Where's the Rear Guard?

February 1983

BA crouched down low behind an outcropping of rocks, waiting for the signal that would come any second now. The crescent moon lent little illumination, the darkness only slightly lessened, but the team had scouted the area before the sun had set and BA was confident in his path. The dark silhouette of a cabin 50 yards in front of him was the target. A young man named Jimmy was being held inside against his will but he would soon be safe if BA had anything to say about it. He had faith this plan would go smoothly. Or, at least as smoothly as one of Hannibal's plans was capable of going. Simple rescue mission. Grab the boy, tie up the kidnappers for the local police to pick up and get outta Dodge. They didn't even need Murdock for this one.

The short, sharp whistle ripped through the quiet. BA moved quickly and silently, holding his gold chains down with one hand, his 9mm in the other. He could see his breath in front of him in the cold night air.

He reached the top of the porch two seconds before Hannibal. A quick look and a gesture had BA taking point, Hannibal a step behind and to his left. BA kicked the door open, sweeping his weapon across the room and training it on the lone guard leaned back against the wall in a rickety wooden chair, who'd obviously been caught unaware and probably asleep. The guy jumped up and BA's first thought was disbelief that they'd found some mastermind kidnapper. He was short and plump, wearing a nylon windbreaker and sneakers, not anywhere near appropriate dress for the terrain or the temperature and he seemed inept for pulling such a daring plot against a Senator's kid. A low growl from BA and the kidnapper jerked, losing his grip on the gun he had tried to pull out of his jacket. It clattered onto the old plank floor.

"Kick it over here. Now." Hannibal ordered.

The terrified guard complied quickly, throwing his hands up over his head. "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"

The boy, all of 9 years old and 60 pounds soaking wet, was tied up on a bed in the corner of the room. His hands and ankles were bound together with thick rope and he had a blindfold over his eyes and a gag in his mouth. BA was infuriated. He held the guard at gunpoint while Hannibal searched him, finding another weapon in an ankle holster. As soon as that gun was safe in Hannibal's possession, BA lunged for the terrified guard, holding him up by his collar.

"Why you treatin' a little kid like that? He better not be hurt, Sucker!"

"He's fine! He's fine. We didn't hurt him," the guard cried, dancing on the toes of his shoes as he tried with both hands to dislodge BA's grip on his shirt.

Hannibal untied the boy and helped him up, tossing the pieces of rope at BA, who caught them one-handed, his other hand still holding up the guard.

"He's ok." Hannibal assured.

BA glared at the guard as he made good use of the rope, returning the favor for Jimmy as he trussed the guy up like a Christmas turkey. Hannibal and BA turned back toward the door with the boy in tow and Hannibal checked the immediate vicinity, motioning BA ahead. Hannibal ushered the boy, who hadn't uttered a sound, out behind him. BA edged down the porch stairs sideways, sweeping the forest for any sign of movement. He was starting to think the kid was in shock and he should try and comfort him when his right leg suddenly buckled underneath him and he went down hard. He hadn't registered the sound of the gunshot and he didn't hear the echo of it as Jimmy had started screaming as soon as BA stumbled. He could see the kid out of the corner of his eye, kneeling on the ground by the bottom stair, hands over his ears, rocking and wailing over and over again and BA rolled over and moved to get up and comfort him.

"BA! Stay down." Hannibal ordered sharply. BA froze as Hannibal pushed the boy over into the dirt and crouched down with his gun drawn, scanning the area for the sniper. "Where the hell is Face?"

Hannibal pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and threw it to BA. "Can you apply pressure?"

BA caught it without thinking and looked down at his leg as the white-hot pain flared with the realization that he'd been shot. He reached down and put the bandana over the hole in his thigh, warm blood soaking through the cloth almost immediately. Wincing as he applied more pressure, he tried to get his bandana out of his back pocket but found he couldn't move enough to reach it without taking his hand off of his leg. This was bad. His hand was now covered in his own blood. He could feel it pouring down over his knee, soaking his pants. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, forcing away the grey that had started to edge into his vision. "Hannibal…"

"Hang on, Sergeant." The Colonel's voice was hard now, full of steel as the realization of the situation hit him. One man down, in the dark of night with a hysterical child and an unknown number of assailants waiting to attack.

Hannibal made some quick decisions and pushed his hand down on the back of the boy's head, gruffly ordering him to stay down. He didn't know if the boy had even heard him but he could see BA was losing blood at an alarming rate and that was his first priority. As he crawled over to help BA, Hannibal was seriously considering knocking the boy out cold. He had just put both hands on the wound to try and staunch the blood flow from BA's thigh wound when rapid fire rang out to the south, followed by the sound of a revving engine and spinning tires. Hannibal dropped down onto BA and the Sergeant grunted with the added pressure.

"That Face?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"I really hope so." Hannibal answered as Jimmy finally stopped screaming, the silence a welcome reprieve.

BA looked over and knew the boy was close to hyperventilating as his chest heaved with wracking breaths.

"It's ok, little man. Everythin' ok." he tried to calm him but the words came out sharp and forced as the pain in his leg flared.

"Hannibal!" Hearing Face call out to him had Hannibal huffing out a small sigh of relief and he called back, "Over here, Face. Stay down, BA's been hit. I don't have a position on the shooter."

"It's all clear," Face panted as he ran over to them and knelt down at BA's side. "Hang in there, BA." Face pulled out his flashlight and handkerchief and Hannibal moved his hands so they could get a look at the wound.

"Where were you, man?" BA ground out. "You was supposed to be the rear guard."

Hannibal felt his Lieutenant tense and glanced up to catch the small shake of his head.

He motioned for Face to do something with the boy while he split the leg of BA's pants and tried to stop the bleeding. BA rolled back and forth on the ground while clutching at his thigh above the wound. Hannibal wasn't sure BA was even conscious of his movements or what he was saying, which made the Colonel worry that much more.

"Face gotta remember how to cover a position. Now I ain't gonna be able to drive my van. He gotta pay for messin' up!"

"BA, you need to stop moving!" Hannibal barked. "We gotta get back to the van, Face."

Ignoring BA's accusations, Face knelt down next to Jimmy and checked him over. The kid barely flinched. "There's a jeep parked behind that stand of trees east of the cabin. They covered it with a tarp and some branches but it hasn't been there very long. You find any keys? The guy I knocked out didn't have any on him."

Hannibal shook his head as he took BA's pulse.

"How many got away?"

When Face didn't answer, he looked up at him again.

"At least one." Face answered quietly as he sat the boy upright.

"There's a guy tied up in the cabin. See if he has the keys, otherwise you'll have to hotwire it. Get going, Lieutenant."

Face jumped up and ran inside. He was running back out the door in less than 2 minutes. "No keys. I'll be back in 15 minutes."

"Make it 10." Hannibal ordered, handing Face the gun he'd taken off the thug tied up inside.

Face sprinted toward the jeep as fast as he dared in the dark.

"Faceman gotta pay for me gettin' shot, Hannibal. I gotta make him pay." BA rambled.

"Shouldn't we find out what happened first, BA?"

"No! He gotta pay!" he insisted.

Hannibal tied two of the cloths together, and using the third as a pad underneath, cinched them tight around BA's leg. "Just hang in there. We'll get you to a doctor as soon as we can."

BA pursed his lips and tried to breathe through the pain as Hannibal tied the bandage.

Less than 10 minutes later, Face roared up in the jeep. He ran around to help load BA into the back. Hannibal jumped in next to BA and Face set Jimmy in the front seat and strapped him in. Dirt and leaves shot out from behind the tires as Face quickly put the jeep in gear and sped down the mountain.

"Alright, Face. Let's have it." Hannibal ordered as he kept pressure on the wound.

"That gunshot came from a 50 cal but both kidnappers had pistols on them. The shot came from the south but I found the recon guy west of that, over by the jeep."

Hannibal mulled that over for a minute. "A third man?"

"Must've been. I picked up his trail but he tore outta there before I could get a look at him."

"OK, as soon as we get to the van, I'll find the nearest doctor and then call Mr. Buckley and have him meet us on the way so he can pick up Jimmy." Hannibal took off his jacket and propped it behind BAs head. The wounded man leaned back against it and closed his eyes, the pain evident on his face.

Jimmy turned around in his seat and eyed Hannibal. "You know my dad?"

"Yes, son. We're taking you back to your dad. You're safe now." Hannibal assured him.

Jimmy looked relieved and leaned back again.

"Do you know who the men are that took you?" Face asked him.

Jimmy looked around nervously and shook his head. "Can I have some water?"

"We'll get you some as soon as we get back to our van, son."

"How many were there, Jimmy?" Face pressed. "This is important. Do you remember how many different men were keeping you at the cabin?"

"They didn't take the blindfold off a lot but I heard them. There were two different ones. The one guy was outside a lot."

"Ok, good boy." Hannibal patted his head and he felt Jimmy relax again. He caught Face's eye in the rear-view mirror. There had definitely been a third man involved and he'd gotten away.

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At the base of the mountain, the Man relaxed in his seat and watched from behind the trees as the black and grey van with red detailing emerged from the access road and tore off toward the nearest town, trailing dust in their hurry to get to a doctor. The Man smiled smugly. It wouldn't be long now. If things kept going this well, he would be able to move up his timeline and finish this little project much earlier than expected. He spent a few minutes packing up his night vision goggles and his rifle before he headed off after the van.