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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 7 February 2021 - 10:50 AM                                    
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Season: ---
Episode:Faith, Hope, and Charity
Vehicle: Jeep
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat




Chapter 56: Home Sweet Home

MacGyver grabbed the handle of the large suitcase as he watched Joanna take one final look around Charlie’s old apartment.

“Got everything?” he asked, as if the weight of her luggage wasn’t answer enough.

“Yeah,” she replied listlessly. When she turned to face him, he once again noticed the dark circles under her eyes and the frown on her lips.

“You okay?”

She nodded. Of course she was okay. She was okay even when she wasn’t. “I’m just tired.”

“After everything you’ve been through these last couple days I’d be worried if you weren’t,” Mac observed. “Why don’t you just go home and rest and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“What are you gonna do this afternoon,” Jo asked as they walked toward her car, Frog prancing beside her still showing off his gaiting prowess from the dog show.

“I thought I’d check in at Challengers and then spend what’s left of the day being a couch potato.” He had hoped his corny response would coax a smile from her. It didn’t.

Joanna opened the driver side door but instead of getting in, she just stood there, her eyes boring into his chest, her frown deeper. “I owe you an apology.”

MacGyver’s breath caught. Of all the things he expected her to say, it certainly wasn’t that. “What’d ya mean?”

“Last night, at the restaurant, I shouldn’t have been so insistent on going back to my room. If I would have just stayed like you told me to you wouldn’t have had to risk your life rescuing me. I don’t ever want to be the reason you put yourself in harm’s way.”

His heart filled with more love than he ever thought possible, he stepped around the open car door and drew her to him. “Aw, baby, it’s not your fault. I wouldn’t have given in so easily if I knew what was goin’ to happen. The important thing is that everyone’s okay and with the information the kidnappers provided, we not only shut down a nationwide dognapping ring but a big gambling operation as well.”

She pulled away from him ever so slightly. “I know, but--”

Before she could say another word, Mac’s mouth covered hers. If she didn’t believe his words, she had to believe his kiss.

“I, uh, guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” she whispered hoarsely when their lips finally broke apart. A whisper of a smile floated across her face and she settled into the driver’s seat and pulled away. Frog followed the car to the end of the driveway and sat there whining until she was far out of sight.

XXXXX

MacGyver and Frog arrived at Challengers that afternoon to find a bunch of boys ranging in age and size engaged in a competitive game of basketball. A few hollered greetings before quickly turning their attention back to the contest. Inside, Mac was happily greeted by Rosie and Geena who were both managing the reception desk. Not to be left out, the two women made sure to give Frog several affectionate strokes before he ambled over to his favorite corner. MacGyver looked around the large, crowded recreation area before turning back to his friends.

“I see there are lots of new faces here,” he observed. “You ladies have been busy.”

Rosie grinned, “I’m afraid you have my son to thank for all the new members.”

“How so?”

“A few weeks ago, Raul took a shortcut through the barrio on his way home from the grocery store. He ended up making friends with Freddie and in a few days had almost all the kids in the neighborhood coming to Challengers.”

“That’s great!” Mac exclaimed. “And I’m glad Raul found a guy his age to hang out with. He’s always been such a loner. Are they here?”

“They were a minute ago,” Rosie answered before calling to her son. “Raul! Come introduce your friend to Mr. MacGyver!” She then gave Mac a smirk he couldn’t define as Geena choked back a laugh.

He watched as Rosie’s son emerged from the sea of teenage bodies, a tall, skinny girl with long, straight, black hair following him. MacGyver’s jaw dropped and the two women behind him began to giggle at the sight.

“Hi! This is my new friend!” Raul announced.

Mac cleared his throat, smiled, and offered his hand. “Name’s MacGyver, but you can call me ‘Mac’.”

The girl shook his hand. “My name is Fredricka Martinez, but you can call me ‘Freddie’.”

“Freddie and her abuela moved here a few months ago,” Raul offered, “but she goes to a different high school.”

“Ah,” Mac nodded in understanding as he watched the girl whisper something in Raul’s ear.

“Ma, I’m gonna walk Freddie home. She has another stomach ache.”

“That’s fine,” Rosie told him, “Just make sure you’re home in time for supper. I’m making chicken enchiladas, your favorite.”

“Awesome! Can Freddie come?”

A worried look floated across his mother’s face. “Of course, if her stomach feels better and her grandmother agrees.”

“Thanks!” Raul smiled and waved at the adults before leaving.

“Wow,” was all Mac could say, scrubbing the back of his neck with his hand.

Rosie smiled. “He’s no longer a boy, MacGyver. He is becoming a young man.”

“I’ll say,” Mac agreed. “Are you okay with that?”

“I don’t have much of a choice,” Rosie laughed, “Though he is already pestering me to sign him up for a driver’s education class when he turns sixteen later this summer.”

“He really is growing up fast,” MacGyver muttered to no one in particular.
By the time Mac got home that night, the events of the previous days were catching up with him so he flopped onto the couch, grabbed the TV remote, and clicked on the NHL Stanley Cup finals though he had little interest in the outcome. Detroit was ready to sweep, anyway. His eyes were just drifting closed when he heard Frog’s mournful whine. He glanced under the coffee table, but the dog wasn’t in his usual spot. Curious, Mac levered himself up on his elbows to find Frog sitting and staring at the common wall between his apartment and Charlie’s. MacGyver rolled off the couch with a groan and went to the crying canine, bending down to ruffle his ears.

“She’s not over there anymore, buddy,” he said. “She went home.”

Frog gazed up at him, a plaintive look on his wrinkled face.

“I miss her, too, but she was only staying there until you won the dog show.”

Apparently not satisfied with his human’s explanation, Frog got up and scrabbled over to the front door.

“Fine. I’ll prove it to you,” Mac sighed, grabbing the keys to the apartment next door and stepping out into the cool night air.

As soon as MacGyver opened the front door next to his, Frog wriggled past, nose to the ground, sniffing every inch as he waddled through the downstairs area. When he came to the spiral staircase, he paused and looked expectantly at Mac before lumbering up the stairs with his master behind him. Here in the bedroom, even MacGyver could still easily smell Joanna’s signature coconut scent. He grinned when he found freshly washed and folded linens and towels on the bed with a hastily scrawled note: For whoever’s next!

Frog barked once and Mac looked down into his canine friend’s imploring eyes. “Okay. I’ll give it a shot.”

XXXXX

When MacGyver pulled into Challengers the following morning, he noticed Joanna’s car was already there. He entered the building, surprised to find Geena behind the reception desk.

“‘Mornin’,” he greeted her. “I thought Rosie was taking the morning shift for the summer.”

“She is,” Geena replied, “But she called and asked if I could cover for her today. When she got home yesterday, Raul had a stomach ache and hardly ate any dinner. He was still sick this morning, so she wanted to stay home in case he needs her.”

Mac grinned. “Thanks for the report. He probably just caught a twenty-four hour bug. I’ll try to check in on him later.” As he strode toward his office, he found Jo already there, leaning against the outer wall, Frog laying at her feet.

“I see we have some new members,” she observed.

“Yeah. Thanks to Raul.”

“I don’t recognize them from school or the neighborhood.”

“According to Raul, they go to a different high school and live in the barrio.”

“The barrio?!” Joanna turned toward him, concern and confusion altering her features. “You mean those slums a few miles from here?”

“I guess,” MacGyver shrugged.

“I thought the city took ownership and condemned those buildings years ago.”

“Apparently not,” he replied, opening his office door. “Listen, could you come in for a minute? There’s something I want to talk with you about.”

“Sure,” she agreed, confusion still shadowing her face.

“What’s up,” Joanna asked once Mac had settled into the chair behind his desk as she sat across from him.

“I’ve finally decided what to do with Charlie’s side of the townhouse. That is, if you agree,” he stated.

“Mac, it’s your place! You can do whatever you want with it. You don’t need my permission.”

Encouraged by her words, MacGyver straightened and summoned the crooked little smile he knew she could never say ‘no’ to. “In that case, I want you to move into Charlie’s place.”

“What?!” she exclaimed, breath whooshing from her lungs, eyes wide.

“Look, I know this a big decision for you, so take some time to think it over,” he said calmly, “But it really is a very practical idea.”

“Oh really?” she asked, an eyebrow quirked.

Mac got out of his chair and walked around his desk to stand in front of her before taking her hands, pulling her to her feet, and loosely draping his arms around her waist.

“Yeah,” he said softly. “I mean, you’re gonna move in when we get married anyway, you spend almost all your free time there now, and you wouldn’t have to always drive home late at night. Besides, Frog misses you.”

His heart warmed as a smile tugged at her lips. “You want me to move into Charlie’s because your dog misses me?”

“Yeah. And, I kinda miss you, too.” He lowered his head, aiming to capture her lips but she spoke again.

“You promise you’ll give me time to think about this?” she asked warily.

“I promise,” he assured her. “I never want to ask you to do something you don’t want to do.”

“Then it’s a deal,” Joanna declared, standing on tiptoe to place a quick, chaste kiss on his lips.

“How about you come on over for dinner tonight. I wanna stop and check on Raul so I’ll pick something up on the way.”

“It’s a date,” she confirmed.

That evening, Joanna was waiting in his living room when he arrived home carrying a casserole dish covered with tin foil.

“How’s Raul?” she asked as soon as he walked in the door.

“Better. He plans on being at Challengers tomorrow, and Rosie sent leftover chicken enchiladas.” He punctuated his statement by raising the dish as if it were a trophy. “She says they’re best reheated in the oven, not the microwave. Could you pop them in while I go up and grab a quick shower?”

“No problem,” Jo replied as she eagerly relieved him of his burden.

When MacGyver stepped out of the bathroom, his nostrils were assaulted with the spicy aroma of what promised to be a delicious authentic Mexican meal. He was halfway down the spiral staircase when he noticed Joanna and stopped to watch her. She moved about the small kitchen with grace and confidence as she dished up their meal, Frog’s snores echoing from under the coffee table. He marveled at how right this entire scene felt. As if he could watch it night after night for the rest of his life and never tire of it.

Hours later, Mac and Jo stood by the front door, wrapped in each other’s arms, relishing in a long, languid good-night kiss. Both were breathless when they finally, reluctantly pulled apart.

“I really need to get going,” Joanna muttered.

“If you lived here you’d already be home,” Mac gently pointed out.

Jo placed the palm of her hand in the middle of his chest and pushed back just enough to look him in the eye. “You promised you’d give me time to think about it,” she reminded him calmly.

“You’re right, I did,” MacGyver sighed. “I shouldn’t have said anything. But maybe we can talk about it some other time?”

“Yeah, sure,” Joanna agreed even as a shadow of misgiving flitted across her face.

MacGyver arrived at Challengers early the next morning to find Rosie at her usual post.

“Welcome back!” he greeted her. “Is Raul feeling better?”

“See for yourself,” she smiled, looking across the recreation room to where her son was engaged in a competitive game of pinball with Freddie while their friends were sprawled on couches and draped over threadbare chairs either napping or playing hand-held video games.

“Back to normal,” Mac grinned before changing the subject. “Do you have the files on the new kids?”

Rosie shook her head. “Joanna had them yesterday. They’re probably still in her office, but she’s not in yet.”

“No problem,” MacGyver assured her, digging in his pocket for the office keys. “I’ll go get ‘em.”

Mac had no sooner set foot in Jo’s office when Frog barreled in next to him, sending him swerving into a small wastepaper basket that immediately tipped over, spewing its contents on the floor. With a groan, MacGyver bent over, righting the bin and collecting the trash when his eyes fell on a large bridal catalogue. His lips instinctively twitched upward. So, Joanna was planning their wedding in secret. But why had she relegated this to the trash? Intrigued, he sat down in the chair behind her desk and began to flip through the well-worn pages. His heart turned to a lead ball that sank to his stomach as he found pictures of dresses, bouquets, and other wedding must-haves circled but then scratched out, handwritten notes in the margins scribbled over. His brain latched onto the only logical reason. She had changed her mind about marrying him. That’s why she was stalling about moving into Charlie’s place. He was so immersed in his own thoughts he didn’t hear her enter the room.

“What are you doing?” she asked suspiciously.

Hurt and anger launched him out of the chair. “Finding out the hard way why you don’t wanna move. Finding out that you don’t want to get married! That’s what I’m doing!” He slammed the magazine down on her desk and brushed past her toward the door.

“MacGyver, wait.”

Something in her tone caused him to pause instead of stomping from her office like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.

“For a former Phoenix operative you sure can be dumb sometimes,” she observed, her voice oddly neutral.

“What do you mean?” he asked slowly, turning to find her holding the catalogue out to him.

“Look at the date on the cover,” she instructed.

Taking the magazine back, his gaze quickly found the numbers she indicated and he groaned.

“I bought that when I was in high school. I found it tucked away in a dresser drawer and thought it might be fun to look at again.”

“But why is everything crossed out?”

“Because, in case someone found this before it got incinerated, I didn’t want to be incriminated for my bad taste back then.”

“Then...you still wanna marry me?” he asked cautiously.

“Of course I still wanna marry you! Even if you are a big jerk sometimes!”

“Then why won’t you move into Charlie’s?”

Joanna sighed and motioned for him to have a seat across the desk from her as she dropped her purse on the floor and collapsed into her chair.

“You asked me to move in right after the kidnapping incident at the dog show. I thought maybe you just wanted me nearby so you could keep an eye on me and flex your protective muscles.”

MacGyver leaned forward, elbows on knees, and sighed, “Aw baby, I asked you so soon after that because I realized I had gotten used to having you around and I missed that. The place just feels so empty when you’re not there.”

Before either one of them could continue, a ruckus from the rec room interrupted their conversation and pulled them out of the office. Mac arrived in time to see Rosie Garcia in the middle of a group of Hispanic teens rattling off stern instructions in Spanish. Properly chastised, they spread out and resumed various activities in relative silence.

“What’s going on out here? Are you okay, Rosie?” MacGyver asked.

“Si, I am fine,” she said. “Teenagers! They make so much noise over nothing! I told them if they can’t behave they need to go home and not come back.”

“Those are some of Raul’s new friends, aren’t they?” This time it was Joanna asking the question.

“Yes, the kids from the barrio,” she sighed as she once again settled in at the reception desk. “If they aren’t picking fights they’re lying around doing nothing. Sometimes I wish Raul had never invited them here.” Shuffling papers, her mouth now in a thin line, it was clear Rosie was done talking.

“Mac, can we talk?” Jo asked, already heading to his office. When he entered, she closed the door. “I spent a lot of time watching Raul’s new friends yesterday and something’s not normal.”

“They’re teenagers. They aren’t supposed to be normal,” MacGyver chuckled.

“That’s not what I meant,” Joanna snapped with a concerned frown. “When I was going through their files I noticed they all attend the same high school.”

“Yeah, so? Just ‘cause they don’t go to Lincoln doesn’t mean they can’t come here,” he pointed out defensively.

“That particular school,” Jo continued, “is known for its special education programs and I’m willing to bet that most, if not all, of them have some type of learning or behavioral challenge. That, coupled with the fact they grew up in the barrio raises a red flag for me.”

“What kind of red flag?” Mac asked, now truly intrigued. It wasn’t like Joanna to go ferreting out puzzles. That was his job.

“I don’t want to say anything in case I’m wrong. I’ve arranged to meet with the school administrator this afternoon since summer school is underway and see if I can get some information.”

For the first time that day, MacGyver noticed that instead of her normal casual summer attire she had chosen to wear a floral print sundress with a lacy white sweater covering her shoulders.

“I’ll come with you,” he stated, but was met with another frown.

“It’s better if I go alone. Students’ personal information isn’t public domain. As a teacher, I’m more likely to get someone to talk to me.”

Mac had to admit she had a point. “Fine. Come to my place for dinner and tell me what you learned?”

“You got it!” she smiled victoriously.

MacGyver was standing at the stove, tending to their supper when Joanna walked in the front door that evening.

“Hey Nancy Drew! Did you solve your mystery?” he teased.

Jo wrinkled her nose at him before looking over his shoulder.

“Soup?” she asked, her voice full of dismay.

“What’s wrong with soup?” Mac countered.

“Nothing,” she said with a nonchalant shrug. “At least it isn’t tofu.”

“If you don’t like my cooking, why don’t you do your share?”

“I just may,” she retorted before plopping on the couch with a sigh. “Are we really arguing over soup?” she asked.

Mac chuckled. “Yeah, I think we are. You gonna tell me what you found out at the school today?”

“I was right. All the kids from the barrio are in some sort of remedial program for one reason or another. A few have been diagnosed with learning difficulties, but many of them have missed too many days due to illness, head and stomach aches in particular, to be able to keep up with normal class. Added to that, behavior tends to be an issue.”

MacGyver carefully carried two bowls of soup over to the couch and sat down next to Jo. “So, does that tell you anything?”

She nodded. “I think they’re suffering from lead poisoning.”

Mac was glad he had decided to set his liquid meal on the coffee table otherwise he would surely have spilled it in his lap. “Whoa! Slow down! I know those are all possible symptoms, but aren’t you making quite a leap?”

“Not really,” she replied. “Remember when I told you I thought the city had condemned the houses in that area?”

“Yeah. Go on.”

“They were supposed to be torn down because of the danger their lead pipes and lead paint posed to the residents, especially children.”

“Then what happened? Why are people still living there?” Joanna’s theory was beginning to make sense enough to make Mac uneasy.

“I don’t know. I was gonna go online when I got home tonight and do some research.”

“Why don’t we do it now,” Mac suggested, walking over to his computer and booting it up as he and Jo took a seat in front of the monitor. He quickly called up local newspaper articles on the subject which they both read carefully. After thirty minutes of staring at the monitor, Joanna sat back and rubbed her eyes as MacGyver summarized the information they had gathered.

“So a big time real estate agency in New York swooped in and bought the houses from the city on the pretense that they would refurbish the neighborhood, but all that came out of the deal was increased rent and an absentee slumlord whose tenants are too poor to take to court.”

“That makes me so angry,” Joanna responded through clenched teeth.

“So what’s your plan?” MacGyver asked.

Jo was silent for a minute before turning to look at him. “That’s where you come in.”

“Okay, what do ya need me to do?”

“Come up with a plan,” she smiled sheepishly.

Mac got up and paced the floor, jamming his splayed fingers through his hair. “First of all, we need to be sure the kids are suffering from lead poisoning in the first place. All it takes is a simple blood test, but the parents or guardians will need to give consent.”

“Then what?”

“Then...we take the next step.”

“Which is?”

“We’ll figure it out when the time comes,” Mac mumbled, losing himself in her eager, chocolate brown eyes.

XXXXX

It was mid-afternoon and MacGyver was carefully studying the spreadsheet Cynthia had printed out and put on his desk. As much as he hated paperwork and the administrative side of running a place like Challengers, he knew he would eventually need to be able to completely take on those duties. As it was, over the past months, he had heard Cynthia making veiled comments about disliking Midwest winters and missing the California sunshine. A soft knock on his open door pulled him from his reverie and he looked up to find Joanna standing just over the threshold.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Freddie’s sick and needs to go home again.”

“So?” Mac asked absently, returning his attention to the columns of names and numbers.

“So, I thought you could take her home,” Jo replied, irritation evident in her voice though he didn’t know why.

“Can’t Raul do it? I really need to figure this stuff out.”

He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as she walked toward him, a look on her face that no doubt sent shivers down the spines of her students.

“I thought, perhaps, this could be the start of the first step in our plan.” Her voice was low and even.

MacGyver looked up at her, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You want me to take Freddie home so I can talk to her grandmother about getting her tested for lead poisoning.”

“So you’ll do it?” Her eyes shone and a smile lit her face. How could he ever say ‘no’ to that?

“All right,” he sighed helplessly. “I could use a break anyway.”

Freddie sat in the passenger seat of the Jeep, silent except when instructing Mac which street to turn on and how far to go. Several minutes later he pulled to a stop in front of a small house she said belonged to her grandmother.

“Wow,” he exhaled.

“You’ve never been to the barrio?” she asked.

“No,” he replied as he took in his surroundings. Both sides of the street were lined with single-family homes though, by the number of barefoot children running about, he assumed they housed more people than they were built for. The structures were all in various states of disrepair. At one time he could tell they had been painted bright, lively colors, but a dismal coating of gray now seemed to shadow them. Lawns were overgrown, shrubs grew wild, and weeds poked out from cracks in the sidewalk. When he turned back to look at Freddie, she was already walking toward her grandmother’s house. MacGyver quickly got out of the Jeep and hurried to catch up with her.

“You don’t hafta walk me to the door,” Freddie muttered, her head down as if embarrassed by her neighborhood.

“No,” he agreed. “I just thought it’d be nice to meet your grandma.”

The girl shrugged but kept walking until she reached the front door. She opened it and entered the house, calling out to her grandma at the same time and leaving MacGyver waiting just inside the doorway. Moments later, a short, plump woman bustled toward him, her long black hair now predominantly streaked with silver was scraped back in a tight bun.

“My dear boy, what are you doing standing there?” she admonished. “Come in, come in and have a seat.” Though the facade of the home was in severe disrepair, the interior was clean and comfortable, even if the furniture was a bit tattered and threadbare. “My Fredricka, she sometimes has the manners of a barn cat, no?”

Mac grinned up at the woman from his perch on an outdated brocade loveseat. “I wouldn’t be too hard on her. She’s not feeling well today. That’s why I brought her home. By the way, my name’s MacGyver.”

“Ah! The man from the Challengers Club! My nieta and her friend, Raul, have told me all about you! You are kind to bring her home. Is it her stomach again?”

“Yes ma’am, I’m afraid so.”

The woman immediately went over to Freddie who stood in the kitchen doorway. “Come, let’s get some medicine in you.”

Curious, MacGyver followed and found the girl sitting at a small table, her face contorted as if she’d just eaten a lemon while her grandmother stood next to her holding an old brown glass bottle.

“What did you give her, Mrs. Martinez?”

“Call me ‘Carmen’, por favor, and I gave her what we call azarcon. It is an old home remedy that my family has been using for generations.”

“What?” Mac exclaimed, lunging forward and grabbing the bottle from Carmen’s hand. “Did you give this to Raul the other day as well?” he asked.

“Si, he was complaining of stomach pain.”

“This isn’t ‘medicine’, Carmen. It’s lead tetroxide.”

“Que?”

MacGyver sighed. How could he make her understand? “It’s poison,” he declared evenly.

“You accuse me of harming my granddaughter?!”

“No, of course not,” Mac replied, his voice gentle. “I know you were only trying to make her feel better, but this is not the way. This will make her stomach aches worse.”

“What am I to do now?” Carmen asked as she took a seat at the table across from Freddie, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears.

Mac sat down in the only seat left. “The first thing we need to do is find out whether or not Freddie has lead poisoning. A simple blood test will tell us that.”

MacGyver’s chest tightened as Carmen shook her head dejectedly. “I cannot afford to take her to the hospital, Mr. MacGyver.”

He blew out a breath, relieved that was her only objection. “When I was driving Freddie home, I saw a free clinic a couple blocks away. They can easily do the test there and it won’t cost you anything.”

Carmen’s face brightened. “That is wonderful! We will go first thing tomorrow morning,” she promised.

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Si.”

“Do you think other families around here still use azarcon?”

“No, most of the people here are probably too young to have even heard of it. I brought this with me when I moved here from Mexico. Why do you ask?”

“My colleague at Challengers has noticed other kids from the barrio exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning as well,” Mac explained, then had a thought. “Would you mind if I took a look under your kitchen sink?”

Carmen appeared confused by his request but readily agreed. MacGyver pulled out his Swiss army knife from his pants pocket before opening the cabinet doors and lowering himself to the floor. As he suspected, the pipes leading up to the faucet were a dull gray color. With the blade of his knife, he scraped away at the surface only to expose shiny silver metal. Just to be certain, he tapped his knife on the pipes and was rewarded with a dull thud.

He crawled out from under the sink to find Carmen and Freddie staring down at him curiously. He gave them a crooked grin. “I was just doing a little investigating,” he informed them. “Not surprisingly, your house has lead pipes that cause lead to get into the water supply and you consume it without even knowing.”

“Does that mean I have lead poisoning, too?” Carmen asked.

“It’s hard to say, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to get tested when you take Freddie,” Mac said as he stood up and walked over to the window. Dull orange paint was peeling away from the nicked woodwork. “I’d also bet this is lead-based paint. As it wears away, trace amounts of lead get caught in normal household dust that you then breathe in.”

“Can you use your knife to test that, too?” Freddie asked eagerly.

MacGyver chuckled. “Unfortunately not, but I can get my hands on a kit that will give us the answer if you’ll allow me to come back tomorrow.”

“You are always welcome here,” Carmen assured him as she took his hand in hers and gave it a grandmotherly pat. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you for helping us.”

“Well, I haven’t done much yet,” Mac admitted, “But it would be helpful if you could talk to your neighbors and see if a couple of them will let me in their homes tomorrow so I can do the same tests as here.”

“I will do just that,” Carmen promised, “And you and your colleague will come for lunch.”

It wasn’t as much a question as a statement so MacGyver nodded and smiled before taking his leave.

Mac and Joanna arrived at the Martinez house at precisely noon the next day. Carmen met them at the door and, after introductions and greetings were exchanged, invited them into the kitchen.

“I hope you don’t mind, but we’re having hamburgers for lunch. They are Fredricka’s favorite and she begged me to make them. I don’t know what it is, but I just cannot say ‘no’ to that girl!”

MacGyver gave Jo a sideways glance. “Tell me about it,” he muttered.

During their meal, Carmen informed them that both she and Freddie had gone for their blood tests that morning but the results wouldn’t be back for a few days. “The doctor told us that if we are ill he can treat us with medication or even something as simple as extra vitamins,” she happily informed the couple.

“That’s good to hear,” Mac replied with a smile though he knew possible treatments might not be so simple, but he’d keep that fact to himself for now if it would encourage more people to get tested.

“Did you bring the test kit?” Freddie asked excitedly as soon as everyone had taken the final bite of their lunch.

“Sure did,” MacGyver answered as Joanna reached into her purse and handed him a box. Under the teen’s watchful gaze he opened one end of the box and slid out what looked to be a thick piece of chalk.

“That’s it?” Freddie asked, her voice dripping with disappointment.

Mac chuckled. “For now. If this test comes back positive we’ll bring the experts in with their beakers and test tubes.”

His response seemed to mollify her until her curiosity once again bubbled up. “How does it work?”

“Just watch,” MacGyver instructed, pulling out his Swiss army knife and walking over to the kitchen window. “The first thing I need to do is to remove a nickel-sized piece of wood to expose all the layers of paint. May I?” His question was directed at Carmen.

“Go right ahead,” she sighed. “The place is falling down around us anyway.”

With Freddie at his shoulder, Mac made a small but neat gouge in the sill. Then he reached for the test kit and fitted a cardboard sleeve over the white stick and squeezed. “First, I have to break the chemical capsules in the tube and mix them up,” he explained as he squeezed the chalk-like stick and then shook it several times. “Okay, that should do it,” he declared. “Now, we just rub the tip back and forth on the spot where I removed the wood. If it turns red, that means there is lead paint here.”

“So red equals lead!” Freddie laughed at the rhyme and the others joined in.

After twenty seconds, MacGyver checked the end of the stick. It was a bright crimson. “We have lead!” he announced.

“Now what happens?” Carmen asked.

“I’d like to test more houses to get a better idea of what we’re dealing with here. Have you talked to any of your neighbors about me taking samples?”

“Abuela talked to some yesterday and they agreed. Come on, I’ll take you there!” Freddie offered.

Mac looked around helplessly as the teen grabbed his hand and all but dragged him toward the front door. Jo grinned and began to follow, but stopped when Carmen called her name.

“I thought perhaps you could join me in a cup of tea,” the older woman said.

MacGyver exchanged glances with Joanna. No doubt Carmen would enjoy some quiet adult company and conversation.

“I’d be happy to,” Jo replied, even though Mac knew she hated tea.

“This one here,” Freddie urged as she pointed to a small house with mismatched shutters and a broken screen door.

Upon receiving permission to enter, MacGyver got right to business checking the pipes under the kitchen sink as well as testing painted wood on a window sill. The results were the same as at the Martinez’s. As he and Freddie made a zig zag pattern through the neighborhood, all the houses tested positive. Having used all his testing supplies, the pair returned to Carmen’s house where Mac announced his findings at Freddie’s insistence though he had no answer to the questions that were sure to come. Pleasant farewells were exchanged and the ride back to Challengers with Joanna beside him was made in quiet contemplation. Upon arriving, he parked his car but they both remained inside, lost in thought.

“What happens now?” Jo asked.

Mac blew out a breath. “You’re the one who suspected this situation in the first place. What would you do?”

“First I’d get everyone tested for lead poisoning, then have the proper authorities test each house. That would give us physical evidence to take into a lawsuit against the absentee landlord and demand he remove all sources of lead and renovate the houses at no cost to the people living there.”

MacGyver nodded. “Sounds like a solid plan.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources we need to make it happen,” Jo frowned.

“Maybe we do,” Mac mumbled after several minutes. “Is Geena here today?”

“Yeah, she was supposed to take the afternoon shift.”

“Good,” MacGyver said as he got out of the Jeep and strode toward the building, Joanna unsuccessfully trying to match his long strides.

“Hey Geena, could you do me a favor?” he asked stopping in front of the reception desk with Jo a step behind and a bit breathless.

“Anything for you, handsome,” Geena replied with an innocently flirtatious wink.

“When you get back to your real job, could you set up an appointment for Lee to meet with us? The sooner the better.”

Joanna gasped. “I forgot all about him!”

She may have forgotten about Lee Vang, Attorney at Law, but Mac hadn’t. Both he and Jo had become friends with Lee two years ago when they both took positions at the same law firm for a brief time. In fact, before starting his own firm with Geena as his part-time secretary, Lee had done some pro bono work for Challengers and promised he’d always be there to help out should they need him. Well, they needed him now.

XXXXX

MacGyver and Joanna stood by the refreshment table watching Lee Vang mingle with the crowd, answering questions and offering assurances. As soon as they had presented their suspicions and evidence, the lawyer had readily agreed to take on the case at no cost. This evening, families from the barrio had gathered at Challengers to listen to the attorney explain how he and his colleagues planned to address the issue and take it to court if necessary. At first, several residents were skeptical and fearful that they would be forced to leave their homes or pay fees for services they couldn’t afford. Lee patiently answered their inquiries and assuaged their concerns, thus earning their trust and permission to move forward with the case.

“You two did a really good thing here,” the lawyer said to Mac and Jo as he poured himself a glass of punch after excusing himself from the crowd.

“I can’t take the credit,” MacGyver confessed. “This one is all on Joanna.”

“No way!” Jo protested. “I had my suspicions, but you were the one who backed them up with proof.”

“How about we call it a team effort?” Lee chuckled before someone from across the room called his name. “Sorry, I seem to be a popular guy tonight. We’ll talk later,” he said as he headed back into the crowd.

Mac was about to pour himself some punch when he felt Jo’s hand wrap around his much larger one and give it a slight tug. He turned toward her, eyebrows raised, but she only smiled and led him to a quiet, dimly lit corner.

“I think he’s right,” she said softly, now holding not only his hand but his gaze as well. “We do make a good team. Don’t ya think?”

“Absolutely,” MacGyver answered, surprised at the huskiness of his voice.

“And teams need to stick together, right?”

“Right,” Mac all but croaked, wondering where this conversation was going.

“Be there for each other,” she continued.

This time, he only nodded, not trusting his voice.

“In that case, I was wondering if the offer to move into Charlie’s old apartment was still good.”

“Sure is,” Mac confirmed.

“Then I’d like to take you up on it. After all, we spend so much time together anyway it would just be practical.”

MacGyver removed his hand from hers and slipped both his arms around her waist. “Very practical,” he murmured as he lowered his lips to hers.
















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: 21 February 2021 - 11:44 AM                                    
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Posts: 578
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Season: ---
Episode:Faith, Hope, and Charity
Vehicle: Jeep
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



Chapter 57: All That Glitters

“Well, how does it feel?” MacGyver asked, balancing a brightly wrapped box in his hands behind his back as Joanna surveyed her new home with Frog already fast asleep under the coffee table.

“It feels great!” she responded with a wide smile. “Almost perfect!”

“Just ‘almost’?”

“Yeah,” she said, pinning him with a coy smile. “It’s just missing a couple hockey jerseys.”

The corners of Mac’s mouth tugged up. “I can fix that.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” she said softly, their gazes locked.

MacGyver swallowed hard. It was rare for Jo to take the initiative when it came to flirting or intimacy and it did funny, though not unpleasant, things to his entire being. But it had been a long, exhausting day for both of them and he wouldn’t take advantage of the very convenient situation. At least, not yet.

“Here,” he said, clearing his throat as he handed her the box he held. “It’s kinda a housewarming gift.”

“Aw Mac, you didn’t have to get me anything,” Joanna protested. “Renting the trailer and getting the Challengers kids to help me move was more than enough!”

“Go ahead. Open it,” he urged.

She took off the lid and her forehead wrinkled as she stared at his present. He rocked back on his heels and fought the urge to laugh. He could only imagine what she must be thinking as she studied the contraption he knew so well. Two potatoes sat side-by-side with a wire connecting them while other wires connected each potato to a digital clock display.

“Thanks,” she finally replied. “I’ve always wanted a vegetable bomb.”

Now Mac did chuckle as he removed his creation from the box and set it on the breakfast bar. “It’s not a bomb,” he assured her. “It’s an alarm clock that you can use as a kitchen timer. It runs off the current from the potatoes.”

“Won’t they rot?” she asked, crinkling her nose.

“Eventually,” he shrugged. “But they’re a lot cheaper to replace than batteries.”

Joanna regarded the gift carefully before turning to him and wrapping her arms around his neck. “I love it!” she proclaimed, “Because you made it.” She lifted her face to his as he lowered his lips to hers. Soon they were lost in the warmth of a long overdue kiss.

When they finally broke apart, Mac rested his forehead against hers, his heart pounding so loudly he was sure she could hear it. He had wanted to kiss her like that all day and, while he should now be satisfied, he craved her all the more.

“Why don’t you come over to my place for a late supper?” he asked huskily.

“Do you mind if I take a rain check?” she asked, taking a step back. “I was really just planning on reheating the leftover pizza from lunch, taking a long hot shower and going to bed.”

MacGyver suddenly became aware of the dark circles beginning to form under her eyes as well as his own desire to yawn as his muscles began to tighten up. “Sounds like a plan,” he agreed. “Come over for breakfast?”

“You bet! Especially since I haven’t gone grocery shopping yet.”

“I’ll see you in the morning then,” Mac confirmed as he headed toward the door. “C’mon Frog, time to go home, buddy!” he called to the sleeping canine whose only response was a snuffle and a grunt.

“Just let him be. I’ll bring him over in the morning,” Jo promised.

“All right. I’ll see you then.” MacGyver gave her a quick but firm kiss goodnight before heading back to his side of the townhouse. Once there, he grabbed a yogurt from the refrigerator, flopped down on his couch, and remotely clicked on the TV to an old western movie already in progress.

Mac bolted upright when a strange noise fractured his dreams. He looked around cautiously, his apartment dark except for the glow of the television which now broadcast a popular late night talk show. An empty yogurt container sat on his coffee table. All was still. He shut off the TV, pushed himself off the couch, and headed to the spiral staircase that led to his bedroom taking odd satisfaction in knowing that Joanna would be sleeping just on the other side of the wall. His foot had barely touched the first step when the noise came again. This time he recognized it as something scratching against his glass patio door. He silently crossed the room and peeked through the slats of his vertical blinds. At first he saw nothing but his own reflection, then he looked down into Frog’s expectant eyes. He slid the door open and the dog scurried inside.

“What happened? Did you get homesick?” Mac asked as he bent down to ruffle Frog’s ears. The dog yawned and quickly settled himself in one of his favorite corners. MacGyver smiled to himself and ran a hand through his already mussed hair. He was just about to head upstairs, again, when he realized that Jo must have let Frog out to do his business before bed and was most likely waiting on his return. Mac changed direction, grabbed the cordless phone, and dialed the familiar number. Joanna answered on the second ring.

“Hi. It’s me. Frog’s here fast asleep.”

“I wondered what was taking him so long,” Jo replied, her voice laden with relief. “Thanks for letting me know.”

“No problem. Goodnight.”

MacGyver was having one of his favorite dreams. He was playing left wing for the Calgary Flames. It was the last game of the Stanley Cup finals. He was gliding swiftly across the ice towards the goal, his stick in firm command of the puck. The score was tied, the clock was counting down. It was now or never. He raised his stick for what he hoped would be an easy slap shot and goal and...woke up. A glance at the clock on his nightstand told him he had barely been asleep for two hours. He rolled over and groaned into his pillow. What had awakened him this time? And would he ever learn the outcome of his shot on goal? Just then, the clatter of the vertical blinds answered at least one of his questions. He crawled out of bed and plodded down the stairs and over to the patio doors where Frog awaited him.

“Didn’t you do what you had to do earlier?” Mac groused as he slid open the door and his dog slipped out into the night. He leaned against the back of the couch, waiting for Frog to return. His eyes were slowly drifting closed when the jangle of the phone startled him. Normally a call in the middle of the night was bad news...or at least bad timing, but he had a strong hunch he knew who was calling and why.

“Hello,”

“Hi Mac, it’s Jo. I have Frog.” Her last statement was muffled by a yawn.

“Send him back over,” he instructed.

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” she said just before his ear was assaulted with the sounds of slobbery snores.

And so it began...snatches of sleep, bits of dreams, opening and closing of doors, phone calls back and forth. Once the orange ball of the sun had cleared the eastern horizon, MacGyver finally gave up any hope for extended slumber and headed downstairs to start the day.

“It’s mornings like this that make me wish I liked coffee,” Joanna grumbled as she slouched in one of Mac’s kitchen chairs and stared at the plate of pancakes on the table in front of her. “I don’t think I can take another night like this.”

“Don’t worry, Frog was just excited and probably a little confused. He’ll be fine tonight,” MacGyver declared sitting down to his own breakfast with a yawn.

“Are you sure about that?” Jo raised an eyebrow to punctuate her question.

“No. But what can we do?”

“I had an idea just before sunrise,” Joanna declared, perking up just a bit. “If you don’t mind making a small modification to our shared wall, you could put in one of those doors that lets him come and go as he pleases.”

Mac’s heart rate kicked up a notch. “I had the same thought, but I didn’t want to do anything that would invade your privacy.”

“He’s just a dog,” she snorted. “I’d rather give up some privacy than lose hours of sleep. Besides, I like having him around.”

“Then consider it done,” MacGyver said firmly. “I’ll get some of the guys at Challengers to help and Frog will have his very own door between our apartments by the end of the day.”

XXXXX

Mac glanced at his watch. “C’mon fellas, we gotta hustle,” he urged the two teen boys who had stayed behind to clean up the dust and pieces of drywall from the floor behind his staircase. Joanna had said she planned on stopping at the grocery store on her way home from Challengers which had bought him a little extra time, but he wanted the place clean and the boys gone before she arrived.

Twenty minutes later, MacGyver watched from his front door as his helpers jumped on their bicycles and headed up the street and around the corner just as he saw Jo’s Chevy approaching from the opposite direction. He waited while she parked the car in the driveway, reminding him he still had to reset the code to her garage door opener, and popped the trunk before stepping outside to greet her.

“Here, let me get those,” he insisted, lifting two heavy bags from the trunk while Joanna took the other. “Looks like you bought enough food to feed an army,” he quipped as she unlocked the door to her side of the house.

“What did you expect? There was no food in the place and I intend to stay awhile,” she smiled, tossing her purse on the bench by the door before putting the grocery sack on the kitchen counter. MacGyver placed the bags he carried next to hers and she immediately began to unpack, but he gently grabbed her arm to stop her.

“You can do that later. Come look at Frog’s new door.” With his hand on the small of her back he guided her to the wall behind the staircase.

“Angus MacGyver! What in the world have you done?!” she exclaimed, turning to glare at him.

“What? You said I should put in a door,” he replied, feigning ignorance that only caused her eyes to bore more deeply into his.

“I meant a doggy door! That is a people door!”

“Guess you should’ve been more specific,” he smirked.

“This isn’t funny, MacGyver!” Jo snapped.

“Hey, what’s the big deal?” he asked, his tone no longer playful and light-hearted. “It’s like when we get connecting rooms at a motel. There’s a door on each side. If we want some privacy we just close it.”

“These aren’t motel rooms, Mac. These are our homes. How is one of us supposed to feel when the other locks us out?”

“Look,” he said, knowing she was speaking both literally and metaphorically, “You and I both know there are times when we each need some space. That’s where trust and love come in. Doors close. But they also open.” Silence reigned as he watched her process the situation. Several moments later her deep brown eyes softened.

“You’re right,” she sighed. “I’m sorry for overreacting. It’s kinda what I do best.”

Mac gave her a comforting smile and pulled her close. “I know. And I’m starting to get used to it.”

Suddenly, a loud, persistent banging on MacGyver’s front door grabbed their attention.

“Hey, MacGyver! Open up!” an all-too-familiar voice called. “It’s me! Your ol’ pal Jack Dalton!”

Mac squeezed his eyes shut in dismay and leaned down to whisper in Jo’s ear. “If we close all the doors and stay very, very quiet, maybe he’ll go away.”

“Mac, he’s your best friend!” Joanna scolded in a loud whisper before there was more banging.

“I know you’re in there, Mac! Well...at least I think you are! And why is Joanna’s car parked in your landlord’s driveway?!”

MacGyver tilted his face toward the ceiling and took a deep breath before turning and heading out the front door with Jo at his heels.

“I’m over here, Jack,” he said with resignation.

“Mac, buddy, what’s goin’ on around here?” the pilot asked, his eyes darting between his friend, Jo and the house.

“It’s a long story,” MacGyver said. “A better question is what are you doin’ here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Alaska working for an airline charter service until you can save up enough to buy a new plane...again?”

Mac watched Jack carefully, wondering if his friend was gonna be straight with him or spin some fantastic tale instead. One eye-twitch and MacGyver would send him packing. There was a long, uncomfortable pause before Jack dropped his head and sighed.

“There was a little bit of an incident at work and my boss suggested I take a few days off.”

Mac regarded his friend with a squinty-eyed glare. “What kind of incident?” he asked, knowing Jack was withholding information.

“If you must know, I was flyin’ this group of tourists from Valdez to Tatitlek when we hit a little turbulence.”

“You crashed the plane?!”

“No! Give me some credit, will ya,” Jack replied, clearly annoyed. “I used my finely honed creative piloting skills and landed safe and sound.”

“Then what was the problem?” Mac asked.

“Seems I kinda broke some company protocol with my--”

“Creative piloting skills,” MacGyver finished for him.

“So here I am, footloose and fancy free for the next two weeks before my suspension lifts.”

“And you just figured it was a good time to drop in and visit,” Mac concluded, eyeing the tattered suitcase that sat on his front stoop.

“Yeah. Sure. Why not?!” And there it was...the left-eye-twitch.

“Jaaack, what aren’t you telling me?” MacGyver asked cautiously, pretty sure he didn’t want to hear the answer. But before Jack could speak, Joanna cleared her throat.

“If you two will excuse me, I have a privacy door to close,” she declared before quickly slipping back into her apartment and shutting the front door tight.

“So what’s goin’ on with you two anyway?” Jack asked as MacGyver picked up the suitcase and led the way into his apartment. “You never said anything about Joanna in the one-and-only letter you sent me.”

“Like I said, it’s a long story,” Mac said over his shoulder. “You hungry? I could make some pancakes.”

“Is that the only thing you know how to cook?”

MacGyver set the suitcase down next to the couch and shrugged. “I could whip up a tofu casserole.”

“I’ll get the maple syrup,” Jack declared. “Now, tell me about you and Jo and this place,” he said, eyeing the newly installed door tucked behind the staircase.

Mac sighed as he gathered the ingredients for their supper. “Well, when I left you in L.A. I decided to spend some time at Harry’s cabin…”

Jack was mopping up a pool of syrup with the final piece of his pancake when MacGyver finished his story. “Gee, and I thought your life was complicated when you were playing secret agent with Papa Thornton.”

Mac stood and cleared the table. “All right. Your turn. Why are you here...for real this time.”

He watched as Jack reached into the inside pocket of his bomber jacket and pulled out several newspaper clippings, some yellow with age, others obviously newer, and spread them out on the kitchen table. Mac took a seat and read the headlines. “A shipwreck?”

“Not just any shipwreck,” Jack corrected him. “A shipwreck with hidden gold...just a few miles offshore of Milwaukee in Lake Michigan!”

“Where did you get all this?” MacGyver asked, waving a piece of newsprint under Jack’s nose.

“A buddy of mine up in Alaska,” Jack responded nonchalantly. “He’s into that kinda stuff. When I told him I was coming here he said I might wanna check it out. I had a chance to read everything he gave me on the plane. Man, I hate flying commercial! It’s so boring. Anyway, the ship was the SS Milwaukee. It was a ferry for train cars between Wisconsin and Michigan that sank during a storm in 1929.”

“So where does the gold come in?” Mac challenged, scanning the articles himself.

“Well, technically it’s just a rumor. But I have it on good authority that this would be the perfect way to move stolen treasures...like gold!”

“Jack, it says right here that the location is marked with a Wisconsin Historical Society shipwreck mooring buoy. That means it’s a recreational dive site. Don’t you think that if there was gold hidden there someone would have found it by now?”

His friend shook his head. “There’s never been any report of it. Besides, I can feel it in my bones, Mac. It’s still down there. Waiting to make Jack Dalton a very rich man!”

It was all MacGyver could do to keep from rolling his eyes at another one of Jack’s famous wild goose chases. “So how, exactly, are you gonna get this gold?”

“That’s where you come in, Kemosabe. I’ve already chartered us a boat and we can pick up your rental dive equipment at the dock first thing in the morning.”

“No Jack. Not anymore. I’m done with you and your treasure hunts,” Mac stated firmly.

“Aw, c’mon Mac. You always say ‘no’ and then end up helping me out anyway.”

“Well, this time I mean it!” MacGyver insisted. “I’m not gonna go out and dive for a treasure that’s not even there!”

“But Mac--”

“No!” MacGyver barked, pointing his index finger at his friend. “If you want this imaginary gold you’re gonna hafta go get it yourself!”

“What? Wait! I can’t even doggy paddle!”

“That’s your problem, not mine! Goodnight!” Mac spun on his heel and headed up to his bedroom. He was not going to let Jack talk him into another stupid scheme ever again.

XXXXX

After a restless night, MacGyver got up before dawn the next morning and was sitting at the kitchen table, listening to Jack snore and carefully reading the newspaper clippings as the sun cracked the horizon. While he didn’t believe for one second that there was any gold to be found, the lure of diving again and poking around an old shipwreck tugged at his soul. One article stated that the ship was sitting at an estimated depth of one hundred twenty-five feet. An advanced dive for sure, but still very doable. By the time Jack awoke, he had made up his mind.

“What do ya mean you’re gonna help me?” Jack asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Or am I still dreaming? Last night you said--”

“I know what I said last night. I changed my mind. Is that alright with you?” Mac snapped.

“Yeah, sure, whatever you want!” Jack eagerly agreed.

Thirty minutes later they were in MacGyver’s Jeep, headed toward the lake.

“And Jo said she was okay with this?” Jack asked, still in disbelief.

Mac chuckled, “Yeah, we’ve come to an understanding over the past couple months. As long as I don’t end up in the hospital, or worse, we’re all good.”

The sun was high in the sky when MacGyver pulled the rented boat up to the mooring buoy.

“Want me to drop the anchor?” Jack asked.

“No, it might damage the site. That’s what the buoy’s for. Grab that rope and tie us up nice and tight while I get in my gear.”

It wasn’t long before Mac emerged from below deck outfitted in a sleek black wetsuit. He sat on the edge of the boat to secure a pair of fins to his bare feet before standing and hefting on his oxygen tank like a backpack. Once it was properly strapped on, he put on his goggles and gloves and fastened a small bag to his waist before testing the regulator for air flow.

“Are you ready yet?” Jack asked like an impatient child.

Mac smiled. “Yeah. I’m all set. Now remember, it’s quite a ways down so I’ll be awhile. Don’t leave without me.”

“Don’t worry about me, amigo. I’m not goin’ anywhere until my gold is safely aboard.”

MacGyver sighed to himself as he inserted the mouthpiece of the breathing apparatus, grabbed the waterproof flashlight, and once again sat on the edge of the boat, this time allowing himself to gently tip backward into the water.

The lake was cold and murky as Mac kicked his way downward. The shaft of sunlight that had brightened the surface began to disappear. Regulating his breathing so as to minimize oxygen use, MacGyver became aware of the peace and solitude surrounding him and he felt a freedom like nothing else on earth. All too soon he was compelled to interrupt the serenity of nature with the beam of his flashlight. While he had seen pictures of the wreck in Jack’s old news article, nothing could have prepared him for the grandeur of the sight itself. Sitting upright on a bed of sand and still mostly intact, the SS Milwaukee appeared to stand sentinel of a time long passed. As Mac began to explore the ill-fated ferry, he realized that most of the train cars were still on board. In awe with the vision before him, his frustration mounted with Jack. Even if there was gold or other sort of treasure to be found, it would be like trying to find a needle in a thousand haystacks. MacGyver mentally shook himself, reminding him that he was here for the wonder and experience of the dive, not some tangible wealth.

As Mac continued to explore, he realized that it would take many days and several dives to see everything that had been so perfectly preserved. Unfortunately, he was not afforded that luxury and reluctantly decided to abandon the wreck and try to convince Jack to give up on his treasure hunt but not before he happened upon a train car sitting in the muck with three automobiles on it. Unable to resist, MacGyver went in for a closer look. The cars appeared to have been manufactured at the Nash Motors Company. Mac treaded water as he admired the antiques before slowly kicking himself upward. But something kept niggling at his brain. He checked his pressure gauge to find that his tank still held enough air for one last foray. Lithely turning back to the ship, MacGyver headed straight for the autos. He couldn’t help remembering when he had first learned of the Nomad’s existence and the priceless jewel Harry had once hidden in it. On a hunch, Mac explored the cars with renewed purpose even while chiding himself. After struggling to open the heavy metal door, he squeezed into the auto and began feeling around the floorboards for anything unusual. He suddenly paused and realized the futility of his actions. He had been listening to Jack too much. Checking his pressure gauge again, he saw it was time to leave if he was to make it to the surface safely, but as he turned with his flashlight in hand, the beam lit on something shiny. Something shiny that didn’t belong on the floor of an almost sixty-year-old car. Mac hurried to investigate and found a jagged rock about the size of a golf ball with smooth, angular edges. He scooped it up and placed it in the pouch tied to his waist. He’d examine it more closely on the boat. He was just about to turn toward the surface when a white-hot pain shot through his bicep.

MacGyver jerked around to find himself facing off with another diver clad all in black and holding a lethal-looking blade. He immediately kicked upward in an attempt to escape, but the stranger grabbed his ankle and pulled him down. Soon the two were entangled in a slow-motion underwater struggle each gaining and then losing ground against the other. Finally, Mac was able to grab his attacker’s wrist and squeeze until the knife slipped free and floated harmlessly to the sandy bottom of the lake. The diver immediately retreated and was soon out of sight. But MacGyver had another problem. He was out of air. Holding his breath, he swam upward as fast as he could. His lungs were burning from lack of oxygen when he broke the surface. Bobbing next to the boat, he pulled the regulator from his mouth and gulped in fresh air.

“Hey, I was getting worried about you,” Jack declared, leaning over the side of the boat.

“You’re not the only one,” Mac replied, his voice raspy. “Help me up, would ya?”

As soon as MacGyver was safely aboard, he ripped off his mask and scanned the surrounding area for another boat. He saw one in the distance, heading toward shore.

“Grab me the binoculars,” he ordered Jack, but by the time he had the other boat in focus it was too far away to make out a name or other identifying features.

“What happened down there?” Jack asked as Mac divested himself of his diving equipment.

“I’m not sure, but I wasn’t alone,” he replied, peeling away the top of his wetsuit and exposing the cut on his upper arm. It felt worse than it looked. The dive suit had taken the brunt of the blade’s wrath.

“Guess I won’t be getting my security deposit back on this,” Jack frowned, fingering the slice in the material.

“Why don’t you untie us and take us back to the dock while I change and take care of this cut,” MacGyver instructed.

“Aye, aye, capitan!” Jack saluted as Mac made his way toward the stairway that led to the cabin below, swaying a bit as he went. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just trying to get my sea legs back,” he replied with a slight smile.

After using the first aid kit to clean and bandage his wound he changed into his street clothes and joined his friend on the deck. A wave of dizziness washed over him and he tried to convince himself it was a delayed reaction from the surprise encounter underwater combined with the choppiness of the waves as Jack guided the boat toward the city’s skyline.

“So, did you find anything?!” Jack asked as soon as MacGyver appeared.

“Yeah. This.” Mac took the rock he had found in the car out of his pocket and held it in his hand. Jack’s eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open.

“Is that what I think it is?” the pilot asked, almost reverently.

“No. It’s not gold. It’s pyrite.”

“Pie-what?”

“Pyrite, Jack. It’s fool’s gold!”

“How can you be so sure? It looks like the real thing to me!”

MacGyver shook his head. “You can tell by the brassy color. Gold would be, well, gold.” The light in his friend’s eyes immediately dimmed and Mac felt sorry for him. “Look, I’ve been on enough archaeological and geological digs to know the difference,” he explained gently.

“Hey, don’t worry about it! It’s not like I really expected to find a sunken treasure!” Jack replied with a forced smile and eye twitch.

“Really?”

“Yeah! I just thought you’d enjoy an adventure with your old buddy!”

Mac didn’t believe him, of course, but right now he had bigger things on his mind. “You gave me an adventure alright. I wanna know who that other diver was and why he attacked me.”

Jack shrugged. “Maybe he was there looking for the gold too and wanted to scare you off.”

“That would be an awfully big coincidence,” MacGyver said skeptically.

An hour later, Jack and MacGyver headed for the parking lot after returning the rented boat and scuba gear.

“Here, Jack. Why don’t you drive us home,” Mac suggested, tossing his friend the keys to his Jeep.

Jack looked at him with surprise which quickly morphed into concern. “You don’t look so good, Mac,” he observed. “And you’re walking kinda funny. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” MacGyver responded. “I just haven’t been on such a deep dive in a long time and I guess I’m feeling the consequences. It’ll pass.” Oh, how he prayed it would pass. However, as they approached the duplex, he felt an unwanted weakness settling into his arms and legs, and his knees and elbows ached when he tried to bend them. “Um, Jack, I think you better take me to the hospital.”

Jack’s head snapped around so quickly to look at him, it would have been comical if MacGyver hadn’t been feeling so ill.

“Is it your arm? Does it need stitches?”

“No,” Mac answered flatly. “I’m pretty sure I have decompression sickness.”

“Huh?”

“The bends, Jack. I have the bends.”

“But how? You’re a great diver.”

Mac sighed. “I stayed down longer than I should have and by the time I got away from my attacker I was out of air. I had to get to the surface fast and couldn’t make the needed decompression stops.”

“But you’re gonna be alright, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” MacGyver assured him. “Once I get to the hospital I’ll be just fine.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Joanna sat in her office at Challengers, her back to her desk so she could gaze out the window at the warm summer sunshine. Even though she had only moved into Charlie’s old apartment a couple days ago, she felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She was basking in a newfound sense of independence she hadn’t known she lacked and a freedom she hadn’t known she craved, but most importantly, she was practically sharing a house with the man she loved. She blushed as she recalled her lighthearted flirting the day she moved in. Shy and reluctant to readily share her emotions, this may be the exact thing she needed to show MacGyver how much she really cared about him. Unfortunately, she hadn’t expected to be put to the test so soon. That morning Mac had informed her of his discussion with Jack and his decision to go scuba diving. He looked so eager, she didn’t have the heart to voice her concern that when he did anything with his friend it rarely turned out well. And if she was being totally honest with herself, she’d have to admit she was a bit jealous. Relaxing on a sun kissed boat in the middle of the lake was much more appealing than the hours of data entry she faced. She had just swiveled around in her chair, determined to get some work done, when her phone rang.

“Challengers Club, this is Joanna,” she greeted the caller.

“Hey Jo, it’s Jack Dalton.”

Her heart immediately fell to her toes. Something was wrong. She just knew it. She could hear it in his voice.

“What happened?” she demanded.

“Mac had a little, um, mishap during the dive. We’re at the hospital now.”

“I’m on my way,” Joanna said, slamming down the phone before Jack could respond. With a singular purpose, she grabbed her purse and bid good-bye to Rosie and Geena without stopping to give an explanation, almost tripping over a sleeping Frog on her way out.

Hurrying through the automatic sliding glass doors of the emergency department, Joanna bypassed a waiting, and very guilty-looking, Jack in favor of the woman in scrubs who stood slightly behind him.

“MacGyver’s going to be fine,” Wendi Vang, trauma nurse, wife of Attorney Lee Vang, and friend to Jo and Mac assured her. “He’s receiving treatment for decompression sickness as we speak.”

“Can I see him?”

“Of course. That’s why I’m here. Follow me.”

Wendi led Joanna through a maze of corridors before stopping and opening the door to a large room. In the center sat a large glass tube encapsulating Mac. “He’s in the hyperbaric chamber for recompression therapy. We gave him a mild sedative to help make the process easier and a respiratory therapist will be monitoring him throughout the treatment,” the nurse explained, tilting her head toward a shadow in the corner.

Jo absently nodded to show she understood before slowly walking toward the large device. MacGyver was lying on his back, motionless, clad only in hospital-issue pajama bottoms. As she got closer, the steady rise and fall of his bare chest eased her tension just a fraction. Assuming he was either asleep or unconscious, she gasped when he turned his head toward her and opened his eyes, gifting her with a quirky grin. He raised his arm and placed his hand on the glass. With relief flooding through her, Joanna quickly closed the gap between them and placed her hand on the glass over his. She watched as his eyes drifted closed and his hand slid away as he fell asleep, a smile still on his face. It was then that she noticed the white gauze bandage wrapped around his upper arm and her rational thought process returned.

She turned to find Wendi watching her as well as Jack who must have followed them in. “Would one of you tell me what happened?” she insisted. “How did he get the bends when he’s an expert diver? And why is his arm bandaged?”

After several moments, Wendi broke the deafening silence. “I need to get back to the trauma center. Call me if you need anything. And don’t worry, Mac’ll be just fine.”

As soon as the door closed behind the nurse, Joanna glared at Jack. “Well?”

Surprisingly, Jack didn’t try to evade the question. He told Jo everything MacGyver had told him.

“Did you call the police?” she asked when he had finished.

“Yeah, I called from here once I knew Mac was getting taken care of,” he told her.

“Good,” she replied icily before turning her attention back to the large glass capsule. A man in a white lab coat, the respiratory therapist, had emerged from the shadows and stood across from her monitoring MacGyver’s condition and progress. “Do you mind if I stay with him?” she asked.

The therapist shrugged, “Fine by me, but it will be at least a few more hours in here before we can transfer him to a regular room for observation. It was a long, deep dive and the oxygen deprivation didn’t help so it’s going to take a while.”

Joanna glanced at her watch and sighed. It was already evening.

“Why don’t you and your friend go home and get some rest. Mr. MacGyver is doing well and will probably sleep through the night. There’s really nothing you can do for him right now,” the therapist told her gently.

Jo bowed her head and chewed her bottom lip as she considered her options. The man was right. She couldn’t whisper encouraging words in Mac’s ear or even comfort him with her touch. She was useless. After she assured herself Mac was still asleep, she quietly left the room and started making her way out of the hospital.

“Hey, wait up!” Jack called from behind before catching up with her as she waited for the elevator. “You’re upset. Let me drive you home.”

The elevator doors parted and Joanna stepped in, quickly pushing the button labeled ‘LOBBY’. “I drove myself here, I can drive myself home,” she replied curtly as the heavy doors began to close. Jack had to step in sideways to avoid being left behind. That was a mistake because as soon as the car was in motion Jo rounded on him.

“I want you to know I hold you personally responsible for what happened to Mac,” she declared. “When we get home you’re gonna pack your things and leave...tonight!”

“Whoa! C’mon Joanna!” Jack protested.

“Tonight, Jack!”

They stood in stony silence and when the elevator came to a halt, Jo stepped off and headed to the exit without a backward glance. During the drive home, she noticed a pair of headlights following her. Jack. She sighed and resolved to apologize for her harsh words in the morning. She was coming to know Jack too well to believe that he would actually follow her orders and leave tonight anyway. After parking her Chevy in the garage, she stepped out and headed to her front door only to find Jack standing on the lawn, staring at Mac’s side of the townhouse. All she wanted was for this horrid day to end, so she decided to slip unnoticed into her apartment, but the look on Jack’s face caused her to head in his direction instead.

“Hey, I’m sorry about what I said in the elevator. You don’t have to--”

Jack raised a hand to cut her off. “Look,” he whispered.

Joanna turned to find Mac’s front door smashed to bits, shards of glass laying all around. “C’mon, we’ll call the cops from my place,” she said, putting a guiding hand on Jack’s arm.

Shortly after calling 911, two police cruisers arrived and the officers busied themselves with clearing and securing the scene as well as searching for evidence while a detective took statements from Jack and Joanna.

“Are you the same Jack Dalton who reported his friend was attacked while diving in Lake Michigan earlier today?” the plain clothes cop asked.

“Yeah, I am! Have you found anything?”

The detective shook his head. “We had officers check out the marina for unusual activity, but no one reported anything. The Coast Guard was called in to take a look at the dive site. We found a knife near the wreck but that was all.”

“Can’t you lift some prints or run a trace on the blade or something?” Jack asked eagerly.

The detective slowly shook his head. “There were no finger prints since the suspect was most likely wearing gloves and the knife was a common diving knife you could buy at any scuba supply shop in the country. But don’t worry, the investigation is still on-going.”

“Do you think these two crimes are related?” Jo asked.

“It’s too early to tell yet, ma’am. Tonight’s incident could be a random smash-and-grab burglary.”

A uniformed officer appeared in the doorway and nodded to the detective who addressed the couple. “The team is done with your friend’s apartment. Now we just need you to go in and take a look around and see if anything’s missing.”

MacGyver’s apartment was ablaze with light...and completely trashed. Drawers had been emptied, furniture tossed, and books thrown on the floor. Joanna did a cursory inventory and noted that his television, VCR, and computer were untouched. It didn’t take a professional to see that this was not a typical burglary. Nevertheless, she and Jack carefully stepped through the debris to take a closer look. Jo never realized how much Mac actually possessed until she saw it strewn about. It would be next to impossible to determine what, if anything, was missing. Over the next several minutes she found his collection of videotapes, now laying on the floor, still intact. Even the silly yellow rubber duck he insisted on keeping on the kitchen counter remained though it had been tossed into the living room. As Jack continued to scour the downstairs, Joanna climbed the steps to the bedroom which was in equal disarray though nothing appeared to be missing.

Once the thorough search was completed, Jo sought out the detective.

“It doesn’t look like anything’s been taken,” she informed him as Jack stood beside her, nodding his agreement. “In fact, it doesn’t appear to be a normal robbery. Whoever did this was looking for something.”

A smile tugged at the detective’s lips. “I would have to concur with you. Any idea what they might have been looking for?”

Joanna glanced at Jack who simply shrugged. “No. As far as I know, Mac’s most valuable possessions are his hockey jerseys and those are still hanging on their hooks.”

“Well, then, thank you for your time and cooperation. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any more problems.” The detective shook hands with Jo and Jack before collecting the other officers and driving off into the night leaving the two friends standing in the middle of the shambles that was MacGyver’s apartment.

It was well past midnight before Jack got the damaged front door boarded up and secured and he and Joanna had restored Mac’s apartment to some kind of normal. Tired, but still keyed up from all the excitement, the duo relaxed at Jo’s kitchen table.

“So, which one of us is gonna tell MacGyver about this?” Jack asked with a grimace.

“I vote for you,” Joanna told him, knowing that Mac would be angry and then concerned about this turn of events.

“Gee, thanks. You think he’ll still be sedated?”

Jo couldn’t help but chuckle. “I doubt it.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MacGyver sat on the edge of his hospital bed dressed in the clothes he had arrived in, tossing the brassy colored rock he had found in his jeans pocket from one hand to another. The last thing he remembered was seeing Joanna’s face through the glass of the hyperbaric chamber before falling asleep for the rest of the night. He was glad she had decided to go home and get some rest, but he had expected to see her early this morning, especially since the doctor said he would sign Mac’s release papers as soon as his ride arrived. Footsteps in the hallway drew his attention to the door to his room. His heart leapt as Joanna walked in, but skipped a beat when he noticed the tender skin under her eyes shades darker than it should be. Had worrying about him put the dark circles there? He immediately went to her, gently taking her by the shoulders.

“Hey, are you alright? Is everything okay?”

“I should be asking you that,” she replied with a tight smile. “I met the doctor on my way up here and he said you’re good to go.”

“I’m perfect now that you’re here,” he proclaimed, bending slightly to kiss her gently on the lips.

A nurse appeared behind Jo with an empty wheelchair.

“Your chariot awaits, sir,” the young woman declared.

MacGyver regarded the contraption with disdain, but understood hospital policy all too well. The sooner he got in the chair, the sooner he could get on with his life, so he settled in and allowed the nurse to push him towards the bank of elevators as Joanna kept pace at his side.

“Where’s Jack?” he asked. He had seen the look Jo had given his best friend while he was in the recompression chamber and wouldn’t be surprised if she had ordered him to get on the red-eye back to Alaska.

“He’s waiting for us at your place,” she replied.

“You mean ‘our’ place,” Mac clarified with a grin, reaching out and taking her hand.

As Joanna maneuvered her car through the city traffic, MacGyver once again began fiddling with the ‘treasure’ he had found on his dive.

“What’s that?” she asked as they sat at a stop light.

“A piece of pyrite I found at the wreck.”

“Fool’s gold?”

“You know your rocks,” Mac grinned.

Jo shrugged, “I did a science report on pyrite back in grade school.”

MacGyver turned his attention back to the rock and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Joanna asked, accelerating through an intersection.

“Something’s not right about this,” MacGyver said, examining the pyrite yet again. “It hasn’t oxidized and there are no signs of distress. It’s just too ‘new’. There’s no way it could have been on the ship when it sank. Plus, it was basically in plain sight for any diver to find.”

Mac felt the car slow as it turned into his driveway. He looked up to find Jack standing in the yard, his formerly glass front door covered with plywood. He was out of the vehicle before Joanna put it in ‘Park’.

“What happened to my door?!” he yelled.

“It’s not what you think, MacGyver,” Jack responded. “This time it wasn’t me. It was this.” He held up a brick. “Well, not this, the cops took the real one for evidence.”

“Cops?! What cops?!”

“The cops we called when we discovered your place had been broken into,” Jack explained calmly as Mac’s brain went into overload.

“Let’s go inside and discuss this,” Jo suggested, firmly clamping her hands around MacGyver’s uninjured bicep and steering him into his apartment. He had expected to find a mess when she opened the door, but everything looked to be in order and nothing valuable appeared to be missing.

“What happened?” he demanded.

“...and then I overslept and didn’t get to the hospital as early as I wanted to,” Joanna concluded a long while later. MacGyver swallowed hard. So that’s why she looked as if she’d lain awake all night. She spent most of it cleaning up his stuff so he wouldn’t have to deal with it. Only Jack’s voice suppressed his urge to crush her to him and show her how grateful he was, not only for taking care of his things, but that she hadn’t been home at the time of the break-in. He could never forgive himself if something had happened to her.

“But we still don’t know what the burglar was looking for,” Jack informed him.

“Maybe he was lookin’ for this,” Mac replied, holding up the piece of pyrite.

“That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?” Joanna challenged.

“Me getting attacked at the dive site and then having my house broken into the same day isn’t exactly a coincident,” he countered.

“But who?” Jo asked.

“And why?” Jack added.

“The ‘why’ is pretty easy,” Mac said, taking Joanna’s hand and leading her to the couch while Jack took a seat in the armchair. “Someone believed I found real gold and tried to steal it from me. As for the ‘who’, tell me more about this friend of yours that gave you all the news clippings about the wreck.”

Jack shrugged. “Manny? Not much to tell. He’s lived in Alaska his entire life and works double shifts just to feed his family. You don’t think he’s behind all this, do ya?”

“I’m not sure,” MacGyver answered. “Right now I’m more concerned with how that other diver knew when I’d be checking out the wreck and how the burglar knew where I live.”

Joanna glanced at her watch and frowned. “I’d love to stick around and help you figure this out, but I better get over to Challengers.”

“May as well,” Mac told her, “There’s not much you can do here.”

“What are you gonna do?” she asked.

“Research.”

XXXXX

Later that afternoon, MacGyver drove downtown to pay a visit to the Milwaukee branch of the Wisconsin Historical Society and managed to wrangle an impromptu meeting with the Great Lakes Program Director. The metal plate on her door indicated her name was Doreen. She was tall and fit with her long blonde hair corralled in an intricate twist at the nape of her neck.

“What can I do for you, Mr. MacGyver?” she asked brusquely after polite introductions were exchanged.

“I’d like some information regarding the S.S. Milwaukee.”

Doreen’s eyes hardened. “I’m sorry, but that dive site is temporarily off limits.”

“Does it have anything to do with the attack that occurred yesterday?”

“Unfortunately it does, but I cannot give you any further information about that.”

“You don’t have to. I was there.” Mac smiled wryly as he pulled up his shirt sleeve to reveal the white bandage covering the cut.

Doreen’s features softened slightly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. But you can be assured that we are cooperating fully with the proper authorities to secure the site and find your attacker.”

“I appreciate that, but that’s not why I’m here,” he told her. “I was actually hoping to learn more about this.” He pulled the fool’s gold from his pocket and placed it in the middle of her desk. “I found it in the wreck, but I doubt it was on the ship when it sank.”

For the first time since MacGyver arrived, Doreen dropped all her defenses. “You’re right. It wasn’t,” she confirmed. “We had a fundraising expedition dive scheduled for this weekend which will now most likely need to be canceled for safety reasons.”

“An expedition dive?”

“Yes. It’s sort of like a scavenger hunt. Divers pay big bucks for tickets to explore the wreck. In return, we place ‘treasures’ for them to find. There are prizes for those who find the most.”

“And this was one of the ‘treasures’ you planted.”

Doreen nodded. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers of the year and now we need to scrap it and refund people their money. I was just about to start calling pre-registered participants before you came in.”

“Would the event still go on if I could catch my attacker before the weekend?”

“Yes, I suppose. But what can you do that the authorities can’t.”

“Maybe nothin’. Maybe somethin’.”

MacGyver arrived home to find Jack pacing a hole in his living room carpet.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on?” Mac asked.

“Mac, I’m so sorry! You were right. Everything that’s happening...the attack, the break in...it’s all my fault!!”

If his friend hadn’t been so serious MacGyver would’ve laughed. “How do you figure that?”

“Remember earlier when you asked if Manny might be behind all this?”

“Yeah,” Mac replied hesitantly.

“Well, it got me to thinkin’.”

“Uh oh.”

“C’mon Mac, I’m serious! I’m positive Manny wouldn’t do anything like this, but I’m not the only one he talked to about the wreck.”

“Go on,” MacGyver encouraged, his curiosity piqued.

“A new guy named Erik just got hired on about a month ago. He’s young, adventurous, never stays in one place too long, you know the kind.”

Mac glared at his friend, Jack’s words hitting a little too close to home.

“Well, um, he’d sometimes sit with me and Manny in the evening, shooting the breeze. He was there the night Manny gave me the newspaper clippings and talked about the sunken gold. He also knew about my little, um, vacation.”

“So you think Erik followed you all the way from Alaska to steal any gold we found?” MacGyver asked skeptically.

“Sure. Why not? It’s as good an answer as any!”

Mac sat quietly and let this new information tumble through his brain. “Even if what you say is true, how could Erik find us so easily?”

“Things are pretty laid back up there. I may have left your letter laying out somewhere and he might have seen your return address,” Jack offered. “He could’ve been staking out your place and followed us to the lake yesterday then attacked you when you found the gold. When you fought him off, he came looking for it here figuring you hid it.”

“Aw man,” Mac sighed, shoving himself off the couch. Now it was his turn to pace. “This is actually starting to make sense!”

“What’s our next move?” Jack asked eagerly.

MacGyver jammed his fingers through his hair and blew out a breath. “Well, since he still hasn’t gotten what he came here for, it’s safe to assume he’ll be hangin’ around. Tomorrow we can go back out to the dive site and hope he follows, only this time we’ll be ready for him.”

XXXXX

The following morning, Mac sat at Joanna’s kitchen table while Jack continued snoring on his couch.

“I can’t say I’m thrilled with this plan of yours,” Jo admitted before eating a spoonful of cereal.

“At least this time we know what to expect and we’ll be prepared,” Mac assured her, taking a swallow of his protein shake as he tried to avoid her worried eyes.

They finished eating breakfast in silence and when Joanna cleared the dishes from the table and took them to the sink, MacGyver followed, slipping his arms around her waist from behind and resting his cheek against her silken hair.

“You don’t have to worry, ya know. Everything’s gonna--”

Jo twisted around to face him. “Don’t say ‘everything’s gonna be okay’,” she warned. “You can’t promise that. None of us can.”

“You’re right,” he agreed, taking a step back. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, just come home safe,” she snapped before heading upstairs to finish getting ready for the day.

When he had worked at the DXS and then Phoenix, he secretly envied agents whose girlfriends or wives would kiss, or cry, or make love to them before they went on a dangerous mission. Now, his own fiancé chose to distance herself from him, as if it would somehow lessen the pain if he never returned. Shaking his head, he walked through the connecting door behind the staircase to find his apartment eerily quiet.

“Jack?” he called, but no one answered. “Jack?!” he hollered up the spiral staircase toward the bathroom. Still no response. Last night his friend had been eager to head back to the lake. Now, he was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, MacGyver plopped down hard on the couch and let his head fall into his hands. It was then that he saw it. A sheet of plain white paper sitting on the coffee table with Jack’s handwriting scrawled across it.

Mac,
I know I got you into this mess so I’m gonna get you outta it. See ya later!
Jack

“Oh no he didn’t!” MacGyver growled under his breath as he barreled out the front door to find his Jeep gone. Swallowing a yell that would surely wake the neighbors, Mac grabbed the keys to the Nomad. He had to get to the lake!

MacGyver parked next to his Jeep in the Marina parking lot and hurried to the attendant. In minutes, he was steering a speedboat out into the open water toward the site of the shipwreck wondering how much of a head start Jack had gotten on him. Putting more and more distance between him and the shore, he was soon able to see the mooring buoy and two white boats bobbing next to it. He assumed one of the crafts belonged to Jack. But what about the other? Cutting the engine in an effort to make a silent approach, Mac guided his boat next to the one that appeared to be the same rental they had used for his dive the day before. After quickly securing his boat to Jack’s he climbed aboard and surveyed the situation. No one was on the deck of either boat and he had to suppress the urge to call out. Senses alert, he carefully climbed down the few stairs that lead to a small cabin. There he found Jack, sitting on the floor, hands bound behind his back and legs tied together.

MacGyver rushed over to his friend. “Hang on, Jack, I’ve got ya.” As he reached out, Jack’s right eye began blinking rapidly. His right eye. What was he trying to say? Mac had barely turned his head to look behind him when something blunt and heavy connected with the back of his skull. He fell forward, his vision blurring seconds before he lost consciousness.

“Mac! Hey, Mac! Wake up!” Jack frantically urged in a loud whisper.

The fog slowly cleared from MacGyver’s brain. He groaned. His throbbing head hung at an odd angle. Doing a quick self-inventory it didn’t take long to realize his hands and legs were tied as well.

“C’mon, Mac. We gotta get outta here before he comes back!”

“Before who comes back,” MacGyver asked groggily.

“Me.” The voice was low and menacing. Mac looked up to find a hulk of a man in full scuba gear sneering down at him.

“Uh, Erik, this is my buddy Mac. Mac, this is Erik”

“Nice to meet you,” MacGyver winced, a bolt of pain slicing through his head.

“So, did you find anything down there?” Jack asked, trying to sound friendly.

Erik unhooked a small sack from his belt and opened it, holding it out for MacGyver and Jack to see as he smiled greedily.

“Ya know, that’s not real gold,” Mac informed him.

“Yes it is!” Erik roared. “And it’s gonna make me a real rich man. Thanks for leading me right to it.”

“Now that you’ve found what you came for you can let us go. Right?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Wrong! I’m afraid you’re gonna meet with a very tragic accident.”

“Hey, c’mon, that stuff isn’t even real. Just let us go and we’ll forget all about this little...incident,” Mac tried to bargain.

“You think I’m that stupid?!” he spat in MacGyver’s face. “I’ll be out of the country living in the lap of luxury by the time they ID you by your dental records if you’re dumb enough to try and follow me.”

Erik laughed as he turned and stomped up the stairs causing the boat to rock perilously back and forth. Moments later, Mac heard a motor fire up and quickly fade into the distance.

“What d’ya think he meant by that?” Jack asked.

“Let’s not hang around and find out,” Mac suggested. “Grab my knife out of my back pocket, would ya?”

The two men scooted around and contorted on the floor of the boat until Jack was able to retrieve MacGyver’s Swiss Army knife. “Maybe I oughta get me one of these if we get outta this alive,” Jack mused.

“Just give me the knife!” Mac demanded. With tool in hand, he quickly felt for the desired blade and began to saw through the rope that bound his hands behind his back. As soon as he was free, he set to work on Jack’s bindings before they both untied their ankles and scrambled up to the deck. Erik’s boat was nowhere in sight and the speedboat MacGyver had used was a dot on the distant horizon.

“Time to get outta here!” Jack proclaimed as he slid into the captain’s chair behind the wheel and reached for the ignition.

“No!” Mac yelled.

“Why? Aren’t we goin’ after him?”

“Don’t you remember what he said?” MacGyver asked as he grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him out of the chair before dropping to the floorboards to look underneath the control panel.

“About what?”

“About how if we tried to go after him we’d need to be identified by our dental records. Jack, there’s a bomb attached to the ignition. If we turn that key…”

“We go ‘boom’?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Mac confirmed.

“But you can diffuse it, right?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe?! What kind of an answer is that?!”

“An honest one?” Mac replied with a grimace as he visually examined the small pack of C-4 attached to a digital timer by two wires. It looked simple enough, but then again, looks could be deceiving.

“Hey, Jack! You can swim, right?”

“Sorta, why?”

“Just checkin’,” MacGyver muttered under his breath. He grabbed his knife again. “Here goes nothin’.” He cut the red wire, simultaneously squeezing his eyes shut and waiting for a deadly blast. When none came, he breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived as he heard a high, beeping sound. He looked at the timer he had apparently activated by cutting the wire. It was counting down from ten seconds.

Wriggling out from under the control panel he called to Jack. “When I say ‘jump’, jump.” He glanced back at the timer. Three seconds left. “Juuummmpp!” he yelled as he flung himself off the side of the boat and into the water, hoping Jack had done the same. He kicked furiously, diving as fast and far as he could to avoid the blast. There was a loud, though muffled, concussion and the water began to swirl around him. Reversing course, he headed toward the surface, breaking through to see fiery flames licking the boat.

“Jack! Jack!” he yelled for his friend.

“Over here!”

MacGyver looked to find his friend treading water several yards away. He quickly swam to him.

“So, what happens now?” Jack asked, clearly dismayed they had lost their ride back.

“Someone had to have heard the explosion,” Mac said. “We hang onto the mooring buoy until they come.”

XXXXX

Back at Challengers several hours later, Joanna’s face was void of color as Jack regaled her with the events of the morning. Every now and again her gaze locked with Mac’s and each time he offered a reassuring smile.

“...and that’s when the Coast Guard rescued us,” Jack concluded.

“What happened to Erik?” Jo demanded. “Did he get away?”

“I called the police on my way to the lake,” MacGyver explained. “With everything that’s been going on they agreed to send out a couple cruisers. The officers were waiting for our thief when he docked. They also called in the explosion.”

“Well, I’m just glad you’re both okay,” she replied with obvious relief. She rose from her chair to hug Jack and give him a peck on the cheek before finding her way into MacGyver’s arms.

A sudden knock on the door caught everyone’s attention. They turned in unison to find Doreen from the Historical Society standing there.

“The police told me I could find you here,” she said to MacGyver. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Nothing that can’t be continued later,” Mac assured her as he tossed Joanna a mischievous grin. “What can we do for you?”

Doreen smiled. “I just thought you’d like to know that, thanks to you, the fundraising expedition dive will go on as scheduled.”

“That’s great!” MacGyver smiled.

“I don’t suppose you’d be interested in participating?”

“I think he’s had enough diving for treasure for awhile,” Joanna answered for him before he could speak up.

“Well, then. Thanks again.” Doreen gave them one last smile before turning to leave.

“Well, Jack,” MacGyver addressed his friend as he pulled Joanna to his side. “Did you learn anything from this little adventure?”

“I did. Ya know that old saying, ‘All that glitters is not gold’? I guess it’s true. Maybe it’s time I give up my treasure hunting.”

“Glad to hear it,” Mac grinned, clapping Jack on the shoulder with his free hand.

“I learned something else, too,” Jack continued.

“Oh really? What might that be?” MacGyver asked.

“I really gotta work on my backstroke.”




































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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