Safe Haven

By Rocket

Episode 9.19

Part Three

 

It took the rest of the morning to retrieve Robert Beiler’s body and bring him back to the village. After being shot, he must have chased his assailant as far as he could and then passed out, falling into the fast-flowing creek and being pulled under. He had washed up some two miles downstream at a calm, deep pool and become wedged under the roots of an overhanging tree, to be discovered by three boys who had been sent to catch fish.

He was brought home and laid out in the living room of his house, attended to by his widow and the elder women of the village.

The whole community was in shock. The necessary work on the farms continued, carried out by silent adults and solemn-faced children, but the elders gathered at the Millers’ house. MacGyver stayed outside and out of the way until Jacob came to find him.
“They want to talk to you.” Jacob helped MacGyver to his feet and walked slowly beside him as he limped through the kitchen, where Elizabeth wouldn’t meet his eye, and on into the living room.

“Sit down, please.” John indicated a seat and MacGyver sat down, Jacob sliding into the seat beside him. Joh looked as though he had aged ten years in a morning, and MacGyver was shocked at his appearance. The other elders looked just as shocked and MacGyver, acknowledging each in turn, was surprised to see Irene Beiler among them, dressed in black and with her gaze fixed on her folded hands. Her face was expressionless and pale, tears running unheeded down her face.

One of the elders cleared his throat, his voice still hoarse from the smoke.
“Mr. MacGyver, this is a tragic day for us. Nevertheless, we must find out what is going on, so that we can decide how best to prevent further loss to our community.” He folded his hands, bringing his fingers together. “We do not usually invite strangers into our community, especially English ones whose ways are foreign to us. But John Miller tells us that you are a good man and no threat to the peace of our village. On the strength of his word and the way in which you helped us before, we agreed that you could stay here. Since you have arrived, our village has seen a fight in which one of our brethren was shot, our school has been set on fire, one of our children was kidnapped along with you and left to die, and now it seems that our Robert’s wounds at the hands of an English man were in fact mortal. He was found by children, Mr. MacGyver!” The elder paused for breath, noticed for the first time that he was standing up, and sat down hurriedly. “We are a peaceful people, asking nothing more than to tend our land and raise our families in our own way. I do not believe that you are the cause of our troubles, but trouble seems to have followed you here. Mr. MacGyver – what is going on?”

“With respect, Sir, I think it might be the other way around.” MacGyver laid his hands flat on the table. “I think trouble was already here when I arrived.”
“Explain.” The oldest of the elders fixed MacGyver with a steely glare.

This time, when MacGyver looked at Irene Beiler, she looked up to meet his gaze. She took a deep breath and sat up straight.

“It is my fault.” She gripped the handkerchief in her hand tight, and her knuckled whitened. “Everything is my fault!” Her face crumpled and she hid her face in her hands, sobbing. Elizabeth appeared in the kitchen doorway and, at a nod from John, gently helped Irene to her feet and led her away. The elders watched them leave, and then turned back to MacGyver.

“Robert Beiler rented some land to some… outsiders.” MacGyver waited for the murmur of the elders’ conversation to die down before continuing. “The Beilers knew you wouldn’t approve, but their crops hadn’t produced enough to live on and they were desperate.” MacGyver caught Jacob nodding beside him and nudged him with his foot, warning him not to interfere and get into trouble as well. “The men they rented the field to, used it to grow some… experimental crops.” He looked around the table, reluctant to explain. “Robert changed his mind when he found out the crops they were growing were poisonous, but the men refused to give the land back, and shot him when he tried to insist.”

“Who would grow poisonous crops?” John frowned.

“Someone who wants to use them to kill people.” MacGyver shook his head.

“Pah! English!” The oldest elder hunched down in his seat, glaring at MacGyver.

“Jacob agreed to help me to investigate what was happening and was spotted by one of the men.” MacGyver spoke directly to John, ignoring the elder’s glare. “We were captured, but we escaped just in time to see the fire starting up in the school. We came back to warn you and, when I went up to the school this morning, I found traces of the chemical fertilizer used on the poison corn.” MacGyver took a deep breath, moving his leg to ease the pain in his ankle.
“So, the fire was set by these English men?” Another elder shook his head in disgust at MacGyver’s nod.

“I think they wanted to make the community leave, or maybe be so scared of them that you’d continue renting your land to them to avoid more fires, more deaths, more…” MacGyver broke off, sickened.

“We will not.” John’s hoarse voice was firm. “This is our home and our land. God put us here and we will not be chased away or bullied by these men.”

“They will try again.” MacGyver sighed, shifting his leg again. “You need to defend yourselves. And call the police. Definitely call the police.”

Outside, the rain that had been threatening all day began to fall. Elizabeth came in, lit the oil lamps and left again. In the changed light, the elders looked ancient and strange, relics of another time.

“What would we tell them?” John shook his head. “A wild-sounding story about poison crops and kidnappings? Jacob tells me the dead cow is gone and the grain silo has been emptied. We have no proof that Robert wasn’t shot accidentally by an English hunter. No, the police will not be able to help us here.”

“They will try again!” Fear made MacGyver’s voice loud in the dim room. “You have to do something – they’re not going to go away!”

“We will pray for forgiveness for them.” The oldest elder nodded.

“With respect, Sir, I don’t think praying alone is going to cut it this time.” MacGyver met the elder’s blistering glare calmly. Beside him, Jacob fidgeted, nudging MacGyver’s foot in a warning of his own.

“Mr. MacGyver, you do not understand because you are not one of us. It is not our way to fight back, to resort to violence in the English way. We will pray and we will turn the other cheek, and we will trust that our ways will deliver us from this evil. Alles ist en Ordnung.” The oldest elder lifted his chin, his gaze imperious. “Please leave us now.”

MacGyver opened his mouth, saw John shake his head almost imperceptibly, and closed it again. He got to his feet, collected his crutch and limped out of the room. He hobbled through the kitchen where Elizabeth and Irene Beiler sat, opened the door and went outside, closing it quietly behind him. The rain bounced off the puddles and ran in streams off the roof. MacGyver turned up his collar and limped off across the wet yard, heading for the barn.

* * * *

In a café in a nearby town, Roy picked up his coffee and watched the rain sliding down the windows. The meeting with his associates had gone well. The grain had been moved to a new location, the dead cow buried at a construction site owned by a man who owed him a favor, and he had a plan for removing the community for good. He watched a truck splash along the flooded road, windshield wipers working double-time. So much water, such a basic commodity, so easy to take for granted, but if you poison a community’s water supply, the community dies. Smiling at the efficiency of his plan, Roy finished his coffee and left.

* * * *

“Mac?” Jacob’s face appeared around the door, wet hair plastered to his head. He held up the lantern, searching the dim barn.

“Over here.” MacGyver put down the wrench he’d been using and wiped his hands on a rag.

“What are you doing?” Jacob set down the lantern and examined the plough MacGyver had been working on.

“Trying to help.” MacGyver gestured towards the plough, then ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t seem to be having much luck with that lately.” He shook his head, looking up at Jacob. “How much trouble are you in over all this?”

“Some.” Jacob shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I know you didn’t bring trouble with you, I know were helping and I’m glad I could help too, but the elders don’t see it that way.” He picked up the wrench and tightened a bolt. “Some of them anyway. Grandpa’s not mad with me, just sad about Robert.” Jacob sniffed and rubbed a hand across his nose, leaving a grimy mark. “What did you do to the plough?”

“Oh, that.” MacGyver pointed, moving the lantern to give a better light. “I changed the angle on the blades and moved the horse’s harness connections. It’ll bite into the soil better and be easier for Thunder to pull.” He held up the lantern to see Jacob’s face. “What happens now?”

“Well, Grandpa will tell you properly, but…” Jacob looked up, his face sad. “You can stay with us until your leg is better, but you have to promise to stay out of Amish affairs, including anything to do with Roy and the other English.” Jacob picked a stalk of hay out of Thunder’s manger and chewed it, frowning. “I know I should trust the elders and turn the other cheek, but what if Roy doesn’t stop? I don’t want anything else to happen, Mac!”

“I know, kid.” MacGyver reached out for his crutch and stood, testing his weight on his broken ankle. “Neither do I.”

* * * *

Robert Beiler was buried the following day.

MacGyver watched the funeral preparations first from his bedroom and, later, through the open door of the barn. He had been asked politely not to attend and, though no one was rude or unpleasant, hardly anyone in the community would meet his eye or talk to him beyond the minimum. MacGyver worked on the plough and stayed out of the way, the tone of his thoughts mirrored in the lowering sky overhead. As the community gathered at Irene Beiler’s house for the funeral, a thin, cold rain began to fall.

MacGyver sighed and sat back on a bale of straw, rubbing his leg where the damp made it hurt. At the other end of the barn, Thunder watched him, chewing hay in his stall.

“I can’t help them, can I?” MacGyver rose and hobbled over to the big horse, stroking his neck. “Roy’s going to come back and he’s going to hurt the people here and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it!” He made a fist, but resisted the temptation to punch the wall. Beside him, Thunder shook his head and tugged another mouthful of hay out of the manger.

“I’m doing no good here.” MacGyver shook his head and patted the horse, warm and sleek under his hand. “Maybe I should leave.” Thunder blinked at him, his dark eyes kind. MacGyver patted him once more and hobbled back to the plough, fixing the last blade in place. He sighed, feeling tears prick his eyes. He hadn’t known Robert Beiler, but the senseless death of one of these peaceful people tore at him. He tidied away his tools and nodded to himself, his decision made. He looked up at Thunder, who was watching him.

“Gonna need your help here, fella.” MacGyver got up, taking Thunder’s harness from its peg and limping across to the horse.

* * * *

Getting Thunder ready and backing him into the buggy was easier than MacGyver had feared, as Thunder was both obliging and well trained. MacGyver buckled his harness into place, stowed his crutch behind the seat and pulled himself up into the buggy.

“OK, Thunder, let’s you and me take a little trip.” MacGyver clicked to the horse, which started forwards, plodding out into the wet yard.

The rain had stopped and, once out onto the road, MacGyver urged Thunder into a trot. The rough ride jarred MacGyver’s ankle but he didn't slow down, wanting to get out and back before Robert Beiler’s funeral finished. He drove the five miles to the nearest town and pulled up outside a public phone booth. Leaving the buggy parked and Thunder eating a nearby bush, he hobbled across to the phone and dialed a number from memory.

“Hello?” Nikki sounded busy and, for a moment, MacGyver considered hanging up. “Hello?”

“Nikki, it’s me.” MacGyver leaned against the wall of the booth.

“Mac! How are you?” In the background, MacGyver could hear the sounds of the Phoenix office.

“Not so good. Would you be able to come get me?” MacGyver scrubbed a hand through his hair and glanced across to where Thunder waited.

“Well, sure, but I thought you were staying at least another week.” Nikki sounded worried. “Did something happen? Did they find you?”

“Atlas? No.” MacGyver sighed. “No, this is something different.”

“Different, huh?” MacGyver heard Nikki tapping at the computer keyboard and the faint whirr of a disk drive. “Mac, what’s happened? You sound terrible…”

“Yeah. Nikki, I –" MacGyver swallowed, feeling tears prick again. He opened his mouth to continue, but then couldn’t find the right words.

“Mac?” Nikki sounded really concerned. “Mac, what is it? Talk to me.”

“They won’t let me help!” Once MacGyver started to speak, the words came in a rush. “One of the Amish men was killed, and their land is being used to grow weaponized crops, and they tried to kill us, and they won’t go to the police, and dammit, Nikki, they won’t let me help!”

“Mac, slow down. You’re not making any sense.” Back in the Phoenix office, Nikki shook her head. As she listened to MacGyver tell the story, her eyebrows rose and then she frowned. When he had finished, she let out a low whistle.

“Boy, you jumped straight out of the pan and into the fire here, didn’t you!” Nikki shook her head. “And the Amish won’t go to the police?”

“No, they’re sure there’s not enough evidence.” MacGyver watched Thunder browse the hedgerow.

“Well, they may be right – all the evidence has gone.” Nikki tapped her pen against her notebook, thinking. “And they won’t let you help at all?”

“No.” MacGyver shook his head. “I have to stay out of Amish business, and maybe they’re right. Modern ways seem to have brought them nothing but trouble lately.”

“You can’t give up.” Nikki’s voice was certain. “You know damn well those guys will be back, so you have to find a way to help them that doesn’t go against their ways.”

“There isn’t one.” MacGyver shifted his weight again, his ankle protesting at being stood on for so long.

“There must be. I’ve never known you beat yet!” Nikki doodled on the notebook, running down ideas in her head. “What did you do last time?”

“Um…” MacGyver scratched his neck, watching Thunder cropping the grass. “When the construction guys came with the bulldozers, we lined up hand in hand and just stood in the way. Peaceful protest, and I reckon they’d have let the bulldozers run right over them before they’d have given up their home.” He sighed. “Maybe if I knew what Roy was going to do next..?”

“Well,” Nikki smiled, hearing the bleak note leave MacGyver’s voice, “I guess you’ll just have to keep your eyes and ears open, and make a plan to deal with him peacefully once you’ve found out what Roy’s next move will be.”

“Yeah.” MacGyver stood up straight in the phone box. “Yeah, I guess I will!”

 


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