A/N: I do not own any of the characters from The A-Team or Hogan's Heroes.
Dawn in Los Angeles used to be pink. It had been a long time ago, but Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith could still remember what it had looked like in the days before the cloak of brown smog had settled in, stuck to everything it touched and never left. The van that he and two of his colleagues were sitting in was parked at the edge of an industrial complex in the eastern part of the city. Not much in the way of scenic vistas here. Dry-cleaner's signs that weren't missing any letters were about the most picturesque sight you could hope for in this neighborhood. What it did have going for it was the fact that the locals kept to themselves. That was worth something to a team of fugitives who had been on the run from the United States Army for almost ten years.
Hannibal swiveled in the 'shotgun' seat and nudged the ankle of the young man dozing in the seat behind him with the toe of his boot. "Face. Wake up."
The handsome man frowned and pulled his foot back. "It can't be time yet…" Much as he loved the expensive Rolex wristwatch he wore, he couldn't even bring himself to glance at it at the moment. It was an obscenely early hour.
"Trust me. Now rise and shine. We've got a lot to go over."
Templeton "Faceman" Peck did not 'rise and shine'. But he did manage to get his eyes open part of the way and accept the paper cup of coffee Hannibal passed to him. "Thanks… and keep 'em coming."
Behind the wheel, the imposing figure of B.A. Baracus preferred to fortify himself with plain milk. He had polished off two single-serving cartons already, and four more pints were lined up on the dashboard. That would last him for a while. Maybe. "What are we doin' out here at this time of day, Hannibal?"
"Sorry about the hour; I've got a set call for eight o'clock."
"A walk-on… and carry-off; my character gets murdered in an alleyway in the first scene of a new TV drama series they just started filming. It's about an insurance inspector who solves crimes."
"Captivating," Face nodded. "And I think it's a re-tread of one they had back in the early 70's… guy had a funny name nobody could pronounce." The coffee was hot and strong. If the caffeine wasn't enough to keep him awake, the scalding of his lips and tongue would do the job just as well. "Where did you get this stuff; the back door of a drain-cleaner factory?"
Hannibal passed him a manila folder. "See what you think of this."
Good thing breakfast hadn't come along with the coffee. The faded sepia eight-by-ten close-up photograph of a grim, stocky man wearing a black uniform with swastika emblem would be enough to put Peck off his food for at least the rest of the day. The subject's eyes, nose and mouth all combined to give him the affect of a large rat wearing a black cap with a death's-head insignia. There was no mistaking that look of cold contempt in those eyes. Even though the photo was faded with age, Face suspected that the personality might not be.
"Gee, what a handsome fellow… please tell me we get to meet him."
"You may be in luck. This is Major Wolfgang Hochstetter, formerly of the Gestapo. Escaped Nazi Germany at the very end of the war, last seen in Berlin in May 1945, at the old headquarters, burning evidence. Disappeared shortly afterwards, believed to have made his way to South America along with some of the other members of Adolf Hitler's honor roll. Pretty nasty fellow from reports."
"Didn't they already rake in all the big names years ago? I can't believe there are any still on the loose that anybody cares about."
"Not a first-string player, but a consistent one. Did a lot of rotten things to a lot of people who didn't deserve it. Not one to do his own dirty work all the time, either, but real good at finding others to do it for him when he was busy elsewhere kicking puppies. Never had to to pay for any of it, though, since he skipped the country before he could be brought to justice, probably via the postwar network set up to help slime like him escape prosecution."
"I just saw a movie about that on the late show… it was called Odessa, wasn't it?"
"There's some controversy about whether or not Odessa as such actually existed, but that's about the size of it. Whatever they called themselves, there was a lot of help available to the right people, for the right price, to get out of Germany before things got way too hot. Most of them skipped to South America… Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, and so on. A lot of them went to ground and managed to stay there for decades. Ever since the war ended they've been hunted down and prosecuted, one at a time."
"So you're about to tell us this guy's number finally came up."
Hannibal handed him another photograph. This one was in color, taken from a distance of maybe fifty feet, showing a man who resembled the faded close-up walking up a flight of stairs with his head turned part of the way away from the camera. "The scoop is that this is the ex-major; he surfaced in Argentina a few weeks ago and he's currently going by the name of Erich Stahl."
"That been confirmed?" B.A. asked.
"The man who'd like to hire us to go down there and pick him up is sure enough to put up his life savings for the job."
"Based on this?" Face set the photo down. "I'd say your would-be client is a little soft in the head. You can't tell from that photo if that's the same guy or not. It's blurry, it's from a distance, and they were taken more than thirty years apart."
"Our client saw a lot of this guy during the war, way more than he wanted to. Got leaned on, and often. He's a hundred percent sure this is the same man."
Our client. So Hannibal had already decided to take the job. That was bad enough… but why had he had to wake them up to tell them that? "So do we get to sit down with this client, this…"
Face rolled his eyes. "Of course."
"He's currently in Palm Springs. Refuses to come to Los Angeles."
"I don't like it," Face said.
"Okay, I'll bite… why not?"
"Because this Johann Schmidt… or whoever he is… first of all, that's about the most ridiculous name I've ever heard."
"Really? And what's wrong with John Smith? I've always kind of liked it."
"Nothing, if that's the guy's real name… which it isn't, and I'd bet my gold Diner's Club card on it. And why won't he come here to L.A. to talk to us in person if he's already in Palm Springs?"
"He says he has his reasons. In this case I'm willing to make an exception. He's an old man, he's involved with hunting down some very dangerous people; he has fears for his safety. Besides, I've always wanted to hunt down a Nazi or two; haven't you?"
"Sounds okay to me," B.A. nodded. "I hate Nazis. Only one thing. I ain't flyin'."
"Well, that goes without saying," Hannibal nodded calmly. "But we'll need to spring Murdock from the V.A. anyway. We need a plane; we'll have to fly the guy back to L.A. after we grab him."
Baracus gave him a wary stare. He was afraid he knew where this was going. It had gone this way before; many, many times before. "Hannibal…"
"B.A., the rest of us are going to be on a slow boat to Argentina… that guy's been on the loose over thirty years; he doesn't know he's been made and he's not going anywhere in the next week or two, so there's no rush. You and Face and I will take the scenic route down and let Murdock handle the hardware. Then, after it's all said and done, the three of us get back on the cruise ship and enjoy our trip home while Murdock flies our mark back to the States."
That did make the big man's normally stern face melt into a bit of a smile. "A cruise ship…?"
"That's right… with on-board entertainment, swimming pools…"
"Hannibal, what's a man with forty pounds of gold around his neck going to want with a swimming pool?" Face asked. "It would take a crane with a winch to get him off the bottom."
"I said 'entertainment', didn't I? What's more entertaining than sitting around a pool watching a flock of beautiful women swim and sun themselves all day long?"
That created a pleasant mental image. "You do have a point there."
"Of course I do. So go get Murdock and we'll start putting this plan into operation."
"It hurts to ask… well, it's not so much that it hurts to ask, but more that I know I'm going to be in agony after I hear the answer…"
"How much are we getting paid for this job?"
Face nodded, wincing slightly. "That's it… that's the one; I feel the pain starting already."
"Because you immediately assume that a retiree who's interested in Nazi hunting doesn't have much of a bankroll."
"Oh, and is that an unfair assumption?"
"Maybe, in some cases… but not in the case of Mr. Schmidt. He's a retired bookkeeper who's been saving his pfennigs for this ever since the war ended. I haven't told him, but we're going strictly for expenses this time. If he gets us down there and back, we'll sweep up his least favorite Nazi for nothing as a public service while we're in the neighborhood. Can't be more fair than that."
"How is that fair to us?"
"Cheer up, Face. Think of it as a down payment towards that debt to society Colonel Decker keeps insisting we owe." Hannibal looked again at the photograph Schmidt had sent to him. "It'd be worth it to get this guy in a nice cozy jail cell somewhere. You must know something about the Gestapo. They make Decker look like a fluffy pink mascot for a diaper service."
Face nodded. "Sure. I know enough about them to know that they're probably not easily loaded into an airplane against their will to be flown out of a neutral country and delivered to a war crimes court for prosecution and sentencing."
"Face, the guy's in his seventies, and he's about five-foot-six. How hard can it be for the four of us to put a toad like that where we want him, and keep him there until Murdock lands the plane in L.A.?"
"The problem is that we don't know until we try. And then all kinds of bad things can start to happen."
"Yeah." Hannibal stuck a cigar in his mouth and touched a match to the tip. "Exciting, isn't it? Really gets the blood pumping."
"Just as long as that pumping blood stays inside our bodies… that's really all I care about." Face sighed. "I mean, as long we're not getting paid. Again."
oo 0 oo
At Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, the weather was warm, humid and sunny. That wasn't news here, not in January. But for the passengers disembarking from Flight 2793 from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, it was a far cry from the heavy winter weather they had left behind.
One of them, a slim, sandy-haired man in his mid-sixties, emerged from the jetway with his carry-on bag over his shoulder and looked around at the cluster of people waiting to meet passengers. He recognized no one.
Was he the first to arrive? He shouldn't be, unless there had been a delay. Still, that could happen. Five different international flights, three from the States, one from England, one from France… there was always the chance of a delay. But he had hoped there would be someone here to meet him. His Spanish was limited to a few phrases he'd learned watching Speedy Gonzalez cartoons with his kids when they were little, and that had been a long time ago. He didn't think much of his chances of being able to get a taxi from here to the hotel unless he had a little help. Like finding the taxi stand. Speedy Gonzales had never needed to hail a cab.
The voice very close behind him startled him, and he turned around quickly. Then he broke into a grin when he saw who it was. "Oh, hi!"
"I've been callin' and callin'. You forgot to turn it on, didn't you?" The gray-haired man who'd come up behind him, a little shorter and a little heavier than he, flicked at the wire that attached the hearing aid in his ear to the amplifier in the pocket of his sportcoat. "It won't work like that, you know."
"What?" Then Andrew remembered. "Oh… oh yeah… I turned it off." He dialed up the volume on the control unit and nodded when the ambient noise of the arrivals area began to hum in his ear. "That's better… I'd seen the movie before, just wanted to try and get some sleep."
"Well, let me look at you… Andrew Carter, a sight for sore eyes. How long has it been, mate?" Now the strong British accent was coming through to his ear loud and clear.
"Too long," Andrew said, sharing a quick hug and a few claps on the back with the Englishman. "We keep saying we're gonna do better about it, but we never do, do we?"
"Well, Muncie's not exactly 'round the corner from London, Andrew. But you're right… after this, we will do better. All of us; we'll get together once a year or somethin' to celebrate. How's Mary Jane?"
"Oh, she's great. First soprano in the church choir now."
"Really?" he grinned. "Ever heard her sing, or do you shut that thing off in church as well?"
"Sometimes I sleep there, too…" Andrew admitted with a grin.
"I don't blame you a bit. Haven't seen the inside of a church meself in quite some time. The vicar prefers it that way… he's not insured against the lightnin' that would strike if I ever crossed the threshold." Peter Newkirk glanced at the clock above the international arrivals board. "Well… Louis, Kinch and Colonel Hogan should all be here by tonight. Let's go have a drink while we wait, shall we?"