Okay, here it is! The final chapter ;-) Thanks for waiting so long and sorry for the delay :-)


"Pull over here, BA."

The sergeant obeyed, turning into a parking space in a nice, cozy looking motel called The Fluffy Mattress. A sign featuring a painted mattress – presumably the motel's namesake – and a plump pillow with happy smiles hugging each other like long lost friends hung above the flashing Vacancies sign. It was also located about five miles outside Sacheton, as Hannibal didn't think that it would be a good idea to try and find a place to stay in the town itself.

"Alright." The colonel turned in his seat to look at Face and Murdock. "Well, we've got plenty of food, so we'll stop here for the night. Face, you and I can stay in one room; BA and Murdock the other. I don't think Decker will be looking for us around here, but there's no point in taking chances so I'll take first watch."

"Hannibal, I ain't sharin' no room with this crazy fool! Last time I was in with him, he spent the whole night playing with the electric light!"

It was, BA remembered thinking much later, a stupid time to say it. Usually Hannibal would put up with his sniping at Murdock, just like he put up with Murdock's craziness and Face's frequent complaints, but like all men, he had his limits.

"Alright then." Hannibal's voice was very calm, but there was something about it that didn't encourage arguing. "If you feel so strongly about sharing with the captain, then you can take the first watch, Sergeant. And since Murdock has a habit of playing with the electric light, and since that'll make it difficult to see through the window, you can take that watch right here in the van. I'll relieve you at two thirty and we'll be on the road again by eight."

He hopped out of the van, slamming the door shut on BA's answering growl, and went to check them in, Face and Murdock right behind him.

The room they were shown to was basic, with not much in it besides a TV, two single beds and a small refrigerator, but it would do just fine and, unlike certain other motel rooms Hannibal had stayed in, was at least spotlessly clean.

Face poked his head into the bathroom (equally clean, complete with small bottles of shampoo and conditioner) came out again and sat down on one of the beds.

Hannibal wasn't sure of the best way to proceed with Face, but had spent most of the trip turning over various options in his mind before finally deciding to act as though nothing had happened. It had worked before, back in the POW camp.

"How's business, Lieutenant?" It had been a common greeting between them in 'Nam, after Face had become their supply officer and managed to get his hands on so many weapons, decent food supplies and other luxuries that they'd started trading with other units.

"Well, you know, Hannibal; up and down."

That had been a common answer too, Hannibal thought wryly as he settled down on the other bed and started pulling his boots off.

"Glad to hear it, kid."

They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, then Face cleared his throat.

"Hannibal...about what I said...you know, it was just—"

The colonel raised a hand and said levelly, "Don't even think of telling me you made it up, Lieutenant. Nobody tells those kinds of lies. Not unless they're a lot sicker in the head than you."

Face swallowed. "Right, but—"

"I know you lie, Face, but I've never known you do it just to shock people, and I don't believe you'd start now. As far as I'm concerned, what you told me doesn't change a thing apart from adding a few names to my List Of Asses To Be Kicked. I won't mention it again, not unless you do. How are your wrists?"

Face frowned as he tested them, then shrugged. "They'll do. I guess it'll take a while for them to heal completely."

"Yeah. And there's bound to be a little scarring, although you can probably cover that up. You cut quite far back."

Face shifted his weight. "Well. Anyway."

Recognizing the back off signal, Hannibal reached into his pocket and pulled out the Missing poster, then handed it to the lieutenant.

"What do you make of all this? I know I asked you before, but with one thing and another I never really got an answer."

Face shrugged. "To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. Maybe she ran away and whoever was responsible for her heard she was using another name, so they printed up a few fliers with both names, just in case."

"It's the same girl, though?" Not that he wasn't already convinced of that, but it never hurt to get a second opinion.

"Oh yeah, sure. The pose seems a little different, but that's the same girl." Face passed the flier back to Hannibal. "What're you going to do?"

The colonel shrugged, a nonchalant look on his face. "I've been doing some thinking—"

"Oh boy. Hannibal, this isn't the kind of thinking that results in us doing a classic pincer movement before all of us charging through the front door, is it?"

Hannibal sighed. "Face, sometimes I think those strategy lessons were wasted on you. You can't divide your troops and send them in to attack from both sides and send them all in through the front door as well. Besides, this calls for subtlety. Last time we explored his house, I noticed the window catch in one of the rooms downstairs was loose. I think someone could jar it open without too much difficulty."

"By someone, you mean me, don't you?"

To Face's surprise, Hannibal shook his head. "No, I should be able to handle it." Off his lieutenant's expression, he added, "Do you really think you're the only person ever to sneak out of bed after curfew?"

"So while you're heroically breaking into Markham's house, what are the rest of us going to be doing?"

Hannibal grinned. "Well, BA's going to be sitting in the van ready for a quick getaway, Murdock's going to be covering BA and you're going to be distracting the guards."

Face folded his arms and glared at Hannibal. "Why me?"

"Because you're the best climber out of all of us, and because those goons have already caught you trying to break in a few times. The minute they see you, they'll think you're trying again and be on you like flies on molasses. We'll all be in radio contact, so if anything goes wrong, you can call for backup. Just don't let them get a hold of you."

"And what about the dogs?"

Hannibal's grin broadened and he pulled out a cigar, lighting it and blowing out smoke before answering, "Them too."

"Hannibal, even if the guards don't think to look for you, the dogs will smell you before you're two feet in!"

"Face." Hannibal put a hand on the lieutenant's shoulder. "Face, Face, Face. You don't give me anywhere near enough credit. While you're distracting the guards and the dogs by leading them around the front, I'll be sneaking in over the wall at the back, breaking in the window – which is also at the back – and getting inside. It's perfect. Completely foolproof!"

Face raised his eyebrows but didn't say what was going through his head: namely that every time Hannibal came up with a perfect, foolproof plan, the bad guys retaliated by coming up with an even more perfect fool.

"How are you planning on getting inside the grounds? There's broken glass along the wall, or had you forgotten that?"

Hannibal shrugged. "Well...I'll think of something."


'Something' turned out to be a length of chain from one of the secret compartments BA had installed in the van. Even Hannibal wasn't sure how many hidey-holes there were, much less what his sergeant had stashed in each of them.

He knew about the chain, though. BA often used it to lift heavy objects by rigging up some kind of pulley, or something similar (not being mechanically inclined by nature, Hannibal tended to be a little vague about the finer details of BA's work). A little work had turned it into a grappling hook that should do the job nicely.

At least, now that Hannibal was stood there staring at the wall and waiting, ears straining to hear what was happening, he hoped that it would. He could have used a regular hook, but if Face was right and Markham really did have broken glass along the top of his wall, then there was a good chance the rope might get damaged. A chain was better, even if it was harder to throw.

On the other side of the grounds, he heard a dog start to bark, followed by someone shouting. He couldn't quite make out the words, but that was probably a good thing.

Time to get going. He swung the chain around several times, getting a feel for the weight of it, then let fly.

To his surprise, it caught first time. Hannibal began to clamber up it as quietly as he could (the damn chain insisted on clinking) and then hauled himself over the top of the wall.

Face hadn't been kidding. Markham, or at least someone who worked for him, had set wicked-looking shards of glass in the top of the wall, and Hannibal winced. This was going to take some careful work.

Abandoning the chain and placing his hands in and around the shards as best he could, he pushed himself up, swung his body over and dangled on the other side. He could feel something pressing against the palm of his hand and shifted it away reflexively. There was no way he could rearrange the grapple to let him rappel down this side from this position, which had been his original plan.

Hell with it, he thought, and dropped.

It was a soft landing, or as soft a landing as a five foot pyracanthus bush can reasonably be expected to give. In this case, Hannibal was lucky; he'd tried to roll as soon as he felt himself land and that action plus his own momentum managed to tear him loose of the worst of the bush's thorns.

He could hear Face's voice raised in argument with the guards and hoped his lieutenant could keep them distracted a little longer. Limping slightly, and mentally cursing all gardeners and rich people who planted pyracantha in the path of innocent people who were only trying to break in, the colonel made his way over to the window he'd noted before.

The catch was, to Hannibal's relief, still loose, and a well-placed blow jarred it loose, allowing the colonel to crawl inside. He'd got as far as closing the window and turning around to begin his search when the light clicked on and he winced, covering his eyes.

"I see you figured it out, then," Markham said from the doorway. He was holding a glass of wine in one hand and a folded newspaper in the other and looked as calm and composed as if Hannibal had walked into his house as an invited guest, rather than scrambling in through the window. "I had a feeling you might. If you'd turned up a month or so ago, you might have had better luck. Out of interest, what kind of cover story did you have prepared for any of my men who found you snooping around here?"

Hannibal shrugged. "Double glazing salesman."

"I see. Well, I have had one or two turn up late at night – although never this late – but generally speaking, they tend to come in through the doors."

Hannibal started for his gun, then hesitated. Threatening goons was one thing. Threatening someone who was just standing there and hadn't tried to attack you, hadn't even made personal remarks, was another.

"You knew we were coming back."

"I found it impossible to believe that the A-Team would just give up. I've heard you and your men referred to as several things – none of which I would venture to repeat here, since I despise profanity – but quitter isn't one of them. I knew calling Colonel Decker would only deter you for a while, although I expected you to return sooner."

"My lieutenant was injured."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Colonel Smith." And as before when he'd been dealing with this man, Hannibal got the odd feeling that Markham meant it, that he wasn't just saying it to be polite. "I hope he has recovered."

"He will." I hope.

Markham accepted that with a nod. "So, since I also heard that the A-Team never leaves a job unfinished, I imagine you came here for Chrissy...or Jolene, as I suppose we should call her."

"Who you just happen to have hidden away somewhere," Hannibal supplied.

"No. At least, not anymore. I found her wandering the grounds when I was going out for a late night swim." Markham nodded towards the pool, the edge of which was just visible through the window. "She seemed in a state, so I took her in and calmed her down. She told me she had to make a phone call and that she'd tried to sneak into my house because it was so big she thought she could call from one room without disturbing anyone around. I knew who she was, of course; we don't get many new residents in Sacheton and Rita and Chrissy had been the talk of the town. But then she told me that Rita wasn't really her mother, that her name was Jolene Hanson and she'd been kidnapped by Rita from her home in Colorado. A tiny little place called White Shoals, according to her."

"Did you believe her?"

Markham shrugged. "I didn't know whether to believe her or not, to be honest. But just in case she was telling the truth, I thought it best for her to remain here; if Rita had kidnapped her and knew she'd been busted, I didn't think we'd see either of them for dust. If she was lying, I thought it was best I keep her here with me instead of letting a girl like that wander around loose. I sent one of my men to White Shoals to make inquiries and he confirmed Jolene's story."

Hannibal snorted. "So you just took her in out of the kindness of your heart? Didn't expect anything in return, no reward, no acts of gratitude?"

Markham raised his eyebrows and sipped at his drink before answering. "Colonel, you really must get rid of some of these preconceptions. Just because I live in a huge mansion, own about three quarters of the town and have most of the local police in my pocket, this does not automatically mean that I am a corrupt, vicious, megalomaniac bent on running the local mom and pop store out of business. As a matter of fact, I have rather a soft spot for the family stores. Much more friendly service compared to the huge chains, don't you agree?"

Hannibal did agree, but he wasn't about to give Markham the satisfaction of knowing it. Instead he said, "So if you're such a nice guy, why did you lie about her?"

Markham closed his eyes with a distasteful expression, as if Hannibal had just farted in his face. "Please, Colonel Smith. I never lie except to the media, and even you must admit that hardly counts. I said there was no one called Chrissy Allen in my house. I didn't say anything about Jolene Hanson and you never thought to ask."

Hannibal stared at him for a few minutes, then said, "What about Rita?"

Markham clicked his tongue. "Yes, poor Rita. Such a pity. Her own daughter went missing several years ago. Police never found her or found out what happened to her. I understand it sent her over the edge." Holding out the paper, he added, "I had one of my people track down a copy of this one. Usually I don't bother keeping tabs on what I achieve – apart from the obvious figures for tax returns, of course – but this one was different. I'm quite proud of it."

Hannibal took the paper from him and read the story in silence. It was easy enough to find the one Markham meant; Jolene's return was splashed all over the front page, under the headline KIDNAP VICTIM REUNITED WITH FAMILY and a picture of the same girl Hannibal had seen in those fliers. There were a couple of differences; this girl was beaming and hugging her parents instead of smiling prettily for a family photo, but it was unmistakably Jolene. From the looks of it, White Shoals, Colorado didn't get much in the way of news, and the girl's sudden return had been a shot in the arm for the little gazette.

The colonel stared at the paper for several minutes, then back at Markham. It could be a fake, of course – and he'd have Face check it out at the very next public library they came to – but that would have meant a lot of time and effort to convince him that a missing girl was out of his reach. If Markham really had been the one to kidnap her, as the Team had originally supposed, then it would have been far easier and quicker for him to just deny all knowledge.

"You win."

Markham raised his eyebrows. "I wasn't aware we were in any kind of competition, Colonel Smith. You want to get this girl back home, and so do I. You just started off at the wrong home, that's all." Sipping his wine, he added, "Now, don't you think it's about time you went and rescued your lieutenant from that tree?"


"Say it!"

"No!"

"Say it!"

"No!"

"Hannibal, tell the big guy he's gotta say it!"

Hannibal didn't look round as he said, "BA, Murdock says you've gotta say it, whatever it is."

"I ain't sayin' nothin', Hannibal! Specially nothin' like what this fool wants me to say!"

Face, who had been alternating between examining the scrapes he'd gotten last night and trying unsuccessfully to doze off, opened his eyes to look at BA. "What does he want you to say?"

"He wants me to say that I believe some kinda crazy alien ancestors of the human race led us to Sacheton just so's we could help that girl—"

"HA!" Murdock grinned at BA. "Knew you agreed with me!"

"Shut up, fool! I don't agree with nothin' you got to say!"

"Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Well, you jus' listen ta this!" Murdock pulled out a tape recorder from his pocket, clicked off the Record button, rewound it and pressed Play. BA's voice tumbled out of the speakers.

"—I believe some kinda crazy alien ancestors of the human race led us to Sacheton just so's we could help that girl—"

"That don't count, crazy man!"

Murdock hastily moved seats, plunging the tape recorder back into his jacket pocket. "Sure it does, BA. You said it, an' I taped it."

"Give me that, fool!"

Both Hannibal and Face grabbed for the armrests as the van swerved, then the two of them exchanged glances and good-natured eye rolls. It looked like being another good day, or at least, a typical one.

"Hey BA. Put the radio on, would ya?"


Well, it's done. Next up...well, the Team's headed for a shipwreck scenario, a supernatural scenario or a completely out-of-this-world scenario. Still working on that; haven't quite decided which story to put up next ;-)

Anyway, thanks for being so patient with the updates (and gaps between them), hope you enjoyed it and if you read, please review!