The A-Team becomes the target of a vengeful enemy and end up fighting for their lives. They find allies in both likely and unlikely places.

Rating: PG13

Words: 30,200

Chapter 1

Face slid open the side door of the van and climbed in.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, guys,” he said giving BA and Murdock a sheepish grin. BA scowled at him and put the van into gear, drove off into the darkness.

“That’s okay, Face, we know it takes you longer than it used to to make yourself cute these days.” Murdock said, saw BA give a tiny smirk at that and now Face was the one scowling.


“Anyway Hannibal isn’t expecting us till eight,” Murdock said, “We got plenty of time.” He looked at Face’s smart dark jacket and tie. “You know it’s just an informal dinner with your friends, you didn’t have to get dressed up. There won’t be any women there.”

“There might be, didn’t Hannibal tell you to expect surprise guests?”

“Oh, yeah. Though I’m not sure how you ‘expect’ a ‘surprise’, but hey ho. So who do you think it is?”

“I’m hoping it’s the actress he was working with on that cowboy flick,” Face said, straightening his already straight tie. BA rolled his eyes.

“Maybe it’s Amy.” Murdock said.

“Nah,” BA said, “She’s in Ohio. I saw her on CNN today reporting on some political scandal.”

“Frankie?” Face suggested.

“Still in Canada, blowing stuff up for that movie he’s working on.” BA said.

“Thought I heard a noise.” Murdock muttered, then said brightly. “I know, Tawnia!”

“I heard from Tawnia a week ago,” Face said, “She’s in New York.”

“She could have come back,” said Murdock.

“Not unless they’ve run out of stuff to buy in New York.” Face answered, with a wry grin.

“Maggie?” BA said. “Hannibal still seeing her?”

“He was kind of evasive about Maggie last time I mentioned her.” Face looked thoughtful. “Not sure what’s going on there.”

“Lynch!” Murdock exclaimed, which made the others instinctively look around nervously, then look at Murdock annoyed.

“Fool,” BA muttered.

“No, I mean, maybe the surprise guest is Lynch, you know to show there’s no hard feelings now you’re free.”

“Please be joking,” Face said.

“And why just Lynch?” BA asked, “Why not Decker?”

“Because there still are hard feelings with Decker,” Murdock said, grinning. “Hey, I’ve got it, Stockwell!” Face shuddered and BA frowned even more than usual.

“Don’t even joke about that.” Face said. “That bastard’s safely in jail. And if I never see him again it will be too soon.”

“What do you suppose he’s getting up to in there?” Murdock asked.

“Getting real friendly with a big, hairy biker named Killer, hopefully.” Face said, his tone grim.

“I’ll bet he’s writing a book.” BA said.

“Yeah…” Murdock said thoughtfully, then more eager. “Yeah, you’re so right, BA, I’ll bet he has a book deal! He’ll write an autobiography called ‘My Way’.” Face and BA groaned at that, and Murdock smirked. But he regretted bringing up the subject of Stockwell, Face looked too serious now.

They drove on in silence for a few minutes.

“Stockwell’s in jail.” Murdock said eventually, breaking the silence. BA gave him a sidelong glance.

“Er, we know, Murdock, we just said.” Face said.

“Yeah I know I was just saying it for fun. Stockwell’s in jail.” He chuckled. “I just love hearing those words. Stockwell’s in jail, la la la,” he started singing and snapping his fingers, “Oh, yeah, Stockwell’s in the big house, he’s in the federal pen, oh yeah, Stockwell’s in the slammer, he’s locked up in the can; he’s in-car-cer-ated! Oh yeah, where is he? Gimme a J…”

“Shut up, fool!” BA yelled in extreme irritation, but Murdock didn’t care, his silly song had made Face smile again.

A few minutes later the van pulled up outside Hannibal’s house and they climbed out. Face and Murdock were each carrying a bottle of wine and BA carried something in a grocery bag.

“You brought dessert, big guy?” Murdock asked.

“Just some ice cream.” BA said.

“Chocolate chocolate chip?” Murdock said hopefully.

“Wait and see,” BA told him.

“No other cars,” Face said, looking around at the drive and the road by the house. “Only Hannibal’s. Guess our mystery guests haven’t arrived yet.” He rang the doorbell and in a moment Hannibal opened it.

“Come on in, fellas.” They followed him into the living room. A delicious smell of roasting chicken filled the house. Hannibal took the wine and the ice cream into the kitchen, saying, “Help yourself to drinks.” BA followed him into the kitchen and Hannibal poured him a glass of milk.

“So come on, Hannibal.” BA said, “Who else is coming tonight?”

Hannibal just tapped the side of his nose, and winked at BA, then gave him a tray of wine glasses, said, “Could you go set these on the table, please?” BA went into the dining room, set out the glasses and took his glass of milk back to the living room.

“There’s two more guests,” he told Face and Murdock, “The table is set for six.”

“Interesting.” Murdock said. He sipped on the Harvey Wallbanger he’d had Face mix for him. Not that he particularly liked the taste, but he just liked ordering it because the thought the name was funny. Face mixed himself a whisky and soda and wandered through to help Hannibal in the kitchen.

When the doorbell rang a moment later Murdock was the quickest to reach it, even before Hannibal called out “I’m busy here, could one of you get that?” He opened the door to two Arab men, dressed in suits, one standing, the other crouching tying his shoe.

“Captain Murdock, it’s good to see you,” the one standing said. “Sorry about Jahni, he’s never been to the West before, he keeps forgetting you don’t need to take off your shoes when you enter a house.”

“You obviously never met my Grandmother, Major Madari.” Murdock said, a delighted smile on his face. “Come in, come in!” Jahni straightened up, his smile as wide as Murdock’s.

“Hello, Murdock,” he said, stepping aside to let Madari go in first.

“Major! Lieutenant! ” BA exclaimed as they came in. “You gotta be the last people I expected to see.” Hannibal and Face came out of the kitchen and there was a round of handshakes and greetings. Madari handed Hannibal a gift-wrapped parcel. Jahni hugged Murdock and Face.

Hannibal, removing his ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron before either Murdock or Jahni took him up on the invitation, said, “Well you both look a lot healthier than the last time we saw you,” They did too, Madari was still thin as a whip, but it was all lean muscle, not inadequate food making him that way now and his face had lost the gauntness it had displayed in the camp. His fingernails were fully re-grown, though scarring was still clearly visible on his hands. Jahni was bulkier than they remembered, his shoulders, chest and arms well muscled, his thick black hair glossy.

“Thank you,” the Major said, inclining his head. “You all look well too. Thank you for inviting us to your home, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Major, you are very welcome in my home. And please, call me Hannibal.”

“Then you must call me Faris, Hannibal.”

“And I am Kahil.” Jahni said.

The formalities out of the way Hannibal offered them drinks. Madari took only fruit juice, but Jahni, somewhat unexpectedly, accepted a cocktail and went off with Face. Hannibal went into the kitchen and Madari followed him.

“They were surprised to see us,” the Major said. “You haven’t told them what I told you about on the telephone.”

“Not yet.” Hannibal said. “I thought we’d have dinner first, catch up, then tell them.”

“As you wish.” He went back into the living room. Hannibal tore the wrapping paper from the gift Madari had brought, smiled to find a box of fine cigars inside. A few moments later Face came in.

“Need any help, Hannibal?”

“I’m about to serve, you can give me a hand.”

Dinner passed quickly. Everyone praised Hannibal’s cooking, the wine went down well and the conversation was lively. Jahni kept them all entertained with his accounts of the heroic deeds of Madari and his company of guerrilla fighters, giving the impression, despite the Major’s denials, that they had been almost solely responsible for the fall of the usurping regime in Qumar and the restoration of the rightful government.

“We helped,” Madari said. “Significantly, perhaps even decisively, but the Lieutenant exaggerates everything. Next time he tells you the stories, and believe me, there will be a next time, they will be even more inflated.” His chiding was only semi-serious though and Jahni just gave a sheepish grin and was soon chattering again.

Madari insisted on helping Hannibal to clear the plates, went into the kitchen with him, the sound of the other men’s talk and laughter reaching them through the open door.

“I’m sorry Mr Santana is not here tonight.” Madari said as they loaded the dishwasher.

“Frankie’s working, he’s abroad.”

“Ah.” He paused, and then said. “And how is he? And Captain Murdock?” Hannibal knew what Madari was referring to.

“They’re both doing well. Murdock, well he has at least got the training to deal with what happened, he bounced back pretty quick. Frankie didn’t have that, but as soon as we got back I got him into counselling. And he’s pretty resilient. He’ll never be his old self, I don’t think, but he’s okay.”

“That’s good.” Madari said, nodding. They were both silent for a while.

“And how are you, Faris?” Hannibal asked. Madari looked at him sharply, seemed ready to take offence at the question, but then spoke quietly.

“Better than I was.” That seemed to be all Hannibal was getting and he was rather disappointed. He’d been corresponding with Madari for six months now, since the Qumari king had been restored and Madari had returned to his regular army duties. Hannibal thought he’d gained the Major’s trust, but he was still nearly as difficult to get through to as he had been in the camp.

“That’s good,” Hannibal said, a little coldly. “Let’s have dessert, then you can tell the others about why you’re here.”

Once the ice cream was gone, coffees and brandies were poured and the cigars were lit Hannibal said, speaking to his team. “Okay, fellas, listen up. I’m afraid this isn’t just a social visit, the Major has something important to discuss with us.” That shut them all up and they looked curiously at Madari. Jahni also went quiet and sat back in his chair. Madari leaned forward in his.

“Gentlemen, I came to the United States in pursuit of General Ziyahd, or rather ex-General Ziyahd.”

“Ziyahd is here?” Murdock said.

“I suppose he wasn’t very popular in Qumar after you threw out the government he supported.” Face commented.

“Indeed no and there was a warrant for his arrest. But he hasn’t come here simply to hide, I believe he has come here to kill Colonel Smith.” The others reacted with shock and concern to this. Hannibal knowing about it already just puffed on his cigar and waited for Madari to continue.

“Ziyahd has sworn to kill all of those responsible for his losing his command of the prison camp. He lost his commission after that and was thrown out of the army in disgrace. I think the Russians probably had some say in that happening, since he was responsible for their people being taken too.”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine the KGB were too thrilled with him,” Face said.

“He has tried to kill me.” Madari looked at Jahni, said, “If the Lieutenant hadn’t put himself between me and an assassin’s bullet he may well have succeeded.” He touched the younger man’s arm briefly. Jahni looked a little uncomfortable as the other men looked at him with admiration. Hannibal glanced at Murdock, then turned back to Madari.

“Go on, Faris.”

“He has already succeeded in killing three of my officers from the camp. They died in apparent ‘accidents’, not too difficult to explain away with men in a dangerous profession like ours, but when the third one happened I became suspicious and decided to investigate myself. That was Captain Noor.”

“Noor!” Murdock exclaimed, dismayed. “Oh, man!”

“A good soldier, and my good friend.” Madari said, paused for a moment, then gathered himself and went on. “He had rejoined his regiment and was training new recruits in weapons drill. There was a so-called ‘tragic accident’.”

“Don’t tell me; some guy ‘didn’t know it was loaded’?” BA said grimly.

“Exactly. But when I looked into it I discovered this recruit was a distant cousin of Ziyahd’s and also that he had left the army and disappeared. I suspect he may be here, with Ziyahd.”

“Who were the other two? You said he killed three.” Face asked.

“Lieutenants Ishaq and Darak.” Jahni said. His voice shook a little as he gave the names of his dead friends and his eyes were downcast and full of grief. There was silence for a few moments as they all remembered the men they had fought alongside, briefly and eighteen months ago in the case of the A-Team, but more recently and over much longer for the Major and the Lieutenant. Hannibal gave them the moment, waited until Madari looked up again before he spoke.

“You think you know where Ziyahd is, you told me.”

“Yes.” Madari confirmed, “I’ve tracked him to a town south west of Los Angeles. That’s why I believe he is after you, Hannibal, and probably the rest of you. Why else should he be near Los Angeles? If all he wanted was to hide, well, this is a big country; there are many other places he could live, many cities where no one would notice another Arab face in the crowd. No, he came here for a purpose.”

“And now you’re going after him.” Hannibal said.

“He murdered my friends, I intend to see he receives justice.” The Americans exchanged glances. That sounded a lot like it was going to be pretty summary justice.

“But,” Madari went on, “Ziyahd is rich, he will have hired plenty of men. We are only two men, and very much out of our element. So we decided…” he stopped and smiled, turned to Jahni. “You say it, Lieutenant, I know you’ve been waiting to.” Jahni grinned and leant forward.

“We would like to hire the A-Team.”

Chapter 2

“We would like to hire the A-Team.”

Hannibal had to admit he felt a buzz at Jahni’s words. It had been too long since he’d heard anyone say them. The time working under Stockwell’s control and the year and a half now since they had been freed. Yeah, it hit the old sweet spot to hear someone say that again. But…

“The thing is…” Hannibal paused, took his cigar out of his mouth. “The thing is, we don’t really do that stuff any more, there isn’t even really an A-Team any more.” He could see disappointment starting to surface in Jahni’s eyes.

“Hannibal…” Murdock said, but Hannibal waved him to silence, wasn’t finished.

“We’re all doing our own thing,” he gestured at the others. “I’ve got my acting, Face is an agent, Murdock’s flying for a living again and BA has the kid’s centre.”

“Hannibal…” Face said, but Hannibal went on over him too.

“Of course, I’ll be happy to work with you to bring that little bastard in. If he’s trying to kill me then it’s in my own interest to do that. But I can’t order the others to come.”

“Hey, Hannibal, shut up, will ya,” BA said. He didn’t shout, but his tone was compelling and Hannibal finally allowed the interruption. “You seriously thinkin’ we wouldn’t come? That we’d let you go off on your own and probably get yourself and the Major and the L.T. killed with some crazy ‘front door’ plan, while we ain’t there to back you up?” Hannibal stared at BA then started to smile.

“If Ziyahd is after you then he’ll have to come through us.” Face said.

“And you might need air support.” Murdock said. “I know where I can get my hands on a real pretty whirly bird on loan for a coupla days.”

“Money is not a problem, if you need to hire a helicopter or buy any equipment.” Madari told them, “My government has authorised me to spend whatever is required.”

“Now that’s what we like to hear,” Face said, grinning. “Where exactly is it you think Ziyahd is? Hey, Hannibal, you still got that map of California?” Hannibal pointed at a bookcase and Murdock retrieved the map, Face and BA stood up and started moving glasses, cups and candles aside to let Murdock spread out the map. Madari took out a small black leather bound notebook, consulted it and bent over the map, searching for the location he believed his quarry was hidden. Soon a remote town about two hundred miles from LA was circled.

“We’ll have to get the van stocked for a mission,” BA said, “Face, start making a list will ya, ammo, first aid supplies…”

Hannibal, still sitting, smoking his cigar again, was smiling, the buzz was turning into something else now, he could feel the first ticklings of the Jazz. He caught Madari’s eye, and the Major spoke quietly, an amused look in his eyes.

“No A-Team any more?”

Hannibal just winked at him and grinned.


It was almost midnight when Hannibal’s guests started to take their leave. They had agreed to collect Madari and Jahni from their hotel at eight the next morning and head out to the town where Ziyahd was holed up. But before the Qumaris left Hannibal took Madari into the kitchen for a moment, away from Jahni.

“Faris, there’s something we have to be clear about. We’re going out there to bring Ziyahd in, not to kill him.”

“He’s a murderer.” Madari said.

“I know, but we’re not and I don’t believe you are either. I can’t let my men be involved in a murder, that’s not what we’re about. We take Ziyahd to the authorities, then your government requests his extradition. Once you get him back to your own country what happens to him is up to you, though I have to say I’d be disappointed in you if he were to just disappear rather than be put on trial.” Madari looked at him. Hannibal’s gaze was steady. He meant what he said. “Are we clear on this, Major?”

“We’re clear, Colonel. I will try not to… disappoint you.” His tone was a little insulted and his dark eyes were narrowed.

“You’ll see that Jahni understands too? He seems inclined to be kind of enthusiastic. I don’t want him out there getting enthusiastic with his gun and the back of Ziyahd’s head.”

“Of course.” Madari snapped, was clearly annoyed at having rank pulled on him like this, but when Hannibal held out his hand the Major shook it with no hesitation.

“Good, see you in the morning then, Faris.”

“Goodnight, Hannibal.”

The team watched their new clients leave in their rental car then BA said, “We’d better get moving.”

“Aw, I wanted to stay a little longer.” Murdock protested.

“I’m the designated driver, fool. If I always gotta be the designated driver then we gotta leave when I say.” He said goodnight to Hannibal and stomped out to the van muttering about being a taxi service.

“We all need a good night’s sleep anyway, Murdock.” Hannibal said. “Get some rest and be ready for action in the morning.”

“Lookin’ forward to it, Colonel.” Murdock said grinning. He followed BA to the van.

“You can get everything on the list okay, Face?” Hannibal asked as Face wandered past, scribbling on his notepad.

“Hannibal,” Face said, in a mock-offended tone. “I’m not so out of practice that I can’t equip us for a simple search and capture operation.” Then he smiled, said “Goodnight, Hannibal.”

After watching them go Hannibal locked up the house carefully and went to bed. He checked his 9mm was in the nightstand as usual and after a moment’s consideration he loaded it and put it under his pillow, then lay down to sleep. It took him a while to drop off; his mind was busy with plans and an almost childlike anticipation. He felt like it was Christmas tomorrow and he was a kid waiting for Santa Claus. Santa Claus was going to bring him the Jazz.


Hannibal checked his watch. It was eight-fifteen. He glanced again at the entrance to the hotel across the street.

“I don’t like this. The Major wouldn’t be late.”

“Wouldn’t he?” Murdock muttered, mostly to himself. Hannibal ignored him.

“You gave him the number of the van right? So he could call if there was a delay?” Face asked. Hannibal nodded and drummed his fingers on his knee for a moment. He made up his mind.

“Okay, we’re going in. Murdock, get into the parking garage and see if their car is still there. You remember it from last night?”

“Sure, dark blue Chevy, California plates, tan interior.” He moved past Face and out of the side door, strolled across the street.

“Face, we’re going into the lobby, but not together. BA, stay with the van in case they show up, and keep an eye open for anything suspicious. I’ll call you in a few minutes.”


Face grabbed his briefcase. There wasn’t anything in it, but it was a good prop. He hurried over the road and into the lobby of the hotel. Hannibal followed him a few moments later.

Face made his way straight to the reception desk. A red-haired, smartly dressed, receptionist smiled at him and asked how she could help. He gave her the Smile and said, “I’m supposed to be meeting two of your guests here, Mr Madari and Mr Jahni, could you call their room to let them know I’ve arrived?”

“Of course, sir? And your name?”

“Mr Peck.” She started to dial. Face kept on smiling. Okay, telling the truth was a novelty, but no need to scam just for the sake of it. He waited as she hung on the phone. He appeared outwardly calm, but inside his stomach was flipping.

“I’m sorry sir, there’s no reply from that room.”

“They didn’t check out did they?” She consulted her computer screen.

“No, sir.”

“And which room number is that, again?” Face said lightly. Her professional smile slipped just a little.

“I’m sorry, sir I can’t give out that information.”


“Breakfast is still being served in the restaurant, your friends may be in there.”

“Oh, I’ll check.” He didn’t think they would be, but he should be able to find out if they had been down to breakfast. As he walked across the lobby to the restaurant he paused to pretend to check something in his briefcase. Hannibal was sitting right by where Face stood.

“No reply from their room. I’m checking to see if they’re in the restaurant.”

“They won’t be.” Hannibal said, not looking up from the paper he wasn’t reading.

“I know, but I’ll find out if they were earlier. I couldn’t get the room number.”

“Okay. When you come out of the restaurant come over to the phone booths. Go in the one on the far right.” Face closed his briefcase and moved on. Hannibal went to the phone booths at the back of the lobby. He checked the number of the phone in the far right booth and then moved to another one. After a few minutes Face came out of the restaurant and went into the far right phone booth. A few seconds later the phone rang and Face scooped it up.

“Were they there?” Hannibal asked.

“At six-thirty this morning,” Face said, “till about seven. The waitress described them, one in his early forties with scars on his hands, a younger man mid twenties, good looking, with …” Hannibal could hear the grin in his voice. “… according to her, ‘big brown eyes’.”

“Sounds like our guys. I called BA; Murdock said their car is still there. Then I rang the Qumari consulate, in case they got called over there for something. But they haven’t heard from them either. We need that room number, Face. ”

“Message trick? This place is small enough, they have pigeonholes on the wall behind the reception desk.”

“Okay, I’ll get in position. Give me a minute.” Hannibal hung up and went back out into the lobby. He sat down in a seat close to the reception desk. A few minutes later Face followed him, went back to the redheaded receptionist.

“Did you find your friends, sir?” She asked with professional amicability.

“I’m afraid not. I’d like to leave a message for them.”

“Of course sir, there’s stationery on the table over there, just hand it to me when you’re done.” Face smiled his thanks and moved over to the writing table, quickly scribbled a message and sealed it in an envelope, addressed it to Madari. As he walked past Hannibal he gave the Colonel’s feet a nudge, warning him to be alert. The receptionist took the envelope from Face, who then asked where the bathroom was and went off in the direction she pointed out. Hannibal grinned as her eyes followed Face appreciatively before she turned and slid the envelope into one of the pigeonholes behind the desk. There was no key on the hook beside it. The pigeonhole was labelled and Hannibal could just make out the numbers.

“Room 417.” Hannibal said when he caught up with Face by the elevators, which were hidden from the view of the reception desk. Face nodded and when the elevator arrived pressed the button for the fourth floor.

“You know Hannibal.” Face said as they ascended. “This is a pretty small hotel. That waitress said Madari and Jahni were the only Arabs staying here.”


“Well, wouldn’t it have been smarter to stay in one of the big hotels uptown? They’re full of tourists and international business travellers, plenty of Arabs. They’d just vanish into the crowd.”

“Yeah, and so would anyone who was spying on them. They may stand out like a couple of sore thumbs here, but so would one of Ziyahd’s men.”

“Ah, good point.”

They arrived at the fourth floor and found room 417.

“Keep watch.” Face said and took out his lock picks. Then he hesitated a moment and looked at Hannibal. Hannibal knew what he was thinking. They were about to cross a line. Since they became law abiding citizens again none of them had done anything more criminal than get a traffic ticket. Face and his silver tongue didn’t even get those. For a second Hannibal thoughtwhat are we doing? Our friends are missing, we could… we should… go to the police. But going to the police meant delay and it meant Hannibal lost control of the situation. And going to the police really didn’t do anything for the Jazz. He nodded at Face.

“Go ahead.” Face bent to work on the lock.

“Actually,” Face said, “It’s a good thing this isn’t one of those big uptown hotels, they’re all putting in those electronic locks with card keys.” He shook his head. “No regard for artistry.” The lock yielded and he was about to go in, but Hannibal shook his head. He had drawn his gun. Face did the same and moved to the side of the door. Hand signals passed between them, and on Hannibal’s count they slammed the door back. Hannibal stayed high, Face covered low. No reaction from inside and they ventured in, cautious, closed the door behind them. Hannibal pointed Face at the bathroom and as the Lieutenant went to check it Hannibal moved into the room and checked the sides of the two single beds and then under them.

“Nothing.” Face said, coming out of the bathroom. Hannibal checked the only remaining place someone could be hiding, but the wardrobe contained only clothes and two suit carriers, that held Madari and Jahni’s uniforms. He put his gun back into his shoulder holster and Face did the same. They looked around the room. A chair was turned over and the contents of the dressing table were scattered on the floor, along with the room key. Two holdalls sat on one of the beds. When Hannibal checked them they contained clothes and…

“Nice.” Face commented as Hannibal showed him the two Browning 9mm pistols he found in the bags.

“They wouldn’t have gone any place without these. Not voluntarily.” Hannibal said.

“Or this,” Face said, bending down to pick up something his foot had just nudged against. It was the notebook Madari had brought with him last night. Face flicked through it but it was all in Arabic.

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “So they’ve been taken. Sometime between 7 and 8am. So they’re…” He checked his watch; it was a quarter to nine. “Less than two hours ahead of us at most.”

“You think they’re heading…” Face began and was interrupted by the sound of the phone, which made them both jump and reach instinctively towards their guns. Hannibal strode over and picked up the receiver.


“I was beginning to think you were never going to get into the room. Perhaps the great A-Team is getting rusty, old maybe.”

“Ziyahd, you little prick, if you don’t let those men go right now you won’t be getting any older.” Hannibal’s tone was so aggressive that it shocked Face but Ziyahd only laughed.

“Colonel, please, don’t waste my time with empty threats. If you want to see your friends alive and well again you will do exactly as I say.”

“You expect me to just give myself up to you?”

“That’s exactly what I expect, because if you don’t you’ll have to endure the guilt of knowing what I did to your friends. I’m told Madari’s fingernails have grown back now. Wouldn’t it be a shame if someone were to pull them all out again? I’m sure I have a pair of pliers around here somewhere.”

Face was watching Hannibal quite alarmed as Hannibal wound the phone cord tight around his hand, his anger only barely being held in check.

“And the things I could do to Madari’s pretty pet, Lieutenant Jahni… I’d make the Major watch of course…”

“Alright!” Hannibal snapped, then took a breath to calm himself. “Tell me where you want me to go.” He heard Ziyahd sniggering and wished it were the ex-General’s neck he was wrapping the phone cord around. He had learnt from Madari the kind of systematic cruelties Ziyahd had practiced at the prison, longed to punish the man for them.

“Follow the instructions that are in the top drawer of the dresser. See you soon, Colonel.” The line went dead and Hannibal slammed the phone down, hurried to the drawer and opened it to find a large envelope, which he tore open. A sheet of written instructions was inside.

“That’s where he wants us to go?” Face said.

“Yeah.” Hannibal said, then his face changed from anger to barely concealed excitement. “Grab those bags, we might as well take them.” Face zipped up the holdalls that Hannibal had replaced the guns in and quickly followed Hannibal, gave one of the bags to him.

They took the stairs and as they hurried down Face asked Hannibal, “we’re not just going to walk into Ziyahd’s trap are we?”

“Sure we are.” Hannibal said. “But we’re the ones who are going to spring it.” Face grinned. Hannibal was on the Jazz now.

Chapter 3

Jahni knew he had a quick temper, and lying on the uncarpeted floor of a stifling hot van for several hours as it drove over bumpy roads wasn’t improving it any. He was thirsty, hungry, sweating, bruised and generally pissed off. Random kicks from the thugs sitting along bench seats against each sidewall of the vehicle just added to his simmering anger. The thugs had already drunk three six-packs of beer and were talking raucously in Arabic and English about what their boss was going to do to the two captives who lay at their feet, their wrists tied behind their backs with rope.

Jahni struggled around so he could check on Madari, whose eyes were closed. He saw that one of the thugs was resting his feet on the Major’s back and that insult to his commanding officer was just the final straw for the Lieutenant.

“You,” Jahni growled at the offending man, who looked down at him. Madari opened his eyes, they were fully alert, he hadn’t been asleep. “Yes, you, goat breath,” Jahni continued, glaring at the thug. “Take your feet off his back.” The man sneered and the others laughed. One gave the Lieutenant a swift kick in the side and Jahni grunted with pain. He opened his mouth to speak again but shut it as the Major’s voice came quietly.

“Stand down, Lieutenant.”

“He is insulting you!”

“Stand down.”

Jahni glowered, but shut up, he forced himself to calm down. The Major was right, why pick a fight he couldn’t win? He saw Madari, satisfied that the Lieutenant was in control of himself, close his eyes again. He followed the Major’s example. Rest. A soldier rests when he can, saves his strength so he’s ready when the fight he can win comes.


BA’s van was an hour behind on those same bumpy roads. Hannibal consulted the map.

“The rendezvous is only about ten miles from the town Faris reckoned Ziyahd was holed up in, so once we take out the guys who come to meet us I say we pretty much go with the original assault plan. We’ll need to adjust it for hostage rescue that’s all.”

“Be even easier if they tell us exactly where to go too,” Face said, and then smirked. “Think we can persuade them?” Hannibal gave an evil grin.

“I think we’ll probably be able to, yeah.”


“Now you see the thing is, fellas…” Hannibal grinned looking at the group of five young Arab men sitting handcuffed in the back of their own van, each one attached to a seat upright or some other solid fixture. “I’m not expecting him to tell me anything. ” He waved a hand at their comrade who was also cuffed. Face and Murdock were tying a rope around his waist. The other end of the rope was tied to the back bumper of the A-Team van. BA, looking mean, leant out of the driver’s seat and kept gunning the engine.

“See, after a couple of miles he’s not going to be up to talking, probably ever again. I just want you all to see it happening so you can get a mental picture of what I’m going to do to each and every one of you until one of you tells me where your snivelling boss is cowering!” His voice rose until he was yelling the last part and he was pleased to see several of them flinch.

It had almost been too easy. Ziyahd may be rich but his recruitment skills were severely lacking. He probably selected men for viciousness rather than competence. Their van had been sitting in plain sight on the side of the road and they’d all been standing around smoking and drinking beer while they waited for the A-Team to turn up. They were also dumb enough to be parked near trees that gave enough cover for Face and Murdock to circle behind them and get close. Hannibal had driven up in the van and got out, keeping his hands up as they pointed their guns at him.

“Where are the others?” The one in charge demanded.

“They wouldn’t come.” Hannibal said. One of the other men moved close, keeping his gun on Hannibal, started searching him for weapons.

“Too scared?” The lead thug sneered. Hannibal shrugged.

“Check the van.” Two of the men went over to the back doors at the order and opened them…

And all hell broke loose, BA emerged from the back of the van, machine gun in hand, roaring like a bull and firing over their heads. At the same time dirt kicked up from the ground around the thug’s feet from automatic fire as Face and Murdock opened up from the trees behind them. The man who’d been searching Hannibal got the Colonel’s keen in his face and Hannibal disarmed him as he fell. He pointed the gun he now held at the man in charge, who, along with his colleagues, had hit the ground in terror.

“Drop ’em, or you’re all dead meat.” They all dropped their guns, not even waiting for the order from the one in charge. Or rather the one who was previously in charge.

That was the man Hannibal now had tied to the rear bumper of the van as the others watched wide-eyed from their own van. Hannibal was enjoying his ‘borderline homicidal maniac’ act, but was really hoping one of them would crack soon, he couldn’t actually order the man to be dragged behind the van and none of the team would follow such an order anyway. And they were burning daylight, it was deep into the afternoon now, they had to get to the hostages.

He had his eye on one of the men, a well built, swaggering bully type who was suddenly not such a brave man now he was on the wrong side. He’s the one Hannibal thought, he’d crack first. He tightened the screw a little, pointed at the man and said. “You’re next, pal.” Then he banged on the side of the van.

“Okay, BA, take it away.”

The roar of the engine nearly drowned out the yell, as ‘well-built’ cried, “No! No! I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you!” The others shouted insults and threats at him, but he ignored them. “I’ll tell you!” Hannibal banged on the side of the van again and BA stopped the engine. The man tied to the bumper sagged to his knees in relief.

“Smart boy.” Hannibal said, with a grim smile.


It was late in the afternoon, when the van carrying Madari and Jahni arrived at a remote house. They were pushed out of the van and dragged to their feet, their legs shaky with cramp and weak from thirst. Both stumbled as they were pulled inside and into a sparsely furnished living room. It held only an armchair and a table.

Ziyahd was sitting in the armchair, but rose as his prisoners were dragged inside. He smiled with delight, clapped his hands in childlike excitement.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Well done, boys, there’ll be a bonus for you.”

“Ziyahd, you worm,” Madari snarled at him. “Smith will kill you for this.” He got a backhander across the face for his trouble from one of the thugs and saw Jahni strain against the men holding him. He also saw how Ziyahd flushed with excitement at the blow. The little pervert was probably getting hard at the anticipation of the pain he was about to inflict, Madari thought,

Ziyahd couldn’t deny the pleasure he was feeling at the prospect of the tortures he could visit first on Madari and Jahni and then on the A-Team. He had always hated officers like Madari and Smith. Arrogant sons of bitches. For too long that sort had sneered at him, calling him a jumped up clerk. Well they’d learn, they’d all learn.

And it was time to start teaching Madari his lesson right now. He stood in front of the Major, somewhat annoyed that the man was three inches taller than him.

“We’re going to have some fun, Madari. Lots of fun. It will be a little while yet before the rest of my men get here with the A-Team so we’ll have to think of a way to kill the time.” He laughed and his men dutifully did the same. “Have you all been introduced to the Major?” he asked the men. “The famous Madari, the ‘Knight of the North’.” His tone was derisive. “That’s what the peasants call you isn’t it?”

“Do you want to know what they call you?” Jahni asked, scornful of Ziyahd’s pathetic attempts to frighten them. He got a punch in the back as a reward for his remark, but gritted his teeth against the pain and kept his feet. Ziyahd moved to stand in front of him.

“And speaking of peasants we have a little bonus, the sickeningly devoted Lieutenant Jahni. ‘Madari’s Shadow’ they call him back home, but it should be ‘Madari’s Bitch’.” He looked at the Major. “They say he never leaves your side. Apart from when he’s on his knees in front of you with his mouth full of course.” He smirked at Madari, hoping for a reaction. The men sniggered nastily. Madari’s face betrayed nothing at Ziyahd’s insinuation. In fact he was having a hard time keeping from smiling, because he could see what was about to happen.

Kahil will never let a comment like that pass, he thought, and you’re making two mistakes, Ziyahd. For one thing you’re looking at me instead of him, and for another you’re standing much too close to him.

And Jahni’s forehead abruptly connected with Ziyahd’s nose, causing Ziyahd to stagger back, with a shriek of pain, blood streaming down his face. Jahni straightened up, grinning, until the thugs started smashing their fists and gun butts into his back and shoulders. He fell to his knees, unable to defend himself with his arms tied behind his back. Madari struggled against the men holding him trying to go to his Lieutenant’s aid. Ziyahd recovered himself, pressing a handkerchief to his nose, the blood dripping down onto his expensive silk suit. He yelled at the men to leave Jahni alone. They hauled him back to his feet, and Ziyahd, dark fury replacing his earlier gloating, snarled at the Lieutenant.

“I’m going to peel your skin off for that, boy.”

But he was unnerved. Jahni was too much trouble. He decided he wanted the younger officer out of the way for now, so he could concentrate on the man he really wanted to hurt.

“Take this one to the basement and lock him up.” He ordered. Jahni was dragged off, protesting and yelling curses at Ziyahd. Madari watched them pull the Lieutenant away, anxious that they were being separated, but also grateful that Jahni wasn’t going to have to witness whatever Ziyahd had planned for Madari.

“Aww, did you lose your boyfriend?” One of the thugs asked, in a mocking voice, to the hilarity of the rest. Madari just gave him a long, cold look that suggested the man was lower than a snake’s belly. He was good at such looks, having been trained from birth to give them and the thug seemed to wither under the Major’s gaze. This just infuriated Ziyahd even more. He’d never managed to get the hang of freezing a man’s soul with a stare.

“Alright,” Ziyahd said impatient now, “let’s get on with it. Take his shirt off.” He picked up a cigar from the table and lit it. His hand trailed over the items on the table, the whip, the soldering iron, the pliers…

As the men tore away his shirt Madari tried to find the place inside his head where he’d hidden before. You got through it once, he told himself, you can do it again. Except you didn’t “get through it”, did you? Came the treacherous voice of all too clear memory. You were a near-demented wreck for months. You’re still not normal. Maybe this time you won’t even get that far back. But that was at the hands of professionals, these men are just thugs. I am strong. I am stronger now than I was before. Liar, only two nights ago you woke screaming and Kahil had to hold you and talk to you like a child until you stopped whimpering. But Ziyahd doesn’t have either the imagination or the patience to break me. And he doesn’t have the time, because Smith will come.

“You like a good cigar, don’t you, Madari?” Ziyahd swaggered over and blew the sweet; expensive smelling smoke in Madari’s face, then pressed the glowing tip of the cigar against the Major’s bare chest. He felt an intense surge of pleasure as Madari gasped with pain and tried to writhe away from the men holding him. Oh yes, this was good. This was going to be a lot of fun.

Smith will come.

Chapter 4

It was getting dark as the A-Team approached the house that Ziyahd’s man had pointed out to them. They left the two vans a half-mile down the road and made their way on foot. The men sent to capture them were still handcuffed in the back of their own van. Hannibal was very sure that Ziyahd and the rest of his thugs would soon be joining them. He was going to enjoy this.

There was a light showing in a ground floor front room, but its drapes were pulled. Trees surrounded the house and the A-Team were able to get close without being seen by the man standing guard by the front door.

“Okay, Face, move round to the left there and make some noise to distract him. Murdock you wanna take him out? Don’t let him make any noise.”

“There won’t even be a squeak.”

The move was textbook, the guard moved towards the noise Face was making, turning his back on the trees where Murdock was hidden. Soundlessly Murdock sneaked up and chopped him on the back of the neck. The guard made an untidy shape on the ground and Murdock pulled a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, followed by a gag.

“Get him in those bushes,” Hannibal said, and he and Murdock carried the man over to the rose bushes by the side of the house.

“Hey, Hannibal. Basement windows.” Murdock said, pushing aside the vegetation, to reveal a row of small, dirty windowpanes near the ground.

“Great, let’s get round the back, see if there’s a hatch.”

There was, two heavy wooden doors, locked with a large rusty padlock.

“Face.” Hannibal said, but Face was already pulling out his lock picks and he quickly got to work on the padlock. In a moment he was pulling it loose and tossing it aside into the grass. BA pulled open one of the heavy doors and Hannibal rummaged in his pack for a flashlight. He shone it down the steps inside the hatch, they looked solid and he carefully stepped on the top one. It held and he started to make his way down cautiously. Be stupid to break a leg on wood-wormy steps at this stage. He reached the bottom of the steps and swept the basement with his flashlight. It was bare, except for a faucet on one of the walls, which had a small puddle of water on the ground beneath it.

“I really hope that’s you, Colonel Smith.”

The quiet voice was behind him. He whipped around, berating himself for sloppiness. He’d forgotten to check underneath the very stairs he’d just walked down. He shone the flashlight at the steps and through the slats had a brief glimpse of a pair of large brown eyes before they closed and turned away from the light.

“Jahni!” Hannibal kept his voice down, as he realised if there was a prisoner down here there was probably a guard on the door. The Lieutenant came out from under the steps getting to his feet awkwardly. His arms were still tied behind his back. Hannibal put the flashlight down on a step and started to untie him. The rest of the team followed Hannibal into the basement as he called to them softly.

“Where’s the Major?” Hannibal asked quietly.

“Upstairs with Ziyahd and his men.”

“How many are there?”

“Six took us from the hotel, there were two more here when we arrived, not counting Ziyahd. Did you get the ones they sent out for you?” The ropes were released from his arms and Jahni rubbed his chafed skin, wincing.

“Yeah, they’re taken care of, and we took one out who was on guard outside.”

“So seven plus Ziyahd left.” Face said. “Is there one outside the basement door?”

“Yes, I’ve heard him moving around.” Jahni confirmed. He flinched away as Hannibal touched his side, where there was a boot print on Jahni’s t-shirt.

“How badly are you hurt?” Hannibal asked.

“I’m fine.” Jahni insisted. Hannibal put on his command voice.

“No heroics, Lieutenant. I need to know if you’re fit to fight.”

“I am. I’m bruised but nothing is broken.” He gave a token sigh of protest, but then stood still and let Hannibal lift his shirt up to run a hand over his ribs. Hannibal frowned at the bruises and scrapes covering Jahni’s torso, but couldn’t feel any broken ribs. He stepped back.

“You seem to be all right. Okay, let’s get that guard.”

They closed the hatch to the outside and the A-Team hid under the stairs that led down from the ground floor of the house. Jahni clasped his hands together behind his back to make it appear he was still tied up and started yelling for the guard. After a few minutes, light poured from the doorway and the guard yelled at Jahni in Arabic. Jahni answered in the same language and whatever he said was enough to make the guard start to come down the steps, speaking in English this time, with a broad Southern twang.

“You little shit, I’ll pound you for that.” The A-Team grinned at the man’s unexpected accent.

“You don’t have the guts!” Jahni retorted, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, eyes flashing.

“You’re gonna get a kicking, pretty boy…” The guard moved further down the steps now, far enough for his ankles to be grabbed by Hannibal and BA. He toppled forward, fell the last ten steps and hit the basement floor with a crash. Jahni was on him in a second, a knee in the small of the man’s back, holding him down. Face and Murdock ran past him up the stairs. Hannibal saw Jahni was reaching for the hunting knife that the guard wore on his belt and sprang forward, along with BA. BA grabbed the guard’s arms and Hannibal quickly gagged him. He tossed a rope to Jahni, giving him a severe look. Jahni glared back at him as he started to tie the man up.

“I was just going to disarm him.”

“Right.” Hannibal said. Hoped that was true.

In the house Face and Murdock moved towards the room they’d seen the light in, checking the layout on the way. No more guards, they were apparently all in the same room. The door to it was open and from around a corner they could see inside. Ziyahd’s voice carried out into the hallway. Neither Face nor Murdock could understand his words, but they could recognise the gloating tone in them. And they could see Madari. He was on his knees, his arms being held and twisted by two of Ziyahd’s henchmen. The Major was panting, sweat dripping from him, his hair falling over his face.

Ziyahd leant forward in the armchair he was sitting in, coming into view for the first time. He leered down at his victim and then stood up and walked over to a table. He picked up a short leather whip and Face and Murdock looked at each other in alarm. Ziyahd snapped an order and Madari was pulled to his feet. Ziyahd went over to him and ran the whip’s handle down the Major’s cheek. Both Face and Murdock felt their stomachs turn at the sight of the grin that broke out on Ziyahd’s face when Madari flinched away from the whip.

“Sadistic bastard.” Murdock whispered.

“Get back to the basement.” Face whispered. “Tell Hannibal we need to hit them now!” Murdock left. Face, anger and disgust almost overwhelming him could only watch the scene unfold.

It seemed Ziyahd preferred to watch rather than inflict the pain himself. He handed the whip to a muscular young man, who grinned wolfishly in anticipation and cracked it a couple of times, warming his arm up. Face, Madari and Ziyahd were all unable to drag their eyes from the whip. Then Madari was pulled around and pushed against the wall, exposing his naked back. Old scars stood out under the harsh, un-shaded light.

“Come on, Hannibal.” Face muttered to himself. “Don’t let them give him fresh ones to match those.”

Ziyahd went to sit in his easy chair and lit a cigar, settled back to enjoy the show. The thug with the whip spoke to the two men holding Madari’s arms out.

“Hold him tight, boys,” he said, in English and raised his arm.

Face closed his eyes.

“Hannibal!” Murdock said urgently, clattering down the steps into the basement. “Hannibal, we gotta attack now!”

“What’s going on, Captain?”

“They’re just about to start flogging him. We have to stop them.”

Hannibal put his arm out without looking and Jahni crashed into it. Only then did Hannibal turn and put a hand on the Lieutenant’s shoulder, forcing him to look at Hannibal. The rage on the young man’s face was alarming. His grip on his handgun that Hannibal had given him was convulsive.

“Control yourself, Lieutenant. You’ll help the Major more effectively if you stay calm and follow my orders.” Jahni closed his eyes, fought for control, then opened them. They were still angry, but it was a cold, efficient anger now.

“Yes, Colonel.” He moved off up the stairs after Murdock, who had gone back up into the house.

“You’d better keep him well away from Ziyahd.” BA said quietly to Hannibal.

“Oh yeah,” Hannibal agreed. “You got those flashbangs in your pack?” BA turned around, Hannibal retrieved a grenade and they followed the others up the stairs.

In a few moments they were all at Face’s position. From inside the room came the crack of leather on flesh and groans of pain. The door had been pushed from inside the room and was almost shut now.

“Five.” Face muttered softly, another crack, another cry. “Six.” His eyes were still closed. Hannibal put a hand on his shoulder.

“Keep it together, Face,” he said quietly.

“Is everyone ready?” He saw Jahni look alarmed as Hannibal prepared the grenade. “Don’t worry, kid, this is a stun grenade. It won’t do any permanent damage to anyone in there.” Jahni nodded his understanding.

“Seven.” Face said softly.

“All right, everybody move back and guard your eyes and ears.”

They moved away down the hallway and Hannibal moved towards the lit room. That crack again, and a sound between a moan and a sob.

“Eight.” He whispered, finding himself taking up Face’s grisly count. Time for it to stop. He pulled the pin of the grenade, kicked the door open and tossed it in.

“Fire in the hole!” He yelled, hoping that would give the Major at least a chance to prepare himself. Then he ran as far down the hall as he could go and threw himself down, hands over his ears, eyes tight shut. Even so he heard enough of the bang to make his ears ring and the blood vessels of his eyelids were painted vividly across his vision as the flashbang exploded.

He was up again as the noise died away to be replaced by screams from inside the room. Some in Arabic, some in English, all on the lines of “I’m blind!” and then when they couldn’t hear themselves screaming “I’m blind!” they started screaming, “I’m deaf!”

They piled into the room and its dazed occupants. None of them put up any fight, and were quickly subdued and dragged out into the hallway, cuffed and in some cases sobbing. Jahni had ignored the thugs, knowing the A-Team could handle them, and headed straight for Madari. The Major was lying curled up against the wall, where he had thrown himself down when the two men restraining him had let go. Although he’d managed to prepare himself he’d still been very close to the grenade and was only a little less disoriented than the other occupants of the room. Hannibal, seeing the rest of his men had things under control came to help too.

The first thing he did as he crouched down, the very first thing, was to grab Madari’s wrists and check his hands. He gave a sigh of relief; the newly re-grown fingernails were unharmed. Madari gasped something out in a croak and Hannibal asked Jahni, “What was that?”

“Water.” Jahni said, “he asked for water, they’ve given him none all day.”

“There’s a kitchen next door, lets get him in there.” Between the two of them they got Madari to his feet and he walked with their support to the kitchen. BA came in and left the first aid kit on the table then went back out. They lowered Madari on a chair, sideways to spare his injured back. The Major rested an arm over the back of the chair and put his head down on it.

Jahni stayed by him while Hannibal found a cup and filled it with water brought it over. Once he realised what it was Madari tried to gulp it down, but Hannibal pulled the cup away, said “Slowly, slowly.” Wasn’t sure if Madari could hear yet or not, his own ears were still ringing, but he got the message and sipped the water slowly. Meanwhile Jahni was running his hands over Madari’s body checking for injuries beyond the obvious bruises and cuts and the welts on his back. There were small round burns on the Major’s chest and shoulders and Hannibal and Jahni realised at the same moment that they were from Ziyahd’s cigar. Hannibal watched Jahni pull a surge of vengeful wrath back inside himself and decided they had to get Ziyahd handed over to the authorities as quickly as possible or the man was dead, right here.

He distracted the Lieutenant by putting him to work treating the wounds with the first aid kit while he continued to coax water into the Major and after a few minutes was glad to see his eyes open and focus.

“Hannibal?” Madari said, weakly. “I… I knew you would come.”

“It’s over now, Faris. You’re safe.” Hannibal said, reassuringly. Jahni came round from where he’d been working on Madari’s back, took Madari’s hands in his own.

“Major, are you alright?”

“Kahil?” Madari gave a shaky smile and raised a trembling hand to touch the side of Jahni’s face. Then he looked at Hannibal and moved his hand down. Clearing his throat he said, as stern as he could manage, “Didn’t I tell you a week ago to get your hair cut, Lieutenant?” Jahni grinned.

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”

“I’ll go check on the prisoners.” Hannibal said. “We’ll get out of here as soon as you feel strong enough.”

He went into the hallway where the prisoners were starting to realise they were only dazzled not blind and that the deafness was temporary. BA and Murdock were guarding them. Hannibal found Face back in the front room covering Ziyahd. Ziyahd was back in the armchair where he’d been enjoying the suffering of his enemy. He looked scared.

“Haven’t we been here before?” Hannibal said with a grin.

“Smith…are you going to kill me?” Hannibal raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I wasn’t going to, but I’ve just been looking at what you did to Madari and I just might have changed my mind.”

“I… I didn’t do him any permanent damage.” Ziyahd protested. Hannibal walked over to the table and picked up the pliers he found there.

“But you were going to.” Hannibal said. “And then you were going to do the same thing to me and my men.” Ziyahd’s eyes were fixed on the pliers as Hannibal opened and closed them a couple of times.

“I have money, if you let me go I can make you rich.”

Hannibal laughed. “I’m rich enough.” He turned and spoke to Face, “We’ll be getting out of here soon, get the prisoners ready to transport. If he,” he pointed at Ziyahd, “moves so much as his pinkie finger without permission, give these pliers to Jahni and then lock the two of them in the basement. I mean it.” Ziyahd looked appalled and endeavoured to keep very still. Hannibal dropped the pliers on the table and walked out.

After about twenty minutes Madari felt strong enough to make it to the van, so they gathered up the prisoners and led them out at gunpoint, down the long driveway. It was very dark now and they had to carry flashlights to see their way.

“Hannibal,” Madari said, from where he walked by the Colonel’s side, Jahni holding his arm to steady him. “Thank you again, you saved our lives.” He was wearing a shirt that they’d found among the thugs’ belongings in another room. It hung loosely on him.

“No problem. Actually, it’s been kind of fun.” Hannibal said. “I mean apart from you getting hurt.” He added as Madari raised an eyebrow at him. “But to get out on a mission again, get the old adrenaline going. Yeah, it’s been fun, right fellas?”

“Nice to get a little exercise.” Face admitted.

“You were on the Jazz, Colonel.” Murdock grinned. “Just like old times.”

BA just grunted but he secretly had to admit that this little bit of exercise, as Face called it, had been a nice change of pace.

“That grenade…” Madari said. “Very…effective. I’ve never seen a stun grenade in action before.”

“It was great!” Jahni said, enthusiastically, “Major, you have to talk to Colonel Rahama about getting us some of those.”

“Sorry you had to be on the wrong end of it, Faris.”

Madari shrugged dismissively. “Invented by the SAS, weren’t they?” He asked.

Hannibal nodded, said, “Yeah, you gotta hand it to the British.”

“Indeed,” Madari said. “If you don’t they send people to come and take it anyway.” Murdock snorted at that and Hannibal grinned.

“You know I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you make a joke.” Hannibal said.

“I think it’s the first time I’ve heard you make a joke,” Jahni said, earning him a scowl from the Major, which he didn’t appear to take at all seriously.

“I make many jokes.” Madari said, haughtily. He felt quite…odd. A combination of relief, dehydration and the painkillers Hannibal had insisted he take were making him feel that without Jahni holding his arm he would float away. “And a better Lieutenant would be smart enough to laugh at them.”

“He’s got you there, Kahil.” Face said, chuckling. “Always laugh at your C.O.’s jokes, first rule of being a Lieutenant.”

“Excellent advice, Mr Peck.” Madari said and Hannibal heard the slurring in the words. He moved over to take Madari’s other arm and exchanged a concerned look with Jahni.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have given him that second pill,” he said. “Well, we’re nearly at the van…” He smiled a little, wondering if this was what Madari would be like were he to get drunk.

Then the gunfire started.

Chapter 5

Instinct threw Hannibal to the ground, as the world became a nightmare of machine gun fire and screams, running, panicking figures and muzzle flashes, He crawled, Madari and Jahni following, into the cover of the trees to the left, then looked out over the driveway they’d been strolling down almost casually a moment ago. He couldn’t see his men and fear gripped his heart. But no, that’s good. They got into cover. They must have. The prisoners were lying on the ground. Some were obviously dead, others were wounded. Some seemed to be unhurt but were too scared to go anywhere.

Up the driveway, emerging from the trees a group of dark suited men appeared. There were twelve of them and they all carried automatic weapons. Hannibal saw Jahni raising his handgun, but then stopping and lowering it. There were too many of them to risk giving away their position. And there could be more, concealed elsewhere. The dark men went to the figures on the ground, going first to the moving ones and pulling handguns from shoulder holsters.

Hannibal and his group could only watch, horrified, as the helpless men were finished off. The killers turned over a man Hannibal recognised as Ziyahd, from his suit. They didn’t bother to put another bullet in him. He was very clearly dead, living people need more skull than Ziyahd currently had. One man, blood soaking his shoulder, seeing what was coming to him scrambled to his feet and ran for the trees. Bullets chased him.

“Hell!” Hannibal muttered. The wounded man was heading directly towards their position. “Get ready to move.” As the running man dove into cover Hannibal rose and grabbed him and all four men ran, deeper into the trees. They found a ditch and threw themselves into it, their pursuers crashing around above them, yelling to each other, Hannibal couldn’t make out the words.

“Russians?” Jahni whispered, “I think they’re speaking Russian.” Hannibal listened harder. Jahni was right. Russians. He turned to look at the wounded man he’d dragged along. The man seemed to suddenly realise he was with his former captives and their rescuer and tried to scramble away. Hannibal dragged him back down, hissed at him.

“Stick with us if you want to live, pal.” But the man was terrified beyond all reason. He started to babble in Arabic. Either he didn’t understand English at all or was too scared to understand it right now. Jahni reached over and grabbed his shirtfront, speaking in Arabic to him. Hannibal hoped he was telling the man to shut up and stick with them. If he was it didn’t work. The man pushed Jahni away and ran for it. He crashed through the trees and at once the Russians were after him.

“He’s moving towards the house.” Hannibal said. “Let’s try and get to the van.” Secure their escape, and then he had to find the rest of the team. They moved silently through the trees, downhill, towards the road. Once or twice Hannibal had to look behind to be sure Madari and Jahni were still with him. They moved as silent as ghosts, their guerrilla warfare experience standing them in good stead now. The Major still looked pale but whatever fluffy pink cloud had filled his head earlier was gone now and he was stone cold sober again. Behind them they heard screams.

“They got him.” Madari said quietly. “He’s begging for his life.”

A single gunshot rang out and the screaming stopped.

There was a man with a gun standing by the A-Team van and the van with Ziyahd’s men in it, guarding the vehicles. Jahni raised his gun, but Hannibal stopped him. Not that he had any qualms now about killing the Russian, but the noise would bring the rest of them back. He took his pack off his back and from one of the side pockets took out a silencer and screwed it onto his handgun. He raised the pistol, took aim. He was very aware of the scrutiny of the two soldiers beside him. He hesitated. It had been a long time since he’d done this. Putting that shell into the guard tower had been one thing, he couldn’t see the men he was killing then, but now he was pointing a gun at a human being. Would be able to see him hit, see him fall.

“Colonel, if you want me to…” Jahni began, in a whisper. Hannibal fired and the Russian fell, not even hearing the popping sound of the shot that killed him instantly. At once Jahni hurried out and dragged the body into cover, took the Russian’s gun and gave it to Madari, who was currently unarmed. Hannibal swallowed the sick feeling of disgust.

“Major, secure our van. Lieutenant, come with me.” He led Jahni to the back doors of the van where they’d left Ziyahd’s men.

“We need allies here. These could be the only ones we have. They may take some convincing though, and they’re more likely to listen to you than me. Talk to them while I go find the rest of my team.”

“Yes, Colonel,” They opened the doors of the van.

Jahni muttered something in Arabic that sounded like a curse at the sight of the men in the van. They were all still cuffed as Hannibal had left them and they were all dead, shot. Actually Hannibal realised, not all. There were only five of them and one set of handcuffs was now dangling unoccupied, one bracelet open. And he realised who was missing, ‘Well-built’, the one who had supposedly cracked and led them here.

“Clever.” Hannibal said. “Real clever.”


“Never mind. Let’s just find my team and get the hell out of here, fast.”

They closed the doors and moved back towards the A-Team van. Madari was sitting in the open sliding doorway, the Russian’s pistol in his hand. He looked up at them speculatively and then frowned at their grim faces.

“They’re dead?” He guessed. Hannibal nodded.

“Hannibal!” It was Murdock’s voice and Hannibal’s heart leapt to hear it. He looked up to see all three remaining team members emerging from the trees on the opposite side of the drive. Then his heart sank as he realised BA and Murdock were supporting Face between them. He ran to meet them and saw that Face’s right trouser leg was soaked in blood, from high on his thigh to his ankle. The blood looked black in the moonlight.

“Get him in the van.” He cried urgently.

“It’s bad, Hannibal.” BA said as they got the semi-conscious man in through the back doors. “He’s losing a lot of blood.” Madari had moved right inside now and rested Face’s head on his lap as the others climbed in and surrounded the injured man. BA rushed to the driver’s seat and started the van up, pulled away. As they rounded a bend they passed several cars parked on the side of the road. They hadn’t been there earlier.

“It went right through.” Murdock said. His eyes were wide and scared. “The exit wound is huge.” Hannibal realised Murdock’s hands and clothes were soaked in blood. He grabbed the first aid kit.

“Jahni, do you know the pressure points?”


“Do it!” As Jahni applied pressure to the artery Hannibal found the scissors and cut away the pant leg. He shuddered at the sight of the large ragged wound on the front of Face’s leg. Murdock found a big bandage and applied it to the wound, pressing down hard. He got a smaller dressing and held it on the back of Face’s leg, pressing on the smaller, but also bleeding, entry wound.

“Hannibal, we have to get him to a hospital,” Murdock said, urgently. Hannibal looked at Face. His eyes were open now. He was breathing fast and sweat was pouring down his face. Madari stroked his hair to try to soothe him, but Face looked terrified.

“Hannibal,” he whispered.

“Don’t try to talk, Face,” Hannibal said, preparing a pressure dressing. They had to stop this bleeding. He applied the dressing over the bandage Murdock was holding on the exit wound. The van hit a particularly rough bit of road and the men in the back were jolted around helplessly. Both Murdock and Jahni were thrown from their positions and, as the pressure they were applying stopped, the dressing soaked through with blood again. They scrambled back into place.

“Hannibal,” Face cried, eyes wide with fear, panic edging his voice, “Hannibal, help me, help me!”

And now the Jazz was a very distant memory.


“My hands are going numb.” Jahni said. They had been on the road for fifteen minutes now and Face’s leg wound was still bleeding, though not as fast as before.

“Release the pressure, slowly.” Hannibal said and Jahni carefully moved his hands, sat back, rubbing feeling back into them. There was no immediate flood of blood into the dressing and Hannibal breathed a little easier.

“I think it’s stopping,” he said. But he knew Face was still in big trouble. He’d lost too much blood, he was barely conscious now, muttering unintelligibly between fast panting breaths. His skin was cold and clammy. Madari was monitoring his pulse, a hand on Face’s neck and was looking more worried all the time. Hannibal had taken a blood pressure reading a moment ago and was shocked at how low it was. Murdock was holding Face’s hand and talking softly to him.

“He needs blood, now.” Hannibal said, almost to himself.

“The nearest hospital is fifty miles away,” Murdock said, “It will take us a couple of hours to get there, on these roads, in the dark.” BA didn’t dispute this.

“There must be somewhere closer, a doctor.” Hannibal said.

“The nearest town is ten miles. But it’s in the other direction and who knows if there’s a doctor there. We could spend all night looking! We should keep on heading towards the hospital.” Murdock insisted.

“He won’t make it that far without blood,” Hannibal said. “I’m O-neg, I can donate to Face.” He looked at the two Arabs. “Either of you have B or O blood type?”

“I’m B negative,” Jahni said, “but how…?”

“Hannibal, you’re not thinking of… ” Murdock said. “Oh no! It’s too risky!”

“We’re going to do a direct transfusion.” Hannibal said. “BA, find a place to pull over and get us well off the road.”

“No!” Murdock yelled. “We’ll waste too much time! We should keep moving.”

“Murdock, if we don’t get some blood into him right now he won’t make it to the hospital.” Murdock still looked highly dubious.

“I know Maggie showed you how to do it, Hannibal, but we’ve never tried it.”

“We’ve never had to. Now we do.”

The van bumped over even rougher ground as BA got them off the road. He drove into the cover of some trees, parked up then came into the back with the others.

“This is nuts.” He growled. Everyone else seemed to think so too. They were all looking at Hannibal as if he’d lost his mind. But Hannibal was looking at Face, his skin was deathly pale now, looking almost translucent as it contrasted with Madari’s dark hand on his neck, still monitoring the weakening pulse. Hannibal made the decision.

“All right, let’s clear the crap out of here and make room. Give me that box beside the first aid kit, it has all the equipment.” The tone of command was clear and the others scrambled to obey it, started preparing the van.

“We’ll do Jahni’s donation first, so I can show you all how it’s done. Then you can do me.” Murdock still looked dubious as he hauled equipment out of the back doors of the van.

“I think we should only do you, Hannibal, you’ve given to Face before, we know you’re compatible. We can’t test Kahil’s blood to make sure it matches.”

“I’m definitely B negative,” Jahni said, pulling out his army identity tags and showing them to Murdock.

“Yeah, but it can be more complicated than that. There can be all sorts of other factors.”

“He needs more than one unit,” Hannibal said. “And his own type is better for him than O-neg. We have to take the chance.” Murdock looked as if he still wanted to protest but saw that Hannibal had made his decision and went quiet.

Within a few minutes they had the van prepared. Face and Jahni lay side by side on sleeping bags on the floor. “Okay,” Hannibal said. “I want you all to watch real close.”

The worst part was getting the needle into Face’s arm, and Hannibal was sweating by the time he’d managed to do it. Face, semi conscious and agitated, kept trying to writhe away and had to be held down by BA.

“All right,” Hannibal said, taking a deep breath and turning to Jahni. “Gimme a vein, kid.” That needle went in easy enough, though Jahni gave a groan and turned away so he didn’t have to look at it.

“You’ll take a bullet for me, but you’re scared of a little needle?” Madari said, quietly, teasing the Lieutenant to distract him.

“I hate them.” He squeezed the rubber ball they’d found, that Murdock said was one of Billy’s toys and the tube connecting the two men went red with Jahni’s blood as it surged into Face.


“His pulse is stronger.” BA reported, looking at his watch. It was a half hour now since they had started this, in his opinion, madness, and Hannibal was lying beside Face, a needle in his arm. Face lay quiet now. His breathing was steady.

“Blood pressure, Murdock?” Hannibal asked.

“Coming up.” Murdock replied He stroked Face’s hair off his forehead. “His skin doesn’t feel so clammy either. This insanity might actually be working.”

There were only the four of them in the van. Madari and Jahni were outside, keeping watch.

“How are the wounds?” Hannibal asked. Murdock checked, found no sign of fresh bleeding through the dressings.

“Okay for now.” He said. “But we have to get moving to that hospital as soon as we’re done here.”

“Agreed.” Hannibal said. It took a few more minutes then Murdock called a halt.

“You’ve given over a pint, Hannibal. That’s enough.”

“We took nearly a pint and a half from Jahni.” Hannibal protested.

“He’s a lot younger than you.” BA pointed out.

“Thanks for that.” Hannibal said. “Okay, unhook me and we’ll get moving.”

Once he was free of the needle he left BA and Murdock to clear up and make Face comfortable and opened the back doors of the van, to climb out into the cool night air. Jahni was sitting on one of the boxes they had thrown out earlier to make room. He was eating an apple.

“How’s Face?” he asked at once.

“Better, stable. Where’s the Major?” Hannibal asked. Jahni, mouth full as he bit his apple, gestured upwards and Hannibal looked up to see the Major balanced in a tree, a pair of binoculars trained on the road.

“There’s movement about ten kilometres back, several cars.” He reported from his vantage point.

“Coming this way?”

“Yes, but slowly. They’re searching, I think.”

“Okay, we’re going to get moving again, help me get this stuff back on the van.” Jahni got up and picked up the box he’d been sitting on, passed it to BA in the van. The Major came down from the tree, landing lightly beside Hannibal. He handed the Colonel an apple.

“You just gave blood. You should eat,” he said.

“I thought I put you out here on watch, not as a forage party?” Hannibal said with a slight smile.

“I happened to be watching from an apple tree.” Madari said with a shrug. He went to help Jahni with the boxes and other gear they were loading. Hannibal shrugged too and bit his apple. It was still a little hard and bitter.

Within a few minutes they were ready to move. Face was on a makeshift bed in the back, with sleeping bags and blankets to cushion him as much as possible against the bumps in the road. Murdock sat beside him to monitor him and keep him from rolling about too much. Hannibal took his seat in the front. Jahni found a space between two boxes to wedge himself, closed his eyes and fell asleep before they even made their way off the rough ground and onto the road. Madari took Murdock’s usual chair behind BA. He also closed his eyes. He looked exhausted. Hannibal considered offering him more painkillers, his battered body was surely complaining again by now. But Hannibal needed them all ready for action, and, going by the man’s earlier reaction, he feared Madari would be too addled by the strong drugs to fight effectively.

BA drove onto the road and headed in the direction of the hospital again. As Face was stable he could take it more slowly and spare the injured man and the rest of them some of the worse of the bumps. It wasn’t just a matter of comfort though. As they’d hurtled at breakneck speed over the bad roads he had been in terror of breaking an axle and stranding them out here miles from help. Now he went at a steady pace and avoided the biggest holes and bumps. It became very quiet in the van, only the occasional soft murmur from Murdock, comforting Face, broke the silence. Madari fell asleep. BA glanced over at Hannibal wondering if he was sleeping too. He wasn’t, he was looking out into the darkness ahead, an unlit cigar clamped in his teeth. BA recognised the look. Hannibal was planning.

Chapter 6

“Stop the van!” Hannibal shouted suddenly. BA slammed on the brakes and they were all thrown forward by the sudden halt. Even Jahni, who had slept peacefully over some thirty plus miles of bumpy roads, opened his eyes.

“Hannibal! What the hell?” Murdock protested, from where he had thrown himself across Face to stop him from being jolted too much. Face gave a moan, blinked confused at Murdock, who shushed him gently. Hannibal felt a stab of guilt, but had no time to indulge it. He pushed his way into the back of the van and rummaged in an equipment box till he found what he wanted, then opened the sliding door and got out. BA, Madari and Jahni followed him.

“What’s wrong?” BA asked as Hannibal started to run the piece of equipment he’d retrieved from the box around the van.

“We got away much too easy back there. I was so worried about Face I wasn’t thinking about it, but there has to be a reason.” He worked his way around to the back of the van. Murdock had opened the doors to let in a little fresh air. The box in Hannibal’s hands started beeping. “I knew it!” He reached under the van, felt around the chassis, then straightened up with a small electronic device in his hand, it had a tiny aerial protruding from it.

“Damn.” Murdock said softly.

“So they let us go, to track us?” BA said, sounding baffled. “Why?”

“I don’t know and right now I don’t care.” Hannibal said. He tossed the bug into a ditch. “We need to get to that hospital. Everybody back aboard, move it.” They climbed in the back doors and Hannibal closed the sliding door and got into his seat. “Go, BA.” They moved off again.

Hannibal looked back at the other passengers. Apart from Face, who had dozed off again they were all looking very thoughtful as they tried to figure the situation out.

“Okay,” Hannibal said. “Let’s start from what we know. The KGB, assuming that’s who they are, killed Ziyahd. And I watched them, they checked to make sure they got him. Why?” He sounded like a teacher trying to elicit the right answers from the class.

“He lost their men while they were under his protection.” Murdock answered.

“And we took their men.” Hannibal said, “So you’d assume they would want to kill us too. And Faris helped us do that, then his guerrilla campaign helped to throw out the government the Soviets were supporting, so that makes him a target too.”

“It was pretty handy for them that Ziyahd got us all together in one place then wasn’t it?” Murdock said, sounding as if he didn’t believe it was luck at all.

“They let Ziyahd and his thugs do the leg-work.” Hannibal said. “Though they had a man inside so they could feed him information.”

“A man inside?” Murdock said. Hannibal nodded.

“Remember the guy who cracked and took us to the house? He was the only one they didn’t shoot in the van, he was gone when we got there.”

“Wait,” Murdock said. “They shot those guys we left in the van? I forgot all about those guys. They shot them?” He sounded disbelieving and Hannibal couldn’t blame him. He was pretty sure that the sight of those dead men was one of the things he was going to be seeing in his nightmares for some time to come. “They were handcuffed…” Murdock said softly, and then his voice grew angry. “What kind of people are these bastards? I mean, yeah, KGB, ruthless killers, obviously. But a massacre like this? It seems a bit… well, excessive, not their style.”

“I know,” Hannibal said. “It seems like it’s something… I don’t know… personal maybe.”

“Russians…” Jahni said. “What happened to those Russians you brought here from the prison?”

“We handed them over to the CIA and never saw them again.” Hannibal said.

“You don’t think…” Murdock said. “You don’t think the government freed them do you?” Madari looked at Murdock sharply.

“Freed them? Why would they free them? They’re torturers.” His hands curled into fists, not aggressively Hannibal could see, but protectively over his fingernails.

“They could have given them new identities, if they co-operated enough with the CIA,” Hannibal said. When Madari looked at him shocked, he said. “It’s been done before. Nazi’s, Vietcong.” He shook his head. “I don’t like it, but it happens.”

“Okay, so maybe it could be them,” Murdock said, “but that still doesn’t explain why they let us get away. And if it was, I don’t know, just dumb luck that we escaped and they had a tracker on us, why didn’t they catch us when we were stopped for nearly an hour?”

“The cars I was watching,” Madari said. “They were moving slowly, I thought they were searching, but perhaps they were deliberately staying back.”

“I don’t know.” Hannibal shook his head, frustrated and fell silent again. They all went quiet and sank into their separate thoughts. No one spoke again until they were near the hospital.


The hospital was more of a clinic, but it had an OR which Face was currently in while Hannibal dealt with another problem.

“A hunting accident?” The Sheriff looked at Hannibal with frank disbelief. The doctor who had called him said the patient the five blood covered men had brought in had a leg wound that was probably from automatic fire. Still there were some nuts out there that would hunt with anything and these guys certainly looked like they came under the category of ‘nuts’. The tall one in the baseball cap was sobbing his heart out about how he’d mistaken his best friend for a trophy buck and how he would never forgive himself. The Sheriff looked at the two Arab men. Both had cuts and bruises on their faces.

“And these gentlemen are…?” He asked Hannibal.

“Friends of mine visiting from the Middle East.” Hannibal said. “They don’t speak much English I’m afraid.” As the Sheriff looked at them they leant close to each other and spoke quietly and rapidly in a foreign language, darting glances at him and gesturing to each other. Then both sat back and smiled and nodded at him.

“Okay, Mr Murdock.” Murdock broke out in renewed sobs and the sheriff could see he wasn’t going to get anything useful out of him right now. The one who called himself Mr Smith, which had to be made up, was patting Mr Murdock’s shoulder and shushing him. The huge black man was glaring at him and the Arabs were whispering to each other again.

“Tell you what,” the Sheriff stood up. “Why don’t I come back later this morning and take your statements then?” His bed was calling to him. Parties of blood soaked weekend hunters with an injured friend mistaken for the prey were a common enough sight in the clinic, though this particular party seemed of the very uncommon variety.

“I think that would be best.” Hannibal said. Our friend will be in surgery for a couple of hours and I think we’ll all feel much better when we know he’s okay.”

“I’ll see you again about ten o’clock.” As the Sheriff left the two Arabs broke off talking (about him he was certain) and smiled and nodded again till he was out of the door. As the door closed behind the man they all relaxed.

Hannibal sank deeper into the waiting room chair relieved to have at least put that off for a little while.

“Good work, Murdock,” he said, grinning at the Captain, who was smiling through the tears that had left tracks on his face. “Real tears too. Nice touch. And you two,” he said, looking at Madari and Jahni. “Sure you don’t want a couple of plates of sheep’s eyeballs to complete the act?” Jahni pulled a disgusted face then grinned. Even Madari smiled a little. The only person not smiling was BA.

“Hunting accident?” BA shook his head. “Why don’t we tell the truth? We can do that now.”

“What? That a KGB death squad is on our tail? They’ll put us in the psych ward. No offence, Murdock. In the morning I’m calling Willis at the CIA. He debriefed us after we got home from Qumar,” he explained to Madari and Jahni. “He’s a good guy, he’ll find out what’s going on.” BA shook his head again.

“Yeah, ’cause involvin’ the CIA, that always makes things better.”


“You look terrible.” Face said weakly as his friends crowded around his bed in the small post-op recovery ward. Outside dawn had broken and grey early morning light filtered in through the blinds.

“That was gonna be my line.” Murdock protested. They weren’t all supposed to be in here, but none of the staff seemed inclined to argue with them.

“Hannibal, Kahil. Thanks for the top-up, guys.”

“No problem, kid, you’re always welcome to a drop,” Hannibal said, patting Face’s arm. He couldn’t keep the grin from his face He left his hand where it was, didn’t want to let go of Face for a very long time. Jahni reached over and shook Face’s hand, smiling.

“We Lieutenants must stick together,” he said.

“Clot together.” Murdock said, provoking Face to roll his eyes. A nurse came in then, one they hadn’t seen before. She had only just come on duty and the five strange men didn’t seem to intimidate her one bit. She chivvied them out of the room, telling them to come back later when Face would be properly settled in the ward.

Outside Hannibal looked at his group and realised Face was right, they did look terrible, covered with dried blood and dirt. They needed to get cleaned up and they all needed rest. His instinct told him they were safe for now, in daylight. The danger would return with the darkness. Leaving BA on watch guarding Face the rest of them found the small town’s only hotel and engaged a room. Trophy animal heads gazed glassily down at them from the walls and seemed to give them the same dubious looks as the grizzled proprietor as he handed over their room key.

Once Murdock and Jahni were showered and in fresh clothes Hannibal sent them out to buy some food. He showered and dressed and as he came out of the bathroom spoke to Madari who was resting on one of the beds.

“Faris, let me check your wounds before you hit the shower.” Madari sat up and took off his shirt. He let Hannibal remove the dressings on his back, covering the places where the whip had broken his skin. “They’re fine, healing well already.” Which was a relief, as having to get Madari’s highly suspicious injuries treated at the clinic would have blown their hunting accident story wide open. He moved to the front and checked the cigar burns. They were doing well too, though he feared some of them would leave scars. The Major already had many scars, souvenirs of battle and torture.

“Okay, get cleaned up then I’ll put fresh dressings on.”

Madari went for his shower and emerged a short time later, shirtless. Hannibal applied the new dressings. As he did so he said. “You know we can get another room, if you and Jahni need some privacy.” Madari looked over his shoulder at Hannibal frowning. “To pray I mean.”

“Oh. No, that won’t be necessary.” Off Hannibal’s look he went on, “I was never a very devout man. In my family the military is our religion.”

“And Jahni?” Madari turned away again and in the dressing table mirror Hannibal could see him become very serious.

“Jahni has no religion. Since he found out his family, including his young sisters, were all killed by government soldiers he has believed in nothing.” Hannibal shook his head sadly; understanding now where the darkness he saw in Jahni had come from. Hannibal completed the dressings and Madari stood up, put on a clean shirt.

“I must admit, though, I said a few prayers last night, in the van.”

“Me too,” Hannibal said. “I hope at least one of our gods was listening.” After a moment he said, “But you’re wrong about Jahni, you said he believes in nothing, but he believes in you. You’re his leader.”

“I know.” Madari didn’t look at Hannibal, apparently intent on doing up his shirt buttons. “Loyalty like that is a gift, but it can be… troubling.” Hannibal nodded his understanding. When your men would follow you into the maw of hell itself it was a heavy burden on you to make sure you never led them there.

Jahni arrived then along with BA, Murdock having taken his place at the clinic. They carried grocery bags and as BA went to clean up the rest of them prepared a makeshift breakfast, which BA soon joined them to eat. Afterwards Madari leant back on the pillows of one of the beds, eyes closed. He looked tired still and in pain.

“Make some tea, Jahni,” he said and the Lieutenant put the small kettle on to boil.

“Try one of these cakes, sir.” Jahni offered the Major. “They’re called Twinkies. Murdock says they’re very good.” Madari regarded the Twinkie with deep suspicion.

“Thank you, no, just tea.”

“Twinkies for breakfast,” BA said, disgusted, and shuddered. Hannibal grinned. Twinkies for breakfast sounded like Murdock’s style all right. He took one himself, ate it quickly and stood up.

“I’m going to call Willis. I want you all to rest. I think we’re safe for now but tonight will be a different story and I want us all together at the hospital, so get some sleep while you can. Leave one man on watch. Faris, take a painkiller, but only one. You were high as a kite when you had two.” Jahni grinned at the idea of his commander being ‘high as a kite’. “I’ll be at the hospital with Murdock. Two of you come over later to relieve us.” His tone brooked no argument.

Hannibal left and the three men finished their tea and settled down. BA and Madari were soon asleep on the two single beds. Jahni pulled a chair in front of the dresser and began to lay out the gun cleaning kit he’d had in his holdall that the A-Team had brought from the hotel in LA. Like Hannibal he was sure there would be a fight later. Once the darkness came back so would the enemy. He cleaned and oiled his handgun carefully. Madari had drummed this discipline into him painstakingly. “Keep the sand out your weapon, Lieutenant and you just might keep that reckless head of yours on your shoulders.” Not much sand to speak of around here, but a clean gun was a soldier’s friend. He finished his own, put it aside and started on BA’s.


Hannibal was getting worried. They hadn’t heard back from Willis yet and it was getting dark. They hadn’t seen the Sheriff again either, which Hannibal suspected he had Willis to thank for. They were all back at the clinic now, ready for what Hannibal hoped would only be a vigil and not a battle. The staff looked alarmed at the serious men and Hannibal told everyone to keep weapons out of sight until they were needed.

He went into Face’s room to check on him. Face looked a lot better now, sitting up in bed, talking to Murdock, he seemed almost like his old self. But he was still weak and the doctor had made it clear he couldn’t be moved for at least another two days, or he risked re-opening his leg wound and ending up in a worse state than before. Hannibal hated it, hated having to wait here. He wanted to pick Face up and run with him, back to LA, home ground. But he knew he had to be patient. Murdock was flipping through the channels on the TV. Jahni came in with some of the horrible coffee from the vending machine. Hannibal went over to the window and checked outside. It was fully dark now.

“Okay, fellas, let’s get into position. BA on patrol outside, I’ll stay in here with Face. Murdock and Kahil, stay in the waiting room and try to get some shut-eye. Faris will patrol the corridors and cover the back. We’ll swap around at midnight.”


Hannibal checked the clock as he passed the nurse’s station. Oh-two-ten hours. The nurse on duty looked at him nervously and he gave her a reassuring smile. It wasn’t effective, she could tell he was patrolling, expecting trouble. The only other staff on duty in the small facility, a doctor and another nurse also watched him with fear and suspicion.

Hannibal moved on down the hallway, glanced into Face’s room. Face was sleeping peacefully. Murdock awake, reading a book, was curled up in the visitor’s chair by the bed. He went into the waiting room, where BA and Madari were sleeping. The Major was stretched on a sofa, but stirred restlessly. The blanket he’d been covered with had fallen to the floor. He gave the occasional soft cry and as Hannibal watched his hands pawed at his throat as if something was choking him, his face distorted with fear.

Had it been Face or Murdock Hannibal might have gone over and stroked their hair, talked softly, to soothe them, but he wasn’t sure how Madari would react. He’d once tried the same thing on BA and received a black eye for his trouble and the Sergeant hadn’t even woken from his nightmare. He considered calling Jahni in, from where he was patrolling outside, no doubt he had experience dealing with the Major’s demons, but a moment later Madari seemed to settle, his face relaxed and his cries stopped. Hannibal glanced at BA. He hadn’t woken. He slept soundly despite sitting up in an armchair. He didn’t snore. Snoring had not been a survival trait in the jungles of Vietnam.

Hannibal moved on, to the dark corridors at the back of the clinic and looked out of a window. His eyes narrowed and he lifted his walkie-talkie.

“Jahni, come in.”

“Go ahead, Colonel.”

“There’s movement out the back. Anything going on out front?”

“No, sir. Do you want me to go and check it?”

“No, hold position. I’ll wake the others and take a patrol out. Stay alert.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Jahni… don’t kill anyone unless you’re absolutely sure they’re KGB.” There was a pause then Jahni’s voice came through again, sounding a little insulted.

“Roger, Colonel.”

Hannibal started to move towards the waiting room when his walkie-talkie burst back into life, as Jahni yelled, “Colonel! They’re…” and was abruptly cut off.

“Lieutenant?” Hannibal called urgently. “Come in, Jahni!” No answer. Murdock, who had heard the conversation on his own radio came to the door of Face’s room, eyes wide, gun ready. “Stay in there,” Hannibal told him, “Close the door, no-one gets in without giving the password.” Murdock nodded and retreated inside. Hannibal ran to the waiting room and woke BA and Madari. They jumped to their feet, instantly alert. “Take positions.” Hannibal ordered. BA ran down the corridor to guard the rear exit. Madari looked at Hannibal.


“I don’t know.” Hannibal admitted. “But I haven’t heard any gunshots. Get the civilians into cover.” Hannibal was grateful that Face was the only patient in the clinic tonight, so besides him there was only the doctor and two nurses to protect. Madari strode to the nurses station. The staff shrank back from the tall, grim faced Arab officer. When he spoke his voice was polite but commanding.

“Please move into that room.” He indicated their staff room located behind the nurse’s station. “Lie on the floor. Whatever you hear stay in there. I will not allow anyone to harm you.” Scared they obeyed him and he turned off the light and closed the door on them. Only then did he draw his gun. He switched off all the other lights around the nurse’s station and the corridor and crouched down behind the desk.

Hannibal took position on the opposite side of the corridor, concealed by a screen. His gun was ready in his hand. He could see the big double doors to the ward from his position.

A second after Hannibal was in place the doors slammed back and two large, dark suited men came through, fast. They were armed with handguns and swept the area. A moment later another dark suited man walked in. He looked around the dim corridor.

To the astonishment of Madari Hannibal stepped out from cover into the corridor. The man who had come in last smiled as if delighted to be meeting an old friend.

“Colonel Smith, good to see you again. You look well.” He acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to be here and Hannibal was instantly determined to be equally as cool about it. He took out a cigar, lit it and shook out the match. Only then did he speak to the smiling man.

“Hello, Stockwell.”

Chapter 7

“Hello, Stockwell. The man pointing the gun at your head is Major Madari of the Qumari Royal Guard. I don’t believe you’ve met.” Stockwell turned to see Madari, arms resting across the desk of the nurse’s station, his automatic gripped firmly in both hands, aiming directly at Stockwell. An Able was covering him, but no-one fired.

“Ah, so can I assume the young man we encountered outside is Lieutenant Jahni?” Stockwell asked.

“If he has been hurt…” Madari’s voice was quiet, threatening.

“I assure you, the Lieutenant is quite unharmed,” Stockwell paused, smiled, “merely disarmed.”

“Bring him in here.” Hannibal snapped in a voice so commanding that one of the Ables found himself lifting his radio to relay the order even before Stockwell approved it.

“Colonel, who is this man?” Madari asked, sounding irritated. Understandably Hannibal thought, Stockwell was radiating smugness like the cat that got not only the cream but also the canary and then heard that next door’s dog had been hit by a car.

“This is General Hunt Stockwell, our ex-boss. The man who abandoned us to die in Qumar.”

“Do you want me to shoot him?” The Ables tensed, but Stockwell raised a hand. Hannibal puffed on his cigar and didn’t speak. “Colonel?”

“I’m thinking it over.” Hannibal said.

There was a commotion outside the doors of the ward and three large Ables dragged in a struggling, cursing Jahni. Despite having his hands cuffed behind his back he was, Hannibal was pleased to see, making life difficult for his escorts. One had a bloodied nose, another a split lip. The third walked awkwardly and had a pained look on his face that suggested he’d been kicked somewhere sensitive. Madari called out in Arabic to Jahni and the Lieutenant stopped fighting, stood glaring instead, panting a little. “I wasn’t certain they were KGB, sir,” he said, looking at Hannibal, implying this was the only reason the Ables were still alive.

“They’re not,” Hannibal said, “though the difference is barely noticeable.” Turning to Stockwell he said. “Let him out of those cuffs.”

“I’m not sure I have enough men here to deal with Lieutenant Jahni unrestrained.” Stockwell smirked, apparently finding himself amusing.

“Are you sure I can’t shoot him?” Madari asked Hannibal. Hannibal understood how he felt. His own fists were starting to itch.

“Have you noticed, Stockwell, how people take an instant dislike to you? Why do you think that is?”

“Saves time.” BA’s deep voice came from behind Hannibal, and Hannibal enjoyed seeing the Ables jump at the sound. They’d had no idea he was there.

“Sergeant.” Stockwell said in acknowledgement as BA loomed out of the darkness. BA had heard quite enough of this banter and decided it was time to get to the heart of the matter.

“What the heck are you doing here, Stockwell? Why ain’t you in jail?”

“I was beginning to think you were never going to ask. Shall we go into Lieutenant Peck’s room and discuss it? ”


Face and Murdock’s reaction to the sight of Stockwell was predictable enough.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Face sounded so agitated that Murdock hitched up his jaw that had fallen open and turned to Face to urge him to take it easy.

“Take it easy?” Face yelled. “You did see who just walked in, didn’t you.” Hannibal put a hand on Face’s shoulder, trying to calm him.

“I know, Face, I know, let’s just hear what he has to say.” Face went quiet, simmering.

“Spill it, Stockwell, why aren’t you in jail?” Hannibal asked.

“But I am, Colonel. Visitors to the Foxton Penitentiary can see the notorious, disgraced General Stockwell in his cell any day they care to.”

“But not tonight.” Hannibal said.

“No, tonight I had to be taken into hospital for a minor surgical procedure, I’m expected to recover and return to prison within a few days.” He smiled with the same insufferable smugness at the men who were staring at him with a mix of puzzlement and hostility. He sobered a little, looked more serious.

“My work for the government was far too valuable to be interrupted by my unfortunate incarceration. Facilities are provided for me and I take the occasional, shall we say ‘field trip’ when the situation warrants it.”

“Come on, Stockwell,” Murdock sounded incredulous, “you’re expecting us to believe you’re running your organisation from jail?”

“Capone did.” Hannibal pointed out.

“Apt comparison.” Face said, bitterly. “And he didn’t even get field trips.”

“Those people you named at your trial,” Hannibal said, “They were just fall guys weren’t they? To hide how high this goes.” Stockwell looked at him, like a teacher proud of a good student. “You report right to the top don’t you? The President?” Stockwell looked disappointed then.

“I thought you had a more sophisticated outlook, Colonel. You say ‘the top’, then you mention a politician as if he were someone that mattered.”

“The more he talks the more I wanna hit him.” BA growled.

“Specifics, Stockwell,” Hannibal demanded. “Why are you here? Why here, why now? What do you care if the Russians kill us?” Stockwell looked surprised at the question.

“I don’t like the KGB running around in my country killing people any more than you do, Colonel.”

“Even if those people are us?” Hannibal asked. “I’d have thought you’d have cheered them on.” Stockwell shook his head, looking surprised at Hannibal’s words.

“Colonel, I hold no grudge against you and your team. What would be the point? You did what you had to do, I did what I had to do. Why make an emotional issue out of it?” The A-Team exchanged astonished glances. They knew Stockwell was a cold fish, but this was a little chilly even for him.

“Gentlemen,” Stockwell said, ignoring their looks, “The man who is after you is a KGB Colonel named Viktor Svidler. The four men you brought here from Qumar were part of his unit and it seems he is seeking revenge on you for their loss. I have encountered Svidler before and know how he thinks. At least I used to know. He has become more unpredictable lately.”

“Sounds a little sentimental for KGB. Why doesn’t he just requisition some new torturers from head office, I’m sure they have plenty.” Hannibal said.

“He’s not so much sentimental as more… well, possibly insane.”

“Oh, that’s just great.” Face muttered.

“He was recalled by the head of the KGB First Chief Directorate several months ago to answer a board of enquiry into his…ah… somewhat extreme methods. He has failed to obey or even acknowledge that order and is officially designated as rogue.”

“It gets better and better.” Murdock said.

“So a crazy, mass murdering, rouge KGB Colonel is on our tail and you’ve come to save us, Stockwell?” Hannibal asked. The General smiled.

“Can someone just shoot me now and get it over with?” Face groaned.


“He hasn’t really come to save us,” Hannibal said. “He’s after Svidler and he’ll use us to get him.”

“But you’re prepared to go along with that.” Madari said. Hannibal had taken the two Arabs into the small staff room. Murdock and BA were with Face. “You want to get him too.”

“Svidler’s trying to kill us, his men shot Face and massacred our prisoners. Yeah I wanna get him.”

“So do we.” Jahni said.

“Well, that’s sort of what I called you in here to talk about. I want you two to take this chance to get out of here. Stockwell’s men can get you safely back to LA and onto a plane home.”

“What?” Jahni exploded. “You must be mad!”

“Jahni!” Madari snapped at him and then spoke sharply to him in Arabic. Jahni shouted back in the same language and Madari’s face went hard. His voice became coldly commanding and whatever he said made Jahni drop his gaze to the floor, though he still quivered with rage. At another word from the Major he spun on his heel and marched out of the room.

“I apologise for his rudeness, Colonel.” Madari said, very formal.

“That’s okay. I know, he’s a feisty kid and wants to fight. But this really is for the best.”

“You misunderstand, Colonel. I apologise for the way he spoke. I do not disagree with him.”


“You think we would run while you are still in danger? You insult us.” He sounded angry and Hannibal sighed, got a feeling he wouldn’t win this one. And the truth was he needed them. He was a man down and he didn’t trust the Ables. He needed fighting men that he knew were on his side.

“Okay, Major, you win. Just don’t come crying to me if you get yourself killed.” He momentarily enjoyed the bafflement on Madari’s face at the strange expression.

“Um, I won’t,” the Major said, frowning.

They started to leave the room. Hannibal switched off the light and as the room went dark he saw the flash outside through the window, was instantly aware of the accompanying sound.

“Everybody down!” He yelled at the top of his voice, grabbing Madari and pushing him to the floor, behind the wall between the nurse’s station and the staff room. The window above them exploded, as did a big patch of the opposite wall. Broken glass, wood splinters and plaster rained down. His ears ringing from the blast Hannibal was on his feet again in a second ran to Face’s room. Face was under the bed, where BA and Murdock had dragged him. None of them was hurt.

Stockwell, plaster dust covering his shoulders and hair came into the room, his gun drawn.

“It came from those trees outside, to the west.” Hannibal said, urgently. Stockwell hurried back out barking orders at his men. Hannibal followed him out. “Stockwell, wait…” he began and heard the sound again and someone – an Able – yelled, “Down!”

The rocket smashed through the flimsy partition wall dividing the staff room from the nurses station and hit the waiting room vending machine, which exploded blasting out sparks, hot water and burning paper cups. Sheltered against the front of the nurse’s station Hannibal said to Stockwell, “Don’t send your goons blundering through the trees, we’ll go out there and take them out.” Stockwell looked at him, knew he was right. This called for the skills that were the province of Special Forces and guerrilla fighters.

“Agreed, Colonel, gather your men and proceed.” Hannibal bristled a little at being given what sounded very much like an order from Stockwell, but had no time to take issue with it. He stuck his head above the nurse’s station, yelled to Madari. “Get Jahni, get to the back door west, wait for us there.” Madari moved out. Hannibal, staying low, went back to Face’s room.

“Murdock, BA, we’re going out to take care of that rocket launcher and whatever else we might find out there.” They nodded grimly.

“Hannibal.” Face said. He was still under the bed, had a blanket wrapped around him now. “Hannibal, don’t go out there.”

“We’ll be fine, kid.” Hannibal reassured him. “Back exit, west. Move it,” he said to BA and Murdock and they left, both touching Face before they went, briefly on the shoulder or arm, as if he would bring them luck.

“No,” Face said, “I mean don’t leave me here, with him.” He was looking past Hannibal, who glanced over his shoulder; saw Stockwell coming into the room.

“Face we’ll be back real quick. And Stockwell is going to take very good care of you,” Hannibal turned to glare at Stockwell. “Isn’t he?”

“I will,” Stockwell said, “you have my word.” Face didn’t look convinced. He dropped his gaze to the floor as Hannibal went to move away. Hannibal squeezed his hand to try to reassure him then pulled away not looking into Face’s eyes as he headed out.

He met the others at the back exit door. They were all checking their weapons, loading guns, strapping sheathed knives to their belts. Hannibal saw something in Murdock’s eyes, not just fear of the enemy, but fear of what he had to do to the enemy.

“Okay, listen up, it’s about two hundred yards to the trees…” Another explosion shook the building. Hannibal waited for the noise to pass and went on. “We have to take out that rocket launcher and incapacitate as many of those guys as possible. Keep it as quiet as you can, use guns only if you have to. Move out.” Well he’d given an out from the killing to anyone who wanted it by saying ‘incapacitate’. It was up to them if they used it. They left the clinic and staying low headed towards the trees.


Twenty minutes after the first rocket hit the clinic Hannibal killed the man firing the launcher, then turned to help Madari deal with two more men. There were plenty more KGB agents in the woods, Hannibal could hear them moving about, heard the occasional signal whistle. Jahni had gone off on his own. BA and Murdock had gone together. Hunting.

Hannibal looked at the launcher on the ground. It was too bulky to carry around, but he couldn’t leave it here for the enemy to use it again. He took a fragmentation grenade from his pocket, pulled the pin and stuffed it in the barrel of the rocket launcher. They ran. Hannibal was counting. On four he threw himself to the ground. The Major took the hint and did the same.

They sat up as the sound of the grenade and the exploding rocket launcher and the unused rockets that had been beside it died away.

“Nice.” Hannibal said. Madari gave a feral grin in response. Then his face went serious again and he pulled Hannibal back to the ground as he saw a black-clad man through the trees barely ten yards from them. The Russian didn’t see them. He was looking in the direction of the explosion.

Hannibal started to point Madari to go left while he took the right. But before they had a chance to move a figure moved soundlessly out of the trees behind the Russian and grabbed him around the throat. Steel flashed in the moonlight as Jahni thrust his knife into the KGB man’s heart. There was no cry, not even a gurgle. The dying man’s voice was cut off by the Lieutenant’s forearm pressing on his windpipe. The Russian went limp and Jahni lowered the body to the ground, relieving it of knife and gun. Madari gave a soft whistle and Jahni instantly looked directly at them. His face was so grim and hard he was barely recognisable. He nodded curtly at Hannibal and Madari and then vanished back into the trees. The whole thing had taken maybe ten seconds.

Hannibal felt like he’d just been transported back twenty years. He saw jungle instead of woods, Vietcong instead of KGB. And Face, moving with the same efficiency and deadly grace, replaced the young Arab in his mind’s eye. “That kid’s a natural,” he breathed, an echo twenty years old.

“I told you he was good.” Madari said, his voice quiet and proud. He had, in his letters and Hannibal hadn’t believed it. He’d thought Jahni was too headstrong and immature and that Madari indulged him too much. Now he believed it. They split up then. There was plenty more killing to be done.


BA was finishing off one of the two men that had attacked them, dropping from the tree branches down onto their backs. The Russian BA fought soon began to falter under hammer blows from the Sergeant’s fists, which were grazed from the men he’d already fought.

Murdock though was in trouble. His opponent was heavier and stronger than him and had managed to knock him to the ground. Both had lost their weapons in the struggle and the Russian wrapped his big hands around the Captain’s throat.

Trapped under the larger man’s weight, unable to throw him off, Murdock almost panicked as his breath was cut off, but he held onto control. His arms were free and he clapped his hands hard onto the man’s ears. The KGB man howled with pain and his grip loosened a fraction. Murdock groped for the hands around his neck, found the little fingers and twisted them, felt one of them break. But the Russian seemed impervious and his grip tightened again.

Murdock’s vision started to cloud, blood roared in his ears and in desperation he clawed at the man’s face, fingers hooked, reaching for the eyes even as he felt the strength draining from his arms…


Jahni found himself fighting not a Russian this time but an Arab. He realised at once this must be the man the KGB had on the inside, spying on Ziyahd. He was a tough opponent and managed to break free of Jahni’s grip before the Lieutenant could stab him. They circled each other warily, knives ready. The man smirked at him.

“So you’re Jahni.” Jahni didn’t waste his breath answering the traitor. He watched for an opening. “Good, I get to kill you too.” Too? Jahni couldn’t keep the look of alarm off his face. “Yes, I already killed your beloved Major.”


“Not ten minutes ago, slit his throat,” he mimed it with a finger. “Watched him die.”

Jahni lunged at him with a scream of rage.


BA kicked the KGB agent in the head. The man was so intent on throttling Murdock he didn’t even see it coming. He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Murdock rolled on his side, making horrible desperate gasping sounds as he gulped in the chill night air. BA crouched beside him.

“Easy, Murdock,” he said, in a surprisingly gentle voice, “take it slow.” He moved aside Murdock’s hands and carefully felt his neck, checking for crushed cartilage, but there didn’t seem to be any serious damage. He took out his gun and kept watch, giving Murdock time to recover. When Murdock started trying to sit up, BA said, “Come on, man, pull it together, we have to finish these guys.” Murdock responded automatically to the stern tone and let BA pull him to his feet. He was pale, but his eyes were alert. He started looking for his dropped weapons. BA checked on Murdock’s attacker.

“Use his belt to tie him up,” Murdock suggested.

“Don’t need to,” BA said, quietly. “He’s dead.” His kick must have snapped the man’s neck. It had been instinctive. For a long time he’d disciplined himself, as he believed all strong men should, to restrain the lethal force he knew he was capable of. But now in the dark, under the trees, surrounded by killers, the instincts were in control.


Jahni regretted the lunge instantly, knew he’d let his anger control him instead of the other way around. His arm was caught and would have been broken, but he recovered his balance and kicked his attacker in the back of the knees, taking him down.

As they fell Jahni’s arm was still held against his opponent’s side. The Lieutenant turned the knife in his trapped hand to point upwards and the KGB man fell onto it. The combination of his own weight and Jahni’s on top of him drove it in deeper than the Lieutenant could ever have managed on his own. His mouth gaped, eyes staring with shock, gurgling as the knife punctured his lung.

Jahni pulled his arm and his knife free of the twitching man. He looked down at the dying agent. If this traitor had killed Madari…

No. It had to be a lie to provoke him. It had to be.


Hannibal checked his watch. Forty-five minutes had passed since they’d left the clinic. They’d agreed to regroup here at this time. Hannibal was the first to arrive and as he waited he cleaned blood from his knife, then sheathed it. He saw that the Sheriff’s patrol car was now standing outside the clinic, which was scarred and smouldering from the rocket hits. Well Stockwell could deal with the Sheriff. One thing he was useful for…

“Have you seen the Major?” Hannibal reached automatically for his gun, as a figure appeared suddenly at his side, spectre-like in its silence.

“Dammit, Lieutenant,” he relaxed again. “Can you make yourself invisible too?” Blood spattered Jahni’s clothes and arms and Hannibal could see he was shaking, reacting to the adrenaline rush of combat. The Lieutenant’s question finally registered with him.

“I was with Faris earlier. We got the rocket launcher, about a half hour ago.” Then they both spun, reaching for weapons, at a noise behind them, but it was only Murdock and BA. They were also blood spattered and Hannibal noticed that Murdock in particular had a haunted look.

“Have you seen the Major?” Jahni asked them. They both shook their heads, neither seemed inclined to speak, but then Murdock glanced to his left, said. “Here he is now.” Madari approached from the trees, looking weary, but unharmed. As he joined them Jahni reached out and touched him briefly on the arm, as if making certain he was real.

“Are we done, Colonel?” Murdock asked. It was starting to get light now and the woods had gone quiet.

“We’ve made an impression.” Hannibal said. “Let’s get back to the clinic. I’ll take point, BA rear guard.”

They made their way cautiously across the open ground. Were passing near some bushes about half way there when a voice sounded from the cover of the bushes.

“Colonel Smith?” Hannibal reached for the sound and dragged out a dark suited man, threw him flat on his back, gun to his head. As the armed men surrounded him the man cried, “No! No! I’m Able Six! I’m Able Six!”

“What’s going on?” Hannibal demanded. The Able was wild-eyed.

“They hit the hospital!” he gasped, “They hit us! We tried to fight, there were too many!” The others were running before he even finished speaking. Hannibal pulled the Able to his feet and ran, dragging him along.

“I ran out of clips,” Able Six gasped. “I got out to look for you.”

Yeah, that’s why you were hiding in the bushes, Hannibal thought. Out loud he said, “We didn’t hear a thing, no shots!”

“Silencers, sir, both sides.” The image of silent death stalking the clinic made Hannibal shudder.

Jahni, the youngest and fittest man, reached the clinic first and barged the door open. It was dark inside and he tripped over a body, landing on all fours, putting a hand into what he knew at once was a pool of blood. The others piled in after him, past him, into the main corridor. They met no opposition. The enemy was long gone, leaving behind a scene of carnage. The floor was littered with the bodies of Ables and the clinic staff.

Hannibal ignored the horror and ran to the room he’d left Face in. The bedclothes hung down off the bed, forming a curtain. Hannibal flipped the heavy bed, without even noticing its weight. The blanket Face had been wrapped in lay on the floor.

“Colonel!” Murdock yelled from out in the corridor and Hannibal rushed out. One of the nurses was alive, a bullet wound in her shoulder soaking most of her torso in blood. She was sobbing in Murdock’s arms.

“They took him!” She gasped out. “The patient, they took him! And the other man, the one in charge, he tried to fight, but they took him! Took them both!”

Chapter 8

“Lieutenant? Are you awake?”

Face groaned and turned over. He was cold, nauseous and in pain. Having a nightmare in which Stockwell was trying to wake him up really wasn’t helping.

“Lieutenant Peck. Wake up.”

There it was again. Almost as if the man was right here in the room with him. A hand shook his shoulder and he opened his eyes, closed them, and then opened them again. It didn’t help; Stockwell was still looking down at him.

“You’re really here, right?” Face croaked. “I’m not just having a bad dream?”

“I’m afraid not. Unless we’re both having the same one.” Face tried to sit up and Stockwell said, “Careful”, pointing out the manacle on Face’s left ankle, chaining him to a cold radiator. Stockwell had one to match.

“Where are we?” Face asked, looking around at a bare basement with a stone floor. A flight of wooden steps led to a door. Water dripped from the walls.

“A basement,” Stockwell said.

“I can see that,” Face said, irritably. His wounded leg was throbbing and he felt like he wanted to throw up. “Do you know anything useful?”

“They knocked us both out at the clinic, with some kind of gas. I only woke up myself a half hour ago. I have no idea where they brought us, or how long we have been here.”

“Great.” He shivered with cold and pulled his jacket closer around himself. Jacket? He looked down to find he was wearing Stockwell’s suit jacket over his hospital pyjamas. Stockwell was in shirtsleeves. In an almost surreal moment Face noticed he was also wearing a pair of black socks that he knew he hadn’t been wearing at the clinic.

“Um, Stockwell, why am I wearing your clothes?”

“You were very cold, ” Stockwell said.

“Oh, well, er… thanks,” Face said awkwardly.

“Merely being practical, Lieutenant, you are the only valuable hostage here. Should you die I have no illusions that Colonel Smith will attempt to rescue me.”

“Jeez, Stockwell, for a minute I thought you’d done it because you felt sorry for me, but obviously it couldn’t have been that, could it?” Stockwell gave a thin smile. His earlier smugness had vanished.

“How is your leg?” Stockwell asked, seeing Face wince as he tried to get more comfortable sitting on the floor.

“How do you think?” Face said. “You don’t have any morphine on you by any chance?”

“It hasn’t started bleeding again,” Stockwell said. “I checked.”

“You did?” Face said. Well it was good he wasn’t bleeding again, but the wound was high on his thigh. Stockwell couldn’t have got to it by rolling up the trouser leg and he wasn’t wearing anything under his pyjamas. Face blushed furiously.

“Do you have anything on you to pick the locks of these shackles?” Stockwell asked, ignoring Face’s embarrassment.

“I don’t have my lock picks in the pocket of my pyjamas, no,” Face said sourly.

“I thought you might have them… concealed about your person.” Stockwell said.

Face looked at him, puzzled then stared as he realised what Stockwell meant.

“You are sitting there asking me if I have my lock picks hidden up my ass? That’s what you’re asking me, isn’t it?”

“It’s not an uncommon method of concealment.” Stockwell said, mildly.

“In jail maybe.” Face said, disgusted, and then added nastily, “I’m surprised you didn’t already check.”

“I thought about it,” Stockwell replied, “but, with your training and reflexes, if you had woken up while I was doing so I’d be dead now, wouldn’t I?”

Face looked at him very narrowly, not sure if he was kidding or not. “Damn straight you would be,” he said, eventually.

There was a pause then Stockwell spoke. “So have you…?”

“No!” Face snapped.

They were silent for a while, then Face said, “Did they take your belt?”

“Yes, and my shoulder holster and watch.”

“Hmm. Sometimes if you bang these things…” he rattled the manacle, “…just right against something solid, like this radiator…”

“I tried that already,” Stockwell said. Face tried it anyway and achieved nothing except scraping a big chunk of skin from his ankle. He sank back down onto the floor, exhausted by the effort, prompting Stockwell to give him a look of concern.

“You’re weak, Lieutenant, you shouldn’t exert yourself too much.”

“Yeah, you don’t want me doing that.” Face said, sarcastic, but shaky. “If I die you’re screwed, right?”

“Mr Peck, if Colonel Smith doesn’t get here very soon I suspect we are both ‘screwed’.”

“Won’t your organisation come and bust you out?” Face asked. Not that he liked the idea of being rescued by the Ables. “Aren’t you a valuable man to the government?”

“I’m also a man who knows more than is really good for him,” Stockwell said. “There are any number of powerful people who wouldn’t cry too much if I were to turn up dead in a way that didn’t implicate them. I seriously doubt they will do anything to secure my release.”

“You know, Stockwell, your cheery attitude is really starting to bug me.”


“General Stockwell is bugged.” Able Six pulled a briefcase onto his knees and opened it. “I can track his position with this.”

From the front seat of the van Hannibal turned to look at the Able, who’d told them his name was Drake.

“Say what you like about that guy,” he admitted grudgingly, “but he knows how to cover the bases.” The rest of them looked a little cheered by this news. Presumably wherever Stockwell was Face was also.

Hannibal had been frantic with worry and guilt when he’d found Face was gone from the clinic, but he’d managed to bring himself under control and make the decision that they had to get out of there to find Face themselves. The clinic and the town were about to become the centre of an international incident and would be crammed full of cops, FBI, CIA, National Guard and of course reporters and they would never get away. Sickened, but unable to see another choice Hannibal had walked out of the clinic. Past the dead Ables. Past the dead Sheriff, who looked as if he’d died trying to protect the doctor and nurses. Past the terrified people coming to look for their loved ones. He’d led his group to the van and out of town before anyone could stop them.

They had all been quiet in the van. Drake fiddled with the briefcase he’d rushed to retrieve from his car before jumping in the van. Hannibal hadn’t been sure about bringing the Able along, he didn’t seem like much of a fighter, but Drake would be able to get them reinforcements. Only Drake’s announcement that Stockwell was bugged had lifted the pall of gloom a little.

“Actually, he doesn’t know about the bug,” Drake said, making adjustments to the tracking system built into the briefcase. Hannibal frowned at that then said. “I get it, the government want him to keep working for them, but they’re not going to risk him skipping out on them while he’s on one of his ‘field trips’. They need to know where he is.”

“Yes, it would be… embarrassing if he were to escape.” Drake confirmed. “Just before he went to prison he visited the dentist, who found he – ahem – needed a filling.”

“And implanted a bug with the filling.” Hannibal said, quite enjoying the thought of Stockwell having his teeth drilled unnecessarily.

“I told you the government does that sort of thing all the time.” Murdock said, sounding weary.

“Stockwell couldn’t tell something funny was going on with the dentist?” Hannibal asked.

“He dislikes visiting the dentist and usually has to be pretty heavily sedated before they can do any work.” Drake said. “They just gave him more than usual this time, so he had no idea what was going on.” Hannibal almost smirked at the idea that Stockwell was scared of the dentist, but he thought Drake was too sanguine. Stockwell wasn’t a stupid man, he probably at least suspected that the government had a way to track him.

“This is like something from a James Bond movie.” Jahni commented. “Secret agents with bugs implanted in their teeth?” He shared a disbelieving look with Madari and they both shook their heads.

“Far out.” Murdock muttered.

“Got it!” Drake said. And a beeping started from his equipment, a blob of blinking light showed up on the screen. Hannibal gave a grim smile. We’re coming to get you, Svidler, you crazy bastard.


“The tracking device is transmitting perfectly. He’ll be able to find us with no problem.” Svidler’s man told him.

“Excellent. Get the men ready to give the A-Team a suitable welcome.”

As his man left Svidler picked up his cup of tea and leant back in his chair. He had outmanoeuvred them all and soon his revenge would be complete. Ziyahd, Madari, Smith and the main prize, Stockwell. Oh he could have had Stockwell killed in prison, shanked by some thug, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying. Besides, Stockwell would give him a great deal of useful information before he died.

And Smith, yes, Smith was clever but short sighted. He hadn’t seen that this was about Stockwell all along. They had fallen right into Svidler’s trap at the clinic, splitting up their forces. It meant losing a few men in the woods, but he’d made sure they were from among his less valuable people. The best men he’d sent into the clinic to take Stockwell and Peck. It had worked perfectly. Of course. All his plans worked perfectly. It had been messy, but he was long past caring about that.

He was in no rush to start working on Stockwell though, let him sweat for a while; he’d made Svidler sweat often enough. No, first he’d deal with Smith and his people. He picked up a file from his desk. It was quite thick. Yes, they had reports on Smith and his men going right back to their activities in the Vietnam War. There were even copies of the reports of the NVA intelligence men who’d interrogated them in their POW camps. The NVA weren’t as scientific about it as his people, of course, but they certainly were imaginative, he had to give them that.

The last few years had been particularly interesting when the A-Team – such a ridiculous name – had started working for his old adversary Stockwell. Then Stockwell had sent them to Qumar and they had stuck their noses into his business and for that they would all die. Svidler’s men had barely started on them in the camp before their interrogation had been stopped. Well he would finish it.

It wasn’t personal, not really. It was about respect. No one seemed to be afraid of him any more. He was KGB! The very name should strike terror into people’s hearts, but it was all being pulled apart before his very eyes by that traitor Gorbachev. Perhaps when this was over it would be time to finally go home and deal with the disease at its source.

Though he had to admit there was a small personal factor. Smith’s team had taken Vassily. And Vassily wasn’t just part of his unit, he was Svidler’s friend. They’d been recruited and trained together. He smiled as he remembered the long conversations they’d had about the tolerances of the human body and mind. While Viktor had worked his way up the ranks to command Vassily had concentrated on his specialty of interrogation techniques.

He picked up another file and sipping his tea, glanced at Vassily’s reports from his interrogation of Major Madari. Vassily had told the Qumaris he’d break Madari in forty-eight hours, but it had actually taken him sixty-five and Svidler could tell he felt that loss of face keenly. Probably that was why he’d held on to the man for another three weeks. To punish him. He’d seen Vassily at work when he’d taken the instruction to get a ‘full confession’ literally. Men with shattered minds, their voices hoarse from screaming, confessing about pulling their sister’s hair when they were five years old. And Vassily saying softly “And there’s something else, isn’t there?” He was born in the wrong century really. The Inquisition would have appreciated his skills.

Vassily hadn’t allowed Madari to sleep for six days. That alone should have driven him to insanity. He’d been a broken man when they’d finally sent him to Ziyahd’s prison and it should have stayed that way, would have, if it hadn’t been for Smith’s interference setting Madari on a path that would lead to him helping to bring down the government Svidler was helping to control. Madari sounded like an interesting fellow though, Svidler thought. He was certainly looking forward to killing him. Perhaps first he would see if he could beat Vassily’s time of sixty-five hours. They’d always had a friendly rivalry. He really hoped the CIA hadn’t done anything too unpleasant to poor Vassily.


As soon as they were far enough of out town Hannibal had let Drake get out and make a phone call from a booth on the side of the road. As he stood in the open door of the booth listening to Drake he had thought about calling Willis, but was no longer sure he could trust him. Stockwell had only shown up after he’d spoken to the CIA man. Either Willis was working for Stockwell’s organisation, or they had access to his reports and probably phone calls. Either way that well was dry.

“A squad is heading up here,” Drake said as he got back in the van. “They should be here by noon.”

“How will they find us?” Hannibal asked, determined they would keep moving towards Face. Take on Svidler alone if they had to.

“They’ll have a chopper.” Hannibal saw Murdock perk up immediately at that news.


“Face! Face!” Face groaned and tried to push Stockwell away.

“Leave me alone. Sleepy.”

“You’re too cold to sleep, Lieutenant, you must stay awake.” Stockwell pulled Face close to him, the Lieutenant’s back against his chest, his arms wrapped around Face.

“What are you doing?” Face said, his voice slurring a little. “Get off me.”

“We need to share body heat, Lieutenant. That’s a basic survival technique that I know you’re aware of.”

“I think I prefer hypothermia to cuddling up with you, Stockwell. Anyway that only works if both parties are warm blooded animals.” But he didn’t try to pull away.

“Is that any way to talk to someone who saved your life?” Stockwell said.

“You?” Face laughed, and then wished he hadn’t as it sent waves of pain radiating from his leg. “When was that then? I only recall you risking our lives over and over.”

“How do you think you escaped your execution?” Stockwell asked him.

“Murdock and Frankie got us out. You can’t take credit for that!” Face said, angry. “You specifically refused to help us escape!”

Stockwell actually laughed, a mirthless, dry sound. “Do you really think I’d rely on a lunatic and an idiot to secure a valuable asset?”

“Murdock is not a lunatic!” Face protested. Stockwell waited, but Face didn’t seem to have any more to add.

“Have you ever thought about the doctors?” Stockwell asked. “The one’s who examined you to declare you dead after you were supposedly executed? Don’t you think they’d have been able to tell you were still alive? Would have noticed the blood packs at least? Why do you think the first faces you saw when you woke up were Carla’s and mine?”

“I thought perhaps God was punishing me.” Face said dryly.

“And even if Murdock and Santana’s plan had failed completely you would only have been stunned by the bullets.”

“Stunned?” Face said, not sure he was hearing right.

“The bullets that Mr Santana exchanged for blanks were in fact a top secret form of non-lethal ammunition, that would have barely penetrated your skin, but released a drug into your system to render you instantly unconscious.”

“Oh, come on!”

“I have access to the very latest technology, Lieutenant. I had no intention of allowing you to die. Not after all the effort I put in to getting you where I wanted.”

Face snorted, but then went quiet for a moment. It made some sense. They’d had death certificates. He’d seen them. Signed by army doctors. There was no way Murdock and Frankie could have organised that. He faced the horrible idea that maybe he owed Stockwell an apology. He’d always felt they owed Stockwell nothing. He set them up, he had seemingly left them to it when they were about to die. Maybe he’d actually been unfair to the man.

“Look, Stockwell, maybe erm, maybe I owe you an apology. About the escape at least…”

“Not really.” Stockwell said. “Since in fact I didn’t intervene to help you escape.”

“What?” Face twisted his head around to look at Stockwell, who was smirking. “So all that stuff you just said was bull?”

“The interesting thing,” Stockwell said, “is that you believed it.”

Face clutched his head with one hand dramatically. “We’re prisoners of a maniac who’s been thrown out of the KGB for unnecessary roughness and you sit there playing mind games! What’s wrong with you, Stockwell?”

“I need to keep you awake and alert, Lieutenant.”

“I’m awake and quite definitely alert, thank you.” Face said, furiously. “Now stop talking to me!” They were both silent for a few moments.

“How’s your leg?”

“What part of ‘stop talking to me’ don’t you understand?” Face asked, trying to sound threatening. If his ankle had been free and he hadn’t been freezing cold he’d have tried to get as far from Stockwell as he possibly could. As it was he had to lie in the man’s arms even as he thought about how much he’d like to hit him until he stopped struggling. This time Stockwell actually shut up and Face was the one who broke the silence a few minutes later.

“Wait… about the doctors, the ones who examined our ‘bodies’…”

The door at the top of the steps opened.


“Simon? Andrew? Bill? Sean? John? Richard? Sam? Phil?”

For the past hour Murdock, to distract himself from his anxiety about Face, had been trying to guess Drake’s first name, which like a good secret agent he was refusing to reveal. Drake was sitting behind Hannibal, in Face’s usual seat. The blip on his scanner was continuing good and steady and they were getting close now. Guns were being checked and loaded. The map was being consulted to work out the best approach. It looked like they would arrive long before the reinforcements did and so would have to go in alone.

“John Drake?” The Able said, raising an eyebrow at Murdock.

“Okay, something more unusual. Cedric? Lemuel? Hubert? Samson? I’ve got it! Ichabod!”

“Shut up, fool!” BA yelled, couldn’t take any more.

“Yeah, knock it off, Murdock, or I’ll tell them your first name.” Hannibal said. Murdock looked slightly alarmed at that, knew the Colonel had had access to his personnel file while they were in the army and could make good on his threat.

“Yes, what is your first name, Murdock?” Jahni asked, frowning as he realised he’d never heard it.

“A closely guarded secret,” was Murdock’s only reply.

“Okay,” Hannibal said, “I think that’s close enough, let’s continue on foot.”

“I don’t think so, Colonel Smith.” Hannibal turned his chair at the sound of Drake’s voice, it had become cold and hard. He had pulled a gun from the briefcase and was pointing it at Murdock.

“Just keep on moving or your crazy friend here gets a few extra holes.”

Murdock made one final guess.


Chapter 9

“You know, Drake, that’s not going to do you any good.” Hannibal nodded at the gun Drake was pointing at Murdock.

“Oh, I suppose you think you’re all too quick for me, that one of you can take this off me before I can kill Murdock.” His tone was mocking, almost daring them to try.

“No, I mean because it was found and unloaded while you were making your phone call.” Drake’s eyes went wide and he instantly knew it was true as it registered with him that the gun was too light. He squeezed the trigger in the vain hope that perhaps they’d only emptied the clip and not the chamber. The gun clicked.

“Oh, shit.”

Murdock reached across, a pitying smile on his face, and took the gun from Drake’s hand, almost gently. There was nothing gentle though about the way Jahni grabbed Drake around the neck from behind, pinning him against the seat and jamming his Browning hard against the man’s temple. Drake made choking sounds.

“Now this one I’m absolutely sure is KGB,” Jahni said, looking at Hannibal, as if asking for permission.

Hannibal shook his head. “Don’t shoot him, Lieutenant.” He looked at Drake. “Not in here. We’d never get the blood out of the carpet.”

“I could break his neck.” Jahni offered, in the tone of a man making a helpful suggestion.

“I think a little chat first,” Hannibal said. “Pull over now, BA.”

Hannibal got out first and slid open the side door. Drake fell out if it, to his knees. Jahni jumped out after him and dragged him to his feet, slammed him face first against the side of the van and started to frisk him roughly. He found two knives and tossed them to the ground at Hannibal’s feet as the Colonel watched approvingly. BA and Murdock got out and joined Hannibal. Madari emerged, with one of the automatic rifles and the binoculars went to keep watch ahead of them.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Hannibal said as Jahni completed his search. “Go cover our back trail.” Jahni retrieved a machine gun and got into position.

“I know you came in with Stockwell’s people.” Hannibal said as Drake turned to face them. “That means you’re either deep cover KGB or you’re a traitor. Either way, you’re dead pal.”

“You’d shoot an unarmed man in cold blood, Colonel?” Drake asked, straightening his tie.

“No, I’m thinking I’ll hand you over to the CIA. Maybe tied up with a nice red ribbon.”

“Wow, Colonel,” Murdock said. “You’re gonna end up on the CIA’s Christmas card list if you keep giving them such nice presents.” Drake was looking worried at the prospect.

“Cheer up,” Hannibal told him, “It’s gotta be better than going back to Svidler. I’ll bet he’s the sort that says…” he put on an outrageously thick Russian accent, “…’failure is not acceptable, Mr Drake.’ Then feeds you to his pet sharks,” he finished in his normal voice.

“You’re right, Smith.” Drake said, looking very calm suddenly.

“What, he really has got pet sharks?” Murdock asked, sounding surprised and delighted.

“Failure is not acceptable.” Drake raised his hand and bit the button off his shirt cuff.

“Don’t let him swallow!” Hannibal yelled, leaping forward. BA got there first, clamped his hand around Drake’s throat. But it was too late. Drake quivered, then convulsed as the poison capsule took effect. BA dropped him to fall in a twitching heap on the ground. Foam flecked his lips, his eyes bulged then he was still.

“Hell.” Hannibal said.


Stockwell stood up as the two men made their way down the steps into the basement. The one in front carried a machine gun, the one behind a tray of food, though he also had a gun, slung over his shoulder on its strap. They approached the prisoners warily.

“What’s wrong with him?” The machine gun toting guard asked, nodding at Face, who was lying flat on his back, eyes closed. He was very pale.

“Hypothermia.” Stockwell said. “Svidler needs him alive. I suggest you turn on this radiator and bring him some blankets.”

“You’re not giving the orders around here, General Stockwell.” The guard snarled.

“It was a suggestion,” Stockwell said mildly. “Of course if you want to explain to Colonel Svidler that you let the most useful hostage freeze to death…” The guard turned to the one carrying the tray and spoke to him in Russian. He placed the tray on the floor and went back up the stairs.

“Very wise,” Stockwell said.

Face went into convulsions. Stockwell jumped to his side, knelt by him, tried to hold him down. “Help me,” he shouted at the guard. Perhaps mindful of the issue of Face being the “most useful hostage” the guard moved a little closer. “Give me that fork!” Stockwell pointed at the tray. “Please! If he swallows his tongue…”

The guard looked at Face. His eyes were rolled back in his head, his teeth clenched, and he didn’t seem to be breathing. The guard slung his gun over his shoulder, grabbed the fork from the tray and knelt down by Face, still keeping a wary eye on Stockwell. So he didn’t see it coming when Face’s arm shot out, very precisely and punched him on the jaw. He went over like a felled tree and Stockwell was on him instantly, delivering another punch to ensure he was out. He started to search the guard for the keys to their manacles, not really expecting to find them. Face meanwhile, miraculously recovered, retrieved the fork, bent back one of the prongs and started to work on the lock of Stockwell’s manacle.

“My compliments, Lieutenant.” Stockwell said. ” I think that was the best faked seizure I’ve ever seen.”

“You’re a connoisseur of fake seizures I suppose? I can’t believe they fell for the old ‘my friend is sick’ routine.”

Stockwell found no keys or anything else useful on the guard. He began to strip the man of his clothes. Face needed something warmer to wear than his pyjamas. The instant he felt his leg manacle fall open he grabbed the guard’s machine gun and hurried to the top of the stairs.

“You’re welcome,” Face muttered, starting to work on his own shackle. He got it open quickly and started dressing himself in the guard’s clothes as fast as his agonised leg would allow. He heard a sound from the top of the stairs as the second guard came back, carrying a blanket. Stockwell chopped him hard on the back of the neck with the machine gun and he fell, without a cry down the steps. When he landed at the bottom his neck was in a position no live person could achieve. Face shuddered with disgust at the sight.

“Can you make it up the stairs on your own?” Stockwell asked.

“Yes,” Face said, not sure if he could, not willing to admit it if he couldn’t.

“Bring the food,” Stockwell ordered. Face stuffed his pockets with what he could. There was water in a jug and he drank most of it, and then felt a slight twinge of guilt.

“Er, do you want some water, Stockwell?”

Stockwell shook his head. “Finish it and get up here,” he said. Face drank the rest and pulled himself to his feet using the radiator.

Okay, he thought, I can do this. Yes it’s going to hurt, but the leg will support me. It will. And, perhaps through sheer mind over matter, it did. He hobbled to the bottom of the stairs, paused to retrieve the machine gun from the dead guard and started to tackle the steps, one at a time. Stockwell wasn’t watching him; he was guarding the corridor beyond, securing their escape.

By the time Face reached the top he felt like he’s scaled a mountain and was grateful when Stockwell came over and put an arm around his waist to support him. Stockwell could feel the sweat of the effort soaking through Face’s clothes.

“Well done,” he said quietly, not certain Face could hear him, his skin was grey and he was panting, his eyes slightly glazed. “Let’s get out of here, Lieutenant.”


“Hannibal!” BA called. He had climbed back into the van while the others stashed Drake’s body in the undergrowth. BA stuck his head out of the door. “Something’s happenin’, the signal’s movin’.” Hannibal joined him and they pored over the late double agent’s box of tricks. The signal was indeed moving slowly westwards.

“Do you think that stuff about the bug in the tooth was true?” BA asked.

“It could be. Alternatively that’s a signal so that Drake could find his way home with us in tow. Either way that’s where Face is.”

“I don’t like the idea of using this gear though,” BA said. “Could be a transmitter in it too.”

“Good point. Think you can get the signal on something of yours, so we can destroy this thing?”

“Yeah, gimme a few minutes.” Hannibal left him to it and got back out of the van. He went to join Madari, who was spying out the land in front of them with the binoculars. About three miles ahead of them was a house that they had already triangulated as being the source of the signal, at least until the blip had started moving. The house stood at the top of a hill, a road leading past it. The ground was open on three sides. Only to the west was there cover, the edge of a thickly wooded area.

“No one gets close without being seen,” Hannibal commented.

“Not on the road certainly,” Madari agreed. “There’s a lot of movement around, in the undergrowth, near the bottom of the hill.” He was sweeping the area slowly with the binoculars, stopped suddenly and moved back a little, then he smiled and handed the glasses to Hannibal, said. “To the east of the house, just beside the road, see that fenced in area?” Hannibal found it, a high fence surrounding a small area of flat ground, not far from the house. “Is that what I think it is?” Madari asked. Hannibal grinned as he got a glimpse of something over the top of the fence.

“Hey, Murdock,” he called, and Murdock stuck his head out of the side door of the van. “I think we just found you a ride.”


Getting out of the house had been easier than Face and Stockwell had dared hope. Most of Svidler’s men had left to greet the A-Team. Now the two of them were stumbling through the trees to the west of Svidler’s hideout. Face was staggering even with Stockwell’s arm around his waist and was grateful when Stockwell lowered him down onto a fallen tree trunk. He sat there panting, dizzy with pain. Stockwell was breathing heavily also. He was still a fit man, but was starting to feel his age. He sat down beside Face and dug in the Lieutenant’s pockets to pull out the food they’d brought with them. The sandwiches were rather the worse for wear but they ate them anyway, they needed to keep their strength up. After the food and short rest Face felt a lot better, told Stockwell he was ready to go on.

“Before we move on there’s something I need you to do for me, while you’re still strong enough.” Stockwell said.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Face responded, wary.

Stockwell smiled. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant,” he said. “You should enjoy this. In fact I dare say it may even be something you’ve fantasised about doing.”

“Now I really don’t like the sound of it.” Face said, and then sighed. “Okay, what is it?”

“I want you to punch me in the mouth as hard as you can.”


BA soon managed to pick up the signal on one of his receivers and they tore the guts out of Drake’s tracking system, dumping it in a ditch. They gathered weapons and equipment and pulled the van well off the road out of sight.

“Radio check, make sure we’re scrambled.” Hannibal ordered and they all double-checked their frequency. “Okay, final recap. BA, Faris and myself go west, after the signal. Murdock and Kahil, secure that chopper. Now it’ll be light still for a couple more hours so everyone be careful. Svidler’s people could be following the signal or they could be the signal. Getting that chopper in the air may be the key to finding out. Everyone ready?” They nodded tensely. “Then good luck to us. Let’s go get Face.”


Svidler raised his gun and shot the man in front of him. It was the guard who had been overpowered by Face and Stockwell in the basement. Why must he be surrounded by incompetents? Did no one have pride in their work any more?

“Remove that.” He waved a hand at the body. It was dragged away. “Any word from Drake?”

“No, sir,” the man remaining in the room said, his voice a little shaky. “His transmitter went dead about twenty minutes ago.”

Another incompetent.

“And Stockwell’s transmitter?”

“Still operating sir, moving west. We’ll easily retrieve them, they can’t move fast with Peck’s injury. I’ve sent the pilot to take the helicopter up. Should I also divert men from the ambush to join the search?” Well if the A-Team had overpowered Drake, as seemed likely now they probably weren’t going to be walking into the ambush anyway.

“Very well, but leave a small team in case they do come that way.” Damn, he was splitting up his men, just what he’d tricked Smith and Stockwell into doing and just what he didn’t want to do. It was all unravelling. Why did all of his plans fall apart like this? Incompetents of course, he was surrounded by fools. Time to pick up the slack; perhaps what they needed was some real leadership on the ground. He rose, gripping his handgun firmly and strode out of the room.


“Hannibal, I think the signal stopped.” BA said.

“Stopped?” Hannibal sounded alarmed. “You lost it?”

“No, sorry. I mean stopped moving, maybe fifteen minutes ago.” BA clarified, “about a mile ahead of us.” Hannibal couldn’t keep the smile off his face. They could catch up.

“Let’s pick up the pace, BA, stay on point. Don’t lose that signal.” He glanced over his shoulder. “You okay back there, Faris?”

“Yes. No sign of pursuit.” The Major reported from his rearguard position.

They moved on through the woods, more quickly now, Hannibal’s heartbeat speeded up in response to the anticipation of finding Face, or of going into action against the enemy. He raised his radio and opened a channel.

“Murdock, come in.” There was a pause, then Murdock’s voice came through.

“Go ahead Colonel.”

“Murdock, we may be getting close, the signal stopped moving. Where are you with the chopper?”

“We just got here and scoped it out. There’s only two guards, I’m just about to sic Kahil on ’em, so we’ll have it in a couple of minutes.”

Hannibal smiled. “Good. Maintain radio silence till I call you back. Out.” They needed quiet now. They were getting very close.

“Right ahead, Hannibal, ten yards, still not moving.” BA said very softly.

Hannibal closed his three-man file up and sent BA to the right, Madari to the left, to circle around. He had taken the receiver from BA; let its blinking light guide him. Just ahead he could see a very small clearing where a large oak had fallen, leaving a gap that new saplings were competing to fill. He couldn’t see anyone in the clearing.

Hannibal waited until the other two were in position, so they could all see into the open space and on their signals that it appeared safe he moved forward. The blinking light became almost frantic now. Frowning Hannibal looked around. Something on the ground caught his eye and he bent to pick it up.

It was a broken tooth.

Chapter 10

“Move it, Lieutenant. Final call for this flight,” Murdock shouted as he started the chopper. Jahni finished tying up the two men who had been guarding the helicopter and ran to join Murdock.

After realising they couldn’t go in with guns blazing, for fear of damaging the helicopter they had scaled the fence of the small compound and sneaked up on the guards, easily knocking them out.

The Lieutenant climbed into the co-pilot’s seat and pulled the door closed behind him, found a headset as Murdock took the chopper up. Murdock was pleased to find it was a familiar model, though he had noticed a strange bulge underneath it as they had approached. No time to investigate that though. Maybe it was some kind of top-secret super spy weapon, he thought.

“Does this thing have any guns?” Jahni asked, his voice coming through the headset.

“Haven’t seen any,” Murdock replied. “Check the rear. Could be all sorts of goodies back there.” As Jahni went to check out the rear Murdock headed west, looking over the woods, desperate to get a glimpse of his friends. He feared the chopper’s usefulness wouldn’t last for long. The sun was setting, and the twilight was deepening minute by minute. There was a searchlight on the chopper, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to find anyone in the dense trees below.


Stockwell looked around at the gathering gloom and worried. It would be totally dark soon, and they were already moving slowly even in the daylight. He winced at the pain of his swollen mouth. His tongue was irresistibly drawn to the rough edges of the tooth he had pulled after Face had obligingly, and Stockwell couldn’t help thinking, a little too enthusiastically, punched him to loosen it. Why couldn’t it have come out cleanly? Now he’d have to go to the dentist to have the root dug out. He shuddered at the thought. Then he remembered that there was a good chance he wouldn’t survive the night anyway, they were leaving a trail a blind man could follow. The dentist was the least of his worries. Svidler wouldn’t give him an anaesthetic before he started his work.

Face was gasping for breath now, pretty much hopping on his good leg, leaning in to Stockwell. And Stockwell had noticed that in the last few minutes a dark patch of blood had soaked through Face’s trousers over the wound. He was bleeding again.

“Please, Stockwell,” Face gasped, “I have to stop.” He pulled away and fell to the ground. Stockwell knelt beside him.

“We have to keep moving, Lieutenant, for as long as we have the light.” Then he had to find somewhere he could lie Face down and get this bleeding stopped before it got out of control. The man was weakening rapidly now that he was losing blood again, he wouldn’t be able to go much further. “Come on, Face,” he said. “You can make it.” He put an arm around Face’s waist, pulled him to his feet and they stumbled on.

“Don’t…don’t call me ‘Face’.”

“What?” Stockwell frowned at Face’s gasped out words.

“Don’t want you calling me Face… that’s what my friends call me… not you…”

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry, more like he was humouring Face.

“Don’t patronise me, Stockwell.” Face said, with a little of his old fire. “I hate that…hate you, this is… all your fault.” Then he hated that he’d said that, because it sounded like whining, but couldn’t resist going on. “Wish to god I’d never met you.”

“The feeling is mutual.” Stockwell snapped, his cold façade starting to crack finally under the strain. Face heard the genuine annoyance in his voice.

“Thought you said… didn’t hold a grudge?”

“I don’t,” Stockwell said, trying to control himself. “I meant I regret ever recruiting your team. It was a mistake.”

“You made a mistake? Surely not?” Face’s voice was weak, but the sarcasm in it was loud and clear. He felt the need to talk, to try to keep from being pulled down into the dark void that was trying to catch at him.

“I thought I could predict your behaviour,” Stockwell said. “I thought I could control you, I was wrong.” Why not admit it, he thought, they would both be dead soon enough. “You were totally wrong for my organisation. I let your results blind me to your methods. You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘discreet’.”

“Means separate, doesn’t it?” Face said. Stockwell’s sore mouth quirked a little at the smart answer.

“Other spelling,” he said. They both looked up at a familiar noise in the darkening sky. “Helicopter.” Stockwell said, with dismay, hoped the cover of the trees would be enough to protect them.


BA, Madari and Hannibal, moving in that order, were following the trail that a blind man could follow. BA could feel the tension coming from the two men behind him and shook his head a little.

As soon as they had found Stockwell’s tooth Madari had stepped up to Hannibal and said, “Give it to me, I’ll lay a false trail.”

“No way,” Hannibal had answered at once. “They catch you then you’re a dead man.”

“They won’t catch me.”

“No, Faris, there’s too many of them. They’ll circle you, cut you off and kill you.” Madari had still looked defiant, seemed on the point of trying to take the tooth away from Hannibal. “I said no, Major.” BA had recognised the command voice. “Now, fall in.” It didn’t work too well, Madari, not used to being spoken to this way, still bristled.

BA had taken matters into his own hands then, tired of the testosterone display. Stepping up to Hannibal, he had grabbed the Colonel’s wrist, taken the tooth from his hand and, turning, had tossed it away, deep into the trees.

“They’se getting’ closer while you two is buttin’ antlers and Face is gettin’ further away.” Hefting his gun he had turned and headed out on the obvious trail left by Face and Stockwell. As he moved off Hannibal and Madari heard him mutter “Officers,” in a tone of apparent disgust. Chastened, the Colonel and the Major had followed the Sergeant.

Hannibal let BA stay on point. He was an excellent tracker. But the light was failing rapidly and they couldn’t track them in the dark, not even with the chopper, the sound of which he could now hear approaching from the east. Once they lost the light they were in serious trouble.

“Hannibal.” Madari, a few yards ahead had stopped. He held up his hand, which he had briefly rested on a tree trunk in passing. The light was too dim now to see the colour of what covered his palm, but the Major recognised it by touch and smell. “Fresh blood.”


“Find any ordnance back there?” Murdock called to Jahni, who had gone quiet.

“A few grenades. But Murdock, there’s something else, if it’s what I think it is…”

Murdock looked back over his shoulder for a moment. Jahni was sitting in front of a control console of some sort, trying buttons, checking a monitor screen in front of him.

“What ya fiddlin’ with there, kid?”

“We’ve been testing one of these systems in the Guard. In our armoured cars…”

“One of what systems?” Murdock sounded frustrated.

“I think it’s a thermal imaging system.” Jahni replied.

“What, a heat seeking camera?” Murdock said, remembering the strange bulge under the chopper. He suddenly felt a whole lot happier than he had a minute ago. “Can you operate it?”

“I’ll try. It’s a different model than ours, and ours are ground based and all the controls on this are in Russian. But I think I can work it out.”

“You’re a smart boy, I know you can do it,” Murdock said encouragingly. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon Murdock was no longer worried about losing the light, because if Jahni got that system working they could see in the dark.

Advantage A-Team.


Right at that moment a five star hotel couldn’t have looked any more inviting to Face and Stockwell than the barn they saw as they emerged from the trees onto open ground. It was a couple of hundred yards from the woods and they stumbled across the grass to it as fast as they could.

Stockwell easily defeated the old padlock on the door with a prong of the fork they had brought with them from Svidler’s lair and once inside he lowered Face onto a pile of hay. Face moaned with both pain and relief. It was very dark, but Stockwell didn’t dare try to find any kind of light that would give away their position. By touch he found the wound on Face’s leg. Warm blood oozed between his fingers. He took off his jacket and shirt, slipped his jacket back on over his undershirt and started to tear the shirt up.

“What…?” Face was roused by the noise, tried to sit up.

“Lie still.” Stockwell told him. “I’m making bandages.” As he applied the makeshift dressings, again by touch, Face cried out with pain. Stockwell winced at the sound, muttered, “God, I hate fieldwork.”

“Missing your…nice cosy desk?” Face panted. “Nice cosy jail cell?”

“Compared to some cells I’ve been in it was very nice indeed, if somewhat austere.” Stockwell said. Face couldn’t think of a smart answer to that one, his head was spinning too much. Anyway it didn’t deserve a smart answer, Stockwell had been a field agent. He’d been through some of the same kind of crap Face and his team mates had, Face could respect that.

Stockwell finished the dressings. He knew he should try to keep Face awake, but he was losing both the strength and the will to keep talking to the Lieutenant. He knew he wouldn’t get Face moving again. Even if the bleeding stopped right now he was just too weak to go on. Svidler would catch them soon now. When he did Face might be lucky. Svidler might kill him immediately. Stockwell would certainly have to wait much longer to die.


“I think I see them, Murdock! I think I’ve got them!” Jahni’s excited voice came through Murdock’s headset. He had got the thermal imaging system working and Murdock had relayed the good news to Hannibal. For the past few minutes he had been scanning ahead of Hannibal, looking for Face and Stockwell.

“Hang on, I’ll get the Colonel on the line, ” Murdock said. He contacted Hannibal and Jahni reported what he was seeing.

“I’ve got two warm bodies, about a kilometre north by northwest of your position, not moving. They may be in some kind of structure.” He moved the camera back eastwards, seeing the three moving blobs of Hannibal’s squad, then zoomed out the field of view and his eyes widened in alarm. “Colonel, there’s ten, no twelve, hostiles, right behind you, maybe half a kilometre, moving fast.”

“Murdock, don’t wait for us,” Hannibal’s voice came back to them. “Get to Face now, get him out of there.”

“Roger!” Murdock said.

On the ground Hannibal felt the breeze of it as the chopper zoomed fast and low overhead, heading north by northwest.

“Might as well send up a flare,” BA muttered.

“No choice, BA,” Hannibal said. “Come on, we’ve got unfriendlies right up the tailpipe, half a klick away. Move your asses.” They ran.


Stockwell felt his gut tighten as he heard the helicopter landing outside the barn. He gripped the handgun he had taken from one of Svidler’s guards back at the house. He had made a decision a few minutes ago. They wouldn’t be taken alive. He would fight, but when it was hopeless he would make sure there was two bullets left, make sure they were both spared Svidler’s tortures. The door was opening. He raised the gun.


Stockwell felt weak with relief. He had never thought he would be happy to hear Murdock’s voice.

“Captain, over here,” he called, the moonlight coming in through the open door showing the figures of Murdock and Jahni entering the barn. Jahni stayed by the door and Murdock shone a flashlight into the darkness, knowing it was too late now to worry about revealing their position. He saw Face and Stockwell, Face flat on his back, Stockwell sitting beside him. Murdock rushed over to them.

“Face,” he said again, leaning over his friend. Face opened his eyes. He looked dazed and exhausted.

“Murdock?” Face said, in barely more than a whisper.

“It’s me, buddy, we’re going home.” He turned to Stockwell. “You hurt?”


“Then help me get him on the chopper.” They were starting to pull Face to his feet when Jahni stepped back from the doorway, pointing his gun upwards as Hannibal steamed past him.

“Face!” He rushed over to them, pushing Stockwell aside to support Face himself. His relief at finding Face alive was overwhelmed by his concern at Face’s condition. They had to get him out of here now.

BA and Madari, left in Hannibal’s wake as the Colonel found speed he hadn’t achieved for at least ten years, ran towards the barn. They could hear Svidler’s men hot on their heels now and even before they reached the door automatic fire was chasing them across the grass. They ran inside and Jahni pulled the door closed behind them.

“Too late, ” BA panted, looking at Hannibal and Murdock supporting Face. “They’re here.”

Chapter 11

The automatic fire from outside stopped and a tense silence descended. Hannibal settled Face back down onto a pile of hay, squeezed his hand gently then stood up. Svidler would be positioning his men for an assault. Hannibal had to position his to meet it. He did a fast weapons inventory. His team and Madari and Jahni all had automatic rifles and handguns and spare clips. Jahni had brought the box of grenades that he had found on the chopper with him into the barn. Stockwell had the two automatic rifles, AK47s, which he and Face had taken from Svidler’s guards and one Makarov handgun, but no spare clips for any of them.

“We have a good defensible position here,” Hannibal said. “There’s open ground on all sides with little cover, they’ll find it hard to get close. BA, Jahni, get up in the hayloft with the grenades.” They moved out at the command.

“Hannibal,” Murdock said. “If they damage the chopper…”

“We’ll just have to keep them far enough away from it,” Hannibal said. “Besides, I’ll bet Svidler had his eye on it as his escape route too. It’s his ride after all.”

“Hannibal,” BA called from above. “They’re coming!”

“Okay, pick your targets, make every shot count. Remember there’s twelve of them, count them as they go down.” So it came to this. Battle. There was only one command he could give now, only one plan.

“Kill them all.”

In the hayloft BA and Jahni put the box of grenades on the floor and took off the lid.

“Don’t be cooking these off,” BA said gruffly, “pull the pin and toss ’em.” BA was sure Jahni was the sort to pull the pin and count for a while before throwing the grenade, and BA had seen what happened when a man doing that got shot before he had the chance to throw.

“Right.” Jahni said. Gunfire erupted from inside and out as downstairs the defenders opened shutters and began to fire on Svidler’s approaching men. BA kicked open the hatch in front of him and they opened fire with their rifles, the attackers too far away for the grenades yet.

Downstairs Hannibal and Murdock fired from one open shutter, Madari and Stockwell from another. Hannibal muttered “Five,” as he saw another man fall. Seven to go. Still too many and they were getting close and he couldn’t see them all. He saw Stockwell toss aside one AK47 and pick up the other. Murdock slapped a new clip into his rifle. The attackers were mere dark shapes in the moonlight and Hannibal was mostly aiming at muzzle flashes.

“Close enough, BA!” He yelled and a moment later an explosion shook the ground as the first grenade sailed out, followed a moment later by another, the sound of its explosion mixed with screams.

“Two!” Hannibal heard Jahni yell from above, “That got two!”

“Seven.” Hannibal said, reloading, seeing Madari doing the same. Smoke from the gunfire hung in a haze above their heads, spent shells littered the ground at their feet.

“Eight.” Murdock said, as he shot a man he’d seen moving toward the chopper. The grenades were keeping the assault back now. The attackers were lying low. But the grenades would soon run out.

Hannibal took a breath of the cordite-laden air to shout out some encouragement when another explosion shook the barn, but it wasn’t from out front, it came from the rear. There were no shutters there, just blank wall. No way to defend it, but no way in either. At least there hadn’t been, Hannibal turned to see a hole blown in the wall by the blast. He pointed his gun at the breach, expecting a man to come through. Instead a grenade rolled in and Hannibal recognised it at once.

“Incendiary!” he yelled, a second before it exploded. He turned away to avoid looking at the bright flame as it set fire to the straw all around it. The fire spread rapidly through the straw, and set the back wall of the barn alight.

“Everybody out!” Hannibal ordered. No chance to put the fire out, this place would be an inferno in minutes. Stockwell and Madari pushed open the double doors as Hannibal and Murdock grabbed Face. There was a Russian barely two yards away from the door and as the door opened he fired a handgun at Madari. The Major felt the breeze of it in his hair as the bullet passed inches from his head and he opened fire on the man with a long burst from his machine gun, giving a scream in which battle rage, blood lust and terror were combined. The man didn’t just fall; he was almost cut in half.

“Nine.” Hannibal pulled Face down with him as they all hit the ground a few feet away from the barn, firing desperately now. He saw Stockwell throw away his second empty rifle and pull out his handgun. He General was very close to being unarmed. “Stockwell!” Hannibal yelled over the sound of machine gun fire. “Get Face into cover behind the chopper!” Stockwell nodded, started to drag the barely conscious Face while trying to stay as low to the ground as he could. Hannibal, giving covering fire, took another man down as he came around the corner of the barn. “Ten!” he yelled.

Hannibal’s ears were ringing. His vision was full of red mist. He didn’t hear Murdock yelling in his ear until the Captain shook his shoulder violently, nearly screamed at him.

“BA and Kahil! They didn’t follow us out, they’re still inside!”

In the hay loft BA dragged Jahni back from the ladder as flames roared upwards. No way down. He pulled the Lieutenant back to the hatch they had been firing out of, almost tripped over the box of grenades. There were still four left. He looked back at the flames. They had time.

“Two apiece,” he said. Jahni gave a grin that looked almost demonic as his face was made livid red by the light of the flames. They looked out of the hatch, judged the distance. They could see their targets, dark shapes on the ground, muzzle flashes pin-pointing them. They pulled the pins of the grenades and threw them. The four nearly simultaneous explosions drowned out the screams of the Russians.


As the last two men fell Hannibal leapt to his feet, dropping his rifle and grabbed Murdock to stop him running back into the burning barn. Madari got to his feet, looked around and realised his Lieutenant was missing. Hannibal, dragging Murdock with him, had to leap forward to prevent him trying to run back into the inferno too.

“No! No!” Murdock screamed. “BA!”

Madari was yelling in Arabic. Then just “Kahil! Kahil!” Over and over.

Hannibal, gripping the arms of the two frantic men, looked up at the hatch BA and Jahni had launched their grenade attack from.

Viktor Svidler was not dead. He should have been. He had two bullets in his belly and another in his shoulder, but he couldn’t even feel the pain. All he could feel was rage, blind insane rage. The humiliation of it! To die like this. To have all his plans destroyed by a handful of stupid Americans and a couple of filthy Arabs. And they had taken his helicopter! His own personal helicopter. It had taken him months to get that thermal imaging system installed. To have it turned against him like this was too much of an insult to be borne. They would pay. They would all pay. He could still finish this. He could still kill them all. His men were all gone, dead, but he was Viktor Svidler! He could not be defeated! He began to crawl closer to the helicopter, blood smearing on the grass under him. In the light of the fire he could see two people beside the helicopter, three further away. He gripped his handgun. He still had ammunition. Viktor Svidler crawled.

BA had seen something else when they looked out, that he’d barely registered earlier. A pulley, attached to a wooden boom that stuck out above the hatch. In it was a rope with a hook on the end. The hook, for attaching to bales of hay, was large enough for a man to put his foot into. BA started to unwind the rope from a bracket on the outside wall just beside the hatch. He turned to Jahni.

“You first, Sergeant.” Jahni ordered. BA could have rolled his eyes. The young man had the instincts BA liked to see in an officer, wanting to get the enlisted men to safety first, but his grasp of basic physics was a little shaky.

“I got eighty pounds on you at least! You can’t lower me down. I’ll drag you right off your feet, fool! You’re first.” Jahni moved to the edge and then they heard shouts from below. They saw Hannibal, Murdock and Madari standing on the ground directly below.

“Both together!” Hannibal yelled, seeing the escape plan at once. BA looked back at the flames, which were very close now. Black smoke rolled over their heads as it blew out of the hatch. Time to go. He saw the men below grab the other end of the rope. Holding tight to the doorframe BA pulled the rope in close, put his foot into the hook, and grabbed the rope tight with one hand.

“Take the strain!” He yelled.

Jahni put one foot onto BA’s foot, then wrapped himself around the Sergeant, arms around his neck. BA’s arm quickly circled his waist to secure him. Then BA finally took his other foot off the floor.

Hannibal, Murdock and Madari were dragged along the ground for a second as the full weight of the two men pulled on them. Then they got control and started to play the rope out slowly.

They had moved down a few feet when BA and Jahni heard the boom of the pulley above them give an ominous creak. They looked up, and then looked into each other’s eyes, identical expressions of alarm on their faces. Both looked down and simultaneously yelled, “Hurry!”

Svidler grinned savagely. It couldn’t be better. It was Stockwell. He was trying to lift Peck into the helicopter. Sheer joy at the sight of his prey gave him strength and he pushed himself to his feet, raising his pistol.

Stockwell saw the dark figure rise up twenty feet away from him. He held Face, conscious, but dead weight in his arms, trying to pull him onto the chopper. Svidler was pointing his handgun. Stockwell twisted and dropped Face to the ground, behind him. He turned back, raising his pistol.

Ten feet above the ground BA and Jahni heard the crack as the boom gave out and tore away from the wall of the barn. As they went into freefall BA saw the three men below them scatter. He heard Jahni’s shout of “Oh shit!” and then they slammed hard into the ground. White-hot pain burst from BA’s knee. He felt Jahni try to pull away from him, but he wrapped both arms around the Lieutenant and rolled with him. A second later the heavy boom and pulley smashed lethally into the ground where they had landed. Murdock and Madari came to pull them to their feet, to pull them limping away from the burning building. Hannibal was turning away, turning back to the helicopter.

He heard a shot.

Face gasped as Stockwell fell down on top of him. He tried to push the General off, but was too weak. He couldn’t even cry out as Stockwell’s weight had driven the breath from his body. Svidler walked slowly towards him, staggering, an arm pressed over his gut. He was covered in his own blood, but he was laughing.

Face saw Stockwell’s handgun lying on the ground. He tried to reach it, but it was just inches too far away. He stretched desperately, sobbing breaths escaping him. Svidler laughed, spitting blood as he did so, at the struggles of the helpless man. He would enjoy this, he would…

Face heard the shot, saw a small hole appear in Svidler’s chest, right over his heart and an expression of amazement spread over his face. He walked with a strange jerking gait a few more steps, and then fell down close enough for Face to touch him.

Face turned his head, craning round. Hannibal stood five yards away, his handgun still smoking. The others were coming up behind him. For a moment Hannibal was a statue, then he rushed forward and pushed Stockwell off Face, started checking Face for new bullet holes.

“I’m okay,” Face gasped, against the evidence. Blood from his earlier wound soaked most of his leg now. “Stockwell…?” Hannibal turned to look at the General. Madari had knelt down beside him as the others crowded around Face. The Major was closing Stockwell’s eyes.

“He’s dead.” Hannibal said.


There was a cover up over Stockwell’s death of course, which, thought Hannibal, was probably how he would have wanted it. The official story was that he died suddenly of a stroke.

Six men who knew the truth about his death stood on a slight rise in the cemetery grounds, watching the funeral from some distance away, too far to hear the service. Some of the mourners glanced in their direction occasionally. All six were in their uniforms. Face stood apart from the others, supported on crutches, radiating several feet of personal space that no one liked to break into.

As the funeral service broke up Hannibal cleared his throat and said to Face, “When you’re ready, Face, we need to get you back to the hospital. They said three hours, no more.” Face had been on the point of signing out against medical advice until Hannibal had persuaded the doctors to give him three hours and a pair of crutches. He knew this was somewhere Face needed to be.

They walked towards the van and their cars to wait for him. Hannibal glanced at the two Arabs in their dark blue-green uniforms. Jahni, who was still limping a little from a sprained ankle, seemed uncomfortable in his, as if his collar was too tight. The ceremonial cavalry sabre he wore was giving him trouble. He almost tripped over it once. Madari, who had probably been born wearing a uniform, Hannibal thought, carried the long curved sword on his hip as naturally as if it was a part of him and occasionally rested his hand in its hilt.

Face hobbled towards them on his crutches a few minutes later. As he got near he could hear the others talking.

“Tactically it would have been the best move.” Madari was saying.

“And it would have ended with you being very tactically dead.” Hannibal answered.

“It would have given you time to get to Face and get him out of there.”

“At the cost of your life. I keep saying that, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through.” Hannibal said, mock frustrated. The argument no longer had any heat in it though.

“I wouldn’t have let them catch me. If they’d been too close I’d have thrown away the transmitter and made a run for it.”

“Jeez,” Face said. “Are you two still arguing about that damn tooth?” He sounded like his normal self, but Hannibal could see a haunted look in his eyes

“Ready to go, Face?”

“Yeah. Hannibal, will you drive me back?”

“Sure, Face,” Hannibal said, went to open his car.

“I’ll see the rest of you later,” Face said. “You two aren’t going home for at least a week right?” He said to Madari and Jahni, who confirmed they were not. Face smiled. He knew Hannibal was planning on holding a goodbye party, would hate to miss that. “Great. See you soon.”

He limped over to Hannibal’s car on his crutches. Hannibal helped him in and they drove off. Face waved, smiling, at the others as they left, but then went quiet as they drove onto the freeway. Finally he spoke.

“Hannibal. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about this.” Hannibal glanced at him, at his troubled expression.

“I don’t think there’s any ‘supposed to’, Face. There’s just what you feel.”

“But I hated him,” Face said, sounding anguished, “I really hated him and now he’s dead.”

“Does that make you glad?” Hannibal asked.

“What? No!” Face said sounding outraged. “Of course not! I feel guilty, I feel guilty for hating him.”

“You had good reason to hate him, Face, we all did.” Hannibal reminded him.

“But he kept his word, Hannibal.” Face shook his head in wonder. “He gave you his word he’d take care of me and he did, he could have dumped me in the woods and took off on his own, but I don’t think it even crossed his mind, despite how scared of Svidler he was.”

“If he had dumped you to escape by himself it wouldn’t have been Svidler he had to worry about.” Hannibal said grimly. “He’d have known that.” Face looked sidelong at Hannibal, gave a small smile, and then went serious again.

“And at the end,” Face said. “I was between him and Svidler. He could have used me as a shield, but he didn’t.”

“He couldn’t use his gun while he was holding you,” Hannibal pointed out. “That might be the only reason he dropped you.”

“No,” Face shook his head, vehemently. “He pulled me behind him, out of the line of fire. He took the time to do that and it gave Svidler the time to kill him.” Hannibal had no answer for him.

As Face went quiet again Hannibal glanced at him briefly. Strange that Face should be the one to come out of this with the heaviest burden of guilt, despite his injury keeping him from taking any part in the killing. Hannibal’s sleep had been disturbed for the past few nights in a way it hadn’t been for years, by the remembered horrors and adrenaline thrill of battle. The men he’d killed had been enemies, enemies he’d been trained to destroy, but still their faces haunted his dreams.

“Face,” Hannibal said eventually. “You remember that bit in Amy’s book, about what Stockwell said to her when he abducted her?”

“You mean about being ‘one of the good guys’?”

“Yeah. Maybe he was.”

“He was a ruthless, cold hearted manipulative bastard!” Face protested, hotly.

“That too,” Hannibal said.

“I know he was basically on the right side,” Face admitted, “but the way he did things, used people like they were chess men. No, I still hate him for that.”

“Then hate him for that. Respect what he did at the end,” Hannibal suggested.

Yeah,” Face said, quietly, after thinking about that for a moment. “Yeah I think I can do that.”

It wasn’t a bad epitaph for Stockwell, Hannibal thought, as he approached the off ramp. Probably more than he deserved and maybe it was too little, too late. But Hannibal could live with it.

General Hunt Stockwell. In the end, one of the good guys.