Los Angeles, California
At precisely 2:30 PM, a beautiful blond woman entered the Amour à la Première Morsure
, one of Los Angeles’ more exclusive restaurants. “Marilyn Kendall, party of two,” she said to the maître d', whose bald head contrasted with his magnificent red beard. He consulted his book.
“Apologies, madam, but I have no reservation under that name.”
The woman frowned at this. “But you must, I’m meeting someone here and it’s very important. Perhaps it’s under the name of Mr. Lee? He was the one who made the reservation – it was early this morning.”
The maître d' consulted his book again. “Hmm . . . nothing under “Lee”. Are you quite certain the reservation was for today?”
“Yes, yes – it’s very important that I meet with this person as soon as possible. Is there any way I would be able to get a table anyway?”
The maître d' emphatically shook his head. “I am sorry, Madam, but all our tables are booked.”
Marilyn looked around incredulously. The tables were empty, save for one man engrossed in a newspaper. “It’s the middle of the afternoon – no-one is here! I just need the table for a few minutes, and there was supposed to be a reservation – please!”
Sighing, the maître d' seemed moved by her pleading. “Perhaps we can arrange something. Follow me, please.”
He turned and started winding his way through the restaurant, with Marilyn following behind. He went through some swinging doors to the kitchen, and from there to the storeroom. Marilyn’s confusion grew as a muscular black man with a mohawk and an outrageous amount of gold jewelry approached them and said, “All clear back there, Hannibal.”
“And nobody followed her through the front.” She turned and saw the man with the newspaper smiling at her. “Hello there, ma’am. I’m Templeton Peck, this is B. A. Baracus, and this,” he gestured at the maître d', who was in the process of removing a bald cap and false beard, “is Hannibal Smith.”
The now beardless Hannibal shook Marilyn’s hand and said, “Hello, Mrs. Kendall. We, ah, heard you were looking for us.”
Knees buckling, Marilyn sat down on a nearby crate. “It . . . it’s nice to meet you.” She looked up at the team with an expression of relief. “I need you to find my son. His name is Mark, I have a picture of him – here,” she pulled a photograph out of her purse and handed it to Hannibal. The photo showed a brown-haired teenager with a blond girl of about three in his arms. As the others crowded around to look at it, Marilyn explained: “That’s him with his baby sister, Harmony.”
“What happened to the kid?” asked B.A.
“I – I don’t know. He came down to L.A for the weekend more than a week ago ago, and I just - I haven’t heard from him since.” Taking a moment to compose herself, she continued, “After he had been gone a few days, his girlfriend Robin disappeared too – she implied he was in some sort of trouble.”
“Did she say anything that might tell us where he is?” Hannibal questioned around the cigar he was in the process of lighting.
“Yes, she – she mentioned a club, called . . . The Nest, I think?”
“Hannibal,” broke in B.A., “I’ve heard about that place. It’s in the Badlands, and that’s a real rough neighborhood. Gonna have to be careful.”
“Right,” said Hannibal, with a resolute puff. “Face, call Murdock and tell him we’re on the way to pick him up. B.A., get the van and bring it around the back. Mrs. Kendall . . . congratulations.” He grinned. “You just hired the A-Team.”********
Clad in identical black suits and sunglasses hastily borrowed from the set of Hannibal’s latest monster movie (Return of the Snake from the Center of the Earth
), Face and Hannibal entered the V.A. hospital and strode up to the nearest nurse’s station.
“Afternoon, Nurse,” said Face, affecting the persona of a humorless bureaucrat. “I’m Agent Smith, FBI, and this is Agent Jones -” Hannibal blinked, then nodded in acknowledgment. “– and we’re with Section X. I understand that a Hostile Sub-Terrestrial has manifested on the premises?” Receiving only a confused expression in response, he shuffled his document folder and continued. “The report indicates the creature in question is calling itself ‘Malkavius’”?
“Oh! You mean Mr. Murdock!” Frowning, the nurse continued: “But Mr. Murdock has been with us for quite some time and couldn’t possibly – “
“Nurse – Hunnicutt,” Face quickly read off her nametag, “It is, err, quite common with many of these creatures to masquerade as members of humanity. This ‘Murdock’ is more than likely already dead.”
“But . . . did you say ‘creature?’” The poor nurse look as if she was about to faint.
“Of course, it may just be another expression of Mr. Murdock’s psychosis,” Face lectured, “but in cases like this the Bureau prefers certainty. Now, if you could show us where he’s being kept?”
“Oh, of course,” replied the rather confused nurse, “Right this way.” And off she went, leaving Face and Hannibal to follow.
As they went, Hannibal leaned over and muttered in Face’s ear. “‘Hostile Sub-Terrestrial’?”
Face grinned sheepishly. “You remember the rumors in ‘Nam about monsters in the tunnels?” Hannibal nodded. “Well, one night at the Doom Club I overheard some of the other officers discussing how they might fill out their paperwork if they ever came across one.” He shrugged. “It seemed to fit.”
“Ah. Just what did Murdock -?”
But further conversation was halted as they arrived at Murdock’s room. Nurse Hunnicutt produced a key and unlocked the door. Hannibal grabbed the doorknob while Face pulled the nurse aside.
“Now, Agent Jones and I will examine the creature, and if it is in fact a Hostile Sub-Terrestrial, we’ll probably be taking it with us for further study. Don’t worry,” he reassured her, “the rest of the hospital is completely safe.” Without waiting for a response, he turned and followed Hannibal into Murdock’s room.
The team pilot had his lights off and his curtains tightly drawn, with the only illumination coming from a great number of candles. As Face and Hannibal entered the room, the door swung shut behind them with a resounding ‘thump’.
“Ve-e-elcome, mortals! Enter freely and of your own vill!” Turning towards the voice (the source of which had evidently been hiding behind the door); the faux FBI agents saw that the atrocious accent had come from none other than H. M. Murdock. He had somehow acquired a powder-blue cloak, which he had draped over his signature flight jacket. Slicked back hair, a large golden medallion, and a set of fake fangs all contributed to the image of a rather cheesy B-movie vampire.
“Look, Hannibal.” Face deadpanned. “Bela Lugosi.”
“Bela Lugosi is dead, silly. I am Count Malkavius!” Murdock waved his arms in a theatrical manner. “Von, two tasty mortals. Bwa-ha-ha!”
“The laugh is good, but the accent needs work.” Hannibal remarked. “We have a job to do, Murdock, so let’s go.”
“Impossible! If I go out in the sunlight, it vill burn me to a crisp.” Murdock sniffed. “It iz the price I pay for . . . immortality.”
“Yeah, along with the fake accent and the bad fashion sense.” muttered Face. “I knew it was a bad idea to let him read the script for Rock and Roll Vampire
Hannibal tapped his watch. “We don’t have time for this – it’ll be dark by the time we get to The Nest as it is. Hmm . . . Murdock, come here.” Hannibal grabbed the blanket off the bed and started wrapping the ersatz vampire in it. Face looked at him incredulously. Hannibal shrugged.
“Well, we have to get him out of here somehow. Grab his feet.”********
Once Nurse Hunnicutt had been reassured with a folder full of (bogus) paperwork and Murdock was safely hidden from the sun, the A-Team headed for the Badlands.
They rolled up across the street from The Nest just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. Murdock was the first out, seemingly enraptured by the muffled music seeping out of the building.
“The children ov the night . . . vhat music they make.”
“You ain’t no vampire, fool.” To nobody’s surprise, B.A. had already had more than enough of Murdock’s latest enthusiasm. “So quit talkin’ like one, or I’ll put you in your coffin for good.”
Murdock’s indignant reply was cut off by a cry of recognition from a passing youth. “B.A., man, is that you?”
The group turned towards the speaker, a boy about eight years old, whom B.A. seemed to recognize. “Yeah. Charlie, what are you doin’ out so late? You should be at home, with your momma and sister.”
Charlie looked properly chagrined. “Sorry, B. A. Me and some of the guys were out lookin’ for monsters!”
“Yeah?” B.A.’s expression softened. “You find any?” Charlie shook his head mournfully. "Well, you’d better get right home – I’ll see you at the shelter on Thursday.” B.A. chuckled softly as the youth scampered away.
“Alright, guys,” said Hannibal, “Let’s head into the club and see what we can find out about Mark.”
As the team started across the street, an odd expression came over Face. “What did that kid mean by ‘looking for monsters’?”
“Come on, Man of the Face,” said Murdock, throwing a cape-covered arm over Face’s shoulder. “Did you never-ever play pretend as a kid?”
Face seemed disinclined to answer, and by this time the team had reached the door of The Nest. Hannibal grabbed the door by the handle and pulled it open. Within was a short flight of stairs, which the team cautiously descended. At the bottom, a dour-looking bouncer guarded a velvet-roped gate into the club proper, but quickly let them through after some menacing looks from B.A.
The Nest was filled pounding music, dim lighting, and closely packed bodies gyrating along with the beat and was, overall, very different from the A-Team’s usual stomping grounds. They made their way towards the bar in pairs, with B.A. close behind Hannibal and Face trailing behind Murdock.
The mad pilot was in his element, as many of the club’s patrons were dressed in outfits similar to his, if more tastefully done. Much to Face’s irritated amusement, as soon as they reached the bar a pale-faced young woman offered to buy Murdock a Bloody Mary. “No, thank you,” he replied, bringing back the overly thick accent. “I do not drink . . . cocktails.”
Shaking his head, Face left Murdock to his own devices and focused on one of the bartenders. A very pretty bartender, too. ”Hi, there.” He flashed the brunette a smile as he leaned on the bar in front of her. “Any idea what a guy should get to drink here?”
She gave a soft, musical laugh. “New here, I take it?” Face shrugged with an ‘Aw, shucks’ motion. “Well, you’ll just have to try the house special. Everyone says it’s to die for.”
“Thanks – I’ll have one of those, then.” Face said, while the bartender disappeared for a moment and brought back a small glass filled with a cloudy green liquid. Face pushed some cash towards the woman. “Thanks, again – I’m Templeton, by the way.”
“No problem – call me Sylvia.”
“It’s a beautiful name.” Face said, taking a swallow of the drink, which seemed sweeter than most liquors he was familiar with. Setting down the empty glass, he gave Sylvia another smile. “Have you been working here for long, Sylvia?”
“You might say that.” She appeared concerned. “Wasn’t the drink to your taste?”
“Oh no, it was quite refreshing,” Face reassured her. “I only asked because, well, my sister’s boy may have been in here – he’s going through a rebellious phase, you know, it’s bit overwhelming for his mother and I promised Marilyn I’d come look for him.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” Sylvia commiserated. “I may have seen him here – what’s he look like?”
In response, Face pulled out a copy of the photo Mark’s mother had given the team. Sylvia studied for a moment, slowly nodding. “Yes, I think I have seen him – not here, though – at another place I work.” She glanced at her watch. “In fact, my shift ends in just a few minutes. I can take you over there and find, what did you say his name was?”
For a moment, Face’s brain refused to come up with the answer to Sylvia’s question. What was his name?
he wondered. It was . . . Marty? No,
“Mark. His name’s Mark.” Face finally recalled.
“Yes . . . yes, I remember hearing that name. Here, let me just go punch out and we’ll go see if you’re nephew’s over there, OK?” She disappeared towards the end of the bar, leaving another glass of the house special in her wake. Pleased at his success, Face picked it up and took a sip.
“Whatcha got there, Face?”
Starting at Murdock’s voice, Face glared at his friend’s fang-enhanced grin. “It’s, well – it’s green, Murdock. Disappear, would you? I may have a lead – I’ll catch up with the rest of you later.” He said, a bit more sharply than he intended.
Being in an unusually cooperative mood, Murdock vanished as quickly as he had appeared, just as Sylvia came pushed through the crowd. Linking her arm in Face’s, she began pulling him towards the rear of the club. “We’ll slip put through the back, it’s just around the corner.”
Face let her pull him through the crowd, up a flight of stairs and out into an alleyway. As they strolled through the shadows, however, Face heard movement behind them. Years of instincts, honed in the Army and on the streets, had him spinning around before he consciously registered it.
Advancing towards them from behind were three or four menacing hoods, dressed similarly to the Hell’s Angels or the Barbarians. As Face turned back to warn Sylvia, something smashed into his side and tore into his neck.To be continued . . .********Author Notes:
The A-Team was invented by, and presumably belongs to, Stephen J. Cannell. The twisted version of L.A. they find themselves in, on the other hand, belongs to Joss Whedon, as do the numerous Buffy the Vampire Slayer
characters who might happen to appear. Not surprisingly, neither one of these fine gentlemen happens to be me.