Face was first inside the warehouse, having been instructed to reprise his real estate agent role; the tactic allowed the team to have a man inside without instigating immediate defensive manouvers from Rick's men.
"Hellooooo?" Face called out as he stepped in the door, his voice a high, fey trill.
Some cussing sounded from a nearby backroom, accompanied by metal scraping against metal. After some distant rustling, the familiar, greasy face of Garth poked out from a shadow in the rear of the building. Shrewd eyes scanned the room, widening as they fell on Face. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me," he growled.
"Now, that's no way to greet an old friend!" Face exclaimed jovially.
"Look Jack, I ain't no friend, and I already told you, you ain't wanted here." Garth's hand drifted to his side and hovered over his sidearm, being obvious in his movements to make sure his intentions were made clear to the intruder.
While Face attempted to calm Garth down some with apologetic ramblings, B.A. took the opportunity to disable the interior cameras. Hannibal had marked on a map the locations of the cameras he'd spotted during his Clarence Wickersham the Third performance, providing B.A. with detailed knowledge on where to place the scramblers he'd recently acquired. Each scrambling unit was outfitted with tiny suction cups so it could be attached to a wall, and emitted a frequency that would jam up any signal from a nearby camera. Wherever Hannibal had marked an interior camera, the Sergeant attached a scrambler in the corresponding location on the exterior side of the wall.
When the last unit was in place, B.A. returned to Hannibal, and gave the Colonel a thumbs-up. "Ready, Hannibal," he announced.
Hannibal nodded. "Nice work, Sergeant," he said briskly. "Gimme thirty seconds, then come on in."
Back inside, Face was continuing with his role in the plan. "Oh, Garth, I feel just awful that we got off to such a rocky start. There's no reason we can't discuss this like rational men, is there?" He took a step forward and stretched his arms out to the side. "How about we hug and start again?"
Garth looked entirely horrified as he took a step back, thrown completely off kilter by Face's seemingly ludicrous suggestion. "Hey, back off, man!" he blurted, quickly backing away.
Face did his best to look hurt. "Garth, come on, we can't work together with negative feelings between us." As he spoke, he took another few steps towards the now-skittish thug.
"Dude, I told you to back off!" Garth yelped, continuing to step backwards, moving farther and farther from the front door as he did. "I don't want no fucking hug!"
"Gee, that's too bad," came the confident, even tone of Hannibal. With Garth on the other side of the room, Hannibal had managed to slip in unnoticed and slide remote-detonator devices behind the two stacks of drums marked 'flammable' that rose like small, metal mountains in opposite corners at the end of the room closest to the door.
Garth's head snapped up in the direction of the vaguely familiar voice he was hearing. His eyes narrowed when he saw Hannibal. "You again?" he sneered.
"That's right, Garth," Hannibal replied, his broad grin making Garth feel instantly uneasy. Hannibal paused as B.A. walked in the door, and moved to stand next to him. The Sergeant made a fist with one hand and began to punch the palm of his other hand over and over. He glowered menacingly at Garth, who looked a little ill.
Hannibal plucked a cigar from his breast pocket and bit the end off. "Now," he began, bringing the cigar to his lips and lighting it before inhaling deeply. "We're going to be taking that lovely man you're holding hostage back there," he declared, jerking a thumb at the back room from which telling noises had originated yesterday. "You could save yourself a lot of pain here, Garth, if you just let us grab him, and we'll be on our merry way." Hannibal's tone was cocky and confident.
Garth furrowed his brow and attempted to screw his face up into the most threatening manner he could. "You ain't takin' him, jackass," he snarled, his voice wavering almost imperceptibly.
Hannibal shrugged and continued to smile disarmingly. "Alright, if you wanna do this the hard way, that's fine with us. Gentlemen?" he asked, looking at Face, then B.A.
B.A. nodded, and he and Hannibal began to advance on Garth.
In response, Garth immediately went for his gun, but before he could grab it, Face had launched himself at the thug in a spectacular flying tackle. Garth went down hard, and his gun skittered across the floor and out of reach. Pinned, he shoved Face off of him and stood, finding Hannibal directly in front of him. Though Hannibal had prepared for the fight by tucking a pistol into the waistband at the back of his pants, he held off on reaching for it, preferring hand-to-hand combat when possible. Garth took a wild swing at the Colonel, who ducked it easily, then retaliated with a punch of his own, landing it squarely on Garth's jaw.
A heavy door in the rear of the room slid open, and two men, alerted by the commotion, rushed out, looking around wide-eyed. "What the fuck-?" one of them hollered. After a brief moment of shock, both men rushed towards their fallen colleague at break-neck speed, snarling and growling, hands already clenched into fists as they approached.
B.A. stepped directly into the path of the oncoming enemies, drawing himself up to his full height, his body tensing in anticipation.
Both henchmen faltered slightly in their movements at the sight of the muscle-bound Sergeant now blocking their intended path. One of the men, a filthy cretin with a lumbering gait, wisely redirected himself and cut a large arc around B.A. before continuing towards Face and Hannibal.
The other lackey, however, found himself feeling confident, and after a moment of hesitation, walked straight up to B.A. and threw a meaty fist at the side of the Sergeant's face.
B.A.'s head was snapped to one side from the force of the punch. The brazen henchman responsible for the blow grinned viciously, knowing his fist had connected full force against B.A.'s head. The grin quickly dissolved a few seconds later, however, when B.A. didn't go down from the hit; instead, he slowly turned his face back to the man, unfazed, looking as though the punch had never even happened. A look of terror took the place of the man's grin, and seeing B.A. pull back his arm to retaliate, the man managed to squeak out, "Shit!" just as B.A.'s knuckles collided with the man's temple, and the world went black.
Meanwhile, Hannibal had been landing a few punches of his own, and the second unknown man now joined B.A.'s victim in unconsciousness. In keeping with the plan, Garth had been kept conscious. Currently restrained by Face with the use of a full nelson, Garth's eyes stormed with hate and anger.
"You think you're getting outta here with the old man?" he snarled at Hannibal. "Think again, asshole. There's three more guys upstairs who are gonna see you on the cameras. They're coming to kill you right now. All of you, you sons of bitches."
Hannibal laughed confidently. He looked to B.A. and Face. "Don't you just love how dirtbags always think their dirtbag friends are gonna come to the rescue?" He turned his attention back to Garth. "I mean, they're dirtbags, Garth! They don't care about anyone but themselves."
Garth thrashed in vain against the hold Face had him in, then spit on the ground in front of Hannibal. "Fuck you," he ground out, enraged.
Hannibal pulled a face. "Eww, no thank you," he retorted. "'Sides, just in case your dirtbag buddies decide to come help you out, they'll change their minds, believe me. Watch and learn, pal." The Colonel turned to his Sergeant. "B.A.?"
B.A. nodded, and crouched over the man he had knocked out. He grabbed the motionless body roughly and easily tossed him over one shoulder in a fireman's carry as he rose back up again. He then moved swiftly to the man Hannibal had knocked out, and repeated the same action, so that when the massive Sergeant stood, he held a henchman over each shoulder. B.A. proceeded to a shadowy corner, where he unceremoniously dumped the two men. Behind him, Face was dragging a struggling Garth towards the same corner, Hannibal following behind.
As if on cue, a door banged open somewhere above them, and the sound of boots clinking on the metal catwalk could be heard. A guard poked his head over the railing and squinted through the shadows. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he hollered, "Garth?"
From their hidden position, Hannibal winked at Garth. "You're gonna go out there now, and tell your buddy everything's fine. And here's the best part: the Lieutenant here is going to have a gun on you. You make one wrong move, and you're swiss cheese, got it?"
Garth's eyes shot daggers at the Colonel. Face could practically see steam rising from the man's ears as he considered his options. When he felt Garth's body go slightly limp with resignation, the Lieutenant released his hold on the man, then quickly grabbed the gun Hannibal handed him and pointed it at Garth.
Still furious, but aware that he had no other choice, Garth trudged from the shadows, stopping where the shadows receded and the light illuminated him enough to make him visible. He glanced behind him for a moment, and saw the glint of the silver-plated piece trained on him. He licked his lips and looked upwards. "Right here, Tommy," he finally called back. He waved an arm to get Tommy's attention.
Tommy's eyes settled on Garth. "Everything okay down there?"
"Yeah, fine," Garth bit out, trying to keep anger from his voice.
Tommy jerked a thumb at the area behind him. "Dude, the cameras are all out. What the hell are you doing down there?" he barked, his tone accusatory.
Garth again took a brief look behind him, finding a smug expression on Hannibal's face. Garth swallowed as he returned his gaze to Tommy. "Uh…" he stammered, wracking his brain desperately for a plausible explanation. "I, um… must have blown a fuse, I guess. I'll go check the fuse box."
Garth held his breath, certain he was seeing suspicion in the guard's expression. Seconds turned into hours, months, years.
At last, Tommy nodded. "Alright, go check it out. If nothing's blown though, you gotta let me know. Could be someone's on to us, and they're prepping for an attack."
Tommy failed to notice the immense sigh of release that escaped from Garth. "Don't worry, man. How could someone be on to us?" His voice dripped with a sarcasm that went unnoticed by Tommy.
"Hey, you never know," Tommy returned with a shrug, then turned and headed back in the direction from which he had come.
Face waited a moment until he heard the distant thud of a door closing, then stepped from the shadows, his gun still trained on his captive. "Nice work, Garth!" he declared with mock enthusiasm. "I oughta call you for my next movie."
Echoing his earlier response, Garth snapped, "Fuck you."
Hannibal and B.A. joined Face in the light. "Tsk, tsk," the Colonel clucked with disapproval. "Garth, Garth. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"
Garth smirked and looked positively venomous as he sneered, "No, but I kiss your mother with this mouth."
Hannibal's eyebrows raised in surprise, though every other part of him showed no outward reaction. "Really?" he replied evenly, taking a small step towards Garth. The Colonel smiled a very unsettling smile. Then, without warning, he drew back and fired a hard punch into Garth's gut.
Garth immediately doubled over, wheezing, gasping for air.
"Keep an eye on this scum, B.A.," Hannibal commanded, still puffing on his cigar. He waited for B.A. to nod, then turned to Face. "Shall we?" he asked, gesturing elaborately towards the back of the warehouse.
"Let's go," confirmed Face, his tone far more serious than Hannibal's.
The two men moved silently to the back of the room, stopping when they reached a large, sliding door. Face took position to the left of the door, placing his back against the wall and bending his elbows to bring the gun he carried up against his chest. He dipped his head down once to confirm to Hannibal that he was ready.
Hannibal clenched his cigar between his teeth and brought both hands, clad in black, leather gloves, to the thin cavity where the door met the wall. He hooked his fingers around the thick metal and drew the door back slowly.
The moment the door had slid open enough for Face to fit through, he straightened his arms and brought the gun out in front of him, stepping cautiously through the opening. He pivoted rapidly to the left, then to the right, his gun swinging with him in a wide arc, his keen eyes darting back and forth, scouring the room for enemies. He heard a toilet flush, and he scurried behind a nearby metal workbench, crouching low.
Hannibal slipped in behind the Lieutenant, his own gun now drawn. Face immediately brought a finger to his lips to signal the need for silence, beckoning rapidly with his other hand for the Colonel to join him in his covert position. Hannibal made almost no noise as he swiftly padded to a spot next to Face. His white hair disappeared from sight just seconds before a door on the far side of the room swung open, and a burly man emerged, tucking his shirt back into his pants as he stumbled towards a small round table in the center of the room. The table was covered in twinkie wrappers and crumpled beer cans, and an overflowing ash tray spilled ash and cigarette butts onto the surface.
The man flopped gracelessly into a metal folding chair at the table, swinging his legs up to prop his filthy boots on the table. He grabbed a half-empty tequila bottle off the table and took a lengthy swig. "How you doin' there, old man?" he called with clear amusement, lighting up a cigarette.
Face and Hannibal followed the man's line of sight. A tall, rusty shelving unit packed with broken tools and slowly disintegrating, water-damaged cardboard boxes stood between them and the spot the man at the table was looking at, but through gaps in the detritus, the two team members could make out the shape of a man tied to a chair. It was Charlie's father.
In response to the man at the table's question, a low, anguished moan drifted across the room.
A sick smile spread across the face of Rick's henchman, and he rose from his chair, gripping the bottle of tequila by its neck with one hand, his cigarette held between two fingers on his other hand. He strode to Charlie's father, and grabbed the prisoner's face by the chin, jerking his bruised and battered face upwards to look at his captor. "Aw, come on, old man, that ain't no proper answer. Ya gotta put some feeling behind it. Maybe this'll perk you up." A sadistic glint in his eye, the lackey pushed his cigarette against Mr. Burchell's forearm, holding it as the faint scent of burning flesh drifted across the room. Charlie's father erupted with a strangled, anguished scream.
"Time to put a stop to this," Hannibal hissed to Face, who nodded in agreement. They kept low as they crept along the wall until they were behind the man torturing Charlie's father. Agonizing screams filled the air, echoing and reverberating throughout the room. Now out of the henchman's line of sight, Face and Hannibal stood, and began silently creeping forward.
Each silent step across the room allowed both team members to see a little more of the scene unfolding behind the shelving unit until they finally had an unobstructed view of Charlie's father. Gauze was still looped around his head, as it had been in the photograph sent to Charlie, crimson blood-stains covering a good portion of the gauze. One eye was swollen shut, lost in a puffy myriad of sickly purple and blue bruises. He wore no shirt, revealing skin that was peppered with small, round circular burns and blisters, making it obvious that the burns he was currently being subjected to had happened habitually, and the practice had begun long before today. Perhaps most unsettling was the stark difference in weight between the picture Charlie had showed the team, and the broken man in front of Hannibal and Face. His skin was stretched taut over hollow cheeks and every single rib was visible on the severely emaciated man. His skin was decidedly grey. His eyes had deep purple smudges beneath them, and though his eyes were open, they were focused on nothing, glassy and dull as they stared without actually seeing anything.
The man looming over Charlie's father had just brought his cigarette back to his lips and was in the process of inhaling deeply to re-fire the glowing embers on the cigarette's tip when he felt a cool metal cylindrical shape push against the base of his skull. The cigarette dropped from his lips as he gasped in surprise. "I swear to God, Louie, if it's you fuckin' with me here…" the man snarled over his shoulder.
A grim smile slipped over Hannibal's face. "I'm not Louie," the Colonel said, his voice low and menacing. "I'm just a guy wondering how a coward like you would fare against a man who wasn't tied up."
The man swallowed, reluctantly raising his hands in half-hearted surrender. "You're dead, asshole," he sneered.
"Really?" returned Face. "And here I thought I was walking around alive and well."
Weary of the exchange, Hannibal took his free hand and grabbed the man's collar, yanking him backwards as he snapped, "This way, scum." He dragged the man past the table and towards the bathroom, the gun remaining flush against the henchman's back throughout.
Face meanwhile rushed forward and began grappling with the ropes binding the wrists of Charlie's father behind his back. The process was not a gentle one, and tiny hiccups of agony bubbled from the prisoner's lips. "Hang on, hang on," Face soothed, cringing as he realized the ropes had been tied so tight, they'd become embedded in the skin of Mr. Burchell's wrists. "Shit," breathed the Lieutenant as he assessed the damage.
A string of epithets from the other side of the room made Face look up. Hannibal had just finished tossing the lackey into the bathroom, and was slamming the door shut triumphantly. He lunged quickly forward and snatched the metal folding chair next to the table and lodged it at an angle between the bathroom doorknob and the floor. Moments later, the heavy door shook visibly as the man inside began to pound violently on it. "You mother… I'll kill you, ya hear? You're a dead man! Dead!"
"Time to go, Lieutenant!" chirped Hannibal, his characteristic smile reappearing.
"I'm going as fast as I can, Hannibal." Face finally managed to free Charlie's father from the last of the restraints, and carefully put an arm around the weakened man's waist, dragging him to his feet. Charlie's father groaned. "Sorry sir, but we gotta go," Face said apologetically. He struggled to pull Mr. Burchell along. Hannibal stepped in front of the pair. He leaned down and gently placed his hand on the shoulder of Charlie's father. "I know you're hurting, sir," he said, speaking with a slow, deliberate cadence. "We're gonna get you out of here, but you've gotta help us out some, okay? We need your best version of walking."
Charlie's father blinked, working to focus his eyes on the strange man with the cigar standing in front of him. He nodded weakly after a few moments. Face and Hannibal half-walked, half-dragged him back to the main room where B.A. stood with a vigilant stance. "Is that him?" the Sergeant called out as the two team members neared.
Hannibal nodded. "This is him!"
As the labouring trio continued to advance towards B.A., the extent of the damage done to Charlie's father slowly came into focus. "Jesus, what the hell did these suckers do to him?"
Face shook his head. "Don't ask."
Just as Hannibal and Face reached the Sergeant, a weak, tinny groan slipped from Mr. Burchell's lips, and he lost consciousness.
Hannibal and Face both quickly tightened their grip on Charlie's father to prevent him from falling over. "Damnit," muttered Hannibal.
Face brought two fingers to Mr. Burchell's neck and felt a weak, thready pulse. "Hannibal, we gotta get him to a hospital. He's malnourished and dehydrated; his heart could quit on him at any moment."
The Colonel nodded and paused for a moment of thought, drawing languidly on his cigar. "When a man shows up to a hospital looking like this, cops are the first people called in. It's too risky for one of us to take him. B.A., carry him to the van and let our accomplice drive him there instead. We'll rendezvous after." Hannibal deliberately kept Charlie's name from the command, knowing Garth was listening. "We'll wait for you to get back before we move to the next part of the plan."
"Roger that, Hannibal," B.A. returned. He knelt down to wrap his arms around Mr. Burchell's thighs, and lifted him carefully into yet another fireman's carry, albeit a far more cautious carry than he'd employed on Rick's two luckless guards earlier.
For the first time since they'd nabbed him, Garth's expression of murderous rage faltered, becoming tinged with a skittish nervousness. "Um… what's the next part of the plan?" he asked, all his earlier bravado completely absent from the question.
Hannibal guffawed melodramatically and waved his cigar like a vaudevillian barker. "Ah, all will be revealed, dear boy. You just sit tight, and we'll all wait together for B.A. to return."
As Hannibal delighted in the torment of Garth, B.A.'s powerful strides carried him to the main door of the building with remarkable speed. When he reached the door, he turned slightly and pushed it open with one hip.
Charlie was sitting nervously in the van, restlessly tuning radio stations in and out as she searched for a distraction. She heard the hum of the chopper high above her, but purposely resisted poking her head out a window to look for it. Twisting the tuner, she heard the faint whine of a broadcast close to clear reception, and she delicately inched the knob back and forth until the hisses and pops disappeared, and a familiar song drifted through the speakers. Charlie didn't know whether to laugh or cry as Led Zeppelin's 'Fool in the Rain' flooded the van. It was the song she and Murdock had danced to on the cabin porch on a cool, breezy night that felt very distant now. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to indulge in the memory, just for a minute. I think I knew it then, she thought. I knew then.
"Open up, Mama!"
Charlie jumped, severely startled by the unexpected interruption of B.A.'s booming command. She snapped her head to the right, and saw the Sergeant's massive head filling almost the entire frame of the van's passenger-side window. He had a man slung over his shoulder, but, unable to see the man's face, she couldn't tell who it was. "Hang on," she said, assuming it was Face or Hannibal who B.A. was holding. She hopped out of the van, cursing herself for ever having gotten the team mixed up in her mess. She skittered around the hood.
The moment she saw who B.A. was holding, however, she froze in her tracks, color draining from her face instantly. "Oh my God," she croaked, bringing her hand up to her mouth. "Oh, no. B.A., is he…?" Her voice hitched slightly and she couldn't finish the question.
B.A.'s reply was immediate. "He's okay, he's okay. He's alive."
Charlie's frame sagged with relief, and she exhaled breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. She moved around the Sergeant to get a look at her father, and he heard her sharp intake of air as she got a look at the unconscious man's face. "Oh, Dad," she murmured, lovingly brushing back a sheath of hair that fell across his face.
B.A. cleared his throat. "Uh, Charlie?"
She suddenly realized B.A. was still holding her father. "Sorry," she said quickly, and slid open the van's side panel door. B.A. laid the man down gently across two seats in the middle of the van.
"What's wrong with him?" Charlie asked, unable to mask the fear in her voice.
B.A. stepped back from the van, and placed a massive hand on her shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "He'll be fine, Charlie, just fine. He was conscious when Hannibal and Face found him. He's just a little dehydrated, that's all." B.A. deliberately omitted Face's concern about the lack of food and water weakening Mr. Burchell's heart. "But we need you to take him to the hospital while we finish up with the punks inside." When Charlie's eyes widened at the word 'hospital', B.A. hastily added, "You know, he just needs his fluids topped up, that's all." He smiled reassuringly.
Charlie nodded absently, her focus still on her father.
"Okay Mama, you better get going," B.A. prodded gently when she continued to linger over her father.
After a moment, Charlie finally registered the Sergeant's words, and gave her head a shake as if to clear it. "Right," she confirmed, sliding the side door shut and turning to B.A. "Everything going to plan in there?" she thought to ask.
B.A. smiled wryly. "Never does, but we're doing just fine. We'll meet you back at the cabin." Then he was gone again, rushing back to his unit.
"Hang on, Dad," Charlie said over her shoulder as she hopped back up into the driver's seat. She dropped her foot heavily on the gas pedal, the van tires squealing in protest as she sped heedlessly from her parking spot. She'd never been a fan of speed limits anyway.
"Dude, what the fuck took you so long in there?"
Louie yanked open the driver's side door of the parked Gremlin and huffed into the seat, squeezing his generous pot belly behind the steering wheel, tossing a cardboard box of donuts across the seats at the man who had just barked at him out the window. "I had to stand in line for your goddamn donuts, fatty. I woulda been outta there in two minutes, but oh no, fatty's gotta have doughnuts. A whole goddamned box of 'em."
The man next to Louie snapped, "Will you quit calling me that? My name is not 'fatty'."
Louie snorted as the other man began stuffing donuts into his mouth. "Oh, 'scuse me. 'Cause the name 'Gut' is so much better." His tone was blatantly sarcastic as he hung one arm out the car window and used the other to shift the car in gear.
"I like to think I got the nickname because I've got 'guts' You know, like, 'cause I'm brave." Gut looked proud, clearly having convincing himself.
Louie checked a side mirror for traffic. "Think again," he said snarkily before pulling into traffic. "Either way, we're late now to relieve the other guys. If Rick finds out, you can bet-"
He stopped short as Gut held a hand up. The fatter man squinted his eyes at a van parked in front of the warehouse, as he popped open the glove compartment and fished around for binoculars usually kept there for stakeouts and surveillance.
Louie pulled back over to the curb, and followed the other man's gaze as he tried to make out what he was seeing up the road. "What is it? Cops? Shit, man, if it's the goddamned fuzz, we're screwed."
Gut finally felt binoculars under his fingers and brought them to his eyes. The lenses were almost immediately filled by a huge, muscular man with a strange haircut. He appeared to be lugging a skinny, limp form over his shoulder. Gut felt dread began to gnaw at his formidable stomach. "Oh no. Oooooh no," he muttered.
Louie looked panicky. "What?! What?! Jesus Christ, fatty, what is it?!"
Gut lowered the binoculars and looked at Louie. "I told you not to call me-"
Gut shrank a little at the sheer force of the other man's voice, looking perturbed as he responded, "I dunno, man. Some huge dude carrying a real skinny guy who I think was passed out."
Gut shook his head. "No, definitely not." Gut looked through the binoculars again, and began to narrate what he was seeing. "Alright, the big guy's carrying the little guy to the van. He's stopping at the passenger window. Driver door's opening, and- oh! Hot little redhead just jumped out! Okay, she's opening a side door on the van. Big guy's putting little skinny guy in the van. Little skinny guy's definitely unconscious. Big guy pats hot redhead on the shoulder. She shuts the van door. Big guy's headed back to the warehouse."
Listening to Gut's descriptions, something began nagging at Louie, some connection he was sure he was missing, but couldn't quite put his finger on. Big guy… skinny guy… hot redhead. Maybe Rick hired someone new? And why is there a chick here? The guys all know we don't say nothin' about nothin' to nobody, and that goes double for girlfriends… so who's this broad? Rick ain't had a chick near the operation since- "Oh, shit," Louie blurted, his face losing a great deal of color as clarity dawned.
"What? What is it?" Gut did nothing to hide the anxiety he was feeling as he lowered the binoculars.
"It's gotta be Rick's bitch up there," Louie nearly yelled, gesturing wildly. "She must've found some help to save her old man. We were late for shift, and now she's driving off with our hostage!"
Gut looked dumbstruck. "What? No, that can't be… can it?"
"Of course it is, dumbass!" hollered Louie. "We weren't there when we were supposed to be, and now the whole operation is shot! You and your goddamned donuts!" he cried. He grabbed the cardboard box, now only half-full of donuts, and began to hit Gut over the head with it, annunciating each word carefully and punctuating each word with a blow to Gut's head using the box. "You! And! Your! God! Damn! Donuts! Fatty! You! And! Your! Fucking! Donuts!"
Gut threw up his arms and tried to defend himself, but found he wasn't very good at it. He finally managed to whimper, "Wait! Louie, wait! We can fix this!" The cardboard continued to crash down over his skull, so he raised the volume a little on his whimper and tried again. "Goddamn it, stop for a second, Louie! Louie! We can fix this!"
Louie finally paused, the now-mangled box in mid-swing over his head. His face was red and sweaty, and he was breathing hard as he appraised Gut with a withering look. "How can we fix it?" he seethed, clearly suspicious.
"Let's just go get her!" Gut suggested. "We follow the van, bring back her and her old man, and Rick never needs to know!"
Louie thought for a moment, then slowly lowered the box. "That… might work," he conceded, clearly still skeptical. "What about the big guy though?"
"We'll have to figure that out later. But we gotta nab her now, before we lose her."
Louie hesitated, chewing nervously on a fingernail, weighing his options. "Guess we don't have much choice," he finally conceded. He put the car in drive and pulled out into traffic. "You better hope this works though, fatty," he growled as Gut wrestled with his seatbelt.
Gut wisely said nothing.
Back in the warehouse, B.A. rejoined Face and a positively giddy Hannibal.
"Everything good, B.A.?" Hannibal asked.
"All set, Hannibal," B.A. confirmed, crossing his arms over his massive chestA self-satisfied smile moved across Hannibal's face. "Perfect," he declared. "Time for phase two."
Still scowling and sulking, Garth looked up from his position on the floor. "Uh… what's phase two?" He cringed at the anxiety he heard in his own voice.
Hannibal clenched his cigar between his teeth and wiggled his eyebrows theatrically. "Oh, you're gonna love this, pal." The Colonel turned to B.A. and held out a gloved hand. "B.A?"
The Sergeant reached into a pocket in his camouflage pants and produced a small black box. A little red light in the centre of the device blinked at a slow, even pace.
Hannibal took the box B.A. pressed into his hand, his lips curving upwards as he extended a small antennae from the top of the device. Speaking around the cigar in his mouth, he said, "Ah, Garth, you are really gonna love this part." He crouched down, bringing his face inches from Garth's. "See," he began gesturing briefly to Face. "When the Lieutenant there was threatening you with a hug, I took the opportunity to slide a couple explosives into the middle of each of those stacks of flammable drums you've got set up real nice around the room."
Garth swallowed nervously, his eyes flicking to the locations Hannibal referred to.
"Those drums look real heavy too, pal. I'm guessing you moved 'em with a forklift, right? I mean, unless you've got your own B.A."
The Sergeant stepped forward, looming threateningly above Garth. "Ain't nobody got their own B.A.," he growled.
Hannibal looked up and nodded, then turned back. "That's right," he said with a nod and a cocky grin. "So I think we can all agree that it would take quite a while to get at those explosives, right?" Without waiting for a reply, Hannibal slowly brought the black box up between his face and Garth's. He gave it a little shake. "So I'm gonna push a button on this box in a second. After I push it, you'll have three minutes before this whole place goes up. Now," Hannibal said, straightening and taking a long drag on his cigar. "You'll have a couple choices once the timer on those explosives start. You could come after us, but once we start this thing, there's no stopping it. You might catch us, but you'll be catching enough shrapnel to kill an elephant too." The Colonel puffed away, enjoying himself immensely. "You could also run away and save yourself, but everyone else in here will wind up in pieces." He paused thoughtfully for a moment. "I could be wrong, but I think that'd make the boss real mad. And it seems like an awful waste to save your own life, then have the boss take it anyway."
Garth had no doubt that if he bailed and left a major portion of Rick's crew to die, he'd be digging his own grave in no time at all.
Confident he'd convinced Garth not to leave all the men in the warehouse to die, the Colonel eagerly continued. "And then there's a third option, and this one," Hannibal pointed upwards with his index finger the way a man might do while saying, 'eureka!' "This one comes highly recommended. You can sound the alarm and get everyone out so no one gets hurt. You can tell your buddies upstairs to get out, but you'll have to drag out Moe and Larry here on your own," Hannibal said, lifting his chin to gesture towards the two henchmen still unconscious on the floor. Smoke hung in the air around Hannibal. "You'll find Curly in the bathroom in the back room." Hannibal inhaled deeply and laughed heartily. "Well, Garth, I hate to hit and run, but my friends and I have got to go now. Send us a post card and let us know what happens, alright?"
Hannibal looked at Face and B.A. Both of them nodded, and turned towards a rusty metal ladder in a corner. Hannibal backed up towards the ladder as well, but kept his gun trained steadily on Garth as he moved.
B.A. and Face climbed the ladder to the metal catwalk above. Face was first to reach the catwalk and clambered to his feet, scanning the upper level until he saw a door marked "Stairs to Roof" off a nearby corner of the catwalk, and he sighed with immense relief; the blueprints had suggested a stairwell climbing beyond the upper floor, but there had been no way to know for certain if it had been walled off or changed through renovations. He pulled a walkie talkie from his back pocket and pressed the talk button. "You ready up there, Captain?"
"Ready, willing, and able!" Murdock replied with excitement.
Hannibal's head popped over the top of the ladder and he climbed onto the catwalk.
"Murdock's all set," Face informed the Colonel.
Hannibal nodded and turned back to face Garth. He lifted the remote detonator and held it above his head. "Don't forget, buddy: three minutes!" he called, and made a big show of pushing the button. The Colonel pivoted towards his two team mates. "We got a door?"
Face grinned and pointed. "Right there, Hannibal."
"I love it when a plan comes together," Hannibal declared jubilantly, and all three men ran off down the catwalk, unaware of just how short-lived their shared sense of victory would be.