Created by Webmaster on 16 Jul 2011 - 7:35. Pageviews : 2487
When The War Came Back
The first sign of a plot to wipe out the A-Team came when a deafening explosion rocked the Tweaty Burg Restaurant and the Face Man ran out to see the dazed figure of a would-be thief staggering from the blazing wreck of Face's own car. Suspicions were heightened when a cat that had sneaked into Zoe's apartment and eaten a bowl full of freshly delivered prawns was found seriously ill from a massive overdose of arsenic.
And then B.A. woke from a violent brawl to find himself in a strange car with the doors welded shut, moving slowly along a conveyor belt towards an automatic car-crushing machine. It was only by smashing his fists through the windscreen and cutting his ropes on the broken glass that he was able to escape.
After this incident, Hannibal decided he needed a close shave of his own, and made his way down to Mo's Hair Port.
Mo Cropper had opened his Hair Port after the pop group he had been managing left to join a fringe religious cult on the final day of their last and least successful tour. Mo stood 6 feet 7 inches tall, wore a frilly silk cowboy shirt, a top hat, and a large gold ring through his nose. He smiled when Hannibal walked into his salon and flopped down on the chair. Mo smiled at everybody.
"Hannibal," he said in his deep, mellifluous, accent-free voice, "it's so good to see you. I presume you want your image updating?"
"Just a trim," said Hannibal.
"I'm afraid that would necessitate the removal of your hat."
"Make that a shave - and afterwards we'll talk."
Mo wrapped a hot towel round Hannibal's face, leaving a hole for the cigar. He worked up some lather in a metal cup, and was stropping his open razor when he caught sight of two men in the doorway. Both had guns trained on him. One was smiling. The other held a finger to his lips. They motioned Mo away from Hannibal. Mo reluctantly complied.
While one man held Mo in a back room of the salon, the other made ready to shave Hannibal. Standing behind the A-Team leader, he removed the hot towel, applied the lather, then lent forward with the open razor in his hand.
"I hope it's sharp," said Hannibal. "I can't stand a dull blade."
"The man smiled and placed the razor to Hannibal's neck. There was a loud click from under the sheet protecting Hannibal's clothing.
"I can't stand a nervous barber either," said Hannibal, puffing on his cigar. "I don't like to see a man's hands shake when he's shaving me. One little nick and I'm liable to do something nasty."
The man felt the cold touch of metal pushing against his stomach.
"You're bluffing," he said.
"Who sent you?" asked Hannibal.
"I can't tell you."
"You've no choice."
"Thanks. Now shave!"
As the man nervously scraped Hannibal's whiskers, Hannibal began to realise the trouble he was in. In South East Asia, Bodene had been almost a myth to most regular soldiers. Average height with clean-cut good looks and the kind of manners you might expect from a college major, Bodene's record under fire was the stuff of legends, his reputation for bringing his men home second to none.
And then, in an action in the jungle near the DMZ, an action in which Hannibal himself had taken part, Bodene's men had suffered terrible casualties and Bodene had disappeared. There had been rumours that he'd changed sides, that he'd turned rogue and was conducting his own private war, that he'd been shipped back to the U.S. in a straight jacket. Nobody who knew what had happened would talk, so the tales of Bodene's awesome fighting powers grew as each of his exploits was embroidered and added to be the tellers.
"You missed a bit under my nose," said Hannibal, when the man intimated that he had finished shaving him. The man duly scraped off the offending tuft.
"Where is he?" asked Hannibal, standing up and rubbing his chin.
As the sheet fell away the man saw that the weapon Hannibal had threatened him with was not a gun at all, but the empty metal tube of a cigar holder. His face contorted with fury.
"Why you - " He raised the razor above his head, but Hannibal decked him with a hard right to the solar plexus and a left cross to the chin.
At the same instant Mo appeared from the back room, carrying the other gunman by the scruff of the neck.
"Still keeping bad company, I see," drawled Mo.
"This one might have a future as a prison barber," said Hannibal, as he searched the man on the floor.
Mo frisked his captive and they were about to call the police when the phone rang.
"Hello. This is Zoe. I'm thinking of taking some pachyderms over a European mountain range and I wondered if there was anyone there who could give me some advice."
"I'm your man," said Hannibal.
"Good. Listen - I'm at the paper and Eldridge is throwing a fit. We've got an anonymous tip that there's been a large scale theft at the army base. Plenty heavy duty firepower and - get this - a tank."
"It could be a hoax," said Hannibal.
"And maybee pigs will fly," said Zoe. "Lynch has been onto the paper. He wants Eldridge to hush it up. He thinks it's you."
"Okay, Zoe, you know what to do."
"Sure, where are you going to go?"
Hannibal studied the drinks bill he had lifted from his attacker's wallet.
"Paddy's Bar. It's on the waterfront."
"You could hide an awful lot of machinery in the warehouses there."
Hannibal put down the phone, used Mo's mirrors to disguise himself as Mr Lee from the Chinese laundry, then made his way down to Paddy's Bar.
After a couple of drinks and a couple of innocent sounding questions that were met with icy silence, Hannibal left Paddy's Bar to scout around the mouldering warehouses that surrounded it. When he was climbing an old metal drainpipe to watch an interesting looking window, the pipe suddenly came away from its rotten holdings and Hannibal fell backwards, tumbling some twenty feet to the ground.
As he struggled to his feet a hooded man stepped out of the shadows with a baseball bat, and two seconds later Hannibal was lying unconscious in an oily puddle.
At the Veterans Administrations Hospital, Face and Zoe, posing as emissaries of the Air Force, were hustling Murdock out of his room under a barrage of questions and the baffled protests of Nurse Schnider.
"He's fading in and out again," explained Face, pushing Murdock along in front of him. "You remember he used to think he was an egg-plant?"
"Now he thinks he's hatched," said Face, taking a notebook out of his pocket and firing a rapid series of questions at Murdock.
"Brain? he snapped.
"Like a jellyfish in a washing machine," replied Murdock.
"Sense of touch?"
"Gone. I think I've got somebody else's skin on. Look at these hands! They're like plastic gloves full of sticks!"
Face took notes as they neared the front door.
"Gloves full of sticks ..." he said, writing. "Good. Anything else?"
"Doctor, my eyes - they're like hot mothballs. I think I've caught something off my pet giraffe!"
Face turned sternly to Nurse Schnider.
"Don't tell me this man is allowed a giraffe in his room?" he said.
"It's not her fault," said Murdock. "She doesn't know where I hide it. Nothing's been since the same since the last plague of locusts. I blame the doctor, you know."
"He won't believe I can't stop telling lies."
Face pushed Murdock through the front doors of the hospital and as Zoe signed the release papers, they hurried to where B.A. was waiting in a pick-up truck.
When Zoe joined them they set off for the waterfront.
In a dimly lit warehouse on that same waterfront, Hannibal's head felt like there was a rhinoceros inside trying to get out. The sight in front of him did little to alleviate his discomfort - Bodene is full combat dress, his once handsome face now thin, gaunt, ravaged. Bodene was handcuffing Hannibal to a chain buried deep in a large block of cement.
"You need mustard, not grease-paint - Hammy-Ball!"
"Why are you doing this, Bodene?" asked Hannibal.
Bodene clipped the handcuffs shut. "You sprung that trap too soon in the DMZ," he said checking Hannibal was completely secure. "The ones that got away got us."
"If we hadn't moved then they'd have all got away. You blew it, Bodene, and you know it."
Bodene's eyes stood out like eggs in the wrong nest.
"You think I don't know that?" he snarled. "You know what they do to you when the capture you alive? Prison scars a man., Smith, like a hot grill scars a fish."
"Why the tank?"
"Some of the boys feel we're getting a raw deal, that people don't take enough notice of us. If we can capture a nuclear power station that should change."
"Are you sure?"
Bodene laughed and the hollow, empty sound rang round the warehouse like a cracked bell.
"Sure I'm sure," he said. "The one I have in mind was built with the usual official farsightedness and regard for safety - slap bang in the middle of the San Andreas Fault!"
Hannibal looked round the warehouse: at Bodene, the tank, four other hooded, armed men, and boxes filled with live ammunition.
"Did your mother never buy you any fireworks as a child?" he asked. "You know what a melt-down along the fault could mean?"
"I know. Bye-bye, baby, bye-bye!"
"You need a doctor, Bodene. You're talking double fried noodles here."
"Don't worry about what I need, Mr Bigshot Hannibal Smith. When we drop you in the bay -"
Suddenly all the lights in the warehouse went out and Hannibal began trying to slip his cuffs. If he had guessed it right, the rest of the A-Team were working the three second light trick. As he heard stealthy footsteps padding past, he was convinced.
The three second light trick had been used by the A-Team on several occasions, and was extremely effective in clearing confined spaces against superior odds.
All that was needed was access to the light source, fast hands, and an ability to count slow under pressure. Once the lights go out, the A-Team go in. When the lights go on - three seconds later - the A-Team start fighting. When the lights go out - another three seconds - the A-Team swiftly move to new positions, new targets.
It was a ruse they had perfected in the heat of battle, and when the lights came on, Hannibal just had time to see B.A., Face Man and Murdock take out the three of Bodene's men with perfectly executed pressure blows to the neck. As they sank unconscious to the floor, the lights, operated by Zoe, were doused again.
Three seconds later, and the lights came on again. Murdock felled the last of Bodene's men and Face chased Bodene onto the tank as B.A. tried to free Hannibal.
"Forget me, Sergeant!" said Hannibal. "Get the tank."
In the darkness, B.A. sped towards the tank. When he had counted to three he pulled the pin from a grenade on his belt and, as the lights came up, he swung up onto the tank's gun barrel and dropped it down the muzzle. Inside, he could hear Bodene clumsily clanking through the gears.
B.A. dropped from his position and went to shield Face Man, who had been struck on the head by Bodene and was lying slumped against a crate of ammunition.
Zoe was still working the lights when the grenade went off, splitting the barrel and starting a fire inside. Bodene leapt out of the turret with his trousers alight.
Murdock put him down with three straight rights and poured a bucket of water over him.
The tank, aflame and out of control, rumbled round the warehouse. After narrowly missing Hannibal, it crunched through a stack full of live ammunition, setting off a hail of bullets that flew at random round the warehouse. It continued on its way, straight through the wall of the warehouse, across a patch of open ground - scattering some of the late arrivals at Paddy's Bar - and, with a deep splash and a hiss like a trainload of angry cats, it fell into the black waters of the bay.
By now the lights were on full time and the fire in the ammunition was getting out of control.
As the flames licked round Hannibal's concrete block he manoeuvred a cigar butt to his lips and used them to light it. B.A. was beside him.
"You're not going to be able to get me free, B.A.," he said calmly.
"Oh yeah, sucker?"
B.A. stood on the concrete block, grabbed hold of the chains where they disappeared into the concrete, and pulled.
"If I know Bodene, there's an anvil in there," said Hannibal, a sudden sadness crossed his face as a stray bullet sent his cigar flying from his mouth.
B.A. ignored him. His muscles, as dark and firm as the tyres on a ten-ton truck, stood out like sculpted coal as he strained to pull the chains free from the concrete.
His face, a mask of ferocious concentration, betrayed none of the pain he was feeling. And then a crack in the concrete appeared, widened, and with a furious last flourish, B.A. pulled Hannibal's chains free. He had just thrown them at Hannibal when another loose bullet grazed his forehead and he fell to the ground as if pole-axed.
Hannibal was dragging him towards the hole the tank had made in the wall when the squeal of tyres outside the door signalled the arrival of Colonel Lynch and his men.
"I'm not your man, Lynch," said Hannibal. "That's Bodene there."
He nodded to where Bodene was struggling to his feet.
"You're not getting away this time, Smith," said Lynch coldly. "There's just no way out!"
Hannibal looked around him. For once, Lynch seemed to be right. Although the rest of the A-Team had escaped, there seemed little hope for Hannibal and B.A.
...Until Hannibal heard a whisper through the hole in the wall.
"What's keeping you?" hissed Face. "We're ready to go, man!"
As Face spoke, a box of rocket grenades went up and Lynch and his men threw themselves to the ground. Hannibal lifted B.A. over his shoulder and slipped through the hole in the wall. He was amazed to see Murdock, Zoe and Face waiting for them in the basket of an ancient-looking hydrogen balloon.
Hannibal dropped B.A. in the basket and climbed in, Murdock cut the rope that was holding them, and the balloon rose slowly into the night air.
"Where did you get this thing?" Hannibal asked Murdock.
"The Face Man got it," said Murdock. "Get him talking - we need the hot air."
"An Armenian circus just docked," explained Face. "Some guy jumps out of it into a damp tissue."
"Great," said Hannibal. "Now all we need is a bottle of champagne."
There was the sound of a cork popping. Deadpan, Face handed Hannibal a bottle of ice cold champagne. Hannibal shook his head, gave a quiet chuckle and took a long drink.
"You don't want me to become a basket case, do you?" Murdock asked as Hannibal handed him the bottle.
"No why?" asked Hannibal. "Is B.A. regaining consciousness?"
"As a matter of fact, he is," said Zoe, pointing upwards with her thumb. "And you'd better put out that cigar. The champagne cork punctured the balloon."
"Where am I?" groaned B.A. from the floor of the basket. "What's goin' on here? If you been jivin' me, Hannibal - "
"Would I?" asked Hannibal innocently, peering over the edge of the basket at the inky blackness below. "You've really got to watch that attitude. You know what they say."
"What do they say, sucker?"
"That the darkest hour....is just before everything goes completely black."
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