his motorbike at the side of the road and switched off
the engine. The sky was brightening and the night chill
giving way to what promised to be a warm day. He sat
back on the bike and put his hands in his jacket pockets,
watching the sun rise over the city. Below, the first
rays of sunlight sparkled on the water, and the Golden
Gate Bridge shone red as the light touched it. He watched
until the sun was fully over the horizon, then pulled
a piece of paper out of his pocket. Checking the address
written there against his map, he started the bike and
descended into San Francisco.
* * * *
“Good morning, Helen.” Pete walked into
his office, hung his jacket on the hook behind the door
and sat down at his desk, propping his cane up beside
him. He reached across his desk and his hand brushed
against the paper there. He picked it up, bringing it
close to his face, but couldn’t read the handwritten
note. He frowned, irritated that he’d have to
ask for help, and reached down to switch on the computer.
As the machine booted up, clicking and whirring, Pete
heard footsteps approach.
“Pete?” Willis knocked on the half-open
door. “Helen said it was OK for me to come right
“Willis, Hi. Have you seen MacGyver this morning?”
Pete pushed a chair out for Willis and picked up the
“Not so far.” Willis sat down, passing a
mug of coffee to Pete. “He seemed a bit…
strange on the way back last night. Really upset about
the way the Phoenix directors… Well, you know.”
He blew on his own coffee and sipped it.
“I know, I’m working on it.” Pete
drummed his fingers on his desk. “Willis, I hate
to ask, but someone’s left a note on my desk,
and…” He trailed off, embarrassed.
“Oh, right. Sure thing.” Willis took the
letter and opened it, scanning the contents. He frowned,
reading the note again.
“What does it say?” Pete leaned forwards
in his seat.
“I, um…” Willis cleared his throat,
his voice quivered. “It’s Mac. He’s,
um… He’s not coming back!”
* * * *
MacGyver could hear the familiar, parade-ground voice
even over the bike’s engine. The door to the Visitacion
Valley Challengers Club had been propped open and MacGyver
could see rows of kids in white Karate suits practising
punches. He checked his watch, surprised at such a large
before-school turnout. Locking the bike, he stepped
into the hall and sat down at the back, watching Rutherford
T Hines at work.
Hines was encouraging a group of older kids to punch
the heavy bags harder. The teenagers were sweating in
the cool room, letting out a shout every time they landed
a punch or set the bags swinging with a kick. Hines
moved on to a group of smaller kids, kneeling down to
hold a focus mitt for them to hit. His voice was stern,
but the kids seemed pleased whenever he stopped to help
leaned forwards, resting his elbows on the back of the
chair in front and his chin on his arms.
Hines had some rough looking kids in his class, gang
tattoos visible on their necks and hands. He has some
very young ones too, the smallest looking about kindergarten
age, although there were no parents in the room. Hines
looked at his watch and gathered his class into a circle.
“Now, today is a brand new day.” He looked
around the circle. “Today, we hold our heads high
and we meet the challenges that face us.” He looked
at the older kids.
will not take drugs.”
“No Sir!” The class replied.
“We will not fight except in self defence!”
“No Sir!” One kid at the far side blushed,
avoiding Hines’ gaze.
“We will not participate in gang activity!”
Hines started at the two tallest kids, nodding when
they replied along with the rest. “We will work
hard at school!” He dropped down on one knee,
concentrating on the younger kids.
“Yes Sir!” The youngest nodded hard.
“We will make our families proud of us!”
Hines’ expression softened and he placed a hand
on the shoulder of a hollow-eyed kid standing next to
“Class dismissed.” He held onto the hollow-eyed
kid for a moment longer, speaking quietly to her as
the rest of the class got ready for school. The kid
nodded, wiped her nose on the sleeve of her suit and
ran off to get changed. Hines waited until the last
of the kids had departed, then strode over to MacGyver.
“Tourist!” Hines’ voice echoed in
the empty hall.
“Captain Hines.” MacGyver saluted, making
“What brings you to this fair city? Los Angeles
not enough of a challenge, maybe – come to do
some real work for a change!” Hines sat down next
to MacGyver. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too.” MacGyver smiled back. “I’m
just… taking a break, so I thought I’d come
and see how you’re getting on.”
“Taking a break. Uh-huh.” Hines gave MacGyver
a sharp look, then shook his head. “Whatever you
say, Mac.” He sat back, spreading his arms across
two seat backs.
“We’re doing well here, as you see. Next
class comes in at ten – self defence for victims
of domestic violence.”
“Sounds good.” MacGyver nodded.
“Wish it wasn’t necessary, but we live in
dark times.” Hines shook his head, standing up.
“Then drug rehab, young mothers and babies group,
adult literacy and then back to Karate after school
lets out this afternoon.” Hines counted the classes
off on his fingers. “You sticking around for a
“Few days, I thought.” MacGyver helped Hines
to collect up the kick shields and focus mitts.
“Well, I could use your help. You got a place
to stay?” Hines stowed the practice gear in a
box and shut the lid.
“Only just got here.” MacGyver shook his
“Stay with me if you want.” Hines hooked
his thumbs in his belt. “Couch is comfortable
enough.” He glanced through the open door. “Wouldn’t
leave your motorcycle there though – this isn’t
such a good neighbourhood!”
“Right…” MacGyver looked at his bike,
then out at the graffiti-scrawled and neglected buildings
beyond. “You got your hands full here, am I right?”
“Holding back the tide of scumbags, junkies and
gangsters so that the next generation don’t grow
up just like them!” Hines finished tidying the
hall and turned to face MacGyver.
“Big tide…” MacGyver lifted his jacket
off the chair and put it on.
“I ain’t beat yet.” Hines grinned.
“What happened to you, Tourist? You used to be
hell-bent on saving the world from itself!” His
grin faded as MacGyver shrugged.
me about it later. Maybe we can help each other out.”
Hines turned and walked down the Challengers front steps.
“Come on – I’ll show you a better
place to park the iron horse.”
* * * *
that’s it for today.” Hines followed MacGyver
out of the Challengers building, locking the door behind
him. MacGyver had helped with the kids Karate, been
an ‘attacker’ for Hines to demonstrate self-defence
techniques, mended a tennis ball machine donated by
a country club and helped the youngest kids to make
‘bird-balls’ – wildlife snacks made
from melted fat, seeds and raisins to hang in the club’s
small back yard. Talking to the kids and to the parents
who collected the little ones, he’d also heard
story after story about how finding the Challengers
Club had changed lives. Whatever he’d initially
thought of Hines’ teaching techniques, they seemed
to be working here.
He followed Hines’ beat-up truck through a maze
of rollercoaster streets, the bay glittering blue between
the buildings. They pulled up outside an older apartment
building and Hines led him up to the third floor, unlocking
his front door and standing aside to let him go first.
“You said you could use my help?” MacGyver
pushed his bag behind Hines’ couch and sat down.
“I did.” Hines tossed him a bottle of juice
and started making dinner. “We got us a competition
coming up, with some other youth clubs, and I could
use an extra pair of hands wrangling the kids. You in?”
“Absolutely.” MacGyver took a swallow of
juice and looked around Hines’ apartment. It was
neat without being military-smart, with a shelf of well-read
books and a patchwork throw on the couch.
“My sister made it.” Hines watched MacGyver
nod, tracing the pattern with his fingers. Hines stirred
the onions in his skillet and frowned. “How come
you’re here, Mac? Your head’s somewhere
out in left field, so come on – what’s eating
“You really want to know?” MacGyver sighed,
got up and walked over to the window. “I quit
Phoenix.” He turned to see Hines’ expression.
“Didn’t see that coming!” Hines shook
his head. “Must have been a pretty good reason,
“Right.” MacGyver turned back to the window,
watching the traffic on the steep street outside. “The
directors are probably going to do something I find…
problematic. The fact that they’re even considering
it is enough to make me leave. I didn’t join Phoenix
to support the bad guys, RT.”
“Huh.” Hines frowned. “And if they
decide to do the right thing after all?”
“I dunno.” MacGyver scrubbed a hand through
his unruly hair, tugging at a tangle. “That’s
why I’m up here, trying to decide what I’m
going to do next.”
“Well, alright then.” Hines added tomatoes
and beans to his chilli and turned the heat down, wiping
his hands on a teatowel. “I’ll show you
what we’re going to do next.” He picked
up a flyer for a Karate competition and handed it to
* * * *
his reservations about watching kids fight, MacGyver
found he enjoyed the competition. Several youth clubs
had entered teams, with competitors ranging from five
year olds in too-big karate suits to teenagers who fought
hard and accepted defeat almost as gracefully as victory,
shaking hands and bowing at the end of each match. Only
one group behaved differently, a group from Hunter’s
Point whose logo was a clenched red fist.
“They cheat.” MacGyver looked down to see
five year old Cody looking solemnly up at him. “And
they’re bad losers. Mr Hines says they don’t
display the true spirit of Karate.” He repeated
the phrase carefully, then leaped up to cheer one of
the Challengers kids, waving his flag with the Challengers
‘linked hands’ logo on it.
Concentrating on the Hunter’s Point team, MacGyver
decided that Cody was right. They were very good at
sneaking illegal hits past the referees and, once or
twice, he was sure one referee was turning a blind eye
to some of the more obvious fouls. Leaving Cody with
some of the older kids, MacGyver made his way down to
the edge of the mats, where Hines was refereeing. He
waited for a break, and then signalled to Hines.
“Doing pretty good, aren’t they?”
Hines grinned, waving to his team.
“Yeah, but we’d be doing even better if
that ‘red fist’ team weren’t cheating!”
watched Hines glance over at the Hunter’s Point
area and nod.
“But if the referee don’t see it, it ain’t
happening.” Hines held up a hand. ”I’m
not saying you’re wrong, they do push the limits
every time they compete, but I’ve been watching
them when I can and there’s not enough happening
to call them on it. We just have to be better than them
is all. Prove that fighting fair is the best way to
win.” Hines glanced at his watch, nodded to MacGyver
and walked back to his mat to start his next fight.
MacGyver went back to the Challengers area, finding
everyone watching the club’s final fight. The
Challengers champion, Sherry, was fighting a girl from
Hunter’s Point. The two were evenly matched in
height, weight and determination but, where Sherry used
skill to score her points, the Hunter’s Point
girl used only aggression. Bur Sherry had strike after
strike disallowed, while her opponent got away with
sloppy throws and below the belt strikes. MacGyver and
the Challengers kids grew angrier and when the Hunter’s
Point kid was declared the winner, even she looked surprised.
Furious, MacGyver went to find Hines, who’d watched
the end of the fight from across the mats.
“Hines!” MacGyver gripped his sleeve. “That
was wrong and everyone here knows it! You saw it too
– we have to do something!”
“Right.” Hines nodded, his face grim. “This
time I agree – we can’t let that stand!”