Face lurked in the doorway of a small boarded up store and watched the entrance to the pound across the street. The pound. Just the word made Face shudder. He hated being anywhere near this place. The smell of fear and desperation and… worse things.
But the barking was what really got him. Most of it was just “let me out of here!” over and over, with plenty of “Hungry! Hungry!” mixed in there. Then there was the oft repeated “They drove off! They must have forgotten me! I couldn’t catch up! Please, someone, you have to help me find them!” That could just about break your heart. And if that didn’t then the high pitched yips would, the puppy barks that went “mama, mama, mama.”
Face whined, wished he could close his ears to it. Why did Hannibal have to send him here? He’d been one of those yippers himself once. The memories were hazy. There’d been a warm house, carpets, a tree in the house, how strange, with candles on it. The arms of children wrapped around him, their laughter. Then that was all gone and there was the cold and the box and the alleyway. And then this place and the all day and all night barking.
He shook himself, a long shake as if he had just got out of the water. The memories went back to where he usually kept them and he got his mind back on the job. The sun was high now, it was lunchtime and here he was, Decker, getting out of his truck, carrying a paper bag and a can of soda.
Okay, now to get his attention. Barking was somewhat pointless around here. Face needed more direct action.
Under the noon sun a streak of gold flew across the road, narrowly avoiding being hit by the traffic. Decker turned at the screech of tires and gasped as a golden retriever leapt at him, snatched his sack lunch right out of his hand and then ran off down the street. With a yell he leapt back into his truck and set off in pursuit.
Face risked a glimpse back. Good, keep him in the truck. He hung onto the bag, though his refined nose wrinkled at the smell of it. Garlic sausage? No wonder they never smelled any evidence of Decker having been anywhere near a woman.
The Rottweilers were outside now, the gate in their fence open. They prowled around the street, sniffing for trouble. They knocked over the now emptied garbage cans, they peed against people’s mail boxes. They barked at any dog or cat or human that dared set paw or foot outside.
And then they found Jake. The little terrier had finally got up the nerve to run out and grab the newspaper the delivery boy had dropped hours ago. His owner, a frail old lady, watched terrified from her window as four of the big dogs surrounded her pet.
“Well now,” Prince said, as the four of them loomed over the cringing Jake. “What have we got here?”
Another Rottweiler, Duke, who gave the lie to Butch being the dumbest of the group, said, “It’s that little terrier, innit? He lives here…”
“I know, dummy!” Prince snapped at him.
“He looks like a nice little snack to me.” Butch made a sudden lunge at Jake, who dropped the paper and ran, a furry brown and white bullet, tiny tail shut down, heading for his house. The Rottweilers ran after him. Jake disappeared through his pet door and three of the Rottweilers managed to pull up in time. Butch didn’t. He slammed head first into the door. A woman’s shriek came from inside, but the door held and Butch staggered around stunned, to the vast amusement of his companions.
“Hey, suckers. You wanna pick on someone your own size?”
The bark came from across the street and the Rottweilers turned to see Hannibal, BA and Murdock on the sidewalk. The three dogs began to cross the sun drenched street. Prince set up a loud barking and in a few seconds two more Rottweilers came lumbering out their garden.
“Oh, boy.” Murdock said. “I think we’re about to meet Killer.”
Killer was well named. At least 120 pounds of muscle, Hannibal suspected. He could kill a grown human never mind a child. He had numerous scars from previous fights, at least one of them possibly with a combine harvester. He’d probably won.
“The son of a bitch doesn’t know what’s about to hit him.” Hannibal said, confidently, though inside he muttered, “hurry up, Face.”
The huge dog came up to the team.
“This them?” He growled at Prince.
“So, why’d they name you Killer?” Hannibal asked. “Is it because of your breath?”
Killer snarled. Butch muttered to Duke, “what’s that mean?”
“They named me Killer ’cause any dog crosses me he’s not seen again.”
“Yeah, I can tell you guys are all real tough, chasing that scrap of a terrier. What there’s no kittens for you to pick on?”
“No,” Killer growled. “There was some kittens round here, but we ate ’em.” He showed all his horrible yellow teeth.
“Classy. Go, Murdock!” Hannibal snapped suddenly and Murdock ran off down the street and through the gate into the Rottweiler’s own yard. They were about to pursue, but Hannibal and BA attacked.
All hell broke loose.
Murdock ran into the yard and up to the front door. It was closed. He started to bark and scratch at it and in a moment a man opened the door. Murdock ran straight between the man’s legs and inside the house.
“Hey you’re not… come back here!” Murdock ran upstairs. He ran barking and barking. He knocked things over. He caused as much chaos as he could.
Soon both the men that lived in the house were chasing him, up and down the stairs, in and out of rooms. And then one of them shouted.
“I’ll nail him!”
A gunshot smashed into the wall, at least four feet above Murdock, making him duck and cringe. Racket from downstairs told him that Hannibal and BA and the Rottweilers were now fighting in the yard and in the house.
“About now would be just peachy, Face,” Murdock thought as a bullet splintered a door.
Face was exhausted but he managed to put on more speed for the final sprint into the street as he heard the gun shots. He’d eaten Decker’s lunch a few blocks back as he’d waited for the dog catcher to get out of a traffic snarl up.
Face rounded the corner into the street. The noise from the fenced in house was terrific, shots, barking, howls, yelling. Two dogs were fighting in the yard. People were milling around in the street and Face saw at once that they had closed the gate. So he made for some garbage cans near the fence, jumped, first onto the closed can and then launched himself over the fence, hearing gasps from the spectators. Autographs later, folks, he thought as he landed on the two fighting dogs, one of which was Hannibal. Hannibal barked his thanks at Face and sank his teeth into the Rottweiler’s back leg. The animal howled and ran, ran around the house, into the back yard.
“He’s had enough.” Hannibal said. “You got Decker?” He saw the truck pull up and Decker jump out, at once surrounded by the residents demanding he do something. “Right, we need him inside. Let’s go!”
They ran into the house.
The residents were all babbling at Decker, telling him the house was full of wild, savage dogs. The gunshots made the people jump and even scream, and Decker knew he should wait for the cops. But this was his chance, those damn strays had eluded him for too long. It was time to bring out the big guns. At last he had a good reason for it. He stepped up to the gate, his catchpole in one hand, nets over his shoulder and in his right hand, his tranquiliser dart gun. Strictly speaking that was only for use on bears, but this was an emergency.
“Open the gate.” He growled. A man did and Decker walked through, to awestruck glances from the citizens. It was his turn in the sun now. His turn to be a hero. He smiled grimly as the appropriate phrase came to mind and muttered it out loud.
“Every dog has his day.”
Inside the house it was dark, all the drapes were pulled. Murdock fled down the stairs with Butch and Duke chasing him, snarling and ravening. If they caught him they would rip him to shreds. He ran full pelt though an open door. Speed was his biggest advantage. Well that and having enough brain cells that they didn’t need to wave to get each other’s attention.
Butch and Duke pounded in after him.
“Where’d ‘e go?”
Behind the couch, muchacho, Murdock thought. Okay, speed, surprise, timing. Make Billy proud. He came out from behind the couch like a rocket and hit the inside of the door slamming it closed. Then he turned as the Rottweilers came after him and jumped onto the couch, used the bounce to help him spring for a tall chest of drawers, almost skidded right off its sleek surface. The two Rottweilers charged over, barked up at him like he was a treed cat. Murdock scrabbled to stay on the chest, scattering the contents. An ashtray smacked Butch in the nose, scattering cigarette butts and ash all over his face.
Okay, tricky, not much purchase, just have to hope he could launch himself far enough. He looked at the window. The drapes were moving slightly and he could smell the outdoors. A shadow across the drapes showed him the window was partly open. Enough for him to squeeze out, he hoped.
He leapt. Duke made a grab at him and his teeth gripped Murdock’s tail. Murdock yelped and was pulled out of the air. But he jumped again at the window, his front legs over the sill, over the frame, into the fresh air. He yanked hard and his tail tore out of Duke’s hold, leaving Murdock with a bald patch and Duke with a mouthful of fur. Then Murdock was scrambling and wriggling through the narrow gap in the window and sliding outside. The two Rottweilers barked frantically after him. Butch mindlessly attacked the drape, pulling it until he tore it from it’s pole and it fell down, covering both dogs. They howled madly, ripped their way out of the curtain and then, in the absence of anyone else to fight they started fighting each other.
Murdock looked back and was confident the Rottweilers weren’t getting through that gap, too big. Too heavy even to pull themselves up to it. They were trapped. He panted for a moment looking at the crowd of people outside the fence. No cops yet. Okay, back to work. He ran back in the front door.
Face ran out of a downstairs room and straight into the loop on the end of Decker’s catch pole. His legs slid out from under him at the abrupt stop. Decker gave a cry of triumph.
Why me? Face wondered, why do Hannibal’s plans always end up with me getting it in the neck? Bring Decker here. Great plan! He struggled, barking loudly. Decker just laughed and held him off.
“Right, let’s get you in the truck…” he began when Murdock cannoned into his legs from behind. He folded up and hit the floor, dropping the pole. Murdock jumped on Decker’s chest and started licking his face enthusiastically, with maximum slobber, giving Face the time to work his head out of the loop.
“Get off!” Decker batted at Murdock, tried to push him away.
“Can’t leave you alone for a minute, can I, Face?”
“He took me by surprise.” Face protested. “Leave him.”
The pair of then ran off, towards the stairs. One of the two men who lived there was just coming to the bottom of the steps. He was waving a gun around, but it made only clicking noises. His expression was wild and he suddenly broke and ran for the front door, ran outside. Face and Murdock barked after him to encourage him for a while, then ran up the stairs.
Two Rottweilers circled each other in the living room. BA and Killer. Both were already panting and bloodied. BA was exhausted, but he would never back down, not until he fell down. Killer was big, a little bigger than BA, but he was flabby, BA thought. Spent too much time strolling around the street scaring cats. He’s out of shape. For me it’s a full time job.
They closed again, and rolled, each trying to gain the advantage. Then Killer scrambled away from BA and BA went after him forcing him into a corner. Killer stood at bay, breathing hard and suddenly he put his head down, breaking eye contact. He whined. He cringed and then he rolled on his back and BA knew it was over.
“Get out of here”. BA snarled. Killer slunk away, his tail down. “Yeah.” BA growled. He trotted out of the room, still exhausted but with his head high and his chest puffed out.
Hannibal was in the kitchen. Normally one of his favourite spots he had to admit. But this kitchen was filthy and the stench of rotting food from the overflowing garbage almost made his eyes water.
He blocked that out though as he played a little tag with Prince. Wearing these big brutes down was key, he thought. He could dance right out of Prince’s path, making the bigger dog lumber after him, until Prince was too tired to chase him any more, and too tired to, for example get out of the way of the clothes airer which Hannibal suddenly ran behind and knocked down onto Prince.
Prince howled with rage and tried to shake the thing off, which just had the effect of getting him further entangled in the airer and the clothes it was loaded with. Hannibal ran out of the kitchen, turned and reared up against the wall, took the door handle in his teeth and pulled back until he fell down again onto all four paws. The door clicked closed. Prince wasn’t going anywhere. Hannibal listened for a moment to the Rottweiler lumbering around, crashing and banging, then trotted off happily.
He ran upstairs to find Face and Murdock running around and around a Rottweiler, the only one still loose in the house if Hannibal could believe his nose. They would soon wear it into a state of exhaustion. Hannibal ran back downstairs, and stopped partway down. Decker was starting up the stairs. Decker grinned a huge, delighted grin when he saw Hannibal.
“About time…” He grabbed one of the nets off his back, “just hold still there.”
“Look out!” Hannibal barked, ran at Decker, who threw the net, missed and was knocked to the floor by Hannibal, who ran right over him, threw himself at the dark figure that was pointing a gun at Decker’s back. He clamped his teeth on the man’s forearm. The man screamed and dropped the gun. Hannibal hung on grimly as the man tried to shake him off, yelling. He swung so hard all four of Hannibal’s paws left the floor. Then the man fell against a closed door, which gave way and he and Hannibal vanished into the darkness beyond, with a scream and a series of crashes.
When Decker reached around the door and turned on the lights a few seconds later the harsh electric glare illuminated a flight of stairs, a stunned man with the dog standing over him, and in the middle of the floor a long table, covered in makeshift chemistry equipment.
Decker stared and lowered the dart gun he was pointing.
“Well I’ll be damned.”
Hannibal, though sore from the fall, took advantage of Decker’s momentary distraction at finding the drug lab and ran back up the stairs. He barked frantically for the other three. Sirens wailed outside.
The team gathered by the front door of the house.
“Wait for it…” Hannibal said. “Soon as they open the gate… Now!”
They ran, past and through the legs of the cops that were piling into the yard now. The cops looked at them, but then ran on into the house, yelling “armed police!” The people by the fence fell back as the dogs ran past them and vanished off around the corner.
It was dusk when the team sneaked back onto the street, lurking behind hedges and garbage cans. There was still a lot of activity around the fenced in house, police, residents, a few reporters. And Decker was still there. He must have had to deal with the Rottweilers. His truck was shaking about and familiar furious barking came from within.
“I love it when a plan comes together.” Hannibal said, making the others groan. “Come on, guys, it worked beautifully. I even got Decker to play his part exactly as I wanted him to.” He just wished Decker knew it.
Across the street Lucy, Jake and Charlie and several other dogs stood around with the small crowd of residents, mostly children, still watching the show. Their scent must have carried across because Lucy looked over at them and started to bark. The other dogs looked around and started to bark too. They didn’t approach the team, but their barks said the same thing over and over.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
BA’s chest puffed out. Hannibal and Face’s tails thumped on the ground. Murdock capered around happily.
“Well at least it’s over and I can get some rest.” Face yawned hugely.
“Er, maybe not…” Hannibal saw Decker turn, attracted by the barking, saw the look of recognition in his eyes, saw him start to run, catch pole in one hand, net in the other.
They turned tail and ran for it. Hannibal looked back long enough to see Jake run out, nipping at Decker’s ankles, distracting him, so he didn’t see Charlie run in front of him. Decker tripped over the spaniel and went flying into a nearby azalea bush.
“Sorry, Decker,” Hannibal panted as they ran. “You know what they say, ‘some days you get the dog, some days the dog gets you.'”
“Isn’t that bear not dog?” Face asked.
“Don’t be silly, Face, there’s no bears in LA.” Murdock chided.
“Plenty of dogs though, fool.” BA said.
There were, which meant there’d soon be another mission for the team. But for now, a back alley behind a five star restaurant, a garbage can and a big celebration were in order.
The A-Team hightailed it into the night.