Fire with Fire

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.8: Part One

 

The Jeep trundled down the flawed Arizona blacktop, the tires roaring on the uneven road surface as the Eagles Hotel California blared from the radio.

Angus MacGyver didn’t notice. He was clutching the wheel so tightly his knuckles were white, and his fingers strained.

Every now and again, he’d glance into the rearview and see an unfamiliar face look back at him.

The hair was the same long blond mullet as ever, but it was more disheveled, as if he didn’t care anymore. And long gone were the clean-shaven features of a Phoenix employee who actually gave a damn, replaced by a dark beard that changed his whole appearance.

But then, a different look, for a different, changed man.

That was the whole point.

The Jeep coughed as if to sense his unease, and after a second, the growling engine cut out leaving the 4x4 to roll to a halt at the side of the road.

MacGyver sighed and looked wearily around.

There was nothing here for miles, save for a long dirt track with tumbleweed spinning wildly down it. The trail obviously led to a home of some variety, but who would actually choose to live in this hellhole was beyond MacGyver.

Reluctantly, he climbed from the Jeep and popped the hood, fiddling aimlessly with the engine as if he cared whether he got it running or not. After a moment, he ambled to the passenger door and retrieved a half-drunken bottle of tequila.

Mac turned the bottle over in his hand and then let out a long breath.

Before he could take a swig, a Ford pickup emerged from the nearby track and paused at the blacktop.

The thing looked like it had done several tours in ‘Nam, complete with bullet holes. The paint – or what was left of it, was faded and in places rusted through, but the driver didn’t seem to care.

As MacGyver watched, the man jumped from the cab, and it was quickly apparent that he was as scruffy as the vehicle he rode in. A torn blue plaid shirt hung out of his faded, filthy jeans, and long greasy, brown hair poked from beneath an oil-covered baseball cap.

The driver nodded to Mac, rubbed at the stubble on his chin in thought, then reached back into the Ford and retrieved a rifle. But this was no ordinary weapon; it was a state-of-the art, sniper’s tool.

Kinda unusual to pull a gun out when you find a stranded motorist. MacGyver kept the thought to himself as the man approached.

“Hey there, looks like you got yourself a touch of car trouble?” The guy bobbed his head towards the stricken Jeep. “My names Boden, Marcus Boden. Anything I can do to help?” He sniffed as he spoke, as if he was assessing the situation.

MacGyver shook his head. “Nah, I think I spotted the problem. Loose lead to the distributor,” he offered, not taking his eyes from the rifle in Boden’s hands.

It was a Barret, known to the military as an M107 – not exactly the twelve gauge local yokels usually carried. “Nice piece of hardware you got there.” He stared at the gun with an expression that screamed admiration.

Boden seemed to notice and he apparently liked the flattery. “Oh I know my weapons,” he oozed. “Got me a whole lot more back at my place.” He gestured back towards the trail. “I guess you could call me a “collector” of sorts.”

Mac nodded and finally took a swig of the tequila before offering it up to the other man.

Boden accepted, drinking hard. When he’d finished, he wiped his mouth across his shirt sleeve, tossed the bottle in the air and fired, obliterating it into a myriad of glistening shards that showered them like rain. “I can have any gun, any time,” he boasted with a grin that suggested his teeth got way less care then his weapons.

Mac didn’t doubt the claim. In fact, he had hoped that was what Boden was going to say.

Because there was something he wanted – badly.

“There’s a certain weapon I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on, but let’s just say I wouldn’t want the hassle of all the paperwork to register it…” He waited, watching Boden’s reaction.

Marcus sniffed and walked to the edge of the highway, looking out into the distance as if he expected a police cruiser or worse to come screaming over the horizon.

There was a stony silence, only broken by the caw of a bird flying overhead as it hunted its prey.

Eventually, Boden turned back, but there was no mention of guns. “You passing through these parts, or sticking around?”

MacGyver closed his eyes as if an extremely painful memory had been awakened. He shivered, and then seemed to push away the emotion to look back at Boden. His voice had turned cold, and his features looked haunted. “I’m just drifting right now,” he muttered. “Maybe I’ll stick around tonight, though, if you know a decent motel?”

Boden laughed dryly. “I know lots of motels, but not one of them is decent around these parts.” He raised a brow and pointed back the way MacGyver had come. “Bubbly Betty’s is back that way. It’s about as good as you’re gonna get.”

Mac nodded his thanks and slammed down the Jeep’s hood, climbing back behind the wheel to crank the engine.

Boden waited, watching until the Jeep was back on the road before clambering back into his own truck.

Instead of carrying on with a journey, however, he simply turned around and drove back up the dirt track, as if his sole purpose had been to toy with MacGyver.

* * * *

Bubbly Betty’s Diner & Motel
Interstate 10
Near Ehrenberg

MacGyver sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands. There was too much information going through his brain to process, and none of it was pleasant.

He looked up at the beat up table that he was supposed to dine on, and his eyes locked with the brown paper bag that took center stage.

Huffing, he stood up and ambled over to it, pulling out a full bottle of bourbon. He sat the Jack Daniels down and stared at it.

Outside, he heard the scuffling of boots and guessed he had visitors. Two seconds later, there was a rough knocking on his door.

“It’s open,” he said just loud enough for his guests to hear.

Marcus Boden slid the door open and breezed in, followed by another, younger man who seemed just as scruffy as his fellow traveler.

“I hope you don’t mind my bro and me searching you out?” He turned and jerked a thumb. “This is Mitchell, my baby brother.”

Mac sniffed as if he didn’t care one way or the other. “What can I do for you boys?” He pointed to the bourbon. “Want a drink?”

Marcus shook his head. “Nah, this is more of a business call…”

“Oh?”

Mitchell stepped forwards, overshadowing his elder. Despite his age, his face seemed more grizzled – more battle-scarred and his frame was taller and stockier. “Let’s cut to the chase? The weapon you wanted with no strings attached?”

MacGyver smiled ironically. “Smith and Wesson 500, complete with ammo.”

Marcus chuckled. “You like ‘em big, huh? But do you got the money to pay for the size?”

Mac slipped a hand into his jeans pocket and brought out a wad of cash. He tossed it down next to the Jack Daniels. “Good enough?”

Mitchell took the wad, slowly counted the money and then looked at his brother. There were unspoken words between them. Then he tucked the cash into the top pocket of his torn denim jacket and nodded. “Okay…if you’re so interested, c’mon outside and take a ride with us.”

MacGyver thought about it, then grabbed the bourbon, cracked off the top and took a long gulp. “Why not,” he eventually conceded, following them out to the same Ford he’d seen earlier.

* * * *

The Bodens remained silent on the drive out to some unknown desert spot, and Mac didn’t care to make conversation with them. He was here for one reason only, and that didn’t really include socializing.

The little trip took about twenty minutes down the highway, and another twenty bouncing around over rough sand and rocks until they came to a small impromptu range.

It was a crude affair, obviously used by the Bodens as their play ground. Empty broken bottles littered the desert, along with obliterated soda cans and all manner of homemade targets.

Here and there, a broken skeleton of a small animal suggested the Bodens liked to play at killing too, but then that didn’t surprise MacGyver.

Marcus rubbed at the stubble on his chin again in habit as he watched Mac examining their handiwork. Then he began to set up more bottles and even some paper targets that billowed in the evening breeze.

“Jeez, if I’d wanted to play Dirty Harry…” Mac started to joke, but Mitchell cut him off, and he didn’t sound amused.

“You’re not here to play,” he barked. “You’re here to prove to us you can handle a 50 cal before we let you loose with one, money or not.”

They’re testing me? Why?

Mac shrugged. Just because there had been a time when he’d abhorred guns, didn’t mean he couldn’t use one quite effectively – the army had taught him that.

Otherwise, there would be no point in him trying to buy one now.

Mitchell returned to the pickup and came back with a Desert Eagle in his hand. “Not the greatest, but good enough to see if you can shoot, or if you’re all mouth.” He pushed the automatic into MacGyver’s palm and simply waited, staring with deep eyes that bored into whatever he looked at like a mining drill bit.

Mac turned away from the searching gaze and instead focused on the targets that had been set up for him. He felt the weight of the Eagle and swallowed hard.

This was bringing back recollections he’d rather have stayed buried. Pointing a rifle at Murdoc when he’d lost his memory. Or an automatic at Pete after he’d again gotten amnesia and been convinced his best friend was a bad guy.

The images in his brain blurred and moved further back in his history. Having to prove himself on the rifle range in the army before he could progress to bomb disposal, and then, the real crux of it all…

MacGyver’s father showing him a gun, and that experience ultimately costing Jesse his life.

Mac suppressed the thoughts as best he could.

What he needed to remember was why he was here now.

He checked his weapon’s clip and flicked off the Eagle’s safety.

Then he turned to the first row of bottles, aimed, and then fired off three shots in rapid succession until all the targets were no more than piles of shattered glass.

Without pausing, he spun around to the paper targets, putting a hole right in the heart of every silhouette.

When he’d finished, Mac thumbed the safety back on and passed the automatic back to Mitchell. “Good enough?”

The brothers eyed one another, and then Marcus spoke up. “You’ll do.” He slapped Mac on the back a little too heartily. “I’ll get you the Smith and Wesson by tomorrow morning.”

MacGyver cocked a brow. “And just how do I know you won’t take my money and run?”

More eye contact between the Bodens, and this time, it was Mitchell who finally broke the silence. “Because we have another little proposition for you, if you need work?”

“Who says I need work?”

Mitchell chuckled. “Well something has to pay for that drinking habit you seem to have.” He looked Mac up and down cheekily. “And you ain’t no lottery winner dressing and acting like that.”

MacGyver’s face screwed up as if he was getting angry, but just as quickly his features changed back into a smile. “Fair enough, you’re right, I’m…between jobs right now. If you have something, I might be interested. What’s it involve?” He rubbed at the back of his neck absently.

The Bodens wouldn’t be pushed.

Marcus headed back for their pickup without saying a word.

Mitchell stayed for just a second. “Stick around, we’ll be in touch,” was all he’d cryptically offer before joining his brother back at the Ford.

MacGyver watched them go, but even after they’d vanished over the horizon he couldn’t help but think about the sensation the Eagle had caused as it sat in his palm.

How the cold metal had felt against his skin, or how the recoil had made the muscles in his hand tense.

That, and the fact that he was now stranded forty minutes into the desert without a ride back to Bubbly Betty’s.

* * * *

Later that night…

MacGyver had walked a couple of miles before he’d gotten back to the highway and been able to get a ride. Now, as he sat back at the table in his room, he was feeling tired and unsure of what he was getting himself into.

Part of his mind screamed to get in the Jeep and just leave, but the other half taunted him with what he needed to do, and why.

He stood up and walked into the tiny, slightly grimy bathroom to look in the mirror. It was crazy-cracked, but still good enough to see the stranger reflected back in it.

The person who had once been Angus MacGyver, hater of guns.

Mac stared into his own dark eyes, searching his soul, for what?

Forgiveness?

He rubbed at the beard that adorned his face, hiding the man, hiding the truth, perhaps?

Someone rapped at the door, breaking him from his thoughts, and he returned to the present.

“Come,” he simply invited.

Mitchell and Marcus breezed back in, and both pulled up chairs at his table, leaving MacGyver with no choice but to sit on the edge of his bed. He dropped down heavily and ran a hand through his unruly mullet.

“You look like a man who can’t sleep?” Marcus smirked as if he knew something, but then maybe he did. “Got a few skeletons in your closet, Mac?”

MacGyver looked up sharply. He’d never told either Boden his name. “And your point is?”

Mitchell stuck a hand under his jacket and came out with a large white envelope. He dropped it down onto the table. “We’ve been doing some digging. We like to know all about the people we offer jobs…”

Mac shrugged. “So, you got me. I’m a bad boy who got fired by his previous employer for misbehaving.”

“Oh, I think it was a little more than that.” Marcus emptied out the envelope and spread out several files, photos and newspaper clippings. He picked up the first. “Looks like one Angus MacGyver used to work for the Phoenix Foundation, and get this, he used to hate guns – wouldn’t even pick one up.” He paused, scrutinizing Mac for a reaction.

“That was…awhile ago. Another me.” MacGyver’s voice was low, and his eyes said they were reliving another painful memory.

Mitchell nodded. “You lost some girl on an assignment, what was her name again?” He picked up one of the files. “Oh yeah, one Dr Sharon Millward? That was the start of your little downward spiral out of control, wasn’t it?” He tossed the file down and picked up another, this one accompanied by a photo of Sam and Jack Dalton. “Of course, losing some stranger was nothing compared to losing your son and best friend because of your own mistake…”

MacGyver stood up and turned his back on both men. They were pushing too hard.

Too damn hard…

When he didn’t respond, Marcus joined in the tirade. “You could have saved them both if only you’d picked up a gun. But I guess you paid the price for that mistake. Your Phoenix file says you got a little psycho after that, even getting pulled off subsequent assignments for being fixated with the very things you used to hate. Eventually they fired you, didn’t they?”

Mac finally turned back to face Marcus, and there was moisture in his eyes. He clenched and unclenched his fists as if he had the uncontrollable desire to punch something – or someone.

But somehow, he kept his voice level, even if the guttural tone suggested anger. “So what’s the big deal? I learned the hard way that sometimes the only thing you can do is fight fire with fire. It was just a lesson I got taught too late to save my son…”

He moved to a cupboard, and pulled out another bottle of tequila. He shook it at the brothers.

“Guess the great Pete Thornton mentioned this in my Phoenix file too, huh?” Mac set in on the table in front of the Bodens. “The way I see it, you guys like guns, I like guns, what do you care how I got to be this way?”

“It might matter,” Marcus pushed. “We don’t want anyone working for us who’s…emotions or morals might let them down.”

MacGyver laughed suddenly. “Then you have nothing to worry about. I lost any sense of morality the day Sam and Jack died. The day I killed them by not acting…”

Mitchell picked up the tequila bottle and took a gulp. He savored the taste, licked his lips and then nodded to his sibling. “Fair enough,” he spoke to Mac. “You’ve got the job.”

“And that would be doing what?” Mac dropped back down on the bed, this time lying down with his hands clasped beneath his head on the pillow. He was staring at the ceiling, his mind racing again.

“You’re going into security for us. Specifically, the gateman at Fairmount Studios in L.A. The position is yours, no questions asked, no interview on site. All you have to do is turn up.”

MacGyver huffed. “All I have to do? C’mon guys, you don’t recruit someone from the side of the road to just baby sit a gate?”

Marcus’s pushed up from the table, looked down at the information spread out on it and then simply walked to the door. Mitchell followed like a sheep.

As they reached the opening, Marcus paused and turned. “Just be on time. You start Monday at 8a.m. Any further instructions you’ll get later, when we’re ready. Understood?”

MacGyver nodded silently, but made no move to get up from the bed as they exited.

He lay there until he heard the low grumble of the Boden’s’ Ford fade into the distance, and then clambered to his feet.

Mac checked the window, making sure both brothers had left.

Outside seemed quiet, but that didn’t mean the Bodens didn’t have someone watching him – they seemed the type.

He looked at his watch, waited a further five minutes, and then grabbed the Jeep’s keys and his brown leather jacket.

The Jeep was close to the motel room door, and MacGyver scooted out to it as stealthily as was possible in broad daylight.

He glanced around, but apart from a few truckers daring to eat in the diner, the small lot was empty.

Mac cranked the 4x4’s engine, gunned the gas and raced out onto the highway so fast he left a dark trail of rubber behind.

The Jeep groaned as he spun it too quickly out towards the desert and over the rutted, pothole-filled terrain, but he ignored its protests.

Every few seconds, MacGyver’s dark eyes darted to the rearview, scouring the horizon for a tail.

So far he was in the clear.

He carried on for another mile anyway, being careful to put himself a good distance from Betty’s without being out of range for his car phone to work.

Eventually, Mac pulled the dust covered Jeep to a halt and killed the engine. With one last look over his shoulder, he picked up the phone seated in the center of the car and dialed.

The number seemed to take an eternity to connect, and once it had, it rang in his ear even longer before the person the other end picked up.

Mac paused as he heard the voice on the line, the day’s past events haunting him already.

Could he actually go through with this?

 


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