. Murdock, get up to the chopper and get ready to move."

BA immediately yanked the cord off the desk lamp and advanced on Les. Murdock took one more look out the window before heading out the door. It was only then that Hannibal moved over to his lieutenant.

Looking down, Hannibal could understand why BA had finally snapped. Face had been savagely beaten. If the feds weren't coming in the front door, Hannibal probably would have taken his turn, not only on Andy, but also on that smug piece of shit being tied up. But right now, his only concern was getting Face safely out of here. They would take him directly to Charlie's in the helicopter.

BA came over, leaving Les tied and gagged next to the still unconscious Andy. "All set, Hannibal."

"Okay, let's get the hell out of here." It was at that moment that the overhead lights flickered and died. The two men looked at each other for only a moment. They knew the siege was about to begin. If they didn't get out now, they might not have another chance.

Together they carefully lifted Face and took him between them, out the door, down the hall, and into the stairwell. It was going to be a hard climb up five flights of stairs, and they had no idea if the FBI would be waiting for them there. It was likely they would see more than one government helicopter in the air once they took off. That was okay. Hannibal knew Murdock wouldn't let them follow for long. Not with the cargo they carried.

Both men were breathing hard when BA pushed through the door to the roof. The gusts from the helicopter hit them like a hurricane, and Hannibal felt BA tighten his grip on Face.

Moments later, they were in the air.

Seconds later, three other helicopters surrounded them.

Hannibal bent over and clumsily climbed into the passenger seat next to Murdock. BA sat in the back, holding Face next to him.

"Okay, Murdock, do your thing. We have to get to Charlie's."

"Rodger Dodger, Colonel. Hang onto your hats..."

Immediately the bird increased the distance between itself and its pursuers. Seconds later, the gap shortened. Murdock was unperturbed. He knew there was no place over the desert where he could hide from these boys, so it would be a matter of out-maneuvering them enough times to finally slip away.

In other words, he was going to make them dizzier than bedbugs...

In the back, BA closed his eyes and clutched Face a little tighter as the chopper swung sharply to the side. At least they would die together...


*****

He felt himself falling to one side and panic hit. This was it then. This was death coming. He braced for it. But then, just as suddenly, he felt strong arms around him, holding him still, stopping the fall. It felt...different. Not binding, just...safe.

So very safe...he let himself drift back to the darkness...safe...safe...so this was death...


*****

Charlie paced his living room, stopping occasionally to stare out of the windows at the black sedan parked in front. Two men sat in the front seat; two more strolled around the outside of the cabin. He had no idea how many more were prowling the area, but he knew they were out there. Charlie was not only a witness against Sinon; he could be their target.

Charlie had gotten no more news of the events at Sinon, even though he had seen the men in the car talking on the radio. He knew the feds figured his part in this affair was done; getting more information until it was completely over would be damn near impossible.

Now, all he could do was worry about Ed and the others. If they had been found by the feds, how long before their real identities were discovered? If they had escaped, Charlie knew they would head back to the village - and end up again facing government agents.

There really was only one place they could go and be safe, and that was Ed's trailer. Charlie had told the feds that Ed lived with him. That had raised a couple of eyebrows, but so be it. That trailer had to be their ace in the hole.

But how the hell could he let Smith know that?


*****

"Murdock..."

"Yeah, Colonel?"

"I can't take much more of this..."

"Okay, Colonel. Almost...there..." Murdock's arm moved on the stick, and, once more, the chopper lifted high in the air and swung back. Almost immediately, it dropped, swishing between the remaining two FBI helicopters as they scrambled to recover. Hannibal caught a quick glance of the two nearly colliding, and then Murdock had them flying low and fast over the desert.

This time, the gap between pursued and pursuers did not close. In what seemed like seconds, there was nothing but two little dots high in the air, above and behind them. Hannibal heaved a heavy sigh of relief, and looked into the back.

BA now had both arms wrapped firmly around Face, whose head lolled against his shoulder. BA's eyes were tightly closed, and Hannibal could swear the big mans' lips were moving. He smiled briefly, despite the situation, before turning back to the pilot.

"Okay, Murdock, let's get to Charlie's."

Murdock nodded, and gently swung the bird toward the village. He hadn't liked the way he'd jostled everyone around back there, but there was no other way to lose those guys. They'd been good, damn good, but he was better. And more motivated. The maneuvers had been fast and hard, designed to confuse and confound as quickly as possible. It had been hard on everyone, but it was over now. He would make the remainder of their journey as peaceful as he could.

He wanted to look in the back, see how Face was, but he didn't. Just as he hadn't back there in the office. He wanted to see him, to verify that it was Face, that he was alive...but he couldn't look at him. Almost like if he did, Face might disappear again. Or worse. He knew, just from BA's cutting loose on that guy, and the way Hannibal was all business-like, that Face was in a bad way. So maybe, if Murdock didn't look, didn't see, then Face would be okay.

Which was foolish, he knew. It wouldn't make any difference, if he looked or not. But until he knew, and knew for sure, that Face would be okay, he just wouldn't.

Just to be safe.


*****

Hannibal was watching the desert floor as they zoomed over it. He knew Murdock was taking the long route to Charlie's, first flying in the opposite direction and then circling back. It was dangerous, for Face, but necessary. There was still a chance the feds would be at Charlie's, but there was no point in leading them there. In the meantime, he had plans to make.

The optimum was to get to Charlie's, find a doctor, and get Face looked at. Hannibal was quite sure Charlie could find a discreet doctor. After watching him in action, getting that police escort, Hannibal realized there was a lot more to the man than he liked people to believe. Hannibal also believed there was a reason for that pretense. But that was for another time.

Hannibal also had to consider that the feds were, indeed, at Charlie's. It wasn't unreasonable to assume they would want to keep an eye on him. After all, he had somehow come across these papers. Who knew what other value he might be to the government? Hannibal never for a moment thought Charlie would have spilled the beans about the team. He would have had to tell them about Edward Mordake, but never about Templeton Peck. Never.

So if the government was sticking close to Charlie, it was due to Sinon, not the A-Team. Hannibal intended to make sure things stayed that way.

"Getting close, Colonel."

Hannibal came out of his thoughts, looked ahead to where the first signs of the village were appearing.

"Okay, Murdock, keep it high. If we see anything unusual, head west."

"West?"

"We'll swing over to the trailer. Charlie will look for us there if we don't show at his place."

"Uh, what about Face? He needs a doctor, Hannibal."

"I know, Murdock, I know. But until we get hold of Charlie, we'll just have to play it by ear."

Hannibal didn't miss the clenched jaw, but reality was reality. The van was still hidden out by Sinon's airfield, and they couldn't just fly a chopper to a hospital without a lot of questions being asked.

Reality was reality. Murdock would have to adjust.

It was about time they all did.