Death Waits In the Wings

Disclaimer: I do not own The A Team movie or television series or any of the delightful characters found on The A Team.

AN: I'm sorry ahead of time if the "darker" side of Murdock comes out in my writing so much. He's a complex character and I am trying to lighten my treatment of him up a bit. This story won't be light since it deals with my version of the sketchy details of his childhood and why so little is said about it.

Chapter 1 Heading Home

As the black van traversed the southeastern Gulf Coast region of Texas, B. A. scowled back at the only passenger awake enough to carry on a conversation. That person was uncharacteristically quiet. He had been ever since the bejeweled Sergeant stopped to refuel at a gas station on the western outskirts of Houston.

The silence was beginning to annoy B. A.

Since that pre-dawn morning in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when they left the motel room, Murdock's playful outbursts had become less and less frequent.

Even Hannibal noticed. About two hours before they hit Houston, the Colonel tried to get the Captain to talk about his grandparents, about his childhood, about the area they would be spending the next two weeks. The answers Murdock gave were sketchy at best. Sometimes they were accompanied by a sad lopsided smile or a melancholy gaze so troubled the Colonel dropped the question rather than probe further.

Even the method they were using to travel to their latest mission felt all wrong to the burly black man. Back in Los Angeles he had been careful not to eat or drink anything Face, Hannibal or Murdock offered him. He watched his back to make sure he was not jabbed by any syringe full of anesthetic.

When Hannibal took Murdock aside for a private talk, B. A. was positive they were discussing the aircraft Face was certain to have scammed or the flight pattern to their destination.

The conversation between the two men didn't feel right either. The pilot seemed overly agitated, raising his voice more than once and vehemently shaking his head "no" several times.

Hannibal walked up to B. A., Murdock watching him intensely as he went. The Colonel was not happy. The muscles along his jaw twitched in frustration as he frowned at the Sergeant. "We're going to have to take the van and the Corvette. Murdock refuses to fly."

B. A. almost guffawed with giddy delight over that until Hannibal turned his chilling blue eyes on him in warning. "This may make us late for the first auditions our client has set up. I don't need to tell you that it's important we make it to the Nederland Community Playhouse by Friday evening. That gives us seventy-two hours to travel from here to the far southeastern corner of Texas."

"Yeah, but least we do it wit' our feet on t' ground 'n' our heads outta t' clouds." B. A. mumbled, still amazed at his good fortune that Murdock had relinquished the opportunity to fly them to their destination.

"You'd better hope both of the vehicles sprout wings because our client is expecting us and I don't intend to be late" was Hannibal's last remark on the subject.

B. A. roused himself from the memory to glance in the rear-view mirror. Murdock was no longer seated but had quietly moved to the space between the two front seats. Kneeling, he stared past a sleeping Hannibal and out his window at the passing countryside. He didn't seem to notice B. A.'s curious sideways glances.

Fool's too quiet. Somethin' eatin' 'im bad.

"You be glad to be visitin' home?" The Sergeant said the first thing he could think of that might get the crazy man to talking again.

Murdock startled as if suddenly faced by a vicious snarling Rottweiler. His brown eyes, so distant and meditative moments before, cleared and his brow furrowed. "Wh . . . what? I . . . I wasn't listenin'."

"I said, you glad to be visitin' home?"

The thoughtful expression appeared again on the pilot's face. "Don't know." His gaze returned to the passing mile markers and vehicles on US-90.

"Ain't you tired? Kept us 'wake las' night wit' your nightmares." B. A. shuddered slightly at the memory. "Surprised Face ain't hit the ditch yet wit' the 'Vette, tired as he mus' be."

He could tell by the spiderwebs of red so noticeable in the whites of the Captain's eyes that he was as exhausted as the rest of them. Murdock sighed and bowed his head. "Yeah, 'bout that. Didn't mean to keep folks awake. Sorry."

None of them were aware of the first nightmare Murdock had back in the Las Cruces motel room. When Face woke at one in the morning, the bed beside him was empty. The top blanket lay on the floor as if it had been abandoned halfway to the open door.

Not fully awake himself, he followed the terror-filled groans which had roused him from sleep. He found the pilot sitting outside on the cement curbstone, curled up and shivering, his back to the front bumper of the van. Murdock did not fully wake up even when B. A. carried him like an oversized rag doll back to the motel room bed.

While Hannibal and B. A. slept for two more hours, Face volunteered to stay awake to avoid a repeat of the episode.

When it was B. A.'s turn to watch, what he witnessed turned his heart cold. The fool muttered in his sleep, tossing and turning, one minute shielding his face with his forearms, the next clutching his belly with an intense phantom pain. At one point, Murdock gripped Bogey Bear, the mascot he chose to carry on this trip, so tightly B. A. was sure the bear's button eyes would pop off.

It didn't seem like another nightmare about Viet Nam. Those were chilling enough. This seemed worse and rooted deeper in the past.

B. A.'s curiosity got the better of him and he asked the one thing all of them scrupulously avoided in their conversations.

"Where were you in those dreams? Never seen you sleepwalk like that 'fore." As soon as he said it, B. A. realized he might not want to know the answer. Even more than that, he couldn't be sure what Murdock's reaction would be if he had to relive the nightmare just to satisfy B. A.'s intrusive queries.

"Where was I? Home. When you go home to Chicago, you go back to Momma. Know what I go back to?" The pilot's voice was almost a whisper. Before the black man could answer, Murdock closed his eyes and murmured, "Ghosts. Ghosts from my past."

Then he maneuvered his way back to his seat to avoid any further questions. He didn't speak again until he directed B. A. to turn onto Texas state highway 326. That would lead them to Grayburg Road and their lodging for the next four weeks.