CHAPTER SIXTY

The train station was nearly deserted. Not many people took the trains any more, and fewer still took it to Needles. In fact, Needles wasn't even a stop unless one asked for it. Dr. Feist looked around nervously. Needles wasn't exactly a crime-ridden metropolis, but, after the village, it seemed that way.

The train wasn't due for another twenty minutes, and Dr. Feist spent the time checking over his 'ambulance' - an old van with straps for holding the gurney in place. No fancy equipment, no blinking lights or machines that beeped. The only thing really kosher were the outside lights and siren, and he'd never had to use those. Strictly a utilitarian vehicle for getting people quickly and easily to the nearest hospital, either Boulder City or Palo Verde, each about a hundred miles away. If there was an extreme emergency, something that hadn't happened in years, Dr. Feist would call for an evac helicopter. In all his years at the village, he'd used his ambulance less than a dozen times.

He hoped he was over-reacting to the urgent message he'd gotten from Charlie.

Ed's headaches were something he'd been dealing with almost from the start. He knew he wasn't doing all that could be done, but without Ed's cooperation...the real key to stopping the headaches, or at least, reducing them, was to find out why he got them. But Ed wouldn't talk to him. All he wanted was something to stop the pain. And Charlie backed him up.

Dr. Feist sighed. He wondered where Ed had been the last few weeks. Charlie had told him what he knew, which wasn't much. And then suddenly, he and Nick had taken off. The whole village was in a state of anticipation because of it. Charlie never just took off like that, not without telling anyone. The only other time it had happened was when that whole Sinon thing had broken open, and the FBI had shown up...That those men, the A-Team, were involved, made it hard for everyone. Ever since their arrival in the village, things had seemed off, somehow. They didn't belong there.

He heard the train coming. In moments, the ground rumbled beneath his feet, and the huge engine came rolling in, air brakes screeching. Dr. Feist searched the cars behind for a sign of Charlie or Ed. There. Third car down, the conductor waving at him. He grabbed his bag from the hood of the van and hurried down the platform.


*****

Nick, Murdock, Hannibal and BA were sitting in Charlie's living room, waiting. They hadn't talked much, other than a brief telling of their escapes. Nick made coffee, tossed a box of cookies on the table. Then they sat, waiting. Petey wandered from Nick, to Murdock, occasionally checking BA's shoes, but mainly sitting by the front door. Waiting.

Nick finally wandered out to the back of the cabin, standing a few feet from the door, feeling the cool breeze of the desert night. He was worried. He knew Charlie could take care of himself, and Ed had seemed fine when they left. But that had been hours ago. They should have been here by now, long after the roadblocks had been removed. Charlie should have at least called, let them know where he was, how much longer it would be.

He heard someone come out the back door, and turned to see Hannibal standing just outside.

"Mind if I join you?"

"Free country." Nick winced. He didn't want to continue the antagonism between them. He was too tired, for one thing, and Charlie had been right. Ed would need them working together. "There's a nice breeze." He hoped it sounded friendly enough.

Hannibal stepped up beside him, pulling out a cigar. After a second's hesitation, he offered it to Nick, who, also after hesitating, took it, nodding his thanks. Hannibal pulled out another, and the two men stood, slowly puffing away.

"You've known Charlie a long time."

"Years."

"He knows what he's doing?"

Nick smiled. "Don't worry, Colonel. He'll make sure nothing happens to Ed. He's ex-CIA. Knows more tricks than a circus monkey."

"Charlie's ex-CIA, you're ex-Tiger."

Nick took a deep breath. Smith didn't beat around the bush. "Emphasis on the 'ex'."

Hannibal nodded, puffed contentedly on his cigar. "Murdock said you didn't take part. That true?"

"I transferred out in August of '67. I'd had it by then. We'd been in the Song Ve Valley, trying to clear out the villagers, cut off the food supply to the Viet Cong. It wasn't working; the villagers didn't want to leave, and the VC were thick. We taken a lot of hits over the past couple of months, the guys were getting angry, scared. No excuse for what happened, but..."

"So what broke the camel's back?"

"An old farmer. Just an old man trying to get back to his village. Everyone knew that's all he was, but he was beaten and shot. Shot half his head off. We weren't even allowed to bury him. After that, it just seemed like for every casualty we had, more and more civilians died. It was made clear if anyone didn't like it, they could transfer out, but they'd better keep their mouths shut. No one had to ask what might happen if they didn't.

"I was lucky, I guess. I got out before the real atrocities happened. I don't know what I would've done if I'd been there for that."

"But you didn't report it."

"It wouldn't have done any good. I talked to a couple guys who did, later. After they were back home. Nothing happened."

"Doesn't surprise me." Hannibal sighed. "So, how much longer you suppose Charlie's going to keep us waiting?"


*****

"How long has he been like this?"

"At least an hour. Just after I had the conductor send out the radio message."

"Okay." Dr. Feist looked back at the conductor and steward, hovering in the doorway. "Okay, will you gentlemen give me a hand here, we'll get him out to the ambulance."

"He going to be okay? He didn't eat anything here, you know." The conductor obviously had other things on his mind.

"This isn't food poisoning. Just give me a hand here."

Between the three men, they managed to get Face to his feet and half-dragged, half-carried him into the passageway. The conductor managed not to stare; the steward was less polite. Face didn't seem to care; he swayed slightly between the men, and almost melted down on the gurney. Dr. Feist covered him with a light blanket, and with the steward's help, and while the conductor checked his watch impatiently, they guided the gurney to the exit. It took some doing to get it down onto the platform, but once there, the conductor signaled almost immediately for the train to start up.

Charlie and Dr. Feist hurried their charge to the van and carefully lifted the gurney in, securing it tightly.

"What do you think, Doc?"

Dr. Feist looked Charlie straight in the eye. "If it were anyone else, I'd have him in a hospital." Feist heaved a deep sigh. "We'll take him back to my place for now. But if he doesn't start responding pretty damn soon..."

Charlie nodded. He climbed in the back, seating himself as comfortably as possible on the floor next to Face.

Face had not said another word since his comment about the sergeant. He'd tuned Charlie out so completely that even when he'd gently slapped his cheek, trying to get his attention, he hadn't so much as flinched. Charlie wondered if he was still hearing his voices, or if he was blocking them as well.

It was a little over a half-hour drive to the village. Dr. Feist made it in twenty. They pulled up at the back of his office/residence, and carefully moved Face into the infirmary. Dr. Feist shooed Charlie out then, telling him to go home and get some sleep while he gave Ed a thorough exam and then got him settled. Ed was officially off-limits until morning.

Charlie trudged slowly through the now dark village, feeling a hundred years old. He wondered if the others had made it back yet, wondered what he would tell them about Ed. He had a lot of damage control to attend to; somehow he had to explain how his Jeep came to be used in the Glendale escape. It would have to have been stolen, but he'd have to deal with a lot of very strong coincidences. Well, he had Smith and his men. Between them, maybe they could come up with something. It would keep their minds off Ed, anyway. For a while...


*****

"That's confirmed?"

"Yes, sir."

Decker swung around in his borrowed chair, behind his borrowed desk at the LA FBI office. It had been a long and disgusting day. He had had Smith and his men in his hands, and these turkeys had let them go. How in hell had they lost that damn van?

His only consolation was the Jeep. Just happened to belong to the witness in the FBI's case against some uranium smugglers. Who just happened to be a friend of this Mordake. Who just happened to have been with the A-Team. Who just happened to disappear with the driver of the Jeep.

Decker stared at the clock on the wall. Nearly two o'clock in the morning. He was wide awake, and there was nothing more he could do here.

He had a sudden urge to take a drive in the desert...