Keeper of the Truth

Disclaimer: I do not own The A-Team movie or television series or any of the delightful characters found on The A-Team.

Chapter 36

Face hid in the bushes and eyed the rain gutter near Murdock's second story hospital window. He would have only a few minutes to shimmy up the pipe and spring the pilot. Both men were experienced at breaking in and out of the hospital using this method although the Lieutenant preferred charming whichever nurse was on duty to get his friend approved for temporary release.

But Dani might be on duty and she can't know we've taken Murdock with us. Not yet.

Checking him out through the desk would alert her.

The conman wore a small microphone and receiver pinned to the sleeve of his black turtleneck. B. A. needed to hear what was going on in Murdock's room as well as communicate with Face. "Are you almost ready, B. A.?" he murmured into the device.

"A'most. Wait for it in five . . . four . . . three . . . "

This should be easy.

Face had no doubts that Murdock would relish the idea of getting away from the hospital for a few days.

" . . . two . . . one!"

As if in answer to his thoughts, the lights dimmed once, then completely went out in every window of the hospital.

Right on time! Well, here goes!

Face took a deep breath and hurried to the rain gutter. Grasping the cool metal in his hands, he climbed quickly, stopping when he reached his destination. Softly he tapped at the window, hoping he wouldn't need to knock any louder.

Even in the darkness of the room he made out the occupant in the bed moving his head back and forth restlessly on his pillow in subconscious response to his signal.

"Come on, buddy. Wake up." Face whispered his plea even though he knew no one could hear him. They wouldn't be expecting someone clinging to the outside of a second story window sill trying to gain entry.

He tapped again, a little louder this time and saw Murdock when he fully woke. Scrambling over the edge of the bed to hide behind it, the pilot warily poked his head above the mattress until he could see the window.

Was he having a nightmare?

His concern intensified when Murdock didn't move to help him open the window and climb inside. The conman wriggled through the opening and stood, suddenly uncertain about his friend's reaction to his presence. The pilot narrowed his eyes, unsmiling, and braced himself behind his barricade. His whole body seemed to tense as if he were ready to fight off an attacker.

He isn't exactly excited to see me.

Out in the hallway, the Lieutenant could hear the night orderly and nurse talking to each other at a distance. Keys jangled as they moved from door to door, ready to intervene should one of the patients begin to have a panic attack.

"I'm gonna get you out of here for a few days. You'd like that, wouldn't you, buddy?" Slowly Face moved toward the bed, ready to stop at any moment if Murdock showed additional signs of putting up a fight.

Maybe he isn't completely awake? Does he think he's in Nam?

"Come on, Murdock! You know who I am." Time seemed to Face to be rushing by. Any second the lights would come back on. Or the nurse or orderly would look in through the reinforced observation window and see him. Desperate to encourage the pilot to come with him, Face grabbed his friend by the forearm and pulled him to his feet. And dodged the fist that nearly made contact with his chin.

"Faceman! Stop messin' 'round! Get th' fool an' get outta there!" B. A.'s growled warning crackled over the receiver.

"No!" Wide-eyed, Murdock yanked his arm out of the conman's grip and backed up toward his sink, muttering the word frantically, shaking his head to emphasize each utterance.

Face let out a frustrated sigh and raised the microphone on his sleeve to speak into it. "He either doesn't know who I am or he really doesn't want to leave."

Murdock's back made contact with the wall. Sliding down to the floor, he cringed near the sink and clutched the pipes underneath it.

"I can't . . . I gotta stay 'til . . . " Murdock gulped. "Ya can't make me! Ya can't make me go!" His voice was getting louder.

The conman stopped in his tracks and raised his hands in front of him as a sign of surrender. If the Captain got any more upset, he would get the nurse and orderly there sooner. "Okay. Okay, but help me understand why."

What does he have to stay here for that's more important than being with his friends?

"That's b'tween me 'n' God," Murdock mumbled, tightening his grip. He focused his gaze on the con man's shoes, avoiding his exasperated expression.

So that's it! I should have known!

Face narrowed his eyes at his friend and hissed, "So your new god is Barger?"

Murdock flinched before speaking. "I jus' got somethin' I gotta be 'round for."

"Faceman! Ya gotta get outta there now, man!" B. A.'s voice crackled over the receiver. Face frowned once more at the pilot. Murdock had still not raised his eyes to look at his friend directly.

He was out of time. Even if he persuaded the man to come with him, the Captain still had to slip something on over his Range Rider T-shirt and boxers, get socks and shoes on and make the bedding look like someone was there, asleep under the covers. He sighed in exasperation and confusion.

"Guess I'd better go before they find me here. If you're sure you don't want to come with me . . . " He left the sentence trailing, even now hoping for a positive response.

The pilot shook his head slowly and muttered, "I gotta wait."

He raised his head to meet the conman's eyes. Face saw so much pain and sadness in the Captain's expression, he wanted to stay longer to find out what was troubling him so much. But he couldn't.

"Faceman!" B. A. hissed again over the receiver.

"Coming!" he murmured into the mini transmitter. To Murdock he muttered, "Have it your own way then. Chase Barger's ghost and all that crazy theology. Hope you come to your senses soon."

Reluctantly, the Lieutenant backed toward the window and squeezed through the opening, beginning his climb down to the ground. He didn't know what he hoped for. Maybe that Murdock would change his mind and make a sudden rush to escape with him?

He isn't trying to stop me. He means it.

The lights flickered on in the building. Face slid the rest of the distance down the rain gutter, landed on his feet and ran full-speed to the van.


As the Lieutenant backed away from him in defeat, Murdock felt his stomach tighten, his last words to his best friend echoing in his brain.

I gotta wait? For what? For Paula Fromstead t' maybe write t' me 'n' tell me where t' fin' her brother? 'N' why do I hafta go find 'im when he's locked up like me somewhere?

Reverend Barger's voice whispered in his brain. "Because he isn't there anymore. He's in danger. Only you can find and help him."

Face climbed through the window, shutting it and disappearing from view.

As Murdock released the sink pipes and got to his feet, he resisted the urge to rush to the window and hurry after him.

With a heavy sigh, he trudged to his bed and collapsed onto his back on it. Tucking his left arm between his head and the pillow, he stared up at the ceiling.

Turning his best friend away was one of the most heart-wrenching things he had ever had to do . . .

. . . 'n' I've had t' do a lot o' that lately. I sure hope ya ain' jus' 'nother voice my mind's made up.

There was another more insistent whisper in his head. I'm not. I've pointed you in the right direction and shown you the path to peace.

Murdock closed his eyes and muttered, "I don' even know what that looks like anymore."

The night nurse peeked in through the observation window and hesitated at the door before moving on to the next room.

You'll know it when you see it. You must be strong and unwavering in your quest. Your friend Chuck needs you. Wait for the letter. It will show you what to do next.

Sighing again, the pilot climbed under the covers and turned on his side, mumbling to Barger, "I'll wait. I jus' can't wait forever."

You won't have to, my son.

With that final reassurance the voice quieted to let Murdock meditate on his words and fall into a restless sleep.