The Devil You Know

By Sanguine

Episode 9.10

Part One

 

This can’t be happening,” said Jack Dalton as he looked down at the lifeless cadaver lying on the metal table within the morgue. The thin white sheet covering the body had been pulled back slightly, enough to expose the body’s face and part of one bare shoulder. “I can’t believe it. It---it really is him.”

“So you’re positive that this is your friend, then?” asked the coroner gently. “You’re confirming the identity?”

“Yes,” Jack choked. “Yeah, that’s Mac. That---that’s MacGyver. He really is…” Aviator hat in his hands, Jack reached across with trembling fingers to touch the pale skin of MacGyver’s neck. He was cool to the touch...and there was no pulse. “I never thought that this could happen. I--- How can this be real?”

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” the coroner replied, drawing the sheet back up over MacGyver’s face. “Thank you for coming here today. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. I hate to ask this, but would you mind stopping to sign some papers at the front desk? Just to verify that you did give us a positive ID, please.”

Jack’s eyes were transfixed by the shape of his friend beneath the sheet. “Yeah. Sure.” Slowly, Jack shook his head. “I just--- I always thought he was invincible. He was always there, could always get out of any trouble. I just can’t believe it.” His head lifted up to meet the coroner’s gray eyes. “How did he die?”

“Right now, we’re considering his death an accident, but we’ll know more when the autopsy is complete. We’ll keep you informed.”

“Thanks.” Jack coughed and took a deep breath, feeling as though the walls were closing in on him. “Out this door here?”

The coroner nodded. “Thank you for coming by.”

“No problem,” Jack’s voice was just barely loud enough to echo in the cold room as he walked out the door.

Quickly, the coroner heaved a sigh of relief and pulled the sheet away. Jack had left not a moment too soon; the drug was wearing off and color was starting to return to the troubleshooter’s face. His heart rate was increasing steadily and his breathing was getting stronger as the coroner monitored his vital signs. Everything was going according to plan.

MacGyver awoke with a splutter, feeling dazed and groggy, and sharply aware of the icy stethoscope pressing against his chest. “Hey, Doc. Did we fool him?”

The coroner grinned. “Sure did. It looks like Angus MacGyver is officially dead and no one’s going to be the wiser.”

MacGyver winced a little bit. “Skip the first name, would ya?”

“Sorry. I saw it on your medical records.”

“Was he upset?”

“Of course he was. His best friend just died, remember?”

MacGyver shook his head sadly. “I hate to lie to him like this, but Pete was right: if Jack is convinced that I’m really dead, then everyone else will believe it, too.”

The coroner nodded. “Sounds like everything’s working out so far.”

“Hey, what was that drug you gave me again? Whatever it is, it’s some strong stuff. My head still feels kinda fuzzy.” MacGyver rubbed his shoulders as he added, “And I’m freezing.”

“Baclofen, a muscle relaxant.” The coroner’s grin grew wider, spreading across his thin face and making his pointy cheekbones seem even sharper. He looked almost like a cartoon Dracula in the fluorescent lighting. “Interesting stuff. In the right dose, it drops vital signs down to nil. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it doesn’t last very long at all. Here, let me get you a coat. We need to raise your temperature back up.”

“Thanks,” MacGyver replied as he propped himself up to sit at the edge of the metal table and tugged his shirt back on, accepting a thick jacket from the good doctor a moment later.

“All right, we should get you out of here. I’ve been keeping an eye on you the whole time, and you should be fine. Mr. Thornton arranged for a getaway car to be waiting for you outside. It’ll take you to a Phoenix Foundation safe house until all of this blows over. Uh, it’s a blue Crown Victoria, I think.”

“Thanks for all your help. I appreciate it.”

“Anytime. Right out this back door, now--- I don’t need any corpses walking around scaring the living daylights out of people!”

MacGyver rolled his eyes and hurried outside as the coroner’s laugh echoed in his ears. The blue Ford was parked outside, just as he’d been told. Zipping up his coat, MacGyver slid into the backseat.

“Hey,” he greeted the driver, separated from him by a clear Plexiglass partition.
“Hello there, Mr. MacGyver,” purred a sultry female voice. “Where to?”

MacGyver quirked an eyebrow. “Pete’s safe house would be nice.”

The driver chuckled. “Buckle up.”

Smiling, MacGyver obeyed. But as he clicked his seatbelt in place, he noticed something peculiar about the backseat doors. Slowly, he tried to open the door he’d just used to get inside. The handle would barely budge; it was blocked by a hard plastic barrier. An icy chill that definitely wasn't a side effect of being almost dead crept into MacGyver’s bones. He was trapped.

As the car pulled out of the parking lot, the driver chuckled, but the voice wasn’t the same feminine tone as before. “How many times are you going to fall for that voice trick, MacGyver?”

MacGyver managed to whisper only one word: “Murdoc…”

“That’s right, MacGyver, it’s me. Don’t bother trying to escape. This is an old police car, and the backseat doors can only be opened from the outside. So now you’re my prisoner. A bit ironic, don’t you think?”

“Let me go, Murdoc!”

Murdoc laughed. “Why should I? You won’t be missed. After all, everyone thinks you’re dead, don’t they?”

MacGyver paused in his attempts to open the car door. “How’d you know about that?”

“You’re very, very bad at faking your death, MacGyver. Take it from an old professional. Baclofen, really? That’s the oldest trick in the book. You’re not fooling anyone, least of all me.”

“Are you the one that HIT sent to kill me? You’re accepting contracts from them again, is that it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, MacGyver. You of all people should know that HIT has stabbed me in the back too many times for me to go back to them. Not this time.”

MacGyver stared at Murdoc’s reflection in the rearview mirror. “That never stopped you before.”

“This is different,” Murdoc said defensively. “I mean it, I’ve cut all ties. I work freelance now.”

“Freelance murder. Great. Let me give you a pat on the back for how hard you’ve tried to reform,” MacGyver replied, unable to hold back the sarcasm. “So what kind of elaborate scheme do you have cooked up this time, Murdoc? Huh? Flamethrowers, rocket launchers, strapping me to the railroad tracks and waiting for the train…?”

“As tempting as all of those options sound, that’s not what I’m here for.”

MacGyver frowned; he didn’t like where this was going. “Then what are you here for?”

“Curiosity,” Murdoc replied simply.

“Curiosity?” MacGyver echoed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that when I found out that someone had put a price on your head---again---I wanted to know who’d gotten the contract.” Murdoc frowned a bit as he added, “The contract that’s rightfully mine. After all this time, I think I deserve to be the one who finally ends your life.”

“I don’t believe this! You’re kidnapping me because you’re---you’re getting territorial because somebody else from HIT might get to me first?!”

Murdoc shrugged. “That about sums it up. Everyone knows that you’re my victim, MacGyver. If anyone else gets to you first, I’ll never be able to salvage my perfect record. It’s a matter of professional pride, you see. Offering the contract to another assassin is the greatest slap in the face that HIT could possibly give me. I simply can’t allow it.”

MacGyver twitched a little in the backseat. “So what does that mean for me, exactly?” He had a sinking feeling that he already knew the answer, and those suspicions were confirmed when Murdoc flashed a deranged grin visible in the rearview mirror.

“Naturally, I’m going to kill you myself before anyone else can get to you.”

“Murdoc, you can’t do that!”

“Of course I can. I’m the best assassin in the world. But don’t worry, MacGyver. I’m keeping you alive until I find out who the other assassin is. And then---”

Murdoc grinned fiendishly--- “I’ll kill you both!”

“No, no, and no, Murdoc! It’s not happening! And where are you taking me?!”

“Not to your safe house, obviously. Actually, HIT’s known about that one for years. No, I’m taking you somewhere special. Just relax and enjoy the ride. It might be the last one you ever take.”

Of course, MacGyver had no intentions of letting Murdoc succeed. He quickly unbuckled his seatbelt and started to look for anything that he could use as a means of escape. But then… he had an idea.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” he muttered to himself.

“What was that, MacGyver?”

“Murdoc… I don’t like this any more than you do, but---what if we worked together?”

“Working together?” Murdoc echoed, incredulous. “For what?”

“To stop HIT!”

“We tried that once before, and it didn’t work.”

MacGyver sighed. “Look, I know we didn’t put them away for good, but we did manage to slow them down a little. If we keep trying, eventually we’ll stop them. Right now, we have a common enemy. If we can put our differences aside for long enough, then we can bring them down!”

“Your optimism is adorable, but the two of us alone can’t accomplish that much. Especially now that I’ve become an outsider. HIT will never fully trust me ever again.”

MacGyver forced himself not to roll his eyes. “I doubt anyone’s ever trusted you fully, Murdoc. But---” He hesitated for a moment before finishing, “But the DXS has a man on the inside.”

“What?”

“The DXS sent an undercover agent to get all the evidence they needed from HIT that we couldn’t get before. They asked me to consult because of my experience with you, and they made me his contact. That’s why HIT wants me dead this time---they’re going after both of us. The last message that he managed to get to me before he went off the grid was a warning about the hit. Pete and I talked it over, and we decided that the safest thing for everyone involved was for me to pretend to be dead to get them off my trail for a while. Just until the DXS can find the agent and get him in protective custody.”

Murdoc scoffed. “As if protective custody from the DXS actually means anything. You do realize that I slaughtered people for money right under their noses for years and they never caught me?”

“Well, what do you want me to do, Murdoc, give you a gold medal? I’m giving you the facts, and now you have a choice. You can either work with me, or I’ll escape from this car and run to the other assassin with a sign that reads ‘Kill Me Now,’ and you’ll never be able to fix your perfect record.”

“You can’t get out of this car. I’ve thought of everything.”

MacGyver raised an eyebrow. “The same way you thought of everything all the other times you’ve tried to kill me?”

Murdoc sighed. “Point taken. And I do suppose that it is somewhat satisfying to see my worst enemy running to me for help…”

Once again, MacGyver had to bite back his pride and force himself not to shoot Murdoc a snarky retort or an eyeroll. “That’s the spirit. And besides, I did you a favor once, remember? That means you owe me one.”

Murdoc scoffed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel before nodding. “All right, MacGyver, if that’s how you want to spin this. But remember, if I help you now, I’m doing it to get rid of HIT and not for you. And if I help you now---that makes us even again.”

MacGyver stared at his enemy’s reflection in the rearview mirror. “Deal.”

The assassin’s lip twitched into a ghost of a smile. “Good. Now put your seatbelt back on, will you? It would be a shame if you were to have an accident and fall into an early grave.”

 

* * * *

“We need a plan,” MacGyver said as he paced the floor of Murdoc's latest residence: an abandoned bomb shelter somewhere just outside of Barstow. Needless to say, Mac wasn’t pleased about being in the middle of a desert and two hours away from home with a madman, but what other options did he really have?

“For once, MacGyver, I agree with you,” Murdoc replied as he lounged in an armchair shoved into a corner. “I’m thinking of something involving a guillotine.”

“What?! A guillotine? What would you need that for?”

“To fake your death, obviously.”

“I thought you said that faking my death wouldn’t work.”

“No, I said that you’re terrible at it. I never said that your idea wouldn’t work. Here’s the plan: I’ll stage your murder and send the snapshots to HIT. They’ll call off their assassin, which will give us the element of surprise as well as the freedom to find your agent before HIT does.”

“I’m not sure about this, Murdoc.”

The assassin shrugged. “Perhaps not, but it’s a risk you’ll have to take. Don’t worry. I’m a professional. And fortunately, guillotines are fairly simple to build.”

“No way! You can’t cut off my head!”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re not really trying to kill me this time, remember? You need my help to stop HIT!”

Murdoc shook his head. “You know, this would be much more convincing if you were actually dead.”

“Murdoc,” MacGyver threatened.

“All right, fine! I have a better idea anyway. But it will take a bit of time to set up.”

“What is it?”

Murdoc smirked. “Well, I can’t just tell you, MacGyver. That would ruin the surprise! Now, I’m going to need some space to work. You’re just going to have to wait here in this room until I call for you.”

“You actually expect me just to wait here for you? What am I supposed to do? I can’t just sit here doing nothing!”

Murdoc shrugged. “That’s your problem, not mine. I’m sure you’ll think of something to occupy yourself, MacGyver. Just…stay put. This won’t take long.”

* * * *
 

Obviously, Murdoc’s definition of “not taking long” was worlds apart from MacGyver’s view of the phrase, because the troubleshooter was forced to endure a period of boredom that stretched the limits of his tolerance. He paced the floor, searched through every supply closet, and even considered cleaning the place up just to give himself something to do, but Murdoc’s lair was already spotless.

As soon as his enemy-turned-friend stepped through the door, Mac jumped up and said, “About time! Look, I’m sick and tired of just waiting around. So whatever it is you’ve got planned, please tell me that you have it finished!”

“More or less,” Murdoc conceded. His eyes lit up with hope. “Are you going to beg me for death now? As a reprieve from boredom, perhaps?”

“Nope.”

“I didn’t think so, but I had to try. Well, come along, MacGyver.”

MacGyver rolled his eyes and walked through the door, keenly focused on Murdoc’s footsteps behind him just in case of any funny business. “So are you gonna tell me what you have planned, or what?”

“The answer is right in front of you, MacGyver.”

He was about to ask Murdoc what that remark was supposed to mean when, just as he reached the top of the stairs, he felt himself brushing up against something in the darkened tunnel.

A spiderweb.

He brushed the threads away, but they stuck to his hands. In a matter of seconds, MacGyver realized that this was no ordinary spiderweb clinging to his skin. The thing was apparently huge, with strands reaching from the ceiling to the floor, and the more he struggled to get out, the more entangled he became. And the worst part of it was that, no matter how hard he tugged at the silky fibers, he couldn’t get a single one to break. He was imprisoned---not an illusion, but for real…and he was in Murdoc’s clutches.

He had literally walked right into Murdoc’s trap.

The assassin threw back his head and laughed. “Remind me again what it was that the spider said to the fly?”

“Was it something about crawling up a waterspout?” MacGyver replied through gritted teeth.

“Very funny, MacGyver. Well? Aren’t you impressed? Aren’t you going to comment on the quality of my work? I’ve been keeping this idea in my mind for a very long time. The least you could do is appreciate how much effort I put into this.”

“It’s great, just great. Now will you let me go?” MacGyver struggled to get free, but the web was too strong. “What is this stuff, anyway?”

“Isn’t it obvious? It’s spider silk.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Actually, it isn’t.”

MacGyver blinked, frowning as a thought crossed his racing mind. “The parachutes… One of the labs at the Phoenix Foundation was researching the application of spider silk in parachutes. They were giving the spiders drinking water that was laced with graphene and carbon nanotubes, the same materials that make up their exoskeletons. In theory, the minerals would enhance the webs and make them strong enough to support a human’s weight. But that’s all theoretical! It’s never been tested!”

“Not in the form of a parachute, perhaps, but I’d say that this is a successful test,” Murdoc replied. “By the way, you shouldn’t ask me how I got all of this. I really don’t think you want to know.”

“What are you going to do to me, Murdoc? Are you finally getting what you wanted?” MacGyver twisted and struggled against the experimental silk, still failing to break free.

“Would you stop thrashing about? You’re going to make it very difficult for me to apply the prosthetics.”

MacGyver stilled once again. “Prosthetics?”

Murdoc nodded and spoke slowly, as if explaining to a child. “Yes, MacGyver. I’m helping you fake your death properly, remember? I’ll kill you after all this mess with HIT is over with. Common enemies, and all that. Now, stay still. This will be some very delicate makeup work, and the liquid latex will need time to set.”

“Liquid la--- What?! Do you really think that any of this will fool HIT more than what I did?”

“If I didn’t have confidence in my methods, I wouldn’t be using them. Now be quiet and let me work.”

MacGyver stayed as still as he could while Murdoc began the painstaking process of making him look dead. Liquid latex and tissue paper formed the outline of a deep gash across MacGyver’s neck, while expertly-blended makeup gave his skin the pallor of recent death.

The only stumbling block came when Murdoc left the tunnel and reappeared minutes later with a live rabbit.

“What’s that?” MacGyver asked, twitching a little as he felt the odd sensation of the latex throat wound moving along with his skin.

“It’s a bunny, MacGyver, what does it look like?”

“But what’s it doing here?”

“Well, obviously, I need some blood to complete the illusion.”

“You’re gonna kill the bunny?!”

Murdoc rolled his eyes. “No, he’s just here for moral support. Of course I’m going to kill the bunny! I can tell the difference between fake blood and the real thing, and so can the other assassins at HIT. We spend quite a bit of time looking at it, you know.”

“No!” MacGyver said firmly. “There’s got to be a better way. Just use some stage blood. I’ll take my chances.”

“It’s just a bunny, MacGyver. It’s going to be eaten anyway, probably by something horrible. Better for me to give it a quick death for a worthy cause.”

“I said no, and that’s final! You’re not putting rabbit’s blood all over me! Don’t kill it!”

Murdoc heaved a sigh. “All right, fine. If you insist.” As he walked away, MacGyver could hear him mumbling under his breath. “Amateurs…”

At last, Murdoc returned with a jar of something thick and red. “All right, MacGyver, one jar of false blood, as ordered.”

MacGyver eyed the jar suspiciously as Murdoc unscrewed the lid. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Why, MacGyver!” Murdoc exclaimed with mock hurt. “It’s almost like you don’t trust me.” He held the jar just beneath MacGyver’s nose. “It doesn’t even smell like real blood. Doesn’t look much like it either, at least not up close. Corn syrup is much too thick to be realistic, but I did what I could. And I suppose that this will be good enough for our purposes, since it’ll only be a photograph.”

“Great. Let’s get this over with.”

Mumbling slightly to himself, Murdoc carefully began to apply the blood with a thick paintbrush, smearing it in some areas and pouring it on in others.

MacGyver frowned. “How much longer is this gonna take? I hate being trapped like this! Just take the picture and let me out already!”

“Be patient! You can’t rush art,” Murdoc chastised. “Besides, I have to get the splatter patterns just right.” He stepped back to admire his work. “This ought to do it. Yes, this should do nicely. Now for the difficult part.”

“What?! The difficult part? What could be any more difficult than what you’ve already put me through?”

Murdoc rolled his eyes. “My photographs are captured at the exact moment of death. You can’t just close your eyes and play dead. I need you to have your eyes open and your face looking very---well, expressive. As if you’ve just screamed your last scream, or in your case, gurgled your last gurgle.”

MacGyver flinched. “Don’t say stuff like that. Okay… I’ll try. Do you have the camera ready?”

“Absolutely. Impress me, MacGyver.”

MacGyver nodded and did his best to look like someone who was dying.

“No. No, this will never do,” Murdoc said, rummaging through his coat pockets. “Let’s try it again, MacGyver, go ahead.”

“All right. Just take the picture this time, will ya? I can’t take much more of this.” Mac sighed and tried to make the scary face again.

This time, however, Murdoc shocked him with a concealed stun gun.

As Mac yelped in pain, Murdoc finally snapped the photo, beaming with pride. “Well done, MacGyver! That was perfect. What an excellent photograph. What a shame that it isn’t real.”

“You electrocuted me!”

“Oh, don’t be so upset. It was only 50,000 volts or so.”

“Murdoc!” Mac clenched his teeth, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. He only got to five before he hissed, “Now will you please just let me go?”

The assassin looked up from the camera. “Hm? Oh, yes. Of course.”

“All of this trouble had better be worth it. Are you sure this is going to fool HIT?”

Murdoc smirked, picturing the looks on the faces of the Board of Directors when they found out that he had intercepted their most prized contract. “Positive.”

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