CHAPTER 1

This time the A-team had a very special client. He was a tattoo artist. His tattoos were real pieces of art and he was glad to finally be able to open his very own tattoo parlor. What he didn't expect to happen was to be blackmailed by Chinese mobsters. They had burst into the place at broad daylight scaring away his customer and threatening him. They told him he needed to pay them protection money and if he didn't do that something serious would happen to his wife and son. When he explained he couldn't pay that amount of money, they beat him up and tore his store apart.

The man didn't want to give up is dream nor pay these creeps the sum they requested, but he was also worried about the well-being of his wife and kid. So he went looking for help. His son spent a lot of time at the Children's Center. Volunteers made sure the kids were able to keep themselves occupied and off the street by following workshops of all kinds. B.A. happened to volunteer at the Center. The little boy had learned to trust the Big Guy and had told him what was happening with his dad.

That got the ball rolling. B.A. had told his friends about the trouble the boy's family was in and they decided they wanted to help. B.A. had set up a meeting with the father at the Center. He was pretty suspicious at first when he saw B.A., but his son managed to explain to him that B.A. was one of the good guys and could help them. So he sat down and met the other A-team members as well. He told them the whole story. The men all came to an understanding and the A-team was hired for yet another mission.

With Hannibal on the jazz, things were heating up pretty soon. Hannibal had lured the enemy and he was sure they would turn up at the tattoo shop any time now. So the guys all hung back at the tattoo parlor. They all kept their eyes open. B.A. was on the outside keeping an eye on the road. Hannibal had his position on top of the roof and Murdock and Face were positioned inside the parlor.

"This place gives me the creeps," Face stated while looking around.

"Why is that, muchacho?" Murdock asked.

"I just don't like being in a place with this many needles," Face answered shivering slightly.

"It'll be okay," Murdock assured his best friend.

"I hope so," Face muttered, but he had a bad feeling about this.

"Face, are you there?" Hannibal's voice came through the walkie-talkie.

"Yes, Hannibal, we're right here. What's up?"

"The show is about to get started. Get in position and stay sharp."

"Got ya, Hannibal."

Soon after, the mobsters came busting in and the team was ready to fight them. As the enemy was highly skilled and trained, it wasn't an easy fight. They had to dodge and evade punches as much as they got to punch the scumbags themselves. They weren't doing too bad. Even Face managed to keep up with the fist work at first. When one of the scumbag went down, another jumped on the occasion to hit Face square in the jaw. He had to blink a couple of times to get his focus back, but he managed to do it anyway. What he hadn't noticed was that the scumbag attacking him had managed to pick up one of the tattoo needles and dip it in a jar he kept hidden in his jacket pocket somewhere. Face was ready to deliver some punches when he saw the needle out of the corner of his eye. He fought with the goon to keep the needle away from his body, but it wasn't an easy task. He couldn't ask one of his team mates to help him out either as they were busy themselves. While looking to his left for either one of them, the goon managed to stick him in the chest with the needle. But Face reacted fast and he managed to push the goon off of him and punch him in the face. With all the adrenaline running through his veins, he didn't feel any pain and so he forgot about the needle prick very soon.

Finally, the team got the upper hand and managed to take the enemy out.

"B.A., you okay?" Hannibal asked.

"Yeah, I'm fin' man," he replied.

"Murdock, what about you?"

"A okay, boss."

"Face, you okay? Face?"

"Oh boy. Why does this always happen to me," Face complained while holding on to his bloody nose. Blood was dripping from it and soaking his light blue shirt.

"Is it broken, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked him.

"How does it look to you?" Face said as he took his hands away from his face.

His nose was all swollen as well as the area surrounding his right eye.

"Yeah, kid. I bet it is," Hannibal said. "Not to worry. Murdock, go grab the first aid kit from the van, will ya? You'll feel better in no time."

Murdock ran over to the van to get the kit while Hannibal and the others made their way to their client's house. Their client's wife gasped as she saw what had happened to Face. Hannibal explained how they managed to get rid of the bad guys and they were all relieved.

"But Face got injured," the wife said. "We didn't want that to happen."

"Don't worry, ma'am," Hannibal said. "It's all in the line of duty, right Lieutenant?"

"Sure. Whatever you say," he replied.

"We'll patch him up. It's no big deal."

"No, sure. No big deal. I've just ruined a 500 dollar Armani shirt that's all not to mention that I broke my nose and probably fractured my eye socket as well and to top it all off I have a splitting headache."

Meanwhile Murdock had arrived with their first aid kit. The client's wife offered to take care of Face. She made her son run up to the kitchen to get some ice from the fridge and a towel to put it in. Face was lying down on the couch and she gently put the ice wrapped in the towel on his swollen nose and eye. She also gently cleaned his face with a wash cloth and wiped away all the blood.

"We're really thankful for what you've done for us," she softly said to Face. "I'm really sorry about what happened to you and to your shirt."

"Oh … uh … it's nothing. Really," Face stammered. "I'll live. It's not the first time I've had my nose broken and it certainly will not be the last. Oh … And I wouldn't worry about the shirt either. Those bloodstains won't come out, but I'll just buy myself another one of those. It's no big deal!"

She looked at him with a shocked look in her eyes.

"Don't worry. I'll be fine," Face said trying to comfort her somewhat. "Thank you for patching me up."

The couple was so grateful that they cooked a delicious home-cooked meal for the team and let them stay overnight at the house. She also handed Face a painkiller for his killer headache which he gratefully took. The family had one guest bedroom. As Face was injured he would stay up in the guestroom with Hannibal. B.A. and Murdock both stayed on the couch in the living room.

"How are you doing, kid?"

"I'm tired and sore all over. And my head hurts like hell."

"Sit down a minute, will ya. Let me have a look. You know, kid. You're gonna be sore for a couple of days I'm afraid. I'll get you another one of those pain pills and then it's off to bed for you."

Face took the pill his CO offered him, took off his clothes and crawled into bed. He was out within seconds. Hannibal merely smiled as he watched his second-in-command fall asleep. The next day, they would say goodbye to their client and get back on the road. The mission had been a tough one for everyone and they were all tired. Hannibal felt like they needed a few days off to recover and relax in between missions.

He woke up first the next morning. His second-in-command was still sleeping peacefully. Hannibal decided to let him sleep a little while longer. The kid was injured. He needed some rest. Hannibal quietly slipped out of bed and met up with Murdock and B.A. in the living room. They were up too as well as their client and his wife and their son. She was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for everyone. Murdock was watching cartoons with the young boy by his side and Hannibal and B.A. were having a conversation with their client.

"Where is Face?" The wife asked upon emerging from the kitchen with the food.

"Oh, don't worry about him. He was still sleeping like a baby when I left him. He's alright. I checked him over last night and gave him another painkiller for his headache. I decided to let him sleep a while longer so he could recover."

When the table was set and everyone sat down, Face emerged from the bedroom.

"Nice of you to join us Lieutenant," Hannibal said.

"How are you feeling, buddy?"

"Do I look okay to you?"

"No, you ain't lookin' too good, man. Damn. We ain't gonna get no good motel rooms no more for a while now."

Face merely rolled his eyes. He did look a mess. His nose was still swollen as well as his eye and it was turning black and blue already.

"How's the head, kid?"

"Still hurts like hell."

"You're probably concussed. Better take another painkiller and get some sleep in the van when we take off."

"Where are we going, boss?" Murdock asked. "Back home?"

"I was thinking about taking a short break, guys. We all could do with some downtime."

"Yeah, you're right. I ain't sayin' no to that."

"Sounds good to me, Hannibal."

"What about you, Face? You can rest for a while."

"Yeah, some rest sounds nice to me."

Their client informed them that he knew a nice little remote cottage at a nearby lake where they could lay low for a while. After breakfast, the team said their goodbyes and took off to said cabin. Their client had made the arrangements for them to be able to spend their holiday there.

B.A. got behind the wheel, Hannibal occupied his usual seat in the front next to B.A. and Murdock and Face sat in the back as usual. Face hissed in pain as he got into the van and that didn't go unnoticed by his best friend.

"What's wrong, Facey?"

"Nothing, I'm fine."

"You're not fine."

"Sure, I'm fine Murdock. Okay, no. My nose is broken, I have a black and blue eye and a killer headache. But apart from that, I'm fine."

"Then why did you hiss?"

"What?"

"You heard me. Why did you hiss? And don't tell me it's because of your nose or your eye. I know you, buddy. So quit lying and tell us already."

Hannibal now turned around in his seat picking up on the conversation.

"Murdock … Cut it out, will ya. It's nothing. I'm fine. And for the record, I didn't hiss."

"But you did, Facey."

"It's just my aching head. It really does hurt. That's all!"

"Face!"

"Okay. Okay. So I hissed. It's nothing really. No big deal! It was probably just a wrong movement. Honest."

"Lieutenant?"

"I felt a sudden sharp pain in my chest. That's why I hissed … I guess. I must have pulled a muscle or something while fighting. It's over now. But my head … It is still killing me."

"Okay, kid, if you say so. If you feel anything else, let us know. Okay? Now get in the van, close your eyes and rest."