FOR ORPHANS SAKE
FOR ORPHANS’ SAKE
By Kelly Adams
COPYRIGHT@NOV 1997 [Adamskm@aol.com]
Marcus Jacoby stands under the dim caged light attached to the corner of an abandon warehouse. The dirty, yellow glow barely illuminates the faded sign hanging over the door, designating the previous owner and occupation as “Joe’s Garage.” The sun had set an hour ago, bringing a menacing atmosphere to the deserted warehouse district. He can barely hear the distant traffic some three blocks up as the wind whistles down the alley ways. He pulls his coat tighter against the chill and checks his Rolex for the hundredth time, growing more irate with each passing minute. He is a tall man with broad shoulders, standing over six foot with black hair, graying slightly at the temples. He is probably one of those people who was a star quarterback and dated the lead cheerleader back in High School. He usually holds himself with a confidence that comes with self-assurance and a belief that he can solve any problem. Things are different now; for the first time he is admitting he can not handle a situation and needs help.
The sound of measured footsteps sends a chill of apprehension down his spine, causing a shiver to course up his spine. He breathes a sigh of relief as a cop steps within the circle of light, prominently slapping his flashlight into his open palm. His cap is pulled low, the shadow obscuring his face. Marcus is barely able to see the officer’s lips move as an intimidating voice inquires, “What ‘cha doin’ hangin’ around here, bud?”
Marcus responds, a note of relief in his voice, “Ahm, I’m waiting for someone, officer.”
It seems the silence goes on forever until the officer finally says in the same flat, yet intimidating voice, “I see. It wouldn’t be drugs now?”
Marcus is taken aback by this accusation until he realizes standing here alone in the middle of the night does look a little suspicious. “I don’t do drugs. I told you I’m just waiting for someone.”
The officer does not seem perturbed by Marcus’ mild outrage. “Let me see some ID, fella.” The officer moves closer as Marcus fumbles to remove his wallet from his back pocket. He hands his driver’s license to the officer, who shines his flashlight on the license taking a good look at the picture. “Mr. Marcus Jacoby, 63 W. Saints Ave., Los Angeles, California.” The officer shines his flashlight into Marcus’ clean shaven face, again taking a long hard look.
Marcus unintentionally drops his eyes. He can’t see the officer’s gaze, but he can feel his eyes glaring hard at him. He becomes very humble as he declares, “Look Officer, I was supposed to meet someone, but I think all I got was the run-around. I don’t think he’s going to show so I’ll be leaving now.” The officer returns his license and Marcus turns and begins to walk away.
“Wait! Just a minute, fella. Up against the wall.” The intimidating voice is replaced by a commanding voice.
“What? Are you insane? You have no right. I’ve done nothing wrong,” Marcus protests as the officer throws him against the wall with surprising speed and strength. The officer quickly frisks him. Sudden bravado flows through Marcus, coming from the knowledge that an injustice is being committed.
He turns his head to the side, his cheek resting on the cool metal of the building. “Listen, I’m a respected lawyer. I want your badge number and name. I’ll have you walking a beat at the city dump for the rest of your career.” The officer, unfazed by Marcus’ threat, steps back.
“Okay Mr. Jacoby, you can turn around now.” Marcus slowly turns around, pulling down his sleeves, he feigns indignation as he tries to hide his growing apprehension. His eyes go wide and his jaw drops as the cop removes his cap and a dark wig revealing a white hair gentleman with a gregarious smile. “My name is Hannibal Smith. I don’t have a badge number-will my service number do?” Hannibal peels off the fake mustache and removes a cigar from his breast pocket, the smile never leaving his face. “Please come with me, Mr. Jacoby.” Hannibal approaches the warehouse door. Pulling out a key, he unlocks it and motions Marcus inside. Marcus steps tentatively into the dark, dusty building. He hears the door close behind him and bright lights momentarily blind him. As his eyes adjust to the sudden brightness he makes out a large room, empty except for three stacks of crates piled five high. Three men step out from behind the crates. Marcus notices right away that these are very extraordinary individuals.
“Sorry for the charade Mr. Jacoby, but we had to check you out.” Hannibal leans against a crate and gestures to each of his team mates as he introduces them. “This is our Logistics Specialist and con-man, Lieutenant Templeton Peck, better known as Faceman.” Face gives Marcus one of his dazzling smiles. “Captain H.M. Murdock here, is our resident psychopath and pilot, which makes for an interesting combination.” Murdock bashfully interrupts, “Ah Colonel, we prefer mentally challenged.” Hannibal smiles and continues, gesturing towards a large, muscular black man with a Mandika hair cut and about ten pounds of gold around his neck. “This distinguished gentleman is Sergeant BA Baracus, our mechanic and attitude adjuster.” BA snarls at Marcus, who returns a nervous smile. Hannibal pauses a moment until a petite, young brunette woman appears from behind a stack of crates. “And this lovely lady is Amy, our Public Relations Representative.”
Marcus nervously nods in acknowledgment and stutters, “You have an unusual variety of people, Mr. Smith.”
“You know what they say, variety is the spice of life.”
“Well, like I told Mr. Lee I need your help.”
Amy steps forward, pulling a sheet of paper from her briefcase she interposes, “Yes Mr. Jacoby, you say you and your wife adopted a Cambodian child. When you went to get her you were told the adoption was invalid and that the orphanage was closed.”
Anguish gives Marcus the courage to expound, “It took us two years of government red tape from ours and theirs. Finally we were given the okay. We went to the orphanage outside of Batdambang to get her, but when we arrived we weren’t even allowed in. We were told to leave at gun point. We only have one picture which was sent to us six months ago.”
Mr. Jacoby produces a photograph and hands it to Hannibal. Hannibal looks upon a sweet, dark-haired girl with a soft, round face and large watery eyes. Mr. Jacoby starts to choke up as he continues, “She’s five in that picture. Her name is Dawn Kim Yan. She was abandoned at six months of age. We found out about her through a friend of ours in D.C., a Mr. Hun Sen, he’s kind of an unofficial ambassador. He tries to find American families for orphaned Asian children.” Mr. Jacoby takes a deep breath, trying to control the emotions which threaten to overwhelm him. The team gives him time to compose himself as they patiently wait for him to continue. “Something was definitely wrong there, at the orphanage, I could feel it. Please can you help us? I’ve got the money you requested.”
Jacoby hands Hannibal a thick envelop which he tosses to Face, who peeks at the denominations. He seems to weigh it by hand then gives Hannibal a dubious look. “Ah, he’s $5000 short,” Face declares.
“I know, I’m sorry that’s all I could scrape up right now. I promise to get you the rest. I have a very successful law practice, but all the fees we had to pay up front and the flight over there has left us a bit short right now,” Marcus replies.
As BA looks at the picture of the little girl his heart melts; children are his one big weakness. He abruptly interrupts, “Hannibal, we’re taking the job.”
Hannibal smiles as he lights the cigar he held in his mouth. “Well Mr. Jacoby, I guess you just hired the A-Team.”
BA drives the van down the Pacific Coast Highway with Hannibal riding shotgun. Murdock, Face and Amy take up the back seats. Face turns to an abnormally quiet Murdock asking, “Murdock, how did you get out of the VA?”
“I didn’t,” Murdock states as a confused expression flashes onto Face’s visage. “Well, at least not all of me. You see I left my twin in my place.” Murdock ends the conversation as if this explains it all.
Face ponders whether to continue this strange discussion when his attention is diverted to BA and Hannibal up front. “I told you I’m not flying and that’s that.” BA swerves in and out of traffic as he vehemently states, once again, his aversion to flying.
“Of course, BA,” Hannibal replies with practiced sincerity. He removes a cigar from his coat pocket, biting off the tip. He then gestures to an upcoming ramp which veers off towards the ocean. “Turn here, BA.” A Marina comes quickly into view. BA looks ahead in astonishment and slight disbelief, as Hannibal sits back and smiles, drawing deeply on his cigar. “See BA, I told you we wouldn’t fly. That is our ship right over there ready to sail.” Hannibal points at a large Luxury Liner moored at the far end of the dock.
BA smiles in relief. “Wow guys thanks, this time you’re actually going to do it.” BA pulls the van into a designated parking spot just off the docks. Hannibal furtively glances back at Face, who rummages in the back and pulls out several sandwiches.
“Here guys, we better eat these up. No sense in letting them sit in the van and go to waste. You like ham and cheese don’t you, BA?” BA eyes Face suspiciously as he’s handed the sandwich.
Before BA bites into it he swaps with Face. “Just in case.”
Face gives BA his most sincere wounded look. “BA, I’m hurt. Look, we even got the tickets.” Face waves five boat passes under BA’s nose.
A very contrite BA hands the sandwich back to Face. “I’m sorry, Faceman.” Face returns the sandwich to BA who hungrily bites into it and a few seconds later passes out, striking his head on the horn.
“Great job Face, where did you get those fake passes?” Inquires Hannibal.
“Oh a very lonely but lovely travel agent was very obliging, and for a night of dinner and dancing I got our plane tickets without passports.”
Face and Murdock struggle to move the unconscious BA to the back of the van as Hannibal takes the wheel. Turning the van around, he heads towards LAX. The team boards a 747. As Hannibal takes his seat he peers out the window and observes the baggage handlers loading a large black coffin. He turns to Face who sits down next to him. “You did put air holes in that thing, Face?”
“Hannibal, would I forget a thing like that? I just hope BA doesn’t come to before we land.”
The plane touches down in Bangkok, Thailand after a long and uneventful flight. The team quickly rents a nondescript van for the drive south to Batdambang, Cambodia. Using his innate gift for influencing people, especially people of a disreputable nature. Face easily acquires the weapons they need. By noon the team had been on what passes for a road for five hours. BA awakens to find himself laid out in the back of the strange van. Murdock and Amy block his advance to the front as he yells to Hannibal, “Hannibal! I’m goin’ to get you for this. One of these times you’re goin’ to go too far,” BA grumbles as he sits down, resigning himself to the fact that he was tricked again. “That goes for you too, Face, I know you were in on this too,” he adds.
Face squirms a little under the threat, then leans over and whispers to Hannibal, “You know, Hannibal, he’s serious.”
Hannibal smiles as he puffs on his cigar, watching the road ahead and trying to avoid the innumerable ruts. “I know. Doesn’t it add a dash of excitement and danger to it all?” Face shakes his head in resignation.
Like we need more danger in our lives, he thinks to himself. He envies Hannibal’s ability to never take anything too seriously, even bodily injury or threat of death.
A couple miles outside of Batdambang the team pulls over to the side of the road. Dense forests of kapok, banana and palm trees seem to go on forever. Hannibal steps out of the car, unfolding a map to study as the rest of the team stretch their legs. Murdock tentatively approaches BA. His hands stuffed into his leather jacket. “You know, big guy, I think I made a mistake.”
“What ‘cha talkin’ about, fool?” BA stretches, trying to alleviate some of the kinks in his body from the long ride.
“I think I left my crazy self back at the VA and my sane self is here.”
Overhearing this remark, Amy steps up and adds, “That’s good isn’t it, Murdock?”
“Don’t be encouraging his delusions. He’s still crazy.” BA scowls at his demented friend.
Unfazed, Murdock continues, “No I’m not, at least I don’t feel crazy.”
BA grabs Murdock by his jacket, pulling his face to within inches of his. “You don’t have a twin sucka, and you’re still crazy...”
Hannibal interrupts BA and Murdock’s daily tirade. “Listen up, the orphanage is just south of here about two clicks. We’ll walk in and scout the area.” Murdock goes to the back of the van and begins passing out supplies and weapons amongst the team.
“You have a plan, don’t you, Hannibal?” Amy inquires as she checks to make sure her rifle is loaded.
Hannibal smiles and removes the cigar from his mouth, using it for emphasis. “Not yet, but I’m working on it. Face, you take point. BA, watch our rear.” The team proceeds into the dense forest, the sounds of exotic birds fill the humid air. The jungle atmosphere brings back vivid memories of Nam, making for a somber trek. The team finally comes upon a clearing of sharp grass at the bottom of a grassy knoll. Hannibal, Face and BA make there way up the hill as Murdock maintains rear guard. The three lay flat against the top of the hill. Hannibal pulls out a pair of binoculars and looks down upon a small compound encircled by a five-foot log fence. Four small, wooden-plank, thatched-roofed buildings surround a large tin-roof building. Hannibal scans the area and stops on a cinder-block bunker in the far north-west corner. A hurriedly constructed guard tower stands in the opposite corner, manned by one sentry. The main entrance is guarded by another armed sentry carrying an M16. Hannibal rolls over onto his back. “That is the most security conscious orphanage I’ve ever seen.”
Face takes the binoculars and peers down observing several Asian and Caucasian men all heavily armed. A couple of children, probably no more than seven years of age, exit one of the small outer buildings. They walk meekly across the compound and enter the large building which also retains an armed guard. Two men exit the large building, apparently from the rear, and stop in the middle of the compound. They appear to be having a rather intense discussion. Face zooms in on the men. An Asian gentleman of small stature, wearing some type of military uniform, maintains a stoic posture, as the second gentleman gestures wildly. The second gentleman, a tall, dark-hair Caucasian wearing military pants and black tee-shirt, continues to rant, gesturing towards the large building. Face takes a closer look, his eyes narrow, and he slowly lowers the binoculars, his face a mask of tormented emotion. Something about the Caucasian, a past memory shrouded within the dense jungles of Vietnam emerges.
Hannibal notices the distraught expression on his friend’s face. “What is it Lieutenant, what did you see?” Face returns the binoculars without saying a word and moves down the hill.
As they all come together at the bottom of the hill Murdock eagerly asks, “So guys, how’s it look?”
Face appears distant so Hannibal begins to describe the situation. “Well, it’s not goin’ to be a picnic. There are plenty of armed men.”
Abruptly Face interrupts, in a voice barely above a whisper. “Do you guys remember ‘Charlie Company’, their last mission?” The statement disturbs the three other A-team members. Their faces confirming the fact that they did remember. An invisible shudder goes through the team, like someone opening a casket that had been buried for years. “I think I just saw a ghost-Lieutenant Dan McCroskey.” The name causes Murdock to audibly exhale and BA to growl under his breath.
“Are you sure, Face?” Hannibal asks, concerned by this added revelation.
Amy senses the teams’ unease at the mention of this person. “Who is McCroskey?”
Face starts to relate the story, pulling the words painfully out of some deep recess. “Towards the end of the war, Charlie company was on their way back from their latest mission when they were ambushed. McCroskey was in charge because their captain had been injured earlier and flown out. They were caught in a cross-fire and overwhelmed. Only two escaped and they died later of their injuries. Several of the bodies were never recovered and Dan McCroskey was one of them. Everyone thought the Vietcong took the bodies to use as some sort of demoralizing tactic. But everyone believed that all of Charlie company was killed that day. The captain was so distraught that he wasn’t with them that he took his own life.”
“Face, did you ever meet McCroskey?” Hannibal inquires as he weighs this new information and what possible consequences it could have on their mission.
“I was never formally introduced. I remember seeing him in the officer’s club once or twice. He was a real smart-aleck, I think he hid his fear and incompetence by acting like a big shot.”
“I flew him and a couple of his guys’ butts out of a tight spot once,” Murdock adds. “I didn’t even get a ‘thank you very much’.”
“Hannibal, we were well known by then. He probably knew us,” BA states.
“Well, that’s a chance we’ll have to take, Sergeant.”
“Rumor had it that the ambush was a set up, that someone was a traitor. Maybe it was McCroskey.” Everyone was silent for a moment, after BA’s accusation, lost in thought remembering old friends and acquaintances lost during a war that changed everyone’s lives.
The team tries to relax and enjoy what rations they have as they work out their next move. Amy casually sits down next to Murdock, who is busily and professionally cleaning his weapon. “So Murdock, how does it feel to be sane?”
Murdock pauses a moment in contemplation. “Well Amy, it’s like when the town bully moves on to another target. You know he’s still around, but you don’t know when he’ll pop up and start in on you again.” Amy hears a touch of sadness from Murdock as if he just lost a good friend. She places her hand on his shoulder. The sound of a truck gets everyone’s attention and they race up the hill to take a look. A medium size truck with no markings enters the compound and backs up to the rear of the large building.
Hannibal pulls out his binoculars and zeros in on the sudden activity. “Okay guys, we wait and watch. We need to learn their routine. If that van leaves we’re going to intercept it.”
By dusk the truck finally departs the compound, following the only road out. Murdock, Hannibal, BA, Face and Amy hide in the brush alongside the road. A fell tree blocks the narrow dirt road. The truck stops in front of the log barrier unable to go around because of the heavy brush on either side. The driver gets out to take a better look. Quickly BA grabs the driver, throwing him up against the truck and placing a gun into his back. “Don’t move, sucka!”
The rest of the team emerges. “Captain, check out the back!” Hannibal commands.
“Yes Sir, Colonel.” Murdock gives Hannibal a snappy salute and marches to the back of the truck. Hannibal walks over to the driver, the aroma of his cigar leaving a trail behind him.
“Colonel, this van is loaded with clothing, jewelry and rugs. It’s a regular mall in here,” Murdock yells from the back of the van.
Hannibal eyes the driver and frowns. “So that’s it!”
“Hannibal, what does it mean?” Amy inquires.
“These scumbags are using the orphanage as a sweatshop. No wonder they won’t let any adoptions go through. They have a free and renewable work force.”
The driver, a young Asian man, begins to sweat profusely under the scrutiny of the team.
Fearing for his life he starts to protest, “Hey, I have nothing to do with that stuff, I just pick up and deliver.” Hannibal can only glare. Sicken by the sight of a man who helps in enslaving his own people, especially children, but he needs answers so he suppresses his growing hostility.
BA spins the driver around and slams him back against the truck. He points his gun into the driver’s face as he demands, “Where do you deliver the merchandise?”
The driver balks until BA’s forearm goes across his throat. In a strangled voice he replies, “I...I take it to Krong Kaoh, the shipping port.”
“Are you their only driver?” Hannibal asks.
“No, it’s whoever they can get at the time.” BA releases his hold on the driver who rubs his throat.
A wide smile emerges on Hannibal’s visage as a plan starts to form in his machiavellian mind. BA, familiar with the gleam in Hannibal’s eyes, only shakes his head in dismay.
“Oh no, he’s on the jazz man, he’s on the jazz.”
“Okay, first, Amy do you have any contacts in the Cambodian government?” Hannibal inquires.
“No, but I have a friend in D.C. who does.”
“Good. Murdock, escort Amy and our friend here back to the van. Tie him up in the back then get back here. Amy, you drive to Batdambang and notify the authorities. Tell them what’s happening. The rest of us need to figure out how to get into the compound and safeguard the children before we have some fun.”
Early evening the next day, Face finds himself in the driver’s seat of the now emptied truck. Hannibal leans into the window. “Face, get in and try to make contact with one of the orphans. If possible, explain to them what’s going to happen. Plant the charges then lay low until you hear our signal.”
Murdock jumps up to the passenger side. Expecting one of Murdock’s eccentric words of wisdom Face is dumbfound by a very normal and serious sounding Murdock saying, “Hey, be careful in there, Faceman.”
“Ah, yeah, thanks, Murdock.” Murdock winks and ambles away as Face shakes himself out of his bewilderment and turns to Hannibal. “You know Hannibal, I kind of miss the crazy Murdock.”
Face enters the compound unchallenged and backs the truck up to the rear of the large building. He remains in the cab as one of the guards stares at him suspiciously. Face waves and smiles, and the guard moves off, apparently satisfied. The initial activity soon disperses and Face cautiously steps out of the cab, pulling his cap down low on his head. He strolls across the compound and stops under the guard tower. He feigns tying his shoe and attaches a detonator to the base of the tower. He then makes his way to what appears to be the sleeping quarters for the security force. Face plants two more charges, then tries to be as inconspicuous as he can while he waits for a chance to enter the large factory-type building. It’s not long before he manages to slip in. He finds himself in a single large room with wooden floors. He can see the loading dock in the back and notices four windows covered with dust and probably stuck shut. A few fans circulate the hot, stifling air. Face is appalled by what he sees. About twenty children, some as young as four, forced to work in the dirty, hot building under grueling conditions. Face frowns as he looks upon children making wallets and necklaces by hand and weaving rugs on crude looms. Some of the children look up momentarily from their labor, but quickly go back to work. In a far corner mats lay stacked against the wall, testimony to their sleeping conditions. Face notices a middle-aged Asian man asleep in a chair across the room; an M16 rifle laid across his legs. Tentatively he approaches a row of young girls working feverishly on pedal-power sewing machines. He kneels down in front of the first girl and quietly whispers, “Do you speak English?’
Slowly he makes his way down the row asking each of the girls. Finally, halfway down the line the oldest, who couldn’t be more than eleven, nods in comprehension. She peers over her shoulder, fear blazing in her dark eyes. Face flashes her one of his dazzling smiles and pats her hand. The little girl's fear abates and a slight smile appears on her face. “Listen, I’m here to help you. Have everyone ready to leave tonight. My friends will be here to rescue you.” The girl nods and smiles, a smile that reminds Face of the reason he does this.
“Hey you, what do you think you’re doing?” Face looks up to see the Asian supervisor across the room standing up. Face quickly turns and leaves, kicking the door with enough force to throw the guard on the outside to the ground. He races out, trying to determine the best course to take when he’s struck from behind and crumbles to the ground.
On the hill top, Hannibal, BA, and Murdock witness the fall of their comrade. They watch helplessly as Face is dragged off to one of the small buildings. “Don’t worry, Faceman can get out of anything,” BA says reassuringly as he grips his rifle a little tighter.
“We’re going to have to push our plans ahead a bit. First, we have to get those children out of harms way before we attack.” Through the binoculars Hannibal zeros in on the abandoned bunker. “And what better place than right under their noses.” BA and Murdock pass a quizzical look between them. “We’ll put them in the bunker behind the factory.”
As the three head back down the hill, BA comes up alongside Hannibal. “Hannibal, I’m worried about Murdock. He hasn’t had a psychotic episode this whole mission. It’s not natural.”
Hannibal has to smile. “Don’t worry BA sane or crazy Murdock is dependable. I’m sure after this mission he’ll return to his normal, abnormal self.” Hannibal smiles at the huge, lovable black man. “If I didn’t know better BA, I’d swear you miss the old crazy Murdock.”
“That’s nuts. I just don’t want him to mess up this mission.” BA moves on ahead, unable to admit how close to the truth Hannibal was. He never thought he’d miss Murdock’s crazy antics.
Face slowly regains consciousness to find himself laying on a dirt floor in a small, windowless room. His hands handcuffed behind him. He sits up, winces and looks around. The room is bare except for a single wooden door; the only means of escape. Suddenly voices rise on the other side of the door. A moment later the Asian gentleman he saw earlier talking to McCroskey enters with two burly guards. The General stares contemptuously down at Templeton.
“I am General Ee Chien. Who are you?”
Face’s smile naturally takes over his face. “What, not even a ‘hello, how are you?’” Face’s smart mouth is quickly slapped by one of the guards. He decides to try another strategy. “My name is Mr. Thomas Jefferson. I’m with child services, and we’re interested in the programs you’ve implemented here. They’re insufferable.” Not impressed with his witticism, the other guard sharply kicks Face in the stomach. Face hears as well as feels the snap of one of his ribs breaking under the abuse. He gasps and falls on his side, tears form at the corners of his eyes as he tries to endure the pain. The guards smile with obvious pleasure at Face’s agony.
The general takes a deep breath and audibly exhales. “I’m losing patience with you. No more insolent remarks. Now again, who are you?” the general demands, his face turning red with anger and frustration.
“Go to hell,” Face gasps through the pain. The general straightens, a demonic smile on his face as he nods and steps back. The two guards come forward to distribute further punishment upon Face, the same sadistic smiles on their faces. One of the guards picks him up by his handcuffs, almost dislocating his shoulders. The other steps in front, an evil smile on his face, and proceeds to deliver brutal blows to Face’s chest and stomach using a long, thick club. The last blow strikes Face’s groin and the guards let him crumble to the ground. An enormous bolt of pain streaks through Face’s head. Bright dots flash across his vision as one of the guard’s foot makes contact.
Dressed in dark clothing, Hannibal, BA and Murdock stealthily make their way into the compound. They quietly dispatch the guard at the large building where the children still toil. Murdock quietly slips inside and easily takes out the supervisor, who again is asleep at his post. BA pries open one of the lower rear windows and is greeted by a young Asian girl’s smiling face. Hannibal is, as always, astonished at BA’s appeal to children. They never seem afraid of him. Quickly, Murdock hands each child up to BA, as Hannibal leads them to the bunker. Hannibal checks his watch as BA secures the bunker after the last child is safely inside. “We have ten minutes until the explosives Face set go off. Let’s even up the odds a bit, shall we?”
“Right on, Colonel,” Murdock replies in anticipation as he lock-and-loads his rifle. The three scatter into the dark, each knowing what is expected of him and the others. They depend on each other and trust each other with their lives; they have to or they would never survive the life they have chosen.
The guards cease their beating as the general again poses the question to a pain-racked Templeton. Face knows he has to stall until the rest of the team has had a chance to rescue the children. He tries to stay conscious, the severe pain of his bruised and broken ribs and the ringing in his ears making it hard to hear the general’s words. McCroskey silently enters and stares down at Face’s bruised and bloodied body. “Stop it! He’s no good dead.” McCroskey regards Face intently until the General interrupts his thoughts.
“What is it, McCroskey?” The general asks.
“We need to find out who he is and what he’s doing with one of our trucks.” McCroskey kneels down to find Face unconscious. “He might have friends.” The general waves the guards out as he and McCroskey follow. At the sound of the closing door, Face’s eyes snap open. Immediately he begins to pick the lock on the handcuffs with a thin piece of metal. The pain in his head making it hard for him to stay focused.
Murdock silently creeps up on a guard leaning against a post, trying to blow smoke rings with his cigarette. His rifle casually slung over his shoulder. Murdock taps him on the shoulder, then brings the butt of his rifle into the guard’s face. The man drops bonelessly to the ground. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you smoking is bad for your health,” Murdock berates the unconscious guard as he takes a quick look around, then drags the man behind a building.
The general and McCroskey walk out into the compound. The night is cloudless and a brilliant white crescent of moon hangs in the sky just above the trees. Exasperated, McCroskey stops short and puts his finger into the general’s pudgy round face. “We need to move this operation.”
“What! This is the best set-up we’ve ever had.”
“I don’t like it. That man, something’s strange, familiar. I don’t know.” McCroskey runs his hand through his hair. He stares back at the building where Face is even now freeing himself. “I don’t like it!”
“Face it, McCroskey you can’t handle it. You’re running scared,” The general sneers.
Recognition dawns on McCroskey’s face. “Face it, face, Faceman.”
“What are you babbling about?” General Ee Chien stares at McCroskey like someone who has lost his mind.
“That’s Templeton Peck, a.k.a. Faceman. He’s part of the A-Team.”
“What’s an A-Team?” At that moment an explosion rocks the compound, and the general drops to the ground.
“I think you’re about to find out General,” McCroskey yells as he races back to where Face is being held. He hears the general yelling orders to his frantic and confused men.
Face manages to pick open the handcuffs and quickly rubs circulation back into his arms. Blood mats his sandy blond hair and he feels the pain of each broken rib with every breath he takes. He hears the first explosion and a faint smile appears. Well, it’s about time guys, he thinks to himself. He tries to focus and slowly stands, placing himself next to the door. He puts his head against the wall and closes his eyes, trying to force back the blackness that is threatening to overwhelm him.
The door bangs open as McCroskey charges into the cell. Face grabs McCroskey by the arm, bending it behind his back. He slams the man against the wall, removing the pistol from his side holster. Face brings the pistol up to McCroskey’s head and cocks it. The sound freezes McCroskey’s blood and immediately takes any fight out of him.
“Lieutenant Templeton Peck, small world,” McCroskey spits out each word.
“Ah, you remember me. I’m flattered.” Face puts the handcuffs on McCroskey trying not to show his growing weakness. “No tricks, I have no problem with blowing you away.” Face spins McCroskey around. “How do you live with yourself McCroskey, after killing your own men.”
“What! I had nothing to do with that ambush. I got separated from my men during the fire fight. Somehow I managed to slip away unnoticed. I had planned on turning myself in after everything settled down. Then I heard everyone was declared dead. I couldn’t believe my luck. You know what it was like there; how can you blame me? I may be a deserter and a coward, but I’m no traitor. I was just scared.”
Face glares silently at McCroskey. He does understand; many times in the jungles of Nam he thought of just disappearing, running away, but he didn’t. His sense of duty to his men was stronger than his fear of dying. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I was scared. So were a thousand other men. That doesn’t justify running away. You had a duty to your men, and your captain was depending on you. You’re going to have to answer for that.” This last remark seems to hit a nerve with McCroskey as he suddenly looks very dejected and lost at the mention of his captain.
“You’ll never get me back to the states,” McCroskey declares, slightly disheartened.
Face shoves him out the door. The two men step outside to witness the chaos surrounding them as two more explosions sound across the compound. Face can hear the scattered gun fire of men who don’t know what they’re shooting at. Suddenly they are intercepted by the general, who levels a gun at the two men. Face stands behind McCroskey for protection. “I guess we have sort of a Cambodian standoff,” Face remarks smugly.”
“Not true. For us to have a standoff you have to have something of importance to me,” the general replies, unconcerned.
“Why you little back-stabbing, low-life.” McCroskey’s face twists with a mixture of anger and hatred towards the Asian general.
A guard races up to the general, interrupting McCroskey’s diatribe. “Sir, we have a problem!”
The general keeps his gun pointed at the two men as he answers the Sergeant. “What is it, Sergeant!”
“Well, we don’t know who we’re shooting at and..a..well, the children are missing.”
The general glares at the guard as outrage boils to the surface. “How could this happen?” The general turns his attention to Face. “You, you have something to do with this!” An explosion interrupts their discussion and the general’s growing fury as the guard tower comes crashing down. Face takes advantage of the confusion, shoving McCroskey towards the general. He runs towards the side of the building feeling the wind of a bullet whiz by his head. The general scowls down at McCroskey who lays on the ground at his feet. The general turns and walks off shouting orders to his men.
The fight is short lived as Hannibal, Murdock and BA slowly and deliberately take out the general’s fighting force one by one, most never knowing what hit them. Fifteen minutes after the first explosion the battle is over.
Murdock and BA direct several guards and a despondent McCroskey to the center of the compound where they are forced to sit on the ground. Hannibal appears, a rifle in the crook of his arm pointed at the back of the now defeated general. A cigar sticks out of his smiling and confident face. “We’ll secure these gentlemen in the bunker. That should hold them till the authorities arrive.” Hannibal lights a cigar as he remarks, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Face limps up along side Hannibal, who puts a steadying hand on his elbow. Hannibal looks upon a pale and worn Face. His left eye swollen shut, dried blood down one side of his face. His ripped shirt reveals the discoloration of his ribs and Hannibal hears a slight rasping every time Face tries to breath. “Hannibal, what about McCroskey? Maybe he’s not the traitor, but he did desert. Shouldn’t we turn him over to American authorities?” Face asks.
Hannibal gives Face a concerned smirk, hoping he isn’t as bad as he looks, then he eyes McCroskey. “Nah, we’d be doing him a favor. The jails here in Cambodia aren’t Club Med.”
The general maintains a pompous stance as he glares, unable to believe that only four mercenaries could defeat his small army. “How..how did only four of you?”
Hannibal sticks out his chest as someone who is proud of what they’re about to say.
“You have to have a team general, and I have one hell of a team.”
Face walks over to McCroskey who, still handcuffed, is sitting on the ground staring at his shoes. He kneels as McCroskey lifts his eyes up. “You know McCroskey, I’m only running from the Military and I’m able to get away, but you, you’ll be running from yourself forever without ever getting away. You’ll have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. I hope your soul will find peace when the time comes.” McCroskey doesn’t say a word, but drops his eyes.
Face stands and backs up as the world starts to spin. He hears Hannibal as if he’s standing in a long tunnel. “Hey kid, you don’t look so good.” The ground quickly comes rushing up to meet him. Hannibal’s quick reflexes save Face from a brutal impact with the ground. He gently lowers him. Concern mars the faces of BA and Murdock as Hannibal cradles the injured Faceman.
A week later the team is enjoying the grateful hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Jacoby and their newest addition, a sweet dark-haired little girl, Dawn Kim Yan. The little girl sits on BA’s lap playing with the gold chains about his neck. “I don’t know how we can ever thank you,” Mrs. Jacoby states as she places a plate of sandwiches on the table. She goes to her husband and sits on his lap throwing her arm across his neck.
“We’re in your debt, Mr. Smith,” Marcus adds.
“Don’t worry about it. Putting scum like that away is our favorite past time,” Hannibal replies.
Amy suddenly appears at the front door and enters. “I have that information you wanted, Hannibal.” She stands in the center of the room, reading from a computer printout. “General Ee Chien and his men have all been arrested by the Cambodian authorities. It appears the general has been wanted for various war crimes for a very long time.”
“What about McCroskey?” Hannibal asks from his easy chair in the corner of the room.
“Well, sorry to say there was some kind of snafu. McCroskey managed to get away. They think he’s gone to Vietnam. They have a new staff at the orphanage and Mr. Hun Sen is doubling his efforts to find all the children homes.”
A much improved Faceman; the only evidence of his ordeal being a slight discoloration under his left eye and a slight limp, enters the living room. His distracted behavior attracts Hannibal’s attention. “What’s wrong, Face?”
“I just got done talking to the VA. I was pretending to check on Murdock, fully expecting a frantic nurse telling me that he escaped.” Face pauses as he stares at Murdock. “You’re not going to believe this, the nurse there said he was doing fine.”
“Ah Face, you must’ve been talkin’ to some new nurse or somethin'.” BA says without much conviction. Everyone turns their eyes to a grinning Murdock, his hands behind his head a Cheshire cat smile on his face.
THE END (NOV 1997)
(revised Mar 1998)
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