Movies and Mayhem
"Hannibal, I am never listening to you again," Face said during the long drive back from their most recent mission.
"Oh come on, Face, you're not still sore about what happened, are you?" Hannibal asked from where he sat up front with B.A.
"Sore?" Face repeated and practically flew forward into the front seat to make sure he had Hannibal's attention, "We nearly got killed! Several times!"
"Aw Face you're exaggerating," Murdock told him, "Sure we may have been crushed to death when we got hot tarred to the railroad track, but really, if we'd crashed in that plane we most likely would've just gotten a few bones broken or maybe a skull fracture, but I don't think we would've gotten killed."
"Oh yeah?" Face asked, "And what about when those two goons tried throwing us out of the fifth story window?"
"People have survived six story falls," Murdock replied nonchalantly.
"I need to learn to stop listening," Face said, "Or pay better attention, any time Hannibal says 'piece of cake', expect the worst. And on top of that, we go through all that trouble for another client who can't afford to pay us!"
"Oh don't be so dramatic, Face," Hannibal said with a smirk, "Miss Collins told us she'd have us paid off within a few months."
"Yeah, try 32 of them," Face told him, "Hannibal, we've got to stop taking all these charity cases."
B.A. just rolled one eye and kept the other on the road while the three of them were jibber-jabbering amongst themselves, he saw the sign up ahead that told him they were finally back to Los Angeles. That was all he wanted to know; Faceman was right, it had been a horrible mission, and he was glad it was finally over, but after everything they had gone through this time he really didn't care if they got paid or not, all he cared about was that they were back home, and for a while anyway, they could get things back to normal, or as normal as things ever were for them.
"Hannibal, I keep telling you this and one day it's going to happen," Face hovered over the front seat to look down at the colonel, "We've got to start limiting who we take jobs for to people who can actually afford us."
Hannibal took the cigar out of his mouth and looked up at Face and said, "Now where would the fun be in that, Face?"
"Besides," Murdock reminded him, "How can you say no to all those adorable little orphans? For all you know some of them could be your little brothers and sisters."
B.A.'s unexpected slam on the brakes sent the other three men forward and Face bashed his head against the front seat as he was thrown against it. Face groaned and put his hand on his forehead and asked B.A. was that was about, but he got his answer when they all saw what B.A. had seen. Out of nowhere a white car came speeding through, off of a side road and zipped past them, B.A. had hit the brakes and swerved the van to the side just in time to avoid crashing into the car.
"What was that?" Murdock asked.
"I don't know but I don't see anybody chasing it," Hannibal noted, "So let's see what this guy's rush is."
The tires squealed and left an inch of rubber burnt onto the street as B.A. stomped on the accelerator and chased after the other car, which as far as Face could make out from the back view was a 1982 corvette coupe, all white like it had been freshly painted. The car had a good head start on them but it didn't take them long once they got up to 80 miles an hour to catch up with it; but the driver led them on a long chase that got far off the main road and out of civilization and into a wooded area that looked like the jungles of Guatemala. The car spun and swerved every which way but the driver never lost control and always managed to stay a step ahead of them; finally hitting the brakes and burning the tire tracks onto the dirt road under the car as it came to a swerving stop, and the van promptly stopped right behind it.
"Let's see what this guy's problem is," Hannibal said. He turned and saw Murdock had gotten out one of the AC556K rifles and said, "Keep that out of sight until we know what we're dealing with, Murdock, we might not have a fight with this guy."
"If that were the case, we wouldn't have chased him," Face commented.
Murdock saluted the colonel and kept the rifle down at his side, they got out of the van and went over to the car, where the driver's door had been thrown open and the driver was stepping out.
Hannibal thought this had to be some kind of a joke; he knew that it wasn't time for Halloween but couldn't offhand think of another reason why the driver was dressed in a white racing suit, including white gloves, white boots, and a white helmet with a black visor, so it was impossible to see the driver's face.
"Alright, pal," Hannibal said as the driver slowly reached up and removed his helmet, "You've got some explaining to do for breaking the sound barrier back there and I'd recommend you start now."
The helmet came off and a pile of red hair fell down the back of the driver's neck and around her face.
"Hannibal Smith," she said as she carried the helmet under her arm, "Fancy running into you here."
Jean Rhodes. Hannibal felt like he'd fallen down a rabbit hole somewhere, and he was sure the others felt the same way. A year ago, her parents had called on the A-Team to retrieve their daughter who had gone missing from the army, and that whole incident had been a fall down the rabbit hole at warp drive and on acid.
"Jean!" Hannibal couldn't believe it.
She ran over to the four commandos and surprised Hannibal by hugging him, then she moved down the line and also got reacquainted with Murdock, then Face, and then when she came to B.A. she looked him up and down, started laughing and said, "Oh Lordy, B.A., have you gotten fat!"
B.A. half scowled at her comment but when she threw her arms around him it quickly died and he couldn't resist smiling as he returned the hug; it had been a long time since they'd seen the girl and this was a real surprise. Jean pulled away from B.A. and found Murdock standing beside the mud sucker with a big grin on his face, waiting for another hug.
"Some things never change," Jean said as she hugged him again, "How've you guys been?"
"We're fine," Hannibal quickly recovered from his shock, "But what are you doing out here? And what are you doing dressed like that?"
Jean looked down at her suit and laughed, "Well you won't believe it, but I got a job in a movie."
"You're right, I don't believe it," Face answered.
"You know the Kamikaze Racer movie they're making?" Jean asked Hannibal.
"That's a few lots down from where we're making the next Aquamaniac movie," Hannibal said, "I've heard of it, but I don't know anything about it."
"Well one of the stunt drivers was injured during shooting a few days ago," Jean said, "I've done stunts in a couple of other movies and they liked me for it so I got the job, and I was kind of running a test course, we start shooting tomorrow and this is similar to the closed course they'll have me doing. I just wanted to make sure I get everything right."
"Well it sure had us convinced," Face said, "Though incidentally, what happened to the other driver?"
"The car rolled with him and caught on fire," Jean answered.
"Ah," Face cynically replied, "And you wanted this job?"
"It's something I can do," Jean said, "I can drive those crooked courses better than I can drive straight, and I'm not afraid to do it either."
"We're getting a bit ahead of ourselves," Hannibal chimed in, "What are you doing here? The last time we saw you was 3,000 miles away back in New York."
"Well I moved out of my parents' home and I wanted to get somewhere that I wouldn't freeze to death in the winter," Jean said, "And I thought I'd come out to Hollywood and see if I had any chance of breaking into the movies."
"Like this?" Face grabbed her helmet.
"Well it's work anyway," Jean shrugged her shoulders, "And this movie is a weird one, the Kamikaze Racer is the main character, but he's only in the film for about 20 minutes, and for 90% of that time he's in the car, and always has his helmet on, you never see his face."
"Oh," Murdock said with a nod, "Kind of like Darth Vader." He turned to Face, "They should never have shown what he looked like, you know?"
"So it's really a perfect kind of job because we never see what the Kamikaze Racer looks like, he's all stuntmen. You have a star character without a star to play him."
"Is he the good guy or the villain?" Murdock asked.
"I don't know," Jean told him, "I don't have a script, all I have to do is drive the car."
"Well," Face tried to think of something to say, "It sounds like interesting work."
"How long have you been out here?" Hannibal asked.
"About three months," Jean answered.
"And how're your parents doing?" he asked.
"They're good, they're back home, they refused to leave New York," Jean answered.
"Where're you staying?" Face asked.
Jean started to point but forgot about that idea, "It's within the Hollywood geography and zoning, but the address ain't any place that any doctor to the stars is going to come and pay a house call."
"Just as well," Face commented, "They're all a bunch of quacks."
"I was just wrapping things up here for the day," Jean said, "If you're interested and if you have the time…"
"Oh we'd love to see your place," Hannibal answered, and he leaned over to B.A. and added, "See what she's gotten herself into." To which B.A. just kept his mouth shut and nodded. From the way she described it, Hannibal was expecting some three story walkup apartment with two rooms and very little furniture.
"Alright, I'll just get the car and this suit back to the studio before anybody notices they're gone and I'll show you the place," Jean told them.
"Let me see if I got this straight," Face said to her and pointed at the car, "Your guy drives around in this for the whole movie?"
"No, actually first he drives around in a Stingray but then he drives off a cliff and presumably burns to death in the wreckage, and the he reappears in this car, seems to be the running joke of the picture, this guy gets into one crash after another after another, but you can't kill him, he walks away from everything," Jean said.
"Boy that would sure come in handy to do that," Murdock noted, "Just walk away from all crashes and explosions completely unscathed. We could never get that lucky."
The van pulled up in the driveway behind Jean's Firebird convertible, and Hannibal about swallowed his cigar when he saw her house; he had expected some rundown apartment that was of the starving actor norm, and instead they saw a two story house that he could guess was of the 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom variety, very well for someone who just started working in movies and wasn't even being paid a top actor's salary.
"Hey Hannibal, this place looks better than yours," Murdock commented.
"You rent a room here?" Hannibal asked as they got out of the van.
"No, I bought the place," Jean answered as she came up to them, "I'm a firm believer in owning my own property."
"Nothing wrong with that," Murdock said as he craned his neck back to look up at the second floor, "But ain't it kind of big for living in by yourself?"
"Well it's like you said, Murdock," Jean told him, "Turkey wasn't built in a day."
"How much did this place set you back?" Face asked.
"Enough," she answered.
Face made a small sound of understanding. He remembered that when they'd gotten Jean back to her parents, it had been with a returned deposit that she had paid them for their services, a sum of $19,000. And later that day they'd read a newspaper article about Colonel Lynch being arrested in connection to a robbery when police found $50,000 in his possession that he couldn't account for; and they realized she must've had more at her fingertips if she could afford to waste 50 grand on a frame job for Lynch. Apparently she'd had plenty on hand if she could afford to move out here and buy a place like this; it wasn't anything fancy, definitely nothing like the places he could scam, but it was a nice house that would be of a nice size for a growing family, better than anybody breaking into acting could ever get. The money had been ill gotten from the word go, but this seemed to prove that if such a thing as bad money did exist, it could still serve to do some good for some people in the world.
Jean pointed to the front door and said, "It's unlocked, you can go in and see the place, I've got to get some things out of the car and I'll be right with you."
Hannibal opened the door and Face and B.A. followed him in, but Murdock followed Jean over to the car and talked to her.
"I got your letters, sorry I haven't been able to write back but after a little incident at the V.A. they wouldn't let me have anything to write with, thought the pens were all too sharp."
"I'm just glad you got them," Jean said as she pulled two sacks off the floor in the backseat, "I hoped it would work, saying I got your address from a pen pal program I found on the back of a magazine in between the prisoners and the locals of Samoa. But it's just as well you didn't because I mailed all of them using my parents' address back home so then if you had written me they would've had to forward them to me 3,000 miles roundtrip to a couple cities away from the hospital."
"Yeah, of course you know the doctors don't trust us to open our own letters, they like to read them first, so I get why you didn't say you'd moved out here," Murdock told her.
"I'll tell you, Murdock, it never occurred to me that by moving out to Los Angeles that I might see you guys again," she said, and she looked around and noticed something seemed a little off and she asked, "Hey Murdock, where's Billy?"
His gaze moved down to the dirt driveway and he kicked at a pebble and explained, "Well Billy…he ain't with me anymore."
"He died?" Jean asked.
Murdock looked back up at her and said, "Oh no, he's alright…you see, a few months ago we had a big job for a rich family whose teenaged daughter had gone to Europe as part of a foreign exchange program and she was kidnapped. So we had to fly out to Italy, but on the way we had some trouble and had to make an emergency landing in Holland. Well, while we were trying to get another plane, Billy and I met some of the local kids, and they all loved Billy, and…I decided to give Billy to the children of Holland, he's probably safer there with them than off on missions with me all the time anyway." He reached his hand behind his head as he told her, "I get postcards from him from time to time though, he's doing alright over there."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Jean told him, "For what it's worth you know I never liked him much, but I know how important he is to you."
Murdock nodded sadly, but quickly recovered and said, "Well, let's go check out this shack you call a home."
Jean laughed and followed him up to the front porch and inside the house.
Hannibal stood in the middle of the dining room with an unlit cigar in his mouth as he let his eyes roam around and look at everything in the room, including the ceiling. The place was furnished but not crowded with much of anything; something seemed off about the way it was all put together and Hannibal thought he knew what it was. It looked like a house for a large family but there wasn't one here, there was only Jean, and yet there was a long table in the room with six chairs, and in the living room there was one large couch, one smaller couch, two recliners and a rocking chair. Face, being well acquainted with the finer things in life, couldn't help commenting cynically, "Nice décor here, somewhere of a cross between Hee Haw, and a haunted house."
The sound of the front door slamming got their attention and it was followed by Jean's comment, "That's what drew me to the place, it looks like me." She had a big sarcastic grin on her face as she looked at him. She set the groceries down on the table and said, "So what've you guys been up to all this time? Still on the run from Lynch?"
"No," Hannibal answered as he reached into his pocket for a lighter, "He was replaced by someone else a while back, a Colonel Roderick Decker, I know him well and wish I didn't."
"Is he as bad as Lynch?" Jean asked.
"Worse," Face answered.
Hannibal wasn't quite so pessimistic, "He's got a few more brains than Lynch has, I'll give him that one, but he better not let it go to his head. He'll never catch us anymore than Lynch ever could."
"Of course," Jean told him, "You know if there's anything I can do to help, I will…but let's just say for argument sake, this Decker guy finds out that you've been here…how will I know him if I see him?"
"Oh you couldn't miss him," Murdock told her, "This guy looks like he just crawled out of Rambo."
"And like Lynch," Face told her, "When he comes he'll be bringing the whole army with him, about 50 MPs armed to the teeth."
"They never learn any new tricks, do they?" Jean asked, "Of course this could be a two-way street…" she pointed out the window to the other houses on the block, "This is a dead end part of town, most of the houses around here are empty, if you guys ever needed to lay low you could probably hide out here for a while and nobody would find you, nobody ever comes here anyway."
"Have you ever considered living in Montana?" Face asked her jokingly.
She met his sarcastic smirk with one of her own and told him, "I live alone because I like it, I have no use for neighbors, never have. But I like being near where the action is."
"And for that you left New York?" Murdock asked.
"Well we'll certainly consider it," Hannibal told her, "Actually though, it's funny because we're not far from my place."
"Your place?" Jean repeated, "What's it like?"
B.A. snorted and told her, "It's a real dump."
"I'll tell you what," Hannibal said to her, "I'm having the others over tomorrow night, why don't you come then and check it out for yourself?"
"Sure, might be fun," Jean said.
It wouldn't have made much sense, even by Murdock's standards, to return Murdock to the V.A. tonight just to break him out again tomorrow night so when Face went back to his most recently scammed penthouse for the night, he took the pilot with him. Murdock made a big show of 'ooh'-ing and 'aah'-ing at everything and touching anything that would probably break, and laughing at Face's startled expressions. He had also insisted on cooking dinner and that made Face a little nervous as well, especially when Murdock threw him out of his own kitchen and wouldn't let him watch while the pilot cooked. But they managed to get through dinner without any incident and then they settled on the couch to watch TV. Halfway through the fight that was on, Murdock turned to Face and said, "You know something, Facey?"
"What is it, Murdock?"
"I just can't believe it."
Face looked at him, "Believe what?"
"The Saint, I never thought we'd see her again, least of all here," Murdock said.
Face nodded, "It was one hell of a way to get reacquainted, I'll say that."
Murdock laughed, "But you know, I guess she found the perfect place to work. Think about it, after everything that she went through with us," he counted them off on his fingers, "High speed chases with the MPs, being thrown out of the van and falling on a barbed wire fence, opening fire from helicopters, after all that, stunt work probably is her calling."
"Maybe so," Face agreed, "Still, you'd think after being shot in the chest and nearly dying, that she would pick a safer line of work."
Murdock looked at him like the cat that had the canary tickling the inside of his mouth and he said, "Like we did?"
They both had a good laugh at that one.
"Hey Face, I just got an idea," Murdock said, "Why don't we get into the movies as stuntmen? Think about it, we've got all the experience, we know all about racing and flying and explosions and fighting, they never see your face, and we could probably work with Hannibal too."
"I don't know about that, Murdock," Face shook his head, "Sure, they never see your face, but suppose something went wrong during one of the stunts?" He gripped his jaw in his hand and said, "If anything would happen to this face, my scamming days are over and you know how much Hannibal's plans rely on that."
Murdock scowled and kicked his feet up on the coffee table and grumbled, "Still might be fun."
When it got late, they decided it was time to turn in. The penthouse came with three bedrooms but for some reason, Murdock followed Face into his. He took his suitcase into the bathroom and came out a short while later dressed in his pajamas and made himself at home in the right side of the bed. Face also changed for the night and got in on the left side and probably would've been able to fall asleep very quickly, except he could hear the springs creaking on the other side of the bed as Murdock aimlessly bobbed up and down against the mattress.
"Murdock, what're you doing?" he asked.
"Just thinking," he answered.
Face forced his eyes open and turned on his side to ask, "What about?"
"Going back," Murdock said, and Face knew he was talking about the V.A.
"I'm sorry, Murdock," he said. He knew that despite all the strings Murdock managed to pull at the hospital to get anything he wanted, that he really did not prefer staying there, and he couldn't blame Murdock for it.
"Well," Murdock turned on his side to see him, "At least I get to stay out tomorrow, get one more day before I go back."
Face didn't press the subject, he and Murdock had already had this conversation before.
"If you could prove to the doctors you're sane, then they'd let you out and you wouldn't have to go back."
"But I'm not sane, Facey, you know that, I am the original cuckoo bird! But I'm not insane enough to want to stay in that hospital room all the time either. I do like some of the doctors, and the nurses that check on me, and the other patients, but I just don't like it being there all the time."
"I know that."
"But the world is full of insane people walking around outside free, why can't I be one of those?"
"I don't know." He wished that he'd had the answer but he just couldn't come up with one.
Of course he could guess why Murdock was acting like this all of a sudden; part of it was because Billy was gone and Murdock pretended to be happy but it was obvious he was still mourning the loss. That dog was his only friend when he got locked back up in the V.A., and now Billy wasn't there anymore, no wonder he was dreading going back again.
But there was another side to it, another reason why he was fighting against it now; none of them were getting any younger, and even though it wasn't really possible for any of them to settle down and become family men, Murdock had the best opportunity of them all since the military wasn't actually hunting for him. He was not considered a threat, but that only remained as long as the whole world knew him to be insane; if the doctors would ever declare Murdock sane, then the army would really press on him, trying to get answers out of him. It was only because they truly believed Murdock was dangerously insane that they backed off as much as they did; especially when they went to speak to him and he started throwing out his trigger words like ammonia, then they knew to get out of there. Unfortunately it was a perfect cover for Murdock, regardless of just how crazy he was or was not, and it had also become his perfect trap because there seemed to be no way out for him.
"Don't worry, Murdock, I'll figure something out," Face told him, "I'll be able to get you out again soon."
"I appreciate that, Face, but if you can't, what would also be good would be if you'd come and stay the night sometime," Murdock said, "I wouldn't mind staying so much if I could have some company from time to time."
"Sure, Murdock," Face said, "I'll come up and see you sometime."
Murdock laughed and said in a low, nasal voice that Face thought was supposed to be his impression of W.C. Fields, "Why thank you, my little chickadee."
No rest for the wicked. They'd only been home from the last mission one day when they found out somebody else was looking to hire the A-Team. The word going through the underground was that some guy named John Murtaugh wanted to hire the team to deal with some gangsters that were running his small business into the ground and threatening to do the same with him and his family if they didn't get out of town. It sounded like any one of a hundred other missions they'd worked, but there were still the precautions to take, the wild goose chases to lead the client on, to make sure that they were legitimate and not an army setup. So, through the same underground circuit they had put the word out to their would-be client to meet somebody at this corner of this alley at this time of night and wait for somebody to make contact.
The fact that they were in for a terrible storm that night would play a large part in determining if this was real or not. Sure, it wouldn't be anything for one of Decker's boys to spend the night in the pouring down rain if it meant nailing Hannibal Smith once and for all, but there were many others who had come this same way over the years who didn't carry military records and who also would not stick around to endure the storm, all for the sake of meeting another contact to send them to another address for another chance meeting.
While it was true that Hannibal, cleverly disguised as a filthy, half drunken bum, would be the only person Murtaugh would make contact with, the others waited close by just incase this would turn out to be an ambush. Face waited around one corner with one rifle, Murdock around the other corner with another, and B.A. in the van positioned so he could catch the high sign from Face if there was any trouble. The sky was dark but no rain fell, only threatened to, and after a couple of hours of letting the man wait around in the dark alley, Hannibal made his skid row cameo, passing by Murtaugh, panhandling, and despite everything, the man remained civil and gave Hannibal a $20 bill.
"God bless you kind sir," he slurred as he staggered off into the night, unknown to Murtaugh that when he took the money he replaced it by slipping a note into the man's hand, telling him to go see Mr. Lee tomorrow morning at 10.
After that, Hannibal disappeared around the corner and signaled for Face and Murdock to join him at the van; they got in and Hannibal started peeling off his disguise one piece at a time.
"Well I'd say Mr. Murtaugh passed the first round with flying colors," Hannibal said, "Tomorrow we'll see what he has to say to our old pal, Mr. Lee."
B.A. turned on the van's headlights and drove them out of there and they headed back for Hannibal's place.
"I don't know, Hannibal," Face said, "He might be able to pass your tests but there's still something about this job that I don't like."
"You're always saying that anymore, Face," Hannibal told him, "When was the last time we took a case that you did like?"
"Faceman we are the court of last resort for many a peoples," Murdock said in an accent that sounded like he'd got his wires crossed between German and French, "They give us their tired, the poor, the huddled masses that nobody else wants, we must do what we must do for our own kind, because someday we may call upon them to repay the favor, no?"
Face's response was knocked out of him when B.A. hit the brakes and they all slammed forward again.
"What is it now, B.A.?" Hannibal asked.
"Look, man!" B.A. pointed to something lying in the road ahead of them.
"What is that?" Face asked.
The van's headlights shone on something laying 20 feet ahead of them in the middle of the road; at first glance it was impossible to tell what it was, but then it hit the commandos that it was a sheet covering something that was the right shape and size of a human body.
"Let's go check it out, B.A. keep those headlights on," Hannibal said as he grabbed one of the rifles. He didn't think it was a trap but he didn't believe in taking chances either.
The four men got out of the van and went over to the thing in the road; the headlights shone on it so they could see it clearly, and they watched with every step they took to see if the thing under the sheet moved, if it looked like a person breathing, but there was no visible movement. Hannibal kept the rifle in one hand and knelt down near the head of the sheet and with his other hand he grabbed the top of the sheet, and pulled it down, and he felt the blood drain out of his face.
Yes, it was Jean. Her eyes closed, her skin pale, her clothes gone, her face bruised and scraped and partially dried blood smeared over her cheek; her body lay perfectly straight and gave great resemblance to one lying on a slab in the morgue. Hannibal jerked his glove off and felt for the pulse in her neck.
"She's alive," he let out a sharp exhale of relief, then wrapped the sheet around her body and moved to pick her up, "Come on, we'll take her to the hospital."
Usually when one of them got hurt, they held off as long as possible on going to a hospital and risking being identified and reported to the army, but when someone else was involved they wouldn't take that chance. All four of them were still haunted by the scene from a year ago when Jean was shot and nearly bled to death on the helicopter ride to the hospital. It was about the only time that the person they were hired to rescue truly almost died on their watch; usually they were able to get the hostages out of the line of fire and off to the side, and they would take over in the battle.
It was normal for something to happen to one of them, they'd all been shot at, some of them actually hit, they always got beat up in fights and had to jump out of planes and made rough landings, they were used to it all. But that was them, it was what they did for a living, not innocent civilians, not her. And now something had happened to her again, but what, and why, and who was responsible? Those were the questions they'd have to wait to find the answers to. They got Jean loaded up in the back of the van and Hannibal told B.A. to floor it to the hospital.