The Gift

By MacsJeep

Episode 8.2: Part One


MacGyver shifted uncomfortably as he slept. It wasn’t a bad dream, simply the sense that although his body needed rest, his mind should be up and working on a new problem.

He couldn’t quite remember, though, what it was that was so urgent.

Tiny tendrils of memory began to creep back into his fatigued brain.

An airliner on its way to L.A. that had a mind of its own and a man onboard that wanted to do something…something bad.

Mac moved again, his slumber disturbed by his own subconscious. He could see the bad guy’s face, but he couldn’t quite recall who he was, or what he’d done.

Then, in an instant an image of Sam filtered through, an image of his son lying in his own blood on the floor of the plane.

MacGyver sat bolt upright, awakening with a start at the painful memory.

And then he realized that it was over. He had been sleeping on a chair at Sam’s bedside in the hospital all night, and the images were all in the past.

He blinked, rubbing at his eyes – eyes that were still so tired from events on the Boeing. Then he quickly shifted his gaze to the bed he was sitting next to.

Sam was still hooked up to a monitor, but it beeped a comforting rhythmic tone that said all was well. He still had an I.V. in too, but MacGyver knew that was to be expected considering what he’d been through.

As Mac assessed his son, it suddenly occurred to him that he was not the only one scrutinizing someone.

Sam was awake and staring back at his dad, the mischievous spark that had dwindled the night before, back in those deep eyes of his. He was still pale but smiling wanly.

“Hey,” Sam almost whispered. “Don’t you have some place better to be?”

Mac’s lips curled into a small smile of his own. “Nope. I needed to make sure you didn’t get yourself into anymore trouble.”

Sam swallowed. “Maybe you should go look in the mirror. You look worse than me.” There was actual concern in his voice. Enough, in fact, to make MacGyver force his weary body up from his chair and check himself out in the mirror at the side of his son’s bed.

His hair was bedraggled, he needed a shave, and his eyes looked like he’d been on a week-long party at the beach.
Apparently, Sam had a point.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up dad,” Sam suggested. “Maybe let me get some sleep…”

MacGyver turned from the mirror to see that Sam had already drifted off back into oblivion. He was obviously exhausted, and the sleep would do him good.

Mac glanced at the chair at his son’s bedside, his heart wanting to stay, but common sense begging him to leave.

He reluctantly chose the latter and made his way to the door, quietly closing it behind him.

As promised, Atkins, one of Phoenix’s best operatives was standing guard outside. He nodded to Mac as he exited and then reached into his jacket pocket.

“Mr. Thornton said to give you this, sir.” Atkins offered up a hotel key. “The address is on the chain there.” He tapped a plastic fob that the key dangled from. “He also left a message that the Sacramento police have you scheduled for an interview at 10a.m. this morning at their local office in Fair Oaks, and that he’ll catch up with you later for a chat. He said you’d know what about?”

MacGyver smiled. Pete Thornton was nothing if not persistent. He wanted Mac back with Phoenix, and he wasn’t about to say no. “Yeah, I know,” he answered, giving nothing away. “I’ll talk with him this evening.”

Atkins nodded and moved back into his “on guard” stance. He reminded Mac of the Grenadiers in London outside the palace. He was all about duty – not much personality in there that I can see…

Mac looked at his watch as he moved off down the antiseptic smelling corridor. It was nine already. He guessed there was no time to shower before his interview, so he headed straight to the local police office.

Considering how he looked, he just hoped he didn’t get locked up for being a vagrant first.

* * * *

Mojave Springs Hotel
Fair Oaks
California

The hotel Nikki had found was actually outside of Antelope, and it hadn’t taken MacGyver long to realize he was going to need transport to visit Sam, not to mention, get around for other essentials.

Despite it being just two days until Christmas, he’d still managed to rent a half-decent Buick. Not exactly his usual style, but he was mobile.
The hotel itself was like walking back into the past. The place was family owned, clean and very welcoming.

Mac had soon realized, however, that he actually had no luggage – and therefore no clean clothes, no nothing. He’d managed to bag a few items like a clean shirt and jeans from the local store, but he still felt kind of naked without his own items.

And that was when it had hit him.

He’d just climbed out of the shower and was rubbing at his hair with a towel when he’d spotted the date on the bedside alarm.

23/12/92

It glared at him, taunting him with the fact that all his things had gone up in smoke when the Boeing had exploded.

And that included Sam’s Christmas gift.

MacGyver had been so careful choosing a present for Sam, and had finally decided on a high end camera that he knew his son could use for pleasure as well as work.

Said camera was now probably a pile of molten metal and plastic, and even if it had survived, it was evidence in an ongoing investigation. No way would it be released back to them in time for Christmas Day.

MacGyver thought about it. Sam was alive, and he was going to be okay, did it really matter about a gift?

But then, this was their first Christmas together. His first Christmas as a dad.

Heck, yeah, it mattered that he had something for his son.

Mac quickly pulled on the new clothes he’d bought and grabbed the phone book from the bedside table.

He flicked through as quickly as possible, but there were no shops in Fair Oaks that were likely to have a replacement camera for Sam. It was a professional piece of equipment, after all.

MacGyver scanned further, but it looked like he was going to have to drive back into Antelope at the very least. Maybe even a trip into Sacramento was on the cards.

He grabbed his wallet and the hire car keys and quickly left the warmth of the hotel room behind.

MacGyver was on a mission, and he wasn’t going to give up until he had the perfect gift for Sam all wrapped up and ready for Christmas morning.


* * * *


MacGyver hadn’t been driving long when he’d become conscious of the fact that he probably shouldn’t be driving at all. His eyes were bleary, and no amount of rubbing at them was going to help.

Truth be told, he’d only had about an hour’s sleep in Sam’s hospital room, and fatigue was rapidly catching up with him.

His body ached, and his mind screamed for him to turn the Buick around and go to bed.

The problem was, even if he’d wanted to, that might be a little difficult.

Mac had rushed out of the hotel so dang fast he’d forgotten to get a map, and he’d definitely not had the good sense to ask for directions.

The road signs should have been enough, right?

Except, he was exhausted, and somehow out here in the boonies, he’d missed a turn.

Mac was mentally chiding himself as he slowed the Buick, looking for anything that might tell him where he was.

The road he was on was rough and unkempt, and there didn’t appear to be any signs.

He took a sharp left and then slowed again, this time not because he’d let off the gas.

The Buick’s engine had cut out.

Great, it’s getting dark, I’m in the middle of nowhere, and now the car has to die on me. What kind of Christmas spirit is this?

MacGyver popped the hood and took a quick look for any obvious signs of the breakdown, but the car seemed in perfect condition. There was gas in the tank, charge in the battery, and yet it was dead.

He dropped back behind the wheel and cranked again, but the engine wouldn’t even turn over.

Mac sighed. It looked like he was going to have to walk, but which way?

Normally he could have at least figured which way was north with the stars, but typically, it was a cloudy night.

He locked the Buick and was about to start to walk when a pair of headlights shimmered into view in the distance.

The car bobbed violently on the rut-filled road, and it took a further two minutes to reach him.

It slowed without Mac even needing to wave it down, like it, or rather its driver, had anticipated someone being there.

It was an old beast. A bright red Pontiac station wagon with white-walled tires and a rather horrific dent in the rear.

As Mac watched, the driver’s window rolled down, and he was greeted by the smile of a young and very curious woman’s face.

“You really shouldn’t be out here, you know? Didn’t you see the signs?”

MacGyver felt a little sheepish. He was so tired he hadn’t seen any signs. “Um, no ma’am,” he admitted. “I got a little lost, and then my hire car just gave out on me.”

She looked him up and down as if assessing him. “I guess I could give you a lift back into town. I can’t leave you out here all night now, can I?” She jerked a thumb towards the passenger door, indicating he should get in.

Mac was so cold and weary, he accepted gratefully. It must have been quite a risk for her to take a complete stranger into her car on a lonely back road like this, and he appreciated the trust.

If she’d seen me before the shower, she might not have been so trusting, he inwardly chuckled.

The woman pulled away and the Pontiac began its rough and tumble journey back down the damaged highway. “My name’s Molly Gregson,” she introduced herself.

“MacGyver.”

Molly nodded as if she’d known that. “So what are you doing lost on road like this at Christmas, MacGyver?” She navigated around a pothole and the car swayed.

“Oh, I was just heading out to Sacramento for a gift for my son.” Mac thought about Sam lying in the hospital bed. He deserved his dad’s time and effort after having no father for all those years.

How many Christmas mornings had Sam wished to have his mom there, or the father he didn’t even know?

“You left it kind of late, didn’t you?” Molly prodded.

Mac shrugged. “It’s a long story, but the gift I originally bought him got destroyed yesterday. I need to replace it.”

Molly seemed to think about it. “No you don’t,” she offered. “You don’t need to buy your son anything at all. The greatest gift you could give him isn’t a present; it’s not a physical item at all. It’s family. It’s love.”

MacGyver looked across to her and was surprised to see how philosophical she’d become. Her face was stern and her eyes glassy, like she’d turned into a human version of “Yoda”.

“That’s kinda…um, deep,” he squirmed. He didn’t know why, but Molly was suddenly creeping him out – and Angus MacGyver normally didn’t do “creeped out”.

Of course, he understood what she was saying, and in an ideal world she was right. It was just the way she’d said it, like she’d been through some experience that had shaped her into a slightly bitter, but resolved individual.

Molly appeared to sense his mood. “Oh, don’t take any notice of me. I guess I’ve listened to one too many sermons on the radio out here.” She smiled wanly. “So what are you getting him?”

Mac relaxed just a touch. “A camera – he’s a journalist.”

“We could do with a good journalist around these parts.” Molly took a turn and MacGyver finally recognized the road. “Reporters around here tend to miss things, let things slide that shouldn’t, and before you know it…”

Molly tapped the brakes and pulled the Pontiac over, leaving the engine running. The sign they were under said they were entering Fair Oaks.

“This is as far as I can go,” she apologized. “But I hope you and your son have a good holiday.”

MacGyver climbed out, shut the door and then leaned back in through the half-open window. “Thanks, you really helped me out tonight. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime?”

Molly smiled, but it was the strangest smile Mac had ever seen. A knowing smirk that sent a shiver down his spine. “I’m sure we will…and maybe you’ll be able to return the favor.”

Without saying more, she gunned the gas, spinning the station wagon around and heading out back into the night.

Mac watched her go until the Pontiac’s tail lights were just a fuzzy red mark on the darkening horizon.

He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something weird had just happened, and that it wasn’t quite over yet.

* * * *

Mojave Springs Hotel
Fair Oaks
California

MacGyver took about ten minutes to walk from where Molly had dropped him off back to the hotel. It wasn’t exactly a great distance, but by the time he was shuffling through the front entrance, his legs were aching.

At some point, and soon, he was going to have to get some sleep, or keel over.

Right now, Mac didn’t think he was far from the latter.

First, though, he needed to grab a bite to eat, and he needed to check on Sam again. Then, he’d collapse on his bed into nothingness for awhile.

Wondering if the hospital had left any messages, he stopped at the front desk to ask the owner’s wife, Pamela. She was a petite brunette of about fifty that seemed very shy given her profession.

“Hi.” he nodded amiably. “Have there been any messages for me?”

Pam thought about it before replying. “Only that Mr. Thornton is waiting for you in the dining room.”

Mac cringed. He thought the world of Pete, but he really wasn’t in the mood for discussing his return to Phoenix. He really wanted to check on Sam.

“Thanks…” He nodded to Pam and reluctantly headed to where he knew Pete would be waiting.

As he slid into a seat opposite his old friend, Pete smiled. “About time, Mac, I thought you’d stood me up.”

“And just how did you know it was me?”

Pete tapped his nose. “I’ve been honing my skills. They do say a blind man’s other senses improve, you know?”

“You should have tried that before I showered,” Mac chuckled. “Although after the afternoon I’ve just had…”

Pete’s eyes narrowed as if he could still see and was intrigued. “Oh? Wasn’t last night on the plane enough for you?”

“Well, that’s what started it all,” MacGyver explained. “I realized the camera I bought for Sam for Christmas had been destroyed when the plane exploded. So, I set out to go into town to buy another – and kinda got lost.”

Pete’s smile returned. “The great Angus MacGyver got lost?

Mac groaned, and not just because Pete had used the dreaded first name. “It gets worse,” he admitted. “I got lost, and then my car broke down.”

“Sheesh, maybe I should rethink whether I want to hire you or not. Talk about bad luck!” Pete was chuckling now. “So, how did you get back?”

Pam appeared with two drinks that Mac assumed Pete had ordered earlier. A Scotch and an orange juice. Mac took the orange juice. “I got rescued. A woman named Molly in a really old Pontiac Bonneville station wagon took pity on me and gave me a ride.”

Pam almost dropped the tray she’d been carrying, and every drop of color drained from her face. She didn’t seem to care that she wasn’t part of the conversation, and joined in anyway.

“Bright red Pontiac you say?” Pam was shaking as she asked the question. “Driver named Molly? Not Molly Gregson..?”

Mac frowned. “Yeah, I think that was her name, do you know her?”

Pam pulled a chair over from an empty table and flopped on it as if her legs wouldn’t hold her. She fidgeted with her hands, almost as if she was scared. “I did know her. You see Molly went missing last Christmas Eve and no trace of her was ever found – not even that bright red station wagon of hers.”

MacGyver shook his head. “That can’t be right. I saw her just tonight. Long dark hair, pretty eyes, and I’d recognize that Bonneville anywhere.”

“I’m not saying you didn’t, but…well, everyone in town pretty much knows Molly is dead. She had a husband and two kids, she’d never just leave them, not unless…”

“Didn’t the police look for her?” Pete interrupted.

Pam nodded. “Of course, and they suspected what happened to her too, but could never prove it. Hank Riggs was the town drunk. He’d taken to harassing women drivers after he’d had one too many at the local bar. They always thought Hank went too far that night with Molly, but without evidence…”

“Do they know where she was last seen?” Mac prodded. I can’t have been rescued by a ghost. I don’t even believe in ghosts!

“She was doing some last minute shopping on the south side of town – right near Hank’s favorite bar.”

“Not out of town, heading anywhere near the back road with the bridge that’s out?” Mac was putting things together, but then the evidence was pulling his theories back apart.

“No, nowhere near there,” Pam agreed. “But if that’s where you got lost, you’re real lucky. There are no signs for that bridge, we’ve been telling them about it for months, and if you’re not from these parts…”

MacGyver thought about it. He hadn’t known the bridge was out, and he would have carried on driving if his car hadn’t suddenly died.

It was kind of ironic that Molly, or whoever she was had happened along right at that time.

But he still didn’t believe in spirits, even if they were the heroic type of spook.

There had to be a rational explanation, and now, he needed to find it.

Mac looked at Pam – she really thought the supernatural was at work. “Don’t worry. I’m going to find out what just happened, and who that really was in the Pontiac. I know there’s an answer, a logical one.” He patted her shaking hand to try and reassure her.

“You are?” Pete raised a brow.

Mac nodded. “Yeah, if you’ll lend me Nikki in the morning to drive me back out there. I need to try and get the hire car started anyway.”

“Sure,” Pete agreed. “Although I’m not sure what Nikki is going to make of all this…”


* * * *


MacGyver hadn’t much felt like discussing work after what Pam had told them, and Pete had seemed to understand. Either that or he sensed just how exhausted Mac had been and didn’t want to tire him further.

Mac had made a quick phone call to the hospital about Sam, and then crashed into his hotel bed.

Now, while he wasn’t exactly ready for a marathon, he at least didn’t feel like the living dead anymore.

“What exactly are we looking for out here?” Nikki probed as she drove the Phoenix Crown Victoria out of town.

Mac studied the terrain they were passing through without looking back at Nikki. He had a feeling if she knew the whole story she’d think he was going nuts, or had imagined things due to fatigue.

“Just picking up the hire car and…”

“And looking for a dead woman,” Nikki concluded.

Great, Pete told her everything.

“Depends if she is actually dead,” Mac countered. “C’mon, they never found a body or the car.”

Nikki huffed. “So she’s been driving around for a year and nobody but you has seen her? And she’d leave her kids?”

Nikki had a point, but then that led back to the supernatural theory Pam seemed to have been suggesting.

No way.

The hire car came into view and Nikki pulled up beside it. The hood was still open, and in the light of day MacGyver still couldn’t find anything wrong with it.

On a whim, he slid behind the wheel and cranked the ignition just like he had the night before. It roared into life without even hesitating.

Nikki rolled her eyes. “Are you sure you didn’t make this up to get me out here all alone? She teased.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

It was the usual bickering game the pair liked to play.

“So now what?” Nikki put a hand on her hip as if she had far better things to do. In fact, she probably did given how much she helped Pete these days.

“You go back, I’ll catch up with you. There’s something I’ve got to see.” MacGyver went to close the car door, but she grabbed it.

“No way do you get rid of me that easy. I thought you knew me by now.” She jerked a thumb back to the Ford. “I’ll follow.”

Mac gave in and nodded. But he wasn’t about to wait. He spun the hire car around and headed towards the collapsed bridge as fast as he dare on the hole-filled road.

It took about five minutes to find what he was looking for.

The bridge was one of the old wooden, covered top designs, and it had long since given out in the middle.

Large sections of timber dangled precariously like taunting rope ladders to the roaring river below.

Mac left the car and carefully edged to the brink of the abyss the buckled bridge had created.

Lying on his stomach to get a better view, he scrutinized the remains that were hanging and swaying in the breeze.

From the marks on the timbers, the bridge had originally given out many years previously. But then, on timbers closer to the edge, there were new marks, if only he could get close enough to examine them.

Mac clambered to his feet and assessed the situation as Nikki finally joined him.

“Find what you were looking for?” She asked, taking a peek over the edge herself and squirming.

“Maybe, but I need to get down there to be sure.” He pointed to the dangling, broken beams. “I don’t suppose you have a rope in your car?”

“Do I look like the kind of girl who has a rope in her car?”

Mac shrugged roguishly. “Maybe…” He didn’t take no for an answer and popped the Ford’s trunk anyway.

Inside, was a mass of tangled electrical wiring and bulbs, that he realized were heavy duty Christmas lights.

“They were supposed to be for the tree outside Phoenix’s offices,” Nikki explained. “But they were faulty so the supplier sent another set. I was supposed to take these back. Except you interrupted with your doomsday plane fiasco and I got distracted.”

Mac ignored her and began to pull the lights out, laying them out as straight as possible on the ground. He tugged on them, assessing what kind of weight they would take, and then pulled out his knife.

“Hey, you can’t damage them. I still have to take them back!” Nikki complained.

MacGyver took no notice and sliced into the cabling anyway, cutting several lengths the same size. When he was happy he had enough, he started to weave them together to make a stronger line.

Nikki watched him, her expression saying she was slowly realizing what he was about to do. “You’re going to climb down there?” She pointed. “Using that? How on earth can you say you’re afraid of heights?”

Mac looked up. “I just face my fears rather than run away. And…I need to know for sure what happened out here.” He finished up his impromptu “rope” and tied one end around his waist. Taking the other end, Mac wrapped it around the front of Nikki’s car. “I need you to lower me down there real slow.”

“As long as you don’t expect me to go over the edge with you like on that mountain…” Nikki climbed back behind the wheel of the Ford and started it up.

When MacGyver had gotten into position on the bridge, she gradually let the car creep forwards, giving him just enough slack to begin to climb down, whilst taking the bulk of his weight.

Mac stepped carefully on the wood as it hung almost vertically.

The rotten laths creaked and groaned as his boots fell against them, and here and there, he could feel the wood wanting to give way. He ignored it, moving down to the section that appeared to have caved in more recently.

There were marks on the wood here that at one time would have been the brink of the timber precipice – and to MacGyver, they looked like the dark rubber streaks left by tires.

Someone had tried desperately to brake up on the bridge to stop themselves going over the rotting edge.

It obviously hadn’t worked.

But why?

Mac swung carefully to the collapsed side section of the structure to examine further. There were more marks, like a car had scraped along the overpass’s barrier’s, or had been forced against them.

And the paint was red.

MacGyver closed his eyes and remembered Molly’s Pontiac. The huge dent he’d seen in the back was consistent with another car ramming into it and forcing it forwards.

He could almost see the station wagon being pushed over the edge of the bridge with Molly inside.

Mac’s eyes snapped back open and he shivered. This was all conjecture if he couldn’t find enough evidence. Taking out his knife and an old envelope he had in his pocket, he scraped some of the red paint inside. That was possible proof that Molly had been here, if it matched her car.

Pam at the hotel said a local named Riggs was a suspect, but had he left anything behind to link him to this place? That was what they needed most.

MacGyver kicked off from the delicate timbers and tried to sway across to the other side of the fallen bridge. There were marks there too and he needed a closer look.

As he swayed, he felt the line he was on give just a little and he dropped slightly.

Mac felt his stomach do a flip as his gaze locked with the rushing cold water below. It looked angry and wild, white frothing eddies swirling over sections of rock and green algae.

|He could only imagine what Molly had felt as her car had fallen to its doom here – if that was what had happened.

He shook away the thought and began to scrutinize the other marks he’d discovered. Another car had definitely hit the barrier. But could he match it to Riggs’s?

MacGyver scraped away more paint, this time a shade of bright yellow, and was relieved when his job was finally done. He yanked lightly on the “rope”.

“Ready to come on up!” He shouted loud enough for Nikki to hear over the roar of the river.

“Okay Santa…”

The “rope” slowly dragged Mac back to the remains of the bridge that were still on terra firma, and he clambered back onto solid ground gratefully. “Santa?”

Nikki shrugged. “Did you find anything?”

MacGyver offered up the envelope. “There are tire marks on what would have been the road surface of the bridge, like someone braked hard. And these two colors of paint are on the side barrier sections as if they’d scraped along it…”

Nikki looked at the remains of the bridge that were intact. “So the local cops were probably right? Riggs chased Molly out here, got spooked and forced her off the already damaged bridge?”

MacGyver didn’t want to admit it, but all the evidence he’d found pointed to it.

And that meant the locals were right about something else – Molly was dead.

But that couldn’t be right, because he’d met her out here. She’d stopped him going over this very bridge, and she’d given him a lift back to town.

But the Pontiac was dented, you saw it yourself…right where it would be dented if someone had…

Mac squirmed. He always dealt in reality, not this.

Nikki seemed to sense what he was thinking. “If Molly went over the bridge..?”

MacGyver finished the sentence for her. “Then I’m either nuts, or a ghost gave me a lift home last night…”


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