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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 1 May 2020 - 08:10 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 1 May 2020 - 01:12 AM)
It's ironic, because a few years ago I was doing research on puppy mills for a school paper tongue.gif

So will the next chapter have a time-jump, so the puppies can already be out? Will there be a reference to them and where they've gone?

Am I asking too many questions? laugh.gif

No. I don't believe I reference the puppies anymore. But that's something to think about if I ever tinker with the story in the future!



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Posted: 1 May 2020 - 03:43 PM                                    
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Okay then laugh.gif



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uniquelyjas
Posted: 6 May 2020 - 10:27 AM                                    
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Chapter 48: Meeting MacGyver

Joanna felt like pond scum as she crawled into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. She thought about MacGyver, lying in the hospital hurt and alone, and her stomach churned. Since finding the abandoned pups, she had felt the barriers around her heart begin to crumble and found herself falling in love with Mac all over again. Not that she had ever truly stopped loving him in the first place. Yet, when the doctor at the hospital had asked if he had someone to take care of him and Mac shot her an expectant, even playful look, a part of her panicked leaving him to be tended to by strangers in a place he hated. He most likely now hated her as well. He would never know that she had refused to leave until it was confirmed he was settled comfortably in his room and the nurses assured her he would be well taken care of. He would never know that she stood in the doorway of his room, needing to watch the steady rise and fall of his chest to assure herself that he had once again escaped a deadly encounter. All he would know was that she had left him when he had needed her.

The following afternoon, Jo hurried over to Challengers as soon as school was dismissed for the day. She had called Cynthia last night and explained what had happened and asked if she could step in for MacGyver while Joanna was at work even though Mac had originally given Cynthia the week off. Because of that, Jo wanted to relieve her as quickly as possible. Breezing past Rosie seated at the reception desk, she stopped short when she saw MacGyver sitting behind the desk in his office where she had expected to find Cynthia instead. Their eyes met uncomfortably as she stared at his pale face accentuated by the white gauze pad taped to his temple.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted out.

“Working.”

“But I thought the doctor wanted to keep you for at least twenty-four hours?”

“I was feeling better so I signed myself out. Sorry to disappoint you.” His tone was flat, but his words found their mark. Refusing to rise to the well-deserved bait, Joanna decided to change the subject.

“Where are the puppies?” she asked, noticing the large box was conspicuously missing.

MacGyver must have sensed her concern because his features softened slightly. “Animal control came and got ‘em. They’re ‘evidence’.” Jo frowned. “Don’t worry, they’ll be well taken care of and then put up for adoption,” he added for what she hoped was her benefit.

“Excuse me,” Rosie quietly interrupted from the doorway. “There are some people here to see Joanna.”

“Oh! The school volunteers! I completely forgot!” Jo exclaimed as she turned on her heel and headed to the small group of teens gathered by the reception desk. “The posters are over on that table,” she told them pointing them in the proper direction.

“What’s going on?” Mac asked from behind her.

“These are students from nearby schools. They’re picking up the anti-drug and anti-gang posters to take and display in their classrooms.”

Within minutes the task was complete and Joanna turned to head to her office when a bout of dizziness overtook her, causing her to stumble into MacGyver. Immediately two strong arms steadied her.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied. “I just must’ve moved too fast.” With every ounce of determination she possessed she pulled out of his grasp. To her dismay, he dogged her every step.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine,” Jo repeated. “I’m just kinda tired.”

She slumped into the chair behind her desk, glanced at her calendar, and moaned.

“What’s wrong?”

Joanna propped her elbows on the desk and began to massage her own temples which were beginning to ache. “Last week I scheduled a meeting for this Saturday to discuss Challengers’ participation in a river clean-up project next month. I totally forgot about it and have nothing prepared.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind lately,” MacGyver soothed. “Anything I can do to help?”

Dare she ask a favor of the man she had been treating so poorly? “I’d appreciate it if you could attend,” she answered sheepishly. “A handful of community representatives from the planning committee will be here. I’ve also asked Cynthia to come.”

“No problem. I’ll be here,” Mac promised.

“Good.” She summoned a smile. “Now get outta here so I can start working on an agenda and make notes on a couple issues I want to discuss.”

XXXXX

By the time Joanna dismissed her final class on Friday all she wanted to do was crawl under her desk and go to sleep. She had been fighting a headache and nauseated stomach all day. She blamed it on lack of sleep, too much work, and generalized MacGyver-related anxiety. Unfortunately, rest was still not an option for her. She needed to go to Challengers and finalize the meeting notes for tomorrow. She had agreed to have the club participate in this annual project when she thought MacGyver was still safely tucked away in Los Angeles. His surprise return, and the surge of emotions that came with it, had totally knocked her off stride and now she was paying the price.

When Joanna arrived at the club she greeted Geena who was working the reception desk but didn’t stay to chat. Instead, she headed to the kitchen area and began to root through the refrigerator hoping to find some white soda to settle her stomach. Realizing her search was fruitless, she dug in her purse for some change and was about to raid the vending machine in the recreation room when MacGyver appeared in the doorway.

“I was hoping you could fill me in on this clean-up project before the meeting tomorrow,” he said.

Jo’s stomach suddenly rebelled and she tried to push him out of the way but he wasn’t fast enough and the remains of her lunch promptly landed on his shoes. With tunnel vision and a singular purpose, Joanna rushed passed him to the staff bathroom where she hit the floor in front of the toilet just in time to empty the remaining contents of her stomach. She sensed rather than saw MacGyver kneeling beside her. He reached out to keep wisps of her hair away from her face, but she slapped his hands away.

“No,” she muttered between clenched teeth before her stomach tightened and she began to gag again. She felt his large, comforting hand rubbing her back and she elbowed him away, even in the midst of dry heaves.

After several vomit-free minutes, Joanna flushed the toilet and sagged against the porcelain bowl, her body tired and drained. Slowly she became aware of her surroundings and saw Mac at the sink, working to dampen a wad of paper toweling.

“Here, let’s get you cleaned up,” he said softly as he crouched next to her and gently wiped her mouth and chin.

“I can do it,” she murmured, reaching for the toweling while keeping her eyes averted. MacGyver reluctantly released the wad of paper and stood. Jo felt her cheeks flame with embarrassment. To her, there was hardly a worse sight than watching someone throw up. It was the grossest, most vile bodily function in existence. She never even allowed her own mother in the bathroom when she was sick. And today she’d done it all right in front of MacGyver.

Feeling a bit stronger, she pushed herself up off the floor and leaned against the sink.

“I’m sorry about your shoes.”

“I never liked this pair anyway,” Mac replied with a crooked smile.

“I’m sorry I pushed you away.”

“It’s no big deal.”

No, she supposed it wasn’t a big deal, but for some reason it was important to Joanna that he understand why she did it.

“Touching me…” she paused to temper the bile that threatened to rise in her throat while taking deep breaths as she explained. “Touching me makes it worse. Always has. Since I was little.”

“Like I said, it’s no big deal,” MacGyver assured her. “How about you lie down for awhile. Can you make it upstairs?”

Jo nodded and they took a few steps before she reached back and grabbed a small plastic trash container. “Just in case,” she said with a small smile.

As they were approaching the stairs to the dormitory, Geena bustled toward them, impeding their progress.

“Oh my goodness! What happened?! Joanna, are you alright?!”

“I think she just went a few rounds with the stomach flu,” MacGyver answered for her. “I’m taking her upstairs to get some rest.”

“I’ll scrounge up some tea and dry toast,” Geena declared, but Jo shook her head as vigorously as she could while fighting back more nausea.

“Maybe later,” Mac suggested and Joanna breathed a sigh of relief. Under his tender guidance, she gingerly settled into one of the beds in the dorm room closest to the bathroom, her arms still wrapped around the waste basket. She curled up on her side as he tucked a blanket loosely around her.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asked.

Yes! Stay! Don’t ever leave me! “No, I’ll be okay. Go calm Geena down.”

MacGyver bent and kissed her ever so tenderly on the forehead. “Holler if you need anything. I’ll be back to check on you.”

Jo nodded and fell asleep before he even left the room.

When Joanna next opened her eyes it was to find MacGyver sitting on the bed across from her, staring at her as if she was some sort of science specimen.

“How you feelin’?” he asked.

Jo took a moment to do a quick internal evaluation. Her heart was beating fast and the palms of her hands were sweaty, but that had nothing to do with the flu and all about the man who had taken care of her. “My stomach’s better,” she confirmed truthfully.

“Good,” he smiled warmly. “Then maybe you can eat something.”

She followed his gaze to the small nightstand between them holding a can of white soda and a small bag of pretzels.

“How did you know?”

“I called your mom, but Geena still has tea and toast waiting for you downstairs.”

They both chuckled as Joanna sat up and Mac placed a pillow behind her back for extra support.

“When you feel up to it I’ll drive you home and I don’t want to see you back here until Monday.”

Joanna immediately protested, “But what about the meeting tomorrow?!”

“Cynthia and I can handle it,” he replied calmly. “You need to concentrate on getting well.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“What do you mean you don’t have the agenda?! The meeting starts in fifteen minutes!”

“Don’t take that tone with me, MacGyver. Joanna was still working on it the other day and apparently didn’t get a chance to print it out before she got sick,” Cynthia explained.

“Then she must have it stored in her computer, right?” Mac asked hopefully.

“I would assume so, but she probably protects her work with a password.”

“No problem,” MacGyver replied, cocking his head and shooting Cynthia a mischievous grin.

“You know her password?”

“Of course I do.” Well, not really, but he could make an educated guess. He sat down behind Joanna’s desk and fired up the machine. The prompt for the password appeared and he took a shot, making sure Cynthia couldn’t see the letters he typed in. He held his breath and soon was granted access. There were several files available with abbreviated or disjointed titles that probably only made sense to Jo.

“Which one do you think it is?” Cynthia asked, now looking over his shoulder. “Maybe we should call her and ask.”

Mac shook his head. “It’s early and she needs her rest. Let’s try this one.”

He clicked on the icon titled ‘Meeting MacGyver’. An essay-type document appeared on the screen, the first line quickly capturing his attention:

Her story begins on January 10, 1995. That was the day she first laid eyes on Angus MacGyver and lost her heart, not to mention her ever-lovin’ mind!

Mac swallowed a snort of amusement at her snide remark before fully realizing what he was looking at. Joanna kept a diary!

“Did you find it?”

Cynthia’s voice snapped MacGyver back to the present moment and his eyes away from something he instinctively knew he shouldn’t be reading.

“Um, no. Not yet. Give me a minute.” Mac swiftly closed the file and examined his options. He found and clicked on an icon titled ‘River Clean-Up’ and the sought after meeting agenda, along with Jo’s notes, appeared on the monitor. He printed enough copies for everyone and hurried back to his office where members of the planning committee huddled around his desk.

The meeting lasted for over an hour, but MacGyver would have been hard pressed to list the topics discussed, much less any details. His mind kept wandering back to the document he had opened on Joanna’s computer. Initially he assumed it was her private journal, but the fact that she kept referring to herself in the third person didn’t make sense. In his literary experience it read more like a novel. A novel about him...and her...them.

Mac pasted on a smile and impatiently offered friendly farewells as the committee members left the building with promises to stay in touch. He regretted not being able to give them his undivided attention...or any attention at all, but he was too caught up in the urge to read what Joanna had written about them. He knew he probably shouldn’t give in, but he apparently played a role in the story so he figured he had a right to read it, he rationalized.

“I’m going to head home if you don’t mind,” Cynthia announced, donning her coat and tucking a legal pad into her briefcase. “I’ll get my notes from today’s meeting together and share them with Joanna when she’s feeling better.”

After watching Cynthia leave and ignoring Geena’s suspicious glances, he settled himself behind Joanna’s desk, fired up the computer once more, and sat back to read ‘Meeting MacGyver’. With one hand on the mouse, Mac scrolled through page after page of the story. Every now and again, something would catch his eye and tug at his heart:

What a man as experienced and worldly as MacGyver would want with a girl like her she couldn’t comprehend. Surely Mac could have his pick of women, why was he wasting his time on her? She wanted so badly to believe MacGyver’s growing feelings for her were real, but he was here on a Phoenix assignment. As soon as his job was done he would go back to Los Angeles and forget she ever existed. She only wished she could say the same about him.

She stared at the diamond ring Mac had put on her finger. He really loved her! The most wonderful man in the world loved her and wanted to be with her forever!

Her mind kept replaying the dinner conversation with Nikki and Craig. They confirmed what she already knew: MacGyver was a very special man. Way too special for her. He was meant to do great things, not waste away in a Midwestern town with a naive, modest wife. That would be like Lois Lane marrying Superman. He would eventually resent her for clipping his wings, or cape, as the case may be.

Now her only question was how would their story end?

MacGyver leaned back in the chair and considered everything he had just read. Waves of despair rolled over him as he struggled to think of a way to quell Joanna’s uncertainty about his love for her. He closed his eyes and sighed, ready to go home for the day and deal with his emotions later when suddenly all of Jo’s words began to make sense, fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Mac knew why she was struggling to commit and he was fairly certain he had a way to fix it.

Mac rang the Fairfax’s front doorbell later that afternoon. Judy answered and invited him.

“We’re just getting ready to leave for church,” she told him. “Jo’s in the den resting. Go on back.”

He smiled and nodded before heading to the back of the house. There, Joanna sat in a recliner, legs raised and covered with a brightly colored afghan. Her attention was on the television, but when she saw him standing in the doorway she quickly grabbed the remote and turned it off.

“There is absolutely nothing good on TV on a Saturday afternoon,” she pouted.

Mac couldn’t help but chuckle. “I came by to see how you were doing but since you’re complaining I assume you’re feeling better.”

“I am,” she confirmed, her eyes softening in a way they hadn’t since he’d returned last week. “Wanna join me for dinner?”

She tipped her head toward the small table next to her where a glass of flat white soda and bag of pretzels sat. MacGyver sat in the matching recliner on the opposite side and grabbed a handful of the salty treats.

“So how did the meeting go this morning?” she asked eagerly.

Uh oh. “Fine,” he shrugged. Everyone had left with a smile so he figured that was fair conjecture. “Cynthia took copious notes as usual and said she’d go over everything with you once you’re better.”

“Good,” she replied, taking a sip of her drink before lowering the foot rest so she could turn to him. “Mac, I owe you an apology for everything I’ve put you through,” she confessed.

“You don’t need to apologize for getting sick,” MacGyver remarked. “And if you’re worried about my shoes--”

“No, I meant everything I’ve put you through these past weeks. You’ve proved your love and commitment to me over and over again and I was an idiot to question it. I know I told you we couldn’t pick up where we left off and I meant that. We can’t undo what happened while we were apart, but do you think we could just put it behind us and move forward?”

Mac’s heart thudded in his chest and his mouth went dry. He couldn’t believe he was finally hearing this. “Forward as in…?”

“Being a couple in love with a wedding to plan.”

“I’d like that a lot,” he confirmed. “There’s just one thing missing.” He watched her brow furrow in confusion as he dug in the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out his grandmother’s, and now Joanna’s, engagement ring. He reached for her hand and slid it on her finger.

“You’ve been carrying that around with you?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Yes ma’am. I like to be prepared for anything.” The smile she gave him was warm and genuine and he wanted this moment to last forever but there was something he had to know. “What made you change your mind about us?”

She turned away and bowed her head. “You’ll probably think it’s really silly, but I knew, really knew with all my being, that you loved me when I threw up on you.”

MacGyver worked his mouth but nothing came out. He was speechless and thankful when she continued.

“See, I think that is the absolute grossest thing in the world. I won’t even let my mom see me like that. But you didn’t let me push you away...literally. You stayed, filthy shoes and all, and took care of me.” By now her voice was thick with emotion and Mac didn’t much trust his own either.

“Aw baby,” he reached over and cupped her cheek with his hand, “I’d do it all over again and a whole lot more. I’d give my life for you.”

Jo’s eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over onto her cheeks. “I know, and I’d do the same for you. I’m so, so sorry I kept questioning my feelings.”

“Hey, I thought we were putting that all behind us,” he said with a quirky grin as he wiped away an errant tear with his thumb. Joanna offered him a watery smile, her face full of hope and love, and he knew he had to come clean with her. He reached into his jacket and withdrew the manuscript he had printed off earlier and handed it to her. Confusion spread across her face.

“How did you find this?” she asked softly.

“I was looking for the agenda for this morning’s meeting when I opened it by mistake.”

“You know my password?” She shot an accusing look his way.

“Yeah,” he nodded.

“Well, why wouldn’t you?” she muttered. After all, there were only a few people in the world who knew his first name so she figured it was the safest password ever.

“You read it,” she surmised, her demeanor surprisingly calm.

“When I realized what it was, I thought it might help me understand you better,” Mac explained. “And it did.”

This piqued her curiosity. “Go on,” she prompted, raising one brow.

“Ever since we met, I was determined to keep my past in the past so it wouldn’t ruin my chance at a future with you, but it turns out it did exactly that anyway.” He stopped and jammed his splayed fingers through his already disheveled hair. “By not talking about my time at Phoenix and the DXS, you ended up hearing bits and pieces about what I did, but never the whole story. You made me into some kind of hero, someone you thought didn’t deserve you, but I am and always have been just a regular guy with a kinda weird job. I mean, I’ll admit that I’ve done and seen more than most people could even begin to imagine, and maybe I tend to approach problems from a different angle than most, but I also got stuck with a lot of dull, lonely work no one else wanted to do.”

“Like what?”

MacGyver thought for a minute. There was so much to choose from!

“Well, this one time I spent three weeks above the Arctic Circle monitoring whale migration. I came home with a frost-bit finger and found Jack building a plane in my living room.”

Joanna tried but failed to hide the grin that tugged at her lips.

“Then there was the time I spent four weeks crammed inside a stuffy space simulator testing lab…”

“Okay, I get it,” Jo conceded. “I went a little overboard romanticizing your adventures.”

“And that’s my fault,” Mac declared. “Instead of burying my past, I should’ve shared it with you and that’s what I plan to do from here on in. No more hiding, no more running. If you want to know something, just ask. I’m an open book!” He spread his arms wide and smiled as she laughed.

“There’s something else,” he added, his tone serious. “I don’t want you to ever think that you are not the absolute best thing in my life. I don’t regret my past...well, at least not most of it...but I’m ready for a different future. One where I have a wife, own a home, have a family and do a job I love that won’t get me killed and you are the only person I want to have that with. Are we clear?”

Jo nodded, her countenance a reflection of certainty and peace. Still, he had to know one more thing.

“Are you upset that I read your story?” he asked.

Joanna appeared thoughtful before shaking her head. “I probably should be if for no other reason than you invaded my privacy, but given the outcome, I’m glad you did.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she confirmed with a playful grin as she pushed herself out of her chair and went to stand in front of him, taking his hands and urging him to his feet as well.

“What are you doing?” he asked, brows knitted in confusion.

“I was planning on kissing my fiancé senseless,” she smirked.

She reached out and wound her arms around his neck with a sly smile.

“Well, it’s about time!” he exclaimed as he lowered his lips to meet hers before she could say another word.


















Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 7 May 2020 - 01:45 AM                                    
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This just happened to be uploaded on my birthday laugh.gif

Did you edit in that part explaining the puppies' absense? Or was that there originally after all?

Hey, you know it's true love when they're willing to hold your hair back while you expel your stomach's contents laugh.gif

And apparently she thought the same thing laugh.gif

Uh, I'd be leery about kissing someone who's still sick tongue.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 7 May 2020 - 08:22 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 7 May 2020 - 01:45 AM)
This just happened to be uploaded on my birthday laugh.gif

Did you edit in that part explaining the puppies' absense? Or was that there originally after all?

Hey, you know it's true love when they're willing to hold your hair back while you expel your stomach's contents laugh.gif

And apparently she thought the same thing laugh.gif

Uh, I'd be leery about kissing someone who's still sick tongue.gif

Happy (belated) Birthday!! party.gif

No, that part about the puppies was originally there. I wrote this so long ago I forgot about it!!

Everything I wrote about throwing up is true for me. NOBODY can see or touch me! Even though it sounds gross, this was a real big step in Jo's and Mac's relationship!



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 7 May 2020 - 10:41 PM                                    
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Thanks biggrin.gif

Yeah, I can relate. Though my mother has seen me sick plenty if times laugh.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 14 May 2020 - 02:00 PM                                    
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Chapter 49: Collateral Damage

The following week was remarkable if for no other reason than nothing remarkable happened. MacGyver had spent Sunday morning at Challengers before spending the rest of the day with Joanna and her parents. She had quickly recovered from the twenty-four hour stomach bug and insisted on returning to work as usual on Monday. Though Mac was concerned about her overdoing it, he was equally happy to have her by his side once more, engagement ring firmly in place. Tonight he had made a special meal for them to celebrate his purchase of the duplex and they now sat on the couch, his arm draped around her shoulders as she snuggled against him with a glass of sparkling grape juice in hand while Frog snored contentedly in the corner.

“You really like that stuff, don’t you?” he teased as Jo reached for the bottle of effervescent juice on the coffee table.

“It’s actually really good,” she remarked, refilling her glass. “You want some more?”

“Naw, one of us needs to stay sober,” he teased. “So you’re really glad I bought this place?”

“I’m more than glad,” she assured him, her warm gaze melting into his. “I’ve lived in the same house my entire life, and never knew another place could feel this much like home. I also couldn’t imagine you living anywhere else. We belong here...together.”

“I’ll drink to that,” MacGyver said, gently clinking his wine glass against hers.

“Ya know, I’m actually glad you made us take some time apart from each other,” he confessed.

“Really?” Joanna looked at him questioningly. “Why?”

Mac put down his drink so he could wrap both arms around her. “Even though I never once doubted my feelings for you, I can see now that I took your feelings for me for granted. I also realized that while I was trying to protect you by not talking about my past I was actually hurting you by hiding the things that made me the guy I am today.”

Jo studied him thoughtfully. “When you said if I wanted to know something about your past I should just ask. Did you mean that?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then I have a question for you.”

“Fire away!”

“How did you and Pete meet?”

“Which version would you like?” Mac chuckled.

“You mean there’s more than one?” Joanna asked skeptically.

“Well...yeah. There’s the version we tell everyone and then there’s the truth.”

“Okay...tell me both.”

“In the official version, Pete was on assignment in Saudi Arabia for the DXS and I just happened to be there as well. I rescued him from some quicksand in the Nafud desert, and borrowed a camel to take us back to civilization.”

“I guess that sounds believable,” Jo remarked. “Now tell me how you really met.”

MacGyver settled back against the couch cushions. This story would take a bit longer. He related how Jack had been a cabbie in Los Angeles at the time but had gotten himself laid-up in the hospital. Mac, never being able to say no to a friend in need, agreed to drive the cab until Jack was on his feet again. One of his fares had been a woman who asked to be dropped off at an abandoned warehouse only to be followed by a stranger. That stranger turned out to be DXS operative Pete Thornton. Ever chivalrous, MacGyver tried to aid the lady but ended up having himself and Jack’s cab commandeered by Pete to chase after the ‘lady’, an adeptly disguised international assassin who would turn out to be Murdoc. Mac left nothing out, telling Joanna about the bazookas, exploding bed, and even Pete’s tacky toupee.

“Wow,” Jo remarked when he had finished speaking. “I can see why you go with the quicksand and camel story. It’s a lot simpler. But I have another question.”

“What is it?” MacGyver asked as she pulled away to look at him.

“Initially you were trying to help Murdoc. Why did he turn against you and make it his life’s mission to kill you?”

Mac shrugged. “Good question. Once Pete and I partnered up, Murdoc saw me as the enemy, too. Then it turned into sort of a game for him: Who could kill who first. He hated it that I was always able to outsmart him and I hated it that he never got caught.”

“What do you think things would be like today if Murdoc hadn’t died up at Harry’s cabin?” Jo asked.

The telephone rang before MacGyver could form a reply. He grabbed the cordless handset from the coffee table and clicked onto the call.

“Hello?”

“Hey Dad, what’s up?!”

Mac smiled and glanced at Jo. “Hi Sam, it’s been awhile.”

“Yeah, I know. Listen, I was thinking of driving up tomorrow and taking you out to dinner.”

“That’d be great, but Jo’s been sick so I don’t think--”

“You guys are back together?! That’s awesome!!”

“Wait a minute, you knew about that?” MacGyver glared at Joanna.

“Um, yeah. See, Jo told Becca and--”

“Becca told you. I get it.” His fiancé plucked the phone out of his hand before he could say anything else.

“Jo is right here and she’s feeling much better,” she told Sam. “What did you need?”

Mac watched as she listened intently, nodding as if his son could see her.

“We’d love to see both you and Becca,” she replied, shooting a menacing look at Mac. “But you have to let us treat you. We can pick up Chinese and relax here instead of going out. It’ll be the perfect Friday evening,” she smiled.

MacGyver reached to take the phone back but she pivoted away. “Listen Sam, do you happen to know if Becca still has the box I gave her?” Mac watched her nibbling her bottom lip and wondered about the turn in the conversation.

“Oh, good,” Jo let out a relieved sigh. “Can you guys bring it with you?”

Mac listened as the call concluded and Joanna put the phone back on the table. “What was all that about a box?” He thought Jo looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she struggled with her answer.

“I suppose I may as well tell you,” she replied defeatedly. “When Becca was in town doing research for her article on computer dating, I had already decided it wasn’t going to work between us and I gave her the wedding dress Connie bought for me and asked her to return it.”

The worried look in her eyes told him she feared his reaction and his heart squeezed as myriad emotions swept through him. In the end, he simply took her hand firmly in his and whispered, “I’m glad she didn’t listen to you.”

The following evening the two couples gathered around MacGyver’s kitchen table, passing around cartons of Chinese take-out. Mac and his son dug into their meal deftly using chopsticks while Joanna and Rebecca opted for conventional forks. When they were done eating, Sam leaned back in his chair and took Becca’s hand.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I wanted to come see you,” Sam said.

Mac glanced at Jo who simply shrugged.

“You mean it wasn’t to allow us to feed you?” MacGyver teased, but his son’s face remained serious.

“No, Dad,” he replied. “I just accepted an assignment in the Middle East.”

MacGyver felt the air rush out of his lungs. Not again. What was Sam thinking?

“Sam, what were you thinking?!” Joanna cried, once again reading Mac’s mind. “There’s a war going on over there!”

“There’s always a war going on over there, and that’s kinda the point,” Sam said. “My editor needs someone who has experience being imbedded with American troops to get a story. I have that experience. This could be my big break! If I do a good job the Tribune will probably hire me on permanently. I won’t be just a stringer anymore!”

“Provided you don’t get yourself killed!” Mac shot back.

“I’ve done it before, Dad! I know what I’m doing!”

MacGyver felt Joanna’s warm hand on his thigh, offering him silent comfort...and perhaps a warning to calm down. He clenched his jaw to keep from saying something he might regret.

“Sam, what can you tell us about this assignment?” Jo asked, her voice low and calm.

“I don’t know a lot. Apparently even I’m on a need-to-know-basis, but I should only be over there a couple of weeks at the most. Apparently military intelligence has had some kind of break through and I’m going to be joining up with a special ops team to get the scoop.

“So where are they sending you? Iraq? Afghanistan?” Mac asked.

Sam shrugged. “I don’t know yet. I fly into Germany the day after tomorrow and I’ll get more information then.”

“I don’t suppose I can talk you out of this.” It was a statement, not a question, because MacGyver knew the answer.

“Nope.”

“Then be safe,” Mac said, getting up from his chair and walking around the table to where is son now stood waiting to embrace him.

A few hours later, MacGyver stood staring out the patio door, waiting for Frog to finish his business. He saw Joanna’s reflection in the window as she approached to stand beside him.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he said flatly, still looking out into the night.

“I know,” she sighed.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Sam arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany on Sunday where he received further identification papers and a plane ticket to Kabul. He wasn’t surprised at his destination. Afghanistan had always been a hotbed of military activity and lately the news had been reporting a surge in rebel fighting within the country. Glancing at his watch he realized he needed to hurry if he was to catch his flight.

Seven hours later Sam’s plane landed in Kabul. He stretched as best he could while waiting to disembark. He figured he had spent most of the last seventeen hours in the air cramped in economy class and his muscles were beginning to complain. He longed to collect his rucksack, secure a room at the closest hotel, and take a long hot shower. Unfortunately, that was not to be. A man dressed in civilian clothes but clearly an American held a sign with Sam’s name written in large, dark letters. This was his contact who would transport him to the unit he would be imbedded with. Well-versed in introductory procedure, Sam had his passport in hand as he approached.

“Hi, I’m Sam Malloy,” he stated, handing over his ID which the man studied for mere seconds before returning it.

“Nice to meet you,” he said, lowering the sign and shaking Sam’s hand. “I’m Private First Class Alex Dunbar. I’ll be your escort the rest of the way.”

Private Dunbar appeared close to Sam’s age and height with brown hair and matching eyes.

“What’s with the civvies?” Sam asked as they headed to baggage claim.

“My commanding officer thought it best if I tried to blend in. I’m not sure it’s working,” he chuckled as he plucked at the tropical print shirt he wore.

“You must be pretty hungry,” Alex remarked once Sam had been reunited with his rucksack and camera bag.

“You could say that,” Sam laughed as his stomach grumbled as if on cue. “Airline cuisine only goes so far!”

“If you can wait about an hour or so there’s this little place outside the city run by local villagers. They serve the best qormah...better than you’ll find in any restaurant, plus it’s cheap and the portions are huge.”

“Hey, you don’t have to convince me,” Sam assured him. “Lead the way!”

A while later, Private Dunbar guided their utilitarian Jeep off the smooth highway and onto a bumpy desert road, leaving the lights of Kabul behind.

“This your first tour?” Sam asked.

“Nope. Second.”

“Voluntary?”

“Aren’t they all? If you don’t volunteer, Uncle Sam’ll do it for you.”

Sam chuckled at the saying he had heard all too often years ago when he was first becoming acquainted with military operations. It wasn’t long until he saw lights glowing in the darkness that had surrounded them. Minutes later, Alex parked the Jeep near an oddly shaped stone and clay structure. A mixture of white and multicolored Christmas lights powered by a portable generator provided a woven canopy for the outdoor eating area.

“Have a seat,” Dunbar motioned.

Sam sat down at a rickety table for two while his escort entered the small building to procure their supper. Even though it was well past midnight, the place was crowded and alive as men, women and children chattered away in a foreign language. Enticing aromas wafted on the cool night air causing Sam’s mouth to water and he was grateful when Alex returned and set a large clay bowl in front of him.

“Bon Appetit!” he said, taking his own seat.

Sam greedily dug into the hearty helping of stew covered rice. He immediately recognized the flavors of onion and lotus root along with large, tender pieces of lamb served in perfect combination. Once the two men’s appetites had been sated, they climbed back into the Jeep.

“How far is the base camp?” Sam asked.

“We should get there by dawn,” Dunbar told him. “Just in time for you to meet up with the convoy and head out.”

“Great,” Sam replied, trying unsuccessfully to smother a yawn.

Alex chuckled. “Jet lag’ll get you every time. I know it’s a bumpy ride, but feel free to get some shut-eye while you can.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“What do you think, Mac?” Joanna asked.

“About what?” MacGyver asked, tearing himself away from his self-imposed reverie.

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said,” Jo accused from where she sat on the opposite side of his desk.

“If you think it’s bad now, just wait until you’re married,” Cynthia replied with a wry grin. “Booker, bless his soul, was the best man a woman could ask for, but that man had the worst case of selective hearing I’ve ever seen. At least up until now.” She nodded toward Mac.

“Look, I’m sorry, but I have a lot on my mind,” he snapped.

“You mean you have Sam on your mind,” Jo observed, no censure in her voice, only understanding.

“Yeah,” Mac confessed, scrubbing his face with his hands before standing up to pace the small room that was his office. “I don’t know what it is, but since he told us about his new assignment I’ve just had this feeling.”

Ever since Sam’s announcement at dinner Friday night, MacGyver had been distracted, unable to give Challengers and even Joanna his undivided attention.

“Perhaps I should leave and we can continue this meeting at another time,” Cynthia offered politely.

“No,” Mac countered. “The river clean-up project is a week from Saturday. We need to get plans nailed down and the kids on board.”

For the next two hours MacGyver forced himself to focus on the job at hand. The meeting ended with Cynthia volunteering to create a participant sign-up sheet and talk to Geena and Rosie about getting the kids interested in the project. Once Cynthia had left, Mac got up and began pacing the room.

“It looks like it’s gonna be a pretty slow night,” Jo observed. “Why don’t you head on home?”

MacGyver turned to her. “Only if you come with me.” He really didn’t feel like being alone, and that in itself bothered him.

“Fine. But your gonna have to feed me.”

Mac chuckled. “What do you say I make you my famous whole wheat and banana pancakes?”

“Sounds like a plan,” she replied with a smile.

XXXXX

The couple had just finished eating when there was a knock on the front door. MacGyver opened it to find two men with sullen expressions standing on his stoop. One wore a dark suit and tie and held a large manila envelope while the other was in formal military uniform. A high-ranking official if the medals on his chest were any indication. Mac knew government protocol when he saw it, and this was it. His stomach turned to lead as he anticipated the reason for this visit.

“Mr. MacGyver?” the uniformed man asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Are you the father of Sean A. Malloy?” the other man inquired.

“Yes, I am.”

“May we come in?” This from Military Man again.

“Of course,” Mac replied, stepping back to allow the two gentlemen to enter while Jo quietly came to stand beside him. He felt her arm wrap around his waist and saw the question and concern in her eyes. “This is my fiancé, Joanna Fairfax,” he said.

The men nodded toward her in way of greeting before turning their attention back to MacGyver.

“Perhaps you’d like to sit down,” Dark Suit Guy suggested.

“I’m good,” Mac replied firmly. “Just say what you came here to say.”

The man in uniform cleared his throat before speaking. “I have been entrusted to express deep regret that your son, Sean, was killed on assignment in Afghanistan early this afternoon. The armored vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside bomb and all occupants perished. The military and United States Government extends its deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”

MacGyver felt as if he had just been sucker-punched and had all the air knocked out of him. The world around him began to spin and his vision blurred. He barely heard Joanna gasp beside him or felt her bury her head in his chest.

“No. It can’t be. Not Sam,” he murmured, his voice sounding far away even to his own ears.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the man in the suit offered. Mac now realized he was a chaplain. “Your son was positively identified by the documents he had on his person at the time of the incident. Here are some of his personal effects.” The man held out the manila envelope, but placed it on the kitchen counter when MacGyver refused to take it. “We’ll be in touch tomorrow to assist you with final arrangements.”

The two men silently let themselves out and Joanna locked the door behind them. “He’s not dead,” MacGyver proclaimed, turning to find Jo peering into the large envelope.

“I know you don’t want it to be true, but these are his things,” she replied softly. “Sam’s gone.”

“No, he’s not!” Mac yelled as he grabbed the envelope from her and slammed it to the floor causing its contents to scatter on the carpet.

Joanna knelt down to gather Sam’s belongings. She picked up a wristwatch and held it out. “Mac, it’s the watch you gave him for his last birthday. The one you had engraved.”

MacGyver’s legs gave out and he sank to the floor next to her. “It can’t be,” he whispered, taking the time piece and turning it over in his hands, trying to deny the evidence he held.

“What’s this?” Jo asked.

Mac immediately recognized the locket that hung from a long chain. He didn’t realize Sam still wore it. He took it from her and, with trembling fingers, carefully opened it to find a picture of a much younger version of himself staring back.

“This is the locket Kate gave Sam before she was killed. This is how he knew who I was,” he explained, his voice thick with emotion. Tears welled in his eyes and he knew it was true. His son was dead.

He didn’t know who reached out first, but he found himself in Joanna’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. Filled with anguish and rage, he clung to her like a drowning man would cling to a life preserver. Their tears mingled together until they were both too breathless, too exhausted to cry. Sitting back on their heels, they reached out and wiped the moisture from each other’s cheeks. It was then that Mac noticed Frog all but attacking the forgotten envelope lying on the floor.

“Knock it off,” he scolded, making a half-hearted attempt to push the dog away. But Frog would not be deterred and continued to paw at the brown paper until it was nothing but shreds. Apparently satisfied, the bull dog then returned to his nap under the coffee table. With a lump in his throat, MacGyver reached out to recover Sam’s passport and press ID which was now exposed. Gingerly picking up the documents, he braced himself to see his son’s face one more time, but when he looked down, it was to find a stranger’s face next to Sam’s signature.

“They were wrong. It wasn’t Sam,” Mac said huskily, afraid to believe yet knowing it was true.

“What?!” Jo exclaimed, crawling forward.

Forcing himself to remain calm and logical, MacGyver studied the ID’s more carefully before showing them to her.

“This is Sam’s information, but not his picture,” he declared as hope bubbled up inside him.

“Is it a fake?” Joanna asked.

“Let’s find out.” Mac stood up and dug in his pocket for his Swiss Army knife as the couple made their way to the kitchen table. Once seated, he selected the thinnest blade he could find and probed the edges of Sam’s laminated press pass until a corner gave way. With slow, cautious movements, MacGyver lifted the imposter’s picture to reveal Sam’s smiling countenance. “It’s authentic,” he confirmed, leaning back in his chair. “Someone just replaced Sam’s picture with their own and did a real good job.”

“Then this is Sam’s too, only with someone else’s picture?” Jo inquired, fingering the passport.

“Looks that way,” Mac remarked. “Which means it wasn’t Sam who was killed in that convoy.”

Joanna leaned in. “Then who is this guy and where’s Sam? He’d never willingly had over his personal information, especially in a foreign country.”

“I know,” MacGyver agreed, scrubbing his face with his hands.

“So, what do we do now?” Jo asked, clearly bewildered.

“We figure out what’s going on,” Mac declared as he reached for the phone.

“Who are you calling?”

“Craig Bannister. The government and military often work closely with the Phoenix Foundation and Bannister may still have some connections at the DSX as well,” he explained as he dialed. When his friend and former colleague answered, MacGyver quickly summarized the situation. Several minutes later he slammed down the receiver.

“What happened? What’d he say?”

Mac blew out a frustrated breath and jammed his fingers through his hair. “He said we need to go through proper channels, but that’ll take too long.” He pushed out of his chair and bounded up the spiral staircase with Joanna close behind. He pulled out his worn duffle from underneath the bed and began randomly stuffing it with clothes.

“What are you doing?” Jo demanded.

“What does it look like? I’m going after Sam.”

Joanna grabbed his arm and wrenched it harder than he thought possible. “Have you lost your mind?! You can’t just run off to Afghanistan!”

“I can and I am! I hafta find Sam!”

“Then go through proper channels like Craig suggested!”

MacGyver turned and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Look, best case scenario is that someone simply lifted Sam’s papers or forced him to hand them over. Worst case scenario? Sam could’ve been kidnapped or worse. I’m not gonna sit around and wait for the government to cut through diplomatic red tape when my son is missing!”

“Would you just stop and think about this for a minute?” Jo pleaded, pinning him with the look she reserved for her naughtiest students. “Afghanistan is a large and very dangerous country. Where would you even begin looking for him? And what if something happens to you? Then you’ll both need rescued. At least give the government a chance to do it their way.”

Mac sighed and dropped his arms to his side. “I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s just that--”

“Sam is your son,” she said firmly. “If anyone can get out of whatever situation he may be in, it’s him.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Is he dead, Mama?” The little girl’s heavily accented voice pierced through his fog-shrouded brain.

“No, my little one, he was badly injured and needs to sleep while his body heals,” a melodic female voice replied.

“He’s slept long enough,” a harsh voice grumbled. “Every day he is here he brings more danger.”

“But Father, it was you who brought him to our camp,” the elder female countered.

“What was I to do? Leave him in the desert to die? I am an old man and will soon meet Allah and be judged. I cannot have a man’s death on my conscience. However, it is time that he leaves. He does not belong here.”

Sam’s head throbbed. He reached up to rub his temple, only to find it covered with a gauze-like material. He peeled one eye open, the other was swollen shut. His lips were dry and cracked and his mouth was filled with the metallic taste of blood. Continuing his physical inventory, nothing seemed to be broken, except possibly his ankle which throbbed in rhythm to his pulse. He attempted to push himself up by his elbow, but quickly flopped back down with a groan. Better add a couple of busted ribs to the list.

“Mama! Mama! The man is awake!” the little girl cried.

“Hurry, Asal, get him some water,” the woman ordered as she sat beside Sam on the narrow cot. She gently lifted his head and pressed the cool, earthenware cup to his lips. “Slowly!” she scolded as he drank greedily.

“What happened? Where am I?” Sam croaked when the woman pulled the cup away.

“My father found you beaten and unconscious in the desert and brought you here, to our camp.”

With the woman’s help, Sam sat up and took in the canvas walls of the little family’s tent and the one large room dimly lit by kerosene lanterns. He also noticed that he was no longer wearing his khakis and t-shirt but baggy cotton pants and a long matching shirt. His right leg was splinted with two narrow boards tied with more gauzy cloth which confirmed his suspicions about his ankle.

“Do you remember who did this to you?” the woman asked, genuine concern in her voice. Yet Sam knew it wasn’t wise to trust friends, much less strangers, in this volatile country.

“No,” he shook his head and instantly regretted it as a stabbing pain shot through his brain. “The last thing I remember was falling asleep in the Jeep.” Technically, the last thing he remembered was a very interesting dream starring Becca, but the lady didn’t need to know that. “How long have I been here?”

“It is the end of the third day,” came the gruff reply from the only other man in the tent. “You truly do not remember who attacked you?”

“No,” Sam replied as his mind raced with possibilities. Had he and Private Dunbar been ambushed? “The man I was traveling with. Where is he? And the Jeep?”

The woman and her father exchanged troubled glances. “You were the only one there,” the man confirmed.

Sam wanted to ask more questions. He needed to figure out his exact predicament, but he was tiring quickly.

“What’s your name?” the girl asked from the foot of the makeshift bed. With long, black hair and wide, dark eyes, she was a miniature version of her mother.

“I’m Sam,” he answered with the friendliest smile he could muster.

“My name is Asal, and this is my mama, Moska, and my grandpapa, Soban.”

“It’s nice to meet you all,” he replied, looking at each family member in turn.

“You must be hungry,” Moska observed. “I will get you something to eat.” At her declaration, everyone headed toward the opposite end of the tent. Sam leaned back on his cot and waited for his food to arrive.

Sam felt the rays of the morning sun caressing his face as the flaps of the tent’s entrance were pulled back. When he opened his eyes it was to see a pair of obsidian ones staring back. Asal.

“I guess I fell asleep before supper last night, huh?” he smiled gently.

“Mama said you needed to rest and will eat when you are ready.”

“Food heals the soul as well as the body,” Moska said as she came to stand beside her daughter holding a tray.

“I am pretty hungry,” Sam confessed as he sat up and took the tray from Asal’s mother. From previous trips to the area, he quickly identified ‘nan’, an unleavened flat bread, on a plate as well as a bowl of ‘mast’, a yogurt-based soup. Last, but not least, was a steaming cup of aromatic tea. Unfortunately, the delicious food soon became bland under Soban’s steely gaze.

“Now that you are stronger, perhaps you can tell us what you are doing here in our country.”

Sam swallowed a spoonful of soup before answering. “I’m a United States journalist. I was on my way to a U.S. military camp I’m supposed to be imbedded with. If someone can bring me my clothes I can show you my identification.”

The words had barely left his mouth when Moska presented him with his freshly laundered and carefully folded shirt and pants. “They were caked with blood and sand when my father rescued you,” she explained, “But your pockets were empty.”

His chin dropped to his chest. “Terrific. I’m in a foreign, war-torn country with no way to prove who I am,” he mumbled before looking up at Soban. “How far is it to Kabul?”

“Not far. At most it is a two-day ride. I will saddle you a horse, or camel, if you prefer, but you must agree to take a guide from the camp to show you the way and make sure my animal is returned.”

“Father!” Moska exclaimed. “Our guest is not healed enough to make such a journey! You must let him stay!”

“He can stay until sun-up tomorrow. Then he must leave and forget he was ever here.” The old man turned and stomped out of the tent.

“You must forgive him,” Moska said, shaking her head sadly. “He has lived his entire life in this desert as his ancestors before him. We are a peaceful, nomadic tribe, but that doesn’t keep violence and bloodshed from our homes.”

“It’s understandable that he would want to protect his family,” Sam assured her. “I couldn’t help but notice your husband isn’t here.”

Moska’s eyes took on a glassy sheen. “Several years ago, rebel insurgents tried to recruit my husband to fight with them. Asal was just a baby. My husband refused as our people do not believe in war and for that he was killed. My husband and father were very close. That is the reason my father distrusts strangers.”

“I’m sorry about your husband. I didn’t mean to bring up difficult memories, but I am glad your father saw fit to not let me die.”

“Our religion demands we practice charity,” she explained. “I will leave you to rest now.”

Sam spent the day sitting just outside the tent on a small, stone bench watching the other families in the camp go about their normal routine. Their self-sufficiency amazed him, as did their acceptance of him amongst their ranks. Moska had given him a walking stick and he was pleasantly surprised to find that his ankle wasn’t as sore as he first thought. Perhaps he had only sustained a sprain. It hadn’t taken very long before Asal insisted on introducing her friends to him and he spent the next hours fielding a plethora of questions about life in America. When the children could think of nothing else to ask, they split up in small groups to play soccer or baseball, but Asal remained steadfastly at his side.

“How did you and your friends learn to speak such good English and play sports?” Sam asked.

The little girl shrugged. “Sometimes American soldiers stay not too far from our camp. They bring us gifts and teach us things.”

“That sounds pretty cool,” Sam remarked.

“They also tell the boys that if they get real good at playing ball they could move to America and make lots of money, but I think they’re just teasing. Getting paid to play a game is silly,” she giggled, and Sam couldn’t help but chuckle as well.

That evening, Sam joined the family at the supper table and was amazed at the delicious meal Moska had made from such basic ingredients. When everyone was done eating, Asal and her mother cleared the table and Soban leaned back in his chair.

“I have arranged for our neighbor’s son to take you to Kabul tomorrow. He will meet you outside at first light. I am loaning you one of my best stallions. I trust he will be returned unharmed.”

Pleased that the old man apparently trusted Sam more than he let on, and infinitely relieved to learn he would not be riding a camel, Sam simply nodded.

Early the next morning, Sam stepped from the tent. The eastern sky was just beginning to blush a light pink, promising another sunny day ahead. As expected, a boy in his early teens stood holding the halters of two finely bred horses. He was admiring the animals when Moska approached with Asal and Soban behind her. She handed him a pair of saddlebags and a canteen.

“I packed your clothes and enough food for a two-day ride,” she informed him.

“You shouldn’t have gone through so much trouble,” Sam said, shaking his head. “You all have done so much for me already, there’s no way I could ever thank you.”

Moska gently put her hand on his arm. “It has been our honor to assist you. You can thank us by safely returning to your homeland.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sam agreed with a smile, before hoisting himself up on his large steed, taking care not to aggravate his injuries.

XXXXX

Twilight was falling on the second day of the journey when Sam’s guide reined in his horse, causing Sam to do the same. While the young man hadn’t been exactly friendly, he had been polite and accommodating.

“Why are we stopping?” Sam asked, his instincts going on alert. “Is something wrong?”

His escort graced him with a rare smile. “No. See those lights in the distance? That is Kabul and this is where we must part ways.”

“Looks like a pretty long walk,” Sam grimaced.

The teen chuckled. “It is only about a mile to a well-traveled road. Someone will stop and give you a ride.” Then he looked critically at Sam. “You might want to change into your Western clothes. Locals will be more likely to take pity on you.”

“Gee, thanks,” Sam grumbled as he dismounted and dug his clean but now-wrinkled clothes from the saddlebag Moska had provided. His guide reached for reins of the stallion Sam had been riding and turned both horses back towards the direction they had just come from.

“You’re not planning on riding back tonight, are you?” Sam asked, concerned for the boy’s safety.

“I have traveled this desert since I was a small boy. I will be fine. And if I fall asleep, the horses know the way home.” He flashed Sam a parting grin and spurred the horses into a gallop, sand flying in their wake.

Sam quickly changed clothes, wanting to reach civilization before total darkness encompassed the desert. By the time he reached the paved road, his ankle was screaming in protest. He had taken the splint off the night before to make sitting his horse easier but now wished he had it back. On the other hand, how was he to know his guide was going to dump him outside the city to fend for himself?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before a taxi cab pulled to a stop in front of him.

“Need a lift?” the cabbie asked.

“Yeah, but I’m afraid I don’t have any money on me at the moment.”

“You are American?”

“Yes sir,” Sam replied, imagining what the man must think of his ripped shirt and torn jeans, not to mention the slowly healing bruises on his face. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if the cabbie suddenly turned tail and ran.

“My shift is over. I’ll keep the meter off,” the driver said after some consideration. “Where can I take you?” he asked as Sam climbed in.

“The U.S. Embassy if possible.”

With no further conversation, the driver zigged and zagged his cab through the city before pulling up beside the large building. Sam thanked the cabbie for his kindness before the man sped off. Now his next task was to convince the government officials in the embassy of his identity with absolutely no proof.

Sam made his way wearily up the steps and stumbled through the main entrance before approaching the reception area. He was hungry, tired, dizzy and in pain from head to toe, but he knew he had to hold himself together if he was to secure a way home.

“May I help you?” a young, female secretary asked warily from behind a large desk. Sam took a deep breath and pasted on what he hoped was a charming yet non-threatening smile. It was now or never.

“I hope so,” he replied in a friendly tone. “I’m afraid all my identification was stolen, but my name is Sam Malloy and I’m a photojournalist here on assignment for the Chicago Tribune.” He was prepared to say more but stopped short when the woman turned so pale you would have thought she had seen a ghost and shot to her feet.

“Please have a seat,” she invited, gesturing to a row of chairs lined up against the opposite wall. “I’ll be right back.” She hurried away and Sam sighed, sure he would soon be in handcuffs and sitting under an interrogation spotlight. He sat down, allowed his head to fall into his hands and silently bemoaned his fate even as he wondered how his dad would handle a situation like this. He didn’t have long to think before a burly, middle-aged man in military uniform approached, followed by a lanky, balding man in a disheveled suit. Sam rose to meet his fate.

“Did you say your name is ‘Sam Malloy’?” the office asked without preamble. He stood a head taller than Sam and clenched his hands behind his back, causing his chest to puff out.

“Yes sir,” Sam confirmed.

“Is that your given name?”

Now it was Sam’s turn to become wary. “No sir. My full name is Sean Angus Malloy.”

“Well, I’ll be!” the man in the suit exclaimed. “MacGyver was right!”

Thoroughly confused at the mention of his dad’s name, Sam’s questioning gaze bounced between the two men.

“Welcome back from the dead, son,” the officer proclaimed as he shook Sam’s hand with a sturdy grip. “I’m General Rimmer and this is Special Agent Max Foster with the DXS,” he explained, nodding to the man beside him who also shook Sam’s hand.

“I’m sorry. I...I don’t understand.”

“Let’s go back to my office and get this all sorted out. Then we’ll get you to the hospital and have a doctor check you out.”

General Rimmer led the way to his cavernous, well-appointed office in the bowels of the embassy. When everyone was comfortably seated, the general’s assistant brought in a tray of tea, coffee, and light refreshments. Having not eaten since early that afternoon, Sam eagerly indulged himself.

“Now, why don’t you start from the beginning and explain how you came to be here tonight?” Rimmer prompted.

Sam set down his cup of coffee and leaned back in the buttery soft leather chair. He was hoping the general and agent would have offered the same information, but he couldn’t fault them for not showing their hand. Afterall, he was the beat-up guy with no ID. Sam settled in and explained how he had flown from O’Hare to Berlin then on to Kabul where he was met by Private Dunbar and the events that followed.

“Then I woke up in a tent in the desert,” he told them and chronicled the days spent with Asal, Moska, and Soban, as well as his two-day trek back to Kabul.

“But you don’t actually remember the attack itself?” General Rimmer asked, not for the first time.

Sam shook his head. “Like I told you, I must have dozed off in the Jeep and was knocked unconscious. I was kinda hopin’ you could tell me what happened and if Dunbar is okay.”

The two older men exchanged somber looks laden with emotions Sam couldn’t quite identify. Finally, Agent Foster got up and retrieved a file sitting front and center on the general’s desk. He took out an eight-by-ten photograph and handed it to Sam.

“Do you recognize this man?” the agent asked.

“Yes,” Sam replied immediately. “This is Private First Class Alex Dunbar, my military-appointed escort.”

Foster plucked the picture from Sam’s grasp. “I’m sorry, Sam, but ‘Alex Dunbar’ doesn’t exist. Did you ask for his identification when you first arrived?”

Sam lowered his head. “No. I’m sorry. I was tired and just assumed he was who he said he was. He said all the right things.”

“There’s no need to be sorry,” Agent Foster assured him, “But perhaps it’s a lesson learned for next time. At any rate, the man in this photo was an American sympathizer with the rebel insurgents in the region. He went by several aliases which made it that much harder for us to pin him down. From the information we already had, and now with your side of the story, we believe it was this imposter who attacked you in order to steal your identity. You see, you were cleared to be imbedded with a special ops team on a highly sensitive mission that ‘Dunbar’ planned to sabotage. It would have been way too difficult to pose as specialized military, so he targeted you, a reporter, instead.”

“But how could he have possibly known about me?”

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” General Rimmer replied, stroking his chin. “Your incident has opened a very large can of international worms, so to speak.”

Sam took a sip of his coffee which by now had turned cold before raising further questions for the two men. He looked toward Rimmer first. “When we met earlier, you welcomed me back from the dead.” He then turned to Foster. “And you said that my dad had been right. What was that all about?”

General Rimmer scrubbed his face with his hands. “The man you knew as ‘Dunbar’ successfully infiltrated the special ops unit you had been assigned to. Their convoy hit a roadside bomb. Everyone in the vehicle ‘Dunbar’ was riding in was killed, including ‘Dunbar’”. He was identified by his passport and press pass that of course had your information on it. Per military protocol, officers were dispatched to inform next of kin and hand over personal effects.”

“So my dad thinks I’m dead?!” Sam exclaimed as he realized for the first time that not only were his ID documents missing, but he also did not have his watch, locket, or Swiss Army knife.

“He tried to deny it but, yes. At least until he discovered the altered credentials.”

Agent Foster picked up the story from there. “And you know how your dad is, like a dog with a bone when he has a puzzle to solve. I heard he even thought about coming here to look for you himself but his fiancé managed to talk him out of it.”

“Yeah, Jo’s about the only person who could do that, too,” Sam said with a smile until he realized that Joanna also thought he was dead and he hated to think of her and his dad grieving when he was very much alive. And what about Becca?

“So anyway,” Foster continued, “Mac called Craig Bannister at Phoenix and, since we all used to work together at the DXS, Craig called me after warning MacGyver to mind his own business. I was over here already so I started pokin’ around, but to be honest, there was very little to go on. Chances are we never would have found you if you hadn’t walked through that door tonight.”

Sam took a few moments to let this all sink in before the general spoke again.

“You’re a very lucky young man,” he observed.

“You call being beat up and left for dead ‘lucky’?” Sam snorted.

“I do, considering if you had been where you were supposed to be, you’d most certainly be dead right now.”

Sam blew out a breath. “Yeah. I guess I hadn’t thought about that. General, do you mind if I use your phone for a minute?”

“Be my guest.”

“It’s long distance,” Sam warned.

“I think the U.S. government can afford it,” Rimmer replied with a wink.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Mac, I think we ought to head home and let Sam get some rest,” Joanna suggested.

Sam had returned to his Chicago apartment twenty-four hours earlier and for at least twenty of those hours, he had been hovered over by either MacGyver, Joanna, Rebecca, or all three.

“He seems to be in good hands,” she offered, nodding toward where Becca stood.

“Oh, don’t worry about a thing,” the younger woman assured them. “I’ll take real good care of him.”

Jo bit back a giggle when Sam rolled his eyes. Like his father, he didn’t care to be fussed over.

“It’s okay, Dad. I’ll be fine now that I’m home,” Sam confirmed.

“Besides,” Joanna added, “You need just as much rest as your son, if not more. You’ve hardly slept a wink since this whole thing started.”

Mac blew out a breath and jammed his splayed fingers through his hair. “I guess I am being a bit of a ‘father hen’,” he admitted sheepishly.

“Look, I really appreciate your concern, but you can see I’m fine now,” Sam said from where he lie on his couch. His ribs had been bound and his taped ankle rested on a pillow.

“Alright,” MacGyver acquiesced. “But call if you need anything.”

“Would you like me to drive?” Joanna asked once she and Mac reached the parking lot.

“Why?”

“Because you’ve been awake for hours on end.”

“Fine,” he groaned, tossing her the keys and climbing into the passenger side of the Nomad.

Jo slid behind the wheel and grimaced.

“What’s wrong?” Mac asked.

“I never realized how huge this car is. It’s like driving the Love Boat!”

“Changing your mind?” he teased.

“No,” she replied firmly. “You just sit there and relax. You might even fall asleep, which would be a good thing.”

Mac snorted. “Like that’s gonna happen!”

Joanna carefully backed out of the parking space, quickly getting a feel for the big car. She tuned the radio to her favorite country music station and spared a glance at MacGyver who was snoring softly before she even reached the interstate.



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 15 May 2020 - 02:42 AM                                    
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Interesting title...

I seriously thought Sam's news was going to be that he and becca were engaged tongue.gif

Sam can't be dead. I think he gave his stuff to the other guy.

I was close enough.

Mac crying 😢😢😢

Good chapter laugh.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

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"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 15 May 2020 - 09:10 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 15 May 2020 - 02:42 AM)
Interesting title...

I seriously thought Sam's news was going to be that he and becca were engaged tongue.gif

Sam can't be dead. I think he gave his stuff to the other guy.

I was close enough.

Mac crying 😢😢😢

Good chapter laugh.gif

I thought you would probably like this one!



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 20 May 2020 - 12:11 PM                                    
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Chapter 50: Return to New Hope

A/N: This is a continuation of Chapter 31.

Boston, MA
March 1864

Mister Patrick Malloy sat behind his large mahogany desk from which he ran his incredibly successful newspaper empire. Distribution and readership had been on a constant rise, yet today a fiery rage roared through him. He looked at the crinkled paper he held in one hand and then at the calendar before him. It would soon be a year since his dearest daughter, Kate, had been murdered in a stage coach robbery while on her way to join her husband on the frontier land he was in the process of settling. His attention returned to the letter he had received that day from his six-year-old grandson, Samuel. In careful printing, the young boy had done his best to chronicle the Valentine’s Day wedding of his father to his school teacher, Miss Anna. Anger with his rogue son-in-law threatened to overwhelm him.

“How dare you?” he mumbled to himself. “She hasn’t even been gone twelve months and you marry the first chit to catch your fancy while I sit here day in and day out and grieve for my only child. It’s not fair!” Malloy slammed his fist down on his desk and immediately knew what he must do.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

New Hope, Nebraska Territory
May 1864

MacGyver stood on his front porch and inhaled deeply, his face tipped toward the mid-morning sun as its rays smiled down upon him. Late spring had brought clear skies and warm temperatures to New Hope and his homestead was already beginning to thrive. It had been a brutal winter, but thankfully he had only lost two head of cattle and his horses remained hale and hearty. An early thaw had also allowed him to get a head start on plowing and planting his field. He smiled as the joyful laughter of a grown woman and young boy drifted from the kitchen window. He could hardly believe that only a year ago he had been practically living like a hermit, sequestering himself from everyone and everything in the name of grief, and today he had everything he could possibly dream of. He heard the front door creak open and soon felt his new wife by his side.

“Would you mind hitching up the buckboard? Sammy and I need to go into town and pick up some groceries.”

“I’d be happy to drive you,” he replied, looking down fondly on the brown-haired, brown-eyed school teacher he had married this past February, much to the delight of his son and her student.

She reached up and gently weaved her fingers through the dark blond hair at the nape of his neck causing a delightful tingle to trickle down his spine. “You could do with a visit to the barber,” she mused.

“Um...on second thought...I have some things to tend to here. I’ll get the wagon ready for you.” He grinned as her mirthful giggle followed him all the way to the barn.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The little bell above the door tinkled a greeting as Anna walked into the General Store, Sammy beside her.

“Good morning, Anna! What can I help you with today?” Peter Thornton, the storekeeper, asked.

“I’m just here to pick up my weekly grocery order,” she sighed, looking around and wishing she had more time to browse.

“Sure thing. I have it all ready in the storeroom.” As Mr. Thornton slipped into the curtained off area, Sammy tugged at her skirt.

“Ma, can I go to the post office?” he asked impatiently.

“You know there’s no mail delivery on Saturday,” she informed him.

“But it’s been a whole week,” he whined.

“Fine. But remember to watch where you’re walking so you don’t get run over.” Anna had barely finished speaking before the boy was out the door.

“Here we are,” Thornton said, placing the box on the counter before calculating the total and taking the money Anna offered. “Guess you’re keepin’ pretty busy what with teachin’ and bein’ a newlywed with a ready-made family and all.”

“You can say that again!” she chuckled.

“Well, it’s right generous of you to offer to stay on teachin’ ‘til the end of the term.”

“In all fairness, I only thought it proper since I wasn’t planning on getting married and having a family when I signed my contract. I just hope they can find a replacement by the time classes resume in the fall.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry none about that,” Thornton assured her. “This here town is growin’ by leaps and bounds. Surely the school board will have plenty of young ladies linin’ up to teach our young’uns!”

The bell above the door rang again and Anna turned to find Sammy walking into the store, head hung low, followed by a man in a black suit and white shirt with a stiffly starched collar.

“Still no letter from Grampa?” she asked, sympathy overflowing for the boy. How could his maternal grandfather be so cruel as to not acknowledge the son of his late daughter?

“No,” Sammy mumbled. “I was hopin’, after I told him all about your wedding, that he might send you and Pa a present.”

Anna put a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. How could one so young understand that, while the wedding may have been a happy occasion for him, the news may not sit well with others? Thankfully, Sammy’s sullen mood dispersed when he spied a display of pocketknives that had not been there the week before.

“Look, Ma! They're just like the one Pa uses! Can I have one?! Pleaaaase?”

“We’ve talked about this,” she replied sternly. “You can have one when you’re older. It’ll be your father’s special gift to you.”

“But I am older than the last time I asked!”

“He’s got ya there!” Mr. Thornton chortled. “Would ya like me to carry this out to the wagon for ya?” he asked, easily changing the subject as he lifted her box off the counter.

“That’s a mighty fine offer and I think I’ll take you up on it,” Anna told him cheerfully. “Since marrying MacGyver, I’ve discovered how nice it is to have a man around to help out!”

Anna rushed to hold open the door, but the man in the black suit stepped out from the shadows and cut her off.

“Allow me,” he said, opening the door for her to walk through followed by Sammy and Mr. Thornton before he, himself followed.

“Thank you, sir,” Anna offered.

“My pleasure Mrs.---”

“MacGyver. Mrs. MacGyver.” She grinned as the name still felt strange upon her lips. “But you can call me ‘Anna’. We’re quite informal here.”

“How very lovely, Anna. In that case, you must call me ‘Edward’, and allow me to say what a splendid time I am having in your little town.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” she smiled. “What brings you to New Hope?”

“Business, ma’am, always business.”

“What kinda work do ya do, mister?” Sammy asked

“That’s not polite, young man,” Anna admonished, but Edward smiled even though it didn’t reach his eyes.

“I work as a scout for the railroad,” the visitor explained. “My bosses want to know if I think they should build a spur from New Hope to hook up with the main line.”

“You mean the train might be comin’ through here?” Thornton asked.

“Indeed,” Edward replied. “Now, if you all will excuse me, I must return to the inn where my hostesses will be serving up the noon meal and I must be punctual lest I go hungry.”

“You could come eat with us,” Sammy offered eagerly. “Both Ma and Pa cook really good!”

This time Edward offered a genuine laugh. “I rather think your parents are not prepared for a guest. Perhaps some other time.”

Even though this was frontier country, Anna knew what manners dictated her to say next. “Tomorrow is Sunday. Please join us for our evening meal.”

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Edward protested.

“It would be no imposition and perhaps my husband can give you some information about the town and land to take back to your boss.”

“Well, how can a man turn down an invitation like that?”

“Then it’s settled,” Anna stated. “Supper will be at six. Mr. Thornton can give you directions to our place.”

XXXXX

“I hope you don’t mind, but I invited a guest to supper tomorrow night,” Anna informed MacGyver as he gently deposited the box of groceries on the kitchen table.

“I don’t mind,” Mac shrugged. “Who is it?”

“His name is Edward and he works as a scout for the railroad. He says they’re thinking of building a spur off the main line to service New Hope. He’s been eating at the inn, but I thought it only neighborly to invite him since it sounds like he’ll be here a while.”

“Then maybe he’ll learn to talk like us,” Sammy interjected.

MacGyver quirked a brow. “What do mean, son?”

Sammy gave a one-shoulder shrug. “He talks funny.”

Anna paused from replenishing the cupboards. “Edward has a British accent,” she explained.

“I thought we fought a war to get rid of those guys,” Mac teased.

“That was almost a hundred years ago,” Anna informed her husband. “Besides, this country is made up of immigrants. If not for our ancestors, you and I wouldn’t be here. None of us would. Now go wash up. Lunch will be ready soon.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“He’s here! He’s here!” Sammy exclaimed as he bounded out the door and down the porch steps to where a man dressed all in black dismounted from an equally black steed. “Hi Edward!” he greeted the man.

“That’s ‘Mister Edward’ to you,” MacGyver scolded lightly as he came up behind his son.

“Mister Edward, this is my dad, MacGyver,” Sammy said.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Mac said, shaking his guest’s hand.

“Oh, I assure you, the pleasure is all mine,” Edward replied with a grin.

“We best get in the house,” MacGyver instructed. “Anna is putting supper on the table as we speak.”

The mealtime conversation gravitated toward politely generic topics such as the weather, the upcoming growing season, and, of course, the railroad. When the final bite of dessert had been consumed, Edward turned to address Anna.

“I daresay this is one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time, but I do regret if I inconvenienced you.”

Mac watched Anna blush slightly at the compliment. “It was only chicken and dumplin’s. Besides, I enjoy cooking.”

“Do you wanna play a game of checkers, Mister Edward?” Sammy interrupted eagerly. “I’ll let ya win if ya want!”

“You need to start getting ready for bed, young man,” Anna informed him. “You have school in the morning.”

“So do you, but you ain’t goin’ to bed!” Sammy uncharacteristically shot back. MacGyver sent his son a quelling stare resulting in a mumbled, though not entirely sincere, apology.

“Perhaps this will make up for the checker game, eh?” Edward asked as he handed Sammy a small package wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string. The young boy wasted no time as he ripped into the wrapping and soon held up a brand new pocket knife for everyone to see. Anna gasped and Mac felt as if his heart was being pierced by each and every one of the blades the small tool held.

“Wow! Thanks Mister Edward! Pa, can I keep it?!”

MacGyver glanced up at their guest who was smiling like a cat that got the cream. “We’ll discuss it in the morning,” he murmured. “Right now, say good-night and go to your room. And leave the knife on the table.”

Everyone waited to speak until the boy left the room.

“I’m sorry if I offended you with my gift,” Edward apologized, breaking the heavy silence.

“It’s not a problem,” Mac ground out.

“Indeed, it was very thoughtful of you,” Anna added.

Edward made a show of looking at his fancy pocket watch. “Alas, I fear it is getting a bit late. I should head back to town before I’m locked out of the inn. My hostesses keep to a strict curfew.”

Good-bye’s and thank-you’s were exchanged before their guest rode off, blending in with the night.

Hours later, MacGyver lie in bed staring up at the ceiling, Anna beside him. The cadence of her breathing told him she was still awake as well. He felt her small, warm hand cover his beneath the blanket.

“I’m sorry about the pocketknife,” she whispered. “Edward must have overheard us talking in the store when Sammy noticed them on display and asked if he could have one. I know you wanted it to be a special gift from you to him.”

“It’s not your fault,” Mac whispered back. “But Sammy knows better than to fuss about it,” Mac grumbled. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him he needed to wait until he was older and he informed me he was older.”

“First he talks back to you at the dinner table and now you tell me it also happened in the store? It sounds like I need to have a talk with him.”

“He’s just testing me, Mac. We’ve only been married a few months and it’s gotta be tough havin’ a new ma who’s also his schoolteacher. I’m sure things will get better when school lets out for the summer in a few weeks.”

“I suppose you’re probably right,” MacGyver admitted, but he was still disappointed in his son’s behavior.

“What do you think of Edward?” Anna asked, obviously eager to change the topic of this late night conversation.

“What do you think?” he countered.

He felt her shrug. “He seems like a decent man, I suppose.”

“You don’t sound convinced,” Mac observed. When she didn’t respond, MacGyver decided to put his two cents in. “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about the man that just doesn’t sit right with me.”

He heard his wife blow out a breath. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way,” she confessed.

Early the next morning MacGyver hitched up his team to the buckboard and pulled it around to the front of the small house just as Anna and Sammy walked through the door, headed for school.

“How about I give you a lift today,” he suggested. “I’m going into town and it’s right on the way.”

Mac took Anna’s hand and helped her climb up to sit on the seat beside him while their son scrambled into the wagon. Once everyone was settled, he slapped the reins and the horses began plodding forward.

“I didn’t know you had to go into town,” Anna remarked once they were underway.

“Found I was in need of a few things this morning while I was tending the herd.”

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with Edward, would it?” she asked, her voice only loud enough to be heard over the sound of the wagon wheels.

“Does it matter?”

His eyes danced as she shook her head in dismay. “Just behave yourself, okay?”

“You have my word,” he replied solemnly before leaning over to kiss her on the cheek.

After dropping off his wife and son at the small, one-room schoolhouse, MacGyver headed directly to the town’s saloon. If there was any news to be had, saloon-owner Jack Dalton would know of it. As Mac allowed his body to sway along with the rhythm of the wagon, he couldn’t help but chuckle at the unlikely friend he had made. Word had it that Jack was a gold prospector traveling through town on his way to California when his horse pulled up lame and he came down with influenza. Weak and penniless, he sold his claim and stayed on to run the saloon. MacGyver first met him the previous spring when a sudden thaw flooded his establishment and he lent Dalton a hand repairing the damage. An odd bond had formed between the two men and Mac often took it upon himself to get Jack out of the scrapes he sometimes found himself in. Arriving at his destination, MacGyver tethered his team to the hitching post out front, but knowing that Jack had probably just closed the saloon a few hours earlier, Mac headed to the back of the building and the owner’s living quarters.

“Go away,” Jack Dalton grumbled as Mac knocked on his door.

“It’s MacGyver! I need to talk to you!” He continued to pound on the door until it began to swing inward.

“I’m only opening this to make the noise stop,” Jack said, one hand on the doorknob, the other cradling his aching head. “C’mon in. Can I get you somethin’ to drink? On second thought, nevermind...I forgot who I was talkin’ to.” Turning away from his friend, he grabbed a bottle of amber colored liquid and tossed back a swallow. Mac frowned. If Jack kept that up, he’d drink all his profits.

“Now what’s so important that it can’t wait ‘til a decent hour...like this afternoon?”

“I was wondering if you knew anything about a visitor staying here in town who goes by the name ‘Edward’ and says he’s here on business for the railroad.”

Mac’s question was met with red-rimmed, unseeing eyes. Sighing, he continued, “He wears a black suit, rides a black horse, and has an English accent.”

Jack’s eyes immediately snapped into focus. “Oh, you mean Eddie.”

“Eddie?”

“Yeah, Eddie Murdoc. Comes in just about every night. Has a couple of drinks, cheats at a couple hands of poker and then disappears.”

“What do you know about him?”

“I just told you. He’s a quiet guy. Keeps to himself. Spends a lot of time at the inn, and is it any wonder? Those two ol’ biddies over there probably wait on him hand and foot. They think ‘he’s so handsome and charming’,” Jack replied, taking on a falsetto voice while clasping his hands to his chest and batting his eyelashes. “He comes in complainin’ about the attention, but I think he secretly likes it.” Jack yawned and Mac picked up on the not-so-subtle hint.

“Well, I’d best be gettin’ back to the ranch,” he declared before turning and heading back to his wagon. All the way home he kept replaying his conversation with Jack in his mind. “Murdoc. Why do I feel like I know that name?” he mumbled to his horses, but they had no answer.

Supper that evening was a quiet affair. MacGyver was still lost in his thoughts and Sammy, who usually provided a vivid retelling of the day’s events, remained uncharacteristically silent. Anna reached for his now-empty dessert plate, breaking his reverie.

“Sammy, help your mother wash the dishes while I finish the chores,” Mac directed, pushing his chair away from the table.

“She’s not my mother!” the boy exclaimed, rising so quickly his chair almost fell over.

“Sammy!” Mac growled.

“I hate her and I wish you’d never married her!” his son cried before running into his bedroom and slamming the door shut. MacGyver instinctively took a step to follow, but his wife’s words made him pause.

“Give him a moment,” she said calmly.

“I don’t get it! What has gotten into him lately?” Mac asked, hating the helplessness he knew was obvious in his voice.

Anna returned to her seat at the table, motioning for her husband to do the same. “This might have something to do with an incident at school today.”

“What happened?”

“Sammy accidentally called me ‘Ma’ during class. All the other students started teasing and laughing at him. They stopped as soon as I reprimanded them, but Sammy had already run and locked himself in the outhouse.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Mac asked, jamming his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“I was hoping he’d confide in you on his own.”

MacGyver blew out a breath. “Well, I guess I better go have a talk with him.”

When his son didn’t open the door after he tapped on it, he turned the knob, thankful it wasn’t locked. The sight of Sammy lying face down on his narrow bed, his body racked with sobs, nearly did Mac in. Sitting down on the edge of the thin mattress, he stroked his boy’s back hoping to bring him some comfort.

“I heard about what happened at school today,” he ventured softly.

“She shouldn’t have told you,” Sammy mumbled into his pillow.

“Yes, she should have,” Mac declared. “I’m your father and I need to know these things.”

The youngster rolled over and sat up, using the heel of his hands to scrub away his tears. “I wish you’d never married her. I wanna go back to Boston.”

MacGyver felt like he had just taken a hoof to his gut. He had no idea Sammy felt this way and he didn’t know where to begin. “We can’t go back to Boston, son. I made a promise to the government. This is our home now,” Mac tried to explain. “I also made a promise to your...to Anna. I thought you were happy that we got married.”

“I was,” Sammy confessed. “But ever since I told Grampa about it, he’s stopped writing letters to me.”

Mac sighed. It would be just like his former father-in-law to feel betrayed and take it out on his grandson. That was one reason Mac had been so eager to leave Boston. Kate’s father could be controlling and manipulative and he didn’t want his son near the man. But what could he say to Sammy?

“Maybe Grampa is just really busy with the newspaper,” MacGyver suggested. “Or maybe he and Gramma took a vacation.” Like that would ever happen!

“You really think so?” Sammy asked meekly, looking up to meet Mac’s gaze.

“It’s a possibility.”

“But you don’t really believe it.”

Wow, how could the little boy read him so well?

“I wanna go to sleep now.”

“Don’t ya think ya outta apologize to your ma first?” Mac asked.

“I ain’t sure I’m sorry,” Sammy stated before crawling under the covers and turning his back.

XXXXX

The coming days passed achingly slow for MacGyver who was watching his happy little family fall apart at the seams with no idea how to fix it. Sammy only spoke when spoken to...if then, while Anna put on a cheerful countenance yet he knew she cried herself to sleep more than once while trying to hide her tears from him. He was plodding through his Saturday morning chores when he looked up to see his wife running towards him.

“Angus! Angus!” she called frantically. The use of his Christian name caused his heart to beat double time. Something had to be terribly wrong.

“What is it? What happened?” he asked, meeting her half-way.

“I can’t find Sammy!” she huffed breathlessly. “I looked all over...his room, the outhouse, he’s nowhere!”

Mac’s stomach turned to lead, but he knew he had to be calm and think clearly. “Did you check the barn? I was there a few minutes ago, but he might have snuck in.”

She shook her head and they both raced to the structure. Together, they checked every stall, every corner, even the hayloft, calling his name, but the barn appeared empty.

“This is all my fault!” Anna cried. “He hates me and now he’s run away...or worse!”

“Now don’t panic,” MacGyver instructed, trying to take his own advice. “This is a big place. Maybe he just wandered off and lost track of time. I’ll saddle up and go look for him. You stay here in case he comes back.”

“No way! I’m comin’ with you,” Anna insisted. “And don’t you argue with me Angus MacGyver! Two people can cover twice as much territory.”

Knowing that time was of the essence, especially if Sammy was truly lost or possibly hurt, he bit his tongue and nodded his agreement. Once they had tacked up their horses they set out in opposite directions.

An hour later, Mac returned to the barn after having searched every inch of his and the surrounding land...twice. It was as if the boy had simply disappeared. He hoped Anna was having better luck in town. That was, until he spied her mare, still saddled, grazing nearby with his wife nowhere in sight. He was about to head to the house when a white piece of paper tied to the horse’s bridle caught his eye. Nudging his mount closer, he reached out and snagged the note. The words he read made his blood run cold:

Greetings MacGyver,

Looking for something? Or perhaps I should say ‘someone’? Your darling Anna assures me her horse will head straight home and deliver this to you. Won’t you please join us at the schoolhouse so you can bid a proper farewell to your beloved family?

M~

“‘M’. ‘M’ is for ‘Murdoc’,” Mac muttered under his breath causing his horse’s ears to twitch. Long-buried memories sprang to the forefront of his mind and he remembered exactly who, and what, Murdoc was. Without a second thought, he urged his horse into a gallop, ruing the fact that New Hope did not yet have a sheriff. He knew he was riding into a deadly trap, but what choice did he have?

Pulling his horse to a halt in the empty schoolyard, MacGyver quickly dismounted. “C’mon out, Murdoc!” he called, his attention fixed on the front door. However, the figure he sought did not appear. He glimpsed movement to his right and turned toward a copse of trees just as Murdoc emerged, flanked by Anna and Sammy who he grasped by their upper arms, their hands tied behind their backs.

“Ah, so glad you could join us, MacGyver,” Murdoc greeted him.

“Pa! Pa! I’m sorry! He said there was a package from Grampa waiting for me at the General Store and he was gonna take me to get it!” Sammy cried, trying to wrench free, but his captor only tightened his grip.

“It’s okay, son,” he replied calmly, the fear and guilt on the boy’s face nearly ripping him in two. His wife wore a look of despair, but when his eyes locked with hers, he recognized the fire of determination burning in their depths.

“Let ‘em go, Murdoc. We both know it’s me you want!”

“What do you mean?” Anna demanded, her gaze darting between the two men.

“Go ahead, MacGyver. Tell her.”

Mac sighed. He didn’t want to dredge up memories from a lifetime ago, but he apparently had no choice. “It was 1858. I was working at Patrick Malloy’s newspaper and got an anonymous tip that there was a plot to assassinate President Buchanan when he arrived in Boston to give a speech. I started asking questions and did a little investigating which helped lead to the capture of the would-be assassins. Murdoc was one of them. I assumed he was still imprisoned.”

“You assumed wrong, MacGyver, but that’s not why I’m here. You see, Malloy is a desperate old man. He paid handsomely to secure my release from prison on the condition that I return his only grandson to him and eliminate any loose ends.”

“You mean kill me and Mac,” Anna surmised.

“Exactly, my dear,” Murdoc replied. “Now let’s get on with it, shall we?” He shoved Anna toward MacGyver and pulled a pistol from his waistcoat.

“Noooo!” Sammy wailed, only to have Murdoc push him to the ground.

“Think about this, Murdoc,” Mac advised, Anna now secure in his arms. “You don’t really wanna kill two people in cold blood, do ya?”

Murdoc grinned knowingly. “You’re absolutely correct, MacGyver. I would much rather leave you to live and grieve the death of your lovely wife and the departure of your dearest son. To be honest, I suggested as much to Malloy, but the old man insisted that you be disposed of as well.”

“How do you plan to get away with this?” Mac challenged.

“Why must you ask so many questions? It’s becoming quite annoying,” Murdoc all but whined. “But if you must know, the teacher and her husband’s remains will be found in the rubble of the burned down school building.”

“Sounds like you planned this out well,” MacGyver remarked.

“Indeed. Thanks to you, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to reconsider how I go about my business. I find that I am much more effective when left to my own devices as opposed to relying on others. Now, it’s time for you both to die.”

“Don’t move, Murdoc,” Mac warned, staring at the man’s feet. “There’s a rattler right behind you.”

“Ah, trying to distract me, eh? How stupid do you think I am?!” With that Murdoc aimed his gun at Anna and took a step to widen his stance. Quicker than lightning, the rattlesnake sprang, sinking its poisonous fangs into the assassin’s leg.

“Arghhhh!” he cried, swinging the pistol downward, shooting wildly at the reptile until a bullet hit home and killed it. He staggered a few feet away before crumpling to the ground.

MacGyver rushed forward to the injured man now writhing in pain. He pulled out his pocket knife and quickly slit Murdoc’s pant leg and then removed his shoe and sock. He easily found the two puncture wounds which had begun to bleed. Already the sight was becoming red and slightly swollen.

“Anna! Sammy! Get over here!” he called. They both hurried toward him and he quickly freed their hands. Anna immediately took the length of rope that had bound her and knelt on the ground, ready to tie it around Murdoc’s leg to create a tourniquet.

“No!” Mac stopped her. “We need to let the blood flow.”

“But the venom. It’ll get in his bloodstream,” she replied.

“Help me prop him up against that tree over there,” MacGyver said.

Together they soon had Murdoc sitting against the trunk of the old oak. “We need to keep the wound below his heart,” Mac explained.

“How do you know all this?” Anna asked, now standing with hands propped on her hips.

“I did a little research before I moved out here. Never know when somethin’ will come in handy.”

“What now?” she asked.

“We need to immobilize his leg,” he told her. Then he looked up at Sammy who had turned pale, his mouth agape. “I need you to find me a couple twigs the length of Mister Edward’s leg. Can you do that for me?” The boy nodded solemnly before running toward a stand of trees.

“Mind if I borrow this?” MacGyver asked as he reached for the hem of Anna’s dress and began cutting it into strips. He had just finished when Sammy returned.

With Anna’s help, Mac placed the slim tree limbs on either side of Murdoc’s leg and used the cloth from Anna’s dress to tie them gently in place.

“Okay, now we have to get him back to town,” MacGyver declared.

“Do you think you can stand?” he asked Murdoc who had been eerily silent since getting bit. The man groaned as his body remained limp. Mac noticed sweat beginning to bead on his forehead and his breathing becoming labored.

Apologetically he looked at Anna. “You’re gonna have to help me get him up and on his horse.”

His wife nodded with determination and together they managed to haul Murdoc to his mount. Sammy held the reins, speaking to the horse in soothing tones to keep it calm as his parents struggled to get the weak man in the saddle. Task accomplished, Mac swung up behind Murdoc and Anna helped Sammy mount MacGyver’s horse before she, too, climbed into the saddle and side-by-side they headed into town.

XXXXX

Several hours later, MacGyver and Anna sat on the front porch swing with Sammy between them watching the sun slowly sink below the horizon.

“What’s gonna happen to Mister Edward, Pa?”

“Well, the doc said he should recover from the snakebite and in a couple days the sheriff from a neighboring town will come and take him into custody. Hopefully for good this time,” Mac replied, knowing he needed to be honest with his son if they were to live and thrive on frontier land.

“Why did you help Mister Edward even though he was gonna kill you and Ma?”

“Because it was the right thing to do,” MacGyver explained. “It’s not up to us to decide who lives and dies. Only God can make that decision.”

“And speaking of God,” Anna said, “Tomorrow is Sunday so you better get yourself ready for bed. I don’t want you complaining about being too tired to go to church in the morning.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sammy mumbled before looking up at her with something akin to curiosity. “Ma, why did you bother to come looking for me after all the mean things I said to you?”

Anna put her arm around the boy’s shoulders and held him close. “Because I love you, sweetheart, and nothing you say or do will ever change that.”

Sammy turned and threw himself into her arms, sobbing, “I love you too, Ma, and I’m sorry for all the terrible things I’ve said. You’re the only ma I got now and I was so scared Mister Edward was gonna kill ya just because of me. I don’t wanna lose you, too!”

“Don’t worry, son,” Mac assured him. “You’re not gonna lose either of us as long as I have somethin’ to say about it.”

The following morning, MacGyver hitched his horses to the buckboard and drove his family into town for Sunday church services. The small, clapboard building was filled to capacity and abuzz with news of yesterday’s incident. After the final prayer was said and the blessing given, the congregation filed out of the pews and gathered in small groups in the churchyard with Mac and Anna being the center of attention for many curious folk. However, they soon became aware of an anxious murmur spreading through the crowd and hurried over to Pete Thornton who was in the midst of it.

“What’s going on?” MacGyver asked.

“You’re not gonna believe this,” Thornton replied. “Murdoc’s gone!”

“How can that be?” Anna asked. “The doctor said he wouldn’t be strong enough to get out of bed until tomorrow at the earliest.”

Thornton shrugged, “I dunno, but he’s not in his room at the inn and nobody can find him. It’s like he disappeared into thin air!”

“Pa, look what I found in our wagon,” Sammy said, squirming through the throng of townsfolk to hand Mac a white piece of paper.

MacGyver,
It was a pleasure to finally meet you in person, but I fear I have a schedule to keep and mustn’t dally around your town any longer. Until we meet again…
M~

“I’ll gather up all the able-bodied men and form a posse to go after him,” Thornton offered enthusiastically. “He couldn’t have gotten far in his condition.”

“Don’t bother, you won’t find him,” MacGyver stated flatly.

“How can you be so sure?” Thornton protested.

“I don’t know. I just am,” Mac replied before herding his wife and son to their wagon.

On the way home, MacGyver once more gave himself over to the gently swaying of the buckboard, his eyes drifting closed more than once. The last thing he remembered was giving Anna the reins before feeling her hand on his shoulder.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver heard Joanna’s voice in the distance and felt her shaking his shoulder.

“C’mon Mac, wake up. We’re home.”

His eyes fluttered open and he found himself staring through the windshield of the Nomad at his own garage.

“How long have I been out?” he asked, scrubbing his face with his hands.

“You were snoring before we hit the interstate,” Jo told him, the dim light from the streetlamp shining on her gentle smile. “Did you have a bad dream?”

“Huh?”

“You were mumbling in your sleep and seemed kinda agitated at times so I assumed you were dreaming,” she shrugged.

“It was nothing,” he assured her as he reached out and stroked her cheek before leaning in and meeting her lips with his, secure in the knowledge that, in the real world, Murdoc was dead and could never hurt anyone MacGyver loved ever again.











Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 22 May 2020 - 02:31 AM                                    
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I knew it was Murdoc right away. The name Edward helped, too laugh.gif

Unique chapter wink.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

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uniquelyjas
Posted: 22 May 2020 - 06:09 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 22 May 2020 - 02:31 AM)
I knew it was Murdoc right away. The name Edward helped, too laugh.gif

Unique chapter wink.gif

Thanks. Since I killed off Murdoc in Continuum, I have to find creative ways to bring him back. I have another New Hope chapter waiting in the wings, just not sure when I'll post it.



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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