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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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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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uniquelyjas
Posted: 7 March 2021 - 10:58 AM                                    
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Episode:Faith, Hope, and Charity
Vehicle: Jeep
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



Chapter 58: Fallen Angel

MacGyver squeezed his eyes shut and massaged his pounding temples. The glare of the computer screen was giving him a headache. He couldn’t believe it was time to balance the monthly budget...again. The light tap on his office door was a welcome interruption.

“Come in!” he called, a bit too enthusiastically.

Rosie Garcia opened the door just enough to poke her head in. “There’s someone here to see you,” she announced before quickly retreating.

Wondering who the guest could be, Mac rose from his chair and strode out of his office and into the recreation room where a gaggle of teenage girls, hormones raging, surrounded a tall, handsome man in a naval uniform. With black hair cropped close, stunning blue eyes, and a ready smile, he seemed to be enjoying the attention. As MacGyver made his way across the room, the group of girls parted as if he was Moses and they were the Red Sea.

“Can I help you?” Mac asked, stopping within an arm’s length of the stranger who now aimed his smile at him.

“You don’t remember me, do you, Mac?” the man asked, his grin widening to expose dimples...familiar dimples.

MacGyver thought hard, then his eyes lit on the military issue name tag the man wore proclaiming his surname to be ‘Peters’.

“No way! Mitch Peters?!” The two men vigorously shook hands before Mac pulled Mitch into a one-arm hug. “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“I’m in town for the Fourth of July Air and Water Show down in Chicago. My dad said you left the Foundation and I should look you up if I was ever in the area.”

Before MacGyver could reply, Joanna emerged from her office down the hallway, no doubt disturbed by the ruckus. “What’s going on out here?” she asked.

Mac couldn’t miss the megawatt smile Mitch directed towards Jo nor the sliver of jealousy that slid down his own spine at her appreciative gaze. He cleared his throat...loudly, as his arm snaked around her waist to pull her close to his side. “Mitch Peters, I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Joanna Fairfax. I worked on a couple of research and development projects with his father, George, when I was at Phoenix.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mitch,” Jo said, shaking his hand.

“Likewise ma’am. And my friends call me ‘Titan’.”

Joanna’s confused gaze flitted between the two men, causing Mitch to blush ever so slightly before offering an explanation.

“I’m a naval aviator and my call sign is ‘Titan’ thanks to MacGyver here.”

Mac’s eyebrows shot up under his bangs in surprise. “Me? What’d I have to do with that?”

“Remember the watch you gave me for my junior high graduation?”

“Sure,” MacGyver shrugged.

“Remember what it was made from?”

“Titanium,” Mac suddenly recalled.

“Yep! I put it on that day and didn’t take it off until I graduated flight school. I still carry it with me on missions as a sort of good luck charm, so the guys nicknamed me ‘Titan’.”

MacGyver chuckled before asking, “So what are you doing at the show in Chicago? Are you on some type of recruiting mission?”

“Not exactly. I’m one of the pilots for the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.” This declaration caused teen girls and boys alike to once again gather around Mitch.

“Why are you here if the show’s in Chicago?” a voice from the back of the group asked.

The pilot turned to stand in front of his admirers. “We flew into the 128th Refueling Wing at Mitchell Field and will be practicing over Lake Michigan off the Milwaukee shoreline because there’s less commercial air traffic and it was easier to clear space for us,” he explained, which only encouraged the kids to pepper him with more questions.

“Whoa, take it easy,” Mac cautioned his charges.

Mitch chuckled and turned to address MacGyver. “Part of the Blue Angel’s mission is to give presentations at schools and community groups. I’m not assigned to any this time around so I’d be happy to come back tomorrow and talk to the kids if it’s okay with you.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Mac agreed.

XXXXX

True to his word, Mitch returned to Challengers the following morning and gave an insightful presentation about teamwork, military service, and the importance of following one’s dreams.

“Can we come see the show?” a club member asked at the conclusion.

“I’d love for all of you to come, but I don’t have enough tickets,” the pilot said with a frown before showing off his trademark pearly-whites. “But if you come down to the lakefront tomorrow afternoon you can catch the full rehearsal.”

A round of cheers went up and Mitch used the opportunity to step away and speak privately with MacGyver and Joanna.

“I hope you can use these on Saturday,” he said as he surreptitiously produced two tickets to the air show from his pocket. “They’re for the press section. I pulled a few strings to get you the best view.”

Mac couldn’t miss how Jo’s eyes brightened as if she had just won the lottery and chuckled to himself. “We’ll use ‘em,” he promised with a grin.

“Great!” Mitch exclaimed, before changing the subject. “Hey Mac, you did some flying back in the day, right?”

“I’ve been in the cockpit a few times,” MacGyver replied modestly as he remembered the last time he piloted a fighter jet. Over ten years ago he had flown into Afghanistan to retrieve a downed U.S. satellite before the Soviets got to it and wound up getting shot and being cared for by a kind, young widow and her son.

“I’ve got some time before our next practice. How about you come with me and I’ll take you up in the two-seater and show you some of our moves?”

This time it was Mac’s eyes that shone. “Thanks! That’s quite an offer.” Belatedly he remembered Joanna standing next to him. “Can she come watch?” he asked.

Before the pilot could answer Jo replied, “Someone has to stay and finish up the reports for the month.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm and MacGyver was about to rethink his response to Mitch when she suddenly smiled wide. “But you go ahead and have a good time,” she encouraged, standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.

“Have I told you how much I love you?” Mac whispered in her ear.

“Occasionally,” she answered nonchalantly. “Just remember, you owe me one for this.” With a wink and a grin, she turned away from the two men and headed back to her office. “Have fun!” she called.

A couple hours later, MacGyver tucked his Jeep behind Mitch’s nondescript government-loaned sedan at the security entrance to the 128th Refueling Wing and followed close when the guard waved them through. They stopped on the tarmac, not far from where the iconic blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets stood as if at attention, ready to fly into action at a moment’s notice, grabbed Mac’s attention like a magnet.

“Aren’t they somethin’?” Mitch asked as MacGyver gazed at the jets. “Hard to believe they can be outfitted to return to combat duty on an aircraft carrier in less than seventy-two hours, hey?”

“Yeah,” Mac sighed in appreciation as one of the squadron’s mechanics caught the pilot’s eye.

“Hey Rusty! Find my friend here a G-suit, would ya?” Mitch called as he recaptured MacGyver’s attention and the pair headed toward the hangar.

“That’s alright, Rusty,” Mac replied. “I’m good.”

“But sir, the high levels of acceleration during some of the maneuvers creates a gravitational force that can cause blood to pool in your legs which can lead to loss of consciousness. The G-suit has air bladders, or pockets, if you will, that automatically inflate or deflate to keep your blood flowing properly,” Rusty explained with a tinge of censor in his voice.

“Your pilots don’t wear them because the inflated air bladders can interfere with the control stick and cause un-commanded aircraft movement, but they compensate by methodically tensing their lower extremity muscles and adjusting their breathing accordingly. I can do the same,” MacGyver pointed out, causing Rusty’s jaw to literally drop.

Mitch laughed. “If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’ve been studying up on us.”

Mac shrugged. “I know stuff,” he replied casually.

Soon MacGyver, wearing an official Blue Angel flight uniform and helmet, was strapped into the rear cockpit of one of the prestigious jets.

“You ready to go?” Mitch asked through the intercom in his own helmet as he readied the plane for takeoff.

“You bet,” Mac answered. “I just wish Jo could see this.”

“Oh, she will,” the pilot said mischievously.

“What’d ya mean?” MacGyver asked warily.

“Later today my teammate is taking up a local newscaster in this plane. Your cockpit’s already been set up with cameras and recording equipment. I’m making a souvenir videotape for you!”

“Hey, that’s great,” Mac responded, trying to summon some enthusiasm as Mitch chuckled in his ear. As the plane’s engine roared to life, he secured his oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. At the last moment, he also decided to lower the sun visor on his helmet. Although it was a mostly cloudy day, he didn’t want Joanna to see his eyes roll back in his head if things didn’t go as planned and he ended up passing out despite his determination not to.

“Here we go!” Mitch announced. “The barf bag’s on your right if you need it.”

“Thanks,” Mac said flatly as he checked the security of his harness one last time. Seconds later, the pilot hit the throttle. MacGyver’s head slammed backward into the seat as the jet rocketed skyward.

“So what do ya think?” Mitch asked after they had leveled off, the sleek machine slicing through the air.

“This is great!” Mac exclaimed, peering out the clear canopy at the gray, empty sky as a surge of adrenaline coursed through him.

“Just wait. That was nothin’!” the younger man laughed. “You ready to start pullin’ some hard G’s?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” MacGyver responded.

“When I count down from three, start doing those exercises I taught you and hang on!”

As Mitch called out ‘zero’, the aircraft accelerated into a hard right turn. Mac’s body felt as if it weighed a ton and it took all his concentration to focus on his leg muscles and breathing. Just as his peripheral vision began to blur, the force working against his body subsided and his world returned to normal.

“You okay back there?”

“Couldn’t be better!” MacGyver answered before mumbling, “I’m getting too old for this.”

Later that afternoon, Mac returned to Challengers and was immediately surrounded by a swarm of inquisitive teenagers spewing a multitude of questions his way.

“I come bearing gifts,” he announced as he held up his hands in a plea for silence.

Once the ruckus had died down, a voice in the back asked, “What did ya bring us?”

“This!” Mac declared, showing off a plastic lined paper bag. “My official, and definitely unused, barf bag!”

He smirked as a chorus of “ewwww’s” echoed through his adoring crowd and Joanna, standing off to the side, dramatically rolled her eyes.

“Oh, and I also brought this,” he casually said as he held up the videocassette that had captured the entire flight.

“Cool! Can we watch it right now?” a boy named Terrell asked.

“You bet!” MacGyver led the way to the TV and VCR set-up as everyone gathered around and settled on the floor in front of the screen. Taking the remote control in one hand, and Joanna’s hand in the other, he guided her to a ragged couch where they sat and watched the film. Except for spontaneous “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s” the room was uncommonly quiet. Glancing at Jo, he found her eyes wide and glued to the television as if in a trance. One maneuver caused her to gasp and instinctively put a protective hand on his thigh. Warmth shot up his leg as he smiled and pulled her closer. The next, more complex maneuver had her nails digging into his flesh through his jeans.

“Hey, take it easy,” he chuckled softly. Her head whipped around to meet his gaze and she grimaced as if just realizing what she had done.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “That’s just so...wow!”

“I know,” he concurred with a crooked grin.

Jo loosened herself from his grasp and turned to face him. “Be honest, did you really enjoy doing all that?”

A wide smile immediately blossomed on MacGyver’s face. “Absolutely!”

XXXXX

The Fourth of July was sunny and warm. MacGyver grabbed Joanna’s hand tightly as the two made their way along the crowded Chicago lakefront in anticipation of the day’s activities which would be capped off by the Blue Angels performance. Dressed in navy shorts and a red and white striped tank top, Jo had slathered herself with sunblock that only served to enhance her signature coconut scent and this did not go unnoticed by Mac who longed to get some much-needed private time with his fiancée, but that would have to wait for a few more hours. He stopped short when Jo tugged on his arm.

“Isn’t that Sam and Rebecca?” she asked, holding up her free hand to shade her eyes despite the sunglasses she wore.

MacGyver focused on the cordoned off press area they had been heading to. “That’s them,” he confirmed. “They’re probably covering the event for the Tribune.”

They continued on their way and, after showing their passes to a security guard, approached the young couple. Becca, whose head appeared to be on a swivel as she took in all the activity, was the first to see them. “Hey guys, over here!” she called, waving her hands in the air as Sam turned to see what all the commotion was about.

“What are you guys doin’ here?” Sam asked with a smile as he put down his camera and hugged his father and then Joanna.

“The son of one of Mac’s former colleagues is a Blue Angel pilot,” Jo all but gushed. “He gave us press passes to the show.”

Sam looked at his dad and raised his eyebrows.

“What she said,” Mac grinned. “Are you and Becca covering this for the paper?”

“I am,” Sam replied, turning his attention to his cameras. One was his old trusty thirty-five millimeter, the other was a larger, though still compact, video recorder. “I’m taking stills for the paper and getting some live action film for a local TV news station. They gave me an extra ticket, so I brought Becca.”

“I never thought I’d say this, but for once it’s nice to just take in all the action and not have to worry about writing up a story afterwards,” the young reporter added, excitement in her voice. The comment was followed by the public address announcer asking everyone to take their seats as the show was about to begin.

MacGyver, Rebecca and Joanna sat together on the portable bleachers that had been set up for the occasion while Sam took his cameras and prowled back and forth, searching for the best shots of the performances taking place on the water, stage, and sky. Mac turned to gaze at Jo, the summer sunshine bringing out the golden highlights in her soft brown hair. She munched on popcorn as she watched a synchronized water ski team go through their routine. MacGyver thought back to another Fourth of July two years ago. He and Joanna had driven into the country and sat on a secluded hillside to watch fireworks from several locations around the city. Their budding romance was new and fragile. Mac’s heart swelled with wonder and delight at the difference twenty-four months could make. He had decided weeks ago that tonight they would return to that spot on the hill and make some fireworks of their own. He couldn’t help but chuckle as the old cliche skittered through his brain.

“What’s so funny?” Jo asked, turning and capturing his gaze.

“Remember our first Independence Day together?”

“I do,” Joanna frowned, her eyebrows coming together in a ‘V’. “I don’t remember anything humorous about it,” she stated indignantly.

“There wasn’t --”

“Unless you’re thinking about how you thought Frank Colton was burglarizing your place when we got back from the fireworks and then he convinced you to adopt Frog,” she smiled.

“If I recall correctly, Frank wasn’t the only one lobbying on Frog’s behalf,” he said wryly.

Joanna playfully swatted his shoulder. “You know you love that dog. We should do something special when we get home tonight to celebrate the anniversary of him coming to live with you.”

Mac summoned his crooked, sexy grin. “I was kinda hopin’ you and I could--”. He was abruptly cut off by the PA announcer as the Blue Angels were introduced and a round of thunderous applause drowned out every sound but those of the jets’ screaming engines as they flew over the crowd.

MacGyver grabbed the binoculars he had brought and trained them on the six planes now flying in formation.

“Which one is Mitch?” Joanna asked above the noise.

“Number five,” Mac answered, passing her the field glasses so she could locate the blue aircraft with the gold number ‘5’ painted on its tail.

For the next thirty minutes the crowd, including Mac’s small group, sat mesmerized by the intricate maneuvers performed by the pilots as Sam worked furiously to capture it all on both film and video. During one particularly impressive stunt, MacGyver glanced over at Jo, her eyes wide with awe and admiration. He leaned over and spoke in her ear.

“That’s called the Diamond 360 maneuver. The wing tips are only eighteen inches apart,” he informed her and smiled as she slowly nodded, her attention still fixated on the sky. She applauded along with the others as the planes broke formation to regroup for the next part of their routine.

When the six jets next came together, Mac’s attention had strayed to his son and the events that had brought them to this moment. Lost in his reverie he didn’t hear the collective gasp of the crowd, but he did feel Joanna grasp his bicep as if her life depended on it.

“What’s happening, Mac?” she demanded. “Is that Mitch?”

He looked up to see one of the planes caught in a flat spin and quickly losing altitude as she shoved the binoculars into his hands. MacGyver quickly focused the glasses and trained them on the distressed jet. His heart sunk to his toes when he caught a glimpse of the number five on its tail. “Take it easy, Mitch. Get control. You’ve trained for this,” Mac instructed under his breath as if the young pilot could hear him.

Now standing with the rest of the crowd, Joanna held on to him even tighter. “Why isn’t he ejecting?” she asked, her voice laced with fear.

The space between the fighter jet and lake surface was rapidly decreasing and Mitch was still in the spin. “C’mon, kid, punch out,” MacGyver pleaded in a choked whisper. Just when he was sure both plane and pilot were going to hit the water with deadly force, the canopy of the jet lifted and Mitch, still strapped into his seat, rocketed upward into the sky before the attached parachute opened and lowered his limp body to a not-so-gentle splash down a safe distance from where the jet had crashed into Lake Michigan.

After the initial shock of the accident, things happened rapidly. The Coast Guard, on hand for a performance of their own, immediately scrambled both air and watercraft and headed to the crash site as the public address announcer’s booming voice commanded all observers to stay in their seats per emergency safety protocol until event officials could begin escorting the large crowd from the site. Joanna and Rebecca huddled together in horror while MacGyver scrambled down the bleachers and ran toward the staging area, Sam close on his heels, before they were met by a wall of security officers who instructed them to clear the area as emergency vehicles began to arrive.

XXXXX

Hours later, MacGyver sat helplessly on a worn couch in the waiting room of Chicago’s elite trauma center. Joanna curled up next to him, her head resting on his shoulder as they held hands, each giving and receiving comfort from the other. From outside, he heard the muffled boom of exploding fireworks. Fireworks he had planned to be part of a romantic evening with Jo, but now they only reminded him of the sickening thud of Mitch’s jet hitting the water. His musings were interrupted as a middle-aged man wearing a disheveled suit and tie entered the room. Wild eyes set in a haggard face lit on Mac. “Where’s my boy, MacGyver? What are the doctor’s saying?” he demanded.

Mac rose slowly, pulling Joanna up with him, and shook his head. “He’s still in surgery for internal bleeding and other injuries. That’s all they’ll tell me.”

“I figured as much, but I was hoping for more,” the man sighed.

MacGyver felt Jo squeeze his hand and belatedly remembered his manners. “George, this is my fiancée, Joanna Fairfax. Jo, this is Mitch’s dad, George Peters.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Joanna said with a small smile as the two shook hands. “I wish it could be under better circumstances.”

Any further conversation was quickly aborted as a surgeon, still in his scrubs, entered the waiting area. “You’re here for Mitchell Peters?” he asked the trio.

Mac and Jo nodded while George introduced himself. “How is he, doc?” the elder man asked.

“Quite honestly, he’s lucky to be alive,” the surgeon said. “We were able to stop the bleeding, but he also has a broken ankle, dislocated shoulder, a few cracked ribs and a concussion. Amazingly, he’s holding his own. You’ve got one tough kid, there.”

“When can I see him?” Mr. Peters asked.

“He’ll be in recovery for a couple hours before we move him to ICU for observation. He’ll sleep through the night if not longer. If all goes well, you should be able to see him around noon tomorrow. In the meantime, I suggest you get some rest yourselves.”

“I suppose the good doctor is right,” George conceded reluctantly.

“Do you need a ride or a place to stay?” MacGyver asked his former colleague.

“I reserved a hotel room and rented a car at the airport. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Okay, then, we’ll drive home to Milwaukee, but I’ll come back down tomorrow to check on Mitch,” Mac told him.

Late the following morning, MacGyver made his way to the intensive care unit where a nurse escorted him to Mitch’s room with a warning not to stay too long. Not surprisingly, Mr. Peters was already there, seated in a straight-backed chair next to his son’s bed. With a cast on his leg, an arm in a sling, bruises on his face, and wires and tubes leading to various IV’s and monitors, the injured pilot’s head was slightly raised so he could see his visitors.

“How ya doin’?” Mac asked, trying to sound cheerful as he entered the room.

“Like I hit the deck of a carrier doin’ Mach 1,” Mitch groaned.

“Well, you’re not too far off,” MacGyver teased and was rewarded with a small grin.

“I’m glad you’re here, Mac,” George said. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Oh, Dad,” Mitch muttered.

“Sure, whatever you need,” MacGyver agreed, glancing between his two friends.

George got up from his chair and straightened to his full height. Even now, after all these years, he could be a formidable man. “I called in some favors this morning and got you clearance to take a look at Mitch’s plane. Well, what’s left of it, anyway.”

“Daaad,” Mitch protested hoarsely, but was summarily ignored.

Despite the growing tension in the room Mac asked, “What, exactly, am I looking for?”

“The cause of the crash, of course!” George replied, his frustration mounting.

“Doesn’t the Navy usually handle the investigation?”

“Yes, and I heard rumors that preliminary reports cite pilot error as the cause. My son is one of the top fighter pilots in the United States Navy and I will not have anyone, much less our government, besmirch the Peters’ name. You were the best agent at Phoenix, if they missed something, you’ll find it!”

“But Dad, it was my fault,” Mitch insisted weakly from his bed.

“That’s nonsense! You’re an excellent pilot!” George protested.

“Hold on, you two,” MacGyver intervened. “Mitch, why don’t you tell me exactly what happened up there yesterday?”

The young man averted his eyes and when he spoke, his voice cracked. “I made a rookie mistake and got caught in the jet wash of the plane in front of me. I might have blacked out for a second, I don’t know, but I couldn’t pull myself out of the spin.”

“Oh poppycock!” his father retorted. “There’s no way you could make such a basic error and I’m sure you did everything you could to save the plane. There has to be some other explanation!”

“Okay, just knock it off!” Mac instructed. “I’ll go poke around and see if anything got overlooked.”

On his way to the airport, MacGyver pulled out his cell phone and called his own son.

“Hey Dad, what’s up?” Sam asked.

“Do you still have the video you took of the air show?”

“Yeah, I made a copy before I sent it over to the television station.”

“Good. Can you get a hold of tapes from other Blue Angels performances within the past couple months?”

“I guess. What’s going on?”

Mac sighed. “Mr. Peters wants me to determine the cause of Mitch’s crash. More specifically, he wants me to rule out pilot error. I’m headed over to look at the wreckage now, but if you could take a look at the videos I’d really appreciate it.”

“Sure, no problem,” Sam agreed. “But what am I looking for?”

MacGyver recalled saying those same exact words less than an hour earlier. “I don’t know but focus on Mitch. Compare his performance from yesterday to previous ones. Look for something that doesn’t seem right. Stuff like that.”

“I’ll give it a shot!” Sam promised.

XXXXX

MacGyver stood and stretched out his long frame as he scrubbed his tired eyes with the heels of his hands. He didn’t know how long he had been crouched on the hangar floor meticulously examining every remaining piece of Mitch’s jet under high intensity lights in the otherwise dark interior, but he knew it was time for a break. And he still hadn’t found anything to indicate the cause was something other than pilot error, just as Mitch had insisted.

“Who’s there?” a vaguely familiar voice called, the sound echoing through the steel and concrete structure.

“Rusty? It’s me, MacGyver. Mitch Peter’s friend.”

The mechanic threw the main light switch, squinting against the sudden brightness. “What are you doing here?” he asked accusingly, advancing towards Mac. “This hangar is off limits except to government personnel.”

“Yeah, I know. Mitch’s dad pulled some strings to get me clearance. I’m just tryin’ to find anything that might have caused the accident.”

“Well, you won’t find anything wrong with the plane. I know these jets like the back of my own hand and I personally did the pre-flight check on this one. If one bolt had been crooked I wouldn’t have let it fly. The cause of the accident is laying in a hospital bed.”

“You sure about that?” MacGyver challenged.

“Hey, look man, Mitch is one of my best friends, but he made a mistake yesterday. Every pilot does at one time or another, usually more than once.” Rusty stopped and shrugged, “Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner given the way he’s been--”

“What, Rusty?” Mac demanded. “How’s he been?”

The mechanic sighed and stared at the floor. “He’s been hot-doggin’ during practice and even logging extra flight time. He pushes the plane, and himself, to the limit. The team’s commanding officer has even called him on it a few times, but he keeps at it.”

“Was he always like that?”

Rusty paused a moment to think then shook his head. “Naw. He’s always worked harder than any of the other pilots, but he’s only gotten reckless recently.”

“Thanks, I appreciate the info.”

“No problem,” the mechanic replied, pulling up his sleeve to look at his watch. “It’s getting late. How about we both head out and you can get a fresh start in the morning?”

MacGyver didn’t hear the suggestion because his attention was riveted on Rusty’s timepiece. “Where’d you get that watch?” he asked.

“Mitch gave it to me yesterday morning. He said it was a ‘thank you’ for all my hard work and friendship. I know it’s his good luck charm and I tried to give it back, told him he could buy me a steak dinner instead, but he insisted I keep it. Maybe if he had had it with him, he wouldn’t have crashed.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Mac muttered as he and Rusty headed out of the building.

Even though the hour was late, MacGyver decided to return to the hospital to check on his friend and explain what he had found. Or, more precisely, what he hadn’t found, but he couldn’t get the mechanic’s words out of his mind. Mitch had always been pretty fearless. You needed to be in order to do his job, but he had never been careless. And then there was the watch. His cell phone rang, interrupting his thoughts, and he quickly answered the call.

“Hey Dad, I think I found something! Can you come over and take a look?”

“I’m on my way!” MacGyver checked for nearby traffic before making a U-turn and heading for his son’s apartment.

Sam was waiting by the door when Mac arrived. “C’mon, you gotta see this,” he urged as MacGyver sank down into the worn sofa across from the television set where Sam now stood.

“This first video is the maneuver Mitch crashed on, but it’s from a performance last month.”

Mac watched carefully, honing in on Mitch’s jet. He watched as it, being the last plane to join the formation, slid in smoothly behind the others.

“I don’t see anything unusual,” MacGyver commented.

Sam nodded. “There isn’t anything unusual. That’s the way he always sets up for this stunt.” He paused to eject the current cassette and put in a new one. “Okay, this is the video I took of the same maneuver at the show yesterday.”

Mac watched as Mitch guided his jet into the formation. Only this time, instead of approaching the leading plane head-on, he brought his own plane in at an odd angle. The jet immediately began to shutter.

“Turn it off,” MacGyver commanded, not wanting to have to re-watch the coming spin and crash.

“I don’t get it,” Sam said, plopping down next to his dad. “Why did he change his approach? Do you think there was something wrong with the plane and he was having trouble handling it even before he got caught in the jet wash?”

“There was nothing wrong with the plane,” Mac confirmed. “But I think I know why he changed his pattern.”

Once again MacGyver headed back to the hospital. He needed to talk to Mitch...alone. He parked his Jeep in a shadowed corner of the lot. It was getting late and George would be leaving soon. It wasn’t long before Mr. Peters walked through the sliding glass doors and headed to his car. Mac waited until the sedan’s taillights were out of sight before getting out of his own vehicle. Once inside the hospital he headed directly to Mitch’s room in ICU, ignoring the glares of the nurses who were obviously perturbed at his appearance after visiting hours.

“Mac, what are you doing here?” Mitch asked. “Did you find the cause of the crash?”

“Yeah, I did,” MacGyver spat. “There was nothing wrong with the plane and there was no pilot error. Wanna tell me why you tried to kill yourself up there?”

Mac’s glare was met with a look of resignation. “How did you figure it out?”

“Gee, where should I start?” Mac asked sarcastically. “Maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t find anything mechanically wrong with your jet. Or that Rusty told me you’ve been doin’ a lot of reckless flyin’ lately. Or maybe it’s that you gave Rusty the watch you’ve been carrying with you since you were a kid! But ya know what really gave it away?”

Mitch remained silent, his eyes down.

“I looked at tapes of your performance. You changed your approach to that stunt yesterday to make sure you’d get caught in the jet wash and the whole thing would get swept under the carpet as one big accident. Only you couldn’t go through with and decided to eject at the last second.”

“You don’t understand,” the pilot mumbled, his face turned toward the window.

“Then make me understand,” Mac pleaded, his tone gentle now.

Mitch was silent for several minutes before turning to face MacGyver. When he spoke, his voice was flat and his eyes appeared to be focused on something far away.

“I’m on my last tour with the Angels,” he began. “After we wrap up this season’s schedule I’m headed back to a carrier in the Persian Gulf. But I can’t do it. I can’t go back. I’ve seen too much suffering and destruction. Hell, I’ve caused a lot of it! And what do I get? A medal pinned on my chest and heart full of guilt and fear that never goes away.”

“Have you talked to your dad about this?” Mac asked softly.

“My dad’s the last person I’d talk to about this,” Mitch grunted. “He thinks I’m perfect. He’s always bragging about his son, the hot-shot pilot. You heard him earlier, he refused to accept the fact that I could have caused the crash. I can do no wrong in his eyes.”

“He’s just proud of you.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep living up to his expectations? I have to work harder, fly better, and have more successful missions than anyone else and I just can’t do it anymore. Being a part of the Angels has shown me the good side of humanity and that’s what I wanna keep seein’. I don’t want to go back to a life of war.”

“You know you hafta tell him about all of this, right?”

Mitch nodded, tears streaming down his bruised cheeks.

“The sooner the better,” Mac prodded.

“He’ll be back first thing in the morning. I’ll tell him then, before I lose my nerve.”

“Good man,” MacGyver said, clasping Mitch’s uninjured shoulder.

“Could you do me a favor, Mac?”

“Anything.”

“Be here when I tell him.”

“Count on it.”

XXXXX

MacGyver stretched out on his couch, his head resting comfortably in Joanna’s lap as her slender fingers combed through his hair sending pleasant electrical currents through his body.

“It’s just so hard to believe,” she mused. “Mitch seemed so confident and care-free and happy. How did his dad take the news?”

“Surprisingly well,” Mac said. “He was shocked, of course, and didn’t realize the pressure he was puttin’ on the kid, but he promised to support Mitch and be there for him no matter what. I guess it just proves that we really don’t have any idea what a person is going through on the inside.”

“What’s gonna happen to Mitch now?” Jo asked.

“Once he’s had some time to recuperate there’ll be a psychological evaluation. My guess is the Navy will give him a medical discharge. After that, who knows.”

“Mac, let’s make a promise.”

The soft, serious tone of Joanna’s voice caused MacGyver to sit up. Turning towards her he noticed the sheen in her eyes. “Okay,” he assured her, taking her hands into his.

“Let’s promise to always talk about stuff that’s bothering us and not hide our feelings from each other no matter what. I don’t want either of us ending up like Mitch.”

“You got it, baby,” Mac vowed as his hands left hers only to cup her face and guide her lips to his.




















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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I know i'm like, super behind now, life's been weird right now. I'll try to make up for it by reviewing the first two chapters at once. I'll do the newest chapter later this week.

QUOTE
Frog followed the car to the end of the driveway and sat there whining until she was far out of sight.
Awww, Frog sad.gif

QUOTE

“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.
Let me guess - Freddie's a girl?

QUOTE

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.
Yep, called it laugh.gif

QUOTE

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

QUOTE

“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.
And no one's connecting the dots yet, eh?

QUOTE

“I thought the city took ownership and condemned those buildings years ago.”
Oh. Oh no.

QUOTE

“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.”
I can just picture whatever virus is going around singing "I like to move it move it" at Mac's visit as it spreads.

QUOTE


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

QUOTE
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.
These two always assume the worst...

QUOTE

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.
Just as exasperating as they'e always been tongue.gif

QUOTE
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
So the stomach aches are connected after all.

QUOTE

“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.
This is a big step for these two biggrin.gif

Next chapter

QUOTE
Two potatoes sat side-by-side with a wire connecting them while other wires connected each potato to a digital clock display.
Oh Mac laugh.gif

QUOTE

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

QUOTE

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.”
The Irish are taking over everything.

QUOTE

“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.
Frog is just straight-up "I like mom better" XD

Okay, they need to make a doggy door for Frog in the wall between them or something XD

There we go, they had the same idea.

QUOTE


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

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

QUOTE

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.”
Introvets be like

QUOTE
“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.
Ha XD

QUOTE

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

I think the knife was laced with poison.

Or decompression sickness, I guess that works too XD

QUOTE
“What happened?” she demanded.

“Mac had a little, um, mishap during the dive. We’re at the hospital now.”
Jack doesn't have the best tact, does he?

QUOTE

“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.”
One could also argue that even if she wasn't a friend of theirs, that she'd still recognize them due to their constant visits there XD

QUOTE


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.
I mean, I'd be worried that there'd be people still there, and there's only a door in the wall between your homes...

QUOTE
Even the silly yellow rubber duck he insisted on keeping on the kitchen counter remained though it had been tossed into the living room.
I see what you did there wink.gif

QUOTE

“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?!”
I repeat, Jack sucks at tact.

QUOTE

“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.
Pfft XD

QUOTE

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

QUOTE
Mac guided his boat next to the one that appeared to be the same rental they had used for his dive the day before.
Has it really been a day?

QUOTE
There he found Jack, sitting on the floor, hands bound behind his back and legs tied together.
Oh Jack, you tried.

QUOTE
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.
Take a shot every time Mac gets knocked unconscious. Now you have alcohol poisoning.

QUOTE

Back at Challengers several hours later, Joanna’s face was void of color as Jack regaled her with the events of the morning.
Jack really, REALLY isn't great at tact XD

QUOTE
She rose from her chair to hug Jack and give him a peck on the cheek
Jo's feeling affectionate, apparently.

QUOTE

“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 don't believe him XD




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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 9 March 2021 - 06:05 AM                                    
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I've missed you, Dragondog!!! But I TOTALLY understand "busy". That's why it took so long for me to get back posting again and I'm falling behind once again!! I loved your comments...they always make me smile/laugh! Be well!!



Jody~

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

 
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Posted: 21 March 2021 - 11:21 AM                                    
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Author’s Note: This is dedicated to my best friend and fellow fan fic writer, Sanguine. Without her, this chapter would not exist.

Chapter 59: Strangers in New Hope


MacGyver leaned back against Joanna’s kitchen counter and popped another grape into his mouth as he watched her slice strawberries over a large glass bowl.

“So, tell me again why I wasn’t invited to this party.”

Jo let out a long-suffering sigh, put down the paring knife she’d been using, and turned to address him, one hand on her hip. “It’s not a party,” she clarified. “I’m just having some friends over for the evening.”

“Who’s comin’?” Mac asked, plucking a pineapple chunk from the can beside the bowl containing Jo’s in-progress fruit salad.

Joanna took a deep breath and recited the list, “Rosie, Geena, and Cynthia. And Sam agreed to hang out with Pete so Rebecca’s coming with Connie.”

“They’re my friends, too. Why can’t I stay?” MacGyver asked, a mischievous grin spreading across his face.

“Fine,” Jo huffed. “You can stay. As long as you don’t complain about chick flicks and girl talk.”

Mac pushed himself away from the counter. “Hmm, when you put it like that, maybe I’ll just go over to my place and pop an old Western into the VCR.” He leaned over and kissed her forehead.

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Jo agreed with a smile and a slight flush. “And take him, too.” She went over to the coffee table and bent down, grabbing Frog’s collar and hauling him out from one of his favorite napping spots. “Tonight this is a testosterone-free zone!”

“What’s wrong with testosterone?” Mac argued.

“Nothing, but sometimes it’s nice to just have some ‘girl time’.”

MacGyver couldn’t help but laugh. “Okay, but at the stroke of midnight, all bets are off!” He heard her giggle behind him as he urged their shared canine companion through the interior door connecting their apartments.

Frog headed straight for Mac’s coffee table where he settled with a snuffle and more than a little drool as Mac tossed himself on the couch, TV remote in hand. “Women,” he muttered to the dog. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand them!” He pressed the ‘play’ button and settled in for the night with one of his favorite movies, his eyelids quickly becoming heavy.


New Hope, Nebraska
February 1865

Anna was fixing oatmeal at the wood-burning stove when MacGyver approached from behind, wrapping his arms snuggly around her trim waist and nuzzling her neck. “Do you know what today is, Mrs. MacGyver?” he asked.

Anna turned around to face him without leaving his grasp. She still held the spoon she had been using to stir the porridge and fixed her large, brown, guileless eyes on his. “I do believe it’s Thursday,” she replied, before turning back to her daily task.

“You know what I mean,” Mac admonished as he let go of his wife and grabbed the coffee pot instead.

Anna MacGyver laughed and gave her husband her full attention. “Of course I know what today is. I’m just surprised you remembered!”

“What makes you think I could forget our first wedding anniversary?! After all, I had you marry me on Valentine’s Day so I wouldn’t forget!” That little comment earned him a playful slap with the towel his wife had wrapped around the handle of the hot cast iron pot.

“Hey! Be nice to me or I won’t give you your gift,” he warned.

Anna suddenly turned serious. “I thought we agreed not to buy gifts in order to save some money to make improvements on the ranch this spring.”

“Who said anything about buying a gift?” Mac countered.

Just then, Sammy barreled into the room, his enthusiasm barely contained. “Pa, when can we give Ma the special present you made for her?”

MacGyver’s heart warmed to hear his seven-year-old son call Anna ‘Ma’. The boy had gone through some rough patches adjusting to the loss of his birth mother, Kate, but hopefully the worst was behind him.

“I’d say right about now would be a good time,” Mac declared. “You stay here and make sure your ma doesn’t peek while I go get it from the barn.”

“The barn!” Anna exclaimed. “Angus MacGyver you better not be bringing any livestock into my house!”

“Guess you’ll just have to wait and see,” Mac chuckled as he walked through the door.

Maneuvering his special gift into the house was a bit more challenging than MacGyver had anticipated, but thanks to careful measurements, he was able to get it safely into the living room and set it next to the fireplace as quietly as possible.

“Okay, you can open your eyes now,” he told Anna as Sammy grabbed her by the hand and led her to where her gift sat.

“Oh, Mac, it’s absolutely gorgeous! I can’t believe you did all this yourself...and in secret!”

“You know all those nights I said I had to stay in the barn and tend to a horse with colic?”

Anna nodded.

“Well, it wasn’t a horse with colic I had to tend to.”

Anna slowly slid her hand along the smooth, shiny wood of the intricately hand carved rocking chair her husband had made for her. Then she turned and wrapped her arms around him, melding her lips to his as one hand raked through his long, unruly hair.

“I reckon you like it,” MacGyver said huskily once they broke the kiss.

“I love it! Now I guess I should give you your gift.”

“I thought we agreed not to buy gifts this year,” Mac parroted her earlier words back at her.

“I know, but this is such a special day I couldn’t help it! I still have a little money saved up from when I was teaching and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it.” Anna dug into her skirt pocket and produced a small rectangular box, wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string.

Like a kid on Christmas Morning, Mac tore into the package. He lifted the cover to find a shiny new pocket knife he had seen on display at the General Store.

“Do you like it?” Anna asked shyly.

“I love it! I just about wrecked my other one makin’ that chair of yours so this is perfect!” He swept her into his arms and kissed her soundly.

“If you two are gonna keep gettin’ all mushy, I’m goin’ to school,” Sammy declared, as he grabbed his books and headed outside shaking his head in dismay. He would never understand adults.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


“We’re lost, aren’t we?” the woman asked the man beside her who was driving their small covered wagon down the trail. Though the trail seemed to be more well-traveled here than in other places, she still suspected that they’d been going around in circles. “You can be honest with me. I can take it.”

“No, we are not lost,” replied the man with a slight French accent.

“There aren’t any trees or other landmarks out here. How can you be so sure?”

“Just trust me. It is not far,” the man answered, his frustration with his traveling companion mounting.

“I hope you're right,” the woman challenged. “These lanterns won’t last for much longer, and I’d rather not freeze to death tonight in the middle of nowhere.”

The man rolled his eyes. “You will live,” he muttered.

“You don’t know that! I might not!”

“Must you be so contrary, mon cheri?”

“Perhaps.”

The man heaved a heavy sigh. “You could at least try to be cheerful. Think of this as an adventure, no?”

“I’ll be a lot more cheerful when we’re out of the cold. I’m freezing,” the woman complained.

“I promise it is not far. Please, try and calm yourself.”

“How do you know how far it is? Have you been here before?”

“Of course not,” the man soothed, “But given the amount of time we have been driving it only makes sense.”

“Fine. I’ll trust you,” the woman huffed.

They rode in silence for a few moments until some nocturnal creature scurried through the brush and spooked the horse. Whinnying in alarm, the large bay bolted down the trail, leaving his driver to frantically tug at the reins, calling out to the horse in French in as calm a tone as possible. And just as quickly as the horse had taken off, he stopped dead in his tracks. The wagon lurched dangerously, sending the Frenchman rolling to the ground in a most unceremonious fashion. The woman, who had been clinging to the edge of her seat since the horse had taken off, jumped out of the wagon and rushed to her companion’s side.

The man groaned in pain. “I am all right,” he assured her, rubbing his legs. “But I cannot get back into the wagon by myself thanks to these useless limbs of mine, and I fear you are not strong enough to assist me in that endeavor. We are not far from the next town. Take one of the lanterns and follow the trail until you come upon someone willing to help us in our plight,” he instructed.

“I’ll hurry,” the woman promised, as she grabbed a lantern and took off as fast as she could down the cold, dark trail.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


“It sure is chilly out there tonight,” MacGyver announced as he warmed his hands by the fireplace.

“And it’s sure to get colder before it gets warmer,” replied Anna. “But at least the winter solstice is well past us.”

“What’s that?” asked Sammy, looking up from the primer he was using to practice his reading.

“The winter solstice is the longest night of the year,” Anna explained. “It happened right before Christmas. Haven’t you noticed that the sky stays brighter just a bit longer these days?”

“Yeah! Then that means spring will be here soon and I can play outside longer!”

“That’s right,” MacGyver assured his son, affection for his family glowing in his eyes. “It won’t be long now!”

Just then, there was a timid knock at the door. In fact, it was so quiet Mac wasn’t even sure he had heard it. Then it sounded again, bolder and more insistent.

“I wonder who that could be way out here at this time of night?” Anna said, her eyebrows frowning to form a V on her forehead.

MacGyver grabbed the knob and swung the door inward to discover a brown-haired woman in her mid-twenties standing on the other side of the threshold. Her traveling dress was dusty, and her bonnet askew. No sooner had he made eye-contact then words poured from her lips.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but I need your help! My fiance and I...our horse bolted and threw him out of the wagon. He said he isn’t hurt but I’m not so sure. If you could just come and help me get him back into the wagon I’d surely appreciate it and I promise not to bother you again.”

“It’s not a bother,” Mac said, grabbing his coat. “Now just tell me where your wagon is.”

“It’s down that trail,” she said, pointing in the direction from which she had come. “I’m not sure how far it is, but I can take you there.”

MacGyver shook his head. “Come in the house and warm up. I can find it on my own as soon as I saddle up.”

The woman shook her head stubbornly, backing away from the cozy home. “I’m coming with you,” she insisted.

“I promise I will help your fiance. Now go inside. I’m sure my wife already has something warm for you to drink on the stove.”

She shook her head again. “We don’t have time to argue. I’m going. I have to.”

Mac sighed inwardly. Why did women always have to be so difficult? “All right, let’s go,” he said, ushering the woman towards the barn but not before turning to give Anna a quick kiss goodbye. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back before we need to tuck Sammy in.”

XXXXX

As MacGyver expected, he easily found the wagon about a half mile from his homestead. The couple had obviously been on their way to New Hope when the accident happened. After approaching the wagon, he halted Dexter, his favorite horse, and dismounted. He turned to assist the woman who had ridden behind him and was surprised to see her already standing on the ground. She motioned for him to follow her to the other side of the wagon.

“Rachelle? Is that you?” a French-accented voice called out.

“Yes, it’s me. I brought help. Are you still all right?”

“Oui, but I now believe my ankle to be twisted.” He chuckled humorlessly. “Not that I can use it anyway.” He pushed himself to a sitting position. “You brought the cavalry, I see,” his dark, assessing eyes sending a chill up Mac’s spine.

“Name’s MacGyver. Nice to meet you,” he said, stepping forward to help the Frenchman.

“Indeed. I am Jacques Leroux. If you please, pull me closer to the wagon so I can grab onto it. Unfortunately, I am without the use of my legs from a previous carriage mishap.”

MacGyver complied, noting that the man was a bit accident prone, as together with Rachelle they managed to ease Jacques back into the wagon.

“We have a doctor in town,” Mac informed them. “I can take you to see him tomorrow. Until then, you’re welcome to stay the night with my family. Under the circumstances, I don’t think my wife would mind. If fact, she would insist on it.”

“Nonsense! We cannot impose!” Jacques exclaimed.

“Please,” MacGyver replied. “It’s too cold to argue. Are you able to drive the wagon?”

“Of course. I presume you will lead the way?”

“Yep,” Mac agreed, swinging onto Dexter’s back and heading him toward home.

XXXXX

“MacGyver!” Anna cried with relief when her husband came through the door. “It took you longer than I expected. Is everything all right?”

“Just fine,” Mac replied with a comforting smile, “But I hope you don’t mind that I brought a couple visitors to spend the night.”

Much to Anna’s surprise, the brunette woman from earlier slowly entered the house, pushing a lean mustachioed man in a wooden wheelchair.

“Good evening, again,” the woman offered shyly.

MacGyver cleared his throat. “This is my wife, Anna, and my son, Sammy.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you and your family, my darling,” the man cooed, taking Anna’s hand and gently placing a kiss on it, earning a blush from her and a raised eyebrow from her husband. “I am Jacques Laroux and my lovely companion is Miss Rachelle Mershon.”

“Hi, Mister!” Sammy blurted out, immediately darting from behind his mother’s skirt toward the Frenchman. “Why do you sound funny? Are you from a different country or somethin’? The last guy who talked funny was from England. He tried to kill Ma and Pa and kidnap me! Why are you in a chair with wheels on it? Did you make it like Pa made a chair for Ma?”

“Whoa, Sammy, slow down there,” MacGyver admonished. “I’m sure our guests are very tired. They were just in an accident.”

Sammy’s eyes grew wide. “What kinda accident? Are you alright? Your horse wasn’t hurt, was he?”

Jacques smiled and allowed a small chuckle to escape. “What a charming little boy! Very curious, no? To answer your questions, young man, I am from a country called France. It is in Europe. Rather close to where your English friend hales from, but I intend your family no harm. And no, I did not make this wheelchair, but I must use it because my legs were paralyzed in an accident several years ago. But tonight, both Rachelle and myself are fine, thanks to your father.”

“Okay, Sammy, I think that’s enough excitement for one night,” MacGyver declared. “Time for bed.” He scooped up his protesting son and carried him down the hallway to tuck him into bed while Anna and Rachelle busied themselves with setting up a place in the main room for the visitors to sleep. In the small house, he couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.

“You must have had a long journey,” Anna commented. “May I ask where you’re from?”

“Kentucky,” Rachelle replied softly. “Near Hodgen’s Mill. Where are you and your husband from?”

“I came to New Hope from Chicago and Mac and Sammy came from Boston. What brings you out West?”

“Jacques, mostly. It’s a long story,” the young woman sighed.

“I’ll bet it is,” Anna said slyly. “Where were you headed before the accident?”

“We were hoping to settle in the Wyoming Territory.”

“Then you still have a long way to go,” Anna informed her.

“We do, but we’ll get there eventually. We really appreciate your help and hospitality.”

Anna smiled warmly, “It’s no problem. Mac and I try to help others whenever we can.”

The next morning, while Rachelle helped Anna prepare breakfast, the two men went outside to survey the damage done to the wagon.

“It looks like there isn’t a whole lot of damage, but I don’t think that axle will hold for a long trip. Where did you say you were headed?”

“Wyoming Territory,” Jacques replied in disappointment. “Do you believe we will need a new axle?”

“I’d suggest getting one as soon as possible. In the meantime, I can fix it up good enough for getting around New Hope, but it’s a long way to Wyoming and you’ll need something sturdy enough for the rough trail ahead.”

“I was afraid of that,” Jacques muttered, mindlessly stroking his mustache. “Is there a place in town where I could get the wagon fixed?”

“Yep. There’s a wainwright next to the general store. I can take you there after I finish the morning chores.”

“Thank you, but that will not be necessary. Rachelle and I will find it. We have made it this far, after all.”

“Well, good luck getting her away from my wife,” MacGyver chuckled. “There aren’t a lot of womenfolk nearby for Anna to talk to and it seems that she and Rachelle have really hit it off.”

Jacques scoffed to himself but then reluctantly agreed. “Very well. That is, of course, if you can convince her to stay behind. She is...how you say? ‘Stubborn as a mule’, no?”

MacGyver grinned, “I noticed that last night, but something tells me Anna is more than a match for her.”

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Much to Jacque’s surprise, MacGyver was more than correct in his prediction about Rachelle and Anna. In fact, not only were they content to stay at the ranch, but they seemed to be rapidly becoming best friends.

“I can’t believe we have so much in common,” Rachelle commented to her new friend after discovering that she and Anna had both been teachers for a time and shared similar tastes in books, hobbies, and, to some extent, men.

“I know!” Anna agreed. “I feel like I’ve known you my entire life! Who would’ve thought that two girls with a passion for teaching, reading Jane Austen, and coming from two completely different places would end up meeting in the same small town? I’m really going to miss you when you leave.”

“I’m going to be so sad when Jacques and I have to move on,” Rachelle confirmed. “I don’t have very many friends and none to travel with, so I’m going to miss you even more.”

“Are you sure you have to leave?” Anna asked thoughtfully. “You could always settle in New Hope. It’s a really nice place once you get to know everyone, and you might even be able to get a position assisting at the school. My replacement is a lovely girl, but it’s her first year teaching. I’m sure she’d appreciate the help. I know I would have!”

“I do like the sound of that, but I don’t know. I’d have to talk it over with Jacques. It isn’t just me, after all, and I don’t know that we’d fit in here. Then again, it seems we don’t fit in anywhere.”

Anna frowned slightly, reaching across the table to touch her new friend’s arm in a comforting gesture. “That’s the beautiful thing about a frontier town. Nobody ‘fits in’. We’re just a bunch of strangers settling the land together who become friends and neighbors.” Anna paused to chew on her lip, deliberating whether or not to ask the question she’d been pondering since the previous evening. “Rachelle, you said that Jacques is your fiance. Do you mind telling me how you two met?”

“It’s a long story,” the younger woman sighed, and Anna feared she wouldn’t care to elaborate, but after a moment she continued. “When the war broke out, a lot of my family members began to join the Union Army. Eventually, my brother did too, joining the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. When he left, I was more or less on my own, so I quit teaching and moved to the city and found a job as a typesetter for a newspaper printer. At first they didn’t want to hire me because I was a woman, but I became better at it than any of the men working there. Unfortunately, I made some bad decisions that got me in trouble. You see, the good folks of Patrick Malloy’s newspaper empire don’t take kindly to women submitting and publishing articles, especially under a false, male name. Jacques worked at the theater on the same street as the paper so I had already made his acquaintance and I knew that he was looking for a wife to take West with him. I needed a way out and Jacques was it. So here we both are.”

Taken aback by the mention of Patrick Malloy, MacGyver’s former father-in-law and Sammy’s grandfather, Anna sat quietly, absorbing what she’d just heard and focusing on the matter at hand. “That is a long story, but surely you don’t mean to say that you don’t have any feelings for Jacques at all.”

Rachelle looked down, but not quickly enough to hide the bright red blush spreading across her cheeks. “Oh, I didn’t say that. I do have feelings for him. Strong ones. Otherwise I’d have found another way out of my predicament. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel the same way. No matter how hard I try, he always keeps me at arm’s length.”

“But why?” Anna protested. “Surely he can see what a sweet, intelligent, hard-working person you are. I can see that and we’ve only just met!”

“You say that because you’re my new best friend,” Rachelle pointed out. “But those things don’t matter to Jacques. He refuses to get attached or feel anything for anybody, except perhaps himself. If he hadn’t been paralyzed in that carriage wreck, he’d still be a successful actor without a care in the world...for anyone.”

Anna shook her head firmly. “When I first met Mac, he blamed himself for his wife’s death and was determined not to lose his heart to another woman, but our time together changed his mind. I’m sure Jacques will grow to love you as well.”

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When MacGyver and Jacques arrived home, Sammy was playing outside, jumping around on a stick and pretending it was a horse. Mac pulled his wagon alongside his son who clambered into his father’s lap as soon as the wheels stopped turning.

“Pa, guess what! I learned a new song today!”

“Oh yeah? How does it go?”

Sammy cleared his throat dramatically and began to sing: “Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?”

“Whoa! Good job!” Mac praised. “Where’d you learn that?”

Sammy beamed. “Miss Rachelle taught it to me. At first I thought she was singing about Mr. Jacques, but she told me it means ‘Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John? Brother John?”

“That’s pretty impressive,” MacGyver said with a smile.

Jacques Laroux smiled also. “You sing in French very well. You must be very clever, no?”

“Thanks!” Sammy exclaimed, his grin growing even wider.

“Did you get all your chores done?” Mac asked.

“Yep!” his son replied cheerfully. “Ma and Miss Rachelle and I got ‘em all done a long time ago. That’s why I had time to learn the song!”

“I see. Well, you go inside and tell your ma that Mr. Jacques and I are home while we get the horses unhitched.”

“Sure thing, Pa!”

“You have a very nice family,” Jacques observed as Sammy ran toward the house.

“I think so. Do you plan on having one of your own someday?”

“Moi? Non. I do not think so.”

“But you are engaged to be married,” MacGyver pointed out.

“A husband, oui. But I fear I would not make for a very good father like yourself.”

“What does Rachelle think about this?”

Jacques merely shrugged and stared at the horizon so Mac let the subject drop. Still, as he was caring for the horses, he couldn’t help shaking his head. Something was very strange about this couple...if they could even be called a couple at all.

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Later that evening, Rachelle and Jacques took a quiet walk around the MacGyver homestead, as much for privacy as for cool fresh air. Jacques used his arms to propel his wheelchair while his fiancee walked alongside.

“So you see,” he said, finishing the explanation of what he had learned from that day’s trip to the wainwright, “we are stuck here until we can replace the axle, and we cannot replace the axle unless we find a way to earn enough money to pay for it. We have no choice but to delay our travels to Wyoming.”

“Maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” Rachelle mused. “If we stay here through the winter, we can pick up again for easier travel in the spring.”

“But how will we get by?” Jacques argued mildly. “We cannot rely on the kindness of strangers forever. We have already imposed enough.”

“I agree. But from what Anna told me, I could get a job assisting at the schoolhouse. She also said there’s a saloon in town. Maybe you could get a job playing the piano. You’re so very good at it! That should give us enough money to fix the wagon and move on.”

As they circled back toward the house, Jacques snorted. “So much for our plans, hm? I should have known that our luck would run out. It always does.”

“Well, we could stay and settle here permanently,” Rachelle suggested quietly.

Jacques halted abruptly. “Stay?! Here?! Moving to Wyoming was your idea, my darling. If you wanted to live in the middle of nowhere we could have stayed in Kentucky!?

“But I like it here,” she replied with a shrug.

“Non, you like your dear little friend Anna here.”

“What’s wrong with that? We don’t know anybody in Wyoming anyway,” Rachelle said defensively.

Jacques sighed. “I suppose you are correct. One place is the same as another. But let me remind you of this, mon cheri. New Hope is a small town, and small towns breed small-minded people, non? At least in a big city like Cheyenne, we will go unnoticed. You should have seen the stares the townspeople gave me today.”

Rachelle cringed and looked down. “I’m so sorry, Jacques, you shouldn’t have to deal with that. Perhaps they only stared because you are new in town.”

Jacques flinched and looked away.

Rachelle reached for his hand, clasped it between both of hers and leaned forward. “Look, I just want you to know that no matter what anyone else sees in you, I think you’re a wonderful man. And no matter what happens, I want you to know how much
I--”

“Non,” Jacques instructed firmly, placing his free hand over her lips. “I know what you are about to say, and I cannot let you say it. Ours will be a marriage of convenience. Aside from friendship, there can be nothing more between us.”

Jacques retreated to the warmth of the house, but Rachelle remained standing in the same place for several long moments. She sighed and whispered, “You were wrong, Anna. It’s not that we’re not certain about our feelings for each other, it’s just that our feelings are different.”

As she walked back to the house, she didn’t notice MacGyver, who had been returning from the barn, close enough to have heard the entire conversation.

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MacGyver waited until his guests had gone outside again to check on their horse and wagon one last time before quickly relaying to Anna what he had overheard earlier.

Anna groaned. “Rachelle said something similar this afternoon. Oh, Mac, I can't stand seeing someone having to put walls around their feelings. There’s got to be something we can do.”

“I don’t see what. We can’t make the man feel something he doesn’t feel.”

“I don’t know,” Anna said slowly. “There’s a part of me that’s convinced he does feel something beyond friendship for her, but he’s just too stubborn to admit it.”

MacGyver shook his head. “I just can’t see two people that stubborn making a relationship work.”

Anna grinned slyly, “Oh, I don’t know. I know of a certain couple who managed to make it work.”

Mac chuckled and swept her into his arms, leaving her breathless. “Good point.”

Anna smiled. “They just need a little push like we did, that’s all.”

“You mean like conjuring up a tornado in the middle of winter and allowing Jacques to think that Rachelle died in its path?”

“No,” Anna replied, swatting playfully at his arm. “But we’ll think of something.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Mac muttered as a feeling in his gut told him there was more to the strange couple than met the eye.

XXXXX

The following day, MacGyver walked into Pete Thornton’s general store, rubbing his hands together to warm them as he closed the door behind him and Jacques.

“Why, good morning, MacGyver!” Pete called cheerfully as he walked out of the back room and saw his favorite customer. “What brings you into town? It’s not like you to come out here so often in one week.”

“I wanted to check to see if the supplies I ordered came in yet,” Mac explained.

Pete shook his head. “Not yet, and I wouldn’t expect them for a while. Heard the East Coast got hit with a blizzard, so shipments are running behind schedule.” The older man then nodded to the stranger in the wheelchair. “Anything I can get for you, Mister?”

For a second, Jacques remained quiet, contemplative. “Non, monsieur, thank you. I came to inquire if there were any jobs available here in town. Mr. MacGyver said you would be the man to ask.”

“Ya know, I’m not sure,” Pete confessed. “Come spring I can always use an extra hand in the storeroom as new merchandise arrives, but there’s not much for me to do this time of year, especially now that Christmas has passed. Have you tried Jack Dalton’s saloon? He’ll either have work for you or know where you can get some.”

“Thank you, monsieur,” Jacques replied flatly, wheeling himself toward the door.

“Real ray of sunshine, ain’t he?” Pete whispered to MacGyver with a shake of his bald head.

“Ya know, Pete, Jacques and his fiancee have been staying at our place while they figure out how to get their wagon fixed and between you and me, something’s just not right.”

Pete winced. “Is the girl as sour as he is?”

“No. Actually, she’s pretty sweet and she and Anna managed to become best friends overnight.”

“Women!” Pete snorted.

Mac held back a grin. “Rachelle’s been really great with Sammy, too. I don’t know what she sees in Jacques, but it seems like the only two people who don’t see how much those two love each other are--”

“Are those two,” Pete finished, nodding sympathetically. “That’s the way the story always goes.”

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Jacques, meanwhile, had wheeled himself down the street to the saloon and quietly entered through the swinging double doors. The place was about half full, the customers consisting mostly of cattlemen and farm hands hoping to warm themselves with a stiff drink.

Immediately spying the unattended piano in the corner, he went over to it and slid himself out of his chair and onto the stool provided. His hands touched the keys as he, for the first time since arriving in New Hope, allowed a ghost of a smile and began to play.

The melody was soft and haunting, a love song in a minor key. By the time his finger hit the last note, several hardened, burly ranchers were heedlessly allowing tears to slip into their whiskey glasses.

Jacques looked up to find the proprietor, Jack Dalton, hovering over the piano. “Look, partner, I’m not tryin’ to criticize ya, ‘cause everybody’s a critic these days, but next time ya think ya could play somethin’ a little more lively? Ya know, somethin’ to draw my customers in, not make ‘em cry. Hey! Do ya know any ragtime?”

The Frenchman groaned quietly and eased himself back into his wheelchair. “This is so humiliating,” he muttered, and left the saloon as soon as physically possible.

Jack Dalton, still standing by the piano frowned. “Was it something I said?”

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The first thing MacGyver did when he arrived home from town was grab his beloved Anna in a warm embrace and kiss her gently on the cheek.

“You missed,” she teased, and then his lips found hers.

When they finally broke the kiss, Mac asked, “What’s that smell?”

“Mint,” Anna replied. “Sammy came home from school with a terrible cough, so Rachelle and I whipped up some mint tea to ease it a little. He’s asleep right now and rest is probably the best thing for him at this point.”

MacGyver nodded. “Agreed. He needs rest to keep up his strength. Poor kid. Where’d you find the mint, anyway?”

“Rachelle had some. She has a lot of dried herbs in that wagon of theirs and she seems pretty knowledgeable about their medicinal uses,” Anna explained. “See, that’s another reason why she and Jacques should settle in New Hope!”

Meanwhile, Rachelle went to welcome Jacques who sat just inside the doorway. “I have good news!” she told him. “While you and MacGyver were gone I went with Anna to pick Sammy up at school and she drove me to the hotel in town. I spoke with the manager and he said he would rent us a room for a lower price, provided I help with the cleaning and such. I know it’s not ideal, but at least we won’t be imposing on our friends any longer.”

“Very well,” Jacques responded curtly.

Rachelle frowned. “What’s wrong? I’d thought you’d be happy?”

While Jacques went on to describe his misadventures in town, Anna and Mac recounted their day with each other as well.

“I wish there was something we could do to get those two to see that they truly love each other,” Anna lamented.

“Look. Maybe we should just leave them be. They’ll figure it out eventually.”

“But Rachelle is the best friend I’ve had since settling here,” Anna protested.

MacGyver put his hands on his wife’s shoulder and lowered his forehead so it was touching hers. “Something isn’t right about this whole thing. I can feel it in my gut,” he said softly, so as not to be overheard.

“You and your gut!” Anna complained as she stepped away from him. “Rachelle is a sweet girl. I admit, Jacques might be a bit eccentric, but I’m sure he’s harmless.”

“I just think we should stay out of their business…”

“I’ve got it!” Anna exclaimed with a victorious grin. “Ever since they arrived, I’ve spent all my time with Rachelle and you’ve been with Jacques. Maybe it’s time we switched dance partners, so to speak! I’ll entertain Jacques while you get to know Rachelle better!”

“Whoa, wait a minute!”

“C’mon, Mac! I bet I could talk Jacques into staying in New Hope and maybe even confess his love for Rachelle.”

MacGyver brought Anna back into his arms. “I still don’t like this, but if anyone can talk that man into staying it’s you. You could sweet-talk the green off grass, Mrs. MacGyver.”

XXXXX

“What, exactly, did you need my help with again?” Rachelle asked nervously as she followed MacGyver around, watching him feed the horses and tend to the other livestock.

“Anna tells me you know your way around some medicinal plants,” Mac replied.

“Some of them. Mostly the ones that are hard to kill. Did you need something?”

“You got anything that’ll help achy hands?”

Rachelle’s face lit up. “I know just the thing!” She led him over to the broken wagon, grabbed the wooden box that contained most of her worldly possessions, and rummaged around inside it until she held up an old glass jar half-full of a dark yellow concoction. She offered it to Mac with a proud smile. “This is dandelion salve. Just rub it on your hands and massage your knuckles with it.”

MacGyver smiled. “Thanks, I’ll give it a try. Did Jacques use some of this after your accident? I imagine he had some aches and pains from hitting the ground.”

Rachelle immediately sobered. “Jacques doesn’t believe in this kind of thing. I’ve tried to explain how the Indians have used herbs and plants as medicine for hundreds of years, but he doesn’t believe me.”

Silently scolding himself for upsetting Rachelle, he quickly summoned a friendly smile and changed the subject. “How’d you like to learn how to patch up a wagon axle?”

“I...I’m not very handy with that sort of thing.”

“Aw, c’mon. It’s easy. I’ll show you.”

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“Jacques, would you mind giving me a hand for a minute?” Anna asked.

“It would be my pleasure, madame. What can I do for you?” he asked from where he sat beside the fireplace.

Anna plopped a large wooden bowl in his lap and handed him an equally large wooden spoon. “Could you stir the batter for the cornbread while I tend to the soup? I thought this would be the perfect meal to make Sammy feel better. It’s so warm and comforting.”

“I could not agree more.”

Anna chewed her lip for a moment before casually asking, “So how are you and Rachelle enjoying New Hope so far?”

Jacques scoffed. “My fiancee loves it here, thanks to you and your family.”

“And what about you?”

“It is the same for me no matter where I go: Stares and shame.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that. You have to know you have nothing to be ashamed of. It was an accident after all. Once you’ve been here for awhile people will get to know you and the stares will go away.”

“I know what you are trying to do and it will not work. My mind is made up.”

“Why?” Anna asked, her frustration mounting. “Can’t you see that Rachelle only wants to be with you regardless of where you live? That she loves you? And I think you love her, too.”

“Non. Trying to be someone I am not...giving her something I cannot...that would break her heart more than having her believe I do not love her in the first place.”

“Living a life without love isn’t really living, Mr. Laroux. You’ll find that out eventually. Just remember that, by the time you do, Rachelle may not be waiting for you any longer.”

“She has nowhere else to go,” he snapped.

“That may have been true when you began your journey, but it isn’t true now. Now she has New Hope.”

Jacques turned his head away from Anna, but then grimaced and asked, “What is that?!”

Anna followed the man’s gaze. “It’s one of the barn cats. Sammy must have brought her in to play with before he fell asleep.”

Jacque’s lip curled as the feline sidled towards him. “Scat you filthy creature!” he commanded, just as his leg shot out in the animal’s direction.

Anna gasped. “Did you just try and kick the cat?”

“Of course not, my dear,” Jacques replied, quickly regaining his composure. “Even if I had wanted to, which I did not, my leg would not obey.”

“But I saw your leg move!” Anna countered incredulously.

“It was a mere muscle spasm. The doctor warned me it could happen from time to time. It was simply an unfortunate coincidence. Please, I would ask that you forget you witnessed it. Even Rachelle has not seen this particular malady of mine.”

“Of course,” Anna murmured as she collected the bowl and spoon from Jacques and went about preparing the rest of the meal.

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“Well, it seems like everything is coming together,” MacGyver declared as he sat on the hearth, whittling a small piece of wood with his new pocket knife. The ranch chores are done for the day, Sammy’s starting to feel better, and my beautiful wife prepared another excellent dinner. Life is good.”

“Maybe for us, but not for our two houseguests,” Anna countered from her rocking chair, careful to speak softly so as not to disturb the couple sitting at the kitchen table.

“Anna, we did everything we could,” Mac soothed.

“I know. I just wanted them to have a happy ending like we did.”

“They’ll be fine. They just don’t know it yet.”

“I suppose,” Anna capitulated, “But think about what might have happened to us if the tornado hadn’t brought us together? As scared of commitment as we both were, it could have taken forever and a day for us to realize we were meant to be together forever.”

“But we are together now. That’s all that matters.”

A grin tugged at Anna’s lips. “I hate it when you’re right, ya know.”

“I know,” Mac grinned back.

“Would you mind if I invited them to Sunday church service? I think it might be time for a little divine intervention.”

MacGyver chuckled. “You never give up, do you?”

“Nope! And that’s one of the things you love about me!”

XXXXX

Rachelle’s eyes sparkled when Anna invited her and Jacques to the morning church service that Sunday. “I’d love to go! I haven’t been able to properly observe the day since leaving Kentucky.”

Jacques, on the other hand, shook his head slowly. “That is a very kind invitation, but I must decline, if only for myself.”

Rachelle leaned closer to Anna, speaking in a frustrated whisper. “Sometimes dealing with that man is just so...so…”

“Aggravating?” Anna suggested.

“Yes! Exactly. Gah, I swear he wouldn’t know an emotion if it whacked him in the head with a grubby garden hoe!”

“I know the feeling,” Anna agreed. “But I’m sure the two of you will work things out.”

“Maybe,” Rachelle said, “but I’ve already made a few decisions that he’s not going to like and if that doesn’t get a rise out of him, I give up!”

MacGyver and Anna, with Sammy in tow, were still discussing the pastor’s sermon when they arrived home only to find Jacques nervously wheeling himself back and forth around the house. “Where is Rachelle?” he demanded when he noticed their party had lost a member.

“She asked us to leave her in town,” Anna answered calmly. “She decided to take up a room at the hotel and work off the cost. She asked me to tell you that you’re more than welcome to join her.”

“But why would she do such a thing?”

“To make a point,” Anna stated firmly. “She’s staying in New Hope and she wants you to stay with her, unless you no longer want to be with her.”

“Rachelle’s been begging for your attention the whole time you’ve been here and probably long before that,” MacGyver pointed out. “Anna and I have been trying to encourage you both to talk to each other about your feelings, but I guess we’ve been too subtle. At least for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have chores to do before lunch.”

“Wait!” Jacques called as Mac put his hand on the doorknob. “I apologize...to both of you. I have been a silly fool, no? If it would not be too much of an imposition, could you please give me a ride to the hotel?”

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Jacques Laroux found himself banging on his fiancee’s hotel room door.

“Open this blasted door, my darling! I must speak with you!”

The door swung open almost immediately and Rachelle stood in front of him, hands on her hips, but her eyes appeared red and swollen, as if from crying.

Jacques frowned beneath his mustache. “Mon cheri, please forgive me. I have been a fool.”

“Yes, you have,” Rachelle quickly agreed.

Jacque’s frown deepened. This was not how he had expected this particular scene to play out. Nevertheless, he rolled himself past Rachelle and into the room, turning about to face her. “I have wronged you, dearest, and for that I am, indeed, sorry. I knew you were in love with me from the very start, yet I maintained my distance because I thought I did not want to fall in love. Not just with you, but with anyone. I foolishly believed my life would be easier, less complicated, if my heart did not get in the way. But now I can see that I have missed out on so many things, including falling in love with this quaint little town and falling in love with you.”

Rachelle watched him skeptically. “How do I know those aren’t just more of your fancy words to get me to do what you want?”

“Because this time I promise to be less stubborn. If you wish to stay in New Hope, then I will stay here with you because I truly do care for you even though I have avoided showing it.”

He watched as Rachelle’s expression softened only slightly. “Why now?”

Jacques sighed. “Because earlier today, I had someone, well, actually two someones, speak very plainly to me and tell me exactly what would happen if I didn’t change my ways.” He glanced down for a moment before continuing, “You are very special to me, Rachelle, and I love you.”

“I love you, too!” Rachelle exclaimed, bending down to hug him. “And here in New Hope we have a chance to begin all over again!”

“Indeed, we have a ‘second chance’, as they say,” Jacques muttered with a gleam in his eye he made sure his fiancee did not notice.

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“Mac!”

MacGyver bolted upright on the couch. “What?!”

“You don’t have to yell at me,” Joanna scolded as she headed toward him from their shared door, a large bowl in her hands.

“Well, you started it,” he groused, running his fingers through his already-mussed hair.

“I asked if you wanted any of this leftover fruit salad, but apparently you didn’t hear me because you fell asleep during one of your old movies again. Honestly, I don’t know how you even know you like them since you never see the ending. I bet you dozed off halfway through if not sooner.”

She stopped her rebuke when she noticed his pale face and the faraway look in his eyes and her heart squeezed. “You dreamed about him again, didn’t you?” she asked softly.

Mac nodded. “It wasn’t bad this time. It was actually kinda entertaining. And there was this girl that reminded me of Becca. But I always get this feeling…”

“He’s gone, Mac. For good. You don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder anymore.”

“You wanna watch a movie with me?” MacGyver asked, obviously wanting to change the subject.

Joanna put the bowl of fruit on the coffee table and allowed him to pull her down into his arms and cuddled close. “You bet.”


















Jody~

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

 
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Posted: 22 March 2021 - 12:46 AM                                    
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Season: ---
Episode:Halloween Knights
Vehicle: Motorcycle
Jacket:  Brown bomber
House:  House boat



It doesn't help that we're planning a move for later this year, so things are a bit up in the air these days.

Gonna review one chapter now, and the newest later.

QUOTE


Before the pilot could answer Jo replied, “Someone has to stay and finish up the reports for the month.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm and MacGyver was about to rethink his response to Mitch when she suddenly smiled wide. “But you go ahead and have a good time,” she encouraged, standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
Wholesome content biggrin.gif

QUOTE


“Couldn’t be better!” MacGyver answered before mumbling, “I’m getting too old for this.”
Lol laugh.gif

QUOTE

“This!” Mac declared, showing off a plastic lined paper bag. “My official, and definitely unused, barf bag!”
Maaaaaac laugh.gif

QUOTE

He smirked as a chorus of “ewwww’s” echoed through his adoring crowd and Joanna, standing off to the side, dramatically rolled her eyes.
Jo roller.gif

QUOTE

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “That’s just so...wow!”

“I know,” he concurred with a crooked grin.
At least your ego's being stroked dry.gif

QUOTE

“Oh poppycock!” his father retorted. “There’s no way you could make such a basic error and I’m sure you did everything you could to save the plane. There has to be some other explanation!”
dry.gif

QUOTE

“There was nothing wrong with the plane,” Mac confirmed. “But I think I know why he changed his pattern.”
Attempted suicide?

QUOTE

MacGyver stretched out on his couch, his head resting comfortably in Joanna’s lap as her slender fingers combed through his hair sending pleasant electrical currents through his body.
It's official: Mac is now a dog.




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

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

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

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

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

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 22 March 2021 - 04:55 AM                                    
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Thanks for the comments, Dragondog!! Especially the last one...LOL!! Now Joanna has two...Frog and Mac!! I totally understand about being busy. In fact, I'm going to post one last chapter in two weeks and then take a hiatus as my writing has come to a complete stop with real life getting in the way:(( But, I'll be back!!!



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: 4 April 2021 - 09:55 AM                                    
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Chapter 60: Purgatory

He had never really given much thought as to where professional assassins go when they die. He supposed he had assumed it would be the eternal flames of hell or some dark oblivion to match the darkness of his soul. Either way, he was willing to accept his fate, only he hadn’t counted on this.

The sting of the flat, wooden yardstick upon his shoulder shattered his reverie and he looked up at its source and scowled. An elderly man with snow white hair and bushy eyebrows clad in an equally white robe pinned him with steely black eyes.

“What is it now, Jeeves?” Murdoc whined.

The man used the yardstick to point to the glass step below the one on which Murdoc stood. With a sigh, Murdoc stepped down, only to watch the stick point to yet a next step.

“Really?!” Murdoc complained. “I do one nice thing for Penny and it’s one step up, yet I harmlessly invade MacGyver’s little dream and it’s two steps down. What kind of bloody hell is this?!”

“It’s not hell, it’s purgatory,” Jeeves informed him flatly, as if he needed the reminder.

“It was a rhetorical question,” Murdoc spat as he stomped on the step below him, causing it to crack in a web-like fashion. “Oh dear, you wouldn’t happen to have any duct tape on hand, would you?” he asked innocently.

Jeeves rolled his eyes and turned away. This soul had been nothing but a thorn in his side since his arrival over two earth-years ago.

“It wasn’t my choice to come here, you know!” Murdoc called after him. “Come to think of it, why am I here anyway? Why not toss me into the fiery pit and be done with it instead of all this up-and-down, up-and-down business?”

Jeeves folded his hands, puffed out his chest, and cleared his throat before addressing him. “It seems the Big Guy was in an exceptionally benevolent mood the day you...um...passed on. Apparently, He sees something in you worth redeeming that is beyond the rest of us.”

“Wait! What? Does that mean I’m not destined for hell?” Murdoc asked, gazing downward as the stairway he was standing on became shrouded in gray smoke.

“That is correct,” the older man replied, unable to keep the tone of disappointment from his voice.

“You mean to say I’m going up...there?” Murdoc looked upward into the blinding light that obscured the top of the stairway.

“Indeed,” Jeeves confirmed. “Didn’t you ever hear of the stairway to heaven?”

“Hmmm, of course...interesting song, quite popular,” he replied.

“Well, they had to get the title from somewhere!” Jeeves exclaimed, the sleeves of his robe billowing as he raised his arms in exasperation.

“All right then,” Murdoc said. “What do I need to do to get there and how long will it take.”

“Time is meaningless here in purgatory,” Jeeves admonished. “A day is a millennium and a millennium but a day.”

“Well, it seems as if I’ve been going up and down these same three steps for a millennium and a day!” Murdoc shot back. “Now, what can we do to expedite the process?”

Jeeves stared at this man, still dressed all in black and wearing that insufferable silver skull ring, with his mouth agape. “The process cannot be rushed, Mr. Murdoc! The Boss, in His infinite wisdom, granted you the ability to make considerable progress towards heaven’s gates when He allowed you to be Penny Parker’s spirit guardian and allowed her to believe your soul was attached to that abominable hunk of metal on your hand.”

“And I assisted and protected her on several occasions,” Murdoc pointed out.

“Yes, and you’ve also haunted, tormented, and plagued MacGyver!”

“Even a dead man needs some form of amusement,” Murdoc pouted. “Why don’t you send me back to earth so I can make amends?” he suggested cheerfully.

Jeeves grunted at the man’s audacity. “That is not within my power. Besides, I have recently been informed that the Boss has special plans for you.” Suddenly, a series of melodic chimes filled the air. “Ah, time for lunch,” Jeeves proclaimed. “If I’m late I won’t get dessert and today they’re serving my favorite...angel food cake!” In the blink of an eye he was gone.

Murdoc sighed heavily and sat on the step he had been occupying off and on for the better part of his afterlife. He allowed his legs to swing freely above the puffy white clouds and absently wondered what would happen if he simply jumped into the great abyss below.

“Not thinkin’ ‘bout jumpin’ now, are ya?” a low, raspy voice asked.

Murdoc instinctively shuddered and turned to look up at the elderly man standing next to him clad in a worn plaid shirt and tattered beige fishing hat. Murdoc scrambled to his feet as quickly as possible while still maintaining some semblance of dignity and pulled himself up to his full height.

“Didn’t think a guy like you would startle so easily,” the man chuckled.

Murdoc cleared his throat, leveled his head, and pasted on a polite smile. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

“We haven’t,” the man confirmed. “But I wanted to meet the weasel who’s been messin’ with my grandson.”

“Ah, you must be referring to MacGyver,” Murdoc acknowledged, recognition dawning. “That would make you Grandpa Harry.”

“It’s Mr. Jackson to you,” Harry replied gruffly.

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Murdoc said with a saccharine smile and slight bow.

“Liar!” the older man snorted. “You wanna stay on that step forever?”

“I’ve actually become quite comfortable here,” Murdoc said loftily. “Now, what can I do for you?”

“You can repent for all the times you tried to kill Bud.”

“Not one to mince words, eh?”

“Don’t you ever want to get to heaven?” Harry asked, pointing toward the light.

“I don’t know,” Murdoc mused. “Everyone is so perfect up there. Doesn’t sound like much fun. Besides, if repenting for my attempts to neutralize MacGyver is a prerequisite, I fear I will never pass through the pearly gates because I have no remorse for my actions. In fact, I rather enjoyed our little games of cat and mouse. It was strictly business between me and MacGyver.”

“That’s another lie and you know it!” Harry challenged.

“I will admit that I allowed emotions to cloud my judgement a time or two where your darling grandson was concerned,” Murdoc conceded. “But know this, old man. MacGyver wanted me dead just as badly as I wanted to kill him.”

In the blink of an eye, Harry Jackson disappeared and in his place stood Jeeves, his ever-present yardstick pointing to the step below the one Murdoc currently occupied.

“But I haven’t done anything!” Murdoc exclaimed.

“You lied...twice and admitted your refusal to repent for your sin.”

“How could you possibly know that? You were at lunch!”

“I left the intercom on,” Jeeves answered flatly.

Murdoc relented and took his position on the lower step just as a bell chimed. “Time for a coffee break already?” he chided.

Jeeves smiled like the cat that got the cream. “That sound means that Harry Jackson just earned his wings.”

“What! How?” Murdoc sputtered. “That man was just here harassing me!”

“On the contrary,” Jeeves corrected him. “Harry was sent to urge you to repent.”

“But I didn’t!”

“That does not matter. Harry completed his final assignment and has now entered paradise,” Jeeves explained. “Now, I believe you have another visitor.” Tucking his yardstick under his arm, the older man disappeared from sight.

Murdoc looked up to find a fit woman with long blonde hair descending the staircase. “My, my, my...if it isn’t Kate Malloy.”

“Why isn’t your filthy carcass burning in hell?” she spat.

“Apparently a Higher Power saw some redeeming quality in me,” he responded nonchalantly. “It surprised me, too, darling.”

“I’m not your ‘darling’.”

“Of course not. You are MacGyver’s one true love and came to beg me to repent for my grievous acts against your son’s father.”

“Angus has a new love now,” Kate reminded him firmly.

“Of course, how could I forget? The sweet Joanna Fairfax. Do you remember that occasion, just after my untimely demise, when the fair Jo was shot and fell into a coma and we all met at the lake she loves so much?”

“How could I forget? You tried to convince her to stay on the other side so you could get your kicks out of watching Angus grieve yet another loved one.”

“But you came along and spoiled my fun,” Murdoc pouted, but rallied quickly. “All right, then. Say what you need to say to earn your wings and then leave me be.”

“I’m not ready to earn my wings,” she informed him sadly. “I’m still repenting for keeping Sean’s...Sam’s... existence a secret from Angus for so many years. I thought I was doing the right thing, but now I realize I hurt them both.”

Murdoc yawned, “Surely you didn’t come to me just to share your sad, yet boring, little story. Get on with what you need to say.”

Kate’s spine stiffened and her eyes grew hard. “I came to tell you to stay away from Angus and Sean...and Joanna. They’ve finally found love with each other and become a family and if you do anything to hurt any one of them I swear I’ll…”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Murdoc interrupted. “I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure threats and swearing are frowned upon here.”

“Just know that I’ll be keeping an eye on you. I may not have always been there for Angus during my lifetime, but I’m here for him now, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect him and his new family.”

“And how do you propose to accomplish this, hmmm?”

Kate narrowed her eyes. “Let’s just say I have friends in high places.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked into the light.

“She’s a feisty one,” Jeeves observed from behind Murdoc.

“Indeed,” Murdoc agreed. “MacGyver sure knows how to pick them.”

“Perhaps he likes a challenge, just like you,” Jeeves offered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Murdoc asked warily.

Jeeves shrugged. “Consider it food for thought.” And then he was gone.

Murdoc morosely surveyed his surroundings. He didn’t know why he bothered. The scenery never changed. He lowered himself to sit on the glass step and began to brood. What had Jeeves meant by that last statement? Certainly he wasn’t trying to suggest that Murdoc actually had something in common with MacGyver. That was unthinkable! They were polar opposites and Murdoc intended to keep it that way.

Suddenly, Murdoc felt yet another presence beside him. He looked up to find a pale, gaunt man dressed in a dark, soot-stained suit, coughing uncontrollably.

“Helman. What are you doing here?” he asked caustically.

“I’m not here,” the older man replied once his lungs were clear. “I’m there.” He pointed down to where the acrid smoke from hellfire obscured the stairs of purgatory. “The real question is what are you doing here instead of there?”

“Apparently trying to earn salvation,” Murdoc answered. “However, I must say it is quite a dull journey thus far.”

Nicholas Helman slowly lowered himself to sit beside his one-time protege and sighed heavily. “I’m really disappointed in you, Murdoc. You were the best assassin HIT ever had. I trained you myself. And you killed me with a damn grenade in that snake pit. I was looking forward to sharing eternal suffering with you, but your weaknesses led you here, instead.”

“Yes, yes, I know. My repeated failure to neutralize MacGyver is still a blemish on my record.”

“Hmph! MacGyver indeed. You had the nerve to partner with him to save your sister. You joined forces with your mortal enemy! You made a mockery of me, HIT, and yourself all for your own selfish agenda.”

Murdoc took a deep, calming breath. “I would hardly consider saving my sister from your murderous plans ‘selfish’,” he replied with every ounce of restraint he had.

“That’s exactly my point.” Helman flashed him an evil grin. “You were meant to be an assassin first and foremost, but you allowed emotion and dare I say love to interfere with your life’s calling. I grievously misjudged you and it will haunt me for eternity.” The old man’s lips had now flattened into a thin line.

Murdoc’s mind worked furiously to form a scathing retort but none came. Helman was right. Despite mercilessly and successfully carrying out all of his missions, save for murdering MacGyver, he was still a failure, having allowed emotion to color his actions on a handful of occasions he could recall but preferred not to dwell upon.

A loud gong sounded and Helman swore under his breath.

“What was that?” Murdoc asked.

“My summons back to hell,” his former boss replied. “I had to pull some strings to come here. I had hoped to return with you, but this has proven to be a fruitless errand.”

“Will I see you again?” Murdoc inquired, unsure of the answer he wished to hear.

“I fear not. We are now on separate paths which will never converge.” Helman groaned as he painstakingly rose to his feet and headed back to eternal damnation.

His former mentor had just disappeared into the hazy smoke when Murdoc felt the now-familiar slap of a yardstick upon his shoulder.

“I know, I know...down another step,” he grumbled.

“On the contrary,” Jeeves said. “You have earned one step up.”

“How? Did I unwittingly do something nice?”

Jeeves sighed. This man had such a thick skull at times. No doubt it delayed his arrival here at least a couple decades. “Your progress, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with ‘nice’,” Jeeves explained. “It has to do with self-discovery which will lead to atonement for your earthly sins. You have just acknowledged that, contrary to what you may wish to believe, you are not completely evil. You selflessly put your life on the line to save your sister and annihilate the one who would harm her. That is one of the reasons you are here and he shall rot with the devil.”

Murdoc cocked his head. “When you put it that way, it sounds as if I’ve made a great deal of progress that certainly deserves more than one measly step upward.”

“Don’t push it,” Jeeves warned. “I’m well acquainted with your list of earthly offenses. You still have a lot of work ahead of you.” And with that, he was gone, leaving Murdoc to once again ponder thoughts he would rather not.

XXXXX

Purgatory remained a conundrum to Murdoc. He felt as if he still inhabited his earthly body, yet he did not require food or sleep. His battered bones no longer ached and his hair did not grow. He wore a wristwatch, but the hands had disappeared as time, as he knew it, did not exist. Oddly enough, the one thing he actually did miss was people. For a number of reasons, he had kept his earthly existence as unknown as possible, often living below the ground and operating above the law. He had no use for human affection. At least, that’s what he had managed to convince himself. Yet here he was, utterly alone with the exception of Jeeves and the occasional appearance of a specter from his untidy past. From the deep recesses of his mind, an image arose, probably from childhood, of how he had imagined the afterlife. The saved souls in heaven laughing and rejoicing as they were reunited with loved ones. The condemned souls in hell wailing and grinding their teeth in a burning fire that would torture but never consume them. And the anxious mob of souls in between, standing shoulder to shoulder as if in line to buy treasured tickets to their favorite rock band’s concert. But that was not the case...at least for him. Like always, he was alone.

Before he could slip further into his morose thoughts, a sweet, melodic, feminine voice beckoned him by name. Following the direction from which it came, his eyes lit upon a young, vibrant woman with blonde hair and a peaches and cream complexion. “Ashton,” he involuntarily whispered and she smiled gently.

“I’ve been asking to see you since you arrived, but I was always told you weren’t ready to meet me,” she said, her voice soft as an angel’s feather.

Murdoc swallowed hard. “Do you know who--”

“I know exactly who you are. I know everything,” she replied, her voice calm and peaceful. “I know that you’re my big brother and that you supported me in secret after our parents died because you didn’t want the people you worked for to discover me and put me in danger.”

“But that happened anyway,” he murmured. “I am so sorry, Ashton.”

The young woman shook her head. “You have nothing to be sorry about. You did the best you could. And you and MacGyver did save my life when Helman captured me.”

“And there it is!” Murdoc spat, throwing his hands in the air. “MacGyver again!”

“I know how hard it was for you to ask for MacGyver’s help,” Ashton said, reaching out to put a comforting hand on her brother’s arm. “But you did it anyway...for me. Because you loved me. And when Helman was tossed into that pit of vipers, you risked your life to save mine.”

“By throwing you into MacGyver’s arms,” Murdoc grumbled.

“He tried to go back and rescue you, too,” she retorted, her voice now strong and firm. “But it was too late. Just like when he tried to save you from the allergic reaction to poison ivy that took your life.”

“If you came here to sing MacGyver’s praises you can just leave.”

“I came to help you soften your heart towards him. To see that the two of you aren’t as different as you’d like to think.”

“And just how do you figure that?” Murdoc snorted.

“You didn’t have to ask him for help, but you did because you loved me. He didn’t have to help you, but he did because he understood how much I meant to you. You both put aside your differences for a common goal.”

“What else could I have done?”

“Let your need for vengeance and superiority supersede your affection for me. But you didn’t.”

“Yes, well, love isn’t something I generally associate myself with, but you were the only family I had. I couldn’t let Helman take you away from me.”

Ashton smiled slyly. “You value family. That’s another thing you have in common with MacGyver.”

At a sudden loss for words, Murdoc simply scowled.

“You can deny it all you want, big brother, but you are capable of love. I saw how you fell for Penny.”

“That was a temporary aberration on my part. You see, I simply got caught up in the role of Jacques Laroux,” he protested. “Besides, if you know as much about me as you claim, you also know that Penny hated me. She said I disgusted her!”

“Of course she’d say that! You kidnapped her and tried to kill her best friend! But there’s more to you than that,” Ashton insisted. “Penny saw it in Jacques, and I see it right now.”

When her comment was met with silence she continued, “Have you ever wondered what you would have become if Mom and Dad hadn’t died?”

“But they did die, and I had to do whatever I could to make sure you had a decent, normal life. I didn’t have a choice!”

“You did!” Ashton shot back. “You could have been a photographer or musician or composer. Maybe our lifestyle would’ve been simpler, maybe not, but you made a choice and now’s your chance to undo it.”

Murdoc looked at his sister in utter disbelief. “I’m dead, Ashton! I can’t go back and relive my life, right my wrongs, even if I wanted to!”

“You say that so passionately, yet you claim you have no heart, no remorse.”

“That’s one of my shortcomings, I fear. There are times when my passion gets the better of me.”

“Like when you try to kill MacGyver?” his sister asked softly.

Murdoc paused and considered all the ways he had failed...yes, he could admit it now...to murder MacGyver. It had always happened in the heat of the moment, the thrill of having his prey within arm’s reach, the excitement of the kill and the promise of victory. In the throes of vengeance he had been his own worst enemy always making one critical error.

“I suppose you could be correct,” he finally capitulated. “But I made my choices and now I must live with them, so to speak.”

Before Ashton could protest, the soft strains of a harp wafted through the air. “I need to leave you now,” she explained with a sad smile.

“Could you tell me just one thing?” he asked, uncharacteristically apprehensive. “Did you suffer much?”

Her forehead creased in confusion before understanding dawned. “You mean in the avalanche?”

Murdoc could only nod.

“No,” she assured him. “I lost consciousness as soon as it hit me. The next thing I knew, I was here.”

“I’m glad,” he replied, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Will we be able to talk again?”

“That’s up to you,” she said before turning and ascending the staircase.

Murdoc watched until she was out of sight. A disturbing, though not completely unpleasant, warmth swelled in his chest. It was an odd feeling. One he hadn’t allowed himself to feel in a very long time. It was hope.

Author’s Note: Unfortunately, I must put this story on hiatus again. MacGyver, Joanna, and myself are having “creative differences” about the direction the next chapters should take. In real life, that means I have become very busy with work and other obligations. But have no fear…new chapters WILL RETURN!!!




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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bluegirl
Posted: 5 April 2021 - 09:46 AM                                    
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Since you had chosen to kill Murdoc, you do have to take some special, odd and strange detours to still enable him cause some trouble in Mac´s life, hm???

nasty.gif nasty.gif nasty.gif Love it!



The stuff is already there, I just find a different way to use it!

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 5 April 2021 - 09:58 AM                                    
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QUOTE (bluegirl @ 5 April 2021 - 09:46 AM)
Since you had chosen to kill Murdoc, you do have to take some special, odd and strange detours to still enable him cause some trouble in Mac´s life, hm???

nasty.gif nasty.gif nasty.gif Love it!

I'm glad you love it! And yes, I have to get creative with Murdoc. I killed him off before I delved into his character and learned more about him. However, this way, he can do things that perhaps a "live" Murdoc couldn't or wouldn't.



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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