Created by Webmaster on 16 Jul 2011 - 7:36. Pageviews : 3300
Seizure At Sneekerville
High up on the ridge, the Face Man studied the figure galloping towards them along the dusty mountain trail, then handed the binoculars to B.A.
"It's him," he said, fingering the remote control detonator in his hands. "You ready?"
"Not so fast, Face Man," growled B.A. "We go to wait for Murdock to make the pick up."
"Here he comes now," said Amy, pointing to an ancient crop-dusting bi-plane that had just swung into view round the lip of the cliff bordering the trail.
"And here come the bad guys," warned the Face Man. Rounding the trail some hundred yards behind the rider were three dark limousines, bucking over the rough terrian and sending clouds of dust into the air.
On board the bi-plane, Howling Mad Murdock abandoned his noisy imitation of Jimi Hendrix, cut his speed down to the absolute minimum, then grinned down at the hard pressed rider below. Under the telephone repairman's overalls and long black wig, the face of Hannibal Smith grinned right back up.
"All aboard for the moonshot!" yelled Murdock, taking the plane lower and throwing a rope ladder out of the side. Hannibal smoothly hopped up onto the back of the galloping horse, stood up briefly and leapt.
"Now!" shouted B.A. on the ridge.
The Face Man hit the button on the detonator, a huge rock on the cliffs disintegrated in a bright yellow ball of flame, and the sound of the explosion lost itself in the thundering avalanche that roarded downwards, completely blocking the trail.
"Let's get out of here," said Amy, standing up and walking towards a jeep. B.A. kept the binoculars trained up at the sky.
"We go trouble," he said grimly. "The madman's taken a hit."
B.A. was right. The fuel line had been fractured during the chase and a small fire had started. Murdock had to find a place to land before it spread to the tanks.
"Know any good fly-in restaurants round here?" Murdock's voice was almost lost in the wind as he yelled at Hannibal. The A-Team number one was standing on the wing, fighting a losing battle with the fire.
"There's one," replied Hannibal, working the extinguisher as the bi-plane raced inches above the crest of a shrub covered hill, "but the Maitre d's got bad breath and there's no vowels in the alphabet soup."
"I knew I should have listened to momma," said Murdock. The plane crested another hill and the engine began spluttering. Below them a fast-moving river cut through the floor of a deep canyon.
"What did she say?" asked Hannibal. The engine cut out and the bi-plane went into a steep dive.
"Who?" Murdock fought to stop the bi-plane going into a terminal spin.
"Your momma!" Hannibal clung tighter to the struts as the water rushed up to meet them.
"You ain't my momma," said Murdock, pulling hard at the controls. "I hope you ain't trying to muscle in on my act, elephant man."
Suddenly, as the nose of the bi-plane began to lift and the frail craft started pulling out of its plunging dive, the wing Hannibal was standing on sheared off and he, the wing, Murdock and the rest of the crippled crop-dusted splashed heavily into the boiling rapids of the mountain river.
It took an hour before the rest of the A-Team found the first signs of wreckage, a piece of wing jammed tight between two rocks. Beside it, stretched out like a skinned beaver, lay Hannibal's wig.
Amy felt hot tears spring from her eyes. B.A. put one of his huge arms around her shoulder and she buried her face against his jewellery.
"Do you think - " she sobbed.
"No, I don't!" B.A. said curtly. Face had picked up the wig and was removing a flat waterproof packet from the lining.
"We got the pictures anyway," he said, slipping the package into his belt.
Amy turned angrily. "Is that all you care about? They could be -"
"Dead," said Face coolly. "Don't be afraid to say it, Amy. But we don't know kid, and if they are still alive they're gonna need us hanging loose - you got it?"
B.A. put his hand on her shoulder. "Face Man's right," he said softly. "An' don't worry - I ain't goin' to let anybody hurt you."
"I'm sorry," snuffled Amy, pulling a map from her pocket and spreading it out on the jeep. She followed the river's route with her finger. "Sneekerville's the next town," she said. "Maybe they've found something."
B.A., Amy and the Face Man drove towards Sneekerville on a narrow road that skirted the river. The only other wreckage they found was a large piece of propeller and a shoe. Face Man recognised it as Murdock's. They were still examining the shoe when they heard the first shots.
They turned and saw a tall, thin man in a sheriff's uniform ambling towards them, a pump-action shotgun cradled idly in his arms. Behind him, six men in hunting jackets and caps aimed a variety of weapons in their direction.
"Before you get any big ideas, boys," said the Sheriff, "take a look behind you." The sheriff made a brief signal with one hand, and in the rocks across the river, several more heavily armed men stood up.
Face Man grinned. "That's great, sheriff," he said. He stepped forward and stood with his hands on his hips, examining his captors. "A little, er, cliched perhaps - and I'm afraid the bimbo in the deerstalker will have to lose that corn-cob pipe, but if I didn't know better - I'd swear they were real people. Wouldn't you, Miss Tinderberry?"
"Of course," agreed Amy. She had no idea what the Face Man was trying to do.
"What are you talking about, boy?" The sheriff looked puzzled.
Face slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Tinderberry -remind me to sack you as soon as I've squared this business with the governor. I'm sorry, sheriff - there's been a communications failure."
"You're beginning to get on my nerves, boy."
Face noticed several of the men in hunting jackets had moved closer. The man with the corn-cob was nearest of all. Face held up his hands.
"It's not your fault, boys," he said. "Believe me, I don't blame you. So what if a 25-mil boffo blockbuster goes down the tubes? Who cares if The Prettiest Little Town Of All never gets in the can? That's how it is with these whodunnits. They get to be more like 'what's going ons'. Don't you worry a -"
The Face Man was cut short by a blow to the chin with the butt of a hunting rifle. He fell to the floor unconscious, and Corn-cob, his attacker, snarled down at him.
"String him up," he said. "There's some rope in the truck."
B.A. moved forward. The sheriff stepped between them.
"There'll be no lynching while I'm in charge," he said. "These boys are going to jail until this thing's sorted out."
"Jail?" Amy's voice dripped with anger as she wiped the blood from Face Man's mouth. "On what charge?"
The sheriff spat onto the ground.
"The same as we got your two buddies on," he said slowly. "Kidnapping ... and maybe murder."
The relief at finding Hannibal and Murdock alive in the small Sneekerville jail was tempered by the fact that they were in trouble. Big trouble.
Murdock and Hannibal had been fished unconscious out of the river and immediately accused of kidnapping a busload of children on their way to the school in Dunchurch, the next, bigger town. The town of Sneekerville had been in uproar since the bus went missing, and several search parties had failed to find a single clue. It was as if the bus had been spirited away into thin air.
"I had you figured as a man who wasn't quite so stupid as he looked," said Hannibal to the sheriff. The sheriff was staring out of his Office window at the angry crowds of armed men who were gathering there. Hannibal was lying on his cell bunk.
"Just be quiet, boy," said the sheriff wearily.
"Haven't you even thought why anyone might want to kidnap a busload of schoolkids?" Hannibal went on.
"I've thought about it," the sheriff said. "But I can't figure it out. "
"Let me give you a few of my ideas," began Hannibal.
But before he could continue there was a sudden commotion on the street outside, the- door was kicked open, and Corn-cob came in, holding a hunting rifle in one hand and a child's red coat in the other.
"They found this in the woods by the old Jefferson place," he said. He placed it carefully down on the sheriff's desk and raised his rifle towards Hannibal. "You tell me what you've done with my girl or I'll blow your head clean off."
"I think you should find the right handle on this thing before you do that," said Hannibal. uncrossing his legs and sitting up to face his would-be killer. "Because if your child is in danger, we might be the only hope of saving her and the rest of the kids."
Corn-cob hesitated, looked across to the sheriff, then slumped down in a chair and began crying.
The sheriff walked over and handed him a box of tissues.
"Don't worry, we'll find them," he said. "The military will be here soon. "
"The military?" asked B.A., clutching the cell bars in sudden anger.
"Sure. A Colonel Lynch rang this morning to warn us he would be using the area to familiarise his men with mountain conditions."
"Colonel Lynch!?" B.A.'s biceps bunched and his knuckles paled against the black metal bars.
"Yeah, you know him?" asked the sheriff, Before B.A. could answer the door swung open again and another man entered wearing a hunting jacket.
"We're taking a search party up to the old Jefferson place. You coming?"
"Sure." Corn-cob shuffled out, leaving the A-Team alone with the sheriff.
Less than ten minutes after the search party pulled out, a jeep pulled up in front of the sheriff's office. The sheriff went out, spoke with the uniformed men in the jeep and then waved them off up the road. A large, covered army wagon followed down the main street.
Back inside, Amy spoke to the sheriff in a worried voice.
"You've got bigger trouble than you think, sheriff," she warned. "That man isn't Colonel Lynch."
"I've had just about enough, lady."
"Check my credentials. Ring up my boss - Grant Eldridge, Courier-Express. You've got bad trouble." Amy flashed her open wallet through the bars. The sheriff ignored it.
"She's right," agreed Hannibal. "I recognised that man. He was operating in Hanoi between '65 and'69. His name was Kurtz then. He's a vampire dingaling with a bad line in toytown politics and a very pressing need to dress up."
"Don't try to snow me." The sheriff was getting as confused as a hedgehog in a wig shop.
"At least give my boss a ring. I'll tell you the number."
"What would a terrorist want ina sleepy town like Sneekerville?" The sheriff seemed unable to take in exactly what was happening to him.
"Face up to it. sheriff," urged the Face Man. "Those kids were kidnapped so the whole town would be out of the way looking for them. Something's coming down and it can't be the bank - it's too small. What is it?"
"I know." said Amy. They all turned to listen. Amy shrugged her shoulders. "It's the reason why I was able to come along with you guys anyway. Eldridge wanted some background on how they transport them - security, that kind of thing."
"Transport what?" asked B.A.
Amy lowered her eyes. "Missile parts. There was a story that they're trying a new method of shifting them. Unmarked containers. Back roads. There'll be back-up, of course, but low-profile's the name of the game.
"You reckon the missiles are coming through Sneekerville?" the sheriff asked.
Hannibal nodded. "And the reason we know so much about it is that the real Colonel Lynch is after us.
Somewhere in the sheriff's brain, the book of rules closed. He fetched the keys from the desk and opened the cell.
"I know I'm crazy, but I'm an American."
"So are we," said Hannibal. "Now here's what I want you all to do . . ."
"Don't forget my mother," interrupted Murdock. "She was two parts Martian."
Kurtz was feeling pleased with himself as he waited on the outskirts of town to halt the missile shipment. The kidnapping had,gone without a hitch and the children were safe in the old barn miles from where he'd planted the clothing. By the time they were discovered it would be all over, and he would be very rich indeed.
As he saw the figure in the hunting jacket shuffling disconsolately towards him, corn-cob pipe alight, Kurtz drew his pistol. The man immediately raised his hands above his head. Kurtz felt a chill of fear race down his back when he saw, in the man's hand, the unmistakeable shape of a hand grenade.
"Bad to see you again, Kurtz," said Hannibal, abandoning his disguise and adopting an aggressive, threatening stance. "Drop it."
Kurtz laughed. Keeping his pistol trained on Hannibal he radioed the men and women he had sent off to their positions in readiness for the ambush. From the first he got no answer. From the second he got Howling Mad Murdock's imitation of an elephant seal being bitten by a shark. From the third and fourth, B.A. and Face Man answered with short, confident threats.
"See," said Hannibal with a smile. "Now pack up your marbles and go stand in the corner."
Kurtz cocked his pistol and sneered. "You forget that when you pull that pin I will still have enough time to kill you and get out of range," he said coldly.
Hannibal kept smiling and opened his palm so that Kurtz could see that the pin from the grenade had already been pulled.
"I can't remember exactly how many seconds I counted," he smiled, "but I don't think there would be more than one single eeny-weeny second before the big sleep once I drop this thing."
With a short laugh, Hannibal let the hand grenade fall. It rolled to Kurtz and stopped by his boots. The terrorist stared down as though it were a bag full of poisonous snakes: fascinated, horrified, unable to move.
... Until Hannibal's right hook sent him spinning to the ground. As Hannibal sauntered over to kick away Kurtz's gun, B.A.'s voice crackled over the airwaves.
"You airight, Hannibal? Remember, sucker, keep it simple. You know how you love the jazz."
Hannibal picked up the hand grenade and grinned. It was a soap one he had been fashioning in the Sneekerville jail to facilitate his escape. He pocketed it as the rest of the A-Team brought in their hostages.
"The kids are in a barn up on that hill," Hannibal told the sheriff, dragging Kurtz's unconscious body along the street towards the jail.
"And we've got what our original client was after," said Face, tapping his belt.
"You sure you won't stay around?" asked the sheriff. "You could help with the explanations."
Hannibal looked up at the sound of a large container wagon barrelling down the main street. At a discreet distance behind, a line of jeeps followed.
Hannibal grinned and saluted as the second jeep passed, with the real Colonel Lynch staring open-mouthed from the back seat.
"Some other time, sheriff," he said, leading the other members of the A-Team to Kurtz's jeep. "We gotta be going."
And with a squeal of rubber on tarmac and Murdock's, "Hi-yo Silver, awaaaaay!" they sped out of town as Lynch's men turned to give chase.
On To The Scuzzball Diamond Set-To
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