MY AFTERNOON WTH THE A TEAM
"Are you sure about this, Muncacho?" the nervous man asked his friend as they watched McCormick start to carry another bag of fertilizer out of the garden store to a truck.
"Murdock, I have never been more sure of anything in my life," answered Templeton Peck ( AKA Face). I've been watching him for a couple of weeks and this is the best time that judge keeps him on a pretty short leash."
"Hannibal isn't going to like all of these witnesses particularly with Lynch in the area. Wouldn't it be better if we went in at night and got him at their house."
"No. The security system wouldn't be any problem but my contacts said that when the last people that tried to grab him, the judge went after them with a shotgun. They say that judge is crazy. I don't want to risk McCormick getting hurt."
"Wait a minute. You mean the judge nearly shot the guys that tried to grab McCormick, right?"
"They said he nearly shot the kidnappers' and McCormick's head off. He ended up destroying a Picasso instead. I just don't know what we're dealing with here."
Murdock was quiet for a moment then said softly, "You have ran this by Hannibal, haven't you?"
Face's silence spoke volumes. "You know what this means to me, Murdock. Are you going to help me or not?"
Murdock knew he was going to do it. He had known it the minute Face had explained the situation. He owed it to his friend. "And they call me crazy," he muttered.
Face flashed a brilliant smile, he knew Murdock wouldn't let him down. He patted his team mate's shoulder and said, "Thata boy. Don't worry about the Colonel, I'll handle him later. For now, you distract the judge and I'll take care of McCormick. And be careful, remember the Picasso."
Murdock smiled his own unique lupine grin as he climbed out of the van. ""I'll match him crazy for crazy."
Face counted to sixty and exited the car, he was sure Murdock had enough time to locate and start to distract Judge Hardcastle. His earlier recon determined the judge had bought ten large bags of fertilizer. McCormick had already carried six to the truck. He planned to approach his quarry as he was starting back to the store. Face pulled out a city map, donned a pair of fake reading glasses and put on the personality of a slightly confused tourist who was lost in the city.
"I ask you ladies and gentlemen of the jury," McCormick mumbled to himself as he dropped another fifty pound bag of fertilizer into the bed of the truck, "as reasonable people does it make any sense to force a young man to feed and water vast acres of grass just to have that same young man be compelled to cut down the grass as soon as it has reached the prime of its life. Surely if this is not a violation of the man's rights; then it is a violation of the grass' rights. So I ask you to find Hardcase guilty…"
The tentative tap on his shoulder stopped his summation to the imaginary jury in the case of The State of California V. The Honorable Milton (The Donkey) Hardcastle. He turned to face a bespectacled man holding a map who looked confused and anxious. He flashed one of his best friendly smiles to reassure the man that he was not talking to a crazy person. The smile he got back was so brilliant and genuine that it looked out of place.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, McCormick asked, "Can I help you?"
Face mentally shook himself out of his reverie. As a consummate conman for the A Team, it had been along time since he had messed his timing up so bad but he had been so fascinated with McCormick's smile and the sound of his voice that he had missed his cue. He saw a questioning look of suspicion begin to form in McCormick's eyes as he started his spiel.
"I'm sorry," he said meekly. "I can see that you're busy but I seem to be lost. I'm supposed to be meeting some friends at the Old Elm Inn but the directions they gave me brought me here."
"The Old Elm Inn is over by the I-64 Overpass."
Face intensely studied his map then looked up. "What direction do I take to get there?"
"Once you pull out of the parking lot, you go left about seven miles," McCormick said as he turned to the left and pointed down the street, "then you…Ow."
McCormick turned back with a look of surprise and looked down at the hypodermic needle in the tourist's hand. He tried to step away but felt his legs turn to rubber and he felt himself start to fall to the ground. Hands caught him and lowered him gently to a sitting position with his back leaning against the truck. He tried to shout something but his tongue was too large in his mouth and refused to cooperate. He looked up confused into the eyes of the tourist who gave him a weak smile.
"I'm sorry about this," said Face, "but I promise I'll explain everything when you wake up."
"How are you going to explain it to Hardcastle?" thought McCormick as his eyes fell shut and blackness engulfed him.
Face knew that timing and luck were of the essence. McCormick's deadweight was too heavy for him to discretely handle on his own. He got behind the unconscious man, wrapped his arms around his chest, and dragged him to some nearby bushes to keep him hidden until he could get Murdock out of the store. He didn't like how quickly the knockout drops had worked. He was used to give the involuntary sleep aid to his fellow team member, BA, who was a lot heavier and meaner. He sincerely hoped that he hadn't overdosed the man.
"Not the best way to introduce yourself," mused Face as he turned away from Mark and entered into the store.
Hardcastle couldn't remember the last time he had been so frustrated and angry that didn't involve the curled-haired parolee that he had brought in as his Tonto in his fight to bring to task those who had escaped justice in the court of law. He had just spent the last ten minutes arguing with some yahoo who was trying to lay claim to his cart and all that lay within it.
"Look buddy, I'm only going to say this one last time, this is my cart and those are the roses I picked out for my home. I left it alone for less than a minute to pick up this plant," Hardcastle paused for a moment to shake the bagged bush at the cause of his ire, "and you waltzed up and walked off with my cart. Now I don't know where your cart is but give mine's back."
"My good man," Murdock humphed aristocratically. "Are you suggesting that I do not recognize my own cart. Nah my own mind. Do you think I do not know all off the things here. Things that I lovely picked out with my own hand after agonizing over my choices. It is you who has accosted me and tried to steal my plants though for what nefarious purpose I can only imagine."
The small crowd which had appeared around him was the only thing that kept Hardcastle from reaching out and trying to shake some sense into the crazed shopper. "They're not your plants; they're my plants," he yelled as his face reddened and he thumped Murdock's chest with his finger.
"Well, technically they belong to the store until they're paid for which I intend to do at this very minute," Murdock said as he turned away from Hardcastle and started to walk away with the cart.
"Take one more step and you'll be in crutches."
Murdock turned back to face the judge with an exaggerated look of shocked fear as he turned to the crowd to entreat them for their support against the obviously deranged and enraged man. He stopped when he saw Face by the door, a signal that it was time to make their escape. Murdock gave a quick nod of acknowledgment to his friend as he turned back to face Hardcastle.
Murdock bent down and stared at the contents in the cart. "My word, it appears that you are correct. So sorry." With that he pushed the cart over to the flabbergasted judge and nonchalantly strolled away.
"Well, what are you gaping at? Go back to your shopping!" Hardcastle ordered as the crowd melted back into the aisles of the store.
"Where the heck is McCormick?" Hardcastle wondered as he tried to bring his temper under control. "He better not be laughing his fool head off over this. I'll bet he had something to do with it. If I find out he had something to do with this, I'll make him wish he had never learned to drive."
Between the two of them, Face and Murdock had pulled McCormick to his feet and quickly headed toward their van.
"How did it go?" asked Face.
"No problemo," answered Murdock. "Your sources got one thing right for sure. That man has a temper. He could put BA to shame."
"That's why it's important to get McCormick out of here before something happens to him," Face said as they laid him out in the back of the van.
"He's really out of it," Face observed as he climbed in and tried to make their precious cargo more comfortable. "Do you think he'll be alright?"
"Sure he will. Once we get him back to your place, you'll be home clear. Though I'd start thinking about what you're going to tell the rest of the team."
"Maybe I'll surprise everyone and tell the truth," Face quipped. "Do you think they'll understand?"
"Don't worry, we're family."
"Yeah, we are," said Face. "And to misquote Dad, I love it when a plan starts to come together."
It had taken Hardcastle ten minutes to determine McCormick was nowhere in or around the store. It had only taken half that time for the worry to set in. After canvassing the other customers, he found two women who remembered seeing someone matching McCormick's description being helped into a van by his two friends. They remembered because McCormick appeared to be suffering from some sort of heat injury and one of the friends had been blonde and very good looking. Hardcastle realized McCormick had been kidnapped but why and by who were still unknown.
Hardcastle oversaw the initial police investigation, much to his disgust the responding officers seemed to have already formed their own opinion about the chain of events and were merely looking for the evidence which supported their own theories.
"With all due respect, your honor," Officer Freemont said, "what makes you so sure this was a kidnapping. Given his back ground and your arrangement, it seems more likely McCormick decided to take off. I can get a warrant issued for him and we can probably pick him up before he leaves the state."
"What I want is an order for the police to be on the lookout for a potential victim of a kidnapping. Didn't you hear the witnesses? They said he was unconscious when those men put him in the van. He's been alone plenty of times at my place. He'd hardly pick the middle of loading supplies in the truck at the garden shop to decide to abscond from parole. And what about that crazy man who accosted me in the store? What was that except a diversion so they could grab McCormick?"
"That could be a coincidence," said Officer Teal in an attempt to find a more palatable middle ground. "Maybe McCormick didn't run off. Maybe he ran into some old friends from the joint and they decided to have a few drinks. You know, for old time sakes."
"Or drugs," added Freemont.
"Drugs is a good possibility," conceded Teal with a nod of his head. "It would explain the passing out. Have you seen any signs that he's been using drugs?"
"McCormick does not use drugs and he sure as shooting didn't decide to get drunk in a parking lot in the middle of the afternoon."
"It's not always easy to tell when someone is using," said Teal.
I know McCormick and I know he didn't leave this parking lot willingly. Now you write down in your report the evidence as you find it; not the theories you want to be true."
"We're just examining all the possibilities," defended Freemont.
"I expect you to examine all the possibilities including the possibility that somebody grabbed him."
Under Hardcastle's angry eye, the reluctant officers called in the information of an alleged kidnapping. But without any description of the van or the kidnappers, the judge knew there was little chance of McCormick being quickly found; at least not unharmed.
He watched the officers leave and swore he would keep in contact with his friend, Lieutenant Giles of the Los Angeles Police Department, to ensure no one put the investigation on the back burner because of the kid's background. McCormick had been working with him for about nearly a year and he had been doing a damn fine job; both on the estate and helping him bring the bad guys to justice. Between the two of them, they had already brought several criminals back to the state license plate factory but still there were members of the police and bench who acted like McCormick was a one-man crime wave waiting to happen. They certainly didn't believe the ex-con was willing to work with the judge who had sentenced him to two years for stealing his own car.
"Maybe it is hard to believe," thought Hardcastle, "but it's true and it is working. McCormick's got a lot of good in him and he deserves better ending than an unsolved case file buried in an old cabinet."
Hardcastle took one long last look around the parking lot but there were no clues to the fate of his friend. With no choice, he got into his truck and returned to Gull's Way.
"Just hold on. I'll find you, McCormick," he muttered as he drove back to his home.
Hardcastle had been back at the estate for a little over an hour, perched at his desk as he waited for the call, whether it be a list of demands from the kidnappers or the police. But the phone remained frustratingly silent.
He had pulled out several of the old files which he reviewed hoping to find something that might identify the kidnappers. It was possible that someone on the peripherals of one of the closed case had chose to use McCormick as a tool of revenge but no names jumped out at him as possibilities. It was, also, possible that it was someone with a personal grudge against McCormick but it didn't seem likely. McCormick was a good natured guy and not the type to collect enemies.
The ringing of the doorbell pulled his attention away from the files. He hoped it was McCormick with some cock-and-bull story, who knowing McCormick would turn out to be unbelievable but true. However it was more likely to be Lieutenant Giles with some new information about the case. He did not expect a military officer in full dress uniform standing at his door. Hardcastle noted the anticipatory leer on the face of the Colonel as he stood by his stone faced aide. There was something about the man that he didn't like.
"Can I help you, officers?" Hardcastle asked.
"I hope so. I'm Colonel Lynch with the United States Army and I'm making an inquiry into the incident which happened this afternoon at the garden shop." Lynch cast a critical eye over Hardcastle. When he had first read the report about the retired judge who brought cons into his home as a rehabilitation project, he expected to see an over-educated flag burning liberal who prescribed to the Hug-A-Thug Correctional School of Thought. But a review of the man's judicial record reflected a Get Tough attitude against law breakers which he found admirable. Lynch looked into the steely glare of the silver-haired judge and decided Hardcastle and decided his second impression was correct. This was the type of man who looked at the law with an uncompromising eye; someone who would not willingly shield any lawbreakers from the sword of justice.
"Maybe I can work with this man," thought Lynch. "May we come in?" he asked as he and his aide started inward.
As Hardcastle held the door open and led them to the den, his mind raced with questions. "What have you gotten yourself into now, McCormick?" he wondered.
As soon as his guests were seated he took his place on the seat behind the desk and asked, "So what's the army's interest in all of this?"
"Blunt and to the point. I like that," thought Lynch. "Do you recognize these men?" he asked as he handed the judge three pictures.
Hardcastle examined the photographs. The first one was of an older silver-haired man chomping on a cigar and sporting a large grin. "Looks cocky," he thought. "But there's something in his eye that looks like he has the right to be cocky."
"Okay, I'd definitely remember seeing this guy," thought Hardcastle as he looked at the scowling mug of a large irate black male with a tall Mohawk and wearing enough gold jewelry to be mistaken for an outlet store.
He paused at the last picture of the blonde well dressed man. "I can see how some women might call him handsome. I wonder if there's a connection," thought Hardcastle as he remembered the witness' description of the men who had taken McCormick.
"No, I don't recognize any of these men but I didn't see the kidnapping," said Hardcastle as he returned the pictures.
"One of the witnesses at the scene positively identified Templeton Peck as one of the men at the garden shop," said Lynch as he placed Face's picture on the desk. "What's this con of your been up to since his release from prison?"
"McCormick, his name is McCormick," answered Hardcastle, "and the only thing up to lately is yard work."
"I checked with the police and understand you and Mister McCormick had recently been doing some surveillance on a Greg Greenspan, a local business man with a history of loan sharking and drug dealing."
"He's done his homework," thought Hardcastle. "Yeah, but nothing ever came of it. "Greenspan never showed up at any of the drug drop off points."
"Don't you think that's rather odd? What would you say if I told you that this McCormick had been in negotiations to race under Greenspan's sponsorship?"
"When was this?"
"About a year and a half ago; shortly after he was released from prison."
"It's possible. He was looking to be a racer, at that time."
Lynch appeared to be slightly disappointed that the revelation had failed to upset the judge. "The deal was being set up by Mr. Martin Cody who was negotiating for himself and Mr. Johnny Johnson to sell a race car dubbed the Coyote X. So you see the connection?"
"What are you trying to say, Colonel?"
"The men I showed you a picture of are wanted by the government for war crimes. They escaped from Fort Bragg and are calling themselves The A Team. They're self-styled soldiers of fortune who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Greenspan is the type of man they might be trying to take out."
"What does that have to do with McCormick?"
"I think McCormick wanted to continue his business partnership with Greenspan. He's been supplying him with information to thwart your's and the police's investigations. One of Greenspan's victims brought in the A Team and they've identified McCormick as the weak link in Greenspan's dealings."
"What would you say, Colonel," asked Hardcastle as he stood up from his desk and glared at Lynch, "if I told you that Johnson was McCormick's best friend and he was killed by Cody who wanted sole ownership of that car? McCormick risked heavy jail time to bring Cody to justice."
"Yes, it was very slick the way he cut out the middleman. Now all he has to do is sit out his parole, call in his marker and step in as Greenspan's new man."
"McCormick would never make a deal with someone like Greenspan. I doubt he had ever heard of him back then"
Disdain began to seep into Lynch's eyes as he realized his initial impressions of Hardcastle had been correct, after all. The judge had a blind spot where cons were concerned. "A man like McCormick would go where the money is."
"So why are you here?"
"We're going to be setting up surveillance on Greenspan when the A Team shows up, we'll swoop down and put them out of business."
"He doesn't suspect that we know about his dealing with Greenspan; if he should happen to escape from the A Team, he'll probably call you. You can contact me at this number," said Lynch as he pulled out a business card and placed it on the desk, "and we'll come pick him up. Through him we'll be able to track the team down. I'm sure he'll be glad to cut a deal to avoid jail time on his involvement with Greenspan."
"And if all of you are wrong about McCormick and Greenspan?"
"The A Team is never wrong about things like this and neither am I. I'm afraid your man is dirty. You have my card. As an officer of the law, I'm sure I can count on your to do your duty. But I remind you that these men are facing federal charges and any attempt to obstruct justice, no matter how misguided or ill informed by anyone, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
It took all of Hardcastle's will power not to slap the contempt out of the Colonel's eye. "You don't have to remind me of my duty," he said through gritted teeth.
"I didn't think so," said Lynch as he and the aide got up, walked out of the house and drove away leaving Hardcastle in turmoil.
"That's great. Some vigilante goon squad have grabbed McCormick for being partners with a man that he would starve before working with, the feds are involved and they're ready to throw him in jail without evidence and the police don't believe he's even been kidnapped. Now what?"
Hardcastle had not said anything to Lynch but he had recognized the A Team from their photographs. About three years ago a survivalist cult had set up headquarters near in his home town of Clarence. The leader trained his members to use field tactics to reconnaissance supplies which was a fancy way of saying they stole what they needed. People that complained had unexplained accidents and late night visits from the cult leader; in one case, a war veteran named Wiles, simply disappeared leaving behind a wife and two children.
When the cult decided they needed more area for their camp, they began a concentrated effort of intimidation to drive the land owners away. Someone knew someone who knew someone who called the A Team. Within a month, the cult had been busted with most of the members facing charges for assault, theft, arms running, and murder. Hardcastle had never known exactly how they had done it but his aunts, Zora and May, talked about a day filled with the sound of gun fire, and explosions.
His aunts had been grateful and thrilled to have the infamous A Team in their town. More so when they had a chance to meet them when they had discovered a wounded team member who they had hid from the searching cult members. Much to his chagrin, the aunts had become unofficial groupies; searching, compiling and analyzing any information regarding the team and their doings. After reading some of the material collected by his aunts he had to admit that, despite their criminal status, it looked like there was a lot more to the original war-time charge of bank robbery than the military was admitting. He picked up the phone and dialed their number.
"Hello," said an elderly voice. "This is Zora Hardcastle. May I help you."
"Hello, Zora. This is Milton. I need some help."
"May," shouted Zora to her sister who was standing close by. "It's Milt. He says he needs some help. Come over here so you can hear."
Hardcastle could hear the uneven gait as his Aunt May came to the phone. "Milt, what is it? Are you and Mark okay?"
"I need all the information you've got on the A Team," asked Hardcastle as his request was met with icy silence.
"Scooter," chastised May, "we've been over this before. Whatever those ninnies in the military think those men are good boys who have helped a lot of people."
"That's right," agreed Zora. "Why after they took care of that gang of thugs, they used most of the money they got to build a memorial park to Wiles, with perpetual upkeep. We won't do anything against them."
"They took McCormick," said Hardcastle.
After another moment of silence, Zora asked, "Why would they do that?"
"That doesn't sound like them," added May.
"I don't know. Witnesses said they saw Peck…"
"That's the handsome one," said May.
"and another man put McCormick in a van and drive away."
"That would probably be Hannibal or Murdock," said Zora.
"Yes," agreed May. "They would remember seeing someone like BA."
"I was just visited by an Army Colonel..."
"That would be Colonel Lynch," said May. "A nasty man."
"Who's ready to arrest McCormick for being kidnapped by them."
"You have to be careful of him, Milton," said Zora. When he was up here looking for the team he told Doreen that if she didn't cooperate he'd bury her in a jail so deep her children would be having children before she got back out."
"He had that poor woman in tears," tsked May.
"I don't know what's going on," admitted Hardcastle, "but I think if I can find the A Team then I can find McCormick."
It had taken nearly an hour to write down all of the information his aunts had compiled on the team. Hardcastle couldn't help but wonder if the team would still be running around free if the army had half the investigative know-how of his aunts.
The most interesting fact in his notes was the high correlation of sightings of the A Team and, specifically, of its leader Hannibal Smith in areas where the Aquamaniac movies were being filmed. The aunts had cross-referenced everyone involved in the various films and had come up with a theory. After saving their money, they went to a nearby state where the latest Aquamaniac movie was being made on location. During a break, they watched as the large threatening lizard left his trailer with a large cigar clenched in his mouth. The aunts were sure it proved that the Aquamaniac was none other then Hannibal Smith.
Armed with this information, Hardcastle went through his rolodex and started making calls to friends, associates and other connections. He learned there was a new Aquamaniac being filmed in the city. He called in a few markers and soon had an address for the star of the series and his first solid lead in finding McCormick. He pulled his gun from his desk and slipped it in his holster as he left for his unscheduled meeting with Smith.
In a nearby luxury apartment, Face kept up his one-man vigil by the bed where McCormick lay in continued unconsciousness. Murdock, who sat nearby, tried to engage his friend in conversation but the only thing Face wanted to talk about was why McCormick hadn't woken up.
"Come on, Face," chided Murdock, "lighten up. You know what they say about a watched pot."
"It's already been hours, and nothing but a few mumbles and groans," said Face worriedly. "What if I gave him too much."
"We've already checked his vitals five time in the last hour. He's fine."
"I never wanted to hurt him."
"And you haven't. All he needs is a little more time."
"God, what is he going to think about me?"
"It'll be okay. Just take it step by step."
"Gentlemen," said an authoritative voice from behind them. "What's going on here?"
The two men started guiltily and turned to face Hannibal Smith who was casually leaning inside the door frame; only his eyes showed the depth of his anger. When he didn't get an immediate answer, he slowly walked over to get a better look at the man laying on the bed.
"I mean, I assume you have a good reason for grabbing a complete stranger in broad daylight, a man on parole who was with a judge, and bringing him back to our operational base."
BA Baracus, who had followed the Smith into the room, added his opinion of his team mates. "You fools have gone crazy. Who is this guy, anyway?"
"Murdock didn't have anything to do with this," confessed Face. "It was all my idea."
"Lieutenant," Smith said with a jerk of his head toward the other room, "why don't we go next door and talk. BA can watch Sleeping Beauty."
As Face got up to follow Smith to the other room, he turned to BA and said, "He'll probably be disoriented when he wakes up."
"How long has he been out?" asked BA
"Over three hours."
"Three hours!" exclaimed BA ""You must have given him a mega dose."
Face was about to answer when he heard Smith call for him from the other room. He shrugged his shoulders and went to face his Colonel's wrath.
After Face left, BA turned his scowl to Murdock and said, "Okay, talk. What are you two trying to pull?"
Murdock sighed. "I can't tell you."
"What do you mean you can't tell me?"
"It's Face's story to tell."
"You better tell me or you're going to be rearranging your own face."
McCormick took that moment to moan lowly and begin to thrash in the bed.
"Looks like he's starting to wake up," observed Murdock. "Face really wanted to be in here when that happened. I'm going to get some rags to cool him down. He's been sweating all afternoon."
As Murdock walked out to fetch some rags, BA followed him demanding answers, and Mark decided to make his move. He didn't know where he was, only that he had been laying on a bed for over three hours because the man who gave him the knockout shot had been repeating it ever since he had woke up. There was something off-kilter about this whole episode, Since joining up with Hardcastle, he had been grabbed by bad guys more than once but he had never had one of the goons spend the entire time simply staring at him. They had appeared to be more interested in making him comfortable than trying to wake him or make any demands. It was slightly unnerving.
He had been awake for some time but had continued to fake unconsciousness to wait for the right moment to make his escape. Early on, one of the men decided it was too hot and fresh air was needed so they had opened the balcony door. Now that he was relatively alone, he hoped to make it his escape route before these guys decided to turn nasty.
McCormick got out of the bed as quickly and quietly as he could and slipped out onto the balcony. He was glad to see it was only a second floor apartment which was situated over awning. He had already been in a similar situation with the judge, a month ago so he wasn't afraid to risk his luck on the strength of the awning. As he heard the two men returning, he climbed over the edge, stretched out as far as he could, and dropped down to possible freedom.
Meanwhile back in the apartment, Smith was staring at Face in gaped-mouth amazement. Do you want to repeat that, Lieutenant?"
"Mark McCormick is my brother," Face said in a rush of words.
"Do you remember a while back, my Happy Orphanage Day present from Murdock?"
"It'll be a long time before I forget that little fiasco," thought Smith.
Templeton Peck was an orphan. He had been left at the orphanage when he was still an infant. The only thing on him was an unsigned note saying the mother had died and a name of the man who was the father. Because the note identified a possible father, the orphanage could not release the baby for adoption until they had contacted the man. After several years, everyone had to admit defeat, it was as if the man had never existed. By that time, Templeton Peck, so christened by the orphanage as the note failed to even give the boy a name, was of the age where it was difficult to find him a home as potential parents preferred infants. He stayed at the orphanage until he left for college where he dropped out to volunteer for the military and the war.
While serving in Vietnam, he met the other men who would become his best friends and form the A Team. One night, after much cajoling by Murdock, he admitted that he didn't have a day of birth on any of his records because he didn't know when it was. It was like he hadn't existed until the day he appeared on the steps of the orphanage.
After a moment of thought, Murdock declared that was the day to celebrate; the day Templeton Peck was created. Since then Happy Orphanage Day had been celebrated with all the fanfare of the others' birthday but there was always something missing.
Finally Murdock decided to do something special for his friend and hired a detective agency to track down Face's father. One day, a few weeks before Happy Orphanage Day, Murdock had gotten the call that the man had been found.
"I wish Murdock had discussed this with me first," thought Smith as he sat with Face on a bench overlooking the ocean. "I'd have warned him to take it slow."
But Murdock had been too excited to keep the information from Face and Face had been too excited for a chance to meet his father that they had all jumped in the van and drove to Las Vegas.
It turned out that Face's father was a petty criminal with mob connections who had ended up as a lounge singer using the name, Sonny Daye. To say the first meeting had been less than Face's expectations was a terrible understatement.
To be fair, all of them had dropped in unannounced during Daye's rehearsal where Face blurted out the news that he was the man's son. Daye had been shocked and at a loss for words. After a few awkward questions, Daye told his son that it was too much information to take in at once and asked for a chance to think.
So they left. Face's disappointment was palatable. He didn't want to talk but he didn't want to be alone. Smith volunteered to keep him company and the two of them had ending up staring at the ocean and seeking answers in the tides.
"Face," shouted Murdock with a grin when they got back to the hotel, "your dad called and he wants to meet with you."
"He wants you to come to his show tonight," answered Murdock handing him the message he had taken.
"Which show?" asked Face. "There are three shows tonight; the first one starts in a couple of hours."
"Fool," said BA as he swatted Murdock on the shoulder, "didn't you ask which show?"
"It doesn't matter," said Face with a large smile. "I can go to the early show. Maybe Sonny and I can have dinner after the first show."
"We'll all go," declared Smith. "That way we can get a chance to watch your dad on stage." Though he had no interest in seeing the act, he was interested in getting a closer look at the man who had fathered someone he cared so much about and he wanted to watch Face watch the show.
Excitement had been high as they slipped backstage so Face could wish his father luck. The rest of the team stood back to give their friend some privacy to talk with his dad.
Smith watched as Face stiffen as he approached the partially opened door to Daye's dressing room; his hand clenched tightly on the doorknob as all expression drained from his face. Without going in and without saying a word, Face pivoted and quickly walked past them. They had all seen the beginning of unshed tears as he stormed by. They walked closer to the door and listened in on Daye's private phone conversation.
"I told you, I can't guarantee the whole team will be here but I'm sure that Face guy will show up…I expect full payment for him and if you can get him to tell you where the others are, I want a cut…Don't argue with me Manny, I'm the guy who's going to get you the A Team." The rest of the conversation was cut short as BA pulled the phone cord from the wall.
Daye slowly turned to face the cold eyes of his unexpected audience. "I can explain," he babbled. "This isn't what it looks like."
BA let lose a threatening growl which caused Daye to step back. Smith held up a restraining hand but he had been watching the wrong man.
Murdock leapt the few feet which separated him from Face's bastardly father. His fists flew indiscriminately as he cursed the man who had betrayed his own son for a second time. It had taken both Smith and BA several minutes to pull Murdock off of Daye who kept repeating they had made a mistake through his bleeding lips.
They found Face sitting in the van with an unreadable expression on his face. He didn't ask them what had happened in the dressing room after he had left.
"Just drive," Face instructed. "I want to go home."
"Faceman, I'm …" Murdock began.
"It's not your fault," said Face. "I don't want to talk about it."
And he hadn't. Not one word until today when he announced he had found his brother.
Pulled back to the present, Smith focused on what Face was saying.
"The detective agency Murdock used to find Daye contacted us a few weeks ago," Face said as he tried to explain why he had an unconscious man in his bed. "someone was trying hard to find Daye. Supposedly his son; his other son. They thought we might like to know."
"But why all this?"
"Murdock remembered what you had said about how he should have taken things slower and checked out Daye before contacting him. So we investigated McCormick. Hannibal, Daye never married McCormick's mother. He hung around about five years and just left them. McCormick's mother died a few years later. He got put in with an uncle for awhile but got taken out because the man was using him as a punching bag every time he got drunk. The it was orphanages, foster families, and juvenile hall."
Smith could feel the sympathy Face felt for a brother whose history was so similar to his own.
"Anyway," continued Face, "he ran away and just disappeared for a few years before he turned up on the racing circuits. And he was good, really good. He might have made a name for himself but he got hooked up with the wrong girl. He put the title to his car in her name and when they broke up she had him arrested for driving his own car. Can you believe it?" said Face as his voice raised in outrage. "He got two years for that!"
"Well, said Smith but Face continued oblivious to the interruption.
"So he keeps his nose clean and finally makes parole. Then the judge who sent him up starts harassing him to volunteer for some strange parole arrangement with the judge calling all the shots."
"That still doesn't explain why you kidnapped the guy and brought him here."
"That judge is going to get him killed," declared Face. "I've talked to a lot of guys and they say the judge is crazy. He treats McCormick like crap, works him to death, pays him next to nothing, and to top it off he's got him involved in some insane scheme about running down hardened criminals because he doesn't think they got all the punishment they deserved and if McCormick complains that judge threatens to toss him back in jail."
"But what are you going to do with him?"
"Well," Face shrugged, "maybe he can join us."
"Face, you haven't even talked with him. It might not be that bad. Who were these sources you talked to?"
"Guys on the street. All of them said they'd rather go back to jail than work for Hardcase Hardcastle."
At that moment, they heard a shout from Murdock. "Face get in here. We got trouble."
Face immediately abandoned the conversation and ran into the bedroom. He saw the empty bed and BA staring out over the balcony.
"That dang fool got away," yelled B.A as he swung his feet over the edge and dropped down to the awning. Don't worry, I'll get him."
Face watched as McCormick ran down the empty street with BA trying to close the gap. "Don't hurt him," shouted Face as he jumped from the balcony.
"Come on, Murdock," sighed Smith as he walked to the door, "let's catch up with them before they hurt someone."
McCormick pulled out an extra burst of speed as he saw the incredible bulk of a man drop down to the sidewalk. He was surprised that a man that size would try such a stunt and doubly surprised he could move as fast as he did. He estimated it would only take a few minutes before the others joined in the chase. He decided it was time to find another mode of transportation. Fortunately there was a nondescript black van parked nearby.
"My van," screamed BA as he saw the direction McCormick was heading. "He better not touch my van."
McCormick breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the van was unlocked. He dived into the front door and locked it with one hand while the other reached under the dash and pulled out a handful of wires. Panic made his hands shake as he cross-connected the wires and brought the engine to life. He moved behind the steering wheel and prepared to pull out when the passenger door was nearly pulled from its hinges. McCormick saw the very large and very angry man glaring at him.
"You touch my van, you die," said BA as he reached in to grab McCormick.
Mark swung both legs up and forward kicked BA in the chest. It had felt like hitting a solid wall of bricks and had only gained him a couple of inches. He pulled back his legs to try a second kick in the face when he felt one meaty hand clasp him around the ankle and pull him from the van. McCormick squirmed and kicked as he tried to scramble to his feet. BA took a hold of the front of his shirt and pulled him up until his toes were barely touching the ground. McCormick tried to twist out of the hold but it was impossible.
"Nobody! Nobody tries to steal my van," said BA as he pulled back one hand into a mighty fist.
McCormick could see the other men coming and he hoped someone would stop this before he got killed.
"Don't hurt," yelled Face as he flung himself at BA. Face crashed into BA who crashed into McCormick leaving them a sprawled mess of entangled limbs with McCormick on the bottom.
As Smith slowly strolled to the scene, he found Face desperately trying to tend a dazed McCormick while Murdock tried to calm down an agitated BA who was trying to decide if he should go for Face or the curly haired van thief.
"He's what?" said BA as he listened to Murdock's hurried whispers and looked at McCormick with different eyes.
"It's time like this it's hard to remember they're a crack commando team and not the Three Stoogies," thought Smith as he viewed the general chaos.
"BA take Mister McCormick back to the room and restrain him," ordered Smith.
"No." shouted Face, his blue-green eyes blazing. "No restraints."
"Okay," conceded Smith. "BA take Mister McCormick back to the room and watch him. The Lieutenant will be up in a few minutes to talk with him."
BA walked over to McCormick and gently pulled him up as Mark tried but failed to get his still rubbery legs to cooperate. In one motion, BA scooped him up and started back to the apartment with Murdock trailing behind.
"Weirdest kidnapping ever," muttered McCormick as his head lolled back against BA's arm.
"Well, Lieutenant?" asked Smith.
"Well, Colonel," responded Face with deviance burning in his eyes.
Smith recognized the signs of a full-fledged war and decided it was not the right time to pull rank. "Face," he said in a kinder voice, "you've got to talk with him and tell him what's happening before you're the one who gets him hurt."
"I'm going to," promised Face as his anger began to drain away.
"You know, he might not be any safer with us than he is with that judge."
'I know and if I need to I'll find him somewhere safe to go."
"Talk with him. We'll stand by whatever you decide as long as it's what he wants too. You owe that to him. I've got to go back and take care of a few things but I'll be back in a couple of hours, Remember Lynch is in the area and you might not have much time."
Face took a deep breath of air, stood up straight, and went to talk with his brother for the first time.
BA stared at an anxious McCormick as he tried to pick out similarities between him and Face. "Sorry about almost hitting you," apologized BA as he recognized Mark's nervousness. "I just go a little crazy when someone tries to mess with my van."
"Sorry about trying to take your van, big guy," said McCormick as he realized they weren't going to hurt him. "Nothing personal. I just thought I'd better get out of here."
"Ah, none of this is your fault. Everybody else is acting the fool around you."
"Nothing new about that," said McCormick with a friendly smile which BA recognized as one he had seen many times on the face of his team mate.
"McCormick, is it okay if I talk to you," asked Face somewhat shyly as he came into the room.
"That would be great. I have no idea what's this about," said Mark. "Are you sure you got the right guy?"
"I'll be outside if you need anything," said B.A. as he walked out. Neither Face or McCormick knew which one the man was talking to.
"I'm really sorry about all of this," Face apologized as he sat on the bed next to McCormick.
"Why? Why grab me?"
Face took a deep breath. "Because you're my brother."
"What?" exclaimed Mark. "You can't be my brother. You're the A Team."
"It's not that hard to figure out. What makes you think we're brothers?"
"I was an orphan from birth. The only thing left with me was the name of my father. My friends tracked him down a while back and it turned out to be a guy calling himself Sonny Daye."
"Sonny Daye," repeated McCormick. "When was this?"
"About two year ago."
Mark shook his head in bitterness. Nearly three months go, he had hired a detective and risked his parole by breaking into a federal building to find the assumed name his father was using. He had hoped to find a man who had regretted leaving a woman who had loved him and a son who had needed him but it had been a disaster. It was bad enough that Daye had been prepared to leave him at the mercy of mob members and worse that he had abandoned him a second time when he left him standing alone with a note saying goodbye and good luck. But he had never once, during their entire time together, told him that he had a brother.
"I can see your meeting wasn't any better than mine," Face said as he looked at the grim look on McCormick's face,
"No, it wasn't. But why all of this?" Mark asked referring to the kidnapping.
"I wanted to rescue you."
"Rescue me? Rescue me from what?"
"From Hardcastle. Before he gets you killed."
"It's not like that."
"Well, what's it like?"
Together, Templeton Peck and Mark McCormick began to talk and laugh.
"Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy," thought Smith as he headed up to his recently rented apartment. "When things start getting personal is when you got to be on your toes the most. We're going to have to do some serious training when this mess is all straightened out."
He was so engrossed with the shortcoming of his fellow team members in this unscripted family reunion that he was unaware that he was not alone until he felt the muzzle of the gun in his side and heard the cold voice behind him.
"Where is McCormick?" Hardcastle demanded. He had spent a long time ditching the tail the military had set on him and a longer time hiding in the bushes waiting for Smith's return and imagining the worst.
"Guess I should practice what I preach," mused Smith self-depreciatingly as he slowly turned and lifted his hands in surrender. "No Lynch," he noted as he cast his eyes around before they settled on his captor who he gave a large self confident grin. "You must be Judge Hardcastle," he guessed.
Hardcastle knew Smith was weighing the situation so he decided to show how serious he was. The judge pointed the weapon at Hannibal's chest as he pulled a gun from Smith's jacket. "If you've harmed one hair on that kid's head, Lynch will be the least of your worries."
As Smith looked into his eyes, he could tell the judge knew how to use a gun and was serious about using it though he didn't seem to be the sort of person who would shot someone in cold blood. He, also, saw the lines of real worry for the missing McCormick. This wasn't the face of someone who wanted the return of a helpful tool; rather it was the face of a commander looking out for his men or a father for his son. Smith decided that wherever Face had gotten his information, he hadn't learned the truth about the relationship between the judge and McCormick.
"You know this has really all been just one big misunderstanding," explained Smith.
"Let's discuss that after we get McCormick back. You drive."
Smith quickly reviewed plans of action to get the drop on the judge and while he had come up with several workable plans, all of them had a strong potential of making the volatile situation worse. As turning them over to Lynch did not seem to be part of the judge's strategy, he decided it was better to cooperate and hope Face had enough time to come up with a workable solution with his brother.
"Let's go," Smith said as he headed back to his car.
"I can't believe you keep a picture of your car in your wallet," laughed Murdock as he dealt the cards around the table.
"Quiet, fool," said BA with a whistle as he admired the vehicle. "If I had a ride like this, I'd carry a picture too."
"The Coyote X is a special car," said Mark as he looked at his cards and made his bet.
"Promise you'll take me for a ride, oh curly-haired one," pleaded Murdock.
"First chance I get," answered Mark.
There was a loud crash as the door was kicked open. The team members were immediately on their feet with their guns aimed at the silver-haired man who held their leader at gun point in a Mexican standoff.
"Cheez, am I the only one without a gun," thought McCormick. He noted that Hardcastle did not appear to be fazed be the guns of the A Team pointed at him but Smith, also, did not appear to be worried about the gun the judge had pointed at his head.
"Better get this calmed down."
"Hi-ya, judge, colonel," said Mark with a grin as he slowly stood up from the table and made a calming movement with his hands. "You know I think it'd be a real good idea if everyone just put their guns away so we can all have a talk."
The colonel gave his men a quick nod and they lowered their weapons but watched the judge wearily and waited for him to make the next move.
"Are you okay, McCormick?" Hardcastle demanded.
"I'm fine, judge," Mark reassured him. "This has all been a misunderstanding. I was going to call you but we were worried there might be a tracer on the phone. I called Giles to have him tell you that I'd be back soon. He said there was a warrant out on me," Mark added with a note of accusation in his voice.
"It wasn't put out by me. It was probably put out by your new friends' military acquaintance," Hardcastle said as he released Smith and approached the table. "Are you playing poker?"
McCormick wasn't sure why but he suddenly felt guilty. "I'm winning," he said brightly.
"You're winning," Hardcastle repeated sarcastically as his voice began to rise. "I've been searching for you all over the place, calling in every marker I have, trying to stop the feds from throwing you back in prison, and you're sitting here playing poker."
"And winning," Mark reminded him.
"Why I ought to..," Hardcastle said finding he did not have enough words to explain what he planned to do with him.
Face leaned over to Mark and whispered, "Are you sure about this?"
"Yeah," answered Mark. "He's a donkey but he's my donkey."
"And who are you?" demanded Hardcastle to the blonde man.
"I'm Templeton Peck and I'm Mark's…"
"I know who you are. Your boss explained the whole thing on the ride over. You're the one that caused all this trouble."
"I was just trying to rescue Mark," defended Face.
"Rescue him from what? What could you possible need to rescue him from?"
Face felt his temper begin to ignite as he started to answer. "From a..." He stopped as he felt Mark's hand on his arm and saw him shake his head.
"Don't worry, judge," McCormick said as he answered for Face. "I'll explain it later. Can I just go home now?"
"Course you can go home. You live there, don't you? But we're going to have to figure out what you're going to say to that Lynch guy or you're going to find yourself going to US Army Pen State."
"Where?" asked McCormick confused at the reference.
"I think he means Leavenworth," suggested Smith.
"No, they wouldn't send him to Leavenworth," argued Hardcastle, "that's a military prison and he's a civilian. They'll probably throw him into a civilian prison."
"He's not going to any prison," declared Face.
"Yeah," agreed Mark. "Temp and I've talked it over and we got a plan."
"Oh really," said Hardcastle not prepared to be impressed. "What's your plan."
"I'm going to tell them the truth," said McCormick. "Well most of it," he admitted under the withering stare of the judge and Colonel.
Colonel Lynch cursed under his breath as he and his team raced to the private airport near the outside of the city. He had spent most of his resources staking out Greenspan and his associates but Smith had pulled a fast one and appeared to be leaving town in another stolen helicopter. The only thing that might save this disaster was the report of an unidentified man left behind at the scene. He had ordered the local police to leave the man as he was as until they got to the scene. He wanted answers and that man was going to provide them.
"Where is he?" Lynch demanded as he entered the air terminal. He was led to a small waiting area where he recognized the missing con, Mark McCormick. He didn't look too bad for someone who had been gone for most of the day except his hands were cuffed in front of him and a cloth was tied tightly over his eyes.
"Hello," Mark called out to no0 one in particular as he lifted his restrained hands in front of him. "Could somebody please take these things off?"
"I'm taking charge of the prisoner," Lynch said as he and his men moved forward and pulled Mark to his feet.
"What's going on?" McCormick demanded as he struggled against the guards. "Let me go."
"What is going on here?" demanded Hardcastle as he entered the terminal.
"Judge Hardcastle, what are you doing here?" asked Lynch suspiciously.
"I got a telephone call telling me that if I got here I'd find McCormick," explained Hardcastle. "Now, officer," he said as he directed his question at the police sergeant, "Can you tell me why this man is handcuffed and blindfolded?"
"The Colonel ordered me to leave him in the restraints," said the officer as he pointed toward Lynch.
"And when was the Posse Comitatus Law repealed?"
"The law that says the military can only exercise state laws with the specific order of Congress or the President. Has the Colonel shown you any such authorization?"
"Then I suggest you learn the law and take those restraints off this man. Or do you think your budget can handle the civil lawsuit he's going to file against you?"
The officer looked between Hardcastle and Lynch for a moment before he brushed based the military guards and removed the cuffs and blindfold from McCormick.
McCormick felt as if a hundred pound weight had been lift off of him. He looked around and spotted Hardcastle. "Judge," he said as he moved forward, "you won't believe what happened to me."
Hardcastle held up his hand and indicated for McCormick not to say anything else as he turned towards Lynch. "Well, Colonel?" he challenged.
"Judge Hardcastle, I am taking this man in a material witness to the recent crimes committed by the A Team."
"Then he'll need a lawyer."
"You? You're his parole officer."
"I'm still a practicing attorney and it looks like he'll need a good one. Now you can take him in and I'll advise my client not to say anything and we'll see how long you can hold him or we can do this here."
"I 'm not going to be able to intimidate him," Lynch realized as he stared into the judge's eyes. "Okay," he conceded. "We'll do this your way, for now."
The owner of the airport took the men to a private office. McCormick sat in a hard metal chair with Lynch and Hardcastle standing in front of him; a police officer and another military man sat close by taking notes. Mark looked nervously between the teams.
"Okay, McCormick," directed Hardcastle, "tell us what happened."
Mark focused his attention on the judge and started telling his story. "I was doing what you told me to, judge, loading the fertilizer into the truck. I wasn't looking where I was going and I jostled this large guy with a Mohawk and a lot of jewelry. Next thing I knew the guy was yelling, screaming and threatening to rip my head off. The two guys he was with were trying to calm him down. I didn't mean anything by it. I was just trying to be funny so I asked who do you guys think you are, the A Team."
"Why did you ask that?" demanded Lynch.
"Well, I heard of the A Team," explained McCormick, "and there was an older guy, a younger guy, and a large black guy with a lot of jewelry and a Mohawk. They just reminded me of the A Team. But it turned out they really were the A Team. They all got really quiet for a moment and the next ting I knew they were throwing me in the back of the van and driving off."
"But why?" asked Hardcastle.
McCormick shrugged. "They kept me blindfolded and tied up most of the time. Later the older guy came in and apologized. He said they had a big meeting planned and it was important no one knew they were in the area. He said they'd let me go as soon as they were done. They weren't mean or anything; he said they wanted to make sure I didn't say anything to anyone."
"You expect us to believe that?" asked Lynch.
"They gave me a note," said Mark as he pulled a letter from his pant's pocket.
Lynch grabbed the letter and read it aloud. "This note is to verify that Mark McCormick was kidnapped by the A Team thorough no fault of his own and we are sorry for any problems or inconveniences it may have caused. And they all signed it," Lynch added as he read the three signatures.
"They got style," grinned Hardcastle as he read the letter over the Colonel's shoulder.
"That they do, judge," Lynch agreed before he turned his attention back to McCormick. "You must have overheard something while you were there."
"McCormick appeared to be thinking back over his afternoon adventure. "One of the guys said something about how he wasn't going to be hanging around no giant mouse with big ears and the other guy said something about getting on Spaceship Earth."
"Hmm," said Lynch as he mulled over the slim clues.
Hardcastle's face took on a dark hue as he leaned closely over McCormick. "You're holding out on me, kid. I can tell. What haven't you told us?"
"Well," Mark said somewhat reluctantly. "When they dropped me off here they apologized for the trouble they caused and they gave me $250.00 for my trouble."
Lynch reached down, pulled McCormick's wallet from his pocket, and counted the money. "There's about $500.00 in here."
"I must have miscounted," McCormick muttered.
"You can't keep the money, McCormick," declared Hardcastle.
"But it's my money. They gave it to me."
"They're criminals and that money is ill gotten gains. You can't keep it."
"I can't give it back to them. What do you want me to do? Give it to the Military Widow and Orphan Fund." When Hardcastle failed to say anything, McCormick rose to his feet. "You can't be serious, judge," he whined petulantly.
"As serious as you being sent back to jail, McCormick,"
Mark sat back down on the chair and fixed an angry glare at Hardcastle.
"Do you need him for anything else?" asked Hardcastle. I want to get him home so he can start up on the chores he missed."
"Wait a minute," said the police officer, "there's still a warrant out for his arrest."
"I think you'll find the warrant was requested by the Colonel over here," said Hardcastle, "and he doesn't need it any more."
Lynch considered it a minute and shook his head. "I'll cancel the warrant. But if I need anything, I'll know where to find him. And I will be keeping an eye on things," he added ominously.
"I wouldn't expect anything less," said Hardcastle. "Come on, McCormick let's go."
Hardcastle walked out of the airport while McCormick fumed in his wake muttering about how unfair everything was.
When he got into the judge's truck and they pulled away, the bad mood dissipated and was replaced with a grin.
"I think it worked, judge."
Hardcastle turned toward McCormick and asked incredulously, "You're sending Lynch to Disney World."
"It looks like he could use a vacation. Did you see how tense he was?"
Hardcastle shook his head. "I hoped you learned something from all of this."
It was Mark's turn to stare at the judge in incredulous wonder. "What could I have possibly learned from this?"
"That family is nothing but trouble. Look at all the trouble that guy made for you."
"I don't know. Temp is a real nice guy. He.."
"Look McCormick," Hardcastle said interrupting his friend, "you're on parole and while you're on parole you are not supposed to be having contact with wanted felons. So I don't want you confessing to me about anything you've done or you're planning on doing."
"Okay, judge," Mark said with a hint of disappointment in his voice, "I understand."
"Of course, I expect Zora and May are going to want to have a long talk with you," Hardcastle said in a quieter voice, "and I guess we can talk about it, just not officially."
"I guess I would like that, judge," Mark said as he got comfortable for the ride back home.
AT ANOTHER PLACE IN THE NEAR FUTURE
"Look, Vinnie," a nervous Sonny Daye said into the telephone, "I'm sorry they're jerking your chain. What do you want me to do about it? It won't do you any good to try anything with me. After they caught me trying to turn them in, I don't think they care what happens to me… Yeah, I'm glad you agree with me. Look, I got another kid... Yeah, they're like bad pennies, they turn up at the worst times. No, I don't think they know about each other… Good idea, why don't we keep that on the back burner in case we need to use it. Bye Vinnie."
"What is it about kids that always make you feel like a piece of garbage?" wondered Daye as he hung up the phone.