The team is captured while on one of Stockwell’s missions in a hostile state and sent to a desert prison. As Stockwell abandons them to their fate help must come from old allies and new ones.

Rating: PG13

Words: 24,400

Chapter 1

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this news report.”

Mrs Baracus sighed in irritation as the music she’d been enjoying was suddenly cut off. The picture changed to a newsreader.

“Shock reports of the capture of the A-Team, who were supposedly executed over a year ago have been coming in from the Middle Eastern State of Qumar. The Qumari government announced they had taken prisoner a group of what they describe as ‘American mercenaries’ and released the following pictures.”

Mrs Baracus stared in shock as several photographs flashed onto the screen one after another, recognising the members of the A-Team at once. First Hannibal, a defiant look in his icy blue eyes, despite obvious bruising and cuts, then Face, his expression dazed, his right eye swollen shut, bruises all down that side of his face. She was on her feet before the next picture appeared and gave a small, strangled cry as the photo of her son was shown. The bruises were less obvious on his dark skin, but his face was swollen and a cut on his forehead was crusted with blood. In a second the picture was gone and Murdock’s beaten face appeared on screen, followed finally by that of Frankie Santana. Both his eyes were blackened and the look of fear in his eyes was heart wrenching. Each man was holding in front of him a newspaper, which seemed to be in Arabic. There were bloody finger marks on the paper.

The news reporter was still talking while the pictures were being shown and she focussed back in on his words.

“…Rumours that the A-Team somehow escaped their execution have been circulating for some time, but no confirmation has ever been given by the army. A report that their bodies had disappeared from the morgue after the execution was later denied. The two other men in the pictures are believed to be Captain HM Murdock, who worked with the A-Team in the past and Franklin Santana, a former Hollywood special effects man, whose involvement with the team is unclear…” The TV picture went back to the newsroom.

“… The newspaper the captives are shown holding is a copy of yesterday’s Cairo Morning Gazette…”

Yesterday. They were still alive yesterday, but what had happened to them since?

“… No further details are available at this time and so far the Pentagon has made no official comment. We will bring you further details as they emerge in our scheduled news broadcasts. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.” The music she’d been listening to before started up again, but Mrs Baracus couldn’t hear it, her mind was whirling in shock. She hadn’t moved from where she stood close to the television. When her doorbell rang it was like a gunshot going off and she gave a violent start. Then she pulled herself together, turned off the television and hurried to answer the door.

Outside stood a young army lieutenant, the name “Nash” on his name badge. He was twirling his cap nervously in his hands.

“Mrs Adele Baracus?”

“If you’ve come to tell me my son is alive you’re a little late.”

“Ah, you’ve seen the news reports, I hoped to get here before…”

“That’s not what I meant.” He looked even more sheepish and she felt bad for him suddenly. She was sure he’s been given the worst job going around today.

“Alright, you’d better come in.”


Face gave a moan of pain as he was thrown down onto a cot covered with what had to be a mattress, because it was only slightly too thick to be called a blanket. The springs pressed into his abused body, and he stifled another moan, not wanting to let his captors know how much he was hurting. He heard their laughter as they walked off.

For a few minutes he lay with his eyes closed, his head spinning, then as sounds of quiet voices came to his ears he managed to open his eyes. About a dozen Arab men of various ages were standing around his cot. He swallowed nervously, sat up a little, supported on his left arm, tried The Smile. As well as he could manage anyway. The right side of his face felt like it was the size of a blimp and he guessed his expression was a little lopsided.

“Hi, fellas,” he ventured, his voice hoarse and weak. “Service in this hotel is a little rough.” It was feeble, but the best he could do right now. The men chattered among themselves in Arabic, then a young man, not yet thirty, came forward and knelt by the cot.

“You are American?”

“Yes.” Face croaked. “Please, I need some water.” One of the men hurried away and came back with a brimming cup of water. The young man held it out to him and Face drank it greedily. He’d been given none for at least a day. Once he’d had enough he felt a little better and managed to focus more on his surroundings. He was in a long barracks-like room, many cots lined up against the walls, the windows covered with grates. The heat was relieved only by two large ceiling fans each operated by a man sitting under it pulling on a rope. Bet I get that job Face couldn’t help thinking.

“I am Salim Al-Fulani,” his new friend said.

“Templeton Peck, pleased to meet you. Wish it was in better circumstances,” they shook hands, but even that small movement made Face’s battered body protest and he fell back on the cot moaning with pain. Salim turned and spoke quickly in Arabic. Another man came forward, a middle aged man, who looked as if he had lost a lot of weight in a short time.

“This is Dr Al-Hijazi, he will tend to your injuries.” Salim said, “I will go and see if I can find some bandages and medical supplies.”

“Thanks,” Face said weakly, let his eyes drift closed again as the doctor examined him. At first he was acutely aware of the audience, supposed he was something of a novelty. He got his mind off them by thinking about his teammates, wondering what was happening to them.


Mrs Baracus poured coffee for the Lieutenant and passed him a plate of cookies.

“Thank you, Ma-am,” he said politely.

He’d already filled her in on what they knew, which was precious little more than the news report had told her.

“And you say these Qumaris don’t know that it’s the A-Team they have?”

“It appears not, they’ve only called them ‘mercenaries’ so far. But now their pictures have appeared on television it will get back to them soon enough.”

“And is that good or bad?” she asked. He hesitated, eating a cookie.

“Erm, well, for the US it’s good, because then they’ll know they can’t use them as hostages.”

“And for the team?” Again he hesitated and she glowered at him in a way BA would have been proud of until he cleared his throat, said.

“Probably bad. If they aren’t useful to the Qumaris they… well… they have no reason to keep them alive.”

“And the army isn’t going to do anything about this, are they?” Now he looked genuinely sorry.

“There’s nothing we can do. The A-Team are convicted murderers who have apparently been acting as mercenaries, the United States government is not going to make any special effort to free them.”

“They are not mercenaries.” Mrs Baracus snapped. He looked at her a little sadly.

“I know it must be hard for you to think of your son that way,”

She didn’t bother to explain that she knew for sure BA wasn’t a mercenary. She changed the subject a little.

“Tell me, Lieutenant, why are you only coming to me now to tell me Bosco is alive? I know you’ve known all along that they escaped the execution. Your men have still kept me under surveillance this last year.” He looked highly uncomfortable now.

“We weren’t absolutely sure.”

“Their bodies disappeared from the morgue.”

“That’s not proof.”

“And there’ve been sightings and reports of them.” He nodded,

“There have, in Hong Kong, East Germany, Monte Carlo, even in LA and Washington DC. But there was never any definitive proof.”

“Doesn’t the US have intelligence agents in those places?”

“Yes, but their reports never gave full confirmation of the A-Team’s presence.”

“I’ll bet they didn’t,” Mrs Baracus said grimly. Nash just looked confused.

“I’m sorry Ma-am?”

“What about Frankie Santana? If the A-Team didn’t escape why is he on the ten most wanted list?”

“The charges against Mr Santana are…erm… conspiracy.”

“Conspiracy to do what?”

“Ah… I’d have to check.” He was looking very thoughtful now.

“You do that, son.” She stood up and he rose too. “Now if you’ve finished your coffee…”

She saw the Lieutenant out and went to the phone, dialled the number of her niece.

“Phyllis, it’s Aunt Adele… yes, honey I saw it… look I can’t talk about it now, why don’t you come over, there’s something I need you to do for me. Remember that document case I gave you, I need you to get it for me and bring it over… yes it’s very important.


They’d been separated as soon as they’d arrived here, at what seemed to be some sort of prison or military facility in the desert, after a long truck ride through heat that sapped even BA’s strength. Taken to a block of cells Face had been interrogated for several hours, perhaps more than a day. The interrogation was brutal but not very scientific, consisting only of beatings. They hadn’t used drugs or electric shocks. Probably saving them for later. His Special Forces training had enabled him to resist the torture and he hadn’t told them anything of the mission. Which isn’t to say he hadn’t told them anything, on the contrary he’d told them more than they could ever want to know about the Lakers chances next season, his opinion of Madonna’s new album, how great the tennis courts were at the Beverly Bay Club, the shocking prices at LA restaurants… Anything that came into his head spilled from his mouth in a stream of babbling that seemed to come naturally when he was this afraid. It was a distraction, a kind of “white noise” to mask the pain.

Eventually he’s been left in the bare stone cell and tried to sleep, to recover his strength. But sounds from nearby had kept him awake, sounds of pain, of his friends in pain. Then they had come in and forced him to stand up and have his picture taken, holding up a newspaper they brought in. There were bloody finger marks on the paper. After that he’d spent several more hours alone, until eventually they’d taken him out and brought him here to the barracks room. At least here he could rest a little then he had to find out about the others.

“Let me go, suckers! I’ll rip your heads right off!” Face’s eyes flew open as the familiar voice yelled out. It wasn’t as strong as usual, but twice as mean. He sat up to see BA being brought in, restrained by four guards. Two more followed with guns pointed at him. He was pushed onto a cot and the guards left quickly.

“BA!” Face jumped up, despite the doctor’s protest and hurried over to where BA was sitting on the cot.

“Face!” The big man’s expression of relief was quickly clouded by anger at the sight of Face’s abused body. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Face said dismissively. Knowing at least one of his friends was still alive was enough to make him feel one hundred times better. He suddenly realised BA hadn’t moved to lie down, even though he was clearly exhausted. Face moved behind him and gasped with shock. The sergeant’s shirt was shredded and so was his back, long whip marks standing out red against the dark skin. At once he called out “Doctor, please, over here!” Dr Al-Hijazi hurried over and made disgusted and angry sounds at the state of BA’s back.

“Ain’t so bad.” BA protested as Face and the doctor laid him down on his front. “I had worse.” He had, and Face forced away the memories of that and helped the doctor remove the destroyed shirt. Salim came back then with bandages and some anti-septic and he and the doctor worked on BA while Face held his hand to comfort him through the ordeal. They talked, as a distraction. BA knew no more about what was happening to the others than Face did. He confirmed he too had had his photograph taken holding the newspaper.

“I hate to think of my mama seeing that picture,” he said quietly.

Face gave his hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance, said. “Hey, don’t worry, man, Hannibal will have us out of here before they even get it developed.” BA smiled weakly at that.

“How long you think we’ve been here, Face?”

“About two days I think,” Face said. “Can’t tell for sure, they took my watch.”

“Aw, man, the one I gave you at Christmas?”

“Yeah, sorry, I knew I should have worn an old one.”

“They got my gold too.”

“I’m sorry BA.”

“That never happened before, no one ever dared touch my gold.” He paused; there was a long silence.

“We in real deep trouble here, Faceman.”

“I know, BA, I know.”

Chapter 2

“Announcing the arrival of flight 407 from Jakarta, Indonesia at gate 15.”

Mrs Baracus hurried to the arrivals area of gate 15 as the passengers from the Jakarta flight began to emerge. She took out a piece of white card and held it in front it her. Written on it was the name ‘Amy Allen’.

After a few moments a woman approached her, “Mrs Baracus?”

“Amy?” They shook hands, “Oh, thank you so much for coming, the boys really need your help.”

“I’ll do anything I can to help the team.” Amy said, “They’ve done so much for me.”

They collected Amy’s rental car and set off for Foster Avenue. On the way Mrs Baracus told Amy the story of where the team and been and what they had been doing for the last year, a story that both shocked and excited the journalist.

As they arrived at Mrs Baracus’s home Amy was firing questions at her rapidly, until Mrs Baracus said, “Wait, wait, Amy, honey, you don’t have to ask me all this stuff. I’m going to give you something that will answer all your questions.”

Once inside Mrs Baracus turned on the TV and shut off the sound. Normally she didn’t keep the TV on all day, but now was always waiting for fresh news.

“Make yourself at home, dear, while I get us some coffee.” She went into the kitchen and began to fix coffee and put out cake and cookies. When all that was done she knelt down and opened the cupboard she kept all her cleaning supplies in. She pushed the plywood backing of the cupboard away, reached behind it and brought out a package, covered in plastic. She unwrapped the plastic to reveal a leather document case. She was getting back to her feet as Amy came into the kitchen and at once moved to help her up.

“Are you alright, Mrs Baracus?”

“Fine, dear, fine and please, call me Adele.” She straightened her dress, brushed it down with one hand as she held out the document case to Amy. “This is what will answer all your questions.” The two women sat down at the table and Mrs Baracus poured them both coffee and explained.

“About three months ago my son contacted me to meet him, here in Chicago. I went to see him and he told me all about what the team have been doing since they escaped their execution. And he gave me that.” Amy unzipped the case and found a thick sheaf of papers inside, glancing through them quickly she recognised the handwriting of all the members of the A-Team.

“He called it their ‘insurance policy’. It’s the story of their trial, how they were framed. How they escaped the execution and went to work for Stockwell. Of the missions they’ve been carrying out for him. They knew that at any time they could be killed and the truth would never come out unless they had something like this out there, to be published.” She looked at Amy very seriously. “You’ll see when you read it just how big a story it is, bigger than just the story of the A-Team. And right now it’s the best chance there is to get the boys back. The truth has to come out, otherwise no-one will care if they are just left to rot in that awful place.” Her eyes filled with tears, but she choked them back. “I know the team would want you to be the one to have the story, after all you did for them.”

“Mrs Baracus… Adele, I’ll do anything I can to help get the team out of there, I promise you, your son will come home.” She squeezed the older woman’s hand and they sat for a few moments, then Mrs Baracus pulled herself together.

“Your coffee is getting cold, Amy, you drink it and get some food into you.” They turned their attention to the food and drink. After they finished and washed up Amy sat down with the manuscript while Mrs Baracus went to lie down for a nap. She’d barely slept the night before for worrying.


Face and BA had also spent a long sleepless night worrying about their team-mates. Huddled on cots side by side, the meagre blankets of little use against the cold of the desert night, they talked softly, so as not to awaken the other men in the barracks. In the morning the heat poured back as the sun came up. They joined their fellow prisoners at a miserly breakfast before returning to the barracks to try to rest. BA’s back needed dressing again and Face took care of it, with Salim’s help. As they finished, BA, who hadn’t made a sound, but whose body had been stiff with tension relaxed visibly and said “Thanks, Face. Salim.”

“Try and rest, BA, I’ll get us some water.”

Face and Salim headed off with a water bottle to the kitchens.

“Mr Peck,” Salim asked, “why does Mr Baracus call you ‘Face’?”

Face smiled at the question. “It’s just a nickname and probably not very appropriate right now.” His face did feel a little better today, but he was aware it must still look pretty gruesome.

As they headed back from the kitchen Face saw guards heading into the barracks and among them two familiar figures. He broke into a run. The guards were coming back out as he arrived at the door and they casually knocked him down as he almost ran into him. He barely noticed the pain from his bruises as he hit the ground. He was back on his feet in a second and rushed into the barracks room. Hannibal and Murdock were sitting on cots beside BA. They both rose as Face ran in, relief and concern on their faces, an expression he knew was mirrored in his own. Relief they were alive, concern over their obvious injuries.

“You okay, Lieutenant?” Hannibal asked.

“Fine. My god, it’s…good to see you guys.” They didn’t hug. Even Murdock was too battered to be his usual demonstrative self.

“Where’s Frankie?” Hannibal asked. Face looked serious.

“We haven’t seen him, I think he must still be in that cell block where they interrogated us.” He hoped that’s where Frankie was. The alternative didn’t bear thinking about. Hannibal looked more worried than before. He noticed Salim who had come in and was waiting near the door.

“Who’s that?”

“Salim Al-Fulani, he seems friendly.” Face told him.

“He speaks English?”

“Yes, fluently.”

“Good. Hey, Mr Al-Fulani, come on over here.”

Salim joined them and there was a round of handshakes and introductions.

“Is Salim here the only one who speaks English?” Hannibal asked.

“No,” Face said, “some of the other prisoners can. Not sure about the guards.”

Salim stared at Face, said, “How do you know some of the others can speak English?”

“When I asked for water yesterday several men reacted and one went for the water without you translating anything.”

“Oh. You’re very… observant.”

“I’ve had special training,” Face grinned.

“Well, you are correct, many of the prisoners speak some English, but few of the guards do.”

“In that case, Mr Al-Fulani,” Hannibal said, “I’m going to need your help. Come on guys.”

“Where are we going?” Face asked.

“I want to see Frankie, right now.”

They went out and found the nearest guard. “Tell him I want to see the man in charge.” Hannibal told Salim. Salim quickly translated and the guard said something back that didn’t sound promising.

“He said to, erm ‘go away’”, Salim said, obviously toning things down a little.

“Listen, pal,” Hannibal said, “you take me to the boss right now, I want to know what’s happening to my man, I want him out of that hell hole now!” Again Salim’s rapid translation and this time a stream of invective from the guard, who swung his machine gun around to point at Hannibal. The rest of the men backed off a little but Hannibal stood his ground. For a moment he and the guard glared at each other, then the guard lowered the weapon.

“Good, now let’s go see the boss.” Hannibal said. Even before his words were translated the guard lashed out with the gun butt, catching Hannibal in the stomach, doubling him up. The rest of the team rushed to help and the guard screamed at them, firing his gun at their feet sending them scattering away. After that everything went insane for a while. More guards rushed up and restrained the team. Prisoners crowded around, yelling. Hannibal was picked up and dragged off towards a small structure in the centre of the exercise yard. It was made of corrugated iron and he recognised it at once. The guards opened the door of the hot box and tossed Hannibal inside. Even though it was quite early in the day the interior was already like an oven. He sighed and lay down. Suddenly the door was opened again and another man was pushed inside. It was Salim.

As he helped the young man to sit up, Hannibal shouted out, “Hey, he was just translating he didn’t do anything wrong!” In answer someone banged on the top of the box, and yelled at him in Arabic. Hannibal didn’t need a translator to know they were telling him to shut up. He gave up on yelling for now; spoke to Salim. “Sorry, kid, I don’t mean to get you into trouble.”

“It’s not your fault, Mr Smith. The guards here aren’t known for their fairness.”

“I’ll bet. Now lie down. The air is cooler near the ground.”

“You’ve been in one of these before?” Salim asked, lying down.

“Oh, a coupla times,” Hannibal said, trying to get comfortable on the sandy ground.

“Mr Smith, I’ve seen men put in here and brought out dead.” Salim said quietly, fear in his eyes.

“Not us,” Hannibal said at once, looking the young man in the eye, holding his gaze to reassure him, then smiled a little, “Just think of it was being a way to relax and get away from it all for a few hours.” Salim managed a small smile in return, lay back and closed his eyes.


It was dark when Mrs Baracus woke. She went out into the living room to find Amy with papers from the manuscript spread out on the table as she talked excitedly into a tape recorder and scribbled notes into a pad.

She looked up as Mrs Baracus came in, said almost breathlessly, “This is incredible, Adele, this man Stockwell and his organisation, this is the biggest story I’ve ever been involved with. It’s going to blow Washington wide open.” Mrs Baracus smiled; she’d had exactly the same thought when she first read it. “I mean, does he have official sanction, or is he a rogue? And if he is then who’s funding him? This could win me a Pulitzer!”

“I’m going to make dinner,” Mrs Baracus said, “I don’t need any help,” she said as Amy moved to get up, “you just go on with your work, that’s the most important thing right now.”

She went to the kitchen and began to prepare the food, but a few moments later heard Amy yell, “Adele, come quickly!” Her heart pounding she rushed back to the living room. Amy had the sound turned up on the TV, was standing in front of it. Mrs Baracus hurried over and saw the face of Frankie Santana on the screen. It wasn’t a photograph this time; it was video footage, shaky and grainy. Frankie looked even more battered than before. His eyes were cast down as he spoke, and his voice was flat and lifeless.

“…we are Americans making work illegally as mercenaries in the nation of Qumar challenging legitimate government of Qumar aiding rebel forces seeking overthrow of Qumari government…”

“He’s reading.” Amy said quietly, “Something prepared for him then translated into English. Badly.”

“That poor boy,” Mrs Baracus said, shakily.

“…any attempt by military force to take us from the custody of the legitimate government of Qumar will be treated as illegal aggression…” The picture switched back to the newsroom.

“This sensational footage was released to the world’s press a few moments ago by the government of Qumar, who stated that their detention of the A-Team is legal and they will resist any attempts, either diplomatic or military to secure their release. There is no official comment from the Pentagon yet on this new development in this unfolding story. In other news…”

Amy turned off the sound and turned to Mrs Baracus, said. “The military is not going to get them out, Adele.”

“I know,” Mrs Baracus whispered. “That’s why we need to get the truth out there.”

“Well I’ve been thinking about that. This story is huge, I mean Watergate huge, but maybe there’s another way to use it.” Mrs Baracus stared at her. “Who’s the one person who really won’t want this story to come out?”

“Well, General Stockwell of course.”

“And he’s the one who sent them to Qumar. We have to use the threat of revealing the story to persuade him that what he really, really wants to do is rescue the team himself.”

For the first time since the news broke Mrs Baracus smiled.


By noon both men in the hot box were stripped to their underwear and their bodies were filthy where the gritty sand stuck to their sweat soaked skin. The iron walls of the box were impossible to touch without being burnt.

Salim turned onto his front, groaning, gasped out, “I can’t take this any more.”

“If I can, you can.” Hannibal said, his voice hoarse, his throat burned and his mind was screaming for water. Salim didn’t answer, Hannibal knew the young man was on the verge of giving up and if that happened he would die in here. He had to keep Salim talking.

“Hey kid, look at me.” For a moment there was no response. Hannibal reached out and touched his shoulder and Salim turned to look at him.

“Why are you here, Salim? You don’t seem like a criminal to me, and I’ve met a few, believe me. What did you do?”

Salim gave a wry smile, said, “I built an apartment block.”


“I’m an engineer. Last year I started to work on a government project to build low cost, modern apartments for the poor. I thought it was a worthy cause, modernising the country, getting our people out of the shanty towns that were growing up around the capital city. I was proud to have been chosen to take part.” He shook his head, looking disgusted. “I was such a naïve fool. I soon found out what was really going on. The corruption. The contractors were using sub-standard materials. Concrete without enough reinforcement. Inadequate fireproofing. And everyone was collecting a cut of the profits from doing that, the contractors, the government inspectors, everyone. They offered me money too when I confronted them, but I refused. I couldn’t participate in such a scandal, lives were at stake.”

“Good for you. What happened?”

Salim swallowed a few times, in a desperate attempt to ease his burning throat.

“I threatened to go to the newspapers with the story. Next thing I know I’m arrested and brought here, under a charge of embezzlement. I’ve had no trial, I’ve not been allowed to contact my family or speak to a lawyer.” Hannibal nodded, this was the sort of thing their mission briefing with Stockwell had told them went on here, corruption, imprisonment without trial, all manner of abuses.

“Mr Smith, every day I think about those apartment blocks and pray to God that nothing bad happens. What scares me most is that, because the electricity supply in the city is unreliable, many people use gas canisters, for cooking and for boiling water. One accident, one explosion of just one canister in the wrong place and a whole building could come down.” He closed his eyes, “Every day I think of that.”

“Salim,” Hannibal said, again putting his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “I promise you that we are getting out of here, and that you’ll get the chance to put things right. I promise you that.”

Chapter 3

Hannibal and Salim were let out of the box not long after noon. The two men were dragged back to the barracks and thrown down on cots. As soon as the guards left Hannibal felt a hand lifting his head up and a cup was pressed to his lips. He drank greedily, the water tasted like nectar.

“Easy, easy,” came Face’s voice and Hannibal managed to crack open his dry eyes to see his Lieutenant looking down at him. And standing behind him…

“Frankie!” Hannibal’s voice was cracked and weak, but the relief in it was palpable. Frankie looked as beaten up as the rest of them, but he was alive and on his feet.

“Johnny,” Frankie tried to mask his concern for the colonel. “I shoulda known you’d get yourself in trouble in about five minutes flat.”

“Now that’s unfair,” said Face, “It was nearer ten.”

“Salim?” Hannibal looked around to see Murdock and BA tending to Salim on the next cot.

“He’ll be okay,” Face said, soothingly. Was sure that Salim would be and that it was down to Hannibal. The man had a way of making you hang on to life, even if it was only by your fingernails. Hannibal drank more water and managed to sit up by himself.

“Are you okay, Frankie?” he asked. Frankie didn’t have the same training in resisting interrogation as the team. Hannibal hated to think of him suffering what the rest of them had without the coping mechanisms they had to call on. He feared this every time. Hated Stockwell for forcing them to take Frankie on missions. He was useful sometimes and had courage but he was a civilian and it was just too dangerous for him. Frankie turned his eyes away from Hannibal’s searching gaze.

“I’m fine.” His tone was not convincing.

“Frankie.” Hannibal snapped, “Look at me.” The man responded instinctively to the tone of command. Hannibal was aware that Murdock and BA had turned to look at them too, but he kept his focus on Frankie. “What did they do?”

“I couldn’t help it, Hannibal! They forced me; they said they’d kill the rest of you! In front of me!” The words tumbled out of him and he looked desperate. His eyes had tears in them.

“Easy kid,” Hannibal softened his tone. “Just tell me.” Frankie wrung his hands, apparently tormented with guilt.

“They made me read a statement, a confession and they video taped it. I just read what they said to, Johnny, I had to.” Hannibal couldn’t help a sigh of relief, he’d feared much worse.

“Don’t worry, Frankie, like you said, they forced you.” Frankie didn’t look convinced.

“You wouldn’t have done it,” he said.

“If they threatened to kill you all then I probably would have.” Hannibal said. “Did you remember what I taught you about how to act if you were ever made to do that?”

Frankie looked a little brighter. “Yes, I did like you said, I kept my voice flat, and I didn’t correct any bad grammar.”

“Then everyone who sees the video will know you’re just reading a confession written by someone else.” Clearly under duress he added mentally, looking at Frankie’s blackened eyes and bruised and cut face. “Don’t worry about it for another second.” He was rewarded with Frankie visibly relaxing and even smiling a little. Good, he needed his men ready, not mired in guilt.

Hannibal was strong enough to stand now, drank more water, and then went through to the shower block at the end of the barracks. The water was cold, but felt good on his sand encrusted skin. He dressed again, his clothes had been thrown onto the barracks floor by the guards who brought him back from the hot box, and went back out to the others. Salim seemed to be asleep on the cot now, Murdock sitting watching him closely.

“Did you get enough water into him?” Hannibal asked. Murdock nodded.

“I think so.”

“Good, let him rest.”

“You too, Colonel.” Murdock said. Hannibal conceded that the captain had a point, he hadn’t slept for forty-eight hours now and by the look of the others neither had they.

“Okay, everybody get some sleep. We have a lot to do and we can’t do it in the state we’re in now.” He didn’t post a guard, didn’t think any of his men were in good enough shape to stand guard right now. He would rely on his instincts to wake him if any trouble started. One by one the others lay down and were quickly unconscious. Hannibal only let himself doze off when he saw all the others were already asleep, finally drifting into blissful oblivion.


“It should be along here, on the left.” Mrs Baracus said. Amy slowed the hire car and began to watch for the gate.

They had flown in overnight to Washington and driven out to Langley, now they were following the directions from the manuscript to find the house the team had been living in under Stockwell’s so called protection.

“Is that it, do you think?” Amy said as, nearly hidden by the trees and offset from the road, she spotted a pair of high gates. She stopped the car and they got out. There was a notice on the gates warning it was private property. There was no sign of a bell to call the house she could see in the distance and the gates were locked. Of course if this was the place there didn’t need to be a bell. Whoever was in the house probably already knew they were there. Amy looked around. She couldn’t see any cameras, which didn’t mean they weren’t there.

“Okay.” Amy said, quietly. She could probably climb the gates, but Mrs Baracus couldn’t. She turned to her companion then, with a smile.

“Adele, do you have a couple of hair pins?” Mrs Baracus fished one out of her bag and took another from her hair. Amy bent one into a 90-degree angle and the other straight then made a shallow hook shape on the end of it.

“Face taught me a few things while I was working with the team, let’s see if I remember them.” Carefully she slid the straightened pin into the lock on the gate, as she worked she became aware that Mrs Baracus was grinning.

“What’s so funny?” Amy asked.

“Oh, I was just thinking about the idea of Face ‘teaching you a few things’.” Amy blushed.

“Adele!” She sounded scandalised, then smiled. “There was never anything like that. I think BA told Face he’d kick his butt so hard he’d never sit down again if he tried anything on.” She could feel the pins in the lock moving. She slid in the bent hairgrip. “BA always made me feel safe. I guess I was pretty scared of him at first, but when I got to know him… well I don’t need to tell you what sort of man he is.” Amy pulled the hooked hairpin out quickly and turned the bent one and the lock opened.

“Oh, well done, Amy!”

“I’m not sure Face would approve. I think I just raked it rather than picked it, he says that ‘lacks finesse’.”

“It worked, that’s the main thing.” Amy pushed open the gates, which creaked. They got back into the car and drove up to the house.

As they drew up in front of it Amy said, “Be careful when you get out, there could be dogs, be ready to get back to the car quickly.”

Mrs Baracus nodded, looking tense. They got out and approached the front door. Surely they weren’t going to be allowed to walk up and ring the bell, Amy thought. Security was going to be on them at any moment. She looked around, nervously. The only sound was birds and the swish of the trees in the wind. Okay, if that was the game, Amy would play. She walked boldly to the front door and pressed the bell. She heard it chime inside the house.

Five minutes later the two women had to conclude that no one was going to answer the doorbell. They tried to peer through the windows, but blinds were drawn over them all. They walked right around the house and found the back doors and windows also locked and with the blinds down. Even the garbage cans by the back door were empty. They walked back round to the front of the house and Amy took the hair pins out of her pocket and began to work on the door lock. This one was slightly harder to get into, but after a few minutes work it yielded. She pushed open the door and called out “hello?” Her voice was swallowed up in the murky interior. Scared, but trying not to show it she stepped inside. Mrs Baracus came in behind her, staying very close.

They walked through the dark hallway and into a large, open plan living room. There was no furniture. Amy went to one of the windows and raised the blind. A shaft of sunlight pierced the room and lit the dust motes stirred up by the passage of their feet. Dust lay thick on the floor and every other flat surface.

“It must be the wrong place.” Mrs Baracus said quietly, “No one’s been here for months.”

“Let’s look around some more.” Amy said. They considered splitting up, but the heavy silence and gloom of the house was too daunting and they went through the rooms together. In the kitchen they found more dust and also an empty shipping crate. There was a newspaper sitting on top of the crate, apparently carelessly discarded. Amy picked it up. It was a copy of the Washington Post, dated eighteen months ago.

“Damn, they’re good.” Amy said softly, fingering the yellowing newspaper. Mrs Baracus frowned.

“You think it’s the right place?”

“The location and layout matches the description in the manuscript.”

“But this house looks as if it’s been deserted for months.”

“Yes, that’s what it looks like.”

“And we got in pretty easily, no offence, dear.”

“Exactly, too much security would draw attention.” Amy smiled. It wasn’t only Face that had taught her things. She had learnt to think around corners like Hannibal. She smiled wryly, shook her head. “Creaking gates, dust, old newspapers. Set dressing.”

“What now?” Mrs Baracus asked. “If Stockwell was here he’s long gone.” Amy shrugged.

“We go back to plan A.” She held up the old newspaper and grinned. “Hold the front page.”


“All of you, up, now!”

Well this guard spoke English, Hannibal thought, memorising the man’s features as the team were rousted from their cots. It was morning. They’d slept till evening the day before, then eaten and gone back to bed straight away. Although his men groaned as they got up they all looked better, stronger. Face was living up to his name a little more, BA’s back seemed to be giving him very little trouble. They were ready.

They stumbled out into the early morning light and were herded towards buildings that Hannibal had already noted as the guardhouse. Inside they were poked and prodded with guns into an office, where a man in a military uniform sat behind a large mahogany desk. The uniform had just a little too much braid and ribbon on in to be taken entirely seriously by a real soldier. He had a neatly trimmed moustache and immaculate fingernails and was smoking a short cigar. The scent teased Hannibal’s senses. It was a much finer cigar than he normally got his hands on. The desk was empty but for an ashtray.

“Ah, gentlemen,” the man said, “Welcome. My apologies for not greeting you earlier, the pressure of work, you understand.” His accent was good, with a very British inflection.

“Yeah, I can see you have a lot of paperwork,” Hannibal said, glancing at the empty desk. The man ignored the comment.

“I am General Ziyahd, it is my duty and honour to command this installation. And you are also, I believe, military men.” He opened a drawer, removed a newspaper and tossed it down on the desk. Their own faces looked back up at them. “The famous A-Team. Rogue American commandos.” He pulled the newspaper back towards himself, picked it up, “In fact it says here that your own government tried to execute you.”

“It didn’t take.” Face said.

“That’s right,” Murdock said, smiled, “We’re actually superheroes, impervious to bullets.”

“Very amusing,” Ziyahd said. “And easily tested.” Murdock didn’t stop smiling, but his eyes flickered. “It seems, gentlemen, that your government doesn’t actually want you back. We expected frantic diplomatic efforts, even threats of military force, but instead you have apparently been abandoned to our mercy.” Hannibal could see the look of despair forming on Frankie’s face at this news, but the others kept their composure.

“And just how much mercy can we expect, General?” Hannibal asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral for now, still assessing the man.

“As much as you earn, Colonel Smith.” Ziyahd answered, holding Hannibal’s gaze. “However please be under no illusions, we need information from you about your mission in this country.”

“You already interrogated us, you got all the information you are going to get.”

The general shook his head slightly. “A mere preliminary effort, using the resources available at the time. I know you are trained to resist interrogation so we have… specialists en-route who will get past that resistance.” The team exchanged glances. “Of course you can save them and yourselves much trouble if you would care to give me the information before then.” Ziyahd looked at them speculatively, scanning each man for a sign of weakness.

“I’m sure we could.” Hannibal said. The general sat back, disappointed.

“Very well, as you wish.” He picked the newspaper back up and returned it to the drawer. As the drawer was closed a small but distinct clinking sound was heard. “You must accept now that you will spend the rest of your lives here. However long that may be, Westerners rarely last very long here.”

“Oh we aren’t planning on staying very long.” Hannibal said. Ziyahd actually laughed.

“Of course, you are famous for your escapes. Well I have little doubt you could escape from here eventually, but to what end?” He spread his hands, “The desert surrounds us, Colonel Smith, the desert would welcome you with open arms, and when they closed…” He smiled, tapped the ash from his cigar.

That was the end of the interview; they were taken back outside and left alone.

“Impressions?” Hannibal asked his men.

“The desert, Colonel, the desert, is three weeks in every direction.” Murdock said in an uncanny imitation of General Ziyahd. Face grinned.

“That ain’t what he meant by ‘impressions’,” BA growled.

“I heard a bottle in that drawer,” Face said. “If it’s not cough syrup then he’s not being a very good Muslim.”


“I don’t trust a man who keeps his desk so tidy that it ain’t got nothing on it at all.” Hannibal nodded.

“Johnny, I…” Frankie said. “I really didn’t like that part about ‘specialists’.” Hannibal hadn’t liked it either and wished he knew how long they had before the ‘specialists’ arrived.

“Okay, so the sooner we go to work the better. Face, Murdock, I want you to mingle with the other prisoners. Make friends, find out what kind of people we have to deal with here.” He turned to BA. “Sergeant, find out what hardware they have around here that we can use. Weapons, machinery, and especially vehicles.” BA nodded.

“What about me?” Frankie asked, “What can I do?” Hannibal put an arm across Frankie’s shoulders.

“You and me, Frankie, are just gonna relax and watch the world go by.” The others nodded in understanding but Frankie looked baffled.

“Huh? Hannibal, come on, I wanna do something useful.” The colonel walked off and Frankie followed him still protesting. The rest of the team split up and headed off to their assignments.

Chapter 4

As the air cooled towards evening the team gathered again, in the exercise yard, stood in a tight circle. Hannibal raised a speculative eyebrow at Face and Murdock. Face was now wearing a somewhat makeshift Arab headdress and Murdock had a piece of cloth pinned to his cap that covered the back of his neck.

“Going native, guys?” Hannibal asked.

“Just being smart,” Face said, “Sunstroke is no fun.” That was a good point Hannibal had to admit, his own head was pounding from the glare of the sun. He made a mental note to get hold of something similar for himself, Frankie and BA.

“Okay, guys, lets hear your reports. Face, Murdock, you first.”

“Well,” Face started, “We spoke to a lot of the inmates. A lot of them speak English. There’s three hundred or so of them and they’re all political prisoners. Put here for opening their mouths too much about the government.”

“The usual suspects,” Murdock said, “Journalists, academics, doctors, students, writers, a few clerics. You know, various intellectuals. None of them have been here more than two years.”

“Just after the new regime took power.” Hannibal said, nodding. “Go on.”

“This is the best part,” Face said, “Seventeen army officers, mostly lieutenants and captains, one major, name of Madari. He’s the man we need to get on our side, Hannibal. He’s the senior officer and he used to serve here when this camp was an army base.”

“It lost its strategic value a few years ago,” Murdock said, “Was mostly abandoned, until the new regime wanted somewhere isolated to store inconvenient people.”

“You think this Madari and his men would help us take the camp?”

“Take the camp!” Frankie hissed. “Are you crazy, Johnny, I thought we were talking about escaping here, not trying to take over the place!”

“Taking over the place is likely to be the only way for us to escape.” Hannibal said. “At least if we don’t want to be chased all the way to the Jordanian border. Face?”

“Madari seems like a smart guy and a good officer, but he doesn’t seem all that friendly. I think you’ll have to work on him, Colonel.”

Hannibal nodded, turned to BA. “Sergeant, what did you find out about hardware?”

“I took Salim with me,” BA said, “You said he was an engineer, I figured they maybe had him work on some of the hardware around here.”

“Did they?”

“Yeah, he told me they got a motor pool and a machine shop. He’s been in them, they’re fully equipped to repair the vehicles or anything else that might break down around here.”

“Makes sense,” Hannibal said, nodding, “Middle of the desert you can’t just call triple A if you blow a gasket.”

“The generator house is right by the machine shop. Vehicles, I could see three trucks and five jeeps.”

“Sounds good. Fuel?”

“There’s a fuel dump right beside the motor pool.”

How well guarded are all these?”

“Well, I can’t see all the entrances from inside the inmate area, but from what Salim told me and what I saw when they took us to the general’s office I’d say one man on each building. Except the armoury, which is beside the guard house, I can see that entrance and that’s got two guards.”

“Anybody figured how many guards there are altogether?” Hannibal asked.

“Thirty, including the general.” Murdock answered quickly. “I got that off one of the army officers.”

“Thirty.” Hannibal rolled the number around in his head. With his unit and seventeen other trained military men he liked the odds.

“What did you and Frankie find out about the routine of the camp?” Face asked.

“That it’s sloppy for one thing,” Hannibal said, “These guys are complacent, they think they have an easy job guarding a bunch of intellectuals.”

“That’s good to know.” Murdock said.

“They patrol the wire that surrounds the inmate area with one man patrols, each with a dog, it takes them about twenty minutes to walk right around and they have three men doing it at any one time. They all change shift at the same time, so they all three ended up standing at the gate waiting for their relief together. I really hope they do that every time.”

“So there’s no one round the back?” Face grinned. “Nice.”

“They don’t keep many guards in here with the prisoners. In fact there were several times today there were no guards in here at all, they were all outside the wire. Like I said, complacent. You can all see the watchtowers, one on each corner of the camp perimeter. There’s only one man in each of them. That’s never a good idea. Two men keep each other alert, one man gets bored and drowsy.”

“Bored and Drowsy, didn’t they have a Saturday morning show on CBS in the early sixties?” Murdock said, then was silenced by a glare from BA.

“There must be deliveries of food and water,” Hannibal went on, “Not seen any today, so everybody keep an eye out for that, or try to find out when they are.” The team nodded. “Then there’s the one thing the camp stops for, five times a day.”

“Prayers.” BA said.

“Pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and night.” Murdock reeled off quickly, earning a slightly odd look from Face.

“Right.” Hannibal said, “The prisoners all go into the dining hall and most of the guards go to the guard house. The guards in the towers stay there, but I’ll bet they are praying too. And you know what that means?” The others looked back at him blankly, not seeing what he was getting at. He sighed and said. “It means that they’re all facing the same way.” Enlightenment dawned on the others.

“Towards Mecca.” Face said. Hannibal nodded.

“How useful do you think it is to know exactly which way your enemy is facing at a specific time? Somebody find out which way Mecca is as soon as you can, okay?”

“It’s that way, Colonel,” Murdock said, pointing. The others looked at him a little strangely.

“Erm, are you sure, Captain?” Hannibal asked.

“Fool don’t know nuthin’,” BA growled. “Fool just pointin’.” Murdock stopped pointing and turned to the sergeant.

“Are you suggesting I would provide our commanding officer with inaccurate tactical information whilst in a combat zone, because I object to the inference most strongly.” This came out in an upper class English accent, which simply riled BA even more.

“Ah’m suggestin’ you a fool.”

Face decided to resolve things by snagging a passing prisoner gave him The Smile and asked, “Excuse me, Professor, which way is Mecca, please?” The man pointed in exactly the same direction Murdock had. If Murdock made any attempt to avoid looking smug he failed. BA just glared at him.

“Are you thinking of converting, Mr Peck?” the professor asked.

“I’d have a hard time explaining that one to the nuns,” Face replied. The professor went off chuckling.

“Nice guy,” Face said turning back to the others. “Did his post graduate work at M.I.T., got a sister lives in Maryland. What?” He said, off Hannibal’s look, “You told us to make friends.”

“Sometimes I forget just how good at that you are,” Hannibal said, quietly. He looked at Frankie, who hadn’t spoken for several minutes now and was currently looking at the ground. “Cheer up, Frankie. Have I ever let you down?” Frankie looked up, smiled nervously, looked about to speak, but was interrupted by the sound of a bell. Hannibal decided he would talk to Frankie alone later, the man needed some reassurance.

“Dinner!” Murdock said. “I’m starved.” He headed off towards the hut that housed the kitchens and dining area and the others followed. As they made their way there Face pulled Hannibal aside, spoke quietly to him.

“I’m worried about Murdock.” Face said. “He hasn’t had his meds for several days now and it’s starting to show.” The concern, usually well masked, was very evident on his face.

“Yeah,” Hannibal said, looking ahead to where Murdock currently had one arm around Frankie’s shoulders and was gesturing almost wildly with the other. “I don’t want to have to ask the docs here, the camp doctor I mean, for drugs for him. If they knew about Murdock’s problems…” Face nodded, knew that would mean Murdock would become the number one target when the specialists they had been warned about turned up. “Try to keep an eye on him as much as you can, try to keep him calm.” Face nodded again.

“I’ll do my best, Hannibal.” He paused then said, “Can you watch him after dinner though, I’ve got a card game to go to.”

“A game? Here?” Face just gave a smile and a small shrug. Hannibal shook his head. If they landed on the moon Face would find a game.

“Just making friends, Colonel, as per orders.”

“Well keep the ‘making friends’ part in mind and keep the cards out of your sleeve.” Hannibal warned. Face gave him an indignant look.

“Hannibal, are you suggesting I don’t know when not to cheat.”

“I’ve seen you cheat in games of Happy Families, with kids.”

“That’s educational.”

“I’ve seen you cheat in a poker game with a gang of Hells Angel’s who would’ve nailed your hand to the table if they’d caught you.”

“They didn’t catch me though.”

“You cheat every time we play cards.”

“I gotta practice….”


Two days after visiting the deserted Langley compound Amy and Mrs Baracus checked into a hotel in LA. Amy had tried to persuade Mrs Baracus to go home to Chicago and wait for news, but to no avail. So Amy had taken the opportunity to get a proper interview with her to include in the story. The story was currently in the locked briefcase she carried as she stepped onto the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby. It was nine-fifteen AM and her appointment at the LA Courier Express was at ten. Well, her old editor had cut her a lot of slack when she’d been working with the A-Team, he deserved the chance to break the story.

She looked up at the floor numbers, lighting up in turn as the elevator went down. The lobby button lit up, then went dark again and the elevator continued on down.

“What the hell?” she was sure she’d pressed the right button. She stabbed at the panel. There was no effect, the elevator continued on to the sub basement, two levels down.

“Oh no.” She whispered. Fear gripped her and as the doors opened she hugged the briefcase to her chest defensively. She got a brief glimpse of two large, dark suited men, their faces covered in gas masks, then one of them threw something into the car. A cloud of white gas flew up and in seconds Amy hit the ground, unconscious.

She came to in a leather chair. Her hands and feet were not bound, but she at once had the feeling that trying to get up would be a bad move, not least because her head felt as if it would fall off if she moved too fast. The room she was in was dark; in front of her was a desk, with an angle poise lamp creating a small pool of light. The only item on the desk was her briefcase. It was open, without any apparent signs of being forced. Sitting behind the desk, seemingly deeply engrossed in the manuscript was a man. Dark hair, dark suit, yellow tinted glass, untrustworthy looking.

“General Stockwell.” Amy said. He looked up, gave her a thin, artificial smile.

“Ah, Miss Allen, you’re awake. I trust my men were not too impolite.”

“No, they kidnapped me with excellent manners.” Amy said dryly. There was someone standing behind her chair in the shadows, she could feel it. As her eyes adjusted she could make out a bank of video monitors, currently dark, on the wall.

“What have you done with Mrs Baracus?” She demanded. Stockwell affected a look of surprise.

“Mrs Baracus is in her hotel room where you left her.” He gave that humourless smile again. “I’m aware of what happened to the last people who caused that lady some inconvenience, and since her son is still alive I thought it best…” Amy sat up, excitedly

“You know for sure they’re alive, all of them?” There had been no new word since the Frankie Santana video had been released and Amy had feared the worst.

“My sources indicate that they are.” Stockwell said. Amy couldn’t help smiling widely, relaxed back into the chair. Stockwell picked up the manuscript that he had laid down on the desk,

“This is a very interesting document.”

“No, it’s a copy of a very interesting document.” Amy sounded a little smug.

“Of course.” Stockwell was not apparently surprised, “one of several I expect.”

“My expenses claim for Xeroxing is going to be rather high this month.” Amy admitted. “And I don’t even know how many copies Mrs Baracus made.”

“All no doubt placed strategically with friends and colleagues, with instructions to publish them should anything… untoward happen to you.”

“Listen, Stockwell, we can play these games all day, but if you don’t want to see your face on the eleven o’clock news there’s one way to prevent it. You get them out.”

“You want me to rescue the A-Team?” His voice was neutral. He seemed to be asking simply for clarification.

“You sent them in there, you have a duty to them.” He raised an eyebrow at that. Apparently she’d mentioned a concept he didn’t understand. “You have a lot of goons at your command, I know you could do it. You have a responsibility to get them back.”

“That wasn’t the arrangement and the A-Team knew it. They were aware of the risks and accepted them. They are soldiers.”

“Frankie Santana isn’t.” She watched his face carefully for the slightest sign of guilt; a twinge of conscience. There was nothing.

“Mr Santana threw his lot in with the A-Team when he participated in their escape from execution. He made himself a criminal.”

“To help save the lives of innocent men.” She pointed out.

“How noble, is that an angle you play up in your story?” He smiled again, infuriatingly, and then said. “Believe me, Miss Allen, I should like nothing more than to retrieve the A-Team from their current situation, they are a valuable asset. But now their capture has become public it is impossible for me to act.”

“You have influence, General, high up in Washington. There has to be something you can do.”

“I think you overestimate my influence. I am simply a small part of the defence of our country.”

“Well, perhaps we’ll all find out how small a part, in tomorrows paper.” Amy said and Stockwell glared at her sternly.

“I cannot allow this story to be published, Miss Allen. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of the United States of America.” He was trying to appeal to her patriotism, she could see right through that. “Surely as a journalist you are sophisticated enough to understand that people like me have to work in the grey areas.”

“No, as a journalist I see things in black and white, especially headlines.” He was leaning forward on the desk, his eyes searching her for any sign she would compromise. She met his gaze steadily, though her heart was pounding. This was it, this was the moment. He could turn around and order her shot. Oh, the story would get out eventually anyway, but a posthumous by-line wasn’t much comfort. Finally Stockwell relaxed and sat back in his chair, with a small sigh.

“It seems you learned a lot about stubbornness from the A-Team.” He drummed his fingers on the table, the first nervous or irritated gesture she had seen him make. The first sign of genuine emotion. “Very well, I will see what I can do.”

“Three days. I want to hear some good news in no more than three days.” Now he looked truly irritated.

“Then you publish?” The fingers drummed some more as she nodded. “That’s not much time, for what you want me to do.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage, General.” She grinned impishly, “this time you have to do it ‘my way’.” His eyes narrowed behind his glasses.

“Three days then. You will be at the same hotel?”

“I’m sure wherever I am you’ll find me,” she said. “And if anything happens to me or Mrs Baracus…”

“Miss Allen,” he had pulled himself together and closed his emotions down again. “That reporter’s imagination of yours is running away with you again. I have no intention of harming you or Mrs Baracus. I work for the United States Government. Do you know what that means?”

Amy looked at the bank of video monitors,

“Neat gadgets?”

“It means that I am one of the ‘good guys’,” he said, entirely seriously. Amy stared at him and then began to laugh. She laughed so long and hard that Stockwell got annoyed. He waved a hand to the shadowy man behind Amy’s chair, who stepped forward and chloroformed her into unconsciousness. Stockwell shook his head, wondering what he had said that she found so funny.

“Take her back to her hotel and tell the pilot to get ready for take off.”

“Yes, sir. The destination?”


Chapter 5

“…Hannibal of Arabia…”

Hannibal heard Murdock’s voice, smiled. The moment Murdock had seen Hannibal in the white headdress he’d fashioned for himself the pilot had started to call him that. It drove BA crazy of course. He looked up from the table to where Face and Murdock were sitting cross-legged on the floor, pulling on the ropes for the fans that cooled the recreation area.

“Murdock.” Face said warningly, “Watch it, you might offend people.” There were a few other prisoners in the room. No one seemed to be taking much notice of the three westerners.

“You know,” Murdock said, “I was talking to Hakim, who works in the kitchen…”

“The lawyer?” Face asked.

“That’s him, he told me his grandfather fought with Lawrence of Arabia.”

Face rolled his eyes.

“Murdock, half the guys in here have grandfathers who say they rode with, fought with or were close personal friends of Lawrence of Arabia.”

Hannibal tuned out their banter, was glad to see Murdock staying calm. Face had volunteered himself and Murdock for a shift on the fans not just to ingratiate them with the other prisoners, but also because a nicely dull and repetitive task like that would be useful to soothe Murdock. The Captain’s behaviour had started to become noticeably erratic, obvious not just to the team, but to other inmates and the guards. It was also a useful job if you wanted to keep an eye on the comings and goings, see who was talking to whom. The man pulling the fan rope seemed to become part of the furniture and no one took any notice of him.

Hannibal bent over the paper he was drawing on, frowned. He looked up again though as he heard Face give a sharp cough and followed the lieutenant’s glance to the doorway. An inmate had come in that Hannibal recognised as Major Madari, the senior military officer among the prisoners. They had spoken only briefly so far and the major was not very welcoming even of Face’s efforts to make friends. The major, his military bearing unmistakable, strode across the room and began to browse the small selection of books on a shelf. Hannibal bent over his paper again, but after a while he felt someone’s eyes on him and looked up to see Madari looking at him. His nearly black eyes were quite piercing in his hawkish face. Hannibal nodded to him, a greeting, a small invitation. Even so he was quite surprised when Madari walked over, stood beside him, hands clasped behind his back.

“Major.” Hannibal said, standing up and offering his hand. Madari hesitated. Though they had spoken a couple of times now the major had not shaken Hannibal’s hand. The other prisoners shook Hannibal’s hand every time they met him, and each other, he knew that was their custom, but Madari always seemed to keep his hands behind his back. Hannibal had watched him with the other military officers and though they shook hands with each other in greeting none of them seemed to expect Madari to do so. Hannibal had an inkling of why. Salim had told him that when Madari was brought here after his arrest he spent a month in the infirmary recovering from the injuries sustained in his interrogation. When he was released into the inmate compound the doctors here were shocked by the nature of his injuries. Try to get a look at his hands. Salim had said mysteriously.

“Colonel Smith.” Madari said, and his formality finally overwhelmed his reluctance. He took Hannibal’s hand and shook it. Hannibal tried not to stare, but a quick glance at the major’s hand confirmed what he’d suspected. Where Madari’s fingernails should have been there were ugly masses of scar tissue and partially regrown nails, red and inflamed. He was probably in continual pain, Hannibal realised, allowing Madari to pull his hand away quickly and put it behind his back again.

“Major, I’m told you served here when this was a military base.”

“I did.”

“Under General Ziyahd?”

Madari snorted contemptuously at that. “Hardly! He wasn’t a general then, just a major, and a bureaucrat.”

“Got promoted when the new regime came in, huh?” Madari didn’t answer. “Or bought promotion, am I right? Greased the right palms, said the right things to the right people and got a shiny new uniform with too much gold braid on it?”

“The man is a fool. That’s why they put him in charge here. They can’t give him a real military command.”

“I know the sort.” Hannibal said, trying for the ‘fellow soldier’ approach. He considered Madari’s bitter tone; he looked at the man’s face. He was about forty years old. The other military officers among the inmates that Hannibal and the rest of the team had talked to gave nothing but glowing reports of Madari’s intelligence and military acumen. They all admired him. So why wasn’t he a colonel? Perhaps speaking out inconveniently wasn’t something he had only started doing after the regime change.

“It’s always the way. The ones who say the right things get promoted while better men who have the guts to speak the truth get passed over.” That hit a nerve. He saw Madari’s carefully controlled face twitch just a little.

“Sit down, Major.” Hannibal said, nodding at a chair. Again the hesitation, then Madari pulled out the chair and sat down. He kept his hands below the tabletop. Hannibal sat back down. Murdock appeared at Madari’s side, carrying two small cups.

“I thought you might like some coffee, Colonel, Major.” He put down the cups and left again quickly. Nice, Hannibal thought; glad to know that Face and Murdock were paying attention. Now he and the major were drinking coffee together, like friends. He took a sip of the strong coffee. It had a spicy taste, and he saw surprise on Madari’s face, as he tasted his cup.

“Hayl!” Madari said, then, “Cardamom you call it. I haven’t had hayl in coffee since I came here, Ziyahd keeps it for himself and his cronies.” Hannibal nodded his head towards Face.

“I have a very good supply officer.” Madari looked at Face who was paying no apparent attention to them, seemingly entirely focussed on playing a word game with Murdock. The major turned back to Hannibal.

“Your men, they are very good. Special Forces, I understand.”

“Green berets.” Hannibal said.

“But not Santana. He is a civilian.”

“Yes. It’s a long story.”

“We have nothing but time here, Colonel Smith.”

“We haven’t,” Hannibal said. “We’ve been told there are people on their way to question us further about our mission. I’m not sure what’s taking them so long to get here. We’re only two days from the capital. They could arrive any time.”

“They could be coming from abroad.” Madari said, between sips of his coffee, not looking at Hannibal. “When I was… questioned some of the men involved were not from here.” Hannibal noticed his hand holding the coffee cup was trembling very slightly. “They were eastern Europeans I think.” Hannibal nodded. Their briefing had told them the government had ties to the Soviet Union, that the Russians were lending their expertise in a number of specialist areas.

“Okay, that makes sense.” He pushed the paper he’d been working on towards Madari, who glanced at it.

“A map of the camp.” Madari observed.

“I wondered if you could help me with it, you must know the layout of this place inside out. I’ve got most of it figured out, but I don’t know the layout of most of the interior of the guardhouse. Can you help me?” Well that was it, he’d laid it on the line. It would be obvious to Madari what Hannibal was making the map for. Asking him “can you help me?” was clearly a loaded question. Help me with the map. Help me with the plan. Help me carry it out.

“I can tell you the layout of the guardhouse.” Madari said. A loaded answer to Hannibal’s loaded question. All right, still some work to do.

“And can you tell me what that thing is under the tarp – tarpaulin – beside the interrogation blockhouse?” Madari actually smiled; the first time Hannibal had seen him do so.

“Hasn’t anyone told you?” Hannibal shook his head. “It’s a missile launcher, Colonel, anti-aircraft defence.” Hannibal tried to control his delight at that news, scribbled the word ‘gun’ on the paper. Madari went into details about the weapon. The best detail of all being that there were still plenty of shells for it stored in the armoury. He became quite enthused and after a while Hannibal had to cut him short.

“About the guard house…” Madari calmed himself, pulled the map over. He picked up the pencil Hannibal had been using and began to draw on the paper.

“I’m particularly interested in the location of radio room.” Hannibal said leaning over him. Madari nodded, impatiently, and looking at the plan Hannibal saw that this was the first room Madari had marked. He sat back with a smile. The plan was coming together.


There were two guards on the door of prisoner barracks number three that night. Not prison guards, they were two of Madari’s men, apparently lounging casually. Any inmates that tried to enter were told to come back later. No one argued.

Inside the barracks the A-Team, Major Madari, the rest of the military officers and a small number of the civilian prisoners were gathered at the far end of the room. Hannibal had the floor, was explaining the plan to the men.

“The first thing we have to do is get control of the guard towers. I’d suggest the best time for that is right after the shift change after sunset prayers.” Several of the men nodded in agreement.

“No,” Madari said. Hannibal looked at him, knew he’d face challenges from the major every step of the way. He had only agreed to this meeting very reluctantly.

Hannibal raised an eyebrow, “No?”

“Do it before the shift change. Straight after Maghrib, sunset prayers, you take out the man at the end of his shift. He won’t be suspicious if he hears or sees someone climbing the ladder, he’ll think it’s his relief. Then you’re in place waiting for the man coming on duty and that’s eight men taken out before anyone even knows anything has started.”

“Nice, though the timing would be tight.” Hannibal said. “Now the north west tower is going to be the hardest to get to without being seen…”

The meeting went on, Hannibal outlining plans. There was plenty of enthusiastic feedback of ideas and information from the younger Arab officers. But they still deferred to Madari and any time he raised an objection they all agreed with it and waited for Hannibal to answer it. Still things were going well until…

“…okay, so we get BA to the motor pool, with Salim.”

“No!” This time the major was so emphatic that people stared at him. Hannibal felt his hackles rise at once. This wasn’t an objection to a minor point. This was a full on challenge. Madari had stepped towards Hannibal and Hannibal straightened up to meet him, was profoundly glad the man wasn’t taller than him.


“No civilians.” Madari said in a barely controlled voice. “I won’t allow it.” Hannibal looked around at the small number of civilians there.

“Why do you think they are here? They want to take part.”

“You may be happy to take civilians into combat, Colonel Smith,” Madari said, glancing at Frankie, “but these men are my responsibility, I will not let you get them killed.” There was a small gasp from behind Hannibal, but he didn’t react to it. He sensed a shifting of postures as his men and Madari’s men poised themselves to back up their respective leaders. Uncertainty radiated from the civilian group.

Hannibal kept his voice quiet and level as he responded, hoping to defuse this quickly.

“I’m not going to put any civilians in danger.”

Madari dismissed this with a snort. “This whole plan puts them in danger. What do we do when you have gone, Colonel? Have you thought about that? Do we hand the camp back to Ziyahd and let him shoot a few men as punishment?” Ah, so that’s what this was about, Hannibal thought.

“What happens when we are gone is up to you, Major, the camp will be yours. The camp, the gun.” He tried to make the word “gun” sound almost seductive.

“And what use are those once the food and water deliveries stop?” Madari demanded.

“There are local tribes in this area, you know what the government is doing to them. They’ll be happy to join you and bring you supplies.” Hannibal kept his tone level, reasonable, but it was a strain.

“The government is wiping out the tribes! Soon there will be none left!” He was shouting now, and in his eyes there was something Hannibal hadn’t expected to see and it shocked him. Madari was afraid.

“Then the sooner we get on with this the better.” Hannibal held the major’s gaze as they glared at each other. The tension in the room was almost unbearable and the sudden sound of a whistle from the doorway shook them like a pistol shot. At the signal most of the men scattered, some to cots in the room, some out of the door. A few moments later a guard came to the door and shouted an instruction.

“Head count.” Murdock said. “Dunno why they keep doing that,” he muttered, “surely they know by now everybody only has one.”

Hannibal and Madari were still staring each other down. Only when one of Madari’s men put a hand on the major’s shoulder and said something quietly to him in Arabic did he relax and look away. He answered the man and turned to walk away, but then stopped and looked back.

“I am not a fool, Smith, I know all you care about is your own men. Don’t expect me to believe anything else.” He walked away.

“Well that could have gone better,” Face said.

“No kidding,” Hannibal snapped.

“That’s one tough guy,” Frankie said, sounding impressed.

“And we ain’t gonna be able to do this without him,” BA’s low voice rumbled from behind Hannibal.

“My grandma used to grow herbs in a window box,” Murdock said

The others stared at him, except Hannibal. He couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d seen in Madari’s eyes. The fear. He was afraid he’d be tortured again, if this all went wrong. He’d been broken and though he was good at keeping up a tough image, inside it was gone. The man he’d been, the straight backed, hard as nails, son of the desert, was lost. And if BA was right that they couldn’t do this without Madari then Hannibal somehow had to help him find that man again.

Chapter 6

“Are there any messages for me, I’m in room 417?”

The desk clerk checked. “Yes, Miss Allen, there’s one phone message.” Amy’s heart began to pound as she took the envelope.

“Is it from…?” Mrs Baracus couldn’t finish. They walked through the lobby towards the elevators. Amy tore it open with shaking hands and read it aloud to her companion.

“Miss Allen, sorry to have missed you at your hotel, we would be glad to talk to you about HM, you let us know when you can get down here to Texas…” She heard Mrs Baracus sigh. “No, it’s Murdock’s grandparents, they must have got that message I sent them.” She had asked them for an interview to fill in some “human interest” background on Murdock, she and Mrs Baracus had just returned from a similar interview with Frankie Santana’s father. Yesterday they had interviewed Father Magill about Face. It was useful for the story, but it was also a way to fill in the time as they waited to hear from Stockwell. A way to lessen the unbearable tension. Amy put the message into her briefcase as they boarded the elevator.

“How much longer?” Mrs Baracus asked, Amy checked her watch, knowing Stockwell he would be precise and so the three days she gave him would be exactly seventy two hours from the moment he agreed to her deadline.

“Another two hours.”

“So there is still time.”

“We’re not going to hear anything, Adele. He’s just using this time to cover his tracks and bury evidence.”

“Did you ever believe he was going to help?”

“I had to try.” Amy said. Hated that it meant another three days gone, not knowing what the A-Team were going through or if they were even still alive. They arrived at their room and went in; checking it thoroughly for any signs someone had been there while they were out. There was nothing obvious; even so they no longer spoke freely in here. Amy picked up a pad and a marker, wrote on it and held it up.


Mrs Baracus nodded, said out loud, “I think I’ll try to have a nap, I’m so tired.”

“Good idea,” Amy said, “I’ll just put the TV on quietly.”

Silently they moved around, packing up all of Amy’s notes then left the room again closing the door as quietly as possible, cutting off the noise of the still playing TV.

“Down the stairs,” said Amy, keen to avoid the elevator. They found the stairwell and hurried down. Not into the lobby. Amy led Mrs Baracus on down, through doors marked Private and into the staff only areas of the hotel.

“Try to look as if we’re meant to be here.” Amy said, gave Mrs Baracus a folder, “Like health inspectors or something.” Mrs Baracus nodded. The two women walked as confidently as they could through the slightly dingy corridors, apparently pointing things out to each other and making notes. Hotel employees gave them only brief glances and then ignored them. And then they were at a fire exit door, which they pushed open and peered through. An alley, apparently empty. They left the hotel and hurried up the alley towards the street, turned to walk away from the hotel. They walked two blocks before they relaxed.

They ducked into a small coffee bar and sat down, keeping an eye on the door and through the window for any sign they were being followed. A waitress came over and they ordered coffee. When she went away again Amy said. “I’m going to make a phone call, keep a watch out.” She found the payphone at the back of the café, fished a business card out of her pocket and dialled the number on it.

“Josh, its Amy. We’re coming in…yes, it’s time…can you come yourself, I won’t trust anyone else…okay here’s the address…”

After finishing the call she sat back down with Mrs Baracus, said. “A friend is coming to pick us up.”

A nervous hour and two more cups of coffee each later a young man in a rumpled suit came into the café and quickly came over to Amy and Mrs Baracus. Amy rose to greet him, hugged him.

“Josh, it’s good to see you. This is Adele Baracus. Adele, Josh Lewis. He’s an old friend of mine from the paper.” Josh and Mrs Baracus shook hands. “I taught him everything he knows.” Amy said, grinning, gathering up her things. “Come on, lets get moving.”

They hurried out to Josh’s car and Amy and Mrs Baracus got into the back.

“I read the manuscript you sent me, Amy,” Josh said, “It’s incredible, this story is going to be huge.”

“Have you shown it to anyone else?”

“My boss, but only after you called just now. He told me to get you two and myself on a private jet to Atlanta, right away. He’s getting it organised, it should be standing by at LAX.”

“Atlanta?” Mrs Baracus said, puzzled, “I thought you worked at the LA Courier? Why are we going to Atlanta?”

“Josh used to work at the Courier,” Amy said, “but then got another job. He keeps trying to convince me it’s the future of news.”

“You’ll see, Amy. Print is dead. Your story will be out there in a few hours, not tomorrow morning.”

“Anyway the Courier is where Stockwell expects us to go.” Amy said, “He’s had time to get to them. And thinking back, Eldredge never cut me that much slack when I was working on the A-Team story anyway.”

“So who do you work for, Mr Lewis?” Mrs Baracus asked. The journalist passed her back a laminated card. There under the word ‘PRESS’ in large blue letters were three red letters, a white line running through them, following their shape.



“Oh, that’s gotta to be a foul!” Hannibal shouted. He didn’t know much about soccer, a game of which was in progress between two teams of inmates in the yard, but was pretty sure throwing elbows like that wasn’t allowed. Murdock probably didn’t know much about soccer either but it hadn’t stopped him volunteering himself and Frankie to play. Frankie had been less enthusiastic and catching Lieutenant Jahni’s elbow in the face had probably just dampened his enthusiasm even more. The teams argued for a while, with plenty of shouting and pointing, before Frankie’s team was awarded a free kick and the game went on.

Hannibal grinned, leaning back against the doorjamb of the prisoner barracks. A few feet away Madari stood by the wall, his hands behind his back. He watched the game with barely concealed irritation.

“The men need to be fresh,” he said. “Not running about in the burning sun.”

“They’ll be fine”, Hannibal said. “Get their blood up, ready to go.” He could see Face and BA also apparently watching the game, on the other side of the yard. But he knew they were actually watching the guards coming and going, checking for any change in routine. He saw Salim go up to them. They shook hands and Hannibal knew from Salim’s reaction that Face had passed something to him when shaking his hand. As Face spoke to him Salim looked across at Hannibal and began to hurry over to him. Dammit, kid, could you be any more obvious? Madari must have caught the exchange too, he muttered under his breath in Arabic, sounding annoyed.

“Colonel Smith,” Salim said, coming up to him, “Mr Peck gave me this for you.” Under the cover of shaking hands (what a wonderfully useful custom this continual handshaking was, Hannibal thought) he gave Hannibal a flat, round tin, which Hannibal looked at briefly before dropping into his pocket. Boot polish, black. Briefly wondered if Face had scrounged it or lifted it.

“Thanks, Salim.”

“Is it for tonight? For camouflage?” Hannibal nodded.

“And I have this for you.” Salim took a small bar of chocolate out of his pocket. “It’s not a cigar, but I thought you might like it.” Hannibal knew enough about Arab manners now not to refuse a gift.

“Thanks, kid, very generous.”

“Colonel,” Salim said, dropping his voice a little. “I cannot believe that by tomorrow morning we will all be free, thanks to you.” Madari snapped something at him in Arabic and Salim looked chastened.

“Just stay cool about it,” Hannibal said. “You’re clear about what you have to do?”

“Yes, yes, help keep the prisoners calm, make sure everyone stays in the barracks until you come to let us out.” He cast a resentful glance at Madari, whose insistence had led to this compromise. That the civilians involved in the plan stay in the barracks and keep order until after the camp was secured. “I could do more, I could…” Madari didn’t speak this time but his glare shut the young engineer up very quickly. Salim shook Hannibal’s hand again, then touched the fingers of his right hand to his forehead and bowed his head a little, before walking off. Hannibal heard Madari click his tongue in annoyance.

“Kid’s just excited about tonight, lighten up on him,” Hannibal said to the major.

“He has a bad case of hero worship.” Madari said. Hannibal feared this was true. He unwrapped the candy bar, offered Madari a piece. The major declined the offer, turned to look at the game again, then frowned, looking off further into the distance. Hannibal followed his gaze. A column of dust was rising, out on the desert road leading to the camp. Vehicles were approaching.

“Any deliveries due today?” Hannibal asked. Madari tilted his head back, said, “No.” Hannibal bit into the chocolate, chewed it thoughtfully.

Face and BA were arguing lazily about the game, but they had seen the column of dust too. In a few minutes they saw three Land Rovers drive in through the main gate and park up in front of the guardhouse. Several men emerged from them, three soldiers, who had been driving, two Arab men in suits and head dresses and four Westerners, in suits, bare-headed. The drivers started unloading boxes from the vehicles and taking them to the concrete blockhouse that the team had been imprisoned in when they first arrived. Face and BA looked at each other, Face’s eyes were wide

“BA, do you think…?”

“Yeah, it’s gotta be.” They saw General Ziyahd come out of the guardhouse, accompanied by several of his senior officers and greet the new arrivals, then they all went inside. Face and BA made their way with forced nonchalance to where Hannibal was sitting on the steps of barracks number three. He looked at them questioningly.

“They’re here.” Face said.

Incongruously a cheer burst from the spectators of the soccer game as Murdock somehow managed to score a goal, mostly by accident. As his teammates congratulated him Murdock glanced over to see if his colonel was watching. He saw BA and Face talking to Hannibal, saw the alarm on their faces. He extricated himself, grabbed Frankie and hurried over as two other players took their places.

“What’s wrong?” Murdock asked, “What happened?”

“The specialists have arrived.” Face said. He turned to Hannibal. “What do we do now, Colonel?” If Hannibal had a dollar for every time he’d heard that question, or variations on it he’d be rich. He looked around at the men waiting for his orders, and then turned to Madari.

“It’s up to you, Major, you’ll have to start the party without us.” He felt his stomach tighten as he saw that look he’d seen the other night in the major’s eyes again. Fear. If Madari had lost his nerve, if he didn’t dare to start the takeover without Hannibal pushing him, then they were dead.

“I… I don’t have enough men… without your unit…” Madari blustered. A few of his officers were wandering over now, sensing the tension coming from the group. Hannibal couldn’t let them see Madari vacillating like this, couldn’t let them see the uncertainty. The officers were brave and they were ready to fight, but if they lost confidence in their leader they would be useless. It was time to pull rank. He grabbed the major’s arm and dragged him inside the barracks. There were a couple of inmates in there. Hannibal wasn’t sure if they could understand him when he snapped, “Get out!” But they got the message and left quickly, closing the door behind them. Meanwhile Madari pulled away from Hannibal, swung around to confront him, but Hannibal spoke first.

“They’re going to torture us, Major. And we have information, names, government officials, senior military men with rebel sympathies. When we give up those names your dissident movement is dead!”

Madari stared at him, asked, as if astonished, “You will give in to them? You will give them what they want? You will break?”

Hannibal stared at him in return. My god, why doesn’t he understand this? He’s a professional soldier, has no one ever explained this to him? Or is he an idealist? Does he really believe a man should be able to resist torture if he tries hard enough?

“Everybody gives in, Major, it’s just a matter of time.” Horrible memories from Vietnam clamoured for his attention. He pushed them away. “Under torture, by experts, everybody breaks. It’s not a question of how brave you are, how strong you are, there are simply limits to what the body and mind can take. There’s no shame in that.” That’s what the major feared, Hannibal saw it now. Not just the pain and trauma of the torture, but the guilt and shame of breaking. The loss of his honour.

“You have training, to resist.” Madari’s tone was accusing.

“All that gives you is time, three days maybe.” Madari eyes widened at that. He’d broken on the third day, Hannibal knew at once.

“Everybody breaks.” Hannibal said again, emphasising it. “Everybody.” Madari looked back at him, as Hannibal held his gaze. Needed to convince him this was true, free him of the crippling guilt.

“Colonel,” Face’s voice came quietly from the doorway. “They’re coming.” By the time Hannibal looked back from Face Madari had started to move towards the door. Hannibal followed him, praying he had convinced the man.

The colonel and the major went back out into the sunlight. A squad of guards was heading towards the barracks. The A-Team were all standing by the doorway and several of the military officers were nearby. The two groups looked questioningly at their respective leaders, poised to move on their signal. But Hannibal and Madari both shook their heads at the same moment. To go now was unthinkable. In daylight, without taking the guard towers, with all these civilians milling about, the carnage would be appalling.

The guards came through the gate into the prisoner compound. The soccer game stopped as the guards walked through the players, headed directly for the A-Team. The players stared at them.

“Oh god.” Hannibal heard Frankie say, his voice shaking. He saw Murdock clasp the younger man’s shoulder supportively, lean close to speak to him, his voice too soft for Hannibal to hear. Hannibal felt in his pocket and took out the tin of boot polish they’d been planning on using for camouflage.

“Faris,” he said, using Madari’s given name for the first time. He knew it was rude to do so, Madari hadn’t invited him to use it, but Salim had told him what it was. Besides, compared to the other men he’d met here Madari was a pretty rude guy himself. As Madari turned to him Hannibal, repeating his earlier words, said, “It’s up to you,” held out the small tin to him. Madari hesitated then reached out and let Hannibal drop the tin into his hand, quickly moved it to his pocket.

As the A-Team were led away, out of the prisoner compound towards the block-house Hannibal looked back over his shoulder, the inmates were standing in groups, watching silently. Salim had come out of the dining hall and seeing what was going on had dashed over to stand by the fence, his hands clutching the wire, eyes wide with shock and despair. Major Faris Al Madari stood a few yards behind him. Faris. Salim had said it meant ‘knight’. They could do with a knight about now, shining armour optional.

Chapter 7

Hannibal was singing.

“Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall on the wall. Ninety nine bottles of beer …”

So far he’d worked his way down from one thousand bottles of beer. The song, chanted mantra like, coming out muffled through the black hood covering the colonel’s head. As the last bottle fell his voice died away and for a while there was silence. Hannibal tried to sit down again, against the wall. But with his hands cuffed behind his back and his ankles in leg irons it wasn’t exactly easy to get comfortable. And he knew the guards would check on him in a few minutes and come in to kick him until he got back to his feet. He made the most of the minutes, the small respite, his eyes closing, longing for sleep. Keeping track of the time was difficult, but he knew from the itchy growth of stubble on his chin that at least twenty-four hours had passed since they were brought to the interrogation blockhouse.

Frankie and Murdock were taken first, at the direction of the four westerners, who spoke Russian to each other and were, Hannibal guessed, probably KGB. Hannibal, Face and BA had started to fight as their friends were taken away, trying to provoke their captors into taking them instead. But these people were professionals, they had a schedule and nothing would distract them from it.

Hannibal assumed Face and BA were now getting the same treatment as him. They know exactly who we are he thought, they know who is vulnerable and who needs to be softened up first. He fretted about his men, Face tended to freak out when put in a hood for an extended period. He’d be ready next. BA reacted badly to lack of sleep. He worried most for Murdock and Frankie. Murdock for the fragility of his mind and Frankie… well, this wasn’t supposed to happen to him. He was supposed to be back in Hollywood, happily blowing things up on a film set.

Now he would change, a change Hannibal hadn’t watched happen to a man since Vietnam. Damn Stockwell, damn him, Madari was right, civilians had no place anywhere near combat. Damn Madari, where the hell was he? The uprising should have started last night, has he abandoned us? Damn him, no damn me! Why did I trust him? Why did I put our fate in the hands of a man who probably has some psychobabble post-traumatic stress crap? They say he wakes at night, screaming. He’s lost his nerve. I could see that. Why did I think I could say a few inspiring – hah! – words to him and he’d miraculously get better? Dammit, why am I such a fool?

“Damn! Damn! Damn!” His internal rant turned external and his head whirled, a deeper blackness pulling him down than just the darkness of hood. And it was met with the iron hardness of his will. He caught a deep breath pulling his thoughts together again. It’s the sleep deprivation, the sensory deprivation. Don’t give in to it, don’t let it take you down. He heard the heavy metal door opening and in a few seconds a boot crashed into his side. Painfully, awkwardly he got to his feet, several more blows from feet and truncheons landing on him before he was standing straight enough for them. They left again and he began to walk slowly, counting out the steps it took to get to the opposite wall. This hadn’t changed from the other fifty-four times he had counted them. When it did change he would start to get worried.


He was losing track now. Time had no meaning. All that existed was the darkness. In his eyes. In his head. No, hold on to yourself, Colonel. There is more. There is still a universe outside of this hood, outside of this cell. Where his men were suffering. Where they would all suffer and maybe die if they didn’t get out of here. Madari wasn’t coming. Hannibal had accepted that now. Why should he? He didn’t owe them anything, why risk getting himself killed for them?

What about the others though? The next most senior man was Captain Noor, a bulky, placid looking man, who came out with intelligent questions and bright ideas. While Hannibal had concentrated on the major Face and Murdock had worked on the rest of the soldiers, charming them, bonding with them as fellow officers. Those men had been eager to fight. Would they sit idle while their new friends were tortured? And would they fight under someone else if Madari refused to act?

But what if no one came? What if…? No, don’t go there. He had to keep his mind focussed. He’d already sung every song he’d ever learnt several times over. His mind went back, way back to a Midwestern schoolroom, spring-time, blossom heavy on the trees outside the open windows. He could smell it, my god he could actually smell the flowers and the grass, feel the warmth of the sun on his skin. And he started to recite to the class “Fourscore and seven years ago…”


“With throats unslaked, with black lips baked… black lips baked… damn, what was it?” Hannibal had moved on to poetry, and the longest thing he’d ever learnt. Half of it seemed to be gone now. And then it was all gone, because the door was opening and he could hear a babble of voices outside. They’re coming for me. It’s time. Well, I got through it before, I can do it again. The hood was untied and pulled off. He closed his eyes as light from the doorway blinded him after so many hours in the dark, briefly seeing shadowy figures surrounding him.

“Get those manacles off him.” At the sound of the voice his eyes sprang back open and he stared at the man in the doorway.

“Madari!” He gasped out, then, because he couldn’t stop himself, “What the hell took you so damn long?” Madari didn’t answer that, moved back out into the corridor, barking orders at his men. Hannibal was released from his shackles and the two officers helped him out of the cell. Face and BA were being brought out too. Both looked about as bad as Hannibal felt, but neither appeared seriously hurt. The three of them were given water, which they drank greedily. Then despite the pain Hannibal pulled himself up straight, away from the support of the officer on either side of him.

“The others?” He asked, his voice still croaky.

Captain Noor, a machine gun looking small in his large hands, said, “In here, sir.” He took Hannibal, Face and BA through to a large room. The smell of it hit them all as they went in, making their stomachs roil. Blood and vomit and burnt flesh. Frankie and Murdock were tied onto straight-backed wooden chairs, both slumped in their bonds, a man tending to each of them. At the far end of the room two officers were holding the four Russians, and their Arab colleagues at gunpoint and looking as if they were itching for an excuse to fire. Murdock wasn’t obviously hurt, but Frankie’s hands were covered in blood. Face and BA hurried to their friends, to check their injuries, to offer comfort.

“I think they’ve used drugs on them,” one of Madari’s men said, standing up from Murdock’s side, talking to Hannibal, “they’re barely conscious.”

“Frankie has…” Face’s voice cracked a little. “…they pushed needles under his fingernails, and his arms have been burnt.” Hannibal felt the anger start to rise, hot and red inside him.

“Somebody give me a weapon,” Hannibal said, enjoying the fear in the eyes of the torturers as Captain Noor quickly handed his gun to Hannibal. But he pushed away the anger, stored it up for later, needed a cool head now. “Get Murdock and Frankie out of here, leave these…people locked in here for now.” He left the torture chamber and found Madari outside in the corridor. Knew the major wouldn’t go into that room. Hannibal focussed his mind; there was still a long night ahead.

“Report, Major. First off, what time is it?”

“About one in the morning. We have all the guard towers and the dog patrols and I have men going for the armoury now.”

“I thought the attack was meant to start at sunset. The shift change on the guard towers?”

“There was a change to the shift patterns. They changed shifts at midnight instead.”

No time to ask why Hannibal ploughed on. “Okay, after the armoury is secured we get the guard’s barracks, then the guardhouse itself. Any alarms yet?”

“No. They don’t know…” He stopped as Murdock and Frankie were carried out of the room, and laid down on blankets in the corridor.

“Colonel…I’m…” Madari said quietly, then pulling himself together, “we’ll get them to the infirmary as soon as we take the guardhouse.”

The blockhouse guards were locked into their own cells. The team and the officers moved out, leaving two men behind to guard Frankie and Murdock. A squad of men, led by Captain Faraj had taken the armoury from the two men guarding it and they regrouped inside, began distributing weapons. Hannibal noticed how, with a gun in his hand, Madari lost all his previous self-consciousness about his mutilated fingernails.

“Major,” Hannibal asked, “any casualties?”

“Minor injuries only so far.” At Hannibal’s glance he added, “Apart from your men. I am sorry about that.”

“Why didn’t you attack last night? Hannibal asked, icy calm to keep any note of accusation out of his voice.

“It was impossible, they had every guard in the camp watching us last night.”

“Did they suspect something was going on?”

“Something was going on. After you were taken away there was some unrest among the prisoners. Especially when they saw the foreigners going to interrogate you.”

“There was a riot?” Hannibal was impressed. The charm offensive by Face and Murdock had apparently been even more successful than he’d realised.

“Not quite, but it was enough to make Ziyahd nervous. That’s why the shifts were rearranged today, most of the guards were up all last night.”

“Really? Nice. Okay,” he turned to his very small, but currently very well equipped, army. “Everybody armed to the teeth, I see. Let’s get this show on the road.”


The klaxon screamed into the night as the prison guard pulled the alarm lever, just before BA punched him into temporary oblivion.

Damn, thought Hannibal, and we were doing so well. They had taken the guards barracks with the minimum of fuss, most of the men were asleep. But making their way to the guard house they were spotted and the man who’d seen them was just a little too quick to get to the alarm. Shooting him would have had the same effect as the alarm so Hannibal had pushed aside the pistol Madari was raising and urged the squad into a run instead. They still had the element of surprise. Hearing the alarm the guards were probably expecting more prisoner unrest, not that they were about to be hit by a heavily armed unit of trained soldiers. And if he’d counted right there were only six men in there, including the general.

As they burst through the door, bristling with weapons, the first man who saw them instantly dropped his gun and threw his hands in the air. One down.

“Major, find the General, Face, with me, the rest of you mop up the rest of the guards. And somebody kill that alarm!” Madari headed off in the direction of the general’s quarters, two men with him. Hannibal led Face at a dead run through the corridors towards the radio room. Had to keep them from getting out a call for reinforcements. They reached the room with no interference and Hannibal barged the door open without even checking if it was locked. The radio operator turned from his console, a pistol in his hand. But he dropped it as he saw two machine guns, pointed at him by two very desperate looking men.

“Hands up!” Hannibal yelled, “Get away from the radio!” The guard didn’t understand, but got the message when Hannibal dragged him out of his seat and grabbed a coil of wire to bind his hands. He offered no resistance.

“Face, find us some more walkie-talkies,” Hannibal ordered. They had taken some from the guards, but not enough to go around yet. Face began searching the room while Hannibal took the operator out into the corridor, marched him back towards the common room area, where a group of guards was being held by Lieutenant Jahni and two other officers. As Hannibal entered the room the alarm stopped.

“Another one for your collection,” Hannibal pushed in the radio operator. “The major reported back yet?”

“Yes, Colonel.” Jahni answered. “He’s got the general, that’s the last, sir,” he gave a wide grin. “We did it.” Hannibal double-checked his mental calculations. The lieutenant was right, that was every guard accounted for.

“We sure did, well…” and he was interrupted by a scream from back in the direction of the radio room. His blood turned to ice water. Face. He turned and ran full pelt, vaguely aware that Jahni was following him. He hit the door even harder this time, smashing it off its hinges. Face was on his back on the floor, a huge Alsatian dog standing over him. Its claws were scrabbling on his chest, slavering jaws snapping at his neck.

“Hannibal!” Face yelled, “Get it off me!” The only thing keeping him from having his throat torn out was the barrel of his machine gun, which he was pushing the dog’s head away with. Not far enough away, he could feel its hot, foul breath on his face.

Hannibal ripped the handgun from his belt and knelt by the struggling pair. He pushed the gun under the dog’s chin and fired, upwards to keep from accidentally shooting Face as well. Its body fell limply on top of Face and Hannibal pushed it off him quickly. Face closed his eyes, covered them with a shaking hand and groaned. Hannibal quickly checked him for injuries. They were superficial. Cuts to his hands and forearms where the dog’s teeth had grazed him, scratches on his chest from its claws, no doubt some nasty bruising soon, but no broken ribs that Hannibal could feel.

“It was in there,” Face pointed a trembling finger into a small storeroom, “I opened the door and the damn thing came out like a rocket.”

“Nice little trap,” Lieutenant Jahni said, sounding as if he wanted to go and have a few words with the radio operator about leaving unexploded dogs around.

“Stupid,” Hannibal muttered to himself. “Stupid. I counted the men, I didn’t account for the damn dogs.” He turned to Jahni, ordered, “Go check the dogs. Make sure they’re all locked in their kennels.” The lieutenant saluted and sped off. Hannibal helped Face to his feet.

“We’ll get you cleaned up soon, Face.”

“I’m okay,” Face said, seemed to be recovering from his shock. He looked down at the dead animal, the top of its skull blown away. “Hannibal, don’t tell Murdock you shot a dog.” The colonel had to smile.

“That wasn’t exactly Billy, Face. It was an attack dog trying to rip out your jugular. I think Murdock would understand.”

“Even so, just… don’t tell him.” He went back over to the storeroom where there was a rack of walkie-talkies. Found a bag and started stuffing them in. “Are we secure yet? Can we get Murdock and Frankie into the infirmary?”

“Yes, bar checking on those dogs. You organise moving Murdock and Frankie. And find someone to distribute those radios.”

Face went off and Hannibal made his way through to Ziyahd’s office. General Ziyahd was sitting at his desk, his usually neat hair unruly, his uniform jacket over a pair of silk pyjamas. Madari and the two officers he had taken with him were searching the office and piling their more interesting finds on the general’s previously empty desk.

“Smith!” Ziyahd said, in a disgusted voice. “I might have known. Are you in charge here?”

“Well you aren’t any more, General, that’s for sure.” Hannibal looked over the items accumulating on the desk. “BA will be glad to get his gold back,” he said. “And I think that’s my watch.” He put it on.

“Smith, I demand to be treated in accordance with international law.” Ziyahd said. Of course, thought Hannibal, this sort always did.

“And your men?” Hannibal asked in a low, dangerous voice.

“What? Oh, them too of course.”

Hannibal just gave him a long cold look, then said, “Major, take him to the blockhouse. The rest of them too, lock them up, make sure they have water.” Madari pulled the general up from his chair, by the front of his jacket. He growled something in Arabic in the man’s face and then dragged him out, taking one of the officers with him.

“What did he say to him?” Hannibal asked the man left behind.

“Sir? Oh, the major said, ‘you really should have asked him about your men first.’ And then he, erm, called him a bad name, it’s hard to translate,” the man actually blushed a little, “it, er, involves goats…”

“Never mind, I’ll use my imagination. Captain Faraj, isn’t it? Go and fetch a couple of doctors. Not the camp doctor. From among the inmates please. Bring them to the infirmary.”

Frankie and Murdock were brought into the infirmary and the doctors brought from the inmate barracks set them up on IV fluids, to flush their systems of the drugs they had been given. Satisfied his men were in good hands Hannibal dragged away Face and BA. They met up with Major Madari and Captain Noor in the guardhouse common room.

“All of the guards are locked in the interrogation blockhouse, except the two still tied up in each tower.” Noor reported.

It would be tricky to get them out of the towers, everyone agreed. They would have to be untied to allow them to climb down the ladder. Much better to do that in daylight. The inmates were still in their barracks. Hannibal was happy to keep things that way until dawn. Didn’t want a lot of civilians wandering around in the dark. They still had work to do.

“By the time the sun comes up I want that cannon stripped, cleaned and ready to fire. If an air attack comes I want us to be ready. Let’s go.”


Hannibal sat on the steps of the main entrance to the guardhouse, sipping a tin mug of coffee. The Arabs normally served coffee in tiny cups, but Hannibal felt the need for a large amount of very strong coffee. Two nights without sleep was telling on him. He’d gone longer in the past, but he’d been younger then too. Against the lightening, near-dawn sky he could see the menacing shape of the anti-aircraft gun. Men climbed over it, working under Face and Madari’s supervision. He could hear BA’s voice as he ordered around another team of men checking over the trucks and jeeps, tweaking every part to perfect efficiency. BA did not intend for them to break down in the middle of the desert half way to Jordan. Hannibal’s walkie-talkie crackled as the officers talked to each other. Most of it was in Arabic, but sometimes he heard Face or BA.

“Mornin’, Colonel.” Hannibal almost spilled his coffee as Murdock’s voice sounded right behind him. He must be tired; he hadn’t heard anyone approaching him. Murdock moved past him and outside.

“What are you doing up, Captain?”

“Oh, I feel fine now. After all the drugs they’ve tried on me at the VA that stuff the Russians gave me was like taking NyQuil.” Hannibal looked at him narrowly, but he seemed lucid.

“Frankie?” He asked. Murdock looked serious.

“He’s still out. He got the worst of it, they were…” he took a breath, shaking off the memories. “They were hurting him to pressure me. It was pretty bad, Colonel.” He wrapped his arms around himself, shivered.

“Okay,” Hannibal said, after a moments pause. “Go get yourself a weapon and a radio.” Murdock ran off to the armoury. Hannibal noticed that the inmates were coming out of their barracks now. Some of them stood by the fence staring at him. He raised his mug in a salute and grinned, then went back to drinking his coffee. Two Arab officers were in the prisoner compound, talking to the inmates, explaining the new situation.

“Hey, Colonel, just like old times, huh?” Murdock was back, carrying an M-16. He nodded at the rifle. “Old friends from ‘nam. And here I was expecting to find crates of Kalashnikovs, labelled ‘from your good friends in the Soviet Union.’”

“We can’t expect them to make it too easy for us.” Hannibal said.

“I used a Kalashnikov once,” Murdock went on. “The instruction manual was weird though.”

“Oh yeah?” Hannibal had heard this gag before, was only half listening to the Captain. He was watching the prisoner compound. An inmate approached the gate pushed it open in an experimental way, as if he couldn’t quite believe it wasn’t locked any more.

“Yeah, it said ‘for best results draw the enemy into your own territory and wait for him to freeze to death.’”

“Funny, Murdock. Hey, kid, whaddya say?” He called out to the man making his way tentatively out of the gate. It was Salim. He ran over to Hannibal and Murdock.

“Colonel Smith, you did it!” He grabbed Hannibal’s hand in both of his own as Hannibal rose, shook it enthusiastically, did the same to Murdock. “We’re free!”

“There’s still work to do, Salim, do you want to help Sergeant Baracus with the vehicles?”

“Of course, I’ll be…”

Machine gun fire cut across the camp, throwing up sand as it gouged the ground. Men scattered, yelling. Hannibal, pure instinct driving him, threw himself backwards into the doorway with Salim in his arms. Murdock lunged in beside them, the three men landing in a heap. Hannibal pushed away from the other two at once, scrambled on his knees to his dropped radio.

“It’s the south west tower!” He yelled into the walkie-talkie, which was babbling with voices, Face and BA’s the only ones in English. “South west tower! I saw the muzzle flashes!” Then he stared at the radio in his hand and snapped urgently, “Shut up! Everybody quiet! Radio silence, now! Major, order your men to radio silence!” One by one the voices stopped. Hannibal breathed a little easier. This would be hard enough without giving away their plans to the men shooting at them, who were doubtless listening in, and, he realised with a sinking heart, could have been listening in for some time. He became aware of a voice that wasn’t on the radio. It was Murdock’s behind him, speaking very quietly.

“Oh no, oh no.” Hannibal turned, his gut a knot of fear. Murdock was sitting with Salim clutched awkwardly to his chest. The back of Salim’s shirt was soaked with blood. Hannibal sprang over to them, took Salim from Murdock’s arms into his own.

“Get a medic!” Hannibal ordered.

“Hannibal…” Murdock said softly, sadly.

“Do it, Captain!” Hannibal yelled. Murdock scrambled to his feet and ran.

“They were shooting at me.” Hannibal said, half to himself, half to Salim, “dammit, they were shooting at me!” Salim couldn’t hear him. His eyes were open, but they no longer saw anything. Gently Hannibal closed them, held the young man close.

Murdock returned with two doctors within minutes and they took Salim… Salim’s body… from Hannibal. Hannibal stood up and watched them check the engineer. Then one looked up at him, shook his head. But Hannibal didn’t need the confirmation. He already knew that Salim was dead.

Another burst of gunfire erupted, met this time by answering bursts from the other guard towers. Hannibal looked around as Face and Madari appeared from the interior of the guardhouse. They must have worked their way around under the cover of the other buildings and got in through a window.

“Hannibal,” Face gasped, wide eyed, seeing the blood staining the colonel’s clothes. “Are you okay?” Not trusting his voice yet Hannibal nodded towards the group on the floor. Madari was already staring down at them. “Oh god,” Face whispered.

Hannibal straightened himself up, again storing away the anger and pain. He turned to Madari as the medics picked up the body and carried it away.

“Did you get anything useful before we went to radio silence?”

“My man in the south east tower reported that a body was pushed out of the hatch of the south west tower. Just before they started shooting.”

“Who was your man in the south west tower?”

“Lieutenant Hoshel.” Madari’s face twisted with anger, but it was directed at himself. “I should have reinforced the towers. I should have sent another man up each of them.”

Hannibal shook his head. “That would have left us too thinly spread on the ground. How long can they hold out up there?”

“They keep plenty of ammunition and food and water rations for several days.”

“Long enough to wait for reinforcements to arrive. Meanwhile they take pot shots at anyone who moves.”

Another burst of machine gun fire interrupted them. Strange metal spanging noises were heard and over their radios BA’s voice yelled.

“Hannibal! They’re shooting up ma trucks!” At another time Hannibal might have smiled at the outraged, possessive tone in BA’s voice, but he was a long way from smiling now.

“Maintain radio silence, Sergeant,” he snapped.

“If they hit a gas tank we could lose all the vehicles.” Face said.

This had to end fast. Hannibal couldn’t let them keep everyone pinned down like this indefinitely. And they couldn’t lose those trucks. It was getting light and there was a lot of open ground with no cover between here and the south west tower. Even if they could get to it, no one could climb the ladder without being fired on through the hatch. Taking them out with a sniper rifle from another tower was near impossible. The towers had shutters all around them to keep out sand storms and defend against enemy fire, and all the shutters on the southwest tower were down now. Flaps in the shutters permitted the occupants to poke weapons through and keep anyone from approaching. Steel was plated over the interiors of the shutters. They were small fortresses in themselves, well equipped for a siege.

There was only one option Hannibal could see. Hated it, but had to take it. He looked at the expectant faces around him, said, “Follow me.”

They re-traced the route Face and Madari had just taken to get into the guardhouse. Out of a back window, round the back of the armoury and the blockhouse, along the side of the blockhouse by the eastern perimeter wire of the camp. The men who had been working on the anti-aircraft gun were sheltering there.

“Is it ready?” Hannibal asked Face.

“It should be, but we never got a chance to test it.”

“Shells?” Face pointed at a wooden box beside the gun. “Okay, Madari, I need you with me. Face, Murdock give us covering fire. Go!”

As Face and Murdock broke cover and fired their weapons the men in the other friendly towers got the message too and fired on the south west tower, keeping its distinctly unfriendly occupants from shooting at Hannibal and Madari as they ran for the gun. Hannibal grabbed a shell and climbed into the firing seat, loaded the shell and swung the barrel around to bear on the tower.

“Major,” he shouted at Madari, who was on the ground, behind the gun, sheltered from the machine gun fire. “Tell them they have twenty seconds to throw out their weapons. They won’t be harmed if they surrender.”

“They killed Al Fulani and Lieutenant Hoshel,” Madari reminded him.

“I know. Twenty seconds. Tell them.” He heard Madari on the radio, speaking in Arabic. When he stopped talking Hannibal started counting. He heard a reply coming over the radio, recognised the defiant tone in the voice if not the words, swallowed the sick feeling rising inside him. Don’t be damn fools, don’t make me do this. Madari went on talking to them, his voice steady, calm, reasonable. Hannibal hoped he was trying to persuade them to do the sensible thing. The defiant answers came back interrupting him. They don’t believe us, Hannibal realised, they think we’ll kill them anyway. They just want to take out as many of us as they can before we can get them.

Sixteen. Sweat broke out across Hannibal’s back and arms. He had to wipe his palms on his shirt as they became wet.

Seventeen. More machine gun fire burst from the tower. Hannibal and Madari instinctively ducked.

Eighteen – But it wasn’t directed at them. Instead it smashed into the front walls of the prisoner’s barracks, wood splintering, glass shattering and flying lethally from the windows. Hannibal heard screams from inside. And all that pain and anger he’d stored up today was finally unleashed. He took the last two seconds of their warning…

Nineteen – to sight the gun and…

Twenty – trigger it.

The shell smashed into the tower and at such a short range the effect was devastating, ripping it apart in a huge fireball. Charred debris raining down all over the camp and the surrounding desert. As the thunderous noise of the explosion died away the only sound was the barking and howling of the dogs in their kennels. Black smoke rose high into the sky as dawn broke.

Chapter 8

The sun was high now, heading towards noon. Hannibal, sitting in General Ziyahd’s chair, jerked awake, catching hold of the side of the desk that he had put his head down on. Only for a moment. A moment was long enough for the dream to come. For Salim to die in his arms over again. He stood and walked to the window, trying to shake off the memory and the fatigue. The blackened supports that were all that remained of the south west guard tower poked up obscenely into the blue sky and Hannibal had to turn away as the memory of the burned bodies they had pulled from the wreckage hit him. The sight and worse, that smell… So long since he’s seen that, since he’d caused that.

No, no time for those feelings now, they were burning daylight here. He picked up his walkie-talkie from the desk.

“Major, meet me at the blockhouse. Murdock, you too.” He left the office and headed to the interrogation block, passing BA and his repair team fixing the damage to the trucks and jeeps. Stopped off to talk to him.

“How you doing, BA?”

“Fine. I’ll have them ready to go by nightfall. We’ve had to replace some parts, but they kept a good supply of spares here. We’re in good shape.”

“How are you holding up?” This was in fact what he’d been asking first, but typically BA had focussed on the work instead.

“A little tired, but I’ll be okay.” The sergeant didn’t like to admit any kind of weakness. ‘A little tired’ was probably his way of saying ‘totally exhausted’.

“We’ll try to get some rest before we leave,” Hannibal reassured BA and left him to it. He headed on the blockhouse, where Madari and Murdock were waiting.

“Major,” Hannibal said. “What are your plans for Ziyahd and his men?”

“When the trucks return we’ll take them out on the desert road, a very long way from here and drop them off.” When Hannibal looked at him quizzically he added, “I’ll leave them water and a radio, so they can call for help, get picked up.” He scowled and demanded. “Did you think I was planning to have them all shot, Colonel?”

“Of course not.” Hannibal snapped. Irritation rose in him, but he bit it back. God they were all so tired and the shock of the deaths wasn’t helping. Everybody was on a knife-edge. He pinched the bridge of his nose. His head was starting to throb. He stopped that quickly when he saw Murdock looking at him in concern. Madari also made a visible effort to control his temper.

“I give you my word they won’t be harmed.” Hannibal believed him. He wasn’t the massacre sort.

“The Russians.” Hannibal said, “I want to take them with us to Jordan and then on the States, hand them over to our…” he grimaced at having to say the word, “boss.” Madari frowned.

“I just gave you my word. You don’t trust me?”

“I trust you, but our mission here was to prove Soviet involvement with your government. Four KGB men should be more than enough proof.” Madari looked thoughtful for a while, considering the damage it would cause the regime to be associated with known persecutors of Muslims.

“Very well, consider them your prisoners,” he said eventually.

“Thank you, Major.” Hannibal turned to Murdock. “Captain, I need you to point out which of the Russians was in charge.” Murdock nodded. They went into the blockhouse. As they approached the cells Hannibal asked Murdock, “Those Arabs that came with the Russians, what was their role? Observers? Supervising?”

“More like…” Murdock searched for the right word, “Students. They were being trained by the Russians.”

“I see,” Hannibal said, grimly. Captain Noor was in charge of the blockhouse and its prisoners. He acknowledged their entrance with a salute.

“Have they been fed?” Madari asked him, in English for Hannibal’s benefit.

“Yes, sir, an hour ago.”

“Where are the foreigners?”

“Same, er, cell they were in before.” Noor said, using the word ‘cell’ after a tiny pause and a glance at Murdock. Knowing what had gone on in there ‘cell’ was a barely adequate word. “The general is in there too, there’s been a lot of shouting going on.”

“Ziyahd throwing his weight around?” Hannibal asked.

“No, sir. It’s not the general doing the shouting. It’s the others shouting at the general.” He smirked. “They used the word ‘incompetent’ a lot.”

“Alright, open the door, please, Captain.” Hannibal said. Noor called a couple more officers over to ensure there was plenty of cover and opened the door into the large cell. The smell hadn’t improved any since last night and as it hit them Madari backed away, and moved off down the corridor looking noticeably shaky. Murdock went pale and started to tremble slightly. Most of the occupants of the room began shouting and making demands, but Hannibal ignored them. He put a hand on Murdock’s shoulder, spoke close to his ear.

“Which one, Murdock?”

Murdock pointed at a small, grey haired man, his previously neat suit looking somewhat the worse for wear now. Hannibal nodded to Noor, who went into the cell and pulled out the Russian, not too roughly, but making it clear resistance would be a bad idea. Murdock backed up as the man was brought out and Hannibal said, “You can go if you want.” Murdock stopped retreating, stood his ground and stuck out his chin. Hannibal pushed the Russian against the opposite wall.

“I know you speak English. Are you KGB?”

“I do not have to answer your questions, Smith.” His voice sounded defiant, but there was fear in his eyes.

“You will answer…” Hannibal began, and then was taken by surprise as Madari suddenly pushed Hannibal aside, grabbed the Russian around the throat and pressed his handgun against the man’s temple. The Russian struggled wildly, clawing at Madari’s hand, giving strangled cries.

“Major!” Hannibal yelled, shocked, “you gave your word! No more blood!”

“Blood…” Madari said, his voice quite soft, his eyes not seeing the Russian. Or at least, Hannibal realised, not seeing him in the here and now, as he remembered Madari telling him he’d been interrogated by ‘Eastern Europeans’. He’s going into a flashback, Hannibal thought, and if he does then that Russian is dead. Behind him he could sense the tension coming from Captain Noor and the other officers. Noor moved forward a little, spoke quietly to Hannibal.

“I can talk to him, bring him out of it.” He’s seen this happen before, Hannibal thought. Considered letting the captain try, but then shook his head.

“Let me handle it, stay back.” He glanced over at Murdock, who was watching quite calmly. He seemed highly interested in seeing what Madari would do next but had no apparent intention of stopping him.

“Major!” Hannibal said, using his most authoritative tone. “Let that man go!” Madari shuddered and snapped back to the present. He turned his head to Hannibal, without releasing the panicking Russian. His face was pale with fury and Hannibal could see that his hand holding the gun was trembling and that the weapon was cocked, the safety catch off.

“Can you tell me that this creature deserves anything but death?” Madari demanded.

“What he deserves and what it’s your place to give him are two different things.” Hannibal said, severely.

“My place? My place?” The voice cracked and the fear was there again. “You don’t know,” he said quietly. “You don’t know what they did.”

“I know exactly what they did.” Hannibal said, his voice gentler now, but insistent, “I know.” He carefully put a hand on Madari’s arm. “Faris, you’re a soldier, not a murderer. Don’t do this.” There was a long, tense, silence, then Madari turned back to look at the Russian. The man was still now, staring in pop-eyed terror. Madari’s hand stopped shaking. The sound of the pistol’s safety catch going back on seemed very loud. Hannibal slowly let out the breath he’d been holding.

The major opened his hand and the Russian dropped to his knees on the floor, coughing and pawing at his throat. Madari holstered his gun. His eyes looked glazed.

“Why don’t you go get some fresh air?” Hannibal suggested. Madari looked at him as if not understanding what he was saying, but then nodded. He didn’t speak but headed out of the blockhouse. Captain Noor gave some orders to one of his men, who followed the major, though keeping a respectful distance.

Hannibal turned back to the Russian who was still grovelling on his knees, gasping. He bent and grabbed the man’s lapels, pulled him up to his feet.

“Congratulations, comrade, you’ve won a trip for four to the United States.”

“You cannot…” the KGB man gasped. “we…we have diplomatic immunity.” Murdock actually sniggered at that. Talk about grasping at straws.

“How much use do you think that is to you here?” Hannibal asked, then, with a totally evil grin he went on. “Okay, I’ll give you the choice, you can come back with me, and have a few friendly chats with some nice fellas at the CIA, or I can leave you here with the man whose fingernails you ripped out. You do remember doing that to him, don’t you? Or do all those screaming faces start to blur together?” The Russian took about half a second to make the decision.

“I place myself and my colleagues under your protection, Colonel Smith.”

“Smart guy.” Hannibal snarled, he grabbed a handful of suit jacket and pulled the Russian around. Noor opened the cell door. “Tell your friends the good news.” He pushed the man inside and the door was closed. Hannibal leaned against it for a moment, then his walkie-talkie crackled and Face’s voice came through.

“Colonel, Frankie is waking up again. You asked me to let you know.”

“Thanks, Face. I’m on my way.” He left, Murdock following. As they left the building Hannibal saw that Madari hadn’t gone far. He was sitting on the ground, his back against the anti-aircraft gun, elbows resting on his knees. His eyes were closed. Anyone might think he was simply resting, until they saw that his fists were so tightly clenched the knuckles stood out pale against his dark skin. The man Captain Noor had sent to follow him stood nearby, his stance making it absolutely clear he was guarding the major and anyone trying to get near would do so only over his dead body. Hannibal didn’t even think of approaching.

“Looks like he needs a little time.” Murdock said.

“Yeah,” Hannibal said, and then added. “Another year maybe ought to do it.” Murdock nodded sagely. Hannibal gave him a sidelong glance. Of course for some it took longer, he didn’t say out loud. He did say “Are you sure you’re okay, Murdock? If you’d rather be in the infirmary…”

“I’m fine,” Murdock said quickly. “Right now I’m fine. Plenty of time not to be fine later.” Hannibal understood. They’d all been trained to do that. To store away the pain for later in order to stay functional now. Frankie didn’t have that. He’d woken several hours earlier as the torturer’s drugs began to wear off, but was so distressed that the doctors had sedated him.

Half of the infirmary was curtained off with screens, and behind there Hannibal knew the bodies of four men were being prepared for burial. He didn’t know if it was his imagination but the smell of charred flesh still seemed just barely detectable. Face was bending over Frankie’s bed, talking reassuringly to him. He stood up as Hannibal and Murdock entered, nodded in acknowledgement to them. Hannibal approached the bed as Face moved back to give him space. Frankie, dressed in a too large hospital gown, looked small and young and very, very scared. His hair was loose and hung around his battered face. Hannibal wanted to take his hand, but both were bandaged. More dressings covered his forearms. Instead Hannibal reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

“How you doing, kid?” Then thought, stupid, dumb, bland question to ask him. Frankie swallowed a couple of times, trying to find his voice. When he did it was weak and croaky.

“Better…better than before, Johnny.”

“That’s good. We’re getting out of here real soon, we’ll have you back home before you know it.”

“That’s great. Face was telling me you guys kicked some ass last night.” He gave a wan, brittle smile. “Sorry I missed the action.” Hannibal felt his throat tightening, couldn’t trust himself to answer. Damn, why did the kid have to try to be brave? Why couldn’t he just scream at me?

“We missed you out there, Frank.” Hannibal eventually managed to say, then, almost in a whisper, “I’m so sorry.” The futile guilt gnawed at him. He hadn’t been able to protect Frankie. Just like he hadn’t been able to protect Face, Murdock or BA in the Vietcong camps. Had to watch them being taken time after time. And every time they were brought back he’d said “I’m sorry” as he held their tortured bodies. And every time they had answered the same way Frankie did now.

“It’s not your fault.” His voice cracked as he spoke and he turned his face away, not wanting Hannibal to see him cry. This is it, Hannibal thought, squeezing the younger man’s shoulder, comfortingly. This is the goddamn end of it. Frankie was not doing one more mission. And Stockwell had better see to it that he gets the very best medical care available. Murdock too, he was putting on a great show right now, but he’d pay the price later. Under his hand he could feel Frankie’s body shaking with silent sobs. This is the end of it.

After a few minutes Frankie calmed. Wiped his face with the sheet before turning reddened eyes back to Hannibal. “You just get some rest,” Hannibal said, taking his hand from Frankie’s shoulder, touched one of his bandaged hands briefly, gently. “There’s nothing to be afraid of now.”

“Okay,” Frankie said, trying that ghost of a smile again. Trying to reassure me, Hannibal thought, trying to make sure I’m concentrating on my job and not worrying about him. I wonder if one of the others taught him that; they’ve all used it before.

Hannibal left the infirmary taking Face and Murdock with him. It was well after noon now and most of the men were heading to the dining hall to eat. Hannibal, Face and Murdock joined them, arranged for food to be sent to the infirmary. BA allowed himself and his team to take a break and he came to sit with the rest of his unit. As they were eating Madari came in and seeing the Americans he came over. He stood with hands behind his back, said, “Gentlemen.” They nodded at him and he turned to Hannibal.

“Colonel, I must apologise for my behaviour earlier.”

“No apologies necessary, Major.” Hannibal said.

“It was inexcusable.” Hannibal supposed that to a man like this it really was.

“It was understandable. Now why don’t you get something to eat? I think the men have been raiding General Ziyahd’s personal larder, the quality of the food has risen quite a bit since yesterday.”

“What was all that about?” Face asked, as the major left.

“He had a touching reunion with the KGB man who tortured him.” Hannibal said.

“Really? So, do we only have three prisoners to take home to Stockwell now?” Face’s question was flippant, but he sounded as if he wouldn’t be too surprised if the answer to it was ‘yes’.

“Hannibal stopped him from killing the guy.” Murdock said. “Which I suppose was the right thing to do.” He didn’t sound entirely convinced, went on. “Do you think Madari will be okay, Colonel? I mean we’re leaving him in charge of this place and, well you can take it from me as an expert on this stuff, he’s got… problems.”

“Fool’s got a point,” BA said. “He ain’t had no help either, been dealin’ with it on his own.”

“He has help,” Hannibal said, shaking his head. “He has good men following him, you’ve seen how loyal they are, that helps a lot, and you can take that from me as an expert.” He smiled as he echoed Murdock’s words. “He’ll be okay, I’m sure of it.” The team accepted his assurance. Hannibal was the one who had come to know the major best. They continued their meal, were discussing the plans for the journey, when their radios burst into life with an excited voice in Arabic, quickly joined by more. The tone was alarmed and Hannibal looked at once to Madari, who was hurrying over, listening to his radio and giving orders. The civilians looked at the soldiers, confused and uneasy.

“What is it?” Hannibal asked as the major reached them.

“Incoming aircraft.”

They rushed outside, Hannibal sent Murdock off to climb a tower, grab a pair of binoculars and see if he could identify what was about to hit them. The radio operator must have got an SOS out before we got to him, Hannibal thought. It might not be a raid yet, could just be reconnaissance, but he couldn’t take the chance.

“Face, get the wounded out of the infirmary and into the block house.” The blockhouse was reinforced concrete, the best shelter in the camp. Face sped off taking two of the Arab officers with him. Hannibal, BA and Madari headed for the anti-aircraft gun. One of Madari’s officers was already manning it, loading a shell expertly as they arrived. Hannibal contemplated taking his place, but the man looked as if he knew what he was doing and while hitting a big, stationery target like the guard tower had been easy enough Hannibal wasn’t certain enough of his artillery skills to be sure he’d manage to hit a fast moving, airborne target.

The aircraft were easily visible to the naked eye now, black shapes approaching from the north. North? Hannibal frowned, Madari was looking puzzled too, north didn’t make sense, the nearest air base was south west of here. At least, the nearest Qumari air base…

Then Murdock’s voice came over the radio, almost babbling, “Colonel! Colonel! It’s okay! Stand down! Stand down!”

“Murdock, what do you see?” Hannibal asked.

“They’re ours, Hannibal! They’re ours!”

Chapter 9

As media circuses went it had been a three-ringer. When the plane carrying the A-Team, the four KGB men and thirty-six former political prisoners seeking political asylum had touched down at a base outside of Washington DC it was greeted by a forest of lights, cameras, microphones, step-ladders and satellite dishes and many, many reporters, all talking at once. Although the team had read some newspapers on their journey home they were still unprepared for the journalistic feeding-frenzy that met them.

Fortunately there was a rock to grab onto in the insane world they had stepped into. Mrs Baracus was there and she hugged her son for ten minutes straight. BA would undoubtedly have appreciated this more had he been awake.

The media interest had started to die down in the six weeks that had passed since then. But was about to be revived as the sun rose on the first day of the Congressional hearing into what had been dubbed “The Stockwell Affair”.

“He’s gonna weasel out of it.” Murdock said. Face looked down at the pilot, who was sprawled rather untidily on a leather sofa in a marble hallway outside of the committee rooms. Murdock had on a suit that Face knew had been pressed at seven-thirty that morning, because he had pressed it himself. It was eight forty-five now and the suit was already rumpled. Face had bought the suit for Murdock too, telling him ‘You can’t give evidence to a Congressional hearing in sneakers and a leather jacket.’ Face was in his uniform and was staying standing to avoid creases. The hearings were being televised after all. “He’ll weasel out of it, I’m telling you.”

“You think so?” Face checked his reflection in the glass of a picture. Hair just cut yesterday and looking good.

“He just has to keep quiet about who’s been funding him and they’ll protect him. And even the committee, oh they’ll all be saying what a terrible man he is. But none of them really think he’s done anything wrong, except getting caught out.”

“Murdock, you’re such a cynic.” Then again, he thought, it was Stockwell they were talking about. The guy was so crooked you could use him as a corkscrew, so maybe Murdock had a point.

“And I’ll bet he’s got something on every one of them. Knows about all their nasty little secrets. He’s gonna get off.” He sounded very bitter. None of them had liked Stockwell to begin with. Learning how completely he had abandoned them to their fate hadn’t exactly increased their affection for him over much.

“Or you know there’s another way of looking at it.” Murdock said, sitting up straight. “Stockwell could be in a lot of danger right now. Think about it. With all he knows, how many powerful people might want to shut him up?” He seemed tremendously cheered up by the idea.

“Hey, just as long as we don’t get caught in the crossfire.” Face said, with a shrug.

“Morning, fellas,” came Hannibal’s voice behind them and they turned to see the colonel and Frankie arriving. Like Face Hannibal was in uniform. Frankie was in a suit but unlike Murdock his still looked neat. He had a coat on over it and his hands were thrust into the pockets. He nodded at Face and Murdock.

“Guys.” He looked tired, had dark smudges under his eyes. Hannibal sat down on the sofa beside Murdock and Murdock jumped up to offer Frankie his seat, insisted he take it. Frankie sat, put an elbow on the armrest and rested his head on his hand. Two of the fingers still had small dressings on them where he had lost the fingernails completely. He unconsciously pushed the fingertips into his hair, as if trying to hide them.

Hannibal yawned, said “Any coffee around here?”

“I’ll find some.” Face said, went in search of a vending machine. Hannibal yawned again; he must have had only three hours sleep last night. Frankie probably less than that. nervousness about the hearing bringing back the memories. Hannibal had insisted that Frankie share a house with him while they were staying in Washington. So he didn’t have to be alone when the nightmares came. Face and Murdock were sharing too, for similar reasons. Hannibal wished this was all over, wished they could go back to LA. They would all feel better in LA. But between the investigation, the hearings, the pardons and the army ‘considering their position’ it seemed they were stuck here for a while.

“I got a paper, “Murdock said, handing him a copy of the Washington Post. “There’s some stuff in there you should like.”

“Thanks.” Hannibal took it. The headline was ‘Stockwell Hearings to Open – A-Team to give evidence.’

“Inside. International news.” Murdock said. Hannibal turned the page and read ‘Qumaris to Bulldoze Killer Buildings – The Qumari government has bowed to international pressure to demolish apartment blocks claimed to be unsafe, according to evidence brought back from Qumar by the A-Team.’ Hannibal smiled. At least he’d kept part of his promise to Salim.

“Nice.” There was more Qumar news and Hannibal read it as he sipped the coffee Face brought back for them all. Apparently the Qumari government was ‘on a knife-edge’ over the claims of Soviet influence. There were also reports of increased and ‘highly organised’ rebel activity in the north of the country. Hannibal smiled at that. Clearly Madari was keeping himself busy. As he read his mind slipped back to those final few hours in the camp.


In the late afternoon they had buried the dead in the small graveyard outside the wire. The three large helicopters with their US Army markings stood nearby, the American soldiers keeping their distance. Except for their commander, a Captain Harris, who approached Hannibal as the men left the graves and politely, but insistently asked Hannibal to take him somewhere they could talk. As Hannibal led him to Ziyahd’s office he could hear his men talking behind him.

“BA, I don’t think you have a lot of choice, technically we’re under arrest.”

“Ah don’t care, Face, ah ain’t getting on one of those things. Ah’ll go in one of the trucks.”

“They’ll just restrain you and drag you on board, c’mom let us give you a sedative. It’s not like Murdock will be flying.”

“Hey, I resent that!” Murdock said, in an insulted tone. Hannibal shook his head, gave a small smile. When they reached the office Hannibal sat down at the desk, put his feet up on it and lit one of General Ziyahd’s fine cigars. He rubbed his eyes, still desperate for sleep, but with an effort pulled himself together.

“Okay, Captain Harris, this is how it’s going to go…”


“Let me get this straight, Colonel.” Harris paused to take a pull at his cigar and a sip of the very nice, very illicit, bottle of brandy that had been in the top drawer of Ziyahd’s desk

“You want me to transport yourselves, four men you claim are KGB and a number of the prisoners from here back to the United States. And you want me to provide air cover for three trucks full of more of those prisoners to the Jordanian border?”

“Yeah, well it’s on your way.” Hannibal pointed out.

“My choppers are only so big,” Harris said.

“Well, I only want you to take the sick and wounded in the helicopters. Then when we get to Jordan any of the men from the trucks who want to claim asylum in the States will come back with us on the plane. Though we’d better have those Russians on the choppers too. I don’t want them trying anything at the border.”

“Would it do any good for me to point out that you are in fact my prisoner?” Harris asked.

“No, it wouldn’t,” Hannibal, said, grinned. “Now, it would be useful if some of your men travelled with the trucks; we have jeeps…”

Harris sighed; this was supposed to be a straightforward, easy, retrieval operation. He liked retrieval operations. In and out fast. A short one-sided skirmish with some badly trained guards. Expressions of undying gratitude from the rescued souls then coming home a hero. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The people you were rescuing weren’t supposed to have already taken charge of their prison. They weren’t supposed to greet you with a company of armed men at their backs and they certainly weren’t supposed to start giving you orders the minute you landed. To think he had laughed it off when people had warned him that nothing involving the A-Team would ever be filed under either ‘straightforward’ or ‘easy’.


“Then there’s all those years of back pay.” Hannibal, still absorbed in the paper and his memories, heard the others groan as Face said the words ‘back pay’ for what seemed to be the millionth time since they had been given their pardons.

“Face, we’ve been over this so many times,” Murdock sighed. “They are not gonna give you guys back pay. You were on the run! You were AWOL. They don’t pay you for that.”

“Okay, compensation. They tried to execute us for a crime we didn’t commit. Standing in front of that firing squad was not exactly a bundle of laughs, let me tell you.”

“But you escaped.” Frankie said.

“That’s not the point, they still tried to shoot us.” Murdock just rolled his eyes, couldn’t have this conversation yet again. Face insisted this was why the army was dragging its heels before deciding what to do with them, what kind of discharge to give them. Murdock had started to tease him that maybe they weren’t planning on discharging the team at all. Maybe they would put them back into service, packing parachutes, or scrubbing floors.

“Hannibal what do you think?” Face appealed to him. Hannibal looked up from his paper.

“You already know what I think, I’ve told you a dozen times. If they give us back pay they’ll also give us a bill for every bit of army property we destroyed. We’ll end up owing them money.” Face and Murdock went on arguing. Frankie joined in occasionally, but with little of his old ebullience, he was a much more subdued man these days than he used to be.


In the face of Hannibal’s persuasion Harris had eventually shrugged and said, “Oh hell, whatever you want, Colonel, we’ll let the politicians sort it out at the other end. But you and your team are going on the helicopters.”

“Fair enough.” There was a knock at the door. Madari came in, snapped off an impressive salute and stood at attention. Hannibal returned the salute, said “Report, Major.” The Arab officers had become extra disciplined since the American soldiers had shown up. Hannibal felt certain that if Madari were wearing the right kind of shoes for it he’d have clicked his heels at this point.

“Trucks ready for boarding, sir.” He was starting to look nearly as tired as Hannibal felt. They were all running on adrenaline and caffeine now.

“Thank you, Major, at ease.”

Harris stood up. “I’d better go see to loading the choppers.” When Hannibal didn’t move to follow him he added, “Ten minutes, Colonel.”

“Sit down, Major,” Hannibal said as Harris left. Madari did so and Hannibal held out the box of cigars, was quite surprised when Madari took one. He bent forward over the desk as Hannibal lit it for him and when he sat down he actually relaxed in the chair, leaning back. He blew out smoke and gave a sigh of pleasure.

“It’s been a long time,” he said, looking at the cigar and smiling. Hannibal indicated the brandy bottle.

“I don’t suppose you…”

“No, thank you.”

“Thought not. Coffee’s hot though.” He got up and poured the major a small cup and one for himself and set them on the desk. They sat in companionable silence for a moment, enjoying the cigars. After a few minutes Hannibal spoke.

“What’s the final figures on who’s going where?”

“One hundred seventeen men are going with you to Jordan, not counting my officers, who will return with the trucks and supplies. Ninety-four will try to return to their homes here in Qumar, though they’ll have to stay in hiding. All of my officers and the remainder of the civilians are staying here. Mostly younger men. They want to fight.”

“So it looks like you’ll have to get used to fighting with civilians.” Hannibal said. Madari gave a short bark of a laugh.

“Believe me, Colonel, a few weeks under my training and they won’t be civilians any more.” He appeared to be looking forward to it, smiling again as he took a drag on the cigar. Hannibal grinned at that thought and at seeing Madari finally unbend a little. They heard the sound of the trucks starting up. It was time to go. Both men stood. Madari gave another salute, held it. Hannibal did the same.

“It has been my honour to serve with you, Colonel Smith.”

“The honour is mine, Major Madari,” Hannibal said formally. Then they dropped the salutes and Madari held out his hand. Hannibal shook it.

“I expect to be hearing from you, or at least about you, very soon, Major.”

“You will. Good luck, Colonel.” He put his right hand on his chest and bowed his head a little, then straightened and they headed out of Ziyahd’s… no, Hannibal corrected himself, out of Madari’s office.


It had taken a good twenty minutes to get everybody loaded onto the trucks and helicopters. There were many farewells as the former prisoners took their leave of each other, with salutes and handshakes and embracing. Lieutenant Jahni shook Face’s hand for at least five minutes at Hannibal’s reckoning, talking all the while, only stopping when Captain Noor said something to him in Arabic that Hannibal guessed would translate loosely as ‘knock it off’. Hannibal watched each of his team salute Madari before shaking his hand and climbing aboard the helicopter. Frankie couldn’t shake hands, but Hannibal saw the major clasp Frankie’s shoulder and lean close to speak to him quietly, saw Frankie nod and look over at Hannibal. Then, accompanied by one of the doctors, he got on the chopper. The four Russians were loaded onto a second helicopter, their hands cuffed in front of them.

BA had finally agreed to a sedative; since the alternative was getting cuffed and staying awake for the ride. As Hannibal climbed aboard it was being administered and the sergeant was quickly unconscious. Hannibal sat beside his men as the door was closed and the rotor blades started to turn. Captain Harris came to sit down opposite his so-called prisoners after giving his pilots their orders.

“Okay, Colonel, we’re following the trucks and I have men down there with them in your jeeps, so… oh good grief.” Hannibal, Face and Murdock were all as fast asleep as the sedated BA. Harris shook his head and put on his seat belt as the helicopter left the ground.


Frankie nudged Hannibal, who was apparently in a dream world, and Hannibal looked round, then stood up, as Amy, Mrs Baracus and BA arrived.

“Well now, look at you boys, you all look so handsome,” Mrs Baracus said, smiling at them in their uniforms and suits. BA was also looking sharp in his uniform. Face preened a little and Murdock tried to smooth out some of the wrinkles he’d managed to get into his suit.

Mrs Baracus took the seat vacated by Hannibal. Frankie offered Amy his and she flopped into it. She looked tired.

“Been burning the candle at both ends again, kid?” Hannibal asked. She gave him a wan smile.

“Well the publisher is screaming for a first draft.” She patted the document case she was carrying, “Almost there with it. Which reminds me, we have to arrange a meeting with their lawyer to sort out the split of the profits and the rights.” BA groaned, he hated lawyers; they had to make everything so complicated.

“You don’t have to do that you know, Amy, it’s your book,” Hannibal said.

“It’s your story, guys, you have to benefit.”

“I kinda think we did,” Hannibal said, looking around the corridor. There were a lot of military personnel around and none of them were trying to arrest him. Yep, they’d benefited.

“Why are you carrying it around with you?” Face asked. Amy and Mrs Baracus exchanged a smile.

“I sort of got into the habit.” Amy said. “When Adele gave me that manuscript I hung on to it like it was made of gold.”

“Ah yes, our ‘insurance policy’,” said Face, smiling fondly. “That was my idea wasn’t it?”

“I think you’ll find it was mine, muchacho.” Murdock contradicted him.

“No way, you too much of a fool to come up with something that smart.” BA said. “It was me that said we should do it.” Hannibal smiled at their bickering. They’d certainly got a good settlement on that policy.

“I still can’t believe you guys didn’t tell me about that thing,” Frankie said. “You didn’t trust me, after all we’ve been through. Did you really think I was still a snitch for Stockwell?” He was mostly teasing, but there was still a note of reproach there.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t trust you, Frank,” Hannibal said, in a conciliatory tone. “We didn’t trust Stockwell not to be pressuring you, blackmailing you still.”

“Speak of the devil,” Face said quietly. They followed his gaze to see Stockwell making his way along the corridor. Several large men in dark suits with suspicious bulges in their jackets accompanied him.

“Everybody wave to the general.” Hannibal said, his perverse sense of humour making an appearance. Murdock, Frankie, Hannibal and Mrs Baracus waved and grinned. Face thumbed his nose and Amy blew the general a kiss. BA scowled.

“You’se all stupid.”

“Scooter!” BA suddenly looked panicky.

“Not you, Mama, I didn’t mean you!”

Stockwell just gave them a dirty look and walked on into the committee room.


When the hearing broke for lunch the A-Team party met up again in the corridor, deciding where to go to eat.

“Murdock, we are not going to Hamburger Heaven,” Face said. “If you think I’m gonna let you get grease all over that suit… Besides I don’t think they have one on Capitol Hill.” Amy took Hannibal’s arm and moved him away a little. She gave him a piece of paper.

“I finally got the information you wanted. Josh got their CNN guy in Riyadh to track it down for me.”

“Thanks, Amy, I knew I could count on you.” He glanced at the paper. He was glad to have the information, but it meant that tonight he had to face doing something he hadn’t done for a long time, write a letter he hadn’t written since Vietnam. He folded the paper and slipped the address of Salim’s parents into his pocket.

He looked up at his men, still arguing about where to go for lunch. Face was currently saying that they would go for pizza only over his dead body, as last time they went for pizza it very nearly had been over his dead body.

Yes, it nearly had been, Hannibal thought, but he had made it. They had all made it, if not unscathed at least mostly intact, despite Stockwell’s best efforts to get them all killed. He went over and draped his arms across the shoulders of Face and Murdock.

“C’mon, fellas,” he said with a grin. “Let’s go somewhere I can get a really good steak.”