Author's notes: This story is a part of my The Sentinel/MacGyver series, following Hot Time in Chicago. Since the relationships between Blair, MacGyver, and Sam are drawn in the first five stories, you may wish to read them first.
I know this one was a long time coming, but real life and a chest cold/sinus infection has been biting at my heels for over a month now. It can really drag on the creative processes.
I do wish to extend my thanks to many people. First and foremost, Zadra for all her comments, suggestions, support, and those wonderful loft set pictures *grin*. It couldn't have been easy putting up with me through fever, headaches, and drug-induced Tigger mode. Other thanks goes to Shallon for her corrections, comments and funnies (go check out her stories on Wolfpup's new fourth page!); Sealie for her corrections, comments and for being my European viewpoint; Wolfpup for her continual prodding, great beta skills, and posting my stories; and to all my other fans who have written asking for this story - your continuing interest in my humble work helps me more than you know!
Please send any comments to email@example.com
Enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Most of characters are not mine. I'm borrowing them out of deep reverence, affection and respect. I will accept only personal fulfillment, and no monetary gain. If you do sue, you will not get much and I will send over my Black Lab mix, who will stare at you pathetically for hours and probably con you out of all your food.
Please do not reproduce, copy, or otherwise use any part of this story without permission from the author.
Rated PG-13, mostly for a little violence and language.
C. L. Combs
Sunday evening, somewhere in the western USA.
A sharp jarring woke MacGyver from an exhausted sleep, bringing awareness of the misery he was in. Shifting uncomfortably in his sweat-drenched clothes, he sluggishly took stock of his fatigue, several painful bruises, and his numb hands tied behind his back. He doggedly searched his most recent memories for a clue to his current circumstances. Struggling to swallow against his parched throat, he realized what had happened. Man, this is really getting old.
A shift in the metal floor below him brought another flood of thoughts. He seemed to be crammed between seats in some vehicle, a hot, dusty blanket hiding him from view, traveling a rough dirt road by the feel of it. Apparently, the plane had reached its destination while he had been sick. Where they were going now, he could only make a couple of educated guesses.
After enduring another hour of rough jolts against floorboard as the vehicle hit holes and ruts, MacGyver felt it slow to a stop. The door beside him was opened and the blanket was yanked off. Blinking in the light of the setting sun, MacGyver looked up into his captor's eyes.
"Welcome to my base camp, Mr. MacGyver. I'm sure you'll be comfortable enough while you translate the journal for me."
With a groan, MacGyver laid his head back down, wishing desperately for the energy to deal with his current situation.
Early Monday morning, Los Angles, CA
"Great, just great," Lisa Woodman thought to herself as she spotted the two dark men behind her in the airport crowd. While she didn't know who they were, she most certainly wasn't going to let them catch her. Lisa ducked into one of the food bars filled with breakfast customers. Slipping between two large businessmen, she pulled a straw out of a container on the bar. She pretended to take great care unwrapping the straw and punching it through the top of her travel mug, all the while secretly watching the hounds searching for her.
She had first noticed them late last night when she had picked up her luggage. Remembering how strangely MacGyver had acted and the disc he had dropped in her bag, Lisa had decided not to take any chances. She had used her knowledge of the city to lose the men following her rental car. However, she decided that instead of going home to her father's mansion where they might wait for her, she'd spend the night at the small apartment her father kept near the airport. No one was expecting her home yet anyway, and it gave her a chance to contact one of MacGyver's friends to find out what was going on.
By early morning, a frustrated Lisa was making another plane reservation. She hadn't been able to reach Mr. Thornton, Jack Dalton or Willus. She had reached Sam's answering machine, which had ran out of tape. Even Penny was out of town with a theater group. Lisa's concern for the man who was like a second father was growing by leaps and bounds. After she had helped him in Switzerland nearly a decade ago, MacGyver had saved her in so many other ways since. She had to help him now, no matter what he asked. The sole course of action left was to find Mr. Blair Sandburg and see if he knew what was going on.
Double-checking that the men had disappeared, Lisa quickly walked through the crowds to her gate. Fighting to look calm and casual, Lisa sat near the windows behind three burly college guys discussing their mountain climbing trip. If worst came to worse, she could always play helpless female and the climbers would certainly come to her aid. As soon as the plane began boarding, Lisa jumped up and stood in line.
She was just entering the tunnel to the plane when the dark men spotted her. Noting the destination listed on the board, one raced to the phones.
Monday morning, Phoenix Foundation, CA
The only problem with a two week fishing trip is the work waiting for you when you get back. Pete Thornton waded through his messages on the special computer system MacGyver and a few of Phoenix's computer experts had designed for him. Then he sighed. "I would still miss it if I retire completely." In order to ease his workload, the Phoenix Foundation had created a new post under him. The e-mail announcing the name of the new Assistant Director of Operations was the first Pete chose to hear. A wide grin of happiness and relief stretched across his face. Someone he knew and one he would have no trouble working with. It would be nice to have her back at Phoenix.
However, the good mood dissipated as he continued to work through the messages. Most worrisome were the messages from Chicago and Cascade, WA. It wasn't until he heard a final one from Captain Simon Banks, stating that the bomber had been caught and Sam and Blair were safe, that he relaxed slightly. Still, he didn't like the fact that MacGyver had not responded to any of the SOS's they had sent. Between his friend's dedication to his new-found sons and his habit of checking his emergency number a couple of times per day, Pete knew something was amiss.
"Hey Pete," a voice greeted him from the doorway. "How's the trip?"
"Great," Pete replied, recognizing Jack Dalton's easy-going rumble. "Though I'm beginning to wonder if I should have returned sooner. Have you heard from MacGyver lately?"
"No," Jack replied as he stepped inside and closed the door. "I've been out of town for most of the last month. I did have a message that Blair called on Friday asking about Mac, but that's it. What's up?"
Pete quickly updated Jack on Sam's, Blair's, and Ellison's adventures in Chicago. Jack whistled as he shook his head. "Those two are as good at getting into trouble as their dad."
"Speaking of whom, I wonder…" Pete was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Come in."
An attractive, dark-haired woman stepped inside, "Hi Pete."
"Nikki?" Jack greeted in astonishment. He stepped forward to give her a hug. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm the new Assistant Director of Operations," Nikki Carpenter replied with a smile.
"Congratulations!" Jack declared heartily.
"Yes, congratulations and welcome aboard," Pete added, walking over and holding out his hand in Nikki's direction.
"Thank you," Nikki answered, shaking Pete's hand. "I'm looking forward to working with you guys again." She glanced around, noticing that the one person she was really hoping to see was not in this office, either. "Do either of you know where MacGyver is? I was told he was suppose to be around here somewhere, but I haven't tracked him down yet." Is he trying to avoid me?
Pete's face turned worried as Jack explained, "From what we can tell, no one has heard from Mac in nearly two weeks, not even Sam or Blair."
"Who are Sam and Blair?"
A small smile crossed Pete's face, though his eyes were still serious. "Why don't you sit down," he suggested, waving towards the chairs. "Then we can update you on Mac's current situation."
Nikki sat, wondering what exactly her friend had been up to in the past ten years.
Late Monday morning, Cascade, WA airport
Shifting the strap of her large purse to her other shoulder, Lisa swiftly left the arrival gate and started searching for transportation. Mentally reviewing the amount of cash in her possession, she reluctantly decided against a taxi. Instead, she walked over to an information booth to check on buses to the Rainier campus.
Unbeknownst to the young woman, two men were watching her from across the corridor.
Cascade, WA airport, opposite side
Detective James Ellison carefully watched the crowd debarking from the plane just in from Chicago. He had debated about using his sense of smell or hearing to detect the young man he waited for but decided against it. It would be too easy to be overwhelmed with the people and noise of the busy airport, especially without his guide to anchor him. Besides, it wasn't too long before he spotted the tall, lanky young man walking patiently behind two little old ladies. Jim smiled. The same natural athletic grace that characterized the father also showed in the son. It was probably from that same father that his partner, Blair Sandburg, inherited his own athletic agility. Jim suspected that Blair's mother Naomi was more into mediation than sports.
Sean A. Malloy, better known as Sam, smiled when he spotted the detective waiting for him. Swinging his backpack over his shoulder and holding out his other hand, he greeted the older man. "Hi, Jim. I didn't expect to see you here."
Jim gave him one of his rare smiles and shook the offered hand warmly. "Blair had to go to a last minute meeting at the University this morning. So I volunteered to pick you up."
"Thanks," Sam replied as they both turned to walk towards baggage claims.
"How did the wedding go?" Jim asked as they walked.
"Pretty well, considering everything that happened beforehand," Sam replied. "Last night was downright quiet after Terry and Sunny left." Quiet enough for Sam to do a lot of thinking about sentinels with enhanced senses. He covertly shot Jim a glance.
Reading the arrival screens to determine which carousel would have Sam's bags, Jim missed the look. "Have you heard anything from Mac?"
"No." Sam sighed, trying to push back the worry that accompanied thoughts of his father recently. "I take it Blair hasn't heard anything either?"
Jim shook his head. "Nothing."
"It doesn't add up. Dad was planning to join us later this week at the cabin. His last e-mail to me said he'd call Blair in a couple of days with the details. And that was nearly two weeks ago."
Jim breathed deeply, then slowly released it. He, too, was uneasy with the silence. "I know. But now that you're here and I'm caught up at the station, we can concentrate on tracing him." He reached over to ruffle Sam's hair. "I'm sure between a detective, a photojournalist, and an anthropologist, we'll find him."
Monday morning, Phoenix Foundation, CA
It felt strange searching MacGyver's office when she hadn't seen him in years. While Pete was calling Cascade and Dalton was asking around the Foundation, Nikki had accepted the task of checking MacGyver's office for a note or message. Glancing around the spartan room, she first admired the large photo of a mountain scene hanging on one wall, then turned to the desk.
Mac's desk calendar was left on the Wednesday before last. About the time he disappeared. Nikki deciphered the 'Fly to Patrick's' hastily scrawled on the page with a flight number. Quickly scribbling it down, Nikki flipped through the rest of the days to the present. MacGyver apparently had not planned on being at Patrick's for very long. While an appointment for the following day had been postponed, there were five others listed since then with no such notes. Nikki also wrote these down for further follow-up. Frowning, she checked the days for the current week. Reaching 'Thursday', she paused. There was a note listing a plane flight to Cascade. If she remembered right, that was the city where one of his sons lived. Surely MacGyver would not miss a trip to see the son he had only recently found.
Nikki quickly shook out the dark thoughts that wanted to crawl into her mind. Now she had to find an address for this Patrick. Pondering the PC for a moment, she ruled it out since she didn't know the password. Perhaps Pete would know it. She pulled out the center desk drawer, finding only office supplies. Turning to the top drawer on the right, she discovered a leather-bounded folder. Curious, she picked it up and opened the left side of the tri-fold. It held a 8 by 11" color photo of a young man leaning against a wooden fence in a rural setting. The lanky build, fine hair, and warm brown eyes reminded her of MacGyver. A similar laid-back personality echoed from the quiet, relaxed smile. Noting the professional-looking camera in his hands, she realized the young man had to be Sam, the son Pete had said was a photojournalist.
Flipping open the other flap, she discovered a second 8 by 11" photo of another young man. He was perched on a rail with fall foliage in the background, holding what looked like a text book in his hands. Brown curls flowed to his shoulders while deep blue eyes behind wire frames spoke of intelligence and compassion. From the self-conscious smile starting to form on his face, Nikki suspected he had just realized that he was being photographed. While she could see no resemblance to MacGyver, she guessed that he was Mac's other son, Blair.
The center section contained a collection of various sized photos. In one corner was a nice candid shot of MacGyver, Thornton and Dalton. Another corner displayed Sam on a red motor bike. Others included MacGyver standing proudly next to Sam wearing cap and gown; MacGyver laughing with a young woman in similar attire; Blair posed with what looked like African tribesmen; a candid shot of Blair laughing with a tough, older man who looked like a soldier or a cop; MacGyver in a tux standing with Penny Parker in a wedding dress; a group shot of the Colton family at a picnic. Nikki realized that most of the important people of MacGyver's life were represented.
However, what drew her eyes was the center photo. It was of MacGyver with his arms around Sam on the left and Blair on the right. The wide smile of pride and joy on his face told her all she needed to know on how he felt about his new-found sons.
"Sam gave that to Mac last winter as a birthday gift," Jack Dalton softly explained. As Nikki looked up with guilt at having been caught snooping, Jack smiled. "Since Mac didn't have many pictures of Sam and practically none of Blair, he treasures it."
"They're very good," Nikki complimented, "especially this large one of, I'd guess, Blair?"
"Blair," Jack confirmed. "Sam took it up at his cabin near Cascade. In fact, I think Sam took most of these."
"This center one?" Nikki pointed.
Jack chuckled. "No, I'd guess Ellison took that one." He pointed to the picture of Blair and the tough-looking man. "That's Jim. He's the police detective who's like a big brother to Blair. The center one was taken shortly after Murdoc had chased Sam and Blair all over the Colorado mountains last winter, nearly killing them and Mac. Jim was in full protection mode right after that."
Nikki shuddered. She still had nightmares of Murdoc roaring through the cabin with a flame thrower and chasing them on Widowmaker mountain. Then she forced her mind back to the matter at hand. "Jack, MacGyver made a note that he was flying to 'Patrick's'. Do you know what he could have meant?"
Jack frowned. "We have an old college buddy named Patrick Hudson. I think he's a history professor down in Florida somewhere."
"Then let's start there." Nikki took another look at the pictures. "Did you know Mac has a flight scheduled for the end of the week to Cascade?"
Jack paused a moment. "Right, Mac was going to meet Sam and Blair at Sam's cabin." He exchanged looks with Nikki. "Mac would not miss that trip willingly."
Ellison's truck, Cascade, WA
Again, Sam was covertly studying Jim as they drove to the University. He thought he was being subtle until Jim matter-of-factly stated, "What's going on, Sam?"
Damn, I'm caught. Guess I might as well jump in. Taking a deep breath, Sam asked, "Jim, how did you know that Ms. Delmonte was the bomber?"
Jim shrugged as he made a turn. "She was wearing the pin you described."
"But you were several yards away from her," Sam pressed. "Also, how did you know there was a bomb in that building in Evermore?"
Tension suddenly stiffened Jim's body. "What are you suggesting?"
A more timid man might have backed off at the granite face and cold eyes. However, Sam, the photojournalist, was trained in taking brick walls head on. "You seem to know things that you couldn't possibly know."
"I'm a trained detective, Sam. I know how to make deductions."
"There are deductions and there are hunches. But this is more than that. You're not guessing, you KNOW things."
"You trying to say I'm psychic?"
Man, that's a good one. Wonder if Jim's used that ruse before? "No, it's not like you can see into the future. It's more like you can see or hear things other people can't."
With a deep sigh, Jim pulled into a nearby parking lot and shut off the engine. He solemnly stared out the windshield. "What are you saying, Sam?"
"While we were in Chicago, I overheard Blair and Fraser discussing some work Blair had done before on people with enhanced senses. Fraser had said that Blair's 'Holy Grail' was someone with all five senses enhanced and that Blair must have found that person because he wasn't searching any more." Jim laid his head on the steering wheel. "You're Blair's Sentinel, aren't you? This person with all his senses enhanced?"
Without lifting his suddenly swirling head, Jim quietly asked, "Why aren't you asking your brother these questions?"
"Because Blair apparently is protecting this person. Since it isn't his secret, it wouldn't be fair to ask him."
"Actually, Blair's in about as deep as I am." Several issues jumbled around inside Jim's brain, but there was one that he had to deal with now. He turned to face Sam. "Would you be willing to keep this secret?"
Sam's sincerity shone through his eyes. "You're practically family, Jim, and I know you wouldn't use your gift to hurt people. If you did, Blair wouldn't be involved. I won't tell anyone."
"Okay." Jim took a moment to close his eyes and think. "Blair really should be involved in this discussion. Why don't we pick him up, get some food, and then the three of us can talk this out?"
Sam thought a moment, then nodded his head. "Okay, as long as you answer one question now. Are you Blair's Sentinel?"
Jim sighed and turned the key in the ignition. "Yes."
Near noon, Hargrove Hall, Rainier University
Blair tossed his notepad onto his desk and plopped into the chair. He hated two hour meetings which accomplished practically nothing. There were too many things Blair juggled that were essential, so tying up time for something less than fruitful was frustrating. Especially when one of those things should have been to pick up his brother and start his vacation. Blair glanced at the clock. Jim should be bringing Sam soon, as long as there wasn't a delay at the airport.
The only problem was whether they should head for the cabin before finding out what was going on with MacGyver. Blair tapped a pencil on his desk as his thoughts turned inward. He had only known his father for a little over a year. During that time, Blair had come to realize that Mac, like Naomi, was a free agent. He traveled the world at a moment's notice and rarely stayed in one place very long. Yet unlike his mother, Mac always managed to keep in fairly close contact. Rarely did a week go by that Blair didn't at least receive an e-mail. If more time did pass, Mac usually mentioned there would be a delay ahead of time. From what Sam had said, Mac did the same thing with him, too.
Only now it had been well over two weeks since either son had heard from MacGyver. His own insecurity suggested that Mac might be tired of playing concerned father. Yet in his heart, Blair knew that was wrong. After all, another thing he had learned about his father was that responsibility was practically Mac's middle name. The older man felt bad enough for missing out on his sons' childhoods. He was doing everything he could to be a part of their lives now. He most certainly wouldn't ignore Sam in trouble. All the silence just wasn't adding up, increasing Blair's worries for his Dad.
With a sigh, Blair shook the glum thoughts out of his head. He might as well check his e-mail while waiting for Jim and Sam.
A few minutes later, a soft female voice asked, "Excuse me?"
Looking up from the computer screen, Blair spotted a slender young woman in shorts and a T-shirt standing in his doorway. Guessing she was a student, Blair questioned, "May I help you?"
She shifted uncomfortably on her feet, her long brown braid swinging slightly. "Hi. I'm looking for a Blair Sandburg. Are you him?"
"Yes, I am," Blair replied, pulling out a smile for the nervous girl as he stood up. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, this is going to sound rather silly," she answered, moving her hands around then reaching into her large bag. "I accidentally ran into a friend of mine, and he asked that I give this to you."
Blair relaxed slightly when the hand pulled out a computer disc. "Do you know what's on it?" he asked as he took the disc and glanced at it. He placed it on his desk as he turned back to the young woman.
"I haven't a clue," she replied apologetically. "We literally ran into each other in Miami, then MacGyver acted like he didn't even recognize me."
"MacGyver!" Blair's full attention was now on the young woman. "When did you see him?!?"
Surprised, the young woman was just starting to open her mouth when a menacing voice behind her growled, "That doesn't matter. You give us the disc now and you will both live."
Blair and the girl quickly turned to find two large men in the doorway, both holding guns on them. Blair carefully stepped in front of the girl, holding his left hand out in a placating gesture. "Hey, man, no problem. No need for anyone to get upset here." He slowly leaned back and picked up a disc, then offered it to the first henchman while warily watching the gun.
The man swiftly grabbed the disc. Turning, he and his companion dashed down the empty hall.
"Damn," the young woman nearly cried. "After all this, I can't believe I lost it!"
"You didn't," Blair replied as he slammed the door, turning to a set of shelves nearby. "They now have a copy of Rainier's Forms and Procedures for Fall of '98."
A large smile stretched across the young woman's face as she quickly joined Blair in moving the heavy shelves in front of the door. "Awesome! I was afraid I'd let MacGyver down."
Blair leaned back on the shelves as he grabbed his cell phone. "Nah, Sam and I've been worried about Mac. No way I'd let any message from him be stolen before I could read it." He pushed the speed dial, then looked back to the messenger. She was rather pretty in an unconventional way, though a bit young for him. "By the way, what is your name?"
Her smiled widened. "Lisa, Lisa Woodman."
"Hi Lisa," Blair returned with a smile of his own that quickly turned to a frown. "Damn!" He quickly disconnected and hit another button as he walked over to his PC.
"What's wrong?" Lisa asked as she leaned against the shelves.
"My partner's cell phone is off," Blair swiftly explained as he slipped the disc into the drive.
"I'm a consultant for the police assigned to one of the detectives." Then he turned back to the keyboard and started talking into the phone. "Simon? It's Blair… I just had two guys with guns in my office…No, no one hurt… Big, bad and ugly, like usual…They tried to take a computer disc that Mac sent me…No, I gave them another one…No, I'm just looking at it - Damn! It's encoded…A friend of his dropped it off…Haven't had a chance to talk with her, either…No, I think Jim forgot to recharge the battery…"
A pounding sound echoed from the office door. "Sandburg! What's with the door?"
"He's here now, Simon. Yeah, see you in a few." Blair closed up the phone and yelled, "Just a minute, Jim!" Blair quickly turned to move the shelves back, Lisa lending a hand.
"Sandburg, what's going on here?" Jim demanded as he walked in. He glanced at the shelves he had heard moving around.
"Two gunmen tried to steal a disc Mac sent me, but I gave them a different one," Blair replied.
"You've heard from Dad?" Sam eagerly questioned as he stepped into the room behind Jim.
"Sam!" Lisa exclaimed.
"Lisa?" Sam replied in surprise, taking a couple steps to greet the young woman with a hug. Jim sent Blair a questioning glance, Blair returning a confused shrug.
"What are you doing here?" Lisa asked as she stepped back.
"I'm visiting Blair. What are you doing here? I thought you were still in South America."
"The teacher I was subbing for returned last week. I flew home yesterday, but ran into your dad at the airport."
"Is he all right?"
"I don't know." Lisa shook her head, worry deepening her eyes. "He wouldn't let me say his name and he was pretending he didn't know me. I didn't find the disc until I was on the plane." The worry in Sam's eyes increased as well.
"Sam? Hold on a minute," Jim called out, trying to gain control of the situation after consulting with Blair. He turned to the young woman, noting her white face. "Miss? Why don't you sit down here," Jim patted the arm of Blair's desk chair, "then you can start from the beginning and tell us the whole story."
As Lisa sat down, Blair whispered to Sam, "What's wrong?"
"Dad has known Lisa for years and adores her like a daughter. He wouldn't drag her into something unless he was desperate," Sam whispered worriedly. Blair's own worry rose another notch. The glance Jim sent him also reflected that worry. He had heard Sam's whisper as well.
"...So I looked through the University directory in the phone booth next to the bus stop and found Mr. Sandburg's name and office number. I grabbed a map of the campus and came here. I honestly didn't see anyone following me. I thought I'd lost my tail in LA." Looking up, Lisa noticed that they had been joined by a very tall, nicely dressed black man and a slim white woman with long, auburn hair.
Sam comfortingly squeezed her shoulder as the tough-looking man who had come in with him asked, "Were these men different from the ones you saw in L.A.?"
"Yes. I've never seen these guys before."
"Someone called ahead," Sandburg suggested. Everyone else nodded in agreement.
"So what happened here, Sandburg?" the tall black man asked.
When Lisa looked at him questioningly, Sam realized no one had made introductions. "Lisa Woodman, this is Captain Simon Banks with the Cascade PD. This is Detective Jim Ellison," he indicated the other man with his hand. "He works under Captain Banks and Blair works with them. And this, " as he indicated the woman, "is Inspector. Megan Conner. She's an exchange officer from Australia." Megan gave her a friendly smile and a 'G'day'.
Lisa had politely greeted everyone with a smile and a nod of her head. Once introductions were complete, Blair quickly launched into a lively but thorough report of what had happened in his office. This gave Lisa time to quickly study all the new people. With the exception of Mr. Sandburg, none of them looked like the normal crowd she'd expect with MacGyver. Then she realized her friend didn't really HAVE a certain crowd he hung with. She'd seen him friendly with everyone from scientists to bail bondsmen to bikers. However, she was glad that it was to this particular group that MacGyver had sent her. She felt much safer within their midst.
As Blair finished, Jim asked, "So where is this disc?"
Blair patted his pocket. "Right here, safe and sound until I can take it to the loft."
"The loft? I thought you said it's encoded," Simon pointed out.
Blair shifted on his feet. "Mac's been working on some special encryption techniques that I've been testing out for him. Since he specifically told Lisa to bring it to me instead of Sam or someone at Phoenix, I'm assuming one of the algorithms I have should work."
Mac's been working on a way to prevent Blair's research from being hacked into, thus keeping my abilities secret. Jim felt another surge of gratitude towards Blair's father. MacGyver had always been there for them, even before the issue of Blair's paternity was raised. They had to rescue him, if Mac needed rescuing.
"Well," Megan drawled as she glanced at the clock. "Why don't you boys go home and work on the disc while Lisa and I pick us up some lunch?"
"Oh, you don't have to…" Jim began, not sure he wanted to put Lisa at the mercy of Megan's driving skills.
"As you would say, no big deal. Besides, it gives us a chance for some girl talk. I'm dying to find out more about Sandy's family."
"Sandy's family?" Lisa questioned, having no idea what the older woman was referring to.
"Sandy is Megan's nickname for Sandburg," Jim explained.
Lisa was still confused. "Why would I know anything about Mr. Sandburg's family?"
Sam immediately realized the problem. "Ah, Lisa, Blair's my brother."
"Really? Cool. You never said you had a brother."
"Um, actually, we found out last winter that Dad is Blair's dad, too." Sam shot a reassuring glance to Blair, who was becoming very uncomfortable with the current topic.
Shocked, Lisa turned to Blair. "YOU'RE MacGyver's son, TOO?" At Blair's embarrassed nod, Lisa softly muttered something. As Jim's eyes widened at the words only he could hear, she stood up and offered her hand. "Well, hi Blair. Any son of MacGyver's is definitely a friend of mine."
A few minutes later, Blair opened Jim's truck door and winced when he saw Megan peel out of the parking lot. "Think we should have warned Lisa?"
"Nah, Lisa can handle it," Sam replied as he followed his brother inside the cab.
Jim shut the driver's side door then took a deep breath.
"What's up, Jim?" Blair asked, reading the subtle signs of stress on his sentinel's face. He wondered if it had to do with what Lisa had muttered. Though considering Jim looked like he had been ready to burst out laughing for a second, Blair suspected it must have been good, not bad.
"WE have to talk," Jim replied pointedly, staring out the windshield yet not turning on the engine.
"About what?" Blair asked, confused. Swiftly, he discounted the encryption work since he knew Jim would approve of it. It couldn't be about his confrontation with the crooks, since Blair hadn't provoked them. He truly didn't believe Lisa was lying. What could it be?
Sam shifted uncomfortably. "Jim, I didn't mean to get Blair into trouble."
"Huh?" Now Blair was really confused, turning to look at Jim, then Sam, then back to Jim.
Jim sighed. "He's not in trouble, Sam. Actually, you probably should have heard about this before. Blair's been on my case to tell my own brother about it."
"Tell about what?" Blair questioned, though an unsettled thought sunk into the pit of his stomach. There was only one thing he'd been bugging Jim to tell Steven. "Wait a minute. You don't mean..."
"Yep, Sam's figured it out. Though apparently some conversation between you and Fraser is what clued him in."
Blair felt the accusing glance hit him. Jim's anger wasn't about Sam figuring out the sentinel stuff. He wanted to know just how much Fraser knew. "Honest, Jim, Fraser doesn't know it's you. He was one of my test subjects and figured out that I had found a full sentinel. He didn't press any further because he understood the need for secrecy. I never told him you were that sentinel."
Sam held his breath as his brother and Ellison stared at each other, silent communication sizzling the air in between them. Then a slight smile crossed Jim's face. "Which ones?"
Back in tune with his sentinel, Blair knew what he was asking. "Hearing, taste and smell. Fraser was my only one with three. I had kinda hoped that he'd have the other two, but both his senses of touch and sight were within normal range. I suspect that the three he has were strengthened due to his time alone in the Northwest Territories."
"Does he need a guide?"
"No, his three aren't as strong as yours. I suspect the full package is required to reach your level."
"Guide?" Sam questioned, sensing the storm was over and it was safe to ask questions again.
Blair looked at Jim. Jim nodded. "He should know. You're a guide, Mac's a latent guide, so Sam or his future children could be guides as well. It could be just as genetic as the senses."
"Wait a minute. You're a guide? Dad's a guide? What's a guide?"
After sharing another glance with Jim, Blair sighed and rested his head against the dashboard. "We have to talk. Man, do we have to talk."
Monday afternoon, Ellison's Loft
Jim opened the loft door, giving his friend a faint smile. "Hi, Simon."
"Any luck with the disc?" Simon asked quietly. Stepping inside, he noted Sandburg in the living area, tapping away at his laptop resting on the coffee table. However, the other young man was not hanging off Blair's shoulder as he had expected. "Where's Malloy?"
Jim waved towards the balcony. "He's out there thinking. Sandburg only started on the disc a couple minutes ago."
Simon's eyes narrowed, realizing there was more. "What does he have to think about?"
Jim sighed. "He figured it out, Simon. Or at least enough of it that Blair and I had to tell him the whole deal."
Eyes narrowing further, Simon asked, "What did he figure out? Not the..." Simon's voice trailed off.
"Yep, the Sentinel thing."
"Damn." Simon glanced out to the balcony. "As if he didn't have enough to think about with MacGyver missing. Oh well, at least Mac doesn't know." Then he caught a subtle shift pass over Jim's face. "Wait a minute... Are you saying that MAC knows about this, too?"
With a shrug, Jim replied, "Mac figured it out soon after the Galileo incident."
Simon rubbed his face. "Why am I NOT surprised." He took another glance at the figure standing on the balcony. "How is Sam taking it?"
"All right. He said it explained a lot. I think he's currently juggling everything we've told him into some kind of working knowledge. He's like Mac and Blair in that respect. They just don't learn facts, they process them into something flexible they can use later."
"Well, I've talked with Thornton..."
"Wait a minute, Simon. I hear Conner and Lisa coming." Jim turned back to the door.
"Sorry Jim, we didn't pick up any 'Mr. Tube Steak', so I hope you like Cashew Chicken," Conner greeted him.
A few minutes later, everyone but Blair had filled up a plate from the collection of boxes Megan and Lisa had brought. Taking the second plate Jim had filled, Sam carried it over to his brother. "Any luck, Indy?"
"Just about there," Blair replied absently as he stared at the screen, tapping at the keyboard. As Sam sat on the armrest and picked up a pea pod with his chopsticks, he witnessed the screen suddenly shift into a pale green. "All right! It worked!" Blair crowed excitedly.
Everyone gathered around as Blair swiftly paged through one of the documents. "What is it?" Jim asked.
"It looks like some historian's research. Dates and places indicate late 1800s, western U.S." Blair sat back, face wrinkled in puzzlement. "It doesn't look like it would be all that secretive, but there's a lot of information here. I can't really say until I've read through it."
"It does fit with what Pete Thornton said," Simon added.
"You talked with Pete?" Sam asked.
Simon nodded. "Apparently, Jack Dalton and another lady found some notes indicating that your father flew to Florida to visit some old college friend. Jack says the friend is a historian."
"A planned visit?" Jim asked.
"No, the signs indicate a last minute trip."
"That sounds like MacGyver," Lisa interjected. "He's always dropping everything to help a friend in trouble."
"That's what Thornton said," Simon agreed. "Dalton and this Nikki Carpenter are continuing to dig to see what they can find out."
"Nikki Carpenter?" Lisa asked. "I don't think I've heard that name before."
"It sounds familiar to me," Sam replied, puzzled.
"Me, too," Blair added. "Wait a minute, didn't Mac say something about her and Murdoc?"
"It was a Nikki who was with him when Murdoc came after them with a flame thrower," Jim replied, remembering the story Mac had told them at Harry's cabin.
"That's right, when Murdoc torched Pete's cabin near Widowmaker," Sam replied.
"Well, hopefully they can find out something useful in Florida." Jim glanced at the files listed on the screen. "Chief, why don't we hook up your laptop to the printer and make hard copies? If we all help read, the faster we'll find out what Mac was protecting."
Monday afternoon, Phoenix Foundation, CA
"...Do you think Blair can figure it out? It's not exactly his field." A knock on the door interrupted Thornton's conversation on the phone. "Just a minute, Captain. Come in."
"Hi Pete," Jack greeted him as he and Nikki entered the room.
Warning bells rang in Pete's head at the subdued tone. "Is this about Mac?"
"Not directly, but we now have more information," Nikki replied, trying to ease the fear in her boss's face.
Her efforts failed miserably, since Pete could tell the news was not good. "Just a minute, I have Simon Banks on the phone."
"Why don't you put him on speaker. That way he can pass the news to Blair," Jack suggested. While Blair hadn't had the time to grow as close to his father as Sam had, Jack suspected the big-hearted kid was just as worried. Not that their news would ease either his or Pete's concerns, but it might be better if it came in person from a respected friend.
Pete paused, making a quick decision. "All right." He quickly told Banks what was up and placed him on speaker.
"Hi Simon," Jack called out, hoping he sounded cheerier than he felt.
"Hi, Dalton. What did you find out?"
Jack and Nikki exchanged worried glances. "From what we've been able to gather so far, Mac left for Florida a week ago Thursday to see an old college chum of ours, Patrick Hudson. Rick was having some problems with threatening messages. We haven't been able to talk with anyone who can tell us more than that, yet."
"What about Hudson or Mac?" Pete asked, growing more concerned.
Nikki took a deep breath. "We've learned that Mac had made plane reservations to return here for himself and Dr. Hudson for a week ago today. Neither made the flight. In addition, no one has seen Mac since a week ago yesterday."
"What about Dr. Hudson?" Simon asked, getting a bad feeling.
Jack swallowed hard. "Rick was found near a gas station last Saturday night, nearly beaten to death. He is currently in Intensive Care."
Pete reflectively closed his eyes as his heart sank. It sounded like Mac was in deep trouble again.
"Actually, someone HAS seen MacGyver as recent as yesterday," Simon inserted, detecting the gloom in the Phoenix office. He quickly updated them on Lisa and the disc. "Sandburg and the others are at the loft working on the files now."
Nikki gave a sigh of relief. As long as Mac was alive and mobile, she had hope. After all, she'd seen him get out of difficult situations before.
Jack's worry shifted to new targets. "Is Ellison with them?" When Simon confirmed that Jim was also at the loft, Jack relaxed. He was extremely fond of Sam and was growing to like Blair more all the time. He had a lot of faith that Blair's Rottweiler of a friend would keep them safe.
Three hours later, Ellison's loft
Jim took a quick look around the loft and sighed. At least four of his house rules had been broken that afternoon. Papers lay in piles with dirty plates and empty glasses scattered throughout the living area. Oh well, he'd gladly give up his neat home for a couple of days if it meant finding MacGyver. While Conner and Simon had to return to work, he and the three twenty-something members of the search team had been pouring over the files from the disc. Blair was sprawled across the rug on his stomach, surrounded by papers and concentrating on his laptop in front of him. Sam slouched on the couch with his feet on the cushions, reading the papers in his hands and making notes on a pad of paper. Jim was grateful that he at least had taken off his Adidas, which lay haphazardly under the coffee table. Lisa was also busy reading papers, sitting cross-legged in the big chair near the balcony doors. Jim smiled again when he thought of what she had mumbled in Blair's office. There was no doubt in his mind now that Mac was close to the young woman. In fact, Jim suspected that these three were among the most important people in the world to MacGyver. Which meant he had to keep them all safe and on track.
"Okay, kids, let's see what we got," Jim announced as he walked over to the other chair where he had neatly laid his papers and notes. Blair raised an eyebrow at the word 'kids', but did not break his concentration on the screen.
"Well," Lisa replied absently. "My stuff seems to be about a small town called, of all things, Fortuity. It details the politics, businesses, families, etc. from 1868 to 1900."
"Really?" Sam shuffled through his notes. "Mine is on robberies thought to have been committed by the Hanson gang from 1872 through 1879. But Fortuity, Wyoming, was mentioned. Here it is. The last robbery known to be committed by this gang was there."
"Which is outlined in my notes," Jim added. "This has the sequence of events, all the eyewitness reports, details from the posse that searched for them, even a report from a Pinkerton agent. Almost everything's here."
"Everything except a list of what was stolen, right Jim?" Blair called out from the floor.
"Right," Jim confirmed. "The information on the take is pretty sketchy."
"Oh, man!" Blair declared excitedly. He rose to stand, bouncing on his toes. "Mine is where Dr. Hudson puts it together. The bank gave a dollar amount lost, but exactly what was stolen was rather vague."
"Oh yeah," Lisa replied. "I remember that one. Apparently, everything from silver coins to jewelry to land deeds to water rights were rumored to be in it."
"Fueled by the fact that the gang was never heard from again." Sam sat up, almost as excited as his brother. "No one knows if they retired with the goods or if something happened to them."
"The posse thought they might have been lost in a flash flood," Jim reported from his notes.
"Yeah, but Hudson thought they might have stashed the goods somewhere BEFORE the water got them." Blair waved his hands enthusiastically. "He had taken a few trips out there and thought he had figured out where the stash may be hidden. If there were documents and if they have survived, they could be of great historical value!"
"Or if the stash is jewels or coins, they could be worth a lot of money now," Lisa added.
"Enough to make it worth someone's while to steal Dr. Hudson's notes." Sam exchanged glances with Blair, wondering if that was why their father had suddenly flown out to Florida.
"Or depending on the documents, someone might NOT want them found," Jim pointed out. "Usually if something is stolen, everyone is screaming about what exactly was lost. For a whole town to be so quiet suggests something was up."
Lisa looked around the room, eyes worried. "But the real question is whether any of this gets us any closer to finding MacGyver." They all paused a moment as worry intruded on their discoveries.
"Blair, do you think you could figure out where Hudson planned to search from the notes you have?" Jim asked thoughtfully.
"With some help from those of you not map-impaired, sure."
Jim pinned the three with his serious gaze. "I suggest we all memorize the locations, then secure the disc and the printouts. That way, all this information is safe and if we have to, we can see if that's where Mac went."
Everyone agreed and sat down with Blair to look at the data.
Across the street
"No, sir, it turned out this isn't the right disc…No sir, by the time we realized the error, there were cops all over the place… She delivered it to a guy in Anthropology… Yes sir, Anthropology, not History… His name is Blair Sandburg… We followed him home, but there are still a lot of people… No, sir… Yes, sir… Yes, sir… Good day, sir." The tall white man who had taken the disc from Blair closed the cell phone. He turned back to the other man. "Well, brother, we don't get paid unless we get the right disc."
"Then we wait," the other replied.
An hour later, Ellison's loft
"…So that is all the news they had a few hours ago." Simon studied the three young people for a moment. Lisa looked close to tears. Sam's face was tense and white. Blair was outwardly calm, laying his hands on each younger person's back, offering support. Only Blair's eyes gave away his fear. Simon continued, "I talked to the police chief down there handling the case. They believe Dr. Hudson was beaten to obtain information. The evidence points to a third party leaving him at that gas station."
"Mac did," Blair softly stated, sure of his words. "He left his friend someplace safe and led the people who hurt him away."
"But why was MacGyver at the Miami airport?" Lisa asked. "Didn't he get away?"
"The police are now looking into it. They promised to contact me once they have more information."
Ellison's jaw had clenched tighter as he listened to Simon's report. He glanced at his guide. Only a sentinel could hear the increased heartbeat as Blair fought to keep his fears in check. Jim and Simon traded glances.
Feeling the tension, Conner looked around and realized there was very little to be done at that moment. It was time for more practical considerations. "Lisa, have you given any thought as to where you will sleep tonight?"
Lisa blushed. "Actually, I didn't plan on staying in Cascade very long. I didn't even bring my overnight bag with me."
Megan gave her a big smile. "Then you're coming home with me. I can rustle up something for you, and we can even stop by the mall if you like."
"Mall?" Lisa's eyes lit up. "Do you know how long it's been since I've shopped at a mall?"
"Then let's go."
Lisa suddenly paused, glancing at Sam in concern. "But what if there's news about MacGyver?"
"We can call you on Megan's cell phone," Blair replied, wanting to put the smile back on her face. "Go on, buy some things and see what you've missed in the last year."
"Okay," Lisa replied as Megan led her to the door, "but call me!"
"Just go easy on the credit cards!" Sam called after her. Lisa wrinkled her nose at him before she walked across the threshold.
Blair quietly shut the door behind them, briefly placing his head on the solid wood. Jim walked over to him. "You okay?"
"Just worried," Blair softly replied. Deep blue eyes filled with that worry rose to meet the concerned ice blue ones above him. "It isn't like Mac to be held this long against his will."
Jim reached over to lay his hands on Blair's shoulders. Rubbing the tense muscles, he softly pointed out, "That doesn't mean Mac's hurt like Dr. Hudson. There may be more going on here than we know about. We'll find him."
Across the room, Sam watched Jim comfort his brother. He had sensed the strong bond between the two men before, but now he understood it better. It was an ancient bond of men honor-bound to stand together to protect their tribe. Jim's statement about not being able to handle losing Blair had new meaning. Sam was again feeling that touch of envy when Jim looked over his way. "You doing okay, Sam?"
The warmth in those eyes made him feel included, part of the inner circle Jim drew around those he cared about. In that instant, he belonged. "Yeah, I'm okay."
Feeling the stress, Simon piped up, "I do have a question for you, Jim."
Puzzled, Jim stepped back into the living area, Blair on his heels. "What?"
"What exactly did Miss Woodman say in Blair's office that just about had you in stitches?" Blair and Sam also turned to Jim, curious as well.
A smirk crossed Jim's face before he could stop it. "Hey, now Lisa didn't plan on anyone hearing that comment. It wouldn't be polite to repeat it."
"Jiiimmm," Blair wheedled. "Come on, man. Politeness never stopped you before."
"Ah, but I like Lisa. I don't want to embarrass her."
Sam smiled, shaking his head. "Jim, Lisa's a pretty straightforward girl. She's had to be to stand up to her powerful dad when she's had to."
"Huh?" Blair turned to his brother.
Sam chuckled. "Lisa's dad is a self-made millionaire. She's got a rather large allowance and trust fund, though she usually doesn't act like it. I think that's partly Dad's influence."
"It sounded like she and Mac are close," Jim replied.
Seeing the smirk trying to sneak out again, Blair pressed, "Why do you say that, Jim? Is it because of what she said?"
"Ellison, stop keeping us in suspense," Simon demanded. "Surely what the young woman said couldn't be that bad."
Jim only snorted, struggling to keep his mirth contained.
"Jim!!!!" the other three shouted.
"Okay, okay." Jim took a moment to compose himself. "What Lisa said was 'And he had the nerve to give ME the safe sex lecture?'"
Sam and Blair paused a moment, remembering what was being said at the time.
Then Simon snickered. "MACGYVER, the quiet, self-effacing, polite man we all know, gave that sweet young lady the safe sex lecture?" He and Jim looked at each other and promptly lost it. Soon Blair and Sam had joined in.
They all laughed hard, releasing some of the strain of the last few days. "I TOLD you Dad thought of her as a daughter," Sam managed to squeak out.
2 am Tuesday morning, outside Ellison's loft
"It's time to earn our money, brother."
"I still wish we knew how many people were inside."
"Doesn't matter. We know that big black guy is gone, and he's probably the detective finishing up the report from earlier. There are probably only a couple wimpy college kids left. Trust me, it will be a piece of cake."
Inside Ellison's loft
Jim's eyes suddenly popped open. The darkness of the room indicated it was still night. The sentinel opened up his senses, searching for what had awakened him. Carefully, he filtered out the sound of fans humming in the steamy night. Both Sam, below on the couch, and Blair, in his room, were sleeping, filling the loft with their steady heartbeats and deep breathing. Another soft noise intruded. Someone was cutting the security chain on the front door.
Swiftly, yet silently, Jim rolled out of bed and slipped his gun out from under the pillow next to him. The sentinel's eyes dilated as he glided over to the stairs, searching for the intruder. Leaning against the wall, Jim spotted two dark figures sneaking through the opened door. He brought his gun up to cover them, barking, "FREEZE, CASCADE PD!"
Instead of freezing, the two figures scattered. One vaulted the couch, colliding with Sam who had jerked up to a sitting position. Both fell to the floor in a tangle against the coffee table. The other dashed past Blair's room.
Jim held his fire, not wanting to accidentally shoot Sam or Blair. He raced down the stairs to the living area. "Sam?"
Sam didn't answer, as he was struggling to fully wake up and get away from the man on top of him. In the faint light streaming in the glass doors, he spotted a flash off a knife the man held. Going on instinct, Sam made a martial arts move, managing to throw the man off over his head and scrambling out of the way. The hard smack against the floor winded the intruder long enough for Jim to walk over and point his gun at the man's face. "I said freeze."
~Whack~ ~HOWL~ Jim turned to look behind him when he saw a knife, embedded in the cabinet next to his shoulder, still waving from the force of its flight.
Then Sam finally fumbled his way to a lamp. The light revealed Blair, baseball bat in hand, glaring at the second intruder whimpering on the floor holding his arm. "The man said FREEZE."
"Sam, you okay?" Jim questioned, sparing a swift glance in the young man's direction.
Sam was rubbing his shoulder as he studied the intruders. "Yeah."
"Chief, you okay?"
"Peachy," Blair replied dryly as he continued to stare at the man on the floor.
"Sam, call 911," Jim requested. As Sam picked up the phone, Jim walked around to the other side of his prisoner so he could keep an eye on Blair's as well. Kneeling next to the intruder, Jim yanked the nylon mask off his face.
"Hey, that's one of the guys who took the disc off Lisa and me." Blair reached over to pull the mask off the one he had whacked. "This is the other one."
"Now, where have I seen you two before?" Jim questioned, studying the men intently. "Oh yeah, the Torrance case. We've got locals here, Chief."
Blair pondered their intruders. "So, the question is, who hired them?" Neither man answered, continuing to glare. "That's too bad, you refusing to talk. You see, the Cascade PD doesn't take very kindly to people breaking into a fellow officer's home."
"Fellow officer?" The man on the floor squeaked. The other glared at him.
"That's right," Jim replied as his voice turned menacing. "The police also take a very dim view of fellow officers being threatened with knives. This is my home, I'm a police detective, and I'm sure we'll find a nice set of prints on that knife sticking out over there." Sam, setting the phone back down, sent a startled glance at the knife in question. "So I suggest you start talking, beginning with who hired you."
The two men sent frightened looks at each other. Without further prodding, they both started babbling.
"Yes sir, they were caught… No, they know nothing that can be tied back to us… The disc is still in Mr. Sandburg's possession… Yes, sir, we'll get Mr. Sandburg and the disc tomorrow."
Six hours later, Ellison's loft
Blair leaned his forehead against the blender as it churned, wishing it wasn't morning yet. Between his worry for MacGyver and the excitement the night before, he hadn't gotten much sleep. Unfortunately, while the local thugs had told all they knew, it wasn't much. Just a phone number and a P. O. box. Oh, and that their employer wanted that disc badly. Good thing it was under lock and key in Simon's office.
Sam walked into the living area, rubbing down his wet hair with a towel. "Morning," he yawned.
"Yeah," Blair replied, trying to work open his eyelids as he turned off the noisy appliance.
Sam looked up and spotted the green liquid swirling to a stop in the blender. "Ah, Blair, what is that stuff?"
"This? Algae shake." Blair popped off the top to show its contents to his brother. "Want some?"
Sam's face started to turn as green as the shake when he caught a whiff of the obnoxious odor. "Oh man, he's got to you!"
"Dad's got you drinking that gunk, too!"
"Why not?" Blair shrugged. "It's good for you."
Sam stared at him in round-eyed horror. "Oh man, you're even starting to sound like him."
"Indy, if you start quoting Harry right now, I'm outta here."
"Sounds like I arrived just in time." The brothers turned to find Jim walking through the doorway, a bag from the nearby bakery in his hand. "Like buttermilk donuts, Sam?" He opened the bag and held it out.
"As long as you don't put them in a blender first," Sam replied eagerly, walking over and reaching into the bag. "Please, Jim, don't you ever convert to health drinks, too. I don't think I could take it."
"No chance of that," Jim replied, wrinkling his nose as he glanced at his roommate's breakfast. "I'd never drink any of that smelly crap."
Sam studied Jim a moment. Man, if that stuff smells awful to me, it must be really disgusting to Jim.
"Hey, do you guys have any idea how much fat is in one of those?"
"Yeah, Dad's preached that sermon before," Sam replied. "It still smells and tastes good."
"Come on, you two. You eat that junk, you'll both die of a heart attack in ten to twenty years. Drink this and you'll live for another fifty."
Jim raised an eyebrow. "Will I live another fifty years, or will it just SEEM that long."
"Jim," Blair rolled his eyes at his roommate's denseness. "I told you there's several essential…"
"Can it, Chief. That stuff smells too bad to be healthy." Jim turned to the coffee pot, pouring himself and Sam a cup of the fresh brew. Blair simply shrugged and poured his algae shake into a glass. It was an old argument and Blair was too tired to fight it again.
"Any word from Captain Banks?" Sam asked.
Jim sipped his coffee. "No more news from the men we caught last night. Their sole involvement seems to be trying to steal the disc."
"So our only lead is still Fortuity," Blair concluded.
Jim shrugged. "Dalton and Ms. Carpenter flew into Miami yesterday. They're suppose to call Simon in another hour with an update." Jim inspected his disheveled roommate. "I suggest you get moving so we can be there, too."
Blair shrugged and drank another large swallow of his drink. "You leave any hot water?" he asked Sam.
"Hot water?" Sam asked innocently.
"Man, this just isn't going to be my day," Blair muttered as he sat his half finished drink on the counter and walked to his bedroom. Once he was in the bathroom, both Jim and Sam looked at the frothy green liquid left in the glass, then traded questioning looks. At Jim's consenting smile, Sam picked up Blair's glass, held it at arms length, and walked over to the sink.
An hour later, Simon Banks' office
"…According to the airport records, a light plane headed for Wyoming left Miami about half an hour after Lisa's flight." Jack Dalton's voice vibrated over the speaker.
"Who's the owner?" Jim asked.
"A dummy corporation called Aqua Sources. Nikki's trying to track it down now."
"Any more luck on why someone would want the disc?" Blair asked.
"Just bits and pieces. Rick's computer has been wiped clean. He told his assistant that Mac was helping him to secure it. She also said that Rick's journal containing all his notes is missing, too."
Sam looked up, puzzled. "But if they have the journal, why would they need the disc?"
Jack chuckled. "Sounds like it's in Rick's shorthand. We all had a tough time in college trying to decipher Rick's class notes. None of us could read it except Mac, who learned it out of sheer desperation. He got so wrapped up in some lab experiments, he kept missing their Osteology class. He needed to read Rick's notes to pass the final."
"So without the disc and with Dr. Hudson in the hospital, they'd need Dad to read the journal." Sam concluded. He and Blair traded looks. If they needed Mac, he may still be okay.
"So basically, all we have is that Dr. Hudson was looking for 19th century loot from Fortuity, WY, and someone under the cover of Aqua Sources wanted that research bad enough to hurt him and abduct MacGyver." Simon shook his head at what little they knew.
"Nikki and I'll poke around here some more and see if we can dig up anything else," Jack inserted. He figured it was only a matter of time before Mac sprung himself loose, but it wouldn't hurt to find him sooner than later.
"And we can see what else we can dig up on Fortuity," Blair added. "Maybe Rainier's library can shed some more light on all this."
After a few minutes discussion, Jim followed Blair and Sam down to the police garage. As everyone climbed into the truck's cab, Blair demanded, "Okay, since we'll probably be at the library for several hours, and I didn't get to FINISH MY BREAKFAST…" He glared across the seat at Jim and Sam, both of whom were trying to look innocent with varying degrees of success. "Can we stop somewhere so I can pick something up?"
"Louie's Donuts is just around the corner," Jim replied, his face deadpan as he turned the engine.
"Yeah, right," Blair replied sarcastically. "Next?"
A small smirk sneaked its way onto Jim's face. "Okay, how about Moonbeam Bagels on 4th?"
"Now you're talking!"
Blair practically had the door open before Jim could pull into a parking space half a block down from Moonbeam Bagels. "Do you guys want anything?" he asked as he pulled his backpack onto his shoulder.
"Do they have iced tea?" Sam asked, trying to spot the store.
"Sure. Do you want Sparkle Mint, Apple Harvest, Lemon Zipper, Hawaii Citrus, Ginger …"
Sam interrupted, "Do they have just plain tea?" At Blair's puzzled look, Sam rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Okay, get me some of that Mint Spankle."
"And just get me some strong coffee that won't offend my nose," Jim added, reaching over Sam to hand Blair a twenty.
"A Sparkle Mint and inoffensive coffee, coming up," Blair replied jauntily. The prospect of a hearty bagel that Jim was paying for improved his spirits greatly.
While Jim's attention was diverted by radio traffic on the police band, Sam watched his brother walk down the sidewalk. Blair was nearly to the door when a black van pulled into the space that had just opened up. Sam frowned as the side door flew open. "Jim…."
Jim turned his head just in time to see two men in masks grab his friend right off the sidewalk. He was already starting the engine when they shoved the struggling Sandburg into the van. "Damn!" he exclaimed, tossing his emergency lights onto the roof. He swiftly shifted gears and pulled into traffic right behind the van, nearly clipping a red Escort.
Sam grabbed onto the armrest, trying to read the license plate. As he repeated it to himself, he swiftly snapped the seat belt on. Jim managed to toss him his cell phone before slamming into a sharp right. "Second speed dial is Banks!" he shouted, turning a sharp left after the van.
Sam held his breath as the truck threatened to lift up on one side. He then managed to loosen his hold on the seat belt long enough to punch the number. "Captain! It's Sam. Blair's just been abducted by masked men driving a black van, license plate…" Jim was forced to make another left, barely missing a dumpster by the road. Sam found himself nearly cross-ways on the bench seat, only saved by the seat belt.
"Hold it Sam! Where are you?!" Simon interjected.
"We're on Harmony passing 10th, heading towards Greenwich," Jim shouted, overhearing the question.
"I'll send the units!" Simon barked back before Sam could repeat. The sounds of the captain calling out orders echoed in Sam's ears while his heart took up residence in his throat as Jim swerved again to avoid a pedestrian.
The van in front ran a red light, nearly hitting a truck loaded with tall panes of window glass. While the van managed to dodge around, the truck swerved, dumping its load onto the road. Jim slammed on the brakes, but not in time to avoid the broken glass flowing over the asphalt. Sam winced as both of the front tires blew, then winced again when Jim violently slammed his fists onto the steering wheel. "We lost them," he whispered to Simon.
Blair, with a bag over his head and hands tied behind his back, was forced to move out of the van. He tried to struggle against the strong hold to no avail. They had walked only a few feet before suddenly climbing steps. Blair was then shoved down onto the floor. His anger burst forth as he fought against the bag and the rope. A door softly shut. A few minutes later, Blair heard turboprops roar to life. Closing his eyes as he felt the movement, he could only hope Jim and Sam were not too far behind.
Sam sat on the truck's back bumper, watching Ellison pace like a caged animal. Then he glanced at the police cars, their emergency lights reflecting off the broken glass covering the road. His own emotions of anger, fear and guilt boiled inside him, making him feel like pacing along side Ellison. At this point, he'd even be willing to drink Blair's green gunk if it meant Blair and Dad could be safe. Sam stood up when he spotted Captain Banks' approach.
Jim nearly snarled at his friend before getting a hold of his temper. It wasn't Simon's fault he couldn't keep his guide safe. "What?"
"The van was found abandoned near the airport," Simon replied.
"How much you wanna bet there was a private plane waiting for them, heading for Wyoming," Sam replied, his mind working to put the pieces together.
"What's Lisa's status?" Jim didn't want to lose anymore of MacGyver's 'kids'.
"Megan has her at the safe house. Rafe, Brown and Taggart will be taking turns to help guard."
"Okay, let's have one of them take Sam there, too, and I'll get transport to Wyoming."
"Hold it." Jim and Simon turned back to Sam. Simon had never seen the laid-back young man look so fierce before. "If you're going to Fortuity, so am I."
"I'm not placing you in any more danger, Sam," Jim declared forcefully.
"Nuh uh, it's not up to you. I am an adult, I've been taking care of myself for quite some time, I've handled dangerous situations before, and I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions. They have MY brother and father. There's no way you're leaving me behind."
"Besides which, you need someone to watch your back." Sam lowered his voice to a growl. "If you zone out and get yourself killed, Blair'd never forgive me."
"Yeah, and if something happens to you, your father would never forgive me, either."
"Ellison, the kid's got a point," Simon inserted.
Simon straightened to make full use of his extra couple of inches on his friend. "You need backup, Jim. I'll get you a flight to Wyoming. Just keep an eye out for each other."
Jim growled, angrily stomping couple of paces away from Sam and Simon before storming back. "All right. But let's get going now. I don't want those thugs hurting Sandburg."
Tuesday afternoon, 45 miles from Fortuity, WY
Blair felt the vehicle stop. Good, maybe they'll take this bag off me. It's hot enough without it. He again tested the ropes around his wrists. There was still no give in them.
The door opened. Hands grabbed Blair from under his arms, hauling him out into the even hotter air. The bag was yanked off his head. Blinking in the bright light, Blair quickly studied his surroundings as the two men pulled him forward. The red sandstone and arid conditions suggested the American West. He noted the corral with cattle, the barn, the maintenance shed, and the car up on blocks. Some potential opportunities, if he could find a way to get rid of his escorts. However, he was also hoping the next hour might shed some light on what happened to his father. Blair decided to let things play out, then start thinking up an escape plan. That is, unless Jim somehow found him first. Looking forward, Blair realized he was being led to a structure built next to a cliff.
Blair's eyes squinted in the dim light of the building after the bright sun. They entered an elegantly decorated room that remind him of the old westerns. As the goons untied his hands, Blair found himself facing a large, redheaded man in jeans and a light cotton shirt. "Mr. Sandburg, I presume?" the man's gravely baritone asked. His green eyes studied the young man intently.
Blair stared back at the man as he rubbed his numb hands. "Yeah, but if you wanted me to visit, you could have just invited me politely."
"I did. The boys weren't too rough on you, were they?" Blair just continued to stare defiantly, not wanting to show his unease. The large man stepped closer. "You want politeness? All right, Mr. Sandburg. I am a reasonable businessman. All you have to do is give me the disc you received yesterday, and my boys will take you back."
Yeah, right. "You don't honestly think I have the disc on me, do you?" Blair replied sarcastically. The man clicked his fingers. His goons displayed Blair's backpack, then roughly emptied all the contents onto the floor. Blair mentally thanked Jim's foresight in having them all memorize the pertinent information instead of carrying it. Then they roughly patted him down. Blair fought to keep from stating exactly what he thought of them and their upbringing, though he was sure it showed on his face.
"Okay, where is it?" the head man asked when they came up empty.
Blair tried to keep from wincing as his belongings were viciously shoved back into his pack. "Safe."
"Then how do you plan to find the missing loot?"
Blair shrugged. "We're not interested in any loot. We only want to find MacGyver."
The man laughed. "You want MacGyver? Will you give me the disc for MacGyver?"
Blair forced down his impatience. "I told you, I don't have it on me. But I could probably get my hands on it if you'd give him to me." Or better yet, I'll give you another copy of Rainier's Forms and Procedures.
"Then it's time for a meeting. Boys, let's take Mr. Sandburg here to Mr. MacGyver."
Dragged along by his arms again, Blair tried to memorize the turns of the halls. He suddenly realized that the walls were actually stone. We must be inside the stone cliff. How is Jim going to find us here? He was pulled to a stop in front of a metal door. The head man glanced through the small window, then unlocked the door. Blair was pulled inside.
Sitting at a small table with his head down was MacGyver. Blair was shocked to see him shivering violently. "Mac?" he gasped. Mac lifted his head, nearly falling out of the chair. Jerking away from his captors, Blair rushed to his father's side. He could feel the heat radiating off the older man as he caught him, in spite of his shivering.
"Blair?" Mac whispered. He wrapped his arms around his son's waist, tucking his face against Blair's neck.
"Easy, Dad, easy," Blair soothed as he hugged him back, missing the leader's face light up with the revelation. Both scared and furious, Blair lifted his head to glare at the men responsible. "What the hell did you do to him!"
Softly, Mac gasped into Blair's ear, "Malaria." Blair tightened his hold in response.
"'Dad', did you say? How interesting." The older man studied his prisoners.
"He needs to be in a hospital!"
"Not until he finishes translating Dr. Hudson's journal for us. Of course, you could speed up the process by giving us the disc." Blair simply glared at him. "Why don't I give you both some time to think about it?"
"He needs…" The door was slammed and locked, leaving Blair and Mac alone. "Hang on, Dad," Blair softly whispered to the shivering man in his arms, fighting back his panic. "Just hang on."
Two hours later, airstrip near Fortuity, WY
The small plane dropped Sam and Jim off at a tiny airstrip ten miles from Fortuity. "We're a little ahead of schedule," their pilot informed them in a western drawl as he pulled out their bags. "The sheriff should have someone here soon to pick you up and take you into town and the car dealership."
"Thanks," Sam replied. He took a sip of water from his bottle as he glanced around. Heat rippled off the runway, blurring the edges of the small metal hanger on the other side. Dry sagebrush and tuffs of sharp-bladed buffalo grass surrounded the airfield. The soft curves of the prairie were broken only by the rise of a mountain range in the distance.
Jim could feel tiny picks on his skin as the moisture was evaporated into the arid air. He judged the temperature was about as high as it had been in Chicago, just minus the humidity. Dialing down his sense of touch so he could reach some level of comfort, Jim also studied the surroundings. He could pick out the town in the distance and several ranch complexes scattered here and there. He spotted a jeep with the Fortuity county seal on the door approaching them. He gauged that they had about a ten to fifteen minute wait.
He caught the baseball cap Sam tossed him. Tugging it tight onto his head, he stooped down to grab his small duffel. Faint voices reached his ears as he straightened. Jim quickly focused in on the sounds.
"I don't like this. Madison's people are doing something weird."
"It's none of our business, Karl."
"But I swear to you, they had that guy tied up! And I don't buy that Buster was carrying just a carpet back from that last trip. I know moaning when I hear it!"
"Keep your nose out of it, or Madison will make sure you have an 'accident'. You know the sheriff is his cousin."
"But it isn't right, Jake!"
Jim focused tighter to catch more of the conversation, but found himself falling into the sensation of sound. He could faintly hear an urgent voice calling, but he couldn't grab a hold of it. A sharp jerk on his arm brought him back, gasping.
"Jim!" Sam shouted, yanking on the larger man's arm. He nearly wilted with relief when Jim gasped for air and shook his head. Jim had been unresponsive and barely breathing. "Are you okay?"
Jim nodded, taking another deep breath. He spied a jeep driving away with the men to whom he'd been listening to.
"Was that a zoneout?" Jim nodded again. Man, no wonder Blair worries about them so much. Then a thought struck him. "What made you zone?"
"I heard some men talking," Jim replied, already putting the zone behind him and searching the area. "It sounds like Blair and possibly your father came through here." He discovered a couple of light planes sitting next to the hanger and started trotting towards them.
"Really?" Sam asked, jogging to keep up.
Jim stopped at the first plane and checked the door. Apparently, crime wasn't a problem out in the sagebrush, since the door was unlocked. "Keep an eye out for the sheriff for me. He may be in on it."
"The sheriff? Great, just great," Sam grumbled as he turned to face the road.
Jim quickly searched the Cessna, using both sight and smell. "Nothing in this one," he replied, jumping out. He stepped into the next one. Within seconds a familiar scent reached his nose. "Blair was in this one," Jim declared, opening a small compartment in the back. His guide's scent was very strong in the enclosed space.
"Do you think he's okay?" Sam asked worriedly, then berated himself for a stupid question. How could Jim determine that?
"I don't smell blood," Jim replied, trying to reassure both Sam and himself. "Just Blair's soap." He wrinkled his nose. "I also smell a very disgusting cigar. It's even worse than the ones Simon smokes."
"Any clues as to where they took him?"
Jim was quickly shuffling through the papers in the cockpit. "Plane's registered to Aqua Sources, but there's information here linking it to the Bar M Ranch."
"Jeep coming," Sam announced.
Swiftly, Jim replaced the papers and jumped out. By the time the white jeep pulled up, both Jim and Sam were several yards away from the planes, standing under the scant shade cast by the hanger's overhang.
"Howdy folks," a young man of mixed European and Native American descent called out. "I'm Deputy Toby Nighthawk. Are you the Cascade officers needing a ride into town?"
Cell inside cliff at Bar M Ranch
There was a slight chill within the cliff, in spite of the heat outside. Gently, Blair wrapped his arm around MacGyver as he slept, head resting in Blair's lap. For a moment he paused, studying his father. Mac was so pale, darkening the smudges around his eyes, emphasizing the bruises on his cheek and jaw, and deepening the lines in his face. He looked so much older than normal. It was a sharp reminder that even the athletic and healthy MacGyver was approaching fifty. Blair had missed so many precious years with his father. There were still so many of Mac's adventures untold, details of his family's history unknown. It was scary to think of losing his father so soon after finding him. Blair now understood Sam's concerns about not having enough time together after Blair had nearly drowned.
Blair took a deep breath and released it, trying to expel the fear of the past few hours. Mac had shifted incoherently back and forth between chills and fever, as was characteristic of malaria. With little more than water from the room's sink, a bare mattress on the floor, and the ibuprofen in his backpack, Blair had tried desperately to ease his father's suffering. After the fever had broken, Blair had worked to make him as comfortable as possible. He managed clean Mac up, dry him off the best he could, and slip Blair's large flannel shirt on him. That he did it without fully waking Mac only made Blair worry more. Yet all in all, his father had made it through this bout of the illness. However, what about the next one? In two or three more days, Mac would go through this again unless Blair could get him some help.
Fighting to keep his hand steady, Blair brushed a damp lock of hair out of Mac's eyes. How long had Mac been fighting this? Surely he would have sought treatment once he had realized what he had. However, Blair suspected Mac had been held captive at least since he and Dr. Hudson missed their flight, perhaps even before that. The jerks holding them certainly seemed to care less about getting him help. Anger burned within Blair as he thought of Mac's torn-up wrists and the deep bruising along his chest and abdomen. How the hell did these idiots expect his father to be of much use to them with this kind of treatment? Was this the same attitude that had put Dr. Hudson in ICU? Then again, it was probably Mac's illness that had prevented him from escaping before now.
Another worry was that Blair didn't know if Jim and Sam could find them. While he knew his sentinel would follow any remote clue, he didn't know if there was a trail for Jim to follow. That meant it was up to Blair to find a way out and get Mac to treatment before the next bout of malaria hit. Leaning against the wall behind him, Blair closed his eyes and thought, wrapping his arm protectively around his sleeping father.
Late afternoon Tuesday, Downtown Fortuity, WY
"Well, that was less than helpful," Sam stated as he and Jim walked away from the sheriff's office. After a half hour of verbal dancing, neither the sheriff nor the newcomers had shared any information.
Jim's face was a granite mask, hiding his growing anger. "That sheriff knows something." The man's vague responses had rang false to the big city detective, even without his senses. He leaned against the Jeep Cherokee that Deputy Nighthawk had helped them rent at the local dealership.
"Yeah, but he's not going to tell us. Man, this is as bad as the run-around I got in El Salvador." Then Sam spotted a small, hand-lettered sign. "You know, I think it's time to check out my turf."
Jim followed the younger man into the newspaper office called the Fortuity News. A young woman with shoulder-length blonde hair sat in front of a computer screen, an older man looking over her shoulder. A discrete sniff led Jim to suspect they were father and daughter. Both looked up to see who had entered.
"Hi there," Sam greeted them with his quiet smile. The woman quickly returned the smile. With a flash of amusement, Jim wondered if charming the opposite sex with a smile was as much a MacGyver trait as a Sandburg one. "We have a few questions and was wondering if you could help us?"
"Be glad to," the man returned. "I'm Ted Rhodes, the proprietor of this newspaper. This is my daughter, Jill."
"Hi Mr. Rhodes, Ms. Rhodes. I'm Sam Malloy, and this is my friend, Jim Ellison."
"Sam Malloy?" Jill looked puzzled for a moment. Then her face lit up. "THE Sam Malloy? The one who did that series in Bosnia about human rights violations?"
"Yeah, that's me," Sam admitted shyly.
"That was a fantastic piece of work, young man." Mr. Rhodes paused a moment. "Any relation to a photojournalist named Kate Malloy? If I remember correctly, she did some outstanding work herself back in the seventies."
"My mom," Sam replied. Jim caught the flash of sadness in his eyes.
So apparently had the newspaper man. He quickly changed the subject. "Don't tell me you are on the track of a breaking story here in sleepy Fortuity."
"No, this trip's a little more personal."
"Have either of you heard of a Dr. Patrick Hudson?" Jim asked.
"Rick? Of course. He's been here the last couple of summers looking through our records."
"A really nice man," Jill added, studying the intent faces of the visitors. "Is he in trouble?"
Sam paused, uncertain as to how much to trust these people. He glanced at Jim. Sensing the honest reactions, Jim nodded his head for Sam to continue.
"Dr. Hudson is an old college friend of my Dad's. He was having some kind of trouble, so Dad flew out to help him." Sam took a deep, steadying breath. "A few days ago, Dr. Hudson was found gravely injured and my Dad had disappeared."
Alarm filled the faces of father and daughter. "How bad was he hurt?" Mr. Rhodes asked.
"Last we heard, he's in ICU," Jim replied.
"Damn," Mr. Rhodes muttered.
"What about your father?" Jill asked.
Sam shrugged. "We don't know. Jim, my brother Blair, and I were starting to dig around when Blair was abducted this morning."
Both Rhodes' were now completely drawn into the story. "Why would they want your brother?" Jill asked.
"MacGyver, Sam's dad, had managed to send some information to Blair. We believe the perps were after that information," Jim explained.
"Did they get it?" Mr. Rhodes questioned, frowning.
"No, we had already secured it." Jim wanted to make sure that bit of news was spread around town, hoping it would keep the perps from hurting Blair like they had Dr. Hudson.
"Since all our leads point to Fortuity, we decided to dig here and see if we can find Blair and Dad," Sam added.
"What's your role in this?" Mr. Rhodes asked, turning to Ellison.
"Blair's a good friend of mine. I'm a police detective back home and Blair works with me as a consultant."
"So what do you need to know?" Mr. Rhodes asked grimly.
Jim decided to shake a few bushes. "I believe I've linked the plane that may have brought Blair here to a place called the Bar M Ranch."
"Figures," Jill grumbled.
Rhodes' face turned grimmer. "Yeah, we're familiar with that one. It's owned by Winston Madison. His family has had a lot of power in this town for generations."
"Yeah, but Ms. Lyndi was a whole lot nicer than her grandson," Jill pointed out. "Winston just takes what he wants, never mind who gets hurt."
"Sounds about right," Sam replied tersely, thinking of Dr. Hudson and how Blair was abducted off the street.
"Didn't he just get back in town?" Jill asked her father.
"Yeah, something about business with a boot manufacturer in Miami."
Jim and Sam exchanged looks. Jim turned back to the Rhodes. "I don't suppose you could tell us how to get to the Bar M Ranch?"
Inside the cliff, Bar M Ranch
This is really getting old. I hate losing time, especially when there are bad guys around. Especially when I feel like there's something I should remember.
MacGyver shifted, discovering there was something holding him. "Easy, Mac," a soft voice admonished as a hand gently rubbed his arm. That was when Mac realized his head was resting on someone. Someone whose voice sounded like…
"Blair?" MacGyver slowly sat up, wincing from his bruises. He now remembered Blair's voice demanding they take Mac to a hospital. A quick glance around showed that his son hadn't been successful. "What are you doing here?"
"Having you scare the hell out of me," Blair replied matter-of-factly as he handed his father a cup of water.
Yet Mac could hear the fear still lurking in his voice. "Well, now you know how I felt when we were guests of Kincaid." He sipped the water, studying Blair's face.
Startled, Blair paused a moment. Then a faint smile of discovery crossed his face. "You know, we really have to stop meeting like this."
"Yeah, I'd agree to that," Mac replied. "Are there any more at this party?" He couldn't stop the slight shiver from the chilly air.
The worried frown on Blair's face deepened. "Not at the present, though I'm still hoping for a few gate crashers."
Probably Ellison. No way he'd let Blair out of his sight for long. Mac ran a hand down the soft flannel shirt. "Yours?"
"Yeah. My office is usually freezing during the summer with the air conditioning, so I always toss something into my pack to go over my Ts."
"How long have you had this bug?" Blair asked as he studied his father intently.
Mac rubbed his face, trying to force his weary mind to work. "Ah, what day is this?"
Blair bit his lip a moment, not liking the fact Mac had lost track of the days. "Tuesday, a week after you had the plane reservations for yourself and Dr. Hudson."
Mac looked up. "How is Rick?"
Blair sighed, not sure how to answer. "Last I heard, he's alive in a Florida hospital." Seeing the questions still lurking in Mac's eyes, he pointed out, "But that's not answering my question. How long have you had malaria?"
Sighing himself, Mac rubbed his face again. "The first attack hit the Monday we were to leave, just as Madison's men caught us."
"Mac! That was over a week ago!"
"Yeah. At first, I thought it was the flu, but after the third time it hit, I realized it had to be malaria."
"Where do you think you picked it up?"
Mac shrugged. "I've been in several regions with malaria during the past year. I've always taken the preventative, but…"
"That doesn't always mean you won't get it," Blair finished. "How many days in between?"
Damn. That means I have less than two days to get us out of here. "How are you feeling now?"
"Groggy and exhausted."
"Well, the parasites have been feeding off your red blood cells for a week now. You're probably anemic." Blair fought to keep the fear for his father out of his eyes. Now was the time to turn to other matters. "Why is this guy so hot on getting this 19th century loot?"
Mac sighed. "Madison fears that the loot contains old water rights. Apparently, there were disputes in the past that might not have been settled fairly. He would lose money if he lost some of his current allotment of water. He first tried to buy Rick off, to either stop the search or give him any water rights documents that might be found. Rick refused, so Madison started to threaten him."
"Which is when he called you," Blair added, a slight smile to his face. Mac's tendencies to help people in need made him proud to claim him as a father.
"Right. I tried to settle the matter, but Madison refused anything but total compliance to his wishes. Judging that he would eventually use force, I secured Rick's research onto a disc, cleared his computer, and arranged for us to fly to LA. Once we were in Phoenix's home turf, it would've been easier to give Rick some protection. Only Madison's men caught us on the way to the airport. I tried to get Rick to safety, but, well…"
"You were coming down with your first bout of malaria."
"Yeah," Mac admitted, still disgusted with himself. "Later, I managed to spring us from Madison's rental house in the Everglades. However, in trying to get back to civilization, I got sick again. By the time I was able to travel, we had lost too much of our lead time. They caught us within a mile of the nearest gas station/ convenience store." Mac took a deep breath. "When they brought us back, we were separated. They kept trying to force me to decode the disc and I kept stalling until I got sick for the third time. By the time I was coherent again and found a way out of the room, they had beaten Rick up pretty bad. I managed to get a truck on the property started and drove as fast as I could to that store. Unfortunately, they were only minutes behind me. I left Rick at the store and tried to reach the nearest town and the sheriff. They caught me again." Mac again rubbed his face, fighting against his fatigue.
Blair handed him another cup of water. "But when they took you to the airport to fly here, you managed to escape again and ran into Lisa."
Mac smiled. "That was definitely luck. Lisa was the last person I expected to see, and I hated to get her involved, but they were too close behind me. I feared what damage those idiots could do in a crowded terminal."
Blair nodded. "Yeah, they managed to track her to LA and Cascade, but Lisa did a pretty good job of keeping out of their way until she reached us."
"Is she okay?" Mac asked worriedly.
Blair chuckled. "Don't worry. Megan had Lisa tightly tucked under her wing last time I saw them." Then his face turned serious. "So now they want you to translate Dr. Hudson's journal. Jack said you were about the only one who could read his shorthand."
Mac nodded. "Only thing is, it's been a while since I've seen it, so it's been rather slow going. Nor is Madison very happy to hear about woman's fashions in the 1880s."
Blair chuckled, suspecting Mac was finding the most boring parts of Hudson's research to translate first. "So, what we need to do is get out of here."
"So, when do they feed us?"
Mac sent him a puzzled look, then caught the glint of mischief in the big blue eyes.
Early Tuesday evening, twenty miles out of Fortuity
Frustration was growing in Jim as potholes forced him to slow down even more on the rough dirt track. The nearing foothills promised that the road could only get worse. Jim could feel his temper burning shorter by the minute. He missed his partner's normal chatter, taking his mind off his worry. Only problem was, this time Blair WAS the worry.
However, he was not alone in that worry. Jim took another glance at his quiet companion. Sam hadn't said anything after thanking the Rhodes for providing them with food, blankets, and a first aid kit. The silence was beginning to concern Jim. He was all too well acquainted with that particular defense mechanism.
The jeep hit another pothole, much deeper than expected. They were tossed around, Sam banging his head against the side window. "Ow."
"You okay?" Jim asked, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," came the slow reply as Sam rubbed his head.
Jim spared another glance from his pothole search. "You sure about that?"
A faint smile flickered across Sam's face. "Yeah." He paused a moment, realizing Jim wasn't fooled. "I'm scared for Blair and Dad," he admitted. "They're all the family I have."
"Is this reminding you of your Mom?" Jim barely caught Sam's nod.
Jim swiftly made connections as he swerved to avoid another pothole. He took a deep breath. "You know, I left home when I was still in my teens, joined the army, and never looked back. When I came back from Peru and joined the PD, my attitude was bad enough to keep most people away. My partner, Jack, was starting to get through but his disappearance just sent me scurrying to cover that much faster. Carolyn tried, but we both gave up too soon. After my divorce, I wasn't letting anyone get near me. I only existed.
"Then a long-haired whirlwind called Blair Sandburg entered my life. That brother of yours somehow managed to penetrate the attitude and the pain. He kicked me back into living." He glanced over to find Sam watching him, listening to every word. "Family doesn't necessarily mean blood, Sam. Family is whoever cares enough about you to look out for you, be there when things are tough, and yell at you when you need it. Blair is my family.
"Now, I know Blair's okay right now. I can feel it. But I want you to promise me something. No matter what happens, now or in the future, don't close yourself off from people. Trust me, existing is a lousy way to live." Jim turned to pin his laser blue eyes on the young man.
Sam paused a moment, soaking in Jim's unusually long speech. "I promise," he replied.
After another moment of studying the solemn brown eyes, Jim turned his attention back to the road. A few moments later, his sentinel ears heard a softly spoken, "Thank you."
Inside the cliff, Bar M Ranch
A tall, thin man carried a tray of stew and coffee down the stone hallway while a short, dark man holding a gun followed. Admittedly, the prisoner hadn't been much trouble so far, but they had heard the stories from Florida. The skinny college boy didn't look like he'd be much trouble, either. However, it didn't hurt to be careful.
Upon opening the door, the first man quickly spotted the sneaky prisoner curled up on the mattress, but there was no sign of the college boy. "Hey!" the tall man shouted, jerking the prisoner awake. "Where's the other one?"
Brown eyes blinked at him in confusion. "What other one?"
"You know, the skinny, long-haired guy!"
Slowly, Mac sat up and looked around the room. "I don't see anybody else."
The dark man stepped up to join the first in confronting the prisoner. "Stop playing dumb. Tell us where he is."
"You think I'M dumb?"
Suddenly, a heavy metal grate swung down from the ceiling, hitting both men. Mac winced as the tray of food slid across the floor, slopping stew and coffee everywhere. Blair dropped down from the hole, checking to make sure they were out cold. Mac smiled as he picked up the journal from the table. "Nice job."
"Thanks." Blair swiftly walked over to the fallen tray, dumping the remaining coffee out of a mug into the sink.
"Blair, we need…"
"Yeah, I know," he replied, pouring the stew left in a bowl into the mug. He handed the mug to Mac. "Eat. You'll need the energy." Blair then grabbed his backpack and ushered his father out the door.
Struggling to remember how he had been brought in, Blair led Mac down the stone halls into the main part of the building.
"Did you move the cattle in the back pasture to Dorry Park?" Madison's voice echoed around them.
Mac grabbed Blair's arm, pulling him into another side passage. Hearing more voices, they ducked through a door and found themselves in a kitchen. Silently, Mac pushed Blair down behind an island before the cook could spot them. The chubby, gray hair man was whistling as he finished loading dishes into sudsy water. As he turned to the oven, Blair and Mac scrabbled across the linoleum floor and out the side door.
Blue, yellow and orange stretched across the horizon, signaling the coming night. Crouched down by a fence, Mac studied the horses milling around the corral. "Can you ride?"
"Who, me?" Blair whispered, squinting to see the ranch hands on the other side in the dusk. "Sorry, Jim got the highbrow education with the horseback riding lessons. I just got to ride the merry-go-round ponies. Except for that time at my cousins' in Texas, but I was only seven and that old nag didn't like me. I think the problem was…"
Mac clamped a hand around Blair's mouth as he spotted another ranch hand approaching their position. If the chatter hadn't clued him in to Blair's nervousness, the slight tremors from his son did. Together, they watched the man pass within a couple of feet of their location to join his fellows across the corral.
"Do you know what that building over to the left is?" Mac whispered in Blair's ear, removing his hand.
"It looked like a maintenance shed," Blair softly replied back. "I saw an old engine outside it next to some rusty drums."
"Then let's check it out," Mac suggested. Crouched low, they scurried over to the shed.
Once inside, Mac swiftly took a quick inventory of the contents. Like most garages, this one was full of discarded equipment and supplies. Then in the corner, Mac spied a motorcycle. He walked over to the machine. A quick check revealed that is was well maintained and should start. He walked back to the doorway where Blair was keeping watch. "Can you ride a motorcycle?"
"Those I can do," Blair replied with a smile. "Naomi dated a motorcycle racer when I was eleven. Only one hitch." He pointed to the men working on an engine near the barn. Both were armed.
Mac glanced back, noting the oily rags, the leftover fertilizer, the engine starting fluid, empty oil cans, and the pile of old straw just outside the shed. "Oh, I think I can come up with a little diversion. Think you could sneak that bike behind the barn near those bushes without being seen?"
"Not a problem."
"Okay, wait for me there, and be prepared to start the bike and ride."
As Mac started to turn, Blair softly called out, "Mac?"
Turning back, Mac replied, "Yeah?"
"You might need this." Blair tossed him his Swiss army knife.
Mac caught it, then stared back at Blair in amazement. "How'd you hide this?"
Blair grinned, "On any morning that starts as bad as this one, I've learned to take precautions. I put it in my boot."
Ten minutes later
Blair ran his thumb along the ridges of the bike's handhold as he watched the men from the bushes. He wasn't quite sure what Mac was up to, but had a feeling it was going to be good. He took a deep breath. He felt better, knowing Mac was getting back up to speed. Yet he was still worried. Who knew how long Mac's current energy spurt would last? Blair wouldn't be happy until Mac was in the hospital, getting the care he needed.
Glancing back, he could barely make out the dark figure crawling around the pile of straw in the distance. As dry as it was, Mac probably didn't need much from the shed to make a really nice diversion. Blair turned his attention back to the men in front of them.
Suddenly, Mac appeared next to him. "Let's go!" he whispered urgently. Remembering Mac's background in explosives, Blair didn't need to be told twice. He was starting the engine just as the first oil can blew, shooting up into the night with a trail of impressive sparks.
One mile from the Bar M Ranch
Sam stood back. No, he couldn't see the jeep sitting in the rocks with the juniper bushes in front. "Looks good, Jim."
"Okay," Jim replied, stepping out from the rocks. "Let's start walking. The sooner we scout the place out, the sooner we can find a way to spring Blair and your dad."
Just as they turned towards the ranch, a trail of light shot up into the sky, soon followed by many more. Jim winced from the explosion that even Sam could hear in the distance. "What the hell is going on?"
A wide smile stretched across Sam's face. "Oh, I'd say Dad's on the loose."
Late evening, Fortuity
Deputy Nighthawk stood outside the door of the Fortuity News. He took a deep breath, working up the courage to do what he knew had to be done. Several people had warned him that Sheriff Raston was crooked, but Toby hadn't wanted to believe it. Yet after all stuff that had happened today, Toby was forced to admit something was wrong. It hurt since he took pride in doing the best job he could for the small community. Yet the only people he truly trusted at that moment in the county was Jill and her dad. Oh, well, his grandmother the shaman said he would be making a difficult choice between loyalty and truth. It was time to make that decision. With another breath and a quick glance around, he stepped inside.
Jill and her father were already sitting with Karl Dunn, a nephew of Ted Rhodes. "I'm telling you, something weird is…" He stopped when he spotted Toby.
"Is going on around here?" Toby finished. "I'd agree with that."
"Toby," Jill warned, her eyes concerned. "You might not want to hear this."
"No, I can already guess. There was a big-city cop here with the brother of his partner. Good men. They claimed that the partner was abducted and brought here. The sheriff gave them the run-around. I just now overheard him telling his main guys that his cousin Winston needed some extra help."
"So THAT'S who I saw Madison's men unload from the plane!" Karl exclaimed. "I knew something weird was going on!"
"Extra help?" Jill repeated. She looked at her father. "Do you think Sam and Detective Ellison are in trouble?"
"Possibly," Mr. Rhodes replied. He pulled out the business card Malloy had given him. "I think I better call this Phoenix Foundation."
One half mile from Bar M Ranch
Blair was riding as fast as he dared. Yet with the extra weight of riding double and trying to avoid potholes and ruts in the growing darkness, it didn't feel nearly fast enough. Not that it hadn't been fun seeing a few of the homemade rockets Mac had set off. He just didn't think Madison would appreciate the Fourth of July a few weeks late.
An exposed root in the road, about the same color as the dirt, was their undoing. The bike flipped up into the air, dumping its passengers.
"You okay, Mac?" Blair glanced down at the road rash scraped down his arm, deciding it wasn't too bad. At least nothing was broken.
"Yeah," Mac replied, brushing the dust off his jeans. He gave his son a smile. "You know, Harry always use to tell me not to ride my bike after dark."
Blair chuckled. "Well, I doubt Harry ever had a group of enraged cowboys after him!"
"Nope, probably not." Mac took the hand Blair offered and stood up, promptly swaying.
"Mac?" Blair steadied his father, a wealth of worry in his voice.
"I'm okay, just stood up too fast."
Yeah, right. Blair looked around. "It really is too dark to be riding on this road."
"Agree. Let's hide the bike and get off the road. They're less likely to find us that way."
Jim stopped, putting a hand behind him to let Sam know he'd stopped. While Jim could see fine in starlight, he knew Sam was having trouble. They had only been making such good time by having Sam rest his hand on Jim's back. While not as practiced at it as Blair, Sam was catching on.
"What is it?" Sam whispered.
"I hear Blair and your father. Come on, let's catch up."
Blair studied the sky above them. "I wish we had more than a crescent moon tonight. We could use the light."
MacGyver sighed as he leaned against a tree. He was frustrated with himself for being so fatigued. They needed to move faster to stay ahead of Madison and his people. "Do you have any idea where we are?"
Blair turned to him and smiled. "You're asking me? I'm afraid you're with the wrong son if you want directions."
"Then it's a good thing we found you."
Blair and Mac swiftly turned to find Jim and Sam walking around some rocks. "Man, am I glad to see you!" Blair declared, greeting Jim with an arm clasp and a quick, tight hug.
"Same here, Chief." Jim lifted Blair's arm, looking at the red and dirty scrape. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. It's Mac I'm worried about."
A couple of feet away, Sam was giving Mac a big hug. "Man, Dad, do you have any idea how much we've been worried about you?"
Mac, enjoying the feel of his son's warm embrace, smiled wearily. "Blair mentioned something about that."
Stepping back, Sam studied his father as best he could in the darkness. "Are you okay, Dad?" Mac seemed thinner than normal.
"Why don't I check you out?" Jim suggested as he and Blair walked over to them.
Mac rolled his eyes. "I'll be okay. We have a gang of angry men behind us, so we'd better be moving."
Jim paused, stretching out his hearing. "They're still fighting the fire you set and calming the livestock. We've got a few minutes." He took Mac's arm and led him to a nearby boulder.
"What's wrong with him?" Sam asked Blair in a low voice as he gratefully hugged his brother.
"He's had malaria for over a week now."
Jim lightly felt Mac's bruises, noting the swelling but relieved not to find any signs of broken bones or internal bleeding. He met Mac's eyes, judging the fatigue he saw in them. "Think you can walk about another quarter mile?"
"What's in another quarter mile?"
"The jeep Sam and I stashed. It also has some food and the first aid kit so I can clean up your wrists."
Mac took a deep breath. "Then I can make it."
Back at the jeep, Jim suddenly paused. "Jim?" Blair whispered, laying a hand on his sentinel's arm. The head tilt clued Blair. "What do you hear?"
"The sheriff and some of his men are setting up on the road down below us. They are planning a trap for when you and Mac would pass them on the motorcycle." Jim turned back towards the ranch. "Madison's men are planning to cut off the route near the ranch. If you don't turn up in a couple hours, they'll start a more extensive search."
Sam quietly opened up the door to the jeep and helped his weary father sit down. "Didn't we pass a four wheel drive road near here? Can you hear anyone on that road?"
Jim shifted his focus. "No, no one's on it yet."
"Think you can drive without lights?" Blair asked Jim, knowing he was the only one who had a chance in the dark night.
"No problem," Jim replied. "With all the stars, I can see fine."
Suddenly, Mac's head popped up. He gave a startled glance to Sam, then back at Blair and Jim. "Wait a minute. Ah, Sam, do you…" Mac trailed off, trying to figure out a way to ask without giving Sam questions if the answer was no. His tired mind just wasn't up to mind games.
Blair laughed quietly. "Sam knows, Mac. He figured it out this last weekend." Then Blair eagerly took a bite out of the sandwich Jim handed him. "Oh good, turkey."
"Okay." Mac also took a sandwich, then stared at it a minute. "Wait." He turned to Sam. "Wasn't this past weekend Terry's wedding in Chicago? Or am I all mixed up again?"
"No," Sam replied with a big smile. "You're fine. It was the weekend that got a little mixed up."
At Mac's puzzled expression, Jim gently clasped his shoulder. "Why don't I clean up those wrists, then find that jeep trail? Once we get going, Sam can tell you all about mad bombers and snipers in Chicago."
"Mad bombers? Snipers?" Mac repeated. He looked back at Sam. "Can't leave you alone, can I?"
"Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black?"
A smile stole across Mac's face. "Touché."
Near midnight, Cheyenne, WY
Simon glanced around as he entered the small airport. It was late, he was tired, and he didn't like the silence from Jim since he and Sam had gone to check out the rancher. Add in the call from Fortuity about a crooked sheriff and Simon's instincts were screaming trouble. Something was going on and Simon was sure it wasn't anything he'd like.
"Banks!" Jack Dalton was over by the rental booth, waving his hands. He and Ms. Carpenter had flown in from Miami earlier.
"Dalton," Simon returned. He shifted his carryon over his shoulder and walked over to Mac's friend. "Any word?"
"None, except that I think our boys pulled off an escape. The young deputy, who's friends with the newspaper people helping Sam, reports that the sheriff and his inner circle are helping Madison search the area." Simon's head reeled trying to make sense of that statement. Why wasn't anything involving Sandburg ever simple? "There was also a report of an explosion."
Jack laughed. "Believe it or not, that's GOOD news - means Mac is alive and ticking. He's always exploding something so he can escape."
"If you say so…" Simon still didn't like it.
"Anyways, I've got a helicopter rented for tomorrow. We can fly out to Fortuity, see if the guys have put in an appearance. If not, we can search the area."
"Can you fly a helicopter?"
"Hey, I've flown anything that's suppose to fly. And a few things that probably shouldn't have."
Simon rolled his eyes, remembering a certain junker airplane from last summer. "Do we have any idea WHERE to search?"
"I picked up some maps," a woman's voice replied. Simon turned to see an attractive brunette of about his age with serious brown eyes. "Hopefully, the contacts in Fortuity can narrow things down for us."
Jack smiled. "Captain, this is Nikki Carpenter, the new Assistant Director of Operations at Phoenix and a good friend of Mac's and mine. Nikki, this is Captain Simon Banks, Blair's police boss."
"Hello," Nikki replied, shaking the tall black man's hand. She guessed he had to be several inches taller than even MacGyver.
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Carpenter."
Jack rubbed his hands together. "Did you get us rooms?"
Nikki sighed. "After a lot of calling I could only get us one, and we were VERY lucky to get it. Apparently, something called 'Cheyenne Frontier Days' starts this weekend, and everything within a hundred mile radius is totally booked for it. If we had tried on Thursday, we'd have been totally out of luck."
"Then I guess we're sharing, Banks."
Banks forced himself not to sigh. He had a feeling it was going to be a LONG night.
Four wheel drive trail, Northwest of Madison's ranch
When Jim suddenly stiffened, Blair was alert for it. "Jim!" he softly called out, lightly gripping his sentinel's arm and preparing to shake it.
Jim shook his head and hit the brake. Shifting the jeep into park, he then rubbed his aching eyes.
"Jim, that was the third time in the last 90 minutes," Blair reminded him. "You're not going to be able to keep this up for much longer."
"Or I'll drive us over a cliff," Jim added, still rubbing his eyes.
Gently massaging Jim's tense shoulder, Blair asked, "Can you hear Madison's and the sheriff's men?"
Drawing strength from his friend and guide, Jim closed his eyes and reached out his hearing. "They're still searching the main road, from what I can tell."
"Maybe you should get some sleep and try again when the sun comes up," Sam's voice softly suggested.
Blair and Jim turned to the back seat. "I thought you were asleep," Blair told him.
"I've been dozing." Sam was leaning against the door, the blanket-wrapped MacGyver sleeping against him.
"Then why don't you go back to sleep," Jim lightly ordered. "I'll put the jeep between that spruce and rock, so we'll have some cover."
"Then you can get some sleep," Blair told him. He turned on the night light to his watch. "It's almost midnight now. Sunrise should be around 5:30 or so. I'll keep watch and wake you up then."
"You need sleep, too, Sandburg."
"Why don't you wake me up around 2:30?" Sam suggested. "Then you can get in a couple hours before we take off again." Sam had observed how Blair had kept an eye on Jim. He knew it would be easier for both sentinel and guide if each had some sleep.
"Deal," Blair replied.
Jim put the jeep into gear, then carefully backed into the hiding hole. As he shifted into park and turned off the engine, Blair spared another glance at his brother and father. Sam had fallen asleep again, while Mac had slept through the entire exchange. Blair frowned. It was totally unlike Mac not to have at least been disturbed by the rough travel. His concern for his father was rising again.
"He'll be okay," Jim whispered, reading the expression on his friend's face.
"He just really scared me," Blair mumbled, still studying his father. "In his own quiet way, he's always been kind of larger than life, you know? He's seen and done so much, gotten out of trouble so often. But just a few hours ago he was so sick and incoherent ... so vulnerable... I was scared of losing him."
Jim laid a hand on his shoulder. "Mac's a survivor, Blair. He will hold on for as long as it takes."
"I know. I guess I just don't want to lose him yet." Blair then smiled. "Especially not until I find out who Maria is."
Blair's smile turned mischievous. "One of the names he kept mumbling. Called out for Lisa, too, though I'm not sure if it was the Lisa we've met or someone else." Blair chuckled. "At one point, it sounded like he was arguing with someone named Nikki, so I'm looking forward to meeting her. I don't think I'll ask who Deborah is, though."
"Let's just say that one didn't sound like a good memory."
Jim lightly squeezed Blair's shoulder as he unfolded the map. After another glance back at his family, Blair turned his attention to the map he couldn't see in the dark. "Are we heading for Fortuity?"
"No, the sheriff is Madison's cousin, so even if he doesn't have us blocked off, it wouldn't help us much to stay in his district." Jim strained his aching eyes to see the faint dotted line representing the road they were on.
Blair pulled his key chain from his pack then softly warned, "Shield your eyes." He turned on the small penlight Jim had given him to replace his broken lantern.
Jim turned back to the map after a moment. "Thanks." He studied the map some more. "If our gas holds out, we could try for this town called Elk's Head."
"Do you think Madison would have anyone there?"
"Hard to tell. But at this point, it is the best shot we've got."
"I take it the cell phones are out of range?"
Jim frowned as he folded the map up again. "Well out of range."
"Bet Simon is going crazy about now."
Early Wednesday morning, Hotel room, Cheyenne, WY
Simon stared hard up at the ceiling, listening to the raucous snoring rising from Dalton's bed. How Jack himself could sleep through that noise was beyond him. He glanced across the room to Ms. Carpenter's bed. She was on her stomach, pillow over her head. Simon wondered if it was helping.
But Dalton's snoring wasn't the only problem. The ceiling fan had a scary rattle, the bed was harder than rocks and there was a neon sign flashing just outside the window. However, the biggest problem was that Simon was still worried about his friends. Surely Ellison and Sandburg were going to give him more gray hairs than even Daryl.
Rolling over again, Simon took a deep breath. He just prayed everyone was all right, that they would find them in the morning, and that he wouldn't kill the pilot before dawn by shoving a pillow down his throat.
Dawn Wednesday morning, Four wheel drive trail
Freedom is something we take for granted until it's taken away. After eight days of trying to break free of Madison and his men, I am still a little jumpy. It seems like there had been just one mishap after another as I become sicker and more fatigued. I keep waiting for the next piece of bad luck to drop on me. Yet I have to ditch that attitude and quick. More is at stake at this point with my sons along for the ride. I can't let my depression blind me to the options, nor let my fatigue and lethargy slow us down.
Usually, it's me taking care of others in dangerous situations. It feels weird having someone else taking care of me for a change. Yet my sons and Ellison are doing just that. Guess I need to get use to having family to depend on.
MacGyver wandered back from the bushes. He shoved his hands into the pockets of the jacket Ellison had lent him. While the temperature was probably around 55F, he still felt chilled. Glancing at the pinking horizon, he realized the sun would soon turn the area back into an oven. The question was how far they and the jeep would have to go in the heat.
Jim silently handed Mac a canteen as he joined the sentinel by the jeep. Mac took a deep drink, then handed it back. The sentinel was gazing past the dirt track, eyes distant and head slightly tilted. "What do you hear?" Mac asked softly, trying not to startle him.
"They've discovered the bike and where we hid the jeep. Now they're checking around the jeep trail. Shouldn't be too long before they figure out where we went."
"How's the gas holding up?"
"It'll be tight," Jim admitted. "How are you holding up?"
Sam walked up to them, dusting off his jeans. "Is the plan still to reach Elk's Head?"
"Yep," Jim replied. "How's the surprise coming?"
"All set," Blair grinned as he walked up. "Ready to roll?"
Two hours later, same location
Three of Madison's trucks and two of the sheriff's broncos were storming down the trail as fast as they dared. None could believe that they hadn't found the city slickers over the side or wrapped around a rock by now. The back country roads weren't meant to be driven at night by people not familiar with them.
The first bronco was zipping around a curve only to find themselves face to face with a huge log rammed between rocks on either side of the trail. Slamming on the brakes, there still wasn't enough traction on the loose rock to allow them to stop. The bronco plowed into the log. The truck behind them didn't have any better traction and no where to turn to avoid a collision. They hit the bronco.
The sheriff stepped out of his bronco, and slammed his hat into the road with disgust. It was going to take them all day to clear out that jam, and there was no quick way around. They were stuck. Now he was going to have to depend on Duffy.
Further down in the foothills
~chunga~ ~chunga~ ~gasp~
All four men stared out the windshield as the Cherokee coasted to a halt. Blair took a deep breath and stated, "Guess that's that."
Beside him in the passenger's side, Jim hit the dashboard with his fist before leaning back in the seat and taking a deep breath. Eyes closed, he softly asked, "How much further do we have to go?"
Sam, pouring over the map behind him, replied, "I'm guessing about four miles."
Blair leaned forward, checking out the clear blue sky above. While still early morning, the fierce sun was swiftly heating up the dry land. It was going to be quite a hike for everyone, especially Mac. "I hope you guys brought extra hats."
"And water," Mac added, doing his own calculations. "If we get started now, we can still make Elk's Head well before noon."
If Mac's strength holds out. He still looked too pale and fatigued for Jim's liking. Then Jim glanced around at the rocks and boulders. MacGyver would only bake if they left him with the jeep and perhaps get picked up by the sheriff and Madison again. That was the last thing Jim wanted to happen. "Okay, let's push the jeep behind those boulders and get moving."
Half an hour later, Jim raised his hand, halting his friends behind him. "I hear some vehicles approaching."
"Friendly?" Sam asked hopefully.
Blair glanced around the ravine around them. "Not a whole lot of places to hide, so I hope they're friendly."
Not with the way my luck's been running. MacGyver glanced around, swiftly thinking through a few different scenarios in his head. Then he saw Jim turning to their right, puzzled. Before he could ask the sentinel what was wrong, two Chandler county sheriff vehicles appeared over the hill.
"At least they're not Fortuity county," Sam commented.
The vehicles pulled up in front of them. A round deputy stepped out of the first bronco. As Jim walked up to meet him, four other men got out.
This doesn't look good. "Hello," Jim greeted him. "Our jeep ran out of gas up the trail. Would you be able to give us a lift to the nearest phone?"
The deputy stopped to study him. "Run out of gas? Sounds like something a city slicker would do." Jim bit back on his temper, not wanting to offend a possible way out of their current predicament. "Or some criminals running from arson charges." The other deputies behind him pulled out their weapons.
"Arson?!?!" Blair blurted out, eyes wide. He waved his arms around them. "What's there to burn up?" Mac and Sam put on their most innocent faces, trying not to think of the fireworks from the previous night.
"That's for the sheriff of Fortuity to prove. Right now it's my duty to turn you over to his authority."
Damn. Mac swiftly made and discarded ideas as he judged the men, the guns and what precious little they had to work with.
"You're not taking them anywhere, Duffy. You're on Indian land and MY jurisdiction." Everyone but Jim turned in surprise to the right to see ten Native American men in Reservation police uniforms covering the Chandler sheriff's men.
"Nighthawk, these are dangerous criminals."
"Not according to my information," the leader with a lieutenant's insignia explained. He studied the four hikers, then turned to Jim. "Detective Ellison, I presume?"
Jim smiled, picking up on the slight resemblance between the lieutenant and the young deputy that had helped them yesterday. Apparently, Fortuity had at least one honest cop with a few connections of his own. "That's right."
Duffy threw his arms up in frustration. "Nighthawk, you don't know what you're dealing with here!"
The Lieutenant turned to the deputy in disgust. "Duffy, does Sheriff Mike know you're working for Winston Madison? I know he likes that man about as much as I do, and that's not saying a whole lot."
Duffy turned pale, realizing just how good Nighthawk's information was.
Nighthawk turned back to Jim. "I take it you found what you were looking for?"
"Yes, but one of our people will need medical attention soon."
"You have help on the way."
Jim smiled in relief. He had been hoping the in-coming helicopter he could hear was friendly. He quickly turned down his hearing.
They met the chopper as it landed a quarter mile down the trail where the land leveled out. First Simon Banks stepped out of the back section, quickly followed by Toby Nighthawk and an attractive brunette Jim hadn't seen before.
However, MacGyver obviously had. "Nikki?" he gasped in astonishment, eyes wide. He greeted her with a hug. "What on earth are you doing here?"
"Pulling you out of trouble again, MacGyver," she replied with a wide grin as she gently slapped his shoulder with affection.
"Again? Seems to me like I was always pulling you out of trouble…"
A couple of feet away, Blair and Sam studied the Nikki they had heard about. "Man, how does Mac FIND all these gorgeous women?" Blair asked, thinking of Penny Parker and young Lisa.
Sam paused a moment in thought. "Actually, I think they find him."
Blair shook his head in admiration. "Man, why couldn't I have inherited THAT gene?"
Behind him, Jim chuckled. "How would you know if you did or not, Sandburg? You're too busy chasing THEM to give them time to chase YOU." He affectionately cuffed his friend on the head.
"Amen to THAT," Simon agreed as he walked over. "Between women trouble and just plain trouble, I don't know why we put up with you, Sandburg."
"Because I'm cute?" Blair suggested with a grin.
Simon and Jim looked at each other. "Did he say, cute?" Simon asked.
"Nah, he must have said something else, sir. That one certainly doesn't apply," Jim returned deadpan.
"Hey!" Blair protested as Sam smirked.
"Hello!" Dalton shouted over to them from the chopper. "Do you guys want a ride back to cooler parts or not?"
"Did you check the oil this time?" Sam asked as they approached the helicopter, eyeing the machine doubtfully.
"This isn't El Salvador, kid," Jack replied with a reminiscent smile.
"El Salvador?" Mac turned away from his conversation with Nikki to stare at his friend and son.
Both Jack and Sam hid behind blank expressions. "Did you say El Salvador, kid?"
"I didn't say anything about El Salvador."
"What happened in El Salvador?" Mac sternly questioned.
"Oh man, will you look at the time." Jack immediately tapped his watch. "We need to get cracking!" Jack quickly jumped into the pilot's seat and shoved his headset on.
"What happened, Sam?" Mac continued as Sam nonchalantly climbed into the passenger section. He knew all too well what could happen with Jack Dalton in Central American countries.
"Hey, I didn't say anything about El Salvador."
Jim, Blair and Simon smirked as they climbed in behind Sam. This was going to be an interesting flight.
Saturday morning, Sam's cabin near Cascade, WA
Nikki stepped out of Ellison's old Ford truck and gazed about the wooded area. "This is nice," she told Jim as he pulled down the tailgate. "Much cooler than the city."
"Yeah, it is nice. Sam gave Blair a set of keys, so occasionally I've come up with him to keep an eye on the place and to see if I can take a few fish home."
As they approached the cabin, Jim spied Mac asleep on the deck. Figuring Mac still needed the rest, Jim guided Nikki to the side door.
"Hey Jim, Nikki! How was the drive up?" Blair greeted them as he closed his laptop sitting on the coffee table.
"Wonderful," Nikki replied. She looked around the interior. "This is really cozy, Sam," she told the owner as Sam walked in from the kitchen.
Nikki's face turned serious. "How's Mac doing?"
"Well," Sam began thoughtfully, "Lisa visited yesterday before she flew back to L.A. and that perked him up some."
"But?" Nikki prodded as Sam paused.
"But he's still pretty worn out and the medicine is making him nauseous," Blair reported, glancing out the doors leading to the deck. "He's been sleeping out there since he poked at breakfast this morning."
"We've been trying to get him to eat, but it hasn't been easy," Sam added.
Nikki's brown eyes took on a challenged gleam as she listened to their reports. "Guess it's a good thing I'm here to whip him back into shape." She walked over to the doors.
Jim relaxed slightly when he realized she was opening them as quietly as she could so not to disturb Mac. Perhaps Nikki was the right person. He turned his attention to Sam and Blair. "Let's go get the supplies."
Mac heard the steps tiptoe across the deck. Eyes still closed, Mac groggily announced, "I'm awake, Blair."
"You sure don't sound like it, MacGyver."
Mac's eyes blinked open at the unexpected feminine voice. He sat up to smirk sleepily at his friend. "You sure don't sound like Blair, either."
Nikki chuckled as she sat in the deck chair next to his lounge. "You realize you still have those two worried, don't you?"
Mac ran a hand through his disheveled hair. "I know. I keep telling them I'll be fine, but they won't listen."
"Maybe if you'd actually eat, they'd believe you," Nikki pointed out.
"Maybe," Mac shrugged. He shot Nikki a smile. "Besides, I figure this is payback for all the times those two have had ME worried out of my mind."
"Oh, come on MacGyver. They both strike me as pretty decent, level-headed young men. Surely you haven't known them long enough to have worried THAT much."
"You'd be surprised." Mac rubbed his face, trying to fully wake up. "Did you bring me some work?"
Nikki rolled her eyes. "I don't think you could stay awake long enough yet." Her face turned serious. "I guess you've heard?"
"That you're my new boss? Yep, Blair mentioned it."
"Is that going to be a problem?"
"No." Mac paused as a teasing gleam entered his sleepy eyes. "As long as you don't expect me to go along with ALL your well-ordered plans."
Nikki chuckled. "You've never listened to me anyway, so why would I expect it now? Though if you could shoot for 90% of them, I'd appreciate it."
"How about sixty?"
Nikki's voice got sterner. "You can do better than that."
"Seventy-five?" Nikki rolled her eyes again, smiling. Then Mac turned serious. "I always did listen to you, you know. I just didn't often agree."
"I know." They shared a smile full of memories and future promise. Then Nikki stood up. "Can I get you something?"
"No, I'd better wander back inside myself." Mac stood up and stretched.
Nikki couldn't help but noticed that even for a man of his age who had been so sick, he still looked pretty darn good. This work relationship was going to be a challenge.
"Hi Mac," Jim greeted as he sat a box down on the kitchen table. Mac gave him a wave as he wandered to the fridge.
"Where'd Nikki go?" Blair asked as he and Sam walked through the door carrying sacks.
"She needed to find the bathroom." Mac smiled as he poured juice into a glass. "I think she was very glad she didn't have to go outside." Everyone chuckled.
Reaching into the box he'd carried, Jim pulled out a stack of mail held together in a rubber band. "I have some stuff for you guys." He laid a couple of postcards and a large, bulging Fed Ex in Sam's hands before pulling out Blair's small pile of envelopes.
"Any word on Rick?" Mac asked as his sons focused their attention on their respective stacks.
"He's out of ICU and should recover." Jim smiled. "He sent a message, asking if you'd like to help him search for the loot next summer."
Mac smiled. "Nothing keeps Rick down for long."
"He also invited the rest of us," Jim replied.
"Cool!" Blair exclaimed. He then turned to his brother who was opening the large envelope. "Where's that from?"
"The Rhodes in Fortuity. We made the front page." Sam turned the news page around to show them the headlines, 'WINSTON MADISON ARRESTED ON NUMEROUS FEDERAL AND STATE CHARGES' with 'Cascade Detective And Famous Photojournalist Rescue Brother And Father' in smaller print. A picture of Madison being led to an awaiting police car were accompanied by a picture of Sam, Blair, and Jim waiting outside the Cheyenne hospital.
"Hey, I think we pretty much rescued ourselves," Blair protested, trying to read the accompanying article.
"Famous?" Mac asked his younger son, a quiet smile stretching across his face.
Sam shrugged while Jim replied, "I'd say it's more like hero worship. Miss Rhodes was pretty impressed by her world-roaming colleague."
"Really?" Blair studied the slight blush on Sam's cheeks and smiled. "So our Jimmy Olsen has an admirer?"
"Indy, I only talked with her for maybe half an hour, tops."
"So," Mac drawled, swirling the juice in the glass. "What did you say?"
Sam rolled his eyes and was about to say something snide when a smaller envelope fell out of the package. He picked it up and pulled the single sheet of paper from inside.
"What's that?" Jim asked as he saw puzzlement enter Sam's eyes.
"It's from Toby Nighthawk. He said his grandmother insisted that he pass along a message."
"What message?" Blair questioned.
Brows wrinkled, Sam read, "It says, 'I'm looking forward to meeting the wolf and the big black mountain lion next summer'. Does that make any sense?" He looked up to find Jim and Blair staring at each other in shock. He traded glances with his equally puzzled father.
"Blair? Jim?" Mac prodded, becoming concerned. "Do you know something about this?"
Jim just shook his head and smiled as Blair looked heavenwards and announced, "Oh, boy."
Author's notes 12/13/98: Whew! Finally got it done! Just so you all know, I am planning to write another story about our boys back in Wyoming with Dr. Rick next summer.
For my Before Dawn fans: Yeah, yeah, I know I said I'd be working on the next Roachia story, but the Before Dawn sequel just wasn't ready to be written yet. Since this story was just begging to take its place, I decided to go with it. However, I do want to say thanks for all the wonderful interest and support for the Roachia series - I honestly never expected many people to even like it! I've already started on the next Roachia story, a pre-sequel to Before Dawn. Then I plan to write either the sequel to BD, or a TS/Mac/Stargate SG1 crossover, depending on my mood by then.
Also, I'm leaving soon to spend the holidays with my parents out-of-state and may not have access to my email (not sure if Mom's computer is working or not!). While I normally try to answer emails pertaining to my stories within a couple days, I may not get back to you until after the holidays. Sorry about that, but I do promise to write back eventually.
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