QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
by Lori Beatty
L. Richter walked slowly down the bustling corridor, hardly noticing
the patients and physicians that hurried past. His hands were shoved
deep into the pockets of his white lab coat and his face was a study in
conflict. As his steps brought him nearer to his office door he slowed,
almost to a stop. He dreaded this meeting. Dreaded it more than
anything he'd ever done before.
One hand rose to his furrowed brow and rubbed it firmly.
How was he going to tell Murdock that his one friend in this V.A.
hospital, his protector among the unstable, was leaving L.A. for
greener pastures? Richter sighed heavily, forcing himself to take those
last few steps to his office. What should he say and how would Murdock
react? The pilot had already lost his most precious possessions. Now he
was losing his last solid lifeline.
Richter pulled the folded newspaper out of his pocket, its
bold headlines sending a surge of grief and guilt through his veins. At
8:00 that morning, on Barrier Island, the A-Team had been executed.
Sympathy, deep as a canyon, tugged at his heart. Murdock
needed support, affection and a strong shoulder in his profound grief.
Yet now, when his good friend needed him most, Richter was bailing out.
"Damn," he muttered under his breath. Shoving the paper back into his
pocket he grasped the door knob and stepped firmly into his office.
Murdock was already there, leaning against the desk, his
arms wrapped around his chest in a gesture of self-protection.
Richter's heart went out to him. "Hello Murdock." His voice was so soft
he wondered if the patient had heard him.
Murdock's head lifted and he looked at the doctor. Shock
and loss were clearly visible in the brown eyes. The two friends stood
silently, each surveying the other. Finally, Murdock spoke. "They're
Dr. Richter closed his eyes against the wave of shared loss
he felt. Nodding, he slowly moved toward the younger man. His mind
sought frantically for the right words and phrases that would give his
friend needed comfort.
"Murdock. I'm so sorry. If there's anything I can..." Richter
let the sentence die, kicking himself mentally. What a woefully
inadequate thing to say. How could he possibly help Murdock now? Even
as a physician-psychologist he was too emotionally involved himself to
give Murdock the proper support.
"I miss them already," Murdock said softly. "Virginia is so far away."
It took several seconds for the remark to penetrate Richter's troubled mind.
"Virginia?" Quickly the doctor replayed all he'd read this
morning on the execution. The paper didn't mention anything about the
team being buried in the National Cemetery. It seemed highly unlikely
that the convicted military criminals would be allowed burial in an
honored ground such as that.
"Murdock, what do you mean, Virginia?"
The pilot's eyes clouded and he sighed heavily. "That's where
they're living now. It's so far away, you know. How am I going to get
there to see them?"
Dear God, Richter's mind screamed. He's regressed. He believes
they're still alive. It must be easier for him to hold on to that, than
accept their deaths. "Murdock, we need to talk."
"I know," Murdock said quickly. "Ya gotta help me, Doc."
"I will," Richter replied gently. "You know I will." Resigned
to a difficult and painful session, the doctor stepped behind his desk,
absently pulling the newspaper from his pocket and laying it on the
Too late he saw the headlines and reached for it, hoping to
remove it from Murdock's sight before he noticed. A hand shot out and
grabbed his wrist. He looked up into the intense dark eyes of his
"This is the Business edition, isn't it?" Murdock observed. His voice sounded incredibly sane.
"Then you don't know." Murdock's eyes were suddenly bright with an eerie fire.
"Know what, Murdock?" Richter asked, concern tingeing his voice.
"They're not dead."
Richter felt his heart plunge to his knees. How could he leave
his friend in this condition? The death of the A-Team had sent Murdock
off the deep end.
"Murdock, I know it's hard, damned hard, but you've got to accept the fact that they're dead."
Murdock laughed and shook his head, leaning across the desk.
"No. They're not," he said firmly. "Now, don't look at me that way. I'm
not nuts, Doc. It's true. Frankie and I pulled it off." He straightened
and shrugged slightly. "With the help of that weirdo General I told you
about. He's the one that got the bodies off Barrier Island."
Richter still looked skeptical. "Murdock, you've tricked me before."
"No, Doc. It's no trick. Look, I'll bet the nurses' station has
a later edition of the paper. It'll prove to you they're alive. Go see
Something in Murdock's voice sounded too positive, too sane to ignore. "All right. I'll check it out. But you wait here."
"Sure thing, Doc."
In a few minutes Richter returned and he stared, bewildered, at
his patient. "I don't believe you? How did you pull it off? Where are
"I told you, Doc, Virginia," Murdock replied. "Stockwell set
'em up in some high tech pad so the team can take on special spook
assignments, the short straw variety, and then..."
Richter held up a hand, halting the man's explanation. "Why would he do that?"
"Who knows? He says he can't give these missions to regular
operatives but the team could pull them off easy." Murdock's eyebrows
bobbed. "Cause we're the best. In exchange, he'll get the guys a full
Now it was Richter's turn to arch his eyebrows. "Pardoned?"
"Yep. But look, Doc, I've got to talk to you. I can't help them if I'm here 3000 miles away. What am I going to do?"
Dropping into his chair, Richter tried to grasp the situation.
It was all happening too fast. The team was dead. The team isn't dead.
They're in Virginia. Spies for the Company. A Pardon in the future.
"This is incredible, Murdock."
The pilot smiled and echoed. "Thaaat's incredible!"
"It's too good to be true."
"I know," he smiled, rocking on his heels. "Great, huh?"
"The timing couldn't be better, either," Richter commented softly.
"Murdock," the doctor began slowly, "I was dreading seeing you
today because I had to tell you I was leaving. I've accepted a position
Murdock's face settled into a frown. "Leaving?"
Richter nodded. "It's a good opportunity. Something I can't pass up."
"Wow. I never expected this. But I'm glad for you Doc, really."
"Thanks. But now we need to decide what to do with you."
Murdock shoved his hands back into his pockets and slumped on
the couch, his long legs stretched out in front of him. "Bases are
loaded and two men out," he muttered sourly.
Richter smiled. Sounds like time to call in the pinch hitter."
Murdock looked disgusted.
"As I see it, you have one of two choices. You can either stay
here and convince the new man that you are the quintessential loon or I
can declare you fully recovered and you can be released."
Murdock's pouting little boy pose evaporated like a soap
bubble and he pulled his hands from his pockets and sat up. His face
reflected his thoughtfulness. "I don't think I could handle the crazy
routine again. I mean, I'm good at it, ya know. Real good."
"You've had lots of practice," Richter commented with a smile.
"Yeah, but to start over at the beginning, with someone else..."
"Then you want out?"
"I guess. Especially since you're leaving." He clasped his
hands together in front of his chin and stared at the knuckles. "It's
kinda scary, though."
"How?" Richter asked softly.
Murdock shrugged awkwardly. "It's nice and safe here, ya know.
No responsibilities, no need to make decisions. I'm afraid I may have
forgotten how to take care of myself in the outside world."
"I don't think so, Murdock. Oh, you may have a few problems.
Certainly there will be major adjustments to be made. You can still
call me anytime if you feel the need to talk. You know that."
Murdock smiled affectionately. "I know, Doc. And after all, Philly isn't that far from Virginia, now is it?"
"Then you're going to go for it? You're going out on your own?"
"Yes," Murdock answered firmly. "I want to go to Langley to be with the team."
Richter's smile broadened. "All right. Then we've got lots to
do. I leave at the end of the week so that gives us four days to get
everything arranged. First off we need a panel to review your case."
"You sure you can pull this off? I mean, I've been in here a
long time and those geeks on the board are convinced I'm a tropical
"Then we'll have to unconvince them. After all, you're a patient of THE Dr. A. L. Richter," he chuckled softly.
Murdock joined in. "Yeah. The quintessential fraud."
Richter leaned toward Murdock and grinned slyly. "If the world's two greatest frauds can't pull this off, then who can?"
"So what do I do first?" Murdock asked eagerly.
Richter rose and walked around the desk, his mind busily
calculating. "You'll have to have a breakthrough. Something, probably
the death of your friends, jolted you out of your confused state and
put you on the right track again."
"But they're not dead, Doc. The afternoon paper is full of the
exciting story of the A-Team cheating death. Their ultimate escape."
"That's OK. You had your breakthrough before you read those papers. Say at, 1:30?" Richter smiled.
"Oh, riiiight," Murdock nodded. His eyes were twinkling mischievously. "I never did see the afternoon papers."
"Good. I'll call the board for tomorrow. You should be released the next day."
Murdock's eyes clouded and he stared off into the distance.
Richter watched his friend for a moment then asked, "You'll head straight for Virginia?"
"Yeah," Murdock muttered softly.
"Then we'll need to make some arrangements there, too. You'll need a place to live..."
"Alone," Murdock interrupted. "I want a small apartment, no dormitory stuff, okay?"
"Sure. You'll need a job, too. Any preferences?"
"No. Well, maybe something with animals." Murdock smiled boyishly.
"Okay. We'll have to make some financial arrangements, too," Richter commented. "I'll be happy to give you..."
Murdock held up his hand. "Thanks, but I've got some money.
Hannibal's been taking care of my share of the cases and I can get to
it easily." His eyes softened with affection. "But I really appreciate
the offer, Doc."
Richter shrugged. "Sure. Well, what about your things here? I can have them packed up and sent to you later."
Rising, Murdock walked toward the window. "I don't think I'll
be taking much. The other guys here can have it." He lapsed into
Richter allowed it for a long moment then gently drew him back. "What is it, Murdock?"
The younger man took a deep breath. "I'm not sure how this will affect the guys."
Puzzled, Richter asked, "You mean you being sane or going to Virginia?"
Murdock turned and grinned. "Oh, they'll be glad I'm sane.
Especially Hannibal. No, I'm more concerned what Stockwell will say
when I show up. I don't think I was part of his plan."
"But you are part of the team," Richter pointed out.
"But does Stockwell know that?"
"I'm sure he does," Richter said positively.
"Yeah, you're probably right. Besides," he added philosophically, "Hannibal won't let Stockwell leave me behind."
Richter approached his friend, placing a comforting,
affectionate hand on his shoulder. "I think you've made a wise choice,
Murdock. It's time for both of us to make some changes in our lives.
We've been here too long. It's been a safe haven for you and I. But you
can't grow in a haven. You need the challenges of life to do that."
"I'm okay, you're okay, huh Doc?" Murdock quipped.
"Something like that."
"Well, I guess I'd better get ready, huh? Since my breakthrough
is complete." The pilot turned and faced his friend, hand extended.
"Thanks Doc, for everything. It's been a lot of years and I know I
wasn't always, well, truthful with you. I took you for a ride there in
Richter clasped his hand and chuckled softly. "A pretty wild
ride, friend. But don't forget, I'm the one that finally saw through
the ruse. I'm good at spotting fakes."
Murdock didn't smile back; he looked the doctor straight in
the eyes. "And I'm grateful you did. I don't think I could have stayed
here, kept up the act, if it hadn't been for you. You've been a good
friend to me."
Richter felt a surge of regret at their parting. He hadn't had
much time as yet to realize that he would also be losing a good friend
and companion when Murdock moved back East. "You know, Murdock, maybe
you'd better send me your address and phone number when you get
settled. I just might need someone to talk to when the going gets
"Any time, Doc, any time at all."
Murdock moved to the door and stopped, turning around to smile
at his long time friend. "Do they play tennis on that side of the
"Some of the best."
"Set up a doubles match, will ya? I'll be there."
Richter smiled and watched as the tall pilot disappeared out
into the corridors of the hospital. He felt like an era was coming to
an end and he wasn't at all sure he liked the fact. He and Murdock were
alike in so many ways, he hoped both their futures were filled with
Murdock strolled easily back to his room, marveling at the
unexpected twist of fate that had allowed all his uncertainties to be
so quickly resolved. Surely Hannibal had a hand in all of this. Who
else could have engineered such timing, such opportunities... such...
out and out miracles! Murdock stopped dead in his tracks. Wait one
minute. This was all too slick, too easy, too perfectly timed. Richer
suddenly gets offered a position out of the blue, one that will elevate
him to a level of importance beyond his wildest dreams. Which also just
happens to open the way for his "famous but unknown" patient to be
released from the V.A. to join his friends in Virginia. Who, it just so
happens, have been rescued from the very jaws of death to work for some
covert CIA operation doing suicide missions for Uncle Sam.
"I don't believe it," Murdock said out loud. "He set this up.
He rigged this whole thing." A passing orderly glanced at the pilot
quizzically. "How bout them Mets, huh?" Murdock quipped and moved on
toward his room.
Suddenly he had a new reason for wanting out of the V.A. He
wanted to have a little talk with Stockwell. There were several
questions he'd like answered. Such as, how the General knew about
Richter's situation with Murdock and had the General dug up old records
from the Company and found out that the A-Team's secret weapon was once
an operative in the ranks. Hunt Stockwell had a lot of explaining to
do. A lot of explaining.
With a sly smile of delight, H. M. Murdock began to pack.