War Stories

By Rocket

Episode 8.18: Part One

 

The street was empty, the afternoon sunlight edging the old, wood windowsills and dented gutters of the tall buildings. A warm wind stirred the street grit and swirled it around the sneakers of the tall man walking around the corner.

He carried a sports bag over one shoulder, a battered hockey stick poking out of the top. He hitched the bag up and stuffed both hands into the pockets of his jacket, glancing into the mouth of an alley as he passed.

He didn’t see a darker shadow detach itself from the alley gloom.
He didn’t hear the man step up behind him.

When the rough bag dropped over his head, he dropped the sports gear and struggled violently, kicking out, using feet and elbows and knees. But the man from the alley pulled him backwards, stealing his balance and wrapping a choke hold around his neck. He tightened the hold, easing his prey down to the ground and crouching behind him. He waited while the struggles grew weaker, leaning in close to his prey.

“You know the drill, MacGyver. Tap, snap or nap.” He waited a moment longer and the struggles stopped as MacGyver slid into unconsciousness.

“Nap. Good choice.” His voice was calm, conversational. He rolled MacGyver over and zip tied his hands. Then he stood, gripped MacGyver under the arms and dragged him into the alley.

The wind blew the street grit around the sports bag, and a discarded playbill fluttered where it had been trapped by the fallen hockey stick.

Further down the alley, a door slammed.


And the street was empty again.

* * * *


There was a moment when the world swam back into focus. MacGyver was aware of moving, his sneakers scraping backwards up a step. He tried to get his feet under him, blinking in the darkness as his head cleared. Somewhere nearby, he heard a door slam. He wobbled to his feet, heard one soft footstep and a blow to his temple put the lights out again.

 

* * * *


The hood smelled of dust. MacGyver took a deep breath as consciousness returned. He blinked, his eyelashes fluttering against rough fabric.

What happened?

He blinked again, shook his head to clear it and tried to move, fear flooding cold through him as he discovered he was bound. He was sitting in a chair, his wrists fastened tightly to the cold metal frame. He breathed in, smelled dust, and felt the coarse fabric of the hood press against his face. Light filtered through the cloth, dimming briefly as someone crossed in front of him. MacGyver heard the scrape of another chair, and the light returned as his captor sat down. His heart thudded loud in his ears. Who would do this? Who had he upset recently? Could it be Mariotte? He was in serious trouble if so…

“What do you want?” MacGyver’s voice came out croaky and he coughed.

“Not 'where am I?’” His captor sounded amused. “I believe starting with ‘where am I’ is traditional, soldier.”

Inside the hood MacGyver frowned, trying to place the voice. Not Mariotte, at least…

“What do you want?” MacGyver flexed his wrists against the chair, feeling narrow bonds biting into the skin. Cable ties, perhaps.

“Still not playing the game, Corporal.” The voice was less amused now. “Thanks to you, I lost everything I ever wanted, so I’m having to settle for you instead.”

MacGyver jumped as his captor kicked the chair leg. “Imagine my delight.”

The voice was familiar, even muffled by the hood. MacGyver concentrated, replaying the conversation in his head, trying to remember how he’d got here.

‘Tap, snap or nap’. The phrase echoed up out of his hazy memory. The man had called him ‘soldier’ and ‘Corporal’. Someone from the DXS?

No. Further back.

Someone from Vietnam.

‘Tap, snap or nap’. The memory of a sweaty arm around his neck and a tanned face grinning down at him as oblivion darkened the edges of his vision.

“Sergeant Cooper?”

“Very good.” A hand seized the hood and pulled it off, leaving MacGyver squinting in the light.

“Why?” MacGyver shook his hair out of his eyes. “What do you want with me?”

“What indeed…” Sergeant Cooper studied the man in front of him. “I received some unexpected mail this week. Seems like a lot of dirty secrets are coming to light now that Tricky Dicky’s no longer with us.” He paused, watching MacGyver’s expression.

“OK…” MacGyver frowned, confused.

“I received a report. A blast from our shared past in South East Asia, from a colleague with an unnecessarily guilty conscience. He had some information he felt I needed to know.” Cooper bent down, removed a file from a bag beside him and threw it onto the table between them. As he turned, MacGyver could see the gun on his hip. Cooper saw him looking at the gun and smiled, faint and thin. The file slid towards MacGyver, who glanced down and then spread his hands, waggling his fingers.

“If you want me to look at it…” MacGyver trailed off as Cooper took a knife from his pocket and flicked open a blade. Cooper stared at the blade for a moment, then took two swift steps behind MacGyver and pulled his head back, laying the blade against his throat.

“How could you!” Cooper leaned in close, his voice a savage whisper, “They were civilians. They were innocents and you killed them!” His knuckles whitened on the knife and MacGyver tried to lean away. Cooper’s grip tightened in MacGyver’s hair and he felt the steel cold against his skin.

“She was two years old, you bastard.” Abruptly, Cooper let MacGyver go, spinning around to pace across the room. MacGyver released the breath he’d been holding.

“Sergeant Cooper, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You gotta believe me.” MacGyver flinched as Cooper stepped in front of him again, the knife catching the light.

“Liar!” Spit landed on the table and Cooper wiped his mouth with a shaking hand. “You killed them. I knew it wasn’t some tin-pot, home brewed bomb, not that amount of destruction. It was you. You ordered an mortar strike against a village full of civilians. They had no idea. No warning. No chance to get out.” He paused, breathing heavily. “When you ordered that strike, Corporal MacGyver, you killed my wife and my daughter. I swore then that I’d find the son of a bitch responsible for it if it took me the rest of my life, and now I’ve found you.” MacGyver jumped as Cooper trailed the knife up his neck, the point pricking under his ear. “You stood in my office and you told me you were sorry for my loss. And I believed you.”

MacGyver felt the knife press against his skin, cold and sharp.

“Sergeant Cooper, listen. I never ordered a mortar strike! I certainly never ordered one against civilians! You know me, you know how much I hate violence. I would never…” he broke off as Cooper slid the knife onto his cheek, staring into his eyes.

“Read it.” Cooper cut one of the cable ties, freeing MacGyver’s left hand. He stepped around the table and sat down, with his hand on the gun, his eyes fever-bright in his pale face. “Read it all.”

MacGyver reached out and opened the file, scanning quickly through the pages. He lifted one out, reading it again.

“This is wrong.” He glanced across, finding Cooper staring at him. “It didn’t happen like that.”

“It’s an official report, soldier!” MacGyver flinched as Cooper leapt up, yelling into his face. The point of the knife stabbed down into the pages before them. “An official report! Handed in by the artillery officer who actioned the strike you ordered! Who approved the strike because he thought he was taking out a nest of the VC and doing his goddamn patriotic duty!” Cooper paused, breathing hard. MacGyver could smell him, the scent strong and bitter. “You ordered it. Right there.” He pulled the knife out of the table top and stabbed down again, piercing the ‘M’ of a familiar, typed name.

“That’s not what happened.” MacGyver might as well have not spoken. Cooper leant forwards. His face inches from MacGyver’s. He yanked his knife free.

“You killed them, you son of a bitch. You killed them and now you’re going to die for your crimes.”

 

 

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