Colonel Roderick Decker stood patiently in front of his superior officer's desk. It was not a good day. At the moment, he was engaged in something he had always loathed – asking permission.

But the United States Army was a funny thing. A very bureaucratic funny thing. Requests were channeled through countless offices, corridors. Hell, they'd probably consulted the Pentagon janitors on Iranscam before Colonel North ever took the stand. But that was the way it was done. And Decker was, above all, a military man.

General McFarland nodded at the colonel, indicating he should proceed. Decker squared his shoulders. "The bottom line, sir, is that in all the time we've been tracking Smith, Peck and Baracus, we've been neglecting what I believe to be a vital link in their chain of successes."

McFarland looked bored. Decker couldn't tell if it was actual boredom or the façade many upper echelons put on when they knew they were about to be asked for something. "Get to the point, will you Decker?"

"I believe they have been assisted by a fourth party, sir." This was Decker's big moment, and he rose to it. "With whose help they have been able to slip through our grasp time and time again."

"And who might that be?"

"General, I believe Captain H. M. Murdock knows a great deal more about the A-Team than he is willing to admit."

McFarland ceased to look bored and began looking amused. "You know as well as I do that Captain Murdock is mentally unstable. He'd be about as much use to Hannibal Smith as…"

"I disagree, General. I'm convinced Captain Murdock is very much aware of his role in Smith's plans. He was the Team's pilot in 'Nam. And he flew them to the bank job in Hanoi."

"That was years ago. Murdock's been locked up in the V.A. Hospital's nut hatch for as long as I've been behind this desk. On what do you base your allegations?"

Decker continued with calm reserve. "Gut feeling, sir. I know Murdock is lying."

"And if he's been lying for ten years, what do you suggest will make him tell the truth now?"

The colonel pulled out his trump. "I request permission to administer sodium pentothal to Captain Murdock and conduct a… thorough… investigation."

McFarland sat back in his chair. He had to admit he was intrigued. Decker showed far more resourcefulness and persistence than any other man assigned to the case of the elusive A-Team over the years. He'd even caught them a couple of times. Yes, he just might be the man. The A-Team had been at large far too long. But there were still some things to consider. "That's contrary to regulations, I'm sure you're aware."

"I am aware of that, sir."

The general studied Decker's face. It was nearly expressionless – a good sign. "You've been after the A-Team for quite some time."

"I want them, sir. I want them all."

McFarland nodded thoughtfully. "Very well, Colonel. You may have your thorough interrogation. We'll have Captain Murdock tell us a little story about your A-Team… if he knows one."

Decker felt elated, but dared not let it show. Things were looking up. "Thank you, sir. I'm sure we'll find Murdock's revelations most interesting."

He saluted and turned to leave the office, stopping and turning back when the General spoke again. "I'm counting on you, Decker."

"We'll get them this time, sir."

"I hope so, for your sake." McFarland watched as the colonel left his office. For once, he wasn't sure he had done the right thing. Decker's request was highly unusual. But Decker was a good man, a career man, and if they never took any chances, there was no way they would ever apprehend the A-Team.

The A-Team played by one set of rules – their own. No one knew that better than Decker.

00o00

The complex on Pico Boulevard was sandwiched between two new and nearly identical high-rises; it looked like something wedged between bookends. A business meeting was in progress in the living room of Apartment 4-J. The four men in attendance were not average businessmen, however, and the subject of their discussion was no ordinary topic.

The tallest of the men had the floor, and he held the attention of the others with no effort at all. "They're in the bag."

"We're talkin' about the A-Team," one of the others reminded him. "Not a bunch of two-bit bail jumpers. They ain't gonna bag so easy."

The tall man turned on him, fire in his eyes. "You backin' out, Jeff? Now's the time. Tell me now."

Jeff backed up two steps. "Cool out… I didn't say anything about backin' out. All I want to know is…"

"Well, that's good," the original speaker interrupted. "You just keep it that way." He began to speak to the rest of the group collectively. "Just in case the rest of you are as curious as ol' Jeff over there, you just listen to me. We got no chance against this A-Team, you got that? No chance at all."

The other three bounty hunters cast uncertain glances in his direction, but all were careful not to make it obvious that they doubted him. The general consensus was that Hugh Perry was insane. Not one man in the room disputed that. He was known for his talent, his record, and his volatile temperament. He was not known for compassion.

Nevertheless, the one known as Mike murmured under his breath, "Well, ain't that just brilliant?"

If Perry heard him, he gave no indication. "You heard me right. No chance – in a fair fight. They're commandos; they know how to use every combat weapon ever invented. Head on, we're dead before we start. But we're gonna get their guard down, and then we got the element of surprise on our side. Then we got a shot."

Arnie had worked with Perry before, and had the scars to prove it. "I say we're out of our league. We're just bounty hunters. We got no business foolin' around on military turf. The government's been after those guys for years."

"What more do you need, man? You got any idea what the price on their heads is? We can retire in style. We can…"

"If we can get hold of them. And if the Army ain't been able to do it, I don't see how you think we can."

Perry tapped his temple. "It's all up here. The trap is already set. And it won't be long before it's sprung."

His three associates looked at one another. They began to smile, at first slightly, then with increasing confidence. It was contagious, after all. That was why they were in this business to begin with. "We're with you," Mike affirmed. "But Perry…"

"Yeah?"

"This better work."

Perry set his jaw. "Solid." He extended his hand for Mike to take – an archaic gesture, true, but something about it still had the power to make men feel as though everything would work out just fine.

"What's the first move?" Jeff asked.

"Ours," Perry replied. The name of this game was Control, and he had it in spades. "When we put out on the street that we're lookin' for the A-Team."

Arnie was visibly shaken. "We let 'em know we're out for 'em?"

"We let 'em know somebody's out for 'em."

The prospect was exciting. "Man, we're gonna call out the A-Team."

Perry nodded with extreme confidence. "And when they answer, they ain't gonna know what hit 'em."

00o00

Decker's staff car cruised through an intersection, Captain Crane at the wheel. That made it easier for the colonel to devote his full concentration to the matter at hand. "Well, Captain, in an hour we'll know everything there is to know about Hannibal Smith."

Although Crane watched the road, it was clear his mind was on the very same thing as Decker's. "You really think Murdock is hiding something, sir?"

"I don't think it. I know."

"We've questioned him before." The captain didn't find it difficult to engage Decker in conversation, even to express doubt. The colonel was hard, but fair, and he enjoyed the opportunity to bring others around to his way of thinking.

"And he's always managed to evade our questions with that schizophrenic schtick of his. But not this time. No, Captain, this time we've got him. He can't bluff his way out of this one. He'll be more than willing to tell us everything he knows – including exactly where we can find Hannibal Smith and the others."

"I hope so, sir."

Decker fixed his gaze out the window and stared absently at the scenery. "I didn't get to this rank by letting every Section Eight make a fool out of me."

The Los Angeles Veterans' Hospital was a low stucco building that tried hard to look like just about anything else. It could almost be mistaken for a high school – if one didn't look too closely, or notice the bars on many of the windows. The grounds were immaculately trimmed, and except for an occasional "resident" meandering about in hospital garb with a staff member for escort, there were few signs of life.

Not so inside.

A nurse and an orderly, accompanied by two Army guards, proceeded down the corridor toward Captain H.M. Murdock's room. The nurse did her best to appear inconvenienced; there had been many special requests in the past involving Murdock, and they generally also involved the disruption of the entire wing. Not the way she would run the ward if she had the say-so. But this was the Army, and things had to be done by the book. It wouldn't be the Army otherwise.

She produced a key and fit it into the lock of Murdock's room. "Captain Murdock is extremely unpredictable."

The guards regarded her with smug smiles. "If I see anything I haven't seen before, lady, I'll shoot it," the corporal replied.

The nurse had no humor left in her at all. She turned the key in the lock and entered the room, followed by an orderly and the Army's answer to Heckle and Jeckle.

Murdock lay on the bed, reading a Captain Marvel comic book. His rumpled khakis were well worn; the t-shirt with the phony college logo reading 'Psychotic State' was similarly tired, but scrupulously clean. He paid no attention whatsoever when the people entered, and appeared totally engrossed in his comic. The nurse stepped forward with a degree of caution. "Captain Murdock?"

He didn't look up. His visitors noticed that the comic book was upside down.

"Captain Murdock?" the woman repeated, slightly louder.

He looked up at last, clearly annoyed by the interruption. "Can't a man get any privacy around here? I thought these were first-class accommodations. Did you see a sign out there that said I wanted maid service?"

She was at the end of what little patience she had brought in with her. "Now, Murdock, these gentlemen are here to take you for a little walk."

He stuck out his lower lip like a petulant child. "And I don't wanta go for no walks, neither."

"Let's try and be a little more cooperative, shall we?" She was aware that the guards were amused by her inability to control the situation with the brusqueness she had used on them; she had to rectify that. "We can finish our book later. Right now, we're going for a walk with these nice men, and we're going to go visit somebody."

"And they think I'm bonkers… lady, you got your personal pronouns all mixed up, you know that? You some kinda multiple personality or somethin'?"

She held out her hand for the comic book, but he clutched it protectively and stuffed it underneath his pillow. Then he saluted her crisply and got to his feet. He preceded nurse, orderly, and guards out of his room and into the corridor.

The four professionals walked with purpose and dignity, but Murdock skipped along beside them, as if he were aware how much it annoyed them. "Where we goin', huh? When we gonna get there?"

One of the guards leaned toward the other and spoke in low tones. "He'll find out – and he won't be skippin' outta there, that's for sure."

Colonel Dicker and Captain Crane waited by the window, looking out on the courtyard as Murdock and his entourage entered the treatment room. Murdock took the first available chair and immediately put his feet up on the desk, his scruffy high-tops right next to the colonel's hat.

Decker's lips curled upward in a cold smile. "Hello, Captain Murdock."

Murdock's face lit up in recognition, and he gave a cheery wave. "Well, hey there, Colonel. Fancy meetin' you here. You in for a little R&R, are you?" He crossed his legs, crushing Decker's hat as he did so, then adopted an affected British accent. "The forensic ward is lovely this time of year."

Decker's smile suggested a hint of loathing, coupled with knowing superiority over his unsuspecting prey. "Actually, son, we came to see you."

Murdock dropped the Sherlock Holms bit and returned to his usual spirited tone. "Li'l ol' me?"

The colonel crossed to his chair and looked him square in the eye. This was made no easier by the fact that Murdock persisted in batting his eyelashes. "Captain, I've had my eye on you for a very long time."

Murdock almost blushed. "Why… why Colonel… I had no idea…"

"That's right. You see, Captain, I know you've been lying to me."

Decker was suddenly grabbed by the lapels; Captain Crane and the orderly started forward to free him, but he motioned them back. "Ya gotta believe me, Louie," Murdock said in his best Cagney imitation. "The dough was in the fishbowl… underneath the… castle…"

The colonel met his eyes with steely determination. "Murdock, you're going to tell me everything you know about Hannibal Smith and the A-Team."

Murdock released Decker and sat back in his chair. "I don't know nothin' about no A-Team. Ain't you asked me about them before?"

"That's right. But this time, I'm going to hear the answer I came to get."

"I don't know nothin' about 'em, Colonel. Never did."

Decker crossed the room and opened the door. An Army medic in a lab coat entered with a cart, wheeled it to Murdock's side, and took a syringe from a tray. Murdock stared at it with the first real concern he'd shown since being brought in.

"I think you do," Decker told him calmly. He lifted a labeled vial from the tray and held it in front of Murdock's face. "Do you know what this is, Captain?"

Murdock swallowed hard. His bravado was failing fast, going to a place where he knew he would have a hard time locating it later. "It's a little bitty glass thing…" he managed to say.

"This little glass thing is the key to unlocking all the secrets you've got hidden in the back of your mind. This is called sodium pentothal." The words tasted good. "And by the time it's through with you, I'll know everything I've been trying to find out all these long years."

"No thanks… I already had dessert…"

Decker handed the vial to the medic and stepped aside. "Go ahead."

Murdock passed the city limits of Panic and got on the expressway to downtown. He tried to pull away from the hands that took hold of him from all sides, but in spite of his struggles, the orderly rolled up his sleeve, and the medic readied the injection. The nurse tightened a band around his upper arm and found the vein. "You can't do this to me! This is against the Geneva Convention! I'm gonna sic F.D.R. on you… and ol' Winnie Churchill, too!"

"Now, just relax, Captain," the medic said. "Don't make it any harder than it has to be."

"How do you like it when people stick needles in you?" He turned away when the medic administered the shot, flinching slightly at the momentary pain. The guards relaxed their hold on him, and he slouched in his chair, shaking his head to try and keep it clear. "No… oh, no…" He was slipping; things were already getting fuzzy around the edges.

Decker pulled up a chair, and Crane moved closer. Time for the kill. "Now, Captain," the colonel purred, "we'll discuss the A-Team."

"I don't know nothin' about no A-Team," Murdock insisted. "Say, any of you fellas know how that last Captain Marvel comic came out? I was gonna finish it later but… I really can't… wait…"

He was desperately trying to remain as incoherent as possible. He had a pretty good idea what the drug was capable of, and he knew his only hope was setting up the pins and moving them all before Decker could knock them over. He didn't trust himself anymore… and that was scary.

"Let's talk about colonels, Murdock," Decker suggested. "Colonel Hannibal Smith."

"Hannibal…" Murdock heard himself say, although he hadn't intended to. He shook his head vehemently. "I didn't say anything…" More words came out of his mouth without his permission. "Damn…"

"Where is the A-Team, Murdock?"

The melody of a 1950's song began floating in the roller-coaster ride Murdock had formerly called his mind. "A… I'll always love you…" he sang faintly.

"He's resisting," the medic said.

"I didn't expect him to spill it all in the first breath," Decker retorted. "He's got will-power, we know that. What kind of dose did you give him?"

"Adequate, sir. Just give it a few minutes to take effect."

The colonel sat back in his chair and watched. Murdock concentrated as hard as he could, sitting with his eyes tightly closed and his fingers clutching the arms of his chair, fighting the drug's influence. What a great song that had been… who had recorded that one, anyway? "B… because my heart is true…" He couldn't remember what "C" was. He was sure he had known it just a minute ago. "B… B.A…."