© Ubdegrove 2000
Summary: The war is now over in Vietnam but is it over for everyone?
Warnings: Events in this story are only my own representations of feelings I have gain from reading material from the time, remember this story is set in the early 70's. Bloodshed, drugs, guns, family agnst and mental disorders all appear in some degree during the story, thats all I'm gonna say and all the warning you should need until actual parts containing more are posted.
This is the sequel to Killing Time, where we left Murdock at the VA hospital with Dr Richter having just got word from the A-Team. The A-Team had successfully escaped from Fort Bragg after being arrested in Vietnam apparently for robbing the back of Hanoi.
The stuffy hall entertain a host of men in suits, the sound of cutlery was heard as a small group of waiters handed out tea and coffee amongst the seated men. A long table at the end of the hall was the main focus as the hammer came down and sounded for silence, in an instant the loud hum of voices disappeared and waiters crept back to the other end of the hall.
"Gentleman, I hearby open this meeting."
The elderly distinguished gentleman, probably reaching his 75th year stood immaculate in his pressed suit decorated with medals. His thinning white hair brushed over his head, and his clean-shaven face wore the scars and lines of an active life. He studied the gathered men with care and attention; they looked back expectantly as the old man began to talk.
"I am here to talk today about the ongoing effects of the war with Vietnam, as a country, America intervened to protect the South Vietnamese people, we withdrew once we felt we'd done enough. The goal never changed only our perspective, we as an agency will have to pick up the pieces wherever and however we can. The CIA has a duty at this time to protect, we must protect all information leading to America's involvement and withdrawal from Vietnam. There is nothing to hide, contrary to popular belief, however some things should simply not be discussed in the public forum," the old man spoke sincerely and with concern. "The war dealt many blows to us as a country but our spirit is as strong as ever. Regardless of all the criticism America received during the latter part of the war we have the knowledge and fact that what we did was right, our reasons and ongoing battle was justified. Our own soldiers can testify to the cruelty and the victimisation that is rife in Vietnam, we had to make our presence known and I feel its only a matter of time, as the soldiers stories filter through, that the full impact of America's presence will be fully known."
The old man paused for a moment and took a sip of the water that sat on the stool next to the podium.
"During the conflict, many good men lost their lives, many lost their sanity in the madness they saw. We must protect these men, the war is over but in many cases it has only just begun. As the agency we have full details on much of what happened, we must be on the look out for these soldiers because I fear they may have brought the war home with them. The FBI will be dealing with the ones who break the law but we must keep tabs on them before it gets to this stage, it's a big job but remember our main concern is to protect all information to do with the war."
The old man paused as a team of ladies appeared with pieces of paper that were handed out down the rows for the men to take.
"The paper you now hold lists the soldiers who need protecting, they have been medically declared insane, having suffered a breakdown due to the war. Each of the listed men carry knowledge that needs protecting and therefore as an agency it is our duty to protect the information. We shall stop for a five minute break, refresh your tea and coffee and then Major Howland will be discussing the procedures," the old man smiled as he took another sip of the water.
He moved away from the podium as the hum of conversations within the hall began, Major Howland stood up and saluted the old man.
"It's a honour to have you here today, sir!" Howland stated.
"I'm glad to be here, its good to see the government reacting quickly to what could be seen as a security loophole. These man are in need of help but they are potential targets, if the wrong people knew of the information they held, we'd be in serious trouble," the old man informed.
"I have seen the list, sir, its amazing how many generals and commanders lost the plot. It was tough out there, but to see this many men who were in prominent positions now living in institutions is a worrying factor. Sir, one question if I may?" the major asked seeing the old man generally agree with his sentiments.
"What is it?"
"All the names on here, obviously for security reasons I can understand the need to protect them but I am confused by one. A captain in the air corps, let me see," Howland looked down the one page list and found the name near the bottom. "A Captain HM Murdock?"
"Ahhhh, yes," the old man frowned as he remembered the troubled prodigy he sent to Vietnam a few years before. "I dealt with this one personally, he is ex-CIA, requested to join the army and we reluctantly let him. The minute he was over there we began getting all these reports coming back, all bad. It seemed he was a loose cannon, he can't be trusted and somehow worked his way into one of the A-Team units so we couldn't bring him back, then he had a break down more or less in the week the war ended. He's trouble, a fully trained CIA agent who is an ace pilot, can fly anything, and now add to that your basic special forces skills and you have one very dangerous situation in the making. Recent reports tell us he's now refusing medical help, got it in his head that he isn't crazy and never had a breakdown. Stupid hospital let him go." The old man sneered and then looked at the middle aged major, hoping he was buying his version of events. "His A-Team unit is the same unit that are on the run from the government, he finds trouble in all shapes and form, I wouldn't be surprised if he somehow forced those men to rob that bank in Hanoi, that's the kind of man he is. Howland, I want you to personally ensure that this Captain Murdock is looked after, kept in line, I'd hate for the police or the FBI to learn of him if you get my drift," the old man hinted and then took another sip of his water.
"I understand sir, I will personally ensure that this Murdock guy does not bring shame to the agency or to the government," Howland stated sincerely and then noticed the old man go pale. "Are you OK sir?"
"I don't think so," the old man stumbled and Howland steadied him, he guided him to a chair by which time the old man's health seriously deteriorated. "The water, I thought it tasted funny, it was poisoned," the man spluttered and his whole body went limp as he began gasping for air.
By now the whole hall was drawn to the old man's fight for life, Howland laid him down on the floor and loosened his tie.
"Sir, an ambulance is on its way," Howland assured him once he'd got the nod from another associated.
"Too late," the old man managed and then grabbed the arm of Howland. "Find out who done this, someone wanted me out of the way, I thought as much!" he said with venom. "Start with the list, start with Murdock!" he flustered as he began to lose consciousness.
"Captain Murdock?" Howland checked confused.
"Murdock!" the old man spat before his life ebbed away and his body gave in to the poison.
Howland looked down at the now frail looking old man, someone who all his working life had looked up to and had listened to. Disbelief held him as he held the hand of the man who had always been strong, always been so full of life. Never had he seen such anguish or rage from the man, now lifeless and still, he knew at that moment, he'd be doing more than protecting the man named Captain HM Murdock.
The lovers embraced once more, wrapped up in each other's passions they kissed for what seemed an eternity. The woman smiled as she looked into the eyes of the man she knew was the one, she took in his every detail and ran her hands across his back savouring the moment hoping it never passed. He smiled back, his eyes showing only love for the woman who stood before him and they kissed once more.
"I love you," the man whispered gently.
"I know," she purred back, running her hands through his hair.
Moving her hands slowly down his back she reached for his waistband as his hands found their way to her T-shirt. With a calm and a passion, the two continue to kiss as their hands continued to free their clothes. Gently in their embrace they headed to the bed, the lights were dim and everything was right, the moment had arrived for things to move to the next obvious stage. Soon, they were both down to only their underwear, still embraced their movements were as one.
Suddenly there was gunfire, confusion and panic, followed by pain and fear. Rapid images flashed madly and the moment was lost as the man froze, leaving the expression of bewilderment. The woman opened her eyes and pushed the man away, he put his hands to his face and took a moment to gather his thoughts as the woman began to get dressed again, sadness and anger filled her features as she gently shook her head.
"I'm sorry HM, I can't keep doing this, whatever your problem is you have to deal with it," she softly advised.
With a sharp intake of breath Murdock looked back at her with hate filled eyes.
"There's nothing wrong with me!"
"So its me then?" the woman responded without anger.
"You need help, HM, real help because I can't help you no more," she said simply before leaving the room.
Murdock seemed to come back to his senses; he grabbed his pants and quickly followed the woman.
Susan stopped and turned. "What issues you have, I no longer care."
Murdock looked down at his feet and then back to the beautiful features of Susan, the woman he had grown to love but was unable to fully love.
"I don't know what happens, I can't explain it but please, one more try, please," Murdock begged.
"You're a great guy, generous, honourable, funny, handsome but there's something bad you're hiding and until you let it go…" Susan hesitated before reaching up and stroking Murdock's cheek. "I'm sorry," she almost whispered.
Murdock watched her leave the apartment for the last time, he closed the door and he wanted to hit out but he knew there was no point. He sank to the floor and closed his eyes, he was so sure she was the one and he'd blown it but he didn't know why. Standing up slowly he went over to the bottle of whisky and poured himself a glass, the night was still young, he thought.
A knock at the door made Murdock rush over; thinking Susan might had changed her mind he quickly opened the door.
"Susan," Murdock called hopefully before seeing a man stood before him. "Richter, so nice to see you," he mocked, angered by the visit.
"I was worried, you never showed for your appointment this afternoon," Richter stated, still standing outside the apartment.
Murdock held onto the door, clearly having no time for his latest visitor.
"I was busy, getting on with my life," Murdock stated.
"So it seems, although she didn't look too happy when she left," Richter noted.
"Then why don't you sign her up in my place, I'm sure you two would have a lot to talk about," Murdock returned sharply, he finished off his drink and stared at Richter. "Listen, I'm fine I don't need no head doc, understand?" he said raising his voice.
"I see you have chosen the path of bitterness and drink, I admire you, its not easy admitting defeat like you have," Richter observed.
"Get out of my life, doc!" Murdock sneered and slammed the door shut.
"I'll see you Thursday ten am sharp," Richter called from behind the door.
Murdock poured another drink, shaking his head angrily at the intrusion. Slumping down onto the sofa Murdock let his head fall back, slowly as if on cue the images returned. Closing his eyes tight he tried to forget but that seemed to make the images stronger and more vivid, he held his head as he sat forward before screaming out in anger.
Outside his door Richter stood against the wall, a barrier between him and his patient that needed to be broken before he could help. Clenching his fist, Richter silently cursed but remained where he was, hoping beyond hope that Murdock would open the door and let him back in.
Dr Richter strode through reception still thinking about the patient he couldn't help, HM Murdock had responded so well to him to begin with but then something changed and he'd lost him. Somehow, Murdock had decided he was better, after four intensive months he had booked himself out of the hospital and now lived on the state. Richter was helping him as much as he could, he'd signed the papers saying the man was not fit to work, that he was suffering from mental health that meant he was unemployable, that had got Murdock an apartment in a secure building and an income. But Richter knew he needed so much more, he couldn't put his finger on it however, others at the hospital simply said he was bluffing, a professional patient was the common thought but Richter had a bad feeling it was something more.
Entering his office, Richter put his briefcase on his desk and removed his jacket to replace it with the doctor's usual white attire. His mind wouldn't stop fussing over the man who had seemingly taken over his thoughts, what had made Murdock suddenly act the way he was, had something triggered the reaction? Walking over to the filing cabinets, Richter pulled out Murdock's file. Placing it on his desk he read the papers that he'd read so many times before, there were too many blanks on his record, too many question marks that didn't help the uncertainty. What had happened to Murdock, how had he gone from flying in the Thunderbirds to creating a personal hell in Vietnam? There was no birth date on his records, it was simply listed as unknown, and his full name was also not known. Years at a time were missing from his military and professional records, it appeared he simply didn't exist between the time he signed to the Thunderbirds and when he was assigned to the A-Team unit. Richter rubbed his temples, only two years between being a new recruit with the Thunderbirds and the pilot for an A-Team unit. He'd never noticed the time span before but now he did, it didn't add up, no one progresses that quickly through the ranks, either Murdock was the quickest learner and best pilot the world has ever seen or something more sinister was at work. The file gave nothing for Richter to follow up, no next of kin, no names of commanders, no one he could call for additional information. All Richter knew was that the A-Team unit Murdock was involved with were mostly dead and that the remaining members were the ones that had escaped from Fort Bragg a few months earlier, who were now on the run and nowhere to be found.
Richter gathered the file up and put it back in the cabinet, a deep regret within him as he considered his options. He wasn't prepared just yet to give up on Murdock, he'd gained a trust with the man almost immediately when they had first met in the padded cell months earlier. Murdock was unlike any patient he'd ever dealt with and maybe it was because of that he found himself almost mourning for him. When he wanted to gain his trust that first time he had used the one thing that remained ever present in Murdock's thoughts, the news of the A-Team, that they had escaped Fort Bragg and that had brought Murdock to him. He needed to bring Murdock back once more but no one knew anything of the A-Team's whereabouts, he pondered whether this was the reason behind Murdock's recent behaviour, maybe Murdock simply felt he'd been abandoned but he had shown no signs of waiting for them or expecting them.
Richter however still looked up and it was clear in his eyes that he had found a new perspective, Murdock suddenly refusing help, suddenly needing to be independent, classic symptoms of someone who feels abandonment. Murdock was showing signs of needing to stand on his own two feet but for all the wrong reasons, mentally he was still struggling with the past but the present was forcing him to protect himself, because the past had let him down, the A-Team had let him down.
Richter grabbed his jacket and pulled open the door to his office, needing to see Murdock quickly now he knew what to say. As he rushed back through reception his thoughts were too tied up within themselves to notice the striking blond man talking to one of the pretty receptionists.
"He's not here?" the man questioned.
"I'm sorry, he discharged himself two months ago. He's now in secured housing and we are not allowed to give details, not even to the general's personal surgeon," the pretty woman responded. "But you can have mine if you want," she added with a smile.
"Er…any other time, I would, believe me," the man charmed and quickly left the reception area.
Templeton Peck removed his jacket as he walked out of the building, he headed over to the black van parked discreetly in the corner, pulling on the door he got it and sighed.
"Murdock's already checked out," Peck announced. "Two months ago, he's in secured housing, I guess a kind of half way house for loonies," he stated.
"Too bad," Hannibal frowned as he turned to face his men.
BA Baracus frowned but seemed a little relieved, he had objected to getting Murdock back from the start. It was bad enough that they were on the run without having a crazy fool as well to watch out for.
"Are we going to try and locate him?" Face asked.
Hannibal shrugged; he looked away for a moment and puffed on his cigar.
"He's part of the unit, guys," Hannibal stated, more to BA than Face knowing the sergeants thoughts on Murdock.
"Man, we're on the run from the military, we don't need no more excess baggage. Why do we need that crazy man anyway?" BA asked, admittedly confused.
"BA, we need him because we are on the run. I don't know about you guys but I don't want to spend the rest of my days looking through trashcans for my next meal. Its all well and good getting Face to scam us the odd hot meal, but I prefer to pay my way every so often," Hannibal announced.
"But being on the run doesn't exactly make life easy, Hannibal, we have to accept the hardship until we prove our innocence," Face remarked.
"If we can get Murdock back in the fold we have a perfect opportunity to make good of our situation. We're still a good unit, we still have our uses even if we may be the wrong side of the law at present," Hannibal continued, his eyes lit with a sparkle Face and BA couldn't quite make out but it had a familiar air about it.
"What are you suggesting, colonel?" Face asked intrigued.
"We start earning our keep, by doing what we do best," Hannibal grinned.
"What's that exactly?" BA asked, frowning slightly.
"Beating up the bad guys," Hannibal proclaimed. "Look around guys, this city is crying out for people like us. The everyday citizen that's being bullied, you read all about it in the press once its too late to help, it's our key to staying sharp and staying sharp means we'll never be caught," Hannibal pointed out.
"And if we are never caught then maybe, just maybe our case will be reopened, and on the way we'll be picking up those precious brownie points," Face smiled, coming around to Hannibal's plan.
"So how does Murdock figure?" BA asked gruffly.
"BA, he's a part of this unit, a part of this team, he figures," Hannibal stated.
"But he may have moved on, Hannibal, he may not want to be a part of this plan," Face suggested.
"True, but lets at least give him the option," Hannibal motioned and BA started up the van. "Face, I trust you can find the captain's whereabouts," he added with a smile.
Face nodded his head reluctantly and sat back, he had hoped Murdock would still be at the VA. There was always something not quite right with his friend and he felt the hospital would do him some good, maybe it was a good sign that Murdock was out but it still seemed too soon. Images from their past entered his mind before he pushed them back, he realised he wanted to see his friend again regardless.
Richter remained outside the door, dispirited but determined at the same time. He had been outside for over an hour with no response from within, in defeat Richter had finally called the warden using his authority to gain access to Murdock's apartment, the warden approached. The warden gave a chirpy smile and opened the door; he allowed Richter to enter and remained by the door.
"Murdock?" Richter called but there was no reply. "Murdock it's me, Dr Richter," he called again.
Still no response, he checked all the rooms and found they were empty, Murdock wasn't there.
"So where is he? You told me Murdock hadn't left the building, how come he's not here?" Richter asked, confused.
The warden entered and checked himself that the apartment was empty.
"This is secured housing, not a prison, doc. So he's not here," he shrugged unconcerned.
"This man has mental health problems, he needs to be tracked, if he leaves then someone should know about it," Richter demanded, a little irrationally.
"If he's that bad then he should be rooming at the VA not here," the warden returned sharply.
Richter looked away and composed himself once more; he turned back to the warden relaxing a little more.
"You're right, I'm sorry," Richter admitted. "If you don't mind, I'll wait here for him," he added sheepishly and sat down.
"Hey I don't mind, but I warn ya, Murdock might," he added, almost as a warning.
Richter waved the man away and sat back, the apartment still looked like it had the day Murdock had moved in. There was nothing here to suggest Murdock had even lived here for two months, nothing to say he lived there now apart from the comic on the table. Richter waited patiently, prepared to be sitting there for however long it took until Murdock returned.
The commotion by now had the whole office looking over to the cubicle in the corner, voices had started to rise and it was obvious an argument was beginning.
"Susan, please listen to me."
"No HM, you listen to me, we're finished!" Susan returned loudly, catching everybody's attention now.
"I'm sorry, OK, I'm sorry!" Murdock pleaded as he refused to back off.
Susan remained by her desk, clearly flustered. She seemed both embarrassed and angered by Murdock's continued presence.
"Hey, Susan, need a hand?"
Susan looked up to the man who now stood behind Murdock; it was Gavin the hotshot in accounts who also looked like he worked out.
"Do you mind, we're talking here," Murdock protested looking back at Gavin.
"Sounds more like you're doing all the talking, buddy," Gavin returned, obviously not taking Murdock's side.
"It's ok, Gavin," Susan meekly said, although she really did want Murdock away from her.
"Susan, please at least let me explain," Murdock now asked more calmly.
"Explain what?" Susan shot back, her gaze cutting through him. "That you're two different people, one I truly love and one I truly hate?" she asked confused.
Murdock remained silent but he purposely avoided her stare, unable to answer her question.
"Murdock, I just don't get you. I don't think you want me to get you, it just won't work out," she said sadly.
"So that's that?" Murdock finally spoke up.
"I think you already know the answer to that," she replied, her voice breaking up.
Gavin took Murdock's shoulder, sensing that now was a good time for Murdock to leave. Murdock, however had other plans, he took exception to Gavin's prompt and without warning suddenly turned around the slugged Gavin across the jaw. Susan screamed in terror, she'd never seen such anger in Murdock as Gavin fell heavily to the floor.
"Susan, I don't want to lose you!" Murdock stated with anger still evident in his voice.
Susan's eyes filled up, her hands covered her mouth and her expression couldn't hide the shock she felt. Gavin was coming around from being dazed as she looked at the desperate look on Murdock's face.
"It's too late already," she whispered through tears.
Before anyone could react Gavin lunged at Murdock and sent him flying against Susan's desk, she screamed once more and two of her colleagues guided her to a safe distance. Gavin roughly picked Murdock up and hit him three times before being restrained; gingerly Murdock stood up and for the last time looked at Susan through cold eyes. Without any further words he backed up and staggered towards the exit, followed by the security team that had just turned up.
Walking along the city streets, people purposely avoided the path of Murdock as he continued to swagger along. The rage had all gone and been replaced with sorrow and regret, he couldn't stop the tears in his eyes as he pulled his cap further down his head. Hunching his sore shoulders he kept his head down, not wanting to be seen as he walked. His mind raced with possibilities of why it had all gone wrong, Susan had been his life force, she'd woken him up to the good in the world only to now dash any hope he'd had about the future. Just like everything else she was gone, just like his innocence, his youth, his aspiring career, his sanctuary in Nam, his unit and his passion for flying, now he added his love. He figured now he might as well add his sanity, maybe everyone had been right all along, he lost it years ago, he considered.
As he entered the number into the panel on the door to the secured housing his instinct told him to glance over his shoulder, he did so but nothing seemed to be there of interest. He entered the building and checked one more time before heading towards his apartment. He found his door was open and he pushed it gently, almost expecting the sight he saw.
"Doc, make yourself at home why don't you?" he stated curtly.
"Murdock, you're hurt," Richter noted and immediately stood up to offer help.
Murdock pushed him away, not wanting any sympathy. He walked over to the sink and washed his face, the stings of the bruises and cuts made themselves known to him.
"What happened, Murdock," Richter asked concerned.
"Nothing," Murdock responded.
"OK, so how's things going?" Richter tried a different tact.
"Have you heard the latest about the team?" Richter tried.
Murdock spun around, a new look in his eyes as he searched Richter's face for the news.
"What?" he asked impatiently.
"They're still on the run but the military are confident they will be caught soon," Richter answered knowing it was something Murdock already knew.
Murdock smirked; it was an expression of cockiness as if he didn't believe a word of it. Drying his face he turned to Richter, finally looking more human.
"Why do you continue to bother me, doc? There's other people here that you helped, I don't see you pestering them," he stated as if being treated unfairly.
"I am satisfied I have helped them," Richter returned.
"I don't need your help."
"As you keep saying," Richter observed stepping forward, he moved his hand up to Murdock's face to check the small wounds and was pleased to see no resistance. "Minor cuts, keep ice on those bruises though," he advised before moving away.
Murdock watched as the doctor reached for his coat, giving the impression he was about to leave. Something was bothering Murdock but he was too proud to ask for help, for so many weeks he had pushed Richter away but the frustration was getting to him and he suddenly moved forward.
"Doc," Murdock called out before Richter left the apartment.
"What do you think is wrong with me? Say, in theory?" Murdock asked, taking a deep breath, he couldn't hide his shame at asking a question he didn't think needed asking.
"In theory?" Richter mused. "I think you're still suffering from the anxiety of having your world turned upside down, from whatever it was that happened in Vietnam, maybe feeling abandoned?" Richter ventured, putting his A-team theory into practice.
Murdock considered his words, unable to understand exactly what he was suggesting.
"Murdock, you're not alone, try and believe that," Richter advised.
Murdock half smiled at the thought, having just lost Susan and having lost the team he found it hard to think of himself as anything but alone. True, Richter was always coming round but it wasn't the same, he wasn't someone Murdock wanted to be around.
"You're wrong, doc," Murdock dismissed.
Richter stared hard at Murdock, hoping to somehow visually convince him that they were both on the same side.
"Why don't you trust me anymore, Murdock?"
"Because you think I'm crazy, I'm not crazy, doc," Murdock stated with conviction. "I was just acting crazy to protect myself, I want out, I don't want no secured housing I want my life back!"
"Protect yourself from what Murdock?" Richter asked intrigued.
"From everything, you just don't get it do you!"
"Murdock, why don't you explain it all to me so I do," Richter advised calmly.
"Just let me go," Murdock asked before sitting down and holding his head.
"I can't do that, it's not my decision."
"Then get the hell out of here!" Murdock stormed with enough anger to make Richter edge away.
Closing the door, Richter left the apartment and considered Murdock's words, what had he meant by acting crazy to protect himself? His actions alone that night fully warranted Richter issuing papers to have Murdock committed again full time at the VA, but he knew that would only further deepen the gulf between them. Walking out into the afternoon sun, Richter considered his next move, only first he had his other patients to take care of.
Across the street the black van observed the movements in and out the building, they had been discussing their own options as they watched the man leave the building.
"BA, did you get the code that time?" Hannibal asked.
"Yeah man, the door code is 3672," BA responded.
"How did you do that?" Face asked intrigued by the big mans sudden grasp of the new electronic age.
"You're not the only one homing his skills for a life on the run," BA smirked as he put the simple transmitter down.
"Right, we've located Murdock. Face, I want you to observe his movements, try and determine his routine so we can make contact without making too much a scene, who knows how he'll react to us," Hannibal ordered. "Plus we have to be sure he's not being watched by MPs," he added.
"He hasn't heard from us in over six months, Hannibal, hasn't seen us since he dropped us in Hanoi," Face observed.
"Which is why we should be cautious, if he did have a breakdown he might not be prepared just yet to see us," Hannibal added.
"But its encouraging to see he's already at a half way house, right?" Face checked.
The others seemed to visually agree but something didn't settle too well, they'd seen him enter the building all hunched up and in a world of his own and the seeds of doubt had begun to fester. When they had all initially heard Murdock had been committed full time it had been a major blow, they were never told the circumstances but they all assumed it had been connected to their arrest in Hanoi. It was too much of a coincidence that they had been arrested and Murdock committed within hours of each other, but then they were also aware of Murdock's past with the CIA and wondered how much of it was true and how much was tidying up on the CIA's part? Maybe it was easier for them to believe it was all a government ploy, that Murdock was simply being dealt with, but then none of them could confidently say Murdock had always had good mental health. There was a side to Murdock none of them understood or could reach, a side that was hell bent on self-destruction and in a lot of ways could be seen as insane tendencies. Seeing Murdock after so long, hurrying into his building all hunched up and apparently jumpy, had served to further what doubts the team had had.
The night had now fallen and the dark skies gave the perfect cover for Murdock as he left the building, bringing his leather jacket close to him he hurried along to the deserted streets into the main part of town. The neon lights of liquor stores shone at him like beacons from afar and he double checked that he had remembered his wallet, too many times before had he had to go back because his mind liked to play the same old tricks. Confident he had at last mastered the art of leaving his apartment with all belongings in place, Murdock continued his journey with pace. Finally he reached his destination and entered the foul smelling establishment, not that the smell hindered Murdock as he approached the shelves of alcohol, it was oddly comforting.
"Mr Murdock, so nice to see you here tonight," the cashier and owner offered. "I trust we are able to serve you as before," he added with a knowing smile.
Murdock grabbed a few bottles and headed towards the cash desk without a word, although he knew the man behind the counter he found it hard to acknowledge him in the same friendly manner. Nodding his head he placed the bottles on the counter, as the cashier totalled up the goods and bagged them Murdock looked nervously around the shop.
"That will be twenty-six dollars then," the man announced and took the fifty-dollar bill. "Jacob is out back if you need to speak to him," he added with a wink.
Murdock took his change and the bag and hurried to the back door, the bottles clinked together as he moved and with urgency he knocked four times on the door in a special code. The door opened and Murdock entered with confidence, five men sat around the room and recognised him with some friendship.
"Murdock, so nice to see you so soon," a tall man stood up and offered his hand, they both shook and Murdock took the seat he was offered. "Are you sure you have the money for a little business and fun?"
Murdock nodded his head and produced a hundred dollar bill; he placed it on the table.
"Good, good," the man smiled. "You know, this country doesn't like war vets like ourselves at the moment but we'll always be here for you, man," the tall man said sincerely.
Two men stepped forward; one had a noticeable limp and still wore parts of an army uniform; he smiled at Murdock.
"We stick together, man," he offered and patted Murdock's leather jacket that wore the newly painted Da Nang 1970 motif with a the roaring tiger.
"Yeah," Murdock finally spoke up.
"So how's it hanging, man, you free of the shrink yet?" the tall man asked.
"He still pesters me, he seems to think I have issues, everyone seems to think I have issues, except you guys, of course," Murdock offered and relaxed a little as he put his bag down under his seat.
"Vietnam nearly killed all of us, but we stick together, we don't need no head docs we just need peace," another man from the back of the room spoke.
Murdock looked around the room at the only people he could relate to at this time; he'd come across them purely by accident one night soon after leaving the VA. Like him they were Vietnam vets, not the most popular people in the US that had become all peace and love in the time they were away. The vets were the enemy, treated as if they had all personally condoned the war and shunned since they had returned. It was only when Murdock had left the sanctuary of the VA that he had been exposed to the abuse, it was these five men who had come to his rescue.
Murdock remembered it well; he had gone to the local diner for some food when someone asked him where he was from. Within moments he had told them what they wanted to know and when he'd made the mistake of telling where he had been, the moment he mentioned Vietnam it was as if he was put on trial and had to answer to his actions. The more he claimed his innocence to the young hot-headed crowd of peace supporters the more they blamed his actions until one man stepped forward and supported him. In turn another followed him and then another until all five men he looked at now were escorting him to the place they now sat, their sanctuary. Billy, Jacob, Clyde, Cal and Will had somehow become his friends although he didn't know any of them particularly well but they served their purpose and gave him the reason to avoid going back to the VA, the only reason if he really thought about it. To them he made sense; they didn't once question his sanity like everyone else. He was accepted for what he was, they understood where he came from and in a world he was growing tired of it was enough for him.
"Er, Cal you can have your jacket back, if you want," Murdock offered already preparing to take off the brown leather jacket.
"Keep it, man, it suits you better than me," Cal smiled.
"No, no, I can't. It's part of your experience not mine," Murdock insisted, knowing there was a significance to the wording on the back, he removed the jacket and handed it back.
Cal shrugged and accepted the leather jacket; he checked the motif on the back and seemed lost for the moment.
The tall man, Jacob looked back at Murdock with affection, he could see sadness in the captain's expression.
"So tell me, bro, what's made you so sad tonight?"
Murdock glanced over to Jacob, a hard man to fool but never shy to ask the direct questions.
"Susan's finally left me," Murdock announced.
"Too bad," Jacob offered and Murdock felt the wave of sympathy towards him. "But I think we were in the middle of a business transaction," he added.
Will stepped forward and smiled, Murdock felt a presence behind him and knew it was Clyde as he felt him holding his shoulders. Murdock still felt uncomfortable when people touched him and this time was no different as he squirmed slightly before relaxing again, he had done this so many times now it was becoming routine as Will began to roll up his shirt sleeve exposing his forearm.
Taking the money from the table, Jacob moved over to a locked box on a high shelf and brought it down to the table. Opening it up he prepared a syringe, he calmly looked at Murdock, the troubled features that almost begged to be allowed to be taken away if only for the night. Jacob took Murdock's arm and gently pierced the skin; Murdock didn't even flinch as he injected the substance.
"Thanks," Murdock motioned before giving in to the evil pleasure it brought as his whole body relaxed and a fixed smile appeared on his face.
Outside the liquor store, Face checked his watch once more and wondered just what Murdock was doing, buying up the whole shop? Finally he took a deep breath and approached, he checked the store window and immediately saw no one was inside except the storekeeper. Face stepped back confused, he had not seen Murdock exit the shop but it was clear he wasn't there anymore. Face entered the shop and headed straight for the counter, beaming his smile as he approached.
"Hi, a friend of mine came in here, about twenty minutes ago? So tall and er, lanky, brown leather jacket, can you tell me where he went because I was suppose to meet up with him but we've obviously missed each other," Face motioned and immediately sensed the uncertainty from the storekeeper. "Is everything alright?" Face checked unsure.
"He, he left, I didn't see where he went, sir," the keeper offered hurriedly.
"Right, but he was here?"
"Er, I think so, yes," the keeper flustered.
"You think so?"
"We have so many people coming in and out," the keeper stated.
Face nodded his head, he'd been watching the store for over half an hour and hadn't seen anyone except Murdock enter, but knew he never left, his suspicion got higher and he knew he had to find out where Murdock had gone.
"Well, while I'm here I might as well stock up, you see me and Murdock, that's the guy I lost. We were having a kinda reunion, you know, haven't seen each other since Nam," Face made up quickly. "Oh, I hope you're ok with serving vets, I know this town is kinda creepy on that at the moment," Face checked, but seeing Murdock enter the establishment already answered his question.
"You were in Vietnam?" the keeper asked, suddenly quite friendly.
"Sure, served with Murdock, you know the guy who I can't find," he smiled.
"I wish people would treat you more like the heroes you are, than making you the enemy," the keeper offered.
"Trust me, public opinion of me is the least of my worries at the moment," Face reflected, knowing the armies opinion of him had forced him on the run.
"Murdock, you say you're looking for Murdock?" the keeper asked.
"Yeah," Face said, with slight uncertainty.
The keeper quickly moved away from the cash desk and walked over to the door to the left of the desk, two more men entered the shop and Face smiled politely at them. The keeper returned and leaned close to Face, he was about to whisper when Face became aware of the two men standing directly behind him. The keeper moved back and stared at the two men with fear.
"I want to see Jacob," one of the men announced.
"He's not here," the keeper stuttered.
"Now why don't I believe you?" the man returned with menace.
Face turned around still smiling.
"What you smiling at pretty boy?"
"Well, it's just there's a queue here and I think I'm first in line to see…" Face turned to the keeper. "Jacob?" he offered and saw the keeper back away towards the door.
"Tough luck, son, we don't wait in line," the man announced and pushed Face to one side as he took hold of the keeper's throat and pinned him against the wall.
The other silent man took hold of Face and looked over to where the keeper was being held.
"Shall I dispose of this one, Kevin?"
"Chuck him out with the trash," Kevin responded still holding the keeper.
Face moved quickly and released the grip the man had on him, in two swift moves he'd knocked the man to the floor. Brushing his hands together and with a cocky smile, Face stood his ground and saw Kevin release the keeper and turn his attention to him.
"Nice moves, kid but he's not armed like me," Kevin produced a gun and took aim.
Face ducked to one side and yelled to the keeper to get down as the first shot was fired, silence followed and Face could hear the footsteps as he kept low. His pulse racing at the sudden developments, quickly he moved towards the cash desk. Where was Murdock? Face thought wildly, in the silence he could hear some loud chatter suddenly from the back room, a noise that also caught Kevin's attention.
Face looked up and saw Kevin had moved his attention to the door once more, taking a deep breath Face followed as he saw Kevin enter the room.
"So finally I find your hideaway, you can't run no more," Kevin yelled as Face made his way cautiously to the room. "You are a black mark on this neighbourhood and I ain't allowing you to dirty it no more!"
A round of bullets erupted and Face charged at Kevin's back sending him to the floor, there was no noise in the room as Face successfully disabled the man and knocked him out like the one before. Face composed himself before taking in the sight that took his breath once more, around him was bodies of men, bloodied and obviously dead already. Tears crept to the sides of his eyes and he rushed around checking in hope for pulses, he heard movement and snapped his head around.
"Oh dear god, he did it!" the keeper stammered and couldn't control his emotions as he sank to one of the fallen men's side. "Jacob, my troubled son, I thought you'd be safe here, I'm so sorry."
Face put his head down, he felt the anguish from the man and he simply couldn't believe the atrocity he saw before him. He saw they all wore dog tags and clothing from the war, these were his people, his colleagues. He had fought in the battlefields of hell with these men yet they had been brought down in their homeland. Face glanced around and suddenly his eyes fell on one motionless man, his attire different but he recognised him immediately.
"Murdock!" Face screamed and scrambled to his side.
Murdock's body was limp and lifeless as Face turned him over onto his back.
"Not like this Murdock, not after everything, not now!" Face trembled as he frantically tried to find some sign of life.
The odour of alcohol was in evidence and didn't escape Face, he guessed none of the men were in any state to know their fate when the man had opened fire. All of them seem to wear the grins of ignorance as they now lay there in the aftermath, Face finally breathed comfortable, Murdock's pulse was strong, healthy in fact if a little rushed. Slapping the side of his face, he tried to get some life out of his friend, this wasn't how he pictured the reunion. Murdock looked so calm and peaceful in a room now filled with sorrow and grief, he wore an expression that Face had never seen, one that shone of happiness. Face continued to try and wake Murdock before he felt the Keeper tapping his shoulder.
"Son, please leave, take your friend. The police are on their way, I hear the sirens, I don't want this troubled man troubled further," the man smiled finally.
"Thanks," Face smiled back and gathered Murdock up in his arms. "I'm so sorry," he added as he moved away.
"Take these, Murdock purchased them earlier," the keeper held the bag of alcohol, now not so full and mostly consumed.
"He won't need that anymore," Face stated. "Not where he's going," he added.
"Take care of him, he's so troubled," the keeper said. "We offered him the only comfort we could in these hate filled times," he added sadly.
Face nodded his head and quickly left through the back door, once outside he headed over to his parked car and laid Murdock out onto the back seat before promptly driving away into the night.
Richter moved quickly around the apartment, noting his bed hadn't been slept in and that nothing had moved since the day before when he'd last been there. Richter hit the side unit in anger, remembering the marks on Murdock's face the day before, he closed his eyes wondering why he didn't see the signs.
"He went out late last night and he never came back, I thought I better let you know," the warden shrugged, justifying his decision to call Richter over.
"Thank you, I appreciate your concern," Richter stated, however distracted by his own concern.
Richter moved towards the door, stopping by the warden.
"Please call if he shows up, and make sure he doesn't leave before I get here," Richter stated.
"But that's not my job, why should I keep him here?" the warden asked.
"Because the next time I come here it'll be to bring Murdock back to the VA full time, understand," Richter said with authority.
"Understood, he won't leave if he comes back," the warden stated, understanding the doctor completely, there were certain procedures that came into play when a patient was being transferred back from secured housing.
Face paced the room, having checked and rechecked Murdock, as he lay unconscious on the motel bed. A dark cloud seemed to loom, Face knew Murdock had missed the bullets but he couldn't explain why he was out cold. There were some marks on his face but a trained eye could tell they were not recent, but maybe only a day or so old. The fear that Murdock was involved in something big, came down on Face, he was aware of what he called Murdock's dark side. The self-destructive side, the one who in Nam seemed determined to kill himself, to be permanently drunk or drugged. He sat beside Murdock, who surprisingly looked so peaceful as he slept.
"Murdock, what's going on?" Face whispered quietly. "What happened back there and how are you involved?" he continued, more to himself.
He frowned and stood up, moving over to the phone. He dialled a number and waited for the familiar response.
"Hannibal it's me," Face answered once he heard the introduction. "I'm still with Murdock," he added.
"Where are you Face, let us come to you," Hannibal stated, possibly with impatience.
"Not yet, Hannibal. Just give me more time, things just need to be done first," Face responded, obviously hiding the details from the colonel.
"Face, your orders were to follow Murdock and observe, what happened to change this?"
"I'm not sure, Hannibal. But if you're serious about us helping to clean up this city then I may just have found our first client," Face stated.
"Murdock?" Hannibal checked unsure.
"Yeah, I think so," Face returned, a little unsure.
"Keep in touch and don't let down your guard," Hannibal warned before finishing the call.
Face put the phone down and turned to see Murdock was finally stirring, he moved quickly over and took the captain's hand.
"Murdock, Murdock it's me, it's Faceman."
Murdock continued to moan as he slowly moved into a waking state, his eyes remained closed and his expression went from one of peace to one of pain. Face took hold of Murdock, as his body's movements became more frantic, he noted Murdock's eyes remained tightly shut.
"Murdock, wake up, open your eyes," Face stressed sensing the confusion and mild hysteria coming from his friend.
A few moments later Murdock's eyes snapped open and his body stopped moving as consciousness overcame him, he looked startled as he tried to get his bearings. Instinctively he reached up and tightly held Face's upper arms in confusions, his eyes were wild as they fixed themselves onto Face.
"Murdock," Face smiled.
There was a slight hesitation, but in one sudden movement Murdock drew himself up and hugged Face tightly. No words were spoken as Face clung to his friend, returning the hug. Murdock was first to pull away, his confusion was clear but the smile soon appeared.
"Face? Where'd you come from?"
"Just be thankful I showed up," Face said relieved.
In that moment it seemed Murdock's senses caught up with him as his expression turned to pain, he held his head for a moment. Lying back down, with Face's gentle persuasion, Murdock felt his head thumping with a bad headache.
"I would offer you some aspirin, but in the circumstances I'm not so sure drugs are the answer," Face said, if a little coldly.
"Face," Murdock moaned under his breath, he somehow knew Face was making a point and not simply refusing to ease his pain.
"Murdock," Face sighed as he stood up. "You stink of the drink, and I'm pretty sure that headache isn't just a hangover," Face spoke up.
Murdock rubbed his face and made it a brave one as he focused on Face; someone he hadn't seen for so long but within moments had already begun to lecture him. He sat up, wincing a little as he moved to a standing position; once steadied he headed for the door.
"I'll see you around then," Murdock sighed and made to leave the room.
"It's locked, Murdock," Face informed him, knowing Murdock would try to run. "Tell me what's going on," he asked.
Murdock tried the door anyway and appeared angry as he continued to try and open it, after a minute he gave up and turned back to Face, his expression no longer looking pleased to see Face.
"You seem to be fairly cued up, you tell me," Murdock responded, once again rubbing his head to try and ease the pain.
"I've been here before," Face explained. "You just don't change do you?"
Murdock simply looked away from Face's stare, he knew what he was talking about and he knew he was right. He felt exactly like he was back at square one, back where he was when they first met.
"Murdock, we helped you once already, what happened?" Face asked loudly.
"Things change, Face! Stuff happens and it just how it is," Murdock responded sharply. "I was on my own!" he added with anger.
"Well I'm so sorry Murdock, I'm so sorry we got ourselves arrested and could no longer look out for you, but we had our own problems which we're dealing with! The least we wanted was for you to keep the grip we offered you! We need you Murdock but you really think I'm letting Hannibal see you looking like this?"
Murdock looked up at Face, his eyes darted around with unease, Face's words had hit home somewhere with him and now Face saw Murdock back away.
"I waited, I waited so long for you guys," Murdock said, almost in a whisper before sitting down in a heap by the door.
Face took another deep breath, realising his words were too harsh and direct. It was true the team had taken their time to contact him but they were simply waiting for the heat to wear off, maybe it was too long for someone like Murdock.
"We were always going to come for you, Murdock," Face stated with confidence.
Murdock simply rubbed his head, bringing his knees up to his chin, as he seemed to try and hide from himself.
"Murdock, I know you have problems and I know you're trying to deal with them but we've always said the bottle and the drugs are not the answer," Face said softly.
"I'm not crazy!" Murdock yelled with a wild panic, as he scrambled to stand up, in a mess he tried to open the locked door again.
Face turned around unable to respond or look at his friend, it was almost disturbing to watch as he heard the continued attempts to get out by Murdock. Finally he turned back and took hold of Murdock, roughly moving him away from the door.
"Stop it, Murdock!" Face pleaded and after a moment Murdock relaxed, still in Face's arms but with his back to him.
"It hurts," Murdock moaned.
Face slowly let go of Murdock and he immediately reached for his head, Face stood nearby and gently patted Murdock's back and for the first time noticed Murdock's jacket.
"Where'd you get that jacket?"
Murdock looked down confused as he touched and noticed the jacket he wore.
"It's not mine," he mumbled.
"It suits you, it's a nice jacket and it's pretty unique," Face observed the motif on the back. "Da Nang 1970, it's kinda relevant to you as well, you flew in Da Nang, right?" Face noted.
"Yeah, I just liked the tiger," Murdock said in a whisper.
"So whose jacket is it?" Face asked intrigued and glad the tense atmosphere was gone.
"Just some pilot I met," Murdock answered and then a sketchy memory returned that made his expression go cold. "I gave it back, I gave this jacket back," he repeated.
"He must have lent it to you again," Face responded casually.
"No, I don't remember that, I was just with him and I gave it back," Murdock's confusion was rising and Face began to suspect that this friend may have been one of the ones who was murdered.
"Well he must have wanted you to have it," Face said, hoping it would be enough to quiet Murdock down for a moment.
"He keeps telling me to keep it, says it will protect me whilst I'm troubled but I tell him there's nothing wrong but I always seem to end up wearing it again. He says it protected him in Nam and he don't need protecting anymore, I do," Murdock stressed as he continued to try and remember how it came into his possession again. "But I don't, Face I don't need help or protecting," he added as if trying to convince himself.
"Maybe he just wants you to have it, Murdock," Face said sadly, even more convinced this man was dead that Murdock spoke off.
The chilling thought that Murdock was the only survivor and was somehow wearing the jacket, even though Murdock looked convinced he'd given it back again, made Face reach out and embrace Murdock once more.
"What's wrong, Face?" Murdock sensed something immediately.
"I don't know, Murdock," Face admitted as he pulled away.
Murdock walked over to the sink and freshened up as a million thoughts entered Face's troubled mind, there was too much information to take so he chose to simply drop it as he observed Murdock. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some aspirin, he prepared two tablets.
"Murdock," Face offered.
Murdock looked around and saw the aspirin but declined to take them, Face wasn't sure if it was in spite or in a genuine effort to please him.
"I'll live," Murdock stated as he moved back to the bed. "So, how long you planning to lock me up? You know people will be looking for me, I'm still answerable to the VA," Murdock added as he lay back.
"People are looking for us both, including Hannibal," Face motioned. "I think it would be best if you just go back home for now," he added sadly.
Murdock sat up and picked up the hint. "You think I'm crazy, you think I should return, you're just as bad as the rest of them," he said with some disgust.
"You've given me no reason to think otherwise, you do need help, Murdock but you can only help yourself," Face stated as he saw Murdock once again stand up.
"Change the record," Murdock responded and only just reacted in time to catch the keys to the motel door.
He looked back at Face who looked dejected but didn't hesitate as he left the room, and made the short journey back home, once he worked out where he was. Face picked up the phone and again dialled the number, Hannibal responded.
"Hannibal, I'm at the Motel on Dukes Street, I'm alone," Face announced.
"OK, kid, stay put," Hannibal advised before replacing the phone, something was wrong and once again it seemed Murdock was in the thick of it.
Murdock walked towards the door and instinct told him to immediately duck out of sight, there was someone in his apartment. What training he had received in his life kicked in as he listened intently, making sure he didn't attract any attention to himself, his head still thumped with pain and hindered his concentration.
"No doc, Murdock hasn't returned, I'm waiting and as soon as he shows his face I'll be ready."
Murdock recognised the voice, it belonged to the warden and he sounded like he was under orders. Murdock had seen it only once before, the warden only seemed to care about his job when he had a job to do, and it seemed the VA was calling him back. Murdock started to back away, he needed to get away, he didn't want to go back under lock and key, not now, not with the team back in town. The warden had finished the call and Murdock heard him talking into his two-way radio, the warden was being informed that someone had entered the building, the keypad wasn't just a security measure, Murdock figured, it was a tracking device on who comes in and goes out. Choosing to now make a break for it, Murdock turned on his heels and sprinted for the outer door, he heard his own door being opened.
"Hey, Murdock stop!"
Murdock didn't pay the warden any attention as he reached the door, frantically he punched in the code but the fail light kept flashing at him. Like a trapped man Murdock glanced back at the advancing warden, he had to get out and he sprinted back towards the warden, without hesitation he crashed into him, sending them both to the floor. Quickly recovering, Murdock got to his feet and headed up the flight of stairs, towards the roof. Murdock could hear the warden behind him, now giving chase, the door at the end of the corridor beckoned and Murdock ran towards it. Opening it with a crash as his momentum drove him, the alarms quickly sounded off as the door flew open, sounding almost identical to the ones at the hospital that alerted everyone to patient escapes. In a moment's realisation, it dawned on Murdock that he had never actually left the VA, he'd simply been given a key and nothing more.
Murdock ran towards the railings, he was now on the balcony as he found the best point to jump from. The warden arrived and instantly worked out what Murdock was planning, he backed up quickly.
"Hey, man. Don't do it, don't try it," the warden urged, suddenly concerned. "I didn't mean to frighten you back there, this isn't what it seems," he continued.
Murdock looked to the sky, still holding the railings but now he seemed saner than ever.
"I'm not crazy," Murdock said.
"Then just come here and we can talk," the warden smiled, a little relieved.
"You see, if I came over there to you, then I'd be crazy. You wanna lock me up again, like some nut case," Murdock accused.
"I'm just following orders," the warden assured him. "Hell, on this I'd back you up man."
Murdock gripped the railings, knowing the warden was just stalling. He needed to get away and there was only one way he would, he looked down to the ground below, it wasn't that far a jump; he smiled.
"Just don't think I'm crazy," Murdock frowned before lifting himself off the balcony and falling down towards the ground.
The warden rushed forward, he tried in vain to reach out but Murdock was already on the ground. To the warden's surprise, Murdock quickly got to his feet and ran out towards the highway.
"They should never have let him out, stupid fools," the warden said under his breath, he reached for his radio and activated it. "Inform the VA that HM Murdock got away, I propose we put a high-risk attachment to his recapture, the man's a danger to himself and the people of this city, in my own opinion," the warden sneered.
Hannibal paced the small motel room; he observed the silent figure of Face and sighed. BA sat by the window observing the outside; he still wasn't comfortable with being on the run and seemed to hate sitting still for too long.
"What happened, Face?" Hannibal asked.
"I found Murdock," Face offered, his voice quiet.
"And?" Hannibal urged.
"I don't think he's up to the task, I don't think he'll be any use to us," Face admitted but was unable to meet the colonel's eyes as he did so.
"Strange how I get this feeling of déjà vu," Hannibal spoke up.
Face threw him a glance of anger, Hannibal was referring to the first time it was suggested that Murdock become their pilot, so long ago in Nam. His suggestion then was as mad as the one he was making now, but this time Face had the advantage. The colonel was right the first time, but twice was just pushing that luck, he knew Murdock was too preoccupied in himself to want to help them. Things were different now, there was no survival instinct that they could install into Murdock, he was effectively a free man and had no reason to want to help them be likewise.
"Hannibal, before we got lucky, we could relate to Murdock and pull him through. I don't think we can do that this time," he admitted.
Hannibal considered the words of his young lieutenant, sometimes known for his exaggerations but this time, Face was speaking about something that both he and BA hadn't seen. Hannibal wondered just what Face had found in Murdock to make him both want to push him away and protect him. It seemed that Face was willing to let Murdock go, to not want him to be a part of the team and that's what Hannibal wanted to learn more about.
"You don't think Murdock's up to it?" Hannibal asked calmly.
"I don't think we should put him up to it, sir," Face returned with conviction. "Give the guy a break, already!"
"Face, if you think Murdock should be left alone then fine, but we have to pull in all the resources we can. Murdock is on our side, lieutenant and he's in a position to help us until I decide otherwise, understood? It's my duty to you, to BA to ensure we don't get tangled up in this mess the army has made, I'm not looking for sacrificial lambs, I'm looking for options and as far as I can see, we only have Murdock," Hannibal stated and the room went quiet.
"Well maybe you should find Murdock and make your own decision, colonel. Because its obvious mine don't count," Face said bluntly.
"Face, what happened? You said something about Murdock being our first case, what is he mixed up in?" Hannibal asked, not wanting to lose the situation to petty arguments.
"I don't think he's mixed up in anything, not now. I think he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Face answered.
"Stop covering for him, lieutenant!" Hannibal ordered loudly.
"Hey, man. It's the fool, he's heading over here!" BA suddenly announced still at the window.
"Tell me now, Face. Or I'll just have to find out from him," Hannibal warned.
Face finally looked at Hannibal, the look was clear to Hannibal that Face was still hiding something and whatever loyalty remained between Face and Murdock was solid, Face wasn't going to talk.
"Let him in, BA," Hannibal ordered, not removing his gaze from Face.
Before BA could get to the door they heard Murdock bang it loudly.
"Hey, Face, Face you still here?" Murdock called from outside, it was clear he was breathing heavily from running, when the door opened Murdock stood staring back at BA.
Murdock couldn't explain his reaction, on seeing BA he backed away. Face was sat in front of Hannibal and Murdock didn't want to face the wrath that he assumed was coming his way. Face would have told Hannibal; about the drugs and drink, he was certain. He had let Face down and he couldn't face up to his actions, not to Hannibal. Before BA could grab him Murdock bolted and ran back across the parking lot, BA began to give chase but Murdock had always been quick.
"In the van," Hannibal simply said as he rushed past BA followed by Face.
Murdock rested by the side of the shop, catching what breath he had left. For so long he had waited to see the guys again but their timing stank, Murdock thought. His head still thumped with a pain that was only easing slightly, what was going on? Murdock thought in desperation. Picking up the pace again, Murdock ran between the buildings towards the only sanctuary he knew.
"I know where he's heading," Face announced on seeing Murdock turn down an alleyway.
"Where?" Hannibal asked.
"The liquor store on Dunstan Avenue, that's where I found him last night," Face replied glumly.
"Ain't no time for drink, man. It's still the afternoon!" BA huffed annoyed, now sensing what Face had been afraid to tell them.
"We have to get to him before he gets to the store, Hannibal, trust me. He doesn't remember what happened," Face said with urgency.
"What did happen?" Hannibal asked once more.
"People died, Hannibal. People I strongly suspect had been keeping Murdock together, just get to him first," Face stressed.
Hannibal narrowed his eyes, wanting to know more but already knowing Face was in no mood to explain himself further, the bond between Face and Murdock had almost been forgotten but was quickly coming back to him. They had both survived in that prison camp; they'd been though something BA and he had missed, thankfully. They had been captured a few times as a unit by the Viet con, but with numbers came strength, Hannibal never forgot the helplessness he felt when two of his direct team had been caught outside of the unit and were absence for so long. They had never spoken to anyone about what happened, it was something reserved only between the two of them and Hannibal knew he'd never know. They'd been separated by circumstance now for a good few months, Hannibal realised those few months had been too long, if not for Face then possibly for Murdock. But now Face was willing to let Murdock go, to allow Murdock to simply face life alone, when it was clear he needed help. It didn't make sense; something was bothering Face and he knew it was Murdock.
Face suddenly let out a groan as the van slowed down; they saw Murdock entering the liquor store before they had a chance to stop him. Hannibal glanced around and could tell from Face's expression that this was bad, he signalled to BA to park. Face was the first to get out of the van, he knew he needed to explain or at least see his friend. He still didn't know the connection Murdock had with the dead men but he got the impression, if he had understood the situation correctly, that Murdock thought highly of them. Face tried to focus, these same men, he fully believed, had also aided Murdock's dark needs. He was sure the backroom operation was more than a meeting place for friends, Murdock had been out of it when the shooting happened and Face knew it was more than too much drink. Anger welled up inside Face, he couldn't begin to understand how Murdock had sunk so low again; things were no way as bad as before. He understood Murdock had been forced to deal with some pretty horrific ordeals before, it almost was acceptable that he gave up and wished death but now? The war was over, he was out of the CIA's and Army's hands, he was even out of the VA yet the destructive need had kicked back in, just as Hannibal or rather the team needed him most.
Face knew Hannibal was keeping a respectable distance, Hannibal was a hard guy to hide things from but he was also intelligent enough to know that when you did hide things it was for a good reason. Face approached the store with dread, the police incident signs littered the place and Face naturally went on guard. Their own lives had changed so much in the past year, Face knew he had to be careful in any place that had police attention, the team couldn't afford to drop their guard for a second. Face stepped inside, the place was empty but the door to the back was open and Face heard voices. Quietly approaching Face recognised the voice of the storekeeper, as Face reached the door he saw the storekeeper holding Murdock and Face's head dropped, Murdock had found out the hard way.
"Murdock?" Face said quietly.
The shopkeeper turned and smiled gratefully, Face nodded his head and moved closer. He saw Murdock's blank stare and frowned, Hannibal quietly walked into the room still keeping a close eye but not intruding.
"Murdock, are you OK?" Face asked unsure.
Murdock wasn't showing any obvious emotion, he seemed to be fighting the anger or tears, Face wasn't sure. He finally nodded his head and stared back at Face, his eyes seemed lost.
"I need a drink," Murdock murmured.
The storekeeper gently patted Murdock's back and hurried inside the shop to oblige before Face or Hannibal could react, but Face knew a drink probably was the best thing for Murdock.
"Who were they?" Face asked once the storekeeper was out the room.
Murdock shrugged without answer; he walked around the room where the furniture and boxes still lay as they had done the last time he'd been there, before the shooting.
"You tackled the men who did this?" Murdock asked reflectively to Face.
Face nodded his head sadly, Murdock clearly was having difficulty accepting what had happened around him and it was clear he didn't remember a thing. Murdock seemed to notice Hannibal for the first time as he walked around the room, he glanced at him almost suspiciously before turning his attention back to the storekeeper who had returned with a bottle of whisky.
"On the house, son," the storekeeper smiled fondly.
Without hesitation Murdock opened the bottle and took a swig at the contents, he held his head up to savour the taste before taking another gulp. He kicked a box over and sat down, his sorrow began to be obvious and there was an uneasy calm. Hannibal decided this was the moment to make himself known; he still was unsure what happened apart from guessing, as he stepped forward.
"I'm Hannibal Smith, a friend," Hannibal introduced himself and offered his hand to the storekeeper.
"Arnold Switzer, Arnie to my friends," he smiled back and shook hands.
"Nice to meet you, what happened here?" Hannibal asked.
"I tried to give some troubled men sanctuary, my son included. This neighbourhood just wasn't very welcoming to them, all love and peace but ready to spite and kill at a drop of a hat, no doubt in the name of love and peace!" Arnie spat angrily, taking Hannibal and Face by surprise.
"I don't understand," Hannibal admitted.
"My son, his friends, heroes every last one of them. They fought for this country and now they are treated like criminals for doing so, my son and his friends, Murdock included have all received cold shoulder treatment and abuse for being known vets of the Vietnam War. I didn't think it was right and so offered them a place to meet, I let them have this room," Arnie explained looking over at the forlorn figure of Murdock.
"I had read reports of this but never realised it was so bad," Hannibal said, angered within by the truth.
"I think its particularly bad in this part of town, I don't know why but your friend there, he saw what happened last night," Arnie motioned to Face. "Murdock was the only survivor, Cal always said that jacket looked after him," Arnie smiled as if remember a past memory. "I lost my son and many friends because some people in this town are ignorant of the truth. They want to make sure all Vets suffer, they believed the propaganda and feel these men could have done something about it, they don't understand! Their own mission isn't a peaceful or loving one, it's a vengeful one, please if Murdock is a friend then take him away from here," Arnie pleaded, his own loss showing through with fear.
"Sir, I can do better than that, I can teach this scum a lesson. Murdock was in my unit in Nam, as was Face," Hannibal looked over to Face. "I don't want these men to think they have the right to judge us for serving our country," Hannibal stated.
"The colonel's right, we're not running away from these bigots," Face supported.
"Why fight them? By fighting you'll only strengthen their cause," Arnie stressed. "The police arrested the two men who did it, the ones your friend, Face, challenged, why take this further? The law will make sure my son's death is avenged," he added.
"If that's your wish, then Ok, we'll take Murdock now and make sure he's alright," Hannibal backed down, sensing the man's mourning.
"Take good care of him, he's a good man," Arnie asked.
"We know," Hannibal agreed and motioned to Face to get the still drinking Murdock to his feet. "If you change your mind, here's our number, we want to help," Hannibal handed over a contact number.
"Who are you?" Arnie asked.
"The A-Team," Hannibal smiled and followed Face and Murdock out of the room.
"And?" Arnie whispered under his breath none the wiser.
The day had already turned to night by the time Murdock looked up and took in his surroundings, the past few hours had become a blur as he came to terms with the murders of his friends. He was aware that the team were with him, he gained some comfort in that fact but it didn't feel completely right. He felt they were the enemy in most part, he felt their stares with every sip of alcohol his took, they were watching his every move just waiting, it seemed, for a reason to call him crazy. His head was light and fuzzy but he was still in control, he wanted to scream and shout the injustice of the crime that had cut short the lives of the men who helped him. The mark had been overstepped, the level of ignorance was too high, and the line had been crossed.
"Colonel," Murdock spoke up into the quiet room.
Hannibal looked over from where he sat reading the paper.
"What's gonna happen now?" Murdock asked still looking down.
"Well, that's up to you," Hannibal noted, BA and Face sat forward interested in hearing any words Murdock had to say.
Murdock's eyes darted about momentarily.
"This isn't Vietnam, there is no war, no unit," Murdock observed.
"That's true, but there are always fights to be fought, people to help. We're still at war with the army, the authorities."
"Face said you needed me, why?"
"Murdock, we want to do good, we're not the bad guys but we've been accused of crimes we didn't commit. We need to pay our own way, we need to survive, I suggest we become soldiers of fortune," Hannibal announced with a casual shrug.
"Mercenaries? Hired hands?" Murdock asked.
"In so many words, yes, we make ourselves available for those people who have no where else to turn, for a modest fee," Hannibal smiled. "Murdock, you're a good soldier and you're also a free man, we could do with you in the team."
Murdock smirked and it didn't go unnoticed by the others, Face sat back fearing Murdock was about to laugh in their faces.
"I'm not a free man, colonel. I have no where to go, I've been forced to run because certain people have it in their heads that I'm crazy," Murdock informed them.
"You are crazy, fool!" BA pointed out.
"Oh yeah, well I must be to hang out with you!" Murdock snapped back angrily.
Hannibal quickly motioned to BA to cool it, seeing him clearly ready to throttle the pilot.
"Murdock, we could really use your help," Hannibal said.
Murdock considered the words, he had nothing else in the world to do and it was probably the only option he had open to him. But he knew things would have to change, he'd have to give up the drink and drugs if he were to become one of Hannibal's men again, he wasn't sure if he was strong enough, he needed time. Murdock stood up; struggling to say the words he knew the team wanted him to say, he knew they'd take his decision badly, at least for the moment.
"I need to think, I need to get my head straight before I can tell you my answer," Murdock spoke with care.
Hannibal took a moment and then nodded his head, he sensed the sudden tense atmosphere, they had naturally assumed Murdock would jump at the chance to rejoin them.
"I give you till Friday, be here at twenty-one hundred hours," Hannibal stated.
"I just need time, colonel," Murdock said once more now feeling the disappointment, he was unable to even look in Face's direction.
Murdock opened the door and walked outside into the night air, he was about to reach the sidewalk when he heard his name being called. He turned to see Face approaching, he stopped and waited unsure of what to expect from Face.
"Murdock, wait, I just wanted to say I understand, when I first heard Hannibal's plans and after seeing you, I told him to back off," Face said with concern. "You have some things that need sorting out, right?"
Murdock nodded his head, partly relieved to have Face's understanding.
"I'm in no state to join up with you guys, I need the drink and stuff and you guys don't need that shit," Murdock responded, his mood a little more understanding than when they last spoke.
"You don't need it either but we do need you," Face said diplomatically.
Murdock nodded his head and smiled. "I'll see you guys Friday, promise," Murdock patted Face's arm and made to move away.
"Hey wait, where you sleeping tonight?" Face asked remembering what Murdock had said about running from the VA.
"I have some friends in town, they'll put me up for a couple of nights whilst I sort myself out," Murdock seemed unconcerned as he continued to move away into the night as Face watched.
Face watched for as long as he could see Murdock heading away, hoping that Murdock would indeed sort himself out so he could commit himself to the team. It seemed Hannibal was now going to go ahead with his plan with or without Murdock, Face knew he'd prefer it with Murdock just for the extra man if they were about to go into the knuckle sandwich business. Murdock had changed but at the same time he was the same angry young man he'd been when they'd first met, now he was more assured and had even appeared to have kept some of his fighting spirit but the darkness still surrounded him. Face wondered if or how the darkness would be conquered, he couldn't imagine Murdock without his mood swings, without that edge but a part of him prayed it would happen.
Time continued to pass unnoticed as Murdock walked for what must have been hours, he wasn't sure exactly where he was heading or for what purpose but he found the night air comforting as he thought over his options. Murdock brought the leather jacket up to his chin as the chill of the night began to bite, it instantly brought back the reality of what had happened, could he have stopped it if he'd been sober? He'd heard how Face had tackled the guys who'd done it, why wasn't he a part of that instead of being in some unconscious haze? The anger began to well up inside him as he considered his own weaknesses and his stride grew longer as his pace quickened through fury. His friends, his sanctuary had been taken and he'd simply let it happen. The jacket served as a constant reminder to his weakness, it seemed to follow him around, and no matter how many times he'd returned it to Cal it managed to find its way back. Cal had been a real hero, he had saved many lives and yet he'd given his jacket, the one token of his bravery to him, someone who simply slept through his friends being murdered. Murdock remembered his words the first time he let him take the jacket.
'You look cold, Murdock, this jacket will warm you,' Cal had told him. Murdock had tried to push it away but once he saw the tiger motif he was mesmerised and in that moment Cal had more or less put the jacket on his back. 'This jacket will help you through the troubles you face, it protected me and gave me strength, now its your turn,' Cal had smiled. Murdock at that point had thought the five men were nothing more than drugged up hippies but over time he'd learned to appreciate their words and offers of sanctuary. Once the threats and abuse had started to grow worse in the neighbourhood they were there for him, they let him escape and never judged him. 'Every man is free to choose his own path, you have chosen yours,' Jacob had said before offering him the substance that allowed him to fully escape, for a modest fee, that Murdock was more than prepared to pay.
Murdock shook his head to help take away the memories, Cal had been right when he'd talked about the Jackets protective properties, it was just a jacket but it held a hidden meaning to him. The Jacket was connected to his past with the motif, a motif many of the pilots of Nam recognised, but more importantly for the moment it held as a reminder to how weak he could be. Had he been more aware and not out of his skull then he believed he could have prevented the death of the man who first wore it. The jacket was now his, there was no one to give it back to and Murdock suddenly felt the responsibility that came with it. Cal was a man of honour; he'd shared many tales with Murdock about his time in Nam and had listened when Murdock spoke of his own experiences, although no one in that group ever heard the full story. Cal and the others were his soul mates; much like Face, BA and Hannibal had been when he was confused and angry in Vietnam. Murdock couldn't claim to really know them, but he knew enough and he knew their deaths were wrong and that all he had left was the jacket. The jacket, a symbol of Vietnam and the memories of the five guys who had insisted he take it. He put his hands deep into the pockets, thinking about the path that had brought them both together, and continued to walk along the deserted streets.
"Well, it seems they missed one."
Murdock looked around but saw no one; the voice was threatening and had come from the shadows. Murdock glanced around, his eyes searching the darkness for the source; he kept turning in the hope they'd reveal themselves.
"Where are you?" Murdock finally asked, sensing their movement but unable to see them still.
"We want you scum out of here, understand? We don't want your kind in our community, we don't want murderers of humanity in our midst."
Murdock stopped searching, he was stood in the middle of the road, and the words were spoke with arrogance and stank of ignorance.
"Murderers? You calling us murderers?" Murdock checked. "Five good honest men were gunned down in cold blood last night! They were heroes, they fought for this country, they fought so you could have freedom, they didn't deserve to die like they did!" Murdock yelled. "You people are even giving the ignorant bastards that shun us a bad name, what's your story?" Murdock added; knowing in other parts of America the protests were more peaceful.
"We believe in giving back what people dish out, we know for fact what you lot got up to in Vietnam, how you raped and beat the innocent villagers!" the unseen voice shouted back, sounding almost insulted by Murdock's verbal attack.
"Ok, there were the odd few that broke, man but your talking about the small minority here! Tell me what do you know of the Viet Con, huh? You think their people served us doughnuts and soda and let us relax by the pool in their five star hotel?" Murdock screamed back, remembering his own ordeals in the prison camps.
"You're American, you had a duty to act like human beings, that's what being American is all about!"
"I know what it is to be American! I kept my mouth shut when it would have been so much easier to talk to that scum who call themselves human! You call hunting me down and then keeping to the shadows, the American way? You think gunning down five innocent men in cold blood is your god given right as an American? Well let me tell you this, you don't know what it is to be American!" Murdock yelled loudly and slowly saw the figures of about seven men step out from the shadows.
"Is that so? At least we do our business in our own country, we don't go embarrassing the nation overseas," the lead guy said as he stepped closer, tapping a baseball bat in his hands.
Murdock took some quick breaths and knew he was surrounded, he glanced around at the youths that were closing in. The lead guy was obviously a footballer; his broad shoulders were intimidating as he stepped even closer.
"This isn't about the war, this is about your own selfish pride," Murdock realised and spoke as calmly as he could, these kids had probably been talked through the war by their parents. Told many times how the Americans had gone to Vietnam to sort them out never expecting the locals to fight back as they had, they had a grudge because they thought the vets had lost the big game, they were comparing the harshness of war with some stupid ball game.
"I don't know where your from, but round here we're taught how to fight not how to keep quiet," the guy stepped more into the light and Murdock saw just how young he was, his intent was also fairly obvious and Murdock backed away slowly.
"You just don't get it, boy!" Murdock hissed. "Just count yourself lucky that you'll never fully understand what the war was like!" to emphasise his words Murdock prodded the young mans chest and for a moment his intensity stopped them in their paths.
"Your one crazy mixed up screwball!" the young man finally hissed.
Murdock glared back at the boy and felt the sudden feeling of people taking hold of him; he swung madly and caught a couple of them. He continued to struggle and managed to keep them from over powering him, the lead guy stepped in and threw a strong right hook across Murdock's face sending him crashing to the floor. Murdock instantly got back up to his feet and pushed the young man away and then felt the overwhelming hold of three men, he could no longer struggle against their hold as the young man got slowly to his feet.
"You're history," the young man stated brushing down his clothes.
"You think you scare me? Huh? I survived three prison camps, I saw death daily and I saw acts of heroism on a regular basis, this is simply child's play," Murdock mocked and a grin erupted on his face as they began to move him into the shadows.
"Oh yeah, well old man, we haven't even started yet!"
"Are you sure, isn't that your mother I hear calling you for bedtime?" Murdock smiled as if hearing a faint voice in the distance.
The young man delivered a hard punch to Murdock's stomach and he doubled up in agony, momentarily unable to breathe. Two of the others quickly got him back to his feet and Murdock regained his composure quickly, he smiled directly at the youths.
"Still just a tickle compared to what I faced in Nam," Murdock teased, knowing the youths were beginning to listen to his taunts.
The lead guy grabbed Murdock's jawbone and pushed him back against the wall, two of the gang still held his arms and Murdock struggled. Murdock felt his head crack against the wall and he refused to scream in pain, he drew strength from his past and wasn't going to let these kids see him react in pain.
"You wanna know what it was like in Nam, huh?" Murdock yelled through the boy's hand that still held his jaw tightly.
The young man saw the sudden change in Murdock's expression, from nowhere he seemed to have gained strength and even though the man was outnumbered, the young man suddenly felt fear. Murdock suddenly pushed forward and managed to free his arms and in a swift movement he pushed the young man to the ground. Quickly searching he found a firearm in the kids waistband and cocked the hammer before the kid had a chance to react, he held the gun to the young mans head. His friends suddenly backed away, unsure of how the situation had arisen.
"This my young naive friend was what it was like every minute, every hour, every day. What do you feel? You feel that when this is over you should have to suffer it again?" Murdock asked with harshness in his voice.
The young man was squirming, his expression obviously gave away his fear and it was clear he fully expected Murdock to kill him right there.
"I'm not a murderer, did you forget?" Murdock asked withdrawing the gun and throwing it aside. He slowly stood up and held the young man's stare, it seemed for the moment he had got his point across.
A sudden pain erupted at the back of Murdock's head and he fell unconscious to the ground, behind him stood one of the gang still holding the baseball bat in the air, he was shaking wildly as the others took in what he'd done.
"What you do that for!" the young man yelled getting to his feet, still traumatised by Murdock's quick Vietnam lesson.
"He was going to kill you!"
"Let's get out of here," the young man ordered and made sure the others ran, before he joined them he knelt down to check his friend hadn't killed the man that lay unconscious. "I'm sorry," he whispered and moved away out of sight.
Murdock opened his eyes and waited for a moment before getting to his feet, he held the back of his head groggily and staggered to the wall. His hand was covered in blood but he didn't care, brushing down his jacket he smiled suddenly, maybe it had just been a bunch of kids but he'd done something positive and it felt good. Slowly he walked back along the ally way and looked to the sky, hoping that somewhere up above Cal was looking down, making sure his jacket had gone to the right man.
The light went on as the door continued to be hit, the woman checked her watch before putting the door on the latch and opening it.
"Murdock! Do you know what time it is?"
"Susan, I needed to see you," Murdock smiled.
"Now is not the time, its 4am!"
"I need somewhere to sleep, I've been chucked out," Murdock sighed. "I just need a couch for one night and then I'm gone, I promise," Murdock added quickly.
Susan looked him over, he didn't look like he'd been drinking or doing anything else but there was a certain glazed look about him she couldn't explain.
"Now is not a good time to ask for my help," Susan frowned.
"Who is it Susan?" a voice cried.
Murdock froze and heard the voice from within, he recognised it and wanted to react, the man from the office who only the previous day had beaten him was with Susan, in the early hours and it didn't take much imagination to work out why.
"You!" Gavin realised as he took the door from Susan.
"I was talking," Murdock stated, not wanting to fight.
"Didn't you get the message yesterday, Susan had left you! Now do I have to call the police?" Gavin asked.
"I just needed a place to sleep, I'm going," Murdock muttered and began to move away.
"Murdock wait!" Susan took the door from Gavin and released the latch; she hurried after Murdock. "I guess you'd have found out about me and Gavin soon enough," she sighed as she struggled with her words.
"Whatever," Murdock continued to walk without care, he couldn't tell her he was almost relieved to know the split hadn't been completely his fault, he felt a freedom that he needed.
"Murdock, wait!" Susan demanded.
"What?" Murdock stopped and turned around confused. "You cheated on me and successfully managed to blame me for the break up, so what," he shrugged.
"I'm concerned, Murdock, its 4am you have nowhere to go," she stressed, stroking his face fondly.
"I think your bed would be a little crowded for three," Murdock remarked.
Susan smiled and gently patted Murdock's shoulder, "I was offering the couch, seriously, are you going to be OK?" she smiled with concerned.
Murdock nodded his head, for once believing he would be. "Don't worry about me," he smiled and reached out to hug her, she embraced him and for a moment they were remembering what they had.
"Oh my god!" Susan suddenly screamed and moved back, Murdock saw her hands covered in his blood.
"Susan, its OK," Murdock assured her but she looked back at him with confusion.
Gavin rushed outside and took Susan in his arms, wondering what Murdock had done to her. He saw the blood and looked back with hate at Murdock, he took Susan's hands and calmed her down.
"Get the hell out of here!" Gavin warned.
"We need to get him to a hospital!" Susan stressed, coming back to her senses.
"No!" Murdock snapped, knowing the VA was probably the closest and suddenly fearing being kept in.
Murdock hurried down the hall but knew Susan was following him, he stumbled and realised he was exhausted, a sudden heaviness overcoming him. Susan reached him just before he fell, she held him tight and screamed back to Gavin to get the car.
"No, no hospitals," Murdock managed, losing consciousness quickly.
"Ssshhhh," Susan urged. "You need help," she whispered with concern.
"Please Susan," Murdock murmured.
Susan held Murdock as he slipped into unconsciousness, she couldn't help the tears and realised she loved him, no matter what she thought, she loved the man now sleeping in her arms.
The atmosphere was calm in the quiet corridor of the hospital, finally after a few hours of panic and waiting, Murdock was now resting and being cared for. Susan sat back, feeling the urge to sleep but her concerns were too strong to take her eyes off Murdock for a moment. Gavin had already left, having sensed her feelings for Murdock to be too strong for him to compete and he had left to give her space. The doctors had assured her that Murdock was fine, no permanent damage but he was being kept in overnight for observation. She watched him sleep, his head was bandaged and his vitals were being closely monitored but he was only sleeping now, he'd already come around earlier and looked a lot better and was now resting. A small commotion outside their cubicle attracted Susan's attention in the otherwise uneventful area of the hospital, some staff members were gathered; then she noticed that they were looking over in her direction. The memory of Murdock almost pleading not to be taken to the hospital took hold; Susan reached out and held Murdock's hand. The staff approached, they were carrying something she couldn't quite make out as they entered their cubicle. In a sudden motion and without warning, they started to physically strap Murdock to the bed in restraints.
"What do you think you're doing!" Susan screamed seeing the panic that crossed Murdock's face as he was woken up.
"Just following orders, this man is considered dangerous," one offered.
"Dangerous? This is no way to treat a patient!" Susan protested loudly, she tried to wrestle with the restraints but the staff easily stopped her.
"Its for his own safety, this man is a patient in the psychiatric wing. We are just following procedures," the man stated.
"You're mistaken, this man doesn't live in the psychiatric ward!" Susan screamed at the injustice.
"His name is HM Murdock, right?" the man checked calmly.
Susan paused, the name was right but it didn't make sense, Murdock lived in secured housing. She had never pressed as to why he lived where he did but she was positive he didn't live in any hospital. Murdock was by now fully awake and started to struggle against the restraints, he was growing angrier by the minute.
"I'm not crazy! Get me out of these things!" Murdock yelled finally finding his voice.
"The more you struggle the tighter it will get," the man warned but saw Murdock was not calming down. "We need to sedate him," he stated to another orderly.
"No! This is a mistake!" Susan continued to protest and looked on helplessly as Murdock continued to shout and struggle, she stepped back and feared what was happening, Murdock was acting out of control.
The man grabbed hold of Murdock's arm, preparing it for the shot as Murdock tried everything to release himself.
"Now, now, Murdock. You should feel a lot better in a couple of minutes," he smiled and the needle entered, finally Murdock gave up and relaxed slightly.
"Susan," he called softly, the first effects of the drug kicking in.
Susan rushed to his side and held his hand, he looked so troubled as the sleepiness took hold.
"Go to the motel on Dukes street tonight at nine, room number twenty. Say I sent you and that I need help, I need to get out of this," Murdock whispered groggily. "Tell them to come get me," he finished before losing consciousness.
"I think now, mam, you should leave," the orderly requested as they began to move the bed out of the cubical. "Where this man is going, he won't be able to have many visitors," he added.
Susan watched dumbstruck as they wheeled Murdock along the corridor towards the psychiatric wards, she always knew Murdock had problems but she never thought they were so serious. She remembered what he told her, what he asked her to do. He always insisted he wasn't crazy and she wanted to believe him, she hoped who ever she'd meet at the motel would be able to help him.
The parking lot was quiet as Susan parked her car; she got out and saw the light was on in the room Murdock had mentioned, room twenty. She wasn't sure if she was being crazy herself for following his words, she'd been thinking about what happened all day and the more she did the more she found her self wondering whether Murdock was crazy after all. He'd always acted a little odd and sometimes she couldn't explain how he acted, something troubled him but was that insanity, she wondered. She nervously reached the door and sensed she'd already been spotted by someone at the window, she checked her watch and found she was five minutes late as she reached up and knocked.
"Who is it?" a voice asked.
"A friend of Murdock's," she replied and the door opened slightly.
A blond haired man stared back, confused as he looked beyond her for a moment. "You alone?"
"Yes, Murdock asked me to come here, he needs help," she stated and her voice seemed to convince the young man to let her in, Susan walked past him into the room.
The door was quickly closed and Susan found two more men staring back at her, she was naturally nervous and scared, unsure why Murdock had told her to come here.
"Ok lady, why has Murdock sent you here?" a white haired man asked gruffly.
Susan took a chair that the young blond man offered her and composed herself as she sat down, she wanted them to know the full story so she was determined not to miss anything.
"Murdock is a very good friend of mine, however just lately his behaviour confused me and I called our relationship off," she stated.
"Relationship?" the blond man asked, as the big guy in the corner appeared to growl.
Susan ignored the surprised element of the blond man's words and continued.
"I've known him for a couple of months, we met at a bar downtown and he was real nice to me. I knew he was troubled almost from the start but I thought I could help him, I tried but he just kept pushing me away," she stated.
"Don't we know that feeling," the blond man responded casually.
"I found out he had just got back from Nam, these parts don't take too kindly to that at the moment so I tried to protect him, we grew stronger but then I guess It wasn't enough. He started hanging out with some other vets, drinking and the drugs so I called it off a couple of nights ago," she explained. "I'd found somebody else," she added and looked down at her feet.
The white haired man stood up and paced the room; he checked the window and then approached the lady.
"My name's Hannibal Smith, this is Peck and Baracus," Hannibal informed her.
"You're not those vets are you?" Susan shot back, anger flashing in her eyes.
"Would that be a problem if we are?" Hannibal queried.
"Murdock shouldn't have sent me to you, not you of all people. You're killing him with that stuff you keep giving him, he was fine until you showed!" Susan raised her voice.
"Relax lady, we're not those people. Those men were murdered a couple of nights ago in cold blood," Hannibal stated as he sat back down.
"Dead? Murdered?" Susan checked, noticeably quieter.
"Murdock was lucky he was out of his head on this occasion," Peck spoke up. "But I agree with everything you said," he smiled.
"Murdock was there when it happened?" she asked. "He never said anything, but then," Susan stopped mid sentence deep in thought.
"But then what?" Hannibal asked.
"When he showed at my place last night, he was pretty bad. Someone had attacked him, the hospital said he'd been hit with a hard object, like a baseball bat," Susan stated.
"Last night?" Face almost choked.
"That's why he's not here, he asked me to get you, to help him," she stated as she remembered his words.
"Is he OK?" Face asked.
"No," Susan stressed but realised she was no longer making sense. "He's fine, his head is fine but whilst he was resting these orderlies turned up and put restraints on his bed, they were telling me he was a danger to himself and needed to return to the psychiatric ward, he asked, almost begged me to ask you to get him. I should have listened, when he collapsed at my place he told me not to take him to the hospital," she sighed and felt the guilt she'd been carrying.
"So what happened? Murdock was fine when he left us and then less than a few hours later he shows up having been attacked with a baseball bat!" Face stated to Hannibal.
"Why has the VA taken him back? I thought he was doing well, man," BA spoke up.
"Did Murdock know what was happening to him, I mean did he fully appreciate what they were doing?" Hannibal asked Susan.
"He was real angry, he struggled and yelled that he wasn't crazy, but in truth, he didn't do himself many favours by acting like that, he really did look crazy," she admitted.
"The man is crazy, he's a crazy fool who needs locking up!" BA stated and then turned his attention back to checking through the window.
"BA, Murdock isn't a danger to himself or to others!" Face snapped. "He doesn't deserve to be treated in the manner he was," he added.
"Hey, Faceman, you're talking 'bout the Murdock from Nam, its been nearly six months since we last saw him, he had a breakdown, who knows what the fool's done since then," BA motioned.
"I tend to agree," Hannibal frowned. "But could we be dealing with the suits again on this? Has Murdock done something to scare them again?"
"I don't know Hannibal, those five men were murdered with him in the room, he was attacked by a baseball bat, its all kinda suspicious," Face deducted with an air of resignation. "Maybe he didn't want to commit himself to us because he's involved in something else," he added.
Hannibal looked over to the woman, she hadn't identified herself and suddenly his suspicion arose.
"Lady, leave this with us, we'll do what we can," Hannibal announced.
"But I need to know what happens," she flustered.
"When we get Murdock, I'm sure he'll know where to find you," Hannibal insisted and guided her to the door, despite her protests, he made sure she had got into her car and had driven away before returning his attention to the room.
"OK, Hannibal, I'm still learning this trust no one game, what did she do wrong?" Face asked once he had shut the door.
"I'm just playing safe, the less people know of our movements the better," Hannibal stated. "Besides, we have to accept she may well be part of the bigger picture and until we know for sure she isn't, then she can't play in our playground," he added.
Face and BA exchanged looks, being on the run was throwing up more obstacles and dangers than even they imagined, they'd seen nothing wrong with what the woman had said.
"We don't know for sure that Murdock sent her, this could be a trap. We have to consider the possibility that Murdock is being used to trap us, guys. I know its hard to think or imagine Murdock betraying us but it's a possibility until proved otherwise and has Murdock done anything since we first saw him to prove he's still loyal to us?" Hannibal asked.
Face and BA both shrugged with resignation, Murdock hadn't exactly welcomed them with open arms.
"I know he's loyal to us, sir," Face finally spoke up. "But he's been involved in enough shit over the years for me to believe that maybe he's a part of something he can't control," he added.
"We need to a plan," Hannibal grinned and his team gathered round.
There was a familiar look about the decor, Murdock thought as he checked the room, he'd been awake for less than five minutes but his instincts were already working overtime. The room was bare apart from a bed and some sheets, no window and the door was locked. An air vent hummed from above in the ceiling, Murdock had already checked to see if the grate could be removed, but alas it was very secure. There was no way to know what was happening outside the four walls, no means to look beyond and the feeling of claustrophobia clung, the room was narrow, with only a small floor space, the bed took up most of the room. Murdock noticed he was now wearing some kind of issued clothing, a white T-shirt that bore the label ST097. Murdock narrowed his eyes as he thought, the label was familiar and it took him a while to recognise it.
"Shit," Murdock whispered under his breath as it came back to him. "I'm back at the beginning," he added as sat heavily on the bed with resignation.
"What do you mean you've never heard of HM Murdock! He was here just a few hours ago with a head wound!" Susan insisted loudly. "Some of your orderlies took him away, they said they were taking him to psychiatric!" she added losing her cool.
Susan thumped the reception loudly, her mind confused and fearful. The men Murdock had asked her to find had turned out to be the biggest waste of time going and now she was finding the hospital were denying all knowledge of him.
"Miss, I understand you are looking for HM Murdock?"
Susan turned around and finally someone was making sense, she eagerly followed as he led her to a nearby office.
"Finally, I was beginning to think I was losing my mind! What is it with everyone round here?" she asked relieved.
Once Susan stepped into the room she wished she had the strength to leave as two men grabbed hold of her, in an instant she smelt a strong overwhelming substance as a cloth was held to her nose. Darkness loomed; the men gathered her up and left quickly through a back door.
Face walked nervously around the hospital, he couldn't help but glance around whenever someone caught his attention. The fact he was a wanted man didn't settle well, it was like all of a sudden everyone was watching you and he didn't like the feeling. Mentally he calmed himself down; no one is looking at you he repeated over and over in his mind, Hannibal said it helped. Something wasn't right; no matter how many records he checked he couldn't find anything on Murdock. It was as if he was never here, doubts formed in his mind initially, had Murdock really had a breakdown at all? Was the whole thing a cover, is Murdock a part of something much bigger? Face shook his head as he looked through some more filling cabinets in a desperate attempt now for just some small proof Murdock had been treated for a breakdown, Murdock was crazy despite his pleas. Face needed the proof, if he couldn't find anything that supported this then it would be more likely that Murdock was using a cover, and if Murdock was using a cover then he knew they couldn't trust him and he didn't want to get to that point.
"Can I help you?"
Face spun around and grinned, a doctor stood a few feet from him and Face quickly closed the cabinet.
"I was just checking for a patient, front desk got a call and I'm trying to get 'friendly' with the pretty receptionist," Face raised his eyebrows to reel the doctor into his tall tale. "So I said I'd follow up this enquiry she had, you know, get something going?" Face hinted.
"I see, so who is the patient your looking for?"
"Oh what was his full name?" Face looked down as if in deep thought. "It was Murdock, but I can't remember the full title," Face continued to look as if he couldn't remember, just as he was about to give the full name the doctor spoke up.
"Captain HM Murdock?"
Face looked back at the Doctor with renewed hope, he nodded his head in agreement. The doctor seemed miles away for a moment, he then moved closer.
"He was my patient," the doctor announced quietly. "He left my care about two months ago, I got word today that he was found dead in some ally in town," he added sadly.
"Dead? That doesn't make sense," Face blurted out and the doctor looked back surprised.
"I mean I just got the impression from this caller that they'd only seen him a few hours ago," Face quickly corrected.
"That may well be, I only just got the call myself. Maybe you should hold fire on contacting this caller, if they knew Captain Murdock then I'm sure they'd appreciate learning of his death from the right authorities," The doctor sighed.
Face saw the remorse and he felt the same, he looked at the doctor and saw his name badge, Dr Richter.
"Doctor Richter, this Murdock guy, what was his problem?" Face asked as casually as he could to fit his persona.
Richter shrugged. "Who knows, I shouldn't really discuss patients with outsiders but Murdock was one of a kind," he half smiled in sadness. "Why didn't he just accept he needed help? If he had just have come back then he wouldn't have been walking the streets!"
"Come back?" Face checked confused.
"He was in secured housing, just outside these grounds, only a couple of days ago I issued the order that he was to return to this hospital full time but he…" Richter paused and collected his thoughts. "He just didn't accept my help," he said with a frown.
"I'm sure he appreciated your efforts," Face urged.
"Oh no, I was the enemy," Richter managed a smile. "You won't find anything on him in those files, or any files, some people took them away, part of the murder investigation or something," Richter shrugged.
"You know psychiatry fascinates me, I mean how do you guys know if someone's crazy or just messing with your head?" Face asked genuinely.
"I guess you never know for sure, unless you can physically get inside someone's head who knows what goes on inside. In the case of Murdock, I only scratched the surface. It could have taken a month, a year, ten years before I cracked that surface but in truth, its up to them, they can only help themselves and some people just do not want to be helped," Richter said, his years of experience coming through.
"Right," Face nodded his head, unfortunately none the wiser but Richter's words did comfort him a little. "I better get back to work," Face motioned.
"It was nice talking, I think I needed that after the news I had," Richter frowned. "Good luck with the lady hunt," he added and watched the young man rush off.
Richter paused and remembered hearing the news again; Murdock was dead, murdered. Something didn't settle well with him however, it appeared they'd be no autopsy and the body had already been flown home, wherever that may be. Murdock's records had been so disjointed how had the police been able to work so efficiently and get hold of information Murdock's medical files were missing? The seeds of doubt began to sow themselves, something wasn't right and once again Murdock was occupying his thoughts. Murdock had come to the hospital under circumstances he could never understand and now it seemed he had left likewise. Richter remembered the blond young man he'd just been talking to, something was familiar about him but he was too preoccupied to pay it any attention. He checked his briefcase; his own file on Murdock was still safely inside as he walked away towards the car park.
Time was passing but there was no way to record it as Murdock stared at the white ceiling, he let his mind wander to a place he hadn't been to in years. It was a beautiful house, decorated so nicely and with all the mod cons. Still his beautiful wife and adoring children lived happily as he had created them, he imagined his wealth and added inflation to the sum since he'd last visited the house. A dog, two dogs no three dogs jumped around him as the kids played in the outdoor pool, he wife gazed adoringly at him and now seemed remarkably like Susan.
Murdock looked away and the images were gone, Murdock glanced around the bare room still laying on the bed with his hands tucked behind his head. Boredom was getting to him, he had no idea how long he'd been in the room or what time of day it was, the florescent lighting was constantly on adding to his confusion. It could be the middle of the night or high noon, there was no way of telling but what concerned him more was the printed reference on his T-shirt. It was more than a coincidence that it bore the label he'd been called so many years ago when he was just a kid, captured for the first time when still a young eighteen going on nineteen wannabe agent for the CIA. Before, when he'd gone by the name of the mark he was scared, fearful and unable to comprehend what was happening to him. Now, it perked his curiosity, he wasn't scared but ready for whatever was being planned, he almost welcomed it. He'd grown up, was experienced with being in a situation beyond his control. His thoughts went to Hannibal, the man who helped him to grow up and accept things, he remembered back to the couple of times they were caught as a unit. He'd felt no fear then, not amongst men like Smith and Baracus, they protected him and he'd survived knowing that had the enemy found out he was captain things would have been worse. Then he remembered the time it was bad, when just Peck and him had been caught. A tougher situation, more like his first time caught, more personal. He remembered the endless days alone with only his thoughts, much like how he found himself now although he had some comfort now, when he'd explored his mind fully and create new realities that still remained with him with amusing wonder.
Murdock took a deep breath, someone who knew more than they should about him was testing him, but he was ready and waiting this time.
Hannibal looked at Baracus and Peck in turn, deep in thought as he puffed on his cigar. There was an unsettling situation and he needed facts.
"So the official word is Murdock's dead?" Hannibal checked once more.
"Seems so," Face agreed.
"Have you found the girl?"
"No, there's been no sign of her, I found her name, Susan Howard, at the hospital on the visitors roster for Thursday night but there was no mention of Murdock," Face responded to add more mystery.
"You sure that's her?" Hannibal asked.
"Pretty sure, I checked out where she worked and this guy, Gavin, stated he had taken both Susan and Murdock to the hospital and that they had a thing going," Face answered. "Only, she hasn't been seen since, she didn't turn up for work today," he added. "And I checked her apartment, empty," he sighed.
"What if the crazy man is dead?" BA asked quietly.
"That wouldn't make sense," Face argued. "Being carted off to Psychiatric and turning up in an ally dead?"
"Its not beyond logic, but I agree something doesn't add up," Hannibal replied.
"I checked further into the official line, it also states there would be no autopsy and that the body had already been sent home for burial," Face stated. "All the files in the hospital had been taken for the supposed murder enquiry, why would they not check the body, if he had been killed? And also, where on Earth is home to Murdock?"
"Where do we start to look? We don't know where Murdock comes from so we can't check out that side of things, we can't prove it either way," Hannibal frowned.
"Hang on, we know he's from Texas, said so in that file we found in Da Nang," Face suddenly remembered.
"Texas is a big place, we haven't got time to go door to door," Hannibal noted.
"Yeah, but we have time to phone the papers, if Murdock is dead don't families usually place notices in the paper? If the official line is Murdock is dead, then officially his relatives would have to know," Face returned with a smile.
"Face, I get the impression you chose the wrong profession, kid," Hannibal grinned, noting the lieutenants deductions.
"I surely missed my calling," Face agreed with a sigh.
"Lets get on the phone, if we can find the relatives then we'll find the body," Hannibal ordered.
"Man, are you gonna suggest what I think you're gonna suggest?" BA spoke up.
"I think he is, BA," Face nodded.
"BA, we have to be sure Murdock isn't dead, as far as I can see there's only one way we're going to be able to prove it," Hannibal frowned. "Besides, we have nothing else to work on at the moment," he added trying to muster up the enthusiasm.
The hot Texas sun almost seem to melt the car as it drove along the empty highway, they were two hours into Texas. Face saw a sign coming up and signalled to BA that it was their turning, Hannibal continued to read the paper.
"Face, there's nothing here to suggest Murdock's dead," he stated as he continued to read the obits.
"That paper said they'd received news of Murdock's death, but the family choose not to print it," Face answered.
Hannibal raised his eyebrows and continued to read. "Kinda odd the relations chose not to print a dedication, I thought it was simply the done thing," he shrugged.
"Maybe they wanted it to be a private affair, maybe they need time to grieve. They don't necessarily know what we know," Face countered.
"Did Murdock ever mention family to any of you two?" Hannibal wondered.
Both men shook their heads.
"That was something that struck me as strange, I remember now one of my first observations about Murdock once he'd joined us was he never mentioned home. Even in the camps when all the others, including you two, you spoke of home or your youth yet Murdock simply listened," Hannibal recounted.
"Maybe he didn't want to," Face shrugged.
"The one thing that always reminded me of your age was your longing to be home, all of you, barely out of school, would talk of home, it was natural but Murdock was different. He was old beyond his years in that respect, as if home had been left many years ago and no longer thought about," Hannibal continued. "But he was no older than anyone else, he was in the same boat as you guys," he added.
"But he had baggage man," BA pointed out. "Other things on his crazy mind," he added.
"True, how long now?" Hannibal asked turning to Face.
"Should be the farm coming up on the right," Face pointed out.
"Remember guys, we're here to pay our respects first off, then we pry," Hannibal ordered as they slowed down for the turning.
Murdock now lay under the bed, he needed a change of scenery and the springs of the bed did the job perfectly. It had also provided much needed rest from the constant light and he was able to get some sleep finally, if only for a while. The door opened and Murdock froze, he checked out the intruders feet, regulation white shoes, no doubt matched up with white trousers and shirt, much like his own attire.
Murdock narrowed his eyes, he'd been expecting to be called by the reference on his shirt.
"He's not here," Murdock replied from under the bed.
"Then who are you?"
"ST097," Murdock responded and waited for the reply.
"I see," the male voice responded. "I take it you have made yourself at home?"
"Naw, my momma made me, you think I have the brains to make myself?" Murdock smiled, hoping to drive the intruder out.
Murdock felt the man walk to the end of the bed and lift one end up, revealing himself to be a dark sun tanned man with thinning hair.
"I would prefer you to not be under the bed," he said non-plus and promptly dropped the bed again.
The noise filled the room and Murdock jumped with the bed's sudden dissent, he quickly rolled out from under the bed and sat against the wall.
"Who are you?" Murdock asked.
"That's not important, I need you to follow me," the man responded.
"Why?" Murdock said with confusion. "You scared to go anywhere alone?"
"Cut the wise cracks, mister!" the man snapped and pulled Murdock to his feet. "There's someone who wants to speak to you," he sneered angrily.
"Well I hope it's my solicitor because I don't like what's going on around here!" Murdock snapped back as he straightened his clothes.
"You know that is the least of my concerns, nine-seven!"
"Nine-seven? What happened to Captain Murdock?" Murdock asked.
"He's dead already, your friends and family are mourning you this very minute. Your doctor, Richter, has taken a couple of days leave, ain't that sweet? Its out there, you no longer are though, what's it like to be officially dead?"
"That can't be! No one will buy that, not until they see it for themselves!" Murdock stated, the shock only just starting at the news.
"Oh they'll see it, nine-seven, don't think we haven't covered our backs," he smiled.
"I don't understand," Murdock admitted.
"You were murdered, by a girl for some silly love reason, knifed in the back in a jealous rage. She then committed suicide although the body won't be found for another couple of hours with a note signed by her very hand, confessing all," he added. "Your burial is planned for this afternoon, your family wanted it quick, funny how they didn't seem too upset by the news, they didn't even identify your body which is what we suspected. You and your family have never been close, right?"
"You're making this up!" Murdock stated angrily as he listened.
"No I'm not, you know your family hated you so much they didn't even pay for an obit in the local paper, you were truly the black sheep that no one will miss," He teased further.
"That's not true!" Murdock managed through the rage.
"Enjoy being dead, nine-seven cos pretty soon you'll be wishing it," the man threatened and turned the shell shocked Murdock around, cuffing his wrists together.
"The girl, did I even know her?" Murdock said in a whisper as he continued to try and comprehend the words.
"Did you know her? Course you did we had to make it realistic, fool! Susan was more than willing to die for you!" He smiled joyously.
"No!" Murdock screamed and turned back to the man, trying to release his hands without success.
The man restrained Murdock's feeble attempts to overpower him; Murdock was wild in his emotions and lost in his own rage as the news sunk in.
"Susan isn't dead," he repeated to himself.
"Susan is dead, Susan is dead," the man enjoyed the moment torturing the man he had quickly grown to hate.
"Who the hell are you and what do you want?" Murdock suddenly asked, his voice louder and more sinister.
"My name is not important but you nine-seven, you have to be protected, in a certain special kind of way of course, actually I lie, you will probably be eliminated, if your lucky," the man smiled.
Murdock shook his head confused as the man pushed him outside of the room into a similar corridor; all white washed with florescent lighting. Every door had a keypad; every level needed a code as they continued their journey to a place Murdock had no idea where. The thoughts that the outside world considered him dead, that Richter, the team probably had learned of his death was bad enough but knowing that soon Susan would appear dead, and be accused of murdering him was too much. After hours of nothing happening to be confronted with so much information had taken its toll, Murdock began to drag his feet wondering how he'd got into another mess.
Face walked to the front of the house, he saw Hannibal and BA already by the van. He approached glumly as he saw their expressions.
"Nothing, no ones home," Face stated as he got closer.
"This looks to be working farm, its early afternoon, I'd expect someone to be around," Hannibal considered.
"Can I help you?"
The guys turned and saw a nicely dressed woman, she had been riding a bike and looked as if she was just passing.
"We're looking for the Murdock's," Hannibal called back.
"You here for the funeral? You're already late, I heard it was starting at two," she called back.
"Funeral? Already?" Face checked.
"You better hurry along the road, I take it you're friends from out of town," she smiled and then quickly rode away.
"Come on, I don't want to miss this," Hannibal insisted.
The van drove the short distance to the church; they saw a small group of people to one side bowing their heads. Respectively, the team walked slowly up to the group, noting the coffin was about to be lowered.
"How do we check now?" Face hissed.
"Good point," Hannibal frowned, he continued to scan the few faces that had attended, many of them baring similarities to Murdock.
The coffin was lowered and the service was concluded, after another prayer, the group moved away. Each person seemed to stare suspiciously at the team, they obviously didn't take too well to strangers and Hannibal got the distinct impression that things were not going to be welcoming.
One man did finally approach them, he was older than the rest, his white hair and worn features gave him a weathered look.
"You friends of Junior?"
"Junior?" Hannibal questioned.
"HM, HM Murdock the guy we just buried," the old man smiled.
"Ah, yes, we were," Hannibal offered his hand. "I'm Colonel John Smith, this is Lieutenant Peck and Sergeant Baracus," he added.
"Army folk, huh? How did Junior cross your path?"
"In Vietnam, he was part of our unit," Face answered.
"Vietnam? Wait a minute, you telling me Junior was in Vietnam?" The old man checked stepping closer feeling his hearing had failed him.
"He was our chopper pilot," Hannibal responded in all seriousness.
"Pilot? Well, ain't that something," the old man raised his eyebrows and turned to the rest of the group who stood talking. "These guys say Junior was a pilot," he smiled to the rest of them as if telling a private joke.
Face, BA and Hannibal looked on in amazement, as the rest of the gather people seemed to find amusement in the news, Hannibal stepped forward to get their attention.
"Did we say something funny?" Hannibal asked, clearly disgruntled.
The old man smiled back at Hannibal and took his arm, leading the team away from the rest of the people.
"We don't want to be seen as disrespectful, this being the kids funeral and all but you have to understand, a lot of people are here simply as duty, nothing more," he said in a hushed voice.
"I take it you are all Murdock's immediate family?" Hannibal questioned, getting the feeling there was more to what they were seeing than met the eye.
"Immediate family? Yes I guess we are, you see those three by the pick up?" The old man pointed out three twenty-something lads to the team. "They were his brothers, two older and the one on the right, younger. Hank and George are the older and young Scott is the younger, he is a half brother though, different mom," he said as a matter of fact.
"I see," Hannibal observed and took mental notes.
"Those two fine standing ladies by the tree, they're the sisters of his mom, his aunts. The young lass standing on her own by the aunts is his half sister, but I don't think they ever met," the old man mused as he turned back to the team.
"Never met?" Face checked unsure.
"He had already gone by the time she was born, look I can understand how this looks but you don't know the full story, its clear," the old man gestured for the team to move once more towards the cemetery exit. "Junior was a bad kid," he shrugged and then walked ahead.
Hannibal quickened his pace and caught up. "What do you mean, bad kid?"
"He was taken away from us, can't have been no older than ten at the time. They said at that no good school that he was stupid, that he would never do anything and word gets round. The kids started to tease the poor kid, countless times he'd come home nursing fresh bruises," The old man explained.
BA and Face exchanged angered looks, but remained quiet allowing Hannibal to talk with the older man.
"I tried to get through to him that he wasn't stupid, but he was always an odd kid. I always thought he suffered the most after his mom died when he was so young, then pretty soon there was a new mom and a new brother, I guess he was pretty much ignored," the old man seemed to now be more genuinely upset. "The teasing got worse, the family didn't help much, his brothers stopped standing up for him and joined in the teasing, then he simply became one big joke, but he wasn't stupid, he was just misunderstood, different," he smiled.
"So what happened?" Hannibal asked.
"One day at school things got really heated, junior simply appeared to have had enough and he hit back. Both he and this other kid ended up in hospital it got so bad, that's when I knew there was nothing left for him here. If he'd have stayed things would not have got better for him, in this town you get holed up for life with everything you do and he was always destined to become the resident joke if he'd have stayed. I know he was only ten, he was just a boy but I couldn't see any other option for him, I let them take him away," he sighed as they reached the exit.
"I can understand your reasoning, to a point," Hannibal admitted.
The old man smirked but he wasn't smiling, it was clear he seemed to be at odds.
"I'd like to thank you for being here for Junior, I've spent so many years with these people even I had started to see Junior as a joke. I suppose we were all waiting for the day he'd return in a body bag, dying young was his destiny, just like his momma. Being murdered in some back ally in LA, I hope that I gave him a few more years than he'd have got if he had stayed here," he wondered to himself.
"Can I ask what your relationship to Murdock was?" Hannibal ventured although he already had an idea.
"I'm HM Murdock, juniors namesake," he greeted and held out his hand. "His father if you could still call me that, I have no idea what my son even looked like grown up, no idea what he was like although I can't imagine he's much different from his brothers," he reasoned.
"Sir, with respect," Face stepped forward. "Murdock is a man of honour, someone you would have been proud of if given the chance, he saved many men's lives and knowing now what you've told me, he deserved a much better childhood than you gave him!" Face said in a sudden rush of blood.
Hannibal signalled to BA to take the obviously upset Face away to avoid any more insults, BA obliged although Face offered no resistance.
"I have to apologise for my young friend's behaviour, but I can't apologise for his feelings," Hannibal stated.
The old man was looking away into the distance; the family clan were making their way back to the farm. He took a deep breath and looked at Hannibal, his eyes for a moment reminding Hannibal of the captains.
"Your friend has every right, after all he did know my own son better than I ever did. But I have to believe that he became that man he described because of what I did, it'll just be one of life's regrets that I never did anything to find out about him," he stated bitterly. "So, what can you tell me about him?"
"That he was a pilot, a dam fine pilot of the highest class," Hannibal noted.
"Never thought no son of mine would ever fly, it takes brains to do that," the old man frowned.
"He's smart, real smart. Maybe his whole problems at school was to do with him being too smart, I've read about kids who are smart being bored at school, because things aren't taught at a quick enough pace for them, so they take matters into their own hands, often disrupting and fighting?" Hannibal suggested, as a possibility.
"That would figure, when they took him away they told me they thought they could help him academically, didn't think they would mind, I thought he just didn't want to learn."
"Well he certainly learnt how to fly, was in the Thunderbirds, the youngest pilot they ever had and then…" Hannibal paused as he considered how to put the next part when the CIA got involved.
"He got involved with the CIA, was transferred to the air force and that's how we met, in Vietnam, he was part of the A-Team unit I led," Hannibal finished quickly.
"Well I never, so he was in Vietnam, my other sons never made it pass the tests. They were called up plenty of times but always managed to wriggle their way out of it," the old man said with a slight sneer. "Chicken feed, that's all they're good for sometimes," he added to add fuel to his fire.
"Maybe they were the sensible ones, Vietnam wasn't a holiday," Hannibal said graciously.
"Separates the men from the boys, showed me what a bunch of sissy's those aunts brought up for me," he dismissed. "Its comforting to know one of my boys fought for his country," he added with smile.
Hannibal nodded his head and felt a certain sympathy for the man he walked with, he knew BA and Face were close behind and able to continue overhearing the exchanges, he also noted Face had calmed down. He was growing wary of describing Murdock in the past tense, it didn't feel right and they still needed to determine that Murdock wasn't dead.
"Can I just ask, who identified Murdock's, I mean Juniors body, and why was he buried so quickly?" Hannibal asked.
"The boys did, his brothers," the old man remembered. "And we were just advised to bury him quick due to the nature of his death, something about snoops who are fascinated by murders or something, there's real psychos out there apparently," he shrugged.
"The brothers identified his body?" Face checked, acting calmer.
"Yep, they did."
"How? They haven't seen him since he was ten, right? What did they do, guess?" Face questioned.
"He has a point," Hannibal supported.
"They seemed convinced, why would they have any reason to think it wasn't Junior, the police told us he was dead, identifying the body was just procedure," the man seemed confused for the moment.
The team exchanged glances, silently with their looks a decision was made.
"Sir, I understand you are grieving, that you have been told by the authorities but you must also understand we know a lot about Murdock and recent events in his life," Hannibal began.
"And I ain't so dumb not to notice that none of you seem to talk about him in the past tense that much, that when you do you ain't so comfortable," the old man jumped in defensively.
"There's a reason for that, we don't think he's dead," Hannibal stated with conviction.
"They warned me about you types," the old man seemed suddenly flustered. "I genuinely believed you, I can't believe you could fool me like this!"
Face looked at Hannibal bemused.
"You think this is a joke? You think I find this funny, pretending you knew my son knowing I never did! Chopper pilot indeed, Vietnam!" He fumed and suddenly he resembled Murdock more than ever. "Get the hell out of town, there ain't no way you're getting to my son, we only just buried him for pity's sake!" he yelled as he walked further down the road, leaving the team dumbstruck. "It's taken me years to forget my son, to move on and you just made his whole death worse!" he continued obvious distressed to the point of crying.
"Let me guess, they got to him first thinking we might pay the family a visit?" Hannibal suggested once Murdock Senior had reached the farm.
"Making us out to be some kind of sick psychos?" Face half-grinned. "You know we're getting real bad press since we came back from Vietnam," he noted with mock concern.
"He looked real cut up, man," BA observed. "I don't like leaving him like that," he added.
"BA's right, we have to make him realise that we're not the people he was warned about, if such a person exists," Hannibal stated. "Running the risk of the fact that he could be contacting the authorities right now, if they fed him that junk who's to say what phone numbers they left," Hannibal sighed.
"I'm confident he isn't phoning no one," Face smiled. "The farmhouse isn't quite equipped yet for the seventies it appears," Face stated pointing out the lack of phone lines around the area above them.
"And I doubt from the lack of a television aerial that they have any modern communication stuff," BA observed.
"OK guys, lets take our chances then," Hannibal smiled and began to walk towards the house.
"Woah, wait a moment, Hannibal," Face spoke up, forgetting who he was speaking to for a moment.
"Is there a problem, lieutenant?" Hannibal checked, pulling rank to discipline the young man.
"Colonel, we can't just knock on the door, for starters, Murdock's brothers look handy in the fighting department," Face reasoned.
"Face, we haven't got time to send cards, Murdock could well need our help and we have to determine some things before we can even start to help!" Hannibal stated loudly.
"Like if the fool is really dead, man. How'd those brothers identify the fools body when they ain't seen him since they were kids?" BA reminded them.
"Exactly what I intend to find out, don't you get the feeling that some of us around here are in on something that others aren't?" Hannibal suggested.
"The brothers did seem in a bit of a hurry to get away, as did the aunts," Face noted out loud.
"None of the family 'cept the sister and the old man seemed to be showing any sadness," BA remembered.
"Maybe this is a simple case of families at war, maybe they show no sadness because they genuinely don't feel any but something isn't right around here," Hannibal insisted.
The team headed back towards the farm determined to understand what was going on around there.
Murdock looked around to gain a better perspective on his surroundings, the room looked much the same as his only bigger and instead of a bed there was a table. The man pushed him forward and promptly left; another man sat by the table smiling. Murdock instantly was weary of the man; he was relaxed with an air of arrogance. Mousy brown hair neatly cut and a jaw line that looked finely chiseled.
"Captain Murdock, Captain HM Murdock, we meet at last," the man offered.
"You know, I've always wanted to meet you too," Murdock paused and smiled. "Who exactly are you?" he added confused.
"General Howland, CIA."
"How'd you do," Murdock greeted, remaining stood where he was. "Why am I here?"
"Because you've earned it, this place is your reward, a protective environment," Howland stated.
"I don't need protecting, reward for what?" Murdock asked.
"For being a pain if the CIA's ass, for murdering the man who made you!" Howland stood up, his composure changing rapidly.
"Murder?" Murdock checked unfazed by the man's sudden anger.
"Don't be worrying about the innocent act, you're here now and things will be just fine, you're safe now," Howland suggested with menace and Murdock's fear began to rise.
"We want to make you happy and comfortable, we want you to no longer worry," Howland stated and gestured to the table. "Two trays of beer, Murdock, its yours drink yourself silly and that stock won't ever go down, not for as long as your here," Howland smiled.
Murdock looked at the beer, the suggestion that having free beer would make him happier made his skin crawl.
"I can see its not exactly making you jump for joy, well don't say we didn't do our homework, we know what you crave. I can see it, you need your next fix, it's been almost three days since your last one, right?" Howland asked.
Murdock's eyes gave him away as they quickly stared back with desire. He'd been fighting the need physically but mentally he'd been unprepared for the topic and it was all too obvious Howland had got his attention.
Howland produced a syringe, full and ready and approached Murdock. Murdock watched him approach and instinct told him to push the man away, but his need was proving greater as he stared and what could be his salvation. Breathing harder to control the urge to simply snatch the needle and be done with it, Murdock closed his eyes, he had to fight.
"You want this, I have this, why fight it?" Howland asked calmly. "I told you this is your reward, this is a place where you can be happy now, no more worries."
"No!" Murdock said through gritted teeth, a light perspiration appeared on his forehead as the intensity grew.
Howland was now only an arm's length away; he was holding the needle out for Murdock to take.
"Its the very best you can buy, Murdock, and its yours," he continued to reason with Murdock.
Murdock began to back away, not able to open his eyes to the temptation but his body seemed paralyzed by the need it suddenly craved, how had he let himself become so weak? Murdock thought over and over.
Beads of sweat now began to cake Murdock's forehead; it was almost as if he could smell the temptation and his body ached. Murdock felt the syringe being put into his hand and he willingly took it, the coldness against his rising body temperature enticed him even more.
"Stop fighting the hunger, the need, captain," Howland insisted.
Murdock began to shake his head and continued to take deep breaths, slowly he opened his eyes and the shock registered. In his hand, Murdock held a snake, it hissed and struggled against his grip but through fear Murdock couldn't let go. In wild panic Murdock backed into the wall and saw the snake lash out, he felt the teeth prick his skin several times. Finally he managed to overcome the fear, in an instant; Murdock threw the snake away from him and heard the sound of crashing glass. Murdock looked over and saw the crushed parts of a syringe; confusion racked his brain, where had the snake come from?
Murdock calmed down his breathing and looked back at the cocky smile of Howland, he was simply amused having watched Murdock's paranoia anxiety attack which included the strange site of seeing him stab his own arm with the syringe.
"Most people simply pierce and then inject the fluid, you haven't quite mastered it yet," Howland joked as Murdock slid down the wall into a sitting position, shocked by his own visions.
"Don't worry, there's plenty more of that stuff," Howland assured him. "See?" he offered another syringe.
Murdock buried his head in his hands, as he prepared to fight once more, this was not how he wanted to end up he felt so low and shallow, weak and brainless. Suddenly the whole idea of drugs as his escape seemed so degrading and pointless, he felt sick even thinking of accepting the needle.
"Come on, Murdock."
Murdock froze; the voice had changed as he looked up with new hope, what had happened he thought had he blacked out? He smiled as Templeton Peck smiled back at him, he felt comfort and joy, the hell was over and everything was going to be OK.
"Face, when did you get here?" Murdock asked.
"Come on," Face gestured and offered a hand to help Murdock stand up.
"Am I glad to see you, man, thanks, thanks," Murdock insisted and reached up to accept Pecks hand.
Peck grabbed Murdock's hand, the force with which caught Murdock off guard. In Peck's other hand there was a needle and in one swift moment Murdock felt a needle go into his lower arm that Peck still held. The look of shock and confusion filled Murdock's features, betrayal overcame him and he looked at his arm where the needle had pierced before looking back. Murdock shuddered, Peck no longer stood holding his arm, and Howland had been there all along. Murdock's head felt heavy, his final thought only being 'this isn't the good stuff, you bastard!'
Hannibal continued to knock on the door until finally it was answered, Hannibal recognized the man as Murdock's eldest brother, Hank.
"Ain't you done enough?" Hank asked.
"There's been a misunderstanding and we'd like to clear the air, we are friends of Murdock," Hannibal insisted.
"His name was Junior, we don't like him using the family name as his own," Hank remarked casually. "But guess that don't matter no more," he smiled.
Face turned away already sensing the hatred from the older brother towards Murdock.
"Can we please talk to your father?" Hannibal asked.
"No one can talk to pop, so get out of town," Hank advised and the second brother appeared behind Hank.
"Well can you pass on a message?" Hannibal asked and saw Hank vaguely indicate he could. "Tell your father that we intended no harm, we have our reasons for being here," he stated.
There was a sound from behind the door and Murdock senior stepped in front of Hank despite Hank's attempts to keep him back. He stared from Hannibal to BA and noticed Face was standing away from the house with his back turned, he looked at his sons.
"Were you telling me the truth about Junior?" the old man asked to Hannibal.
"You think he's still alive?"
"I can't say for sure, that's why we're here. We were hoping to see the body but obviously that's no longer possible," Hannibal frowned.
"The kid is dead, man!" Hank protested, Hannibal caught the look and for a moment saw the Murdock they knew in his angered expression.
"Well, there's nothing more we can do here then, without causing upset," Hannibal motioned for BA and Face to start walking back to the van.
"Wait!" Murdock senior called after them and he stepped out of the house, Hank loudly closed the door behind him. "Just tell me why you think my son is still alive," he requested and Hannibal saw more and more of Murdock in him.
"We last saw him the night before he allegedly died. We were due to meet him the next night only in his place this woman showed up, telling us he was in hospital but not with life threatening injuries, and at the time that we have since been told he was in fact dead," Hannibal stated. "She said he'd been attacked but he was in the hospital at the time he was supposed to have been in that ally way, basically it doesn't add up," Hannibal added.
"So they got it wrong, this woman, I want to see her," Murdock senior stressed.
"That woman has also now gone missing, since news of Murdock's death got out she hasn't been seen," Face pointed out to add mystery to their case.
"Father," A meek voice sounded and the attention turned to the young daughter of the old man. "We found a telegram on the mat on our return, Aunt Mo just opened it, it says a woman has committed suicide after confessing to Junior's murder," she announced sadly.
"Do we know the woman's name?" Face asked quickly.
"I think it was Susan," she replied shyly.
"That your lady?" the old man guessed.
"That's her all right and I don't think for a minute that she murdered your son," Hannibal said with conviction.
"Why would she confess and kill herself then, if she didn't do it?" the old man was confused.
"Sir, there's a lot to this you can't begin to understand," Face sighed, it appeared to be a cover up assignment.
"Maybe you should just start believing that my son is dead," Murdock senior snapped.
"Come on, guys," Hannibal indicated to Face and BA as he began to move towards the van.
The old man stood with his daughter, something in what the men were telling him didn't settle well and he needed to know more. He watched as the men reached their van and then noticed Hank and then George blocking their paths.
"You'd do well not to come round these parts ever again, understand?" Hank warned.
"Is there a problem?" Hannibal asked unfazed.
"Our pa gets upset by freaks," George added.
Hannibal smiled; he didn't like Murdock's brothers. "Well he must have a hell of a time living with you two then," he remarked and immediately ducked a swing from Hank.
BA stepped forward and growled a warning to them not to take anymore swings at Hannibal.
"Back off, boys!" The old man barked on reaching the van, his daughter stood close behind him.
"Stay out of this old man, get back in the house, this isn't your business!" Hank warned his father.
"You let your sons talk to you like that?" Face checked, unable to hide his shock.
The old man seemed at odds; he stared at Hank with a look that could kill.
"This is where this stops!" Murdock Senior stated loudly. "I'm sick of you two chickens telling me what to do and terrorizing this family!" he yelled in anger.
"Pa, you'd be wise to get back out into the fields and let us deal with these freaks, why you even spoke to them is beyond me!" Hank advised.
"You should show your father some respect, Hank," Hannibal stated.
"Stay out of this, freak!" Hank yelled angrily.
Murdock Senior wanted to lash out, he wanted to show his sons some lessons but he didn't have the spirit or the strength it needed. He looked at the young man who called himself Hannibal and smiled, apparently ignoring his own son's warnings.
"For over ten years, a day hasn't gone by when I haven't thought about Junior. It never felt right that he was taken away and forget all logic, he belonged here with us. But look at these oaths I kept, I may have only known Junior for a few years, only known him as a boy but I do know that you were friends of his. You can't begin to imagine what that knowledge means to me, these boys would never be good enough to even walk in your shadows," Murdock Senior stared at his two eldest sons who suddenly appeared to shrink in stature. "They are nothing more than bully boys, with no respect or control," he added with a sneer.
"So the truth comes out at last, I always said you were ashamed of your own family."
Hannibal looked across to the sound of the new voice and saw the two aunts had now joined the party outside, to their left he saw the younger brother Scott holding his sister as she continued to watch things from behind her father. Murdock Senior turned slowly around, he seemed resigned to sadness as his shoulders hunched.
"Its true, I am ashamed, I have been since the day you two bullied me into giving up Junior!" the old man snapped and it appeared as though ten years of hate was about to come up. "You've lived under my roof since my darling Roseanna died, you think Roseanna would be proud of her kids right now? Be proud of the way we let one be taken away?" he added angrily.
Hannibal glanced back to BA and Face and felt the same feeling of awkwardness; they listened intently and wondered where this was leading.
"Don't you dare, don't you dare!" the elder sister warned with menace. "We didn't have to come to your aid, we could have just as easily let you take care of the children when Rosey got ill and passed away! Don't throw all that back in our faces, not now!"
"Look at them!" The old man yelled back, throwing his arm around to include his three sons and one daughter. "Those two are so pig headed, they don't even look at me as their father, don't think I don't know why that is either!" he accused as the sister looked away ignoring the jibe. "And those two," Murdock Senior pointed to his youngest son and daughter. "They might as well be paid, we treat them like slaves! Just cos they ain't Rosey's kids, you drove their mother away and your trying to do the same with them, well it stops, it stops right now!"
The sisters looked flustered at the old man's outburst and Hannibal could tell they had walked in on something that had been simmering for a long while. He was partly glad that Murdock hadn't been here to witness this, after all his other problems this would have been the last thing he needed, he imagined, it was almost making the prospect of life on the run appealing.
"You know if this is what being a family is all about, I think I got the better deal," Face whispered to BA with a smile.
"Man, Murdock was the lucky one that he got out when he did, man," BA countered.
"Hank, George, are you going to let him talk to us like that?" the eldest sister motioned quietly once she had composed herself.
Hank and George stepped over and stood by their aunts. "We have no complaints about our aunts, pa, but we have plenty about you," Hank announced.
"Why don't you all just calm down," Hannibal offered. "Clearly things are going to be said now that you'll all regret later," He added.
To Face's and BA's surprise the Murdock family seemed to listen to the words of advice offered by Hannibal, they are took a moment to calm down and take stock.
"I'm sorry, girls," Murdock Senior offered meekly to the sisters. "Junior's death has just messed me up a little," he added before moving slowly back towards Hannibal.
"That little brat isn't worth the tears, Champ, you know that. You've clouded your mind with images of the perfect son, he never was that son," the elder sister stated coldly. "The best thing we did was get rid of him," she added.
Murdock senior met the eyes of Hannibal and it was clear he was in defeat.
"You better go, I'm sorry you caught us like this but I don't think I need to explain," he said with regret to Hannibal. "I know in my heart that we buried Junior today, no other kid could ever divide this family like he could, we haven't argued like that since the day he left," the old man gazed back towards the cemetery as if blaming the burial site somehow for the rift.
"We will trouble you no further," Hannibal stated and promptly got into the van.
Face paused and stared with obvious disgust at the scene. "Placing the blame at the feet of someone who can't even defend himself, bad mouthing someone you can never honestly know," Face remarked shaking his head before he joined BA and got back into the van, the Murdock family watched their every move as the van pulled out.
Murdock Senior watched as the van rolled out of the farmyard and disappeared, he turned to his family and without word walked back into the house, thinking over Face's words.
"Thought we were gonna lose it there, auntie," Hank offered in a hushed whisper.
"The money is safe son, luckily we were warned that people might snoop, good job your father wasn't in on the plan. All we need is for him to know Junior isn't dead!" the eldest sister smiled.
"Maybe now he'll stop having those nightmares and fantasy's about Junior needing him," George offered and the family all laughed out loud, all except the younger brother and sister who simply watched in apparent disgust.
The young daughter looked up to her brother, her emotions torn and her eyes asked the question they both needed to know the answer to - why?
Face sat back emotionally exhausted, he couldn't settle and his mind was a flurry of anger and hate.
"Do we have to stay in this town tonight, Hannibal? I want as much distance from that family as possible!" he snapped.
"I don't want to get too much distance, not until we've had time to think," Hannibal said with a calming presence.
"I've never met a family like that, man, and I came from a tough neighborhood!" BA added with disgust.
"Its clear there's a lot of issues going on, they all seemed to have formed their own allegiances," Hannibal noted. "Murdock's two older brothers appear to throw their weight around, the two aunts seemed to run the place. Murdock's father said the two youngest are like slaves, maybe because they had a different mother?" Hannibal suggested.
"It sounded from what he said like the sisters run their mother off, maybe they felt threatened by her, felt she was trying to take the sisters place as mother?" Face added as he remembered.
"His father looks like he gave up fighting a long time ago, man," BA noted.
"Sometimes one decision can make or break a man," Hannibal thought out loud.
"Giving up Murdock?" Face raised his eyebrows and saw Hannibal shrug. "Never thought what it must do to the parents to give up their child, always simply wondered why," Face said with a distant look in his eyes.
"I still think the answer to where Murdock is lies with his family, we should stick around for another day and see what happens, Face get us a room," Hannibal ordered.
Face saw a motel up ahead and directed BA's attention to it, what Hannibal had said made sense, he had to remember the objective without letting Murdock's family get to him. He knew when he saw Murdock again things would be different, even more Face found himself relating to him and the need to find him became stronger.
The door slowly opened allowing a small line of light into the room, the old man didn't notice as he buried himself into his thoughts.
The thoughts vanished and the old mans attention was drawn to his two youngest children, it was after midnight and he knew he should send them back to bed. One was a young adult growing up fast, he looked older than his years suggested and he knew giving him any kind of orders was futile. He looked at his daughter, just eleven years old and smiled, she always looked so sad he realized and looked away.
"Papa, listen to us," the boy, Scott insisted.
The old man looked round and saw the maturity in his son's eyes the youngest and yet he seemed the eldest to him.
"I can't live in this house anymore, I can't stand to watch them treat us the way they do, I'm taking Annie and I want your blessing," Scott stated.
Murdock Senior saw the bags they carried for the first time and couldn't hide his surprise.
"Scott, please think about this, Annie is so young," He stammered.
"Junior was ten when he left home," Scott said coldly. "Annie will be just fine with me," he added with conviction that made the old man proud inside.
"Scott, please, you know the boys will come after you," he said worried.
"I'm not afraid, father."
"Me neither," Annie spoke up.
"Kids please," he said with despair evident in his quiet voice.
"Our only regret is that we're leaving you here," Scott admitted.
"Don't worry about me, kid," Murdock Senior smiled. "Champ will be just fine," he added, using his old moniker although it was no longer significant.
"Those men, who came to the funeral, they said Junior was still alive," Scott spoke suddenly.
"They only said they had a hunch he was, son, don't ask me why. We buried Junior today, kids, he died," the old man said gravely.
"But, what if?"
"Son, Junior was murdered, he isn't alive they were just messing with us!"
"No, you're right," Scott said. "But Junior wasn't murdered a couple of nights ago, he's been dead and buried for years, this family murdered him years ago! Today's service was just a show!"
"Scott!" The old man snapped.
"Face it dad, you failed him big time!" Scott accused. "Well I'm outta this freaky family, I should have gone with mom when I had the chance, you know, all I wanted to hear you say was you thought Junior was still alive, that's all," Scott stated with hate.
"And what good would that do?" the old man asked abruptly.
Scott looked at the sadness that he saw all the time in his sister's eyes.
"It would show that for once you believed in this family, that you were willing to believe the impossible and stop hiding from the truth, we've needed you so many times but not as much as Junior," Scott said and took his sisters hand. "Annie hasn't ever smiled, you know that Dad? You even noticed that?"
"I've noticed," Murdock Senior responded trying to hide the hurt he was feeling.
"But like always you ignore it, just like your ignoring the fact that wasn't Junior they buried today!"
"You have no proof!"
"Maybe if you just opened your eyes and saw what was staring right back at you, you wouldn't need proof, haven't you even seen the new color TV we have downstairs, delivered this morning, how do you think we could afford that? Milk prices suddenly go through the roof?" Scott asked. "Why was this family even taking delivery for a new TV on the morning of the funeral of Junior? Shouldn't there have been at least some remorse?"
"I never noticed, I was up here," the old man said confused.
"None of the family showed even the shred of a tear for Junior, that wasn't callous, it was simply because they know he isn't dead, he wasn't the one we buried, those guys in suits paid them money to go through the grieving process and to con you with it. They sold Junior, and brought a color TV! But of course, its not the first time Junior has been sold is it," Scott said and Annie started to tug his shirt. "Its OK Annie, we're out of here the brothers won't find us, we can tell him everything."
Their father stood up completely aghast with the news his youngest son was giving them, it explained the hostile reception the family gave Junior's friends, and it explained even their actions at the funeral.
"So those men were right? Junior is still alive and well?"
"Go find him dad, forget about this place. You've given too much to this family now its Juniors turn, go and find him," Scott insisted.
"But what about you two?"
"Well, we wanna come with you dad, we were hoping you'd come round to our way of thinking," Scott smiled.
Murdock Senior suddenly felt the rush of excitement, a sudden bonding with his youngest son and when he looked down to his daughter she was smiling back at him, he hugged them both and then quickly packed a few essentials.
"Let's go find, Junior," Murdock Senior announced.
The three of them exited the room quietly; pushing the car from the yard down the lane until it was far enough from the house to start the engine they left the family behind them.
Face was first to wake on hearing the door knock, he jumped, he had grown accustomed to being anonymous and sensed a threat from whoever was knocking on the door. Creeping up to the door, with a gun at the ready, Face peered out the side window and saw Murdock Senior anxiously waiting. Putting the gun away, Face quickly opened the door and ushered the three people in.
"Sir? How did you find us?" Face asked confused.
"It was Annie, she saw the van," the old man replied.
"I always said to BA we should have chosen a more discreet model," Face half smiled.
"Is there a problem with us finding you?" Scott asked.
"No, no, no problem with you finding us, there's just some others we don't want finding us," Face frowned and sighed as he sat down.
"We want to find Junior," Murdock's father announced with a passion.
"I thought you thought he was dead," Face checked.
"Scott tell him what you told me," the old man urged.
"The family were paid big money to go through the motions of burying Junior, these guys in suits said he was on a missing persons list so to just act as if he was dead anyway, they paid them a big amount of cash," Scott stated.
"They brought a new color TV," Annie added.
"Really?" Face tried to act impressed but his anger showed through. "I need to wake Hannibal, he should hear this," Face stated.
"No wait, tell me now why you think Junior is alive," the old man asked.
"I just know he is," Face stared straight into Murdock's fathers eyes for a moment and then left to wake Hannibal.
"Wow, he's pretty convinced," Scott remarked.
"That should have been my line all along," the old man said with sadness.
The van passed the state line into LA; it was crowded with the additions of Murdock's father, half brother and half sister. Face was uncomfortable with their presence, he would have preferred to have left them back in Texas but conceded that their safety was on the line once the brother's found out about Scott telling all.
Scott had told them everything, how the suits had got the brothers to sign the identification forms to say the person they buried was Murdock, to making everyone believe it was Murdock including his own father. As he had explained the whole sordid details, Murdock Senior had gone further into his own thoughts as if to try and hide from the truth. Face had noticed this and it was too close to Murdock for comfort, no matter how much the father was portrayed as the victim Face found no sympathy for him, he'd given up on his child and that merited no compassion from him. He found Scott and Annie a different problem though, they were victims of a loveless family, and they were simply running away. He knew they were using Murdock as a chance to make a break for it, he somehow knew the minute they stopped in LA they'd take off but there was no way to stop them. Surely Hannibal also realized this, Face thought, he knew there was no way the father saw it, they had used his guilt for Murdock as a means for him to take them with him to LA. Face wasn't sure how the old man would cope with losing his two youngest, there was no guarantee they'd find Murdock, but then he also knew that the father would probably not even notice they had gone and that made him even sadder.
This man had never forgiven himself for letting Murdock go, he'd punished himself and all around him it appeared. He'd neglected to look out for his other children because he'd failed one of them. Was it really a good thing if he found Murdock? Face thought to himself, what would Murdock do, this man effectively gave him away, and he knew what it felt like to be abandoned. Over the years it was clear this old man had regretted his part in Murdock being taken away, getting Murdock back could be the worse thing, would he ever let him go again? Face couldn't help but worry about their own actions, he knew Murdock and he just sensed this was all wrong, regardless of what the colonel ordered he was determined he'd act in Murdock's best interests, he owed the man that much.
The fast food restaurant was busy, young families occupied most of the tables but in the far corner there was a distinct lack of fun being had. Face noticed it and knew they must stick out like sore thumbs, not exactly the way to go for three men on the run he smiled to himself.
Face saw the two kids munching on their burgers, Murdock's dad was with Hannibal and BA at the next table as Face returned from the men's room. Face decided to talk to the kids, at least let them know he was onto them.
"So, Scott, Annie," Face smiled as he sat opposite them. "When exactly are you planning to take off?"
Scott looked dumbstruck and Annie was wide eyed, in a hushed whispered Scott asked how Face knew.
"Come on, don't you think it's a bit obvious?" Face asked.
"We need this break, its our only chance," Scott insisted.
Face sighed and saw the compassion, he also knew Scott was doing this more for his sister than himself, he didn't have to bring her.
"I'm on your side, kids," Face said sincerely. "Go to this address as soon as, ask for Father Magill and say I sent you, Templeton Peck,"
Scott took the card and studied it carefully, he looked at his sister and smiled, knowing his own prayers had been answered.
"Thanks, I didn't really know what we were going to do," he shrugged.
"He'll take good care of you both, you deserve it," Face smiled. "I want you to know I'm doing this because your Murdock's….Junior's brother and sister," Face added. "Junior would have done the same for my family, that's the kind of guy he is," Face added although he had nothing to justify this trust but it felt good to know.
"You talk of him like a brother," Scott noted.
"I've had the chance to know him like one, it's a pity your not sticking around long enough to find out for yourself," Face frowned.
"I know he's a good person, who'd you think stopped the brothers killing me when I was a toddler? When he went I had to learn to stand on my own two feet, it was real hard," Scott admitted and Face sensed a sadness he hadn't seen before.
"When we find Murdock, I'll make sure we'll pay a visit," Face smiled.
Scott looked at the card Face had given him once again, knowing things would work out for him and his sister after so much suffering.
"Come on you three, Face you need to find out possible locations the CIA would use to take Murdock," Hannibal reminded him.
Face stood up and waited for the kids before proceeding back to the van, he knew the kids were looking for a way to escape unnoticed and felt a need to help them, now he knew where they were heading.
"How about you two helping me search at the library?" Face suggested loud enough for the others to hear.
Hannibal turned and raised his eyebrows, but a smile formed that almost looked as if he knew what Face was planning, Face looked away as the kids agreed to join him.
"Sir, if you come with us," Hannibal gestured to the old man. "We'll be at the statue in the park, Face," Hannibal informed him as Face ushered the kids down the street.
"What are we going to be doing?" Murdock's father asked.
"Catching up, there are some things you need to know about your son, some things we haven't mentioned yet," Hannibal hinted, knowing that sooner or later Murdock Senior would have to understand the full story before they proceeded to find him.
There was a hum followed by realization of awakening, darkness surrounded the clouded thoughts and nothing registered as feelings returned. The small room was dark; daylight kept at bay by the heavy curtains on the windows. The furniture was basic with little or no furnishings; the room appeared to be derelict.
Two men in suits stood by the door looking at the slumped figure in the corner, they assessed him closely.
"So what now for him, sir?"
"We've done all we had to do with him, he'll take it from here," the other man responded.
"Is he going to be ok?"
"He'll be fine, you must understand that the minute we leave this room, we can't have any knowledge of this man. He had a price to pay and he paid it, now lets go," the man ushered the other out of the room, he looked back at the figure in the room. "Let's hope this is the last we ever see of you Captain HM Murdock," he sneered.
Major Howland took one last look at Murdock; the man he fully believed had murdered his good friend. He knew it would have been easier to turn him over to the authorities but he preferred his way of dealing with people, the way his good friend the distinguished gentleman would have wanted. The CIA would never know the full details of Captain HM Murdock, in truth, the CIA had never known fully of Murdock. Captain HM Murdock was the last remnants of a cover up Major Howland had personally overseen to save the distinguished gentleman's face. He knew if word ever got out about how his good friend had used and abused his CIA position; then his career and many others associated with him were over. So aware of the truth was he that he knew to simply kill Murdock would have been a big mistake, Murdock had become a threat, an unforeseen error on his friend's part. The minute he signed up with the A-Team in Vietnam, Captain Murdock had put all he knew into peril and now the distinguished gentleman was dead, murdered, Howland was convinced Murdock was onto them, he had to do what he did. Howland closed the door and locked it, taking a deep breath he allowed a smile, mission accomplished.
Inside the room, Murdock continued to stir and slowly become aware of his surroundings. The darkness helped as his eyes finally opened and took in the view. Staring straight ahead, Murdock tried to focus. Instinct pulled him up into a sitting position, resting on his elbows he blinked the last pieces of sleep away. Slowly he managed to get to his feet, he felt drunk but in a way never experienced before, he felt in control but with a surprise element. He stumbled to the window and had the feeling things were OK but then a dread that he was late for something, missing something.
A sudden knock on the door made him jumped, he spun round and had to catch himself before he lost his balance.
"H-hello?" Murdock managed quietly.
"Can I come in, I wanna go over some forms with you," a voice called back.
"Forms?" Murdock responded confused.
"Hey, you wanna live here I need a deposit and some ID, I only said you could view the room not move in!" the voice cried back and Murdock heard the doorknob being turned but the door was locked. "Hey, where'd you get the key from!"
Narrowing his eyes Murdock tried to remember how he'd got to be in the room, he remembered nothing. He walked over to the door and tried it his side but the door was locked.
"I don't remember locking it," Murdock called back.
"Well doors don't lock by themselves mister!" the voice called back, agitated. "I have a spare, hold on," the male voice stated and then Murdock heard movement moving away from the door.
"Right, who am I?" Murdock asked himself, suddenly fearing his memory loss. "I'm HM Murdock, what was the last thing I remember?"
Murdock sat down, holding his head he rubbed his temples but no images or memories came to mind, a complete blank. He felt scared by the lack of what he saw, how was it possible to forget everything, he knew he'd done something but he couldn't remember anything.
"I remember…" Murdock said out loud hoping to prompt a wash of memories but still nothing happened, he'd forgotten his whole being.
The door unlocked and opened and a middle aged man stepped in.
"Who the hell are you?" the man asked.
"HM Murdock," Murdock responded quickly.
"Whatcha doing here?"
Murdock looked to one side, the question was unusually deep and he searched desperately for an answer.
"I don't know," Murdock simply said.
"I don't know what kick you and your friends get out of this, get the hell out of here! I'm sick of jokers and time wasters, get out!"
Murdock rushed passed the man, fear and uncertainty combining within him as he tried to figure out anything else about himself. Murdock rushed out into the sun filled streets and just kept running.
The park was lively, children ran around as parents kept a concerned eye on them whilst enjoying the sunshine. Hannibal, BA and Murdock Senior walked towards the statue, no words being said. Hannibal looked over to a part of the wall where they could wait for Face, inside he knew he'd have to explain to Murdock's father what he'd meant by needing to know some things about his son, he wasn't looking forward to it. How was the old man going to react, he wondered, he had sent his son away to save him from the nut house only for Murdock to find his own way there. True, circumstances were different, Hannibal still wasn't convinced himself that Murdock had had a break down, convinced somehow the CIA were involved. But the fact remained, Murdock had resided at the VA and his father should be told before seeing his son again, who knows how he'd react if he found out in Murdock's presence, especially as Murdock himself appeared so sensitive on the subject lately.
"So, you gonna talk?" Murdock Senior interrupted Hannibal's thoughts.
"BA, go and get us some ices, here take this," Hannibal handed BA a ten dollar bill and watched him move away, clearly feeling uncomfortable with his task as he growled in protest.
Hannibal allowed BA to gain some distance, he didn't want anyone other than Murdock's father to know what was said, he trusted BA but if this all blew up in his face he didn't want anyone to know what he had said.
"Your son, HM, is a fine pilot. He's loyal, a good soldier and I have fought some mighty battles in the past to keep him on my team, and it was worth the effort," Hannibal spoke and saw a slight sign of pride in the old man's eyes. "He has a dark side however, it gets him into a lot of trouble and not always his fault. He has a temper that has got him into a lot of problems, an attitude that many disrespect but in some ways, those two features caught my attention and its how I met him."
"I think tempers and attitude are probably a family trait," Murdock Senior half smiled.
"I've only known your son for around four years, three of which were in Nam as part of my unit. The past six months however circumstances meant we lost touch," Hannibal explained.
"End of the war?" the old man asked.
"In some ways yes, in other ways it was a case we simply had to split up. You see, I'm not sure how up to date you are on news but BA, Face and myself, we're on the run from the MP's, we were arrested for a crime we didn't commit," Hannibal stated.
"You're that A-Team? Those guys described as deadly and dangerous on the radio? My son was your pilot?" Murdock Senior asked obviously taken by surprise.
"We're not deadly or dangerous, not to our friends anyhow," Hannibal smiled.
"Well ain't that something," Murdock Senior smiled. "Junior was the A-Team pilot, you know I still find it hard to believe he can fly let alone that he served in Nam," he gushed proudly.
"Sir, I heard you say that you gave Murdock away to protect him, to save him from a life you feared he'd have as the resident loony in your town," Hannibal's mood changed, his mind was mixed in emotions, he hated to have to tell Murdock's own father the news.
"That's right, they'd have thrown away the key," Murdock's father joked but saw instantly the pained expression from Hannibal.
"I said Murdock had a dark side, in Nam that was seen probably more that it would have if he'd stayed here. He had his bad habits that didn't help, addiction he could have done without. There were also circumstances he couldn't control, issues that went over his head but add to that the general horror of war and I'm afraid…" Hannibal hesitated. "On his return, Murdock was committed to the Veterans Administration Hospital, psychiatric ward for what was officially called a mental breakdown," Hannibal finished and sensed the confusion from the old man.
"He's a loony?" he managed although it was clear he'd been trying to find another more appropriate term.
"Personally, I don't think so, he was discharged a couple of months ago. Misunderstood is probably the better term, sir, there were other issues afoot when he was committed, that may have swung against him. On paper it may look like he lost it but trust me when I tell you not to believe everything you read, I just thought you should know a little bit of your sons recent history," Hannibal explained.
"Thanks for letting me know, I could have really put my foot in it," the old man smiled at the thought.
"The last time we saw him he was a little sensitive about the whole thing, denial is the word I'd use. It's true to say he's a little odd, has his own personal way of doing things but at the end of the day, it works for him and doesn't put anyone in danger. I still trust him completely and that's why I'm determined to find him now, again, he's worth the effort," Hannibal stressed with conviction.
"I sent him away because I didn't see a future for him with us, his family. Its good to know he found himself a new one," Murdock Senior spoke fondly as BA approached with the ices.
"Murdock means a lot to us, doesn't he BA?" Hannibal grinned allowing BA to know the atmosphere was relaxed.
"He's a crazy man, needs his brain sorting out," BA responded but Murdock's father could clearly see a fondness for his son through the gruff exterior.
"I only wish I knew the man you both know so well," he sighed in reflection.
"We will find him," Hannibal assured him as they continued to wait in the park, tucking into their ices.
Face looked up from the directories he was reading, the hushed atmosphere of the library making it easy for him to sense the brother and sister standing nearby.
"You two can go at anytime, you know," Face urged in a whisper.
Neither of them moved, they appeared to be at odds with the thought. Face put the directory away and led them out into the afternoon sun; he motioned for them to sit on the steps.
"Want to talk?" he asked.
"It's dad, we don't want to add to his misery," Scott admitted. "By leaving, there would be two more of his children to pine for, we've lived with the ghost of Junior most of our lives," he added sadly.
"I can understand that, I can respect that. Maybe you should tell him your plans, let him know what your doing," Face suggested. "Listen, I never experienced having a family, you know big house full of brothers and sisters with a mom and dad, maybe I'm not the best person to advise you on this, I've always simply had to look out for number one."
"How come?" Annie asked.
"I'm an orphan, Father Magill kinda brought me up for most of my young life, I lived at the place I suggested you go," he smiled at the young girl who seemed to hang on his every word.
"I've never met an orphan before," Annie admitted clumsily.
Face laughed as her brother nudged her for being rude, he looked around at the busy street ahead of them.
"Being an orphan is nothing special or any different to anyone else, I simply had to put my trust and faith into strangers and maybe I learned how to cope on my own at an earlier age but it's no different really, " Face remarked.
"I see now why you and Junior appear so close, he lost his family when he was ten, he too must have had to grow up fast, putting his trust in strangers," Scott said absently as he stared out into the street.
Face frowned on that thought, he'd never considered that to be the reason he and Murdock had clicked as friends, he always thought it was their shared experiences but maybe Scott had a point, they appeared to now share a lot more.
"Once you decide to leave your family, you'll find you'll both grow up fast. Scott, I guess you're old enough to make that step, but is Annie?" Face asked.
"I rather she grow up fast than grow up and have all the spirit and joy taken from her, our aunts suffocate her. They fear us, the sons, they know we are stronger but poor Annie, being the only girl has suffered much more than we ever did, they make her do all the chores, all the cooking. You know Annie has never been to school, or to the cinema or even to the city, look at her she's petrified," Scott stated sincerely.
For the first time Face noted how Annie clung to her brothers arm, she had said very little in the time they'd been at the library and he knew in his heart her brother was speaking the truth, Annie needed to get away from that house.
"Tell our father where we are, but only if he asks, I think I just needed to sort it out in my head. Thanks for understanding," Scott smiled and gestured to his sister to stand up.
"Trust Father Magill, have faith in him and it will be rewarded," Face advised and watched as they waved goodbye and followed his directions.
A part of Face wanted to take them to Magill himself, but he was aware of the possibility that the MP's could be still staking the place out. Hannibal often warned them not to let their heart rule their heads, Face knew BA hadn't contacted him mom since the escape, he had to be as strong. Face sighed, knowing that he now had to inform Murdock's father about his youngest children, he knew they'd be all right, Father Magill would looks out for them but a man already torn by one of his children leaving maybe wouldn't be able to handle any more.
Face stood up and headed back into the library, he still needed to complete his list of possible places where Murdock may be held.
The tall buildings surrounded the brother and sister, after growing up on the farm they found the whole place almost suffocating. Annie held onto her brother's hand tightly, all the people and the crowds were daunting and both were starting to wonder if they were ready for this step. The variety of people they saw held a weird fascination with them and they couldn't help but stare as they walked along, for what could be the first time they were seeing drunks and homeless people and they felt scared. Scott held his sisters hand tighter, he wanted to get to their destination quickly and he felt his sister had seen enough for one day, but then something caught his eye and he slowed up and backed into a doorway putting a protective arm around his sister.
"It's Hank!" the sister recognized the figure in the distance.
"How'd he find us?" Scott asked out loud, not expecting an answer.
"He must have followed us!" she replied, fear in her voice.
Scott watched as Hank walked along the street, he appeared to be looking for something and Scott knew it was them. He backed further into the doorway, he could only imagine what would happen if he saw them. Hank got closer and they both held their breath, but then slowly they relaxed before exchanging confused looks.
"That's not Hank, he's too thin," Annie remarked.
"He looks like Hank, but Hank ain't got a flying jacket like that and never wears high tops," Scott agreed and slowly both of them moved forward to get a better look.
"This city is weird, Scott," Annie mumbled.
"Wait a minute, are we as crazy as this town?" Scott suddenly smiled as he held his sister so she faced him. "That guy looks like Hank, so much so that we were almost convinced it was, that can only mean one thing," he enthused.
Annie stared back at him confused.
"That's our brother, not Hank but Junior, he's missing someplace and we've just found him!" he smiled wildly.
Both kids turned around, they could still see the man walking away down the street and both broke into a sprint to catch him up. Scott got to him first and grabbed both his arms; the man stopped and looked genuinely scared by Scott's actions.
The man narrowed his eyes confused; he seemed to examine Scott and then noticed the beaming young girl stood nearby.
"Junior, its me, Scott, remember?"
The eyes were still narrowed, as the man remained silent, obviously not recognizing them.
"Come on, think man! It's me, your brother!"
"My brother?" the man questioned. "I have a brother?" he repeated.
"You remember me right?" Scott smiled. "Remember how you always looked out for me?" he added, now totally convinced it was Junior.
"Sure I do, HM Murdock never forgets anyone," Murdock responded and embraced the stranger.
The old man stood up and checked his watch; he glanced around the crowded park before turning back to the more relaxed figures of Hannibal and BA.
"He's taking his time," he mumbled as he sat down.
"He produces the goods," Hannibal remarked unconcerned.
"I hope he's looking after Scott and Annie, they've never been to the big city before," Murdock Senior commented glancing at his watch once more.
"Hey, man, you either wanna find Murdock or you don't, all this jibber jabber ain't doing nothing," BA stated angrily.
"Well said, sergeant," Hannibal grinned.
Face made some final notes, telephone numbers and addresses and replaced the directory. He had found a suitable amount of information and knew he was overdue in getting back to the guys. His thoughts remained with Murdock's brother and sister, he still wasn't sure if encouraging them like he had was the right thing to do, something bothered him about it, maybe it was because they were running from the one thing he always wanted to have. His thoughts were suddenly drawn to a small gathering by the door, voices were raised and he instantly recognized Scott waving him over, he feared the worse until someone else came into view, a lanky, cap wearing pilot he was trying so hard to find.
"Murdock!" Face exclaimed in a hushed whisper and hurried over to the door.
"We found him, Face, we found him!" Scott enthused, he still held to Annie tightly as he guided Face to Murdock.
"Hey, Murdock!" Face smiled but instantly saw the look of confusion on the pilot's face. "You OK?"
"Sure I am," Murdock returned, he seemed to suddenly come to life and he embraced Face like Face had never seen before, a massive bear hug that was greatly exaggerated.
"Is everything OK, Murdock?" Face was now slightly concerned by Murdock's behavior.
Murdock drew back and saw the worried look in the strangers face, he sense that it would be harder to convince this one that he knew him, the kids seem to accept him a lot quicker. Murdock had figured out that the two kids were his brother and sister, but he still wasn't sure who this guy he now held was, he didn't look like a brother but the concern felt like one.
"Hey, Face, we gotta let the others know we've found him!" Scott smiled madly.
Murdock stood back, he desperately wanted to know why his brother had called the man Face but knew it would give him away if he asked, he tried once more to remember anything other than his name but it didn't change, he still couldn't remember.
"Your father will be pleased," Face remarked.
Murdock caught that and stored the information, so Face isn't a brother so he must be a good friend, he made a mental note to trust him like he would a best friend. Inwardly Murdock sighed, he considered just admitting the truth that he didn't know either of them but somehow he couldn't find the strength, he hoped his memory would return before they found him out. Murdock followed them, noting the glances the sister was giving him, they entered a park and Scott eagerly pointed out two older men and a tough looking black guy with muscles that made him fear him.
"Scott, Murdock, I think it would be best if I tell them first and then bring them over," Face suggested. "It's been a while and they were only expecting me to bring back some addresses," Face smiled.
Face came into view and immediately saw the expectant face of Murdock's father, he also knew he was looking for his two younger children which pleased him.
"Where have you been? Where's the others?" Murdock Senior asked.
Hannibal threw Face a look that told him to have a good answer.
"Scott and Annie are fine, they're right behind me," Face assured him and moved in front of BA and Hannibal. "We found Murdock," he announced not knowing how else to tell them.
"Murdock? You found Junior? I thought you were just finding addresses," the old man checked.
"I was, it was Scott and Annie who found him," Face smiled wildly.
"Is he OK?" Hannibal asked.
"I think so, he seems a little distant, hasn't said much," Face frowned.
"So where is the crazy fool?" BA asked and saw Murdock's dad glance over at him.
"Follow me," Face motioned.
Murdock waited, listening to his brother and sister's conversation in the hope of picking up any information that might help him. He saw them look up as the man known as Face, brought over the three men, one of which was his father. Simple deduction left him with two choices, either the man who smoked the cigar with graying blond hair or the slightly older man with receding hair. Murdock was stuck as to who to acknowledge as father; he panicked a little before deciding to play it by ear. He felt distracted for some reason, his agitation was growing by the minute and he was getting anxious without good reason. He wondered if outwardly it was as obvious as it seemed to him, feeling like he was simmering; ready to explode, he focused on remaining focused.
"Captain," Hannibal announced as he walked closer to him; Murdock wondered if fathers called their sons captain or not.
"Junior?" the other man asked.
Murdock frowned, why was that a question or had he already guessed things weren't right, was he that good a father?
"Hey, fool, it's 'bout time you showed up, man!" BA almost growled and Murdock instinctively moved away from him.
"Murdock, you don't have to be afraid of BA," Face noted confused at his friend's reaction to the big guy.
"Are you OK, Murdock? You don't seem to be talking much," Hannibal asked concerned.
"I'm fine," Murdock responded but inside he was desperately trying to stop the agitation that kept growing like a need for something he didn't have.
"Junior?" the older man asked, once more causing Murdock to be more confused.
"Dad?" he asked wondering why his confusion was returned in the man's expression, he decided to go for lucky guess.
"Junior!" the man exclaimed and with tears in his eyes he reached out and embraced his long lost son.
Murdock almost froze as the old man made contact, it didn't feel natural and he couldn't explain why. This man was his father but he felt like a stranger, nothing registered and the agitation was growing as his mind and soul craved something more. The old man pulled back, he'd noted the lack of response in the embrace from his son.
"Son, will you ever forgive me?"
Murdock looked deep into the expression his father showed, there was pain and guilt clearly there but Murdock couldn't remember what he'd done. Murdock Senior stepped back on his son's silence, mistaking the stare for 'no' and he simply felt the look had answered his question.
"I understand, I don't blame you," Murdock's father said quietly as the others watched on.
Face examined Murdock's expression, so cold yet in the same light confused, he didn't look too good and he wondered whether Murdock was actually with them in spirit as well as body.
"I think we should let Murdock rest before we do the twenty questions, he looks tired and maybe he'll be more talkative," Face suggested.
Hannibal had also started to wonder about Murdock's state of mind and welcomed Face's suggestion. "Good idea, kid, get us a place to stay," he ordered.
Murdock held tightly to his arms as the inward battle raged, his determination to keep his memory loss a secret combined with his raised agitation and anxiety was turning him inside out. Face moved close and lightly ushered Murdock towards the exit, not knowing that Murdock was close to the brink. Murdock was doing everything in his power to stay in control, he didn't want to wake up again not knowing anything and the fear caused him to sway a little as the battle to remain focused raged. Face got a tighter grip on Murdock's arm and sensed something was happening to his friend, he noticed the intense expression and beads of perspiration forming on his brow.
"Hannibal," Face said simply as he got a better grip on the captain.
Murdock was losing the battle with his anxiety and fear, he didn't want to lose consciousness but a need was too strong, he didn't know what it was he was craving and he felt like the world was opening to swallow him whole. His temperature was rising, as the intensity grew stronger, he felt closed in and there was a noise he couldn't stop running round his head.
"Murdock stop, rest," Face advised and came round to face him, still holding his arms.
Face could see his eyes darting all over the place, unfocused and confused. Suddenly Murdock's legs buckled and he fell to the floor, almost taking Face with him. His breathing was frantic as Face checked his pulse; raising his eyebrows as he turned to Hannibal, it was racing.
"He's heading for a heart attack," Face stated concerned.
Murdock's father knelt down, unable to take in what he was seeing. His son looked so helpless and out of control, he wanted to do more than watch.
"Murdock, Murdock, you have to listen to me," Face stated clearly and got a hold on Murdock's upper body, preventing Murdock from hurting himself as he let go of his control. "Slow breaths, c'mon, relax, I'm here, we're all here, nothings gonna happen," Face quietly said close to Murdock's left ear.
Murdock's father's first instinct was to call a doctor or an ambulance, he couldn't understand what Face was trying to do, his son was very ill and he couldn't possibly talk him out of being ill. But even he noticed his son noticeably calm down, not much but enough to stop the original panic. Scott and Annie simply watched, not understanding what was really happening or how serious it was, they'd already seen in Face a friendship for their brother and somehow expected him to help him. Hannibal and BA had faith in Face as well, they had seen before how Face had always managed to pull Murdock through, and it had never been needed more than now as they watched Murdock continue to gain some control.
Murdock listened intently to Face's voice, a voice he'd told himself to trust and a voice he now used as a guiding light. As his mind seemed ready to split the voice had pulled him back, the instructions were simple but served as an important reminder for Murdock, he concentrated on doing exactly what the voice said. He felt the reassuring hold of Face, it felt right and it felt like he'd been there before. Murdock was reminded of the embrace he'd shared with the man who called himself his father; how come the hold he now had was more natural than the one he'd shared with his dad?
"Murdock, can you hear me?" Face asked, Murdock eyes had remained closed throughout and Face needed to know he was still conscious without shaking him.
Murdock nodded his head, he looked exhausted and it was obvious he didn't have the energy to even open his eyes. BA kneeled down with a bandana and wiped Murdock's face, he looked at Face and both shared a relieved smile.
"I'll take the fool, he needs to rest," BA announced and scooped Murdock out of Face's hold.
Murdock didn't move and suddenly felt some strength, he was aware that he was now being held by the big guy but he felt comfort and security in the hold. He tried to think of what the big guy was called, nothing came forward, he couldn't even thank him by name but he wanted to say something.
"Thanks, big guy," he murmured finally.
"Think nothing of it, fool, now quit your jabber and rest, man!" BA said with as much emotion as his gruff exterior allowed him.
Hannibal guided Murdock's father who held tightly to his two children, he looked shook up from seeing Murdock collapse but Hannibal partly knew the reason. He'd seen it before, the soldiers in Nam who went a step further than Murdock did back then, relying totally on drugs and then the supply being cut. In time and through pain they got through it, but the first moment the body craved it was always the most frightening to witness and Hannibal knew they'd just witnessed Murdock's first time. Hannibal also knew Murdock wasn't an addict, not to the extent his attack suggested, but somehow since they last saw him his body's craving for drugs had risen to the level of an addict and he wanted to know how and why. He wasn't aware of a drug being so addictive, so quickly. He knew when they last saw Murdock that he'd got back into drugs but he didn't have any of the tell tale signs of an addict. Hannibal had done his homework when drugs became second nature in Nam; he wasn't ignorant but he was confident Murdock was only ever a casual, maybe social user, he craved drugs but he had more control on the craving than the men he had described as the addicts did. Suddenly though, in the space since they'd last seen him just a few nights ago, since his premature death announcement, to when they supposedly found him walking the streets, he'd become addicted to something his body now dangerously craved. Not with all the knowledge he had, all the homework he'd done had he ever known a drug to become that addictive that quickly.
The silence of the room was disturbed only by constant motion from the grand looking clock in the corner; two men sat on opposite sides of an oak table were deep in thought. Major Howland seemed concerned; his hands were brought up to his chin as he looked down at the desk.
"I don't understand, are you sure every part of town has been checked?" Howland asked finally.
"All the hospitals, all the back alleys, all the places he could have gone in a twenty mile radius of where we dropped him, there's been no sighting. Either he got on a train or bus, or he's still walking some place," the other man shrugged.
"No, he couldn't have got far, not in his condition. The attacks must have killed him by now, are we still scanning the emergency frequencies?" Howland checked.
"Yes, sir, there's been no call outs to people in the condition our man should be in."
"That man, why can't he just do things the way we want him to? Why does he always make it more interesting for himself?" Howland barked and hit his palm against the desk. "Dead, that's all we've ever wanted. But no, this kid has some form of guardian angel helping him out, or something!" Howland continued enraged.
"Maybe he just found himself a nice hiding place when he showed first signs of the attack?" the man offered helpfully.
"No, the drug was designed to quickly and painfully destroy the man, mentally and physically, Murdock was in no condition to fight such an attack," Howland explained.
"What if he got help?"
Howland shot the other man a sharp stare, who would help Murdock? They had carefully chosen the location to dump him, a neighborhood famous for keeping themselves to themselves and a landlord who didn't know compassion if it hit him on the nose and introduced itself.
"Something's gone wrong," Howland finally admitted. "If we don't cover all our tracks then we might as well hand in our resignations now and flee the country, Murdock could just be the tip of the iceberg, he could bring us all down," Howland said in a hushed and worried whisper.
"But you've said before that you don't think he realizes his own power, what's to say he ever will, sir?"
"If you wanna take that chance then fine, by all means, me? I want to ensure my career and my future isn't jeopardized. If our actions are ever discovered, if anyone ever investigates our past superior's activities then we go down. We have to protect ourselves," Howland insisted.
"Sir, what you are suggesting would almost definitely seal our fate," the man protested.
"I respect our old boss's methods, I followed his orders to the letter, he was a fine man. He was murdered right in front of my eyes by a man who is obviously teasing us right now, maybe Murdock didn't poison that water but he still killed the old man because he didn't die when he should have. The old Major never forgave himself over the Murdock affair, the hot shot that got fried by his own people, the Major saw the potential in Murdock when he was just ten years old!" Howland explained with obvious tiredness.
"Ten years old?" the other man checked.
Howland nodded his head. "Groomed him from just a boy, he didn't directly interact with the boy but he insured he was well looked after and got the best training possible. He was the prodigy, the hope for the future," Howland smiled as he remembered. "I never met the kid, only ever heard the rumor it was all very top secret, wasn't till the last few days that I even worked out who Murdock was and it was a shock," Howland admitted.
"So what happened?"
"You know, even I don't know but whatever did happen really screwed everything up, the old man was scared of him, scared of what he was capable of. His biggest mistake was sending him to Vietnam, I still can't figure out why he did that, I mean this kid was special and it only makes sense that one of the special forces units would notice him, the kid was a prodigy for pity's sake!" Howland explained wildly. "All I do know is we can no longer hope this problem goes away, one day he'll work it out, one day he'll realize the damage he can cause and we have to make sure that day doesn't come," Howland said out loud with conviction.
"So, we're assuming he's somehow survived the drug, how else can we stop him?"
Howland considered the question for a moment. "Now? We admit our mistake, we admit through official channels that Captain Murdock actually isn't dead, we issue a public plea for his safe return, someone must know where he is. Contact his family and offer more rewards, they can help us some more," Howland ordered as a hazy plan began to form in his head.
Murdock had been awake for almost twenty minutes, he had pretended to be asleep for a little while until whoever was in his room had left, he assumed they would be back soon but he slowly sat up and held his head. He felt physically fine, mentally he still couldn't remember anything but he was relieved to recall at least the events of earlier, his attack and meeting the people he had. He recalled their images, Scott his brother, Annie his young sister, Face, a friend, a good friend and his father. Something concerned him about his father, there was distance there that he felt, nothing about his father, brother or sister actually felt familiar but when he was with Face, then it did, it felt recent.
The door opened and Murdock looked up to see the big guy walk in, he was wearing gold chains and his hair was a mohawk, he looked threatening but Murdock sensed nothing to be afraid off.
"Hey there, crazy man," BA said warmly. "You feeling OK?"
"Yeah, I think so," Murdock replied although his thoughts returned to his loss of memory.
"You reminded me of when we first met, that night you lost control in that rain, soaked us all to the skin," the big guy smiled.
Murdock tried to imagine to scene, not knowing where or when it happened didn't help but it gave him something to refer back to. Suddenly he felt the sensation again, like a creeping need that was starting to grow again, Murdock huddled up in an attempt to control it. The big guy noticed the action and he saw the change in expression on Murdock's face.
BA considered calling for Face but knew he'd only just put his head down, he'd been a nightmare to get to sleep for the very reason he thought only he could look after Murdock. BA had assured him he'd look out for Murdock and now that was being tested, BA stood up and gently sat beside the worried looking captain.
"Hey, man, it's OK," BA said, remembering what Faceman had said earlier.
Murdock felt the hold of the big guy and embraced it, originally he wished Face had been there but it seemed he had another trusted friend in the big guy. He felt strength and didn't want to appear weak to this man, he took deep breaths and was holding on as the need got stronger, it tugged at him and the craving was starting to work its way around Murdock's psyche.
"Fight it, man. Be strong, man," BA continued.
BA held him tighter as Murdock's struggled continued, he was rocking fiercely now and BA had to keep his wits about him to keep hold. Finally after a hectic five minutes, exhaustion overcame Murdock and he collapsed. BA checked his pulse and was satisfied it was coming back down, he wiped Murdock's face and neck and laid him down.
"Thanks, big guy," Murdock whispered.
BA didn't want to move too far away, he'd never seen anyone so weak before and it pained him to see Murdock like this knowing what else he had been through since he'd known him. BA looked up and noticed for the first time Murdock's father standing in the doorway, he wondered how long he'd been there but sensed it had been a while. An unknown anger welled up inside him, how could he have watched that twice now without offering to help, or wanting to help his son? BA couldn't stop the anger that grew on that thought, he remembered Murdock's look on seeing his father again and remembered the coldness of it, feeling defensive BA stood up.
"Murdock needs rest," BA announced.
"I know, I just needed to see Junior," the old man stated.
"His name is Murdock, man, he ain't Junior no more."
The old man stared back at BA and sensed the hostility; he had admired the way the big man had handled his son, the same way he had admired Face, knowing he could never do the same. The hostility however, he was not prepared for, he looked back in confusion.
"He needs peace," BA stated and the old man could do nothing else but leave the room, he glanced back at Junior before leaving.
Face came out into the afternoon sun, he seated himself next the BA and they exchanged worried looks.
"That's seven now," Face announced. "I'm not sure I can take much more of these attacks," he motioned.
"We keep going so the fool keeps going, man," BA stated.
"I know, I know," Face sighed. "At least Hannibal's able to handle the attacks now as well, I was afraid it would be down to just me and you for a moment there," he added.
"Hannibal's like a father to him, I knew he'd be OK," BA responded. "His own father don't know which way to turn, he turned his back long ago," he almost growled.
"There is something you don't like about Murdock's father isn't there?" Face looked at BA's reaction.
"I just don't like him, man," BA admitted.
"I thought I was the only one," Face frowned.
BA caught Face's words and stared back at him. "You don't like him either?"
"You think I like any father who abandons their kid? C'mon, he had no reason other than he thought Murdock was stupid for giving him up, simple peer pressure," Face reasoned.
"It's strange why he let him go, then sits round moaning 'bout it so his other kids miss out," BA stated with anger.
"We don't know the full story, but I know just by spending time with him, spending time with Scott and Annie that I don't like what I see," Face spoke with an air of remorse. "I'm concerned more by Murdock though, is it just me or does he seem like he's confused?"
"You notice that? You know he ain't called me by my name once, he calls you by name and his brother and sister, but me and Hannibal, we don't get called anything," BA remembered.
Face thought over BA's response, he had thought he'd been the only one to notice such a small thing about Murdock's recent behavior, what with the continued attacks.
"I just wish this craving that's got hold would let up so we could actually find out what happened to him," Face sighed and looked up to the clear blue skies above.
"He's a fighter, always has been, man," BA assured him.
"Always had to be," Face said with his own feelings of anger.
"FACE! BA! Another attack, get in here!" Hannibal's voice yelled from above, both BA and Face immediately got to their feet and raced up the stairs of the house Face had secured for them, on the way they brushed past Murdock Senior who was simply watching with concerned interest.
It was now well past the midnight hour, Face was holding Murdock once more and another attack of many was finishing. Exhausted, Murdock tried to focus, determined not to give into the sleep that teased him.
"Face," Murdock murmured.
"Murdock?" Face questioned, this was the first time since the attacks started that he'd spoken after one.
BA sat up with interest; he glanced round at Hannibal and Murdock's father.
"Hungry, thirsty," Murdock stated, feeling the pangs of hunger hit him for the first time in ages.
Face looked over to Hannibal who was already on his feet, making his way down to the kitchen. It was a positive sign that they had been waiting for, Murdock hadn't eaten any food that was offered to him in the past twenty odd hours and there was a concern growing, but in a couple of whispered words Murdock had sent hopes rising.
Face looked down at the tired expression Murdock wore, imagining he wore much the same. It had been a long day, full of anxiety and concern with very little let up.
"I want to get up," Murdock motioned and tried to move.
"Hey, not so fast soldier," Face smiled and gently helped Murdock to move to the edge of the bed.
BA moved over and helped to take Murdock's weight, what little there was of it and they walked him slowly around the room. Murdock felt his spirits rise as he took little steps, he had felt so weak and useless till then but now he had the strength to walk, even if it was with the help of his friends. As he walked his eyes fell on the man he remembered to be his father, something wasn't right in his eyes and it bugged Murdock. The man made his spirit go and he couldn't even face him, something about him dug deep into Murdock's heart.
"I want him out of here," Murdock remarked to BA.
BA felt some pride in Murdock looking to him and then on hearing the order, the request, BA couldn't hide his private joy at asking Murdock's father to leave the room. He carried an unsettling atmosphere and if Murdock, in his state could sense it, then he had no choice but to do as he asked.
"You heard him, man," BA stated to the old man.
The old man didn't react; he looked sadly at his son before slowly getting to his feet. "I'll see you in the morning," he said quietly before leaving the room.
Face guided Murdock back to the bed and they let him sit down, a little more color had appeared in his face and his actions were more pronounced as he regained some energy from somewhere.
"Murdock, why did you ask your father to leave?" Face asked intrigued.
Murdock considered the question; he couldn't explain other than to say he simply didn't look right. He felt safe in that room, now he felt comfortable. With his father gone, things were less tense, more relaxed he felt.
Murdock shrugged. "I don't know him," Murdock found himself admitting and almost wished he hadn't, thinking he'd said too much, but his friends simply accepted his words without further questions.
Hannibal came into the room with some simple, light snacks, enough for everyone. They all tucked in; carefully ensuring Murdock didn't go overboard. Murdock looked around them as they spoke, learning the big guy's and the old guy's names at last as they exchanged small talk. Face, Hannibal and BA, they felt a lot more like family than his dad, Scott and Annie ever did.
The paper was in front of him, he could read the questions and they felt so easy. In quick succession he answered each question with ease, child's play. There were smiles; pats on the back and general high praise that made him feel ten feet tall. Grown men were speaking highly of him and he was the center of attention, everything seemed so big and grown up, nothing else mattered.
His friends simply looked on, he couldn't reach them, they were out of reach, he kept looking back but each time they were further away. He saw a face he recognized but with each second, the small boy's face grew unfamiliar as the men took him away. It felt so final, a fear he'd never see his friends again grew more real as he was lead down endless corridors, talk of helicopters and planes filled his head, promises of all the toys he could imagine was being made. Then a room, a white room, full of those very same toys, he was sat amongst them in a world he could only ever imagine but it felt so real, toys of all kinds, enough for even his imagination to contend with.
Then an old man staring back at him, he couldn't reach him he was out of reach, behind a wall of glass, he looked sad and made him feel sad. The toys no longer important he began to run to the old man, he needed to touch the old man to be a part of him, he kept running but he never got close to him he was always moving away. The grown men were now with him, urging the old man to get distance between them; the old man had a packet in his hand, a parcel, a present for him maybe? He kept running, kept moving, he wanted to reach the man and then, he fell. Falling in slow motion, his balance gone, the old man was gone, gone forever.
Murdock's eyes snapped open confused, he was breathing fast and felt Face holding him, his eyes darted around the room as he remembered where he was. Looking over to the old man sat in the chair, he recognized him immediately.
"You left me!" Murdock spoke with strength towards his father.
Face looked down at Murdock's angered features and held him, what had appeared to be the beginnings of another attack took a sudden turn. The father simply looked back at his son with confusion.
"You didn't wait for me! You left me with those people!" Murdock continued remembering the images from his dream. "What did they give you!" he asked referring to the package.
"Junior, you're hysterical, calm down," his father spoke with concern.
With sudden strength, Murdock released himself from Face's hold and headed straight for his father.
"Who were they? I remember the men; they scared me, who were they? Why did you leave me with them? You walked away, you never came back!" Murdock yelled with sudden anger that surprised everyone and within moments Hannibal and BA were in the room, joined by Scott and Annie soon after.
"I don't know what you're talking about," his father returned unsure.
"Those men took me, they gave me toys and promises and you left me!" Murdock screamed wildly, BA took hold of him hoping to calm him down.
"Junior, it's the illness bothering you," the old man returned.
"Stop lying, father, why don't you just be honest with him? You owe him that much!" Scott spoke up and all eyes turned to him.
"Scott," Murdock murmured and faced his brother, finally recognizing him as the young boy from his dream who he couldn't reach. "I tried to come back, I tried to reach you," Murdock said as he looked over, he was finding it hard to concentrate now between what was real and what wasn't.
"I know, Junior, I remember what happened that day, no matter how hard I try to forget. If I had been any older maybe I'd have done more," he said sadly, and a great weight lifted as years of regret washed over him.
"You couldn't, you were just a little boy, you couldn't have known what was going on," Murdock said simply before turning back to his father. "But you knew exactly what was going on," he said with venom.
"Come on, bruver, ain't doing you no good getting upset," BA advised Murdock and moved him back to the bed.
"I want him out of here, for good this time," Murdock requested obviously tired from his exertions.
Hannibal looked at the old man and it was enough to make the old man stand up and leave without protest.
"I tried to forget it, I tried to blank it out. I remember them taking my brother away, men in suits talking to dad, shaking hands, they handed him a brown envelope," Scott remembered as if seeing an old memory for the first time in a long time.
"Compensation?" Face questioned.
"We went to Disneyworld that summer, never been on holiday before then suddenly dad was taking mom and us on vacation," Scott remembered. "A few weeks after that trip, mom announced she was expecting," Scott half smiled at his younger sister who stood beside him.
There was a silence in the room, Murdock looked at both Scott and Annie and finally knew what his senses had been telling him all along. He somehow knew now he'd not seen his brother or sister grow up, it explained how he didn't feel close to his father and finally something made sense, his mind was possibly returning his memories. It was disturbing to learn his family secret through a dream; in the manner he had, he hoped there was nothing more to find out about his past that could come back to haunt him in his dreams.
The television had everyone's attention as the warm flicker of the fire filled the room; Murdock sat between BA and Face, wrapped in a blanket still looking tired. Hannibal sat by the window, casually checking the road outside from time to time. Murdock's father sat with his children, silently by the fire trying to look interested by what was showing on TV. The news had begun and Murdock watched with interest, hoping to somehow get an idea of what was going on in the world that he should know about. Only parts of his memory had returned so far, memories about the man who sat nearby, his so-called father he had no time for and it seemed neither did his friends.
'Today, police officials issued a plea to find a missing person, wrongly thought to be dead and who had actually been buried but now it turns out that the person they buried wasn't who they thought it was. Captain HM Murdock Junior, was pronounced dead just three days ago and his family in their grief buried the body quickly in a ceremony the next day, they even identified the body but now it turns out it was all a mistake.'
A stunned silence filled the room as a picture of Murdock, taken in Vietnam was flashed up on screen with his name. Murdock watched with interest, he had no idea he'd been official declared dead and his confusion showed clearly as he sat forward.
'Police now need to locate Murdock Junior and determine how the mistake was made, we spoke to an Aunt of the missing man.'
Suddenly on the screen were the two sisters, they looked as though they'd been crying and Murdock continued to make mental notes.
'Its both distressing and a god send to know young Junior is still alive but knowing he is missing, we desperately want him back and safe.'
"Its lies all lies!" Murdock's father raged fiercely at the screen.
Murdock narrowed his eyes not understanding the turn in events; it was bad enough not remembering anything but to not be able to work out what to believe was taking its toll.
'If you have seen junior, or know where he is then please phone the number on screen now.'
"Great, so now we can't let Murdock be seen," Face realized.
"They must have paid her some serious money this time, what's going on? What exactly is your story son?" his father suddenly demanded, still angry. "First your dead, then your found wandering the streets, almost immediately you're having attacks that only these guys can help you with. Without good reason you shun me and your brother and sister and now people; I don't know who, are claiming you were never dead in the first place and have my sisters in law going for best actress awards. Tell me what the hell is going on!" he yelled and pulled Murdock to his feet with rage.
BA stood up almost immediately and forced Murdock's father to let go of his son, who simply looked vacant and confused as ever.
"OK, can we have a bit of control here?" Hannibal asked, moving between Murdock and his father. "You OK, captain?" Hannibal asked and saw Murdock numbly nod his head.
Scott kept hold of his sister as he watched his father trying to control his emotions, he knew his father never liked being kept in the dark and feared what he'd do to try and regain some control.
"I want you to tell me everything, Smith, everything!" Murdock father insisted, still fuming.
"All in good time, now is not that time," Hannibal announced.
"I'm sorry but now is the perfect time!" Murdock Senior stated.
"I'm not going to tell you, not at this moment," Hannibal returned with authority.
"Then maybe I should just ask my son!" Murdock's father stressed and pushed past Hannibal with enough force to take him by surprise, BA was unable to stop the man grabbing Murdock's shirt. "Now tell me!" he raised his voice.
"Dad! Stop it!" Scott tried to help the situation but his heart wasn't in it, he'd seen his father act out of control too many times to try and stop him.
Murdock simply stared back at his father blankly, unable to even begin to try and explain; he simply didn't remember anything about his past, only that he knew his father had given him away. BA tried to separate Murdock's father from him but it was too risky, BA could see the anger in the father's face and feared if he tried with too much force, with the mood his father was in, he'd lash out at Murdock. Hannibal silently ordered BA to stay alert to the situation; Face stood close by on the other side, concerned by Murdock's father's apparent loss of control.
"Son, I'm warning you, if you don't tell me the full story-" Murdock's father began.
Murdock shrugged as his father spoke, knowing he couldn't say what his father wanted to hear he knew there was only one course of action to take. "What? What are you going to do?" he smiled back.
"Don't get cocky with me, son!" the old man snapped, his strength surprise the team as he held tightly to Murdock's shirt.
"You know you really should blow you nose sometimes, dad, didn't mom ever tell you to go blow yourself?" Murdock asked innocently.
A sudden rage erupted in Murdock's father, it was uncontrolled anger that happened so fast BA or Face had no time to react as Murdock Senior threw a punch across his son's jaw before quickly gathering him up again. Both BA and Face took hold of the old man's arms but to no avail, Murdock Senior now gripped his son's jaw.
"Don't ever mention your mother in that way again, you hear me!" he yelled.
Murdock was still dazed and stunned by events, his jaw was aching and instinct made him bring his own hands up to his father's face. Hannibal tried to help BA and Face as Scott and Annie looked on, looking the calmest in the room that had got so heated.
Finally, Murdock's dad let go, allowing BA to take him away from Murdock. Face took Murdock and made him sit down; he checked Murdock's jaw and found a bruise forming but nothing more serious. Murdock sat back, his eyes closed and inside he could feel the need growing once again. 'Not now, not now' Murdock repeated to himself but loud enough for Face to catch.
"Another attack?" Face asked and prepared himself as Murdock agonizingly nodded his head as the first bouts of pain began to strike.
BA made Murdock's father sit down, growling a warning for him to calm down as he moved nearer to Murdock, wanting to help. Hannibal sat opposite the family group and simply observed them, in the past few minutes he'd learned more than he wanted to know but the priority now was to ensure Murdock got through the attack he was about to have.
Murdock suddenly tensed up and Face quickly began to issue comforting orders, holding him as best he could as Murdock fought the pain.
"For Christ sake, when are you going to get a doctor here?" Murdock's father asked loudly in despair at having to watch another attack.
"We're dealing with this," Hannibal responded calmly.
"He needs help!" the old man snapped.
"He trusts us, he doesn't trust doctors," Hannibal responded although privately he had been considering getting a doctor in, even if it was against Face's wishes.
Face had assumed authority on Murdock since the attacks had started, he insisted that there was to be no doctors and Murdock had agreed once he'd been asked by Face. There was a blind faith between the men, they trusted each other, and Murdock seemed totally trusting of Face and it showed just how much the two men had grown to respect each other. The bond between them was stronger than he'd ever imagined it to be when they had been in Nam, he knew whatever happened to them at the prison camp had forged a trust, but it was only now that trust was being tested.
Murdock's pain continued but it was slowly easing as he allowed himself to relax slightly in Face's hold, he started to control his breathing and slowly the pain went away. Face moved him back so he could rest against the couch, he picked up the blanket and wrapped Murdock back up in it.
"Keep going, Murdock," Face smiled.
"Its getting easier, the attacks are easing I think," Murdock said with exhaustion.
BA looked over to Murdock's father and let him know with one look what he thought of him. The old man sat back, still angry and determined to know the full story. He looked over on hearing Face and BA protesting for Murdock to sit back down. Murdock managed to slowly stand, still holding the blanket around him he steadied himself. He'd had enough of the games, enough of not knowing who he was or what was going on. He sensed his father's frustration but felt it also, it wasn't relaxing having to concentrate and work out what was what, he needed to overcome these attacks and the memory loss wasn't helping him.
"You want the truth?" Murdock said with some effort and concentration, he saw the expectancy from his father and the uncertainty from the men he now considered trusted friends. "The truth is, I don't know, I don't know anything about anything," he admitted, still trying to regain some energy as he stood addressing them.
"What are you saying, Murdock?" Face asked and stood up to give Murdock someone to lean on.
"What I'm saying is I don't know anything, it's gone, everything. I've lost my memory and all of you, what I know about you is simply what I've picked up since yesterday," Murdock sighed. "The only memory that came back was of you giving me up to those men, I don't know who those men were, I don't know how old I was I don't know why. What I do know is what my instinct tells me, and that's not to trust you," Murdock said to his father. "But you guys, my instincts have said straight away to trust you. There's something familiar about you, I sense we have a history but I have no idea how or where we met, how long I've known you, nothing," Murdock frowned and finally let Face sit him down.
"I had no idea," Face stated, obviously stunned.
Hannibal stared intently at Murdock, he had no reason not to believe what he was saying but it changed everything.
"Murdock, you should rest, we can pick this up tomorrow. We'll get you through this," Hannibal said with a warmth that Murdock responded to.
Face helped Murdock to his feet, BA took his weight as they made the journey to the bedroom, once they were clear of the room Hannibal turned his attention to Murdock's family.
"On reflection, this bodes badly for you guys I'm afraid. One thing I do trust about Murdock is his instincts, without memory his instincts are telling him not to trust you," Hannibal frowned. "I'm prepared to trust those instincts one more time," he smiled and chewed a fresh cigar calmly.
"C'mon kids," Murdock Senior gestured for them to stand. "It's way past your bed time," he said quietly and they all left the room with little complaint.
Hannibal sat back and started to enjoy his newly lit cigar in the quiet of the room, the fire still crackled. His thoughts went back over the past day or two; Murdock had successfully managed to hide his memory loss from them, a feat in itself and a credit to the man's strength. The attacks appeared to be lessening and happening less frequently, another credit, the more Hannibal considered the situation the more he wanted Murdock back on the team.
The phone rang once more and was quickly followed by a pin being placed in a map mounted on the wall; two men observed the actions and smiled.
"It seems Murdock has not gone into hiding, the sightings are starting to build up around the Featworth Memorial Park area," the younger man noted.
"He was sighted there by over twenty of the callers so far, yesterday afternoon, a handful of those witnessed him having an attack of some kind and a group of men helping him," Howland stated. "We have to find these men," he added.
"Murdock's father and the younger brother and sister are still unaccounted for," the young man remembered.
"That's just a little suspicious, wouldn't you think?" Howland half smiled.
"And the family said those three men turned up at the funeral earlier that day," the young man remembered.
"OK, OK, I am aware of events thank you!" Howland snapped. "It's quite possible this is all connected, we can't ignore that. Nothing surprises me no more about Murdock's luck!" he sighed heavily.
"Sir, the brothers are already on their way to this part of town," the man spoke as he read a new piece of paper.
"Well that's what we've paid them to do, lets hope its not a wasted journey and the reunion goes well," Howland grinned with menace.
The early morning chorus from the birds allowed the tension building within the old man to lift a little as he walked along the deserted street; he soon saw the telephone booth. Walking over he casually checked he wasn't being followed as he went to lift the handset. He checked the information board and called the operator number, they quickly answered.
"Hi, can you put me through to the Military Police, someone who needs information on the fugitives they're calling the A-Team," Murdock Senior stated with urgency.
The birds continued to sing as Face entered the room with a fresh pot of coffee; he poured himself a cup and reseated himself next to Murdock's bed. The captain had had a restless night, but finally deep sleep had overcome him and now he was probably gone for most of the day. Face opened the paper that he had collected from the path, intending to read up on the stock market when his attention went back to Murdock. It wasn't obvious at first but Face sensed a change, Murdock's breathing was becoming more rapid and he feared another attack was about to happen but it would be the first one to strike as Murdock slept. Murdock's eyes were fluttering and slowly his body began to twitch, groans then more audible cries began to be heard and Face quickly reached for Murdock's hand.
"Hey, Murdock, wake up, its just a dream," he urged.
It was clear he wasn't getting through as the actions and movement from Murdock became more pronounced, the bed covers began to fly as the movements became more frantic and the cries louder. Murdock was screaming as BA and Hannibal rushed in to check, Face was only just holding onto Murdock as his unconscious form battled with itself.
"Murdock!" Face yelled as BA moved to the other side and got a hold of him.
Suddenly Murdock's eyes snapped open and he instantly sank back, still breathing heavily and now covered in perspiration. Face refused to let go as BA moved back observing, Murdock appeared confused by his surroundings.
"It's OK, Murdock, it was just a dream," Face said softly.
"No, Face, no," Murdock nervously shook his head.
"You were dreaming, Murdock, nothing happened," Face assured him calmly.
"No," Murdock repeated and seemed miles away. "I remember everything, I think," he said with uncertainty.
"It was just a dream, Murdock," Face tried a smile to help Murdock through.
"Vietnam, the camps," Murdock said slowly. "Dad and mom," he added with a look that sent a shiver down Face's spine.
"Murdock, what you saw in your dreams wasn't real, it was just a dream," Face stated with conviction but Murdock wasn't listening, his mind was taking in what it had revealed and it wasn't good.
Face glanced over to Hannibal and BA, his expression clearly distressed by Murdock's words. Scott suddenly raced into the room, noting for a moment the somber mood he looked anxiously around.
"I can't find dad," he spluttered and got the teams attention.
"What was the address again, Hank?"
Hank checked the paper once more and read what it said.
"Its that house over there," George figured as he checked the house numbers. "We have to act fast, that suit said the MP's were on their way already," he added with some urgency.
"Hey, hey, check it out, pa's been getting some air," Hank observed as the old man walked slowly up the road.
"Done the dirty deed and now sticking around to watch, well I don't think he's expecting us to gate crash his fun, those MP's want the A-Team but we want Junior," George almost snarled.
"Dad just isn't destined to be with Junior, he should just have left him alone," Hank frowned.
"What's the situation with Scott and Annie?"
"They come home with us, we can't just leave them here they're family, George, lets hope our messing with Junior's health upsets dads health at the same time, two birds with one stone," Hank smiled.
"Easy money, brother, easy money," George purred as he contemplated the sum being offered for Junior's death by the men in suits.
They exited the car and casually walked over to the house, they waited by the gate long enough for their father to spot them, then they enjoyed walking in as he tried to catch them up.
"No!" Murdock's dad yelled as he realized his son's intentions.
Hannibal looked at Scott, he wondered where Murdock's dad had got to and feared the worst, he had to learn to be more aware of security. He almost suspected the old man was letting the authorities know where they were.
"We have to move out, c'mon guys, we're sitting ducks," Hannibal ordered and Face immediately got Murdock to his feet.
Murdock was still in some kind of daze as the team hurriedly vacated the house, before they reached the door it was kicked in. Hannibal stood his ground and wasn't surprised to see Murdock's brother's stood before him.
"You know there's easier ways of getting those door things out of your way," Hannibal responded calmly.
"We like our method better, gets your attention," Hank sneered.
"Now, make this easy and hand our darling brother over," George requested.
"No can do," Hannibal shook his head and frowned.
"I'm afraid you haven't got time to mess around, the MP's are on the way already," Hank stated.
"Thanks for the warning, we were just on our way anyway," Hannibal shrugged and moved forward.
Murdock Senior pushed past his sons and looked out of breath as he sized up the situation.
"Don't lay even a finger on Junior!" he demanded.
"Get out of our way," Hank stated loudly as George easily pushed the old man to the floor.
"Now that's no way to treat your father," Hannibal stated as BA marched forward in front of Face and Murdock.
Murdock was still coming to terms with his dreams as events played out, finally he seemed to register the situation and managed to stand on his own allowing Face to move beside BA to form a protective barrier.
"Now," Hannibal announced. "We have to be going," he stated and allowed Face and BA to measure up the two brothers.
Hannibal moved besides Murdock and checked he was ok, he still seemed shaky and uneasy,
"BA, Face, we can't hang around here too long," Hannibal advised.
Murdock suddenly snapped alert and he moved forward as BA and Face began to tussle with the brothers, Face landed swift hits to Hank as BA easily disabled George. But in a blind moment, Hank overpowered Face and headed straight for Murdock, Hannibal tried to get Murdock out of his way but already Hank had got to grips with his brother.
"Pay day!" Hank growled as he threw Murdock against the wall, knocking the wind out of him.
Face got his bearings and quickly got to his feet, joining Hannibal they made a lunge for Hank as he drew out a gun from his waistband. BA had secured George in time to see the action and yelled out to Face and Hannibal. Murdock got his breath back and focused, he saw the gun, he saw his brother but his mind was showing him images that seemed too real to ignore. A lady, helpless and on the floor, a man he knew but couldn't place and then a gunshot fired.
"No!" Murdock screamed as he heard the lady scream and then he focused in time to see Face falling to the floor.
Murdock didn't know what to react to, he couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't, and he couldn't concentrate. BA had already sent Hank sprawling to the ground and Hannibal was scooping up Face in his arms and ordering BA to do something, Murdock registered Face's pain filled expression and then spotted his father staring back at him from across the entrance hall. Both his brothers were out cold, ready for the authorities to pick up, but his father simply stared back at him. The images returned, the lady was dead, Murdock knew already he didn't have to check. The man in his mind with the gun stared at him as if only just noticing him standing there, the stare matched that of his dads and for a moment it seemed they were both caught up in the same memory. Murdock caught his breath; his heart started to race as the full realization hit him. He was aware someone was helping him to his feet but he replayed the image once again in his mind, there was more now, the man, his father saying something, 'little secret, never tell' it repeated in his mind over and over. 'Mommy deserved it, mommy had to go away' over and over.
In one movement, Murdock released himself from BA and lunged at his father in a mad panic, he hauled him to his feet and just stared at him.
"I know you killed her, I know you killed her," he sneered and the color drained from his father's face.
Murdock felt BA's grip on his shoulder but shrugged it away.
"That's why, that's why you sent me away, you feared that one day I'd remember and understand what you did! I was just three years old you bastard!" Murdock screamed loudly.
"You were sent away because you were trouble!" his father shot back and regained some of his composure enough to get a grip on Murdock's shirt. "You were disruptive, you were crazy!"
"No, no, I was the one person who saw you murder mom!"
"You think so, son?" the old man asked. "How exactly did I do that?"
"You shot her!"
"Then why was her death recorded as illness? No holes were found in her, you fool, you're seeing things in your head that ain't there, just like before!" the old man smiled. "I don't own a gun, son, try again!"
Murdock stared back at his father. "Maybe it's distorted but I know, I know what you did and that you messed with my head to cover it!"
BA finally managed to pull Murdock away; he put his arm around Murdock's shoulders and led him towards the door.
Murdock looked around and saw Scott on the stairs with Annie; he looked down momentarily before looking back.
"Just get away from the family, kid," Murdock advised.
"We're gone already," Scott announced.
Murdock took one last look at Scott and Annie, he felt no connection to them, he simply didn't know them. He figured they felt the same as they gathered their bags, ready to leave. Murdock turned away and continued toward the exit just as sirens could be heard in the distance.
Another room, another testing day Murdock considered as he sat with Face, complete role reversal. Face lay asleep, recovering from the bullet he took courtesy of Murdock's brother. Murdock blamed only himself, he couldn't bear to see Face injured and remained focused on bringing him back. Only now, knowing Face was fighting and winning, could he allow the images to return. Nothing made sense, Hannibal and BA appeared vague in their explanations about what he had described to them. Murdock felt a little more comfortable now, he knew he'd been in the Thunderbirds, he knew he'd served in Vietnam, he knew now he had also had a breakdown and he felt confident he remembered just what he'd been through with the team.
Murdock was able to partly accept what he'd experienced but he sensed there was more, something more sinister that evaded him. Murdock shrugged and smiled, looking at Face he guessed it was all in the past, no longer important to his future. The thought that he'd nearly lost the friend that was his strength put everything into perspective.
Hannibal entered the room and noted how relaxed and calm the captain was, a rare sight that was pleasing to see.
"How is he?" Hannibal asked.
"Fine, no problemo," Murdock beamed.
Murdock shrugged. "I'm doing good, in a way I think my memory has returned, maybe not in one piece but then where's the fun in that?" he smiled.
Hannibal smirked, he'd never seen the captain so loose before but he liked it, the dark cloud had apparently lifted.
"Seeing Faceman, there like that, and not me, it's made me realize what I've been putting you guys through," Murdock observed.
"You're not a problem, Murdock," Hannibal insisted.
"Even so," Murdock frowned and hesitated. "I get the feeling I ain't been helping you much and I want to change that," he looked at Hannibal with confidence.
"You've remembered some more, haven't you?" Hannibal raised his eyebrows.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner that you guys are on the run!" Murdock asked.
"We assumed you knew already," Hannibal returned unconcerned.
"I know you're innocent, OK, I can't prove it but I'm with you, I want to be a part of the team again," Murdock announced.
"Exactly how much more have you remembered?" Hannibal asked intrigued.
"Am I in or out?" Murdock ignored the question.
"Welcome back," Hannibal reached out to shake Murdock's hand.
Murdock looked back at Face, still concerned for his friend but his spirit was rising along with his hope. The attacks were barely registering now, he was able to simply sit through them alone and now he felt a part of something he knew was his calling. He'd decided to never fully reveal the extent of his recovery, memory wise, a part of him still feeling the need to protect himself but as he watched Face sleep, he felt as if he was finally heading in the right direction.
"Do you remember the time when we threw the surprise party for Watkins?"
"Face," Murdock complained as he covered his ears.
"What about the fancy dress?" Face continued.
"You went as a colonel and Hannibal hit the roof that you spilt wine on his dress uniform," Murdock sighed with a frown.
Face looked back at Murdock suspiciously on hearing the correct answer, he needed to determine just how much his friend had remembered but he was being very evasive.
"Quit it, Face," BA requested as he prepared himself a sandwich at the table where Murdock and Face sat.
"Thank you big guy, good to know I'm not the only one tiring of his talk," Murdock smiled.
"I'm just aiding your recovery, loss of memory is a very unsettling thing," Face protested with a smile.
"You just wanna cover your back, in case I remember stuff like how you got Cindy's number from the General's office and then traded it for $20," Murdock teased.
"You promised never to repeat that!" Face stated, seeing both Hannibal's and BA's reactions.
"Just making myself better, Face," Murdock smiled smugly.
"You know, you're just getting a little too-" Face couldn't find the word.
"Face, I can't be sitting here listening to you all day," Murdock announced. "I need to walk Billy, c'mon boy," Murdock gestured.
Face, BA and Hannibal watched Murdock leave the room smiling wildly, motioning to something that wasn't there in reality only in Murdock's mind, they all looked at each other, there was a sense of achievement but of concern as well.
"You know I don't wanna knock him, but can't he just say he needs some air instead of making up this dog business?" Face asked.
"The fool needs help, his head ain't fixed yet, man," BA moaned.
"You know, if it wasn't for the fact there is no dog, I'd say he had a dog," Hannibal remarked.
"You're not helping him by playing along with 'Billy' Hannibal, it's stupid, it's not going to make him better," Face half snapped.
"Face, it's Murdock's way of dealing with things. Billy simply allows him to step outside what he sees in his mind, imagine you lost all your memories and then they suddenly came back with bits missing and all out of place," Hannibal explained with reason. "Wouldn't you also find comfort in something you knew for a fact isn't real but you make it real for your own distraction?"
Face and BA both considered Hannibal's reasoning.
"If he ain't careful they're gonna lock him up again, man," BA spoke up.
"Maybe that's not such a bad thing, he's come so far it might actually be a good thing," Hannibal mused.
"Hang on, are you suggesting we get Murdock locked up? After everything?" Face asked in disbelief.
"Face, we can't ignore the fact that Murdock still needs help. We may have got him through whatever they gave him this time, but long term, the damage is still there and we're not qualified or in a position to help him. Already he's hiding his memory recovery from us, not on purpose but because we're not trained doctors who know what to do about it, his survival instincts are strong and well trained. But he's going to remember one day all that bad shit and I'd prefer him to have the best help available when that happens," Hannibal stated.
Outside Murdock listened in, the first drops of rain were beginning to fall and although he saw clearly the good intentions, the team, his friends were discussing his future and as always, he wasn't allowed a say. He kicked the dirt and followed Billy up the path away from the house, he explored his mind once more and found the images he'd been hiding from, he could hear Hannibal's words 'bad shit' and it fitted well. Pain, hunger, torment, just senses that tugged at the memories, there was no pictures just confusion as he tried to work out what they meant. The feelings lingered as they had done for the past couple of days, he'd tried to ignore them and pushed them away but it wasn't easy.
"I have no idea what they mean," he said to himself with a smile, convincing himself to ignore them. "They're just things, right Billy?" Murdock conversed and then realized it was raining hard around him and he was getting soaked.
With a simple shrug at the dog he saw clearly, Murdock sat down on the garden bench, ignoring the rain and his memories, nothing mattered to him but what his future held, nothing mattered at all.
"You'll catch cold," a voice said behind him and Murdock was brought to his senses as he spun around to see Face.
With his Jacket held tightly to him, Face proceeded to sit down, not something he would normally do considering the weather but then, if it was good enough for Murdock then he'd battle through.
"What you doing?" Murdock asked, wondering why Face was sitting down in the rain.
"Enjoying the weather," Face said and gave up holding his jacket, actually getting used to the feeling of being soaked through.
Murdock stared at his friend, he looked ridiculous sat out in the downpour. He was concerned for Face, he'd only just started walking about again after being shot and he couldn't see the sense in him sitting out in the rain.
"You shouldn't stay out here, get back inside," Murdock requested.
"I wanna stay here, with you," Face objected.
"But it's raining," Murdock returned.
"So, let it rain."
"Face, you're still recovering, you shouldn't be out here getting wet," Murdock pointed out.
"Face stop being stubborn," Murdock argued.
"Tell me one reason why I shouldn't be out here," Face asked. "One good reason," he added as the rain ran down his face.
Murdock looked to his side where he was absently stroking Billy's back; he looked around at the black clouds and the rapidly forming puddles in the driveway.
"Cos it's crazy," he admitted, realizing Face had caught him out.
"So will you come inside?" Face asked with a knowing smile.
"Why didn't you just ask me?" Murdock questioned as he got to his feet.
"When it starts raining, its normal procedure for people to go inside," Face shrugged.
Murdock considered his words, it hadn't really occurred to him to go back when it had started raining, he still had to walk Billy, but then Billy wasn't wet, more importantly he wasn't real.
"I didn't think," Murdock admitted and it was clear to Face that he was a little confused by his actions.
"Murdock," Face gestured and guided him back to the house, but Murdock stopped.
"Face, I see Billy, that's not normal either is it?" Murdock asked as the rain continued to pour down on them both.
"It's not normal to see things that aren't there, no," Face said honestly.
"But I do, I see things clearly and then they ain't there, it happens all the time like when my brother shot you I didn't see him shoot you I saw my dad shooting my mom," Murdock stated in a wild hysteria. "But he said she wasn't shot, I think she died of illness," he added confused.
"Murdock, calm down, your minds playing games, whatever happened to you will take a while to sort out you have to stay focused, try and determine what's real and what isn't," Face held Murdock's upper arms as he spoke genuinely.
"I'm not crazy," Murdock stated clearly and his look cut straight through Face.
"I know, I know," Face repeated. "But even normal people sometimes need help," he added quietly.
"I see stuff in my mind, stuff that's happened to me but I don't remember how I felt or what I was doing, its just feelings and sounds," Murdock said, feeling a comfort from Face's hold. "Then I just sense things, terrible things but I can't place it."
"It's going to take time," Face said to reassure him.
Murdock grinned. "Billy is real though, to me anyway, compared to all that jumble in my head Billy is there as large as life."
"Murdock, go back to the VA, get professional help," Face advised calmly.
"But Billy don't like hospitals, he gets all sick in those places," Murdock protested lightly, it didn't escape Face that it appeared that Murdock was avoiding the reality.
"You trust me don't you?" Face asked directly and immediately saw Murdock's expression change to one of seriousness.
"Yeah, I trust you," Murdock said with conviction.
"I can't look out for you if your bouncing off the walls, Murdock, you need help," Face said sternly as the rain continued to fall heavily.
"I need to get out of the rain, Billy's fur is all matting up," Murdock dismissed and headed quickly towards the house, leaving Face standing on his own.
Face played back the conversation with sadness, how much had actually registered with his friend? He was hiding so much about what he remembered but Face was certain he had remembered a lot more than they first imagined, and that he'd remembered a bit of the stuff they feared. Face turned on his heels and headed after Murdock back to the house, he needed to get Murdock's attention again. He had to talk him into getting help simply because he didn't want to force him, too many times in the past Murdock had been forced against his will and this time it would be Murdock's choice.
Face brushed past Murdock who was drying his hair with a towel from the bathroom; every so often he knelt down and dried the air or Billy, in Murdock's eyes. Face sat down on the edge of the bed and felt a towel as it hit him, but he didn't take it.
"Fresh clothes lieutenant," Hannibal stated as he entered the room and placed some clothes on the bed. "I don't want to know why you allowed yourselves to get so wet," he frowned but sensed some tension.
Hannibal continued into the bathroom and handed Murdock some new clothes as well, there was nothing being said and it concerned him.
"Thanks," Murdock acknowledged.
"Is there something I should be aware of here?" Hannibal asked with curiosity.
Murdock shook his head, now looking bemused as he proceeded to take his wet shirt off.
"Murdock, you're soaked, take a hot shower and save some of the water for Face," Hannibal ordered and left Murdock in the bathroom as he closed the door turning his attention to Face.
"What's going on, kid?" Hannibal asked.
"I don't know what to do," Face shrugged.
"Murdock's a fighter, he'll be OK," Hannibal stated.
"Will he?" Face asked with narrowed eyes.
"If I doubted him he wouldn't be here now, I'd have dropped him off personally at the VA myself," Hannibal said sternly.
The words seemed to have the desired effect as Face finally took the towel and dried his dripping hair.
"Tell Murdock that going back isn't the end," Hannibal continued as he headed towards the door. "Face, we escaped from Fort Bragg, you really think we couldn't get Murdock out of the VA when we have to?" he questioned with a sparkle in his eyes.
Face smirked as Hannibal left the room, moments later Murdock emerged from the bathroom and spotted the smirk.
"What?" Murdock questioned and brought Face back to attention.
Thinking quickly, Face simply laughed some more. "You should pay closer attention to what presents Billy leaves for you," he gestured teasingly towards the floor.
"Aww man, you could have warned me!" Murdock lifted his foot up, joining Face's joke.
"There ain't no dog, fool!" BA said as he entered the room with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
For some unexplained reason this caused both Murdock and Face to collapse into uncontrolled laughter, BA shook his head as he put the mugs down.
"Man, like two kids," BA muttered under his breath.
The building rose high and it took a moment for Murdock to take it in, he knew he'd been here before but it was like visiting it for the first time, technically to him he was, he didn't recognize it.
"Ask for Dr Richter," Face reminded him as he made sure Murdock was as presentable as he could be.
"You sure he'll sort me out, make things right?" Murdock asked worriedly.
"I'm positive," Face assured him and briefly remembered the conversation he had had with the man, when he was convinced Murdock was dead.
"Thanks, Faceyman," Murdock said as he embraced his friend.
"Just stay out of trouble, do what your told and keep in touch," Face stated.
"Geesh, like first day at school all over again," Murdock remarked and wiped a fake tear from Face's eye. "Now don't upset yourself, Face, you knew you'd have to let me grow up one day," he teased as Face pushed his hand away.
"Just go will you," Face insisted with a smile.
"I'll call you, don't forget about me!" Murdock called as he walked away.
"Who could ever forget you," Face remarked to himself and watched until Murdock entered the building.
The room was dark and the shadows played games as Murdock lay still, the silence haunted him and he sensed something was happening. Listening intently he hardly allowed himself to breath in the fear he'd be heard, he grabbed his pillow and covered his head blocking out all sound and vision.
The tension rose within him, starting in his stomach, he felt the nervousness creeping within him. His TV had been turned off for a while now; the lights had been switched off around the same time leaving him alone and scared with only Billy for company. Then there was noise, not very loud but enough to make him freeze and be extra cautious, footsteps and then suddenly the pillow was tugged out of his intense grip.
"Murdock, will you quit playing games, we have work to do!" Face stated quietly.
"Facey, fancy seeing you here, if I'd have known I'd have tidied the place," Murdock smiled maniacally.
"Just get up and get moving, we told you to be ready!" Face snapped as he pulled the covers away, only then realizing Murdock was already fully dressed and ready to leave.
"C'mon, Billy," Murdock called as they headed for the window to escape.
Face looked back at Murdock as he climbed back through the window, this was the first time he'd seen him since dropping him off at the VA two weeks previously, he looked well but Billy still being around made him raise his eyebrows slightly.
"Hey, Billy's my dog, you think just cos I can't see him I can't keep him?" Murdock questioned with a knowing smile.
"Just don't tell BA he's with us, trust me," Face warned and helped Murdock out the rest of the way into the grounds outside.
"Ah, you think I'm scared of the big ugly mudsucka?" Murdock proclaimed.
"You gonna call him that to his face?" Face asked as they headed away from the room.
"Sure, its what he is," Murdock remarked casually.
"You're crazy," Face teased.
"I know," Murdock responded and they turned the corner out of sight.
© Ubdegrove 2000