CHAPTER FIFTY TWO

"Nick, can you come over right away? I finally heard from Jack. And it's not good."

Nick didn't even bother to say goodbye. He dropped the receiver in the cradle and hurried out of the house. He nodded absent-mindedly at several people along the way, who stared, confused, at the normally easy-going, slow-moving Nick practically running up to Charlie's. Before he'd gotten to the front door, nearly everyone in the village knew something was amiss.

Charlie was coming down the hall from his bedroom when Nick rushed into the living room. He held a notebook in his hand and his eye glasses in the other. He looked grimly at Nick.

"We have to leave now. Jack's found them. Or rather, a certain Colonel Decker has. Apparently they're holed up at a house in Glendale. Have been for some time now."

"This Decker has them?"

"Not yet. They're smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Lots of kids, foot traffic. Decker's under strict orders to keep them under surveillance only."

"Are we going to get any more help from Jack on this?"

"Well, he’s already gone out on a limb. He’s the one who issued the new orders - through a convoluted chain. But that's as far as he can go. From now, it's info only. If Decker's orders change, or the team tries to take off, he'll let us know. Otherwise, we're on our own."

"Could he confirm that Ed was with them?"

Charlie frowned. “Yes, that’s been confirmed. Which is why Jack could get the surveillance order through. Unfortunately, he had to involve the FBI to do it. They want Ed and they want him unharmed.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah. Not to mention Decker knows that Captain Murdock is actually with the team. I'm afraid Murdock's stay at the VA is at an end."

"I'm sure Smith will figure out how to take care of him. He seems to think he's an expert at that."

Charlie looked hard at Nick. "You've got to get rid of that attitude, Nick. It's not going to help anything, especially Ed. If we're able to bring him home, he's going to need us both. But he's still loyal to his friends. He doesn't need that conflict on top of everything else."

"Sorry, Charlie. I wouldn't say anything to Ed, anyway, but I'll try to give them the benefit of the doubt." His words were right, but he knew Charlie didn't believe them any more than Nick did. Forestalling any futher discussion, he started for the front door, then stopped. "Charlie, what if Smith isn't willing to let us take Ed?"

Charlie took a deep breath. "That'll depend on Ed, Nick. If he wants to come home, he's coming home. One way or another."

Nick didn't think he'd ever seen that look on Charlie's face before, but he was encouraged by it. He nodded and walked out. As he headed for the Jeep, he felt a strange tingling run through his body.

He hadn't felt that since Nam. He wasn't sure he wanted to now.


*****

"Are you sure?"

BA just looked at Hannibal.

"Okay." Hannibal pulled a cigar from his pocket and lit it. He looked through the curtains at the house across the street. He'd known those people for a long time. Had made their acquaintance a couple years before, when they'd first leased the house. As far as they were concerned, Hannibal and the team were world travelers, who used this house as their base. Close enough to the truth so they wouldn't forget and create suspicions.

Question was, why had those suspicions arisen now? How had the MP’s managed to sneak in without anyone on the team seeing them? And why hadn't Decker made a move on them yet? He knew they wouldn't come in with guns blazing. It was one of the reasons they'd chosen this particular location. That, and a conveniently located set of thickly landscaped yards around them.

But why hadn't Decker at least challenged them? Let them know he was there and waiting for their surrender? That was Decker's style. Figuring they would either try their escape immediately, or try one of Hannibal's famous plans. But he would force the team to do one or the other. He wouldn't just sit there, waiting for them to fall into his lap.

Something wasn't right.

"Okay, BA. They can't see us moving back and forth into the garage. Get the van ready to go. We may have to take off rather suddenly." BA nodded and turned to go. "Oh, and BA...we’ll need to make sure Ed's ready. I’ll need your help there."

BA nodded at Hannibal, and the colonel could almost swear there was an apology there. But BA said nothing more and headed out to the garage.

Hannibal sighed and headed for the kitchen. Murdock was there, fixing lunch. As he passed the hallway, he looked down toward Face's room. The door was closed again. Yet. Still. He hadn't been out of there for almost a week, except to use the bathroom, or if BA coaxed him out to the garage to 'help' with some made up project. He wouldn't answer if either Hannibal or Murdock tried to talk to him.

But he was talking to someone in there.


*****

"Can't this thing move any faster?"

"Charlie, relax. It won't do any good to get stopped for speeding. Jack won't give the order to take them until he absolutely has to. And I don't think Smith is going to take any unnecessary chances, not when he has Ed with him."

Charlie settled into silence. He had to calm down, make plans. Jack had described the neighborhood as best he could over the phone, but they would have to drive through and take a look for themselves. If he knew Smith's kind, the house would be situated so they had at least two ways in and out, and a clear view of everyone and everything going past the house. It would be inconspicuous and easy to defend until they could make use of one of those escape routes.

And Decker in the house across the street, just waiting for anyone trying to leave.

Charlie cocked his head. He knew the FBI were on their way, but it would take time. They were sending a couple of agents from the original Sinon investigation out. Charlie figured he and Nick would get there first, though not by much. Which opened a variety of possibilities...


*****

BA moved carefully in the garage. He knew he couldn't be seen, but he could be heard, if he wasn't careful. He was loading all their weapons and munitions in the back. It would've been a good job for Ed to help with, get him to handle the guns when he felt safe, but he'd know right off that BA wouldn't just decide to store them in the van. Not after all this time. Besides, BA didn't want him involved in any of this until it couldn't be helped..

He wished Hannibal could just tell Ed about Decker. But after that last argument, when Ed had fallen apart in the garage, there was little or no communication between Ed and anyone except BA. Even so, it didn't matter what BA told him; he was listening to those damn voices now, and they were telling him God knows what about Hannibal and Murdock. Not that it mattered. He spent almost all his time in his room now. Sometimes he wouldn't even let the dog in with him. Petey would lay outside the door for hours, waiting.

He stepped inside the kitchen, noting the duffels ready to go. Hannibal nodded his head down the hall, toward Ed's room, before turning to look out the front window.

BA shook his head. How was he going to get Ed ready for Decker? Hell, Decker and how many MP’s sitting outside the door, waiting. And waiting for what? Decker didn’t wait. Not like this. He would’ve cleared the area and started yelling for Hannibal to surrender within minutes of finding them. So why hold back now? BA didn’t like it, not one damn bit.

Nobody was acting like themselves any more.


*****

“Well?”

“No sign they’ve seen us, Sir. No suspicious movements at all.”

Decker sat back in his chair, watching the house across the street through the curtains. If he had his way, the A-Team would be on their way to the brig by now. But no, they had to wait on these namby-pamby FBI shirts. Four MP’s, Captain Crane, and himself, sitting in this house; fifty MP’s waiting in a parking lot three blocks away; all waiting for some asshole bureaucrat to decide to get off his...well, Decker could at least console himself that he now had proof Captain Murdock was part of the team. An active part. Decker was going to take great pleasure in turning him over to the psych unit at Leavenworth.

The only regret he had about this whole mission was that he wouldn’t be able to grab Peck along with the rest of them. But Peck was long dead. Decker shook his head. He didn’t know the details, didn’t really need to. Some kind of accident that disabled the lieutenant; he hadn’t been able to cope with it and jumped off some damn cliff. Didn’t sound like Peck, but the fingerprints found at the motel, and statements from the doctors confirmed it. The higher-up's were satisfied, and Decker could find no reason to doubt the reports.

No wonder the team had been so quiet for so long. Until now.

Decker frowned. He knew they had someone else in there with them, but no one had seen the guy yet, not clearly. That’s why Decker hadn’t moved in immediately when they’d first found them. Biggest mistake of his life, reporting in first. But after the last fiasco, he’d decided to play it safe, politically. If there was a civilian in there, Decker wanted his back covered. Unfortunately, it was that very civilian that got the attention of the FBI.

Damn. Leave it to Smith to make things complicated.


*****

They drove slowly, but not too slowly, through the neighborhood. Charlie watched carefully for the house. There. Non-descript to the point of boredom, but perfectly located, as Charlie had known it would be. He caught just a glimpse of movement from one window. He didn’t know if he should hope he’d been recognized or not. He looked over at Nick.

“That’s it. Any sign of Decker?”

“No, but I spotted the house they’re in. Directly across the street.” Nick was silent for a moment. “How do you want to play it?”

“We need to go shopping. Find a nice, conservative men’s store.”

Nick looked quizzically at Charlie. “And...?”

“You and I are about to join the FBI, my friend.”


*****

Face heard the light knock on the door. Petey growled softly, but stayed by his side on the bed. Face watched with little curiosity as the door handle moved and stopped, stymied by the lock.

“Ed?”

BA’s voice. Face almost got up and unlocked the door. Almost. He didn’t want to talk to BA right now. Didn’t want to mess with some made up project, either. He had a feeling of anticipation, of waiting for something. He couldn't figure out what it was, he just knew something was going to happen, something big, something...huge. He couldn't settle down, felt his heart beating way too fast. He knew he had to calm down, so he did what he'd been doing for the last week. He went to his friends.

Talk to me.

About what?

Tell me what Charlie’s doing today. Show me what the desert looks like. Anything.

We can’t see Charlie.

Face frowned. Why?

Charlie’s not there.

What?

Face sat up. He felt cold, suddenly.

Where is he?

He’s not there. He’s...he’s coming.

Coming here? Charlie’s coming here? Why?

He’s coming for you.

Face stood, feeling almost light-headed.

How do you know that?

You know it. That’s how.

Face shook his head, confused, and looked with impatience at the door where BA was knocking even harder, calling to him. Why couldn't they leave him alone? They’d taken everything out that he could possibly have used against himself. Not that he would've done anything.

We would have protected you. We always have.

I know. You...and Charlie.

Yes.

And Charlie's coming.

Yes.

Face wandered to the window, which looked out into the boxed in back yard. Looked over the tree tops, toward the desert so far away.

Charlie's coming.

He smiled.