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.
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
“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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
grow poisonous crops?” John frowned.
who wants to use them to kill people.” MacGyver
shook his head.
The oldest elder hunched down in his seat, glaring at
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
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.
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.”
try again.” MacGyver sighed, shifting his leg again.
“You need to defend yourselves. And call the police.
Definitely call the police.”
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.
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.”
try again!” Fear made MacGyver’s voice loud
in the dim room. “You have to do something –
they’re not going to go away!”
pray for forgiveness for them.” The oldest elder
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.
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.”
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.
* * *
Jacob’s face appeared around the door, wet hair
plastered to his head. He held up the lantern, searching
the dim barn.
MacGyver put down the wrench he’d been using and
wiped his hands on a rag.
you doing?” Jacob set down the lantern and examined
the plough MacGyver had been working on.
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?”
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?”
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
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!”
kid.” MacGyver reached out for his crutch and stood,
testing his weight on his broken ankle. “Neither
* * *
was buried the following day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
need your help here, fella.” MacGyver got up, taking
Thunder’s harness from its peg and limping across
to the horse.
* * *
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.
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.
Nikki sounded busy and, for a moment, MacGyver considered
hanging up. “Hello?”
it’s me.” MacGyver leaned against the wall
of the booth.
are you?” In the background, MacGyver could hear
the sounds of the Phoenix office.
good. Would you be able to come get me?” MacGyver
scrubbed a hand through his hair and glanced across to
where Thunder waited.
sure, but I thought you were staying at least another
week.” Nikki sounded worried. “Did something
happen? Did they find you?”
No.” MacGyver sighed. “No, this is something
huh?” MacGyver heard Nikki tapping at the computer
keyboard and the faint whirr of a disk drive. “Mac,
what’s happened? You sound terrible…”
Nikki, I –" MacGyver swallowed, feeling tears
prick again. He opened his mouth to continue, but then
couldn’t find the right words.
Nikki sounded really concerned. “Mac, what is it?
Talk to me.”
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!”
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.
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?”
sure there’s not enough evidence.” MacGyver
watched Thunder browse the hedgerow.
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?”
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.”
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
isn’t one.” MacGyver shifted his weight again,
his ankle protesting at being stood on for so long.
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?”
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..?”
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
MacGyver stood up straight in the phone box. “Yeah,
I guess I will!”