Safe Haven

By Rocket

Episode 9.19

Part Four

 

As MacGyver guided Thunder between the buildings and back into the barn, he was aware of being watched. Robert Beiler’s funeral had finished and everyone was getting back to work, but he felt more of an outsider than ever. One of the younger kids waved to him, but was hurried away by her mother.

MacGyver un-tacked Thunder and gave him some hay. He settled himself back on his straw bale and set to work fine tuning his adjustments to the plough.
When it grew too dark to see, he tidies away his tools and, taking a deep breath, headed for the farmhouse.

Dinner was quiet, none of the Millers keen to talk after the sadness of the funeral. MacGyver excused himself as soon as was polite and went up to his room. He lit the oil lamp and read by the soft light until he heard the rest of the household go to bed. He was brushing his teeth and preparing to go to bed himself when he heard a quiet knock on his door. Outside on the landing was Jacob, still dressed and shielding the light of a candle with his hand.

“Mac, may I come in?” Jacob whispered.

“Won’t you get in trouble?” MacGyver opened the door and Jacob darted in, putting his candle down on a chest and sitting down beside it.

“Not if I don’t get caught!” Jacob smiled, but his eyes were sad.

MacGyver hobbled back across the room and sat on the bed, propping his crutch beside him.

“Was it very bad today?” MacGyver watched Jacob shrug, picking at a thread on his trousers. Then the boy nodded.

“Funerals are always sad, but this was worse because he didn’t die because he was old or sick, he died because someone killed him!” In the candlelight Jacob’s eyes shone, but he blinked back the tears. “The sermon was very long, all about how God doesn’t want us to be violent like the rest of the world, and about how our ways are better, more peaceful.” He pulled at the thread again and it snapped. “And about how we should forgive Roy for killing Robert. I’m not sure I can do that, no matter how hard I pray…” Jacob glanced up, looking ashamed.

“Yeah, I think I’d find that hard too.” MacGyver sighed. “Give it time, Jacob.” He leaned forwards. “Jacob – I know I’m not exactly the elders’ favorite person at the moment, but I hope you and your family aren’t in trouble along with me?”

“A bit.” Jacob shrugged again. “We’re supposed to discourage you from getting involved with stuff and be really careful about following all the rules while you’re here.” He grinned at MacGyver. “Most of the kids think you’re great, by the way!”

“Good to know!” MacGyver grinned back. “Listen, Jacob – I don’t want you to get in any more trouble, but if Roy comes back I’d like you to tell me, OK? I don’t want you guys to try and face him without me.”

“Agreed.” Jacob stuck out his hand and MacGyver shook it. Jacob turned and picked up his candle. “I’d better get to bed before anyone notices I’m missing. Goodnight, MacGyver.”

“Goodnight, Jacob.” MacGyver watched him go, and then lay back on the bed, lifting up his aching leg ad propping it over his other ankle. He smiled in the darkness. Maybe Nikki was right. Maybe he could still help, as long as he was careful about how he went about it…

* * * *

“So I’ll see you there at eight.” Roy drained his coffee cup and set it down, meeting the gaze of each of the men opposite him in turn. One shifted, looking doubtful.

“You sure this’ll work?” The man shook his head. “What if it all just washes away?”

“It ain’t gonna wash away!” Roy shook his head. “You don’t know the first thing about wells, do you?” He stared at the man, who shrugged. “It’ll work, believe me.” Roy stood up, sliding out of the booth and putting on his red coat. “Eight pm. Be there.”

The three men nodded, left some money on the table and departed, getting into their separate trucks.

From behind the corner booth’s high seat back, a head rose, scanned the diner and disappeared back into the booth. There was a whispered conversation, then three teenagers emerged, donning their straw hats. Thanking the waitress, they got back into their buggy and set off at a fast trot in the direction of the village.

* * * *

After helping Elizabeth to peel potatoes and hang out washing, MacGyver had gone back to the barn to tinker with the plough. He felt much more hopeful today, that he might be able to help his friends after all. He kept one eye on the hillsides, visible through the open door, but saw no flash of a red coat or battered pick-up truck up there.

He’d finished with the plough and was brushing Thunder when a shadow fell across the doorway.

“Mr. MacGyver?” A teenager MacGyver didn’t recognize slid in through the door, casting a glance backwards as though hoping he hadn’t been seen.

“Hi.” MacGyver stopped brushing and leaned against Thunder’s warm side. The teenager beckoned and MacGyver ducked under the railing, limping across to the other side of the barn. “You’re going to get in trouble for being here, aren’t you?”

“This is important!” The teenager shook his head. “I’m Samuel, I’m Jacob’s friend. He told us what happened, and we know about the elders’ decision that you shouldn’t get involved, but we think you should know about this.”

MacGyver listened as Samuel explained what he and his friends had overheard in the diner.

“Do you know what they were planning to put into the well?” MacGyver shook his head. “It could be pretty much anything. A lot of modern agricultural chemicals are stuff you wouldn’t want in your drinking water.”

“They didn’t say.” Samuel frowned, trying to remember. “They said they were going to bring three sacks of it, though, so it wasn’t a liquid.”

“Hmm.” MacGyver rubbed his leg. “Well, I guess now we wait, and keep a good watch on the well. Can you help me to do that?”

“Sure.” Samuel nodded and got up, dusting hay off himself. “I’d better go. I have jobs to do.” He smiled at MacGyver and walked to the door.

“Hey, Samuel?” A thought struck MacGyver just as Samuel reached the door. “How come you were in the diner anyway? I thought you didn’t…”

“Oh, that.” Samuel shrugged. “Rumspringa.” He smiled as though that explained everything and left the barn, whistling.

“Rumspringa?” MacGyver mouthed, forehead creased in confusion. He shook his head, making a mental note to ask Jacob about it when he saw him. Giving Thunder a pat, he picked up his crutch and limped back to the house.

* * * *

“No.” John helped himself to mashed potatoes and shook his head. “Absolutely not.” He put the spoon back in the bowl and looked at MacGyver. “MacGyver, I believe you have our best interests at heart, but I will hear no more about plans to capture these men.” He held up a hand as MacGyver opened his mouth. “We have lived here peacefully for a very long time. We have defended our land without resorting to violence before, as you know, and, if necessary, we will do so again.” He picked up his fork and speared a carrot. “We will not be persuaded to change our ways out of fear for what someone else may do to us.” He waited until MacGyver nodded before putting the carrot into his mouth.

Beside MacGyver, Jacob glanced sideways and gave a tiny shrug. MacGyver nodded back, then concentrated on his dinner, his mind turning over the problem of defending a people who refused to defend themselves.

 

* * * *

MacGyver spent the afternoon helping in the Millers’ garden, weeding vegetables and thinking.

“You look better.” Elizabeth came outside to feed leftovers to the chickens.

“I feel better.” MacGyver stood up and dumped the weeds into a bucket. His ankle was hurting much less today and he was sure he was on the mend. He looked across to John, talking with another elder and leaning on a long hay fork. “Elizabeth, I’m worried about what Roy’s going to do. He didn’t strike me as the type to give up easily, so I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him.” He dusted soil off his hands.

“Will you at least ask William to be ready in case they come this evening?”

“I can’t.” Elizabeth looked away, scraping the last of the food out of her bucket. “You heard what the elders said.”

“I did.” MacGyver nodded. “But Elizabeth, if they poison your well, you’re all in real trouble. If there’s no clean water, you will have to leave unless you can dig another one really, really fast. Assuming that whatever they put in the well doesn’t poison all the ground water!”

“I know.” Elizabeth bit her lip, glancing at her father. “Promise me you won’t do anything violent, MacGyver. Promise me!”

“I promise to do my best to avoid it.” MacGyver tilted his head, catching her eye. “But these men – violence is what they know, maybe all they understand.” He sighed as Elizabeth shook her head. “I’ll do my best, OK?”

“Alright.” Elizabeth took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “If they come, William and I will help you as much as we can.” She picked up her bucket and hurried indoors.

* * * *

No further mention was made of Roy or the threat he posed that day. John mentioned Robert Beiler in his prayers before the family started their evening meal and MacGyver, not normally a religious man, found himself echoing ‘amen’ at John’s humble request for God to watch over Robert’s family.

MacGyver saw Jacob shooting glances through the window facing the well, and resisted the temptation to do the same.

He helped Elizabeth to clear away and wash up after the meal, then accused himself and headed for the barn. As he crossed the yard, he saw Jacob and two teenagers talking. Jacob turned to him and shook his head, just once. MacGyver nodded in acknowledgement and carried on, leaving the barn door propped open behind him.

He’d been in the barn for an hour or so, fussing the horses and doing small jobs with one eye on his watch, waiting for eight o’clock to arrive, when a small girl padded in.

“Mr. MacGyver?” She took a step closer to him. “I think I saw the bad man. Jacob said I should come tell you.” He twisted her bonnet string around her finger and looked up at him, too shy to say more.

“Where did you see him, honey?” MacGyver dropped awkwardly onto one knee to get closer to her height.

“In the woods, out behind Katie’s Dad’s barn.” She pointed in the general direction of the woods on the other side of the village.

“What did he look like?” MacGyver felt adrenaline fizz in his stomach.

“English.” The little girl shrugged.

“What was he wearing?” MacGyver reached for his crutch, ready to stand up.

“A red coat and a blue hat!” The little girl mimed a baseball hat with a big peak on the front.

“OK honey, that sounds like him.” MacGyver levered himself to his feet. “Was he on his own?”

“No.” The bonnet strings swished as the girl shook her head. “He had one, two, three men with him.” She counted on her fingers twice to be sure.

“Good girl, well done for spotting him.” MacGyver smiled down at the girl and she beamed back up at him. “You run along home now, honey. Go straight there and stay inside, OK?” He watched the little girl nod and scamper away, her bare feet quiet on the earth floor of the barn.

“OK Thunder, I guess this is it!” MacGyver gave the horse a pat in passing, and limped out into the yard.

As he passed between the buildings, MacGyver noticed the teenagers again, behind the school. Then he spotted a trio of smaller boys crouched in some bushes, and Jacob loitering behind a tree. Jacob nodded to him and MacGyver nodded back. He could see the Millers’ house from his position in the shadow of a house, and Elizabeth and William visible in the windows.

The village square was empty, the well casting a long shadow across the hard-packed earth. MacGyver found himself thinking back, to rescuing Jacob and Christy from the old well, the tunnel they dug collapsing and the moment of real fear when he’d been sure he was about to be buried alive. Then, through the rain of dirt and stones, he’d seen William bracing his back against the roof of the tunnel and he’d pushed the children out ahead of him into the light and the air.

A movement caught his eye and MacGyver’s attention snapped back to the present. In the deep shadows at the edge of the square, two men eased a sack to the ground and looked around. MacGyver pressed himself against the wall, trying not to be seen.

Two more men emerged from the trees, each carrying a sack, and scuttled across the road to join the first two. There was a brief, whispered conversation that carried in the still air, and then Roy stepped forwards with his sack.

“No!” MacGyver took a step out from the shadows, facing Roy and his gang. “I won’t let you harm these people any more. He limped forwards, putting himself between Roy and the well. Behind him, he heard the barn door creak, the rustle of straw and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jacob lead Thunder out of the back of the barn, leap onto his bare back and turn the mighty horse onto the road. His hooves thumped dully on the grass verge and MacGyver spoke to cover the sound.

“You’re not going to poison the well here. This land is not yours, and you should leave these people alone.” MacGyver felt a small hand slide into his and looked down to see three small boys standing next to him. The teenagers joined him, then Elizabeth and Irene Beiler, who nodded to him, looking nervous. They stood in a line, holding hands, and then Samuel pulled his end of the line around and linked hands with Elizabeth, so that they were circling the well.

“So what have we here? A cripple and a handful of barefoot kids.” Roy grinned and pushed back his greasy baseball cap to scratch his head. “How are you going to stop me?” Behind him, his cronies laughed.

“Would you really poison children?” MacGyver looked Roy in the eye, seeing greed and scorn there. Behind Roy’s crony, in the distance, MacGyver spotted Thunder, galloping along the side of the road towards town, with Jacob clinging to his broad back.

“You have no idea what this land is worth, do you?” Roy shook his head. “We tried to move these people on last year, offered to pay them well, but they wouldn’t shift. Then we rented some land from them, but the damn fool changed his mind on us and look how far it got him!”

“Right!” One of Roy’s cronies shook his head in disgust, and another spat on the ground.

MacGyver felt Irene Beiler tense beside him and glanced across, seeing her white faced and angry.

“Go away!” Her voice was all the more chilling for being quiet. “Go away from here and never come back, you murderer!”

“Murderer?” Roy shook his head, laughing softly. “What can you prove, exactly? Accidents happen all the time.” He turned away from her and back to MacGyver.
“Accidents like the one that’s clearly happened to you, yes? Accidents like THIS!”

He rocked back and swung his fist, punching MacGyver in the mouth. MacGyver pulled his hand free from the child next to him, and tried to pull away from Elizabeth too, but she held on, pleading silently with him not to be violent in return. Beside her, Roy grinned and spread his hands. “Well? Nothing to say?”

“Violence is wrong.” MacGyver squeezed Elizabeth’s fingers and took the child’s hand again. “These people are peaceful, and I will not bring fighting into their community as well as all the violence you’ve brought them recently”. He licked blood from his lip. “This ends. Now.” Behind Roy, William stepped quietly into the square, with a group of Amish adults behind him. They too linked hands, trapping Roy and his three cronies inside a circle. One of them launched a punch at William, but he turned his shoulder and the blow glanced off.

More people came to join the circle, three and four deep in places, linking hands. John Miller ducked under William’s arm and took his place in the centre, right in front of Roy. MacGyver looked around the ring, seeing the other elders there along with the rest. The whole village had joined in, trapping the men in the centre.

The whoop of a police siren made them all jump, and MacGyver saw a squad car turn into the yard. Policemen got out, and the circle parted to let them through, closing up again afterwards. One of them grabbed a sack and opened it, wrinkling his face at the smell of the contents.

“I wouldn’t breathe too much of that if I were you!” MacGyver saw the blue granules spill out and called over to the police. “It’s pesticide – poisonous!” The policeman shut the sack and backed away, calling for back-up on his radio.

“What’s happening here?” The senior officer walked over to MacGyver, looking him up and down.

“These people are crazy!” Roy turned to the policeman. His hands rose. “I came here to see about buying a quilt for my wife and they all ganged up on me!” He shook his head. “Crazy, the lot of them. But I’m glad you’re here now to make them see sense, so I’ll just be leaving.” He took a step towards the edge of the circle, and the villagers closed ranks silently.

“No.” The policemen turned at Irene Beiler’s voice. “No. This is not true. He killed my husband and came here to poison our well with chemicals. He is an evil man.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd. Behind Roy, the policeman who had opened the sack of pesticide got out his handcuffs and stepped quietly to wards him. The senior officer rubbed his chin.

“And where do you fit into this?” He turned back to MacGyver, and then shook his head. “You know what? We’re gonna sort this out at the station.” He nodded to the other officer, who snapped the handcuffs onto Roy and led him, protesting, to the squad car. He pointed first to Irene, then to MacGyver. “You two as well, please.”

A second squad car crunched across the gravel in the yard. Roy’s three cronies, subdued by a circle of stern-faced Amish, were collected and handcuffed by the newly arrived officers and led away.

The senior officer turned to walk back to the squad car and was almost run down by a giant, ginger horse, as Thunder came cantering across the yard and skidded to a halt. Jacob slid from his back, apologizing to the policeman in German as well as English. Elizabeth grabbed Thunder’s reins, while John grabbed Jacob.

MacGyver, now in the first squad car with Irene riding in the front seat, gave Jacob a thumbs up. The policemen got back into their cars and MacGyver watched the Millers slide out of sight as his car pulled away.

* * * *

“I am so pleased they believed you!” Elizabeth poured coffee for herself and Irene, and tea for MacGyver. “It sounded such a wild story when I thought it through again!”

“It really did!” MacGyver blew on his tea to cool it and took a sip. “Irene was brilliant, she was so calm!” He smiled across at Irene, who smiled back shyly.

“Everyone else has gone to bed, it’s very late.” Elizabeth cupped her hands around her mug. “Irene, William will take you home in the morning. The children are asleep upstairs, so you can all go back together.” She reached out a hand, squeezing Irene’s arm gently. “It will be alright, we will all look after you.”

Irene nodded her thanks, finished her drink and headed upstairs to bed.

MacGyver leaned back in his chair, stretching his leg out under the table.

“The elders were here most of the afternoon, you know.” Elizabeth took a sip of her coffee, looking at MacGyver over the rim of the mug.

“What did they say?” MacGyver tensed, ready for another vote of no-confidence from the village leaders.”

“That you’re a good man and, even if you’re not one of us, you respect our ways and you try to uphold them. They were impressed that you didn’t resort to violence, and that you turned the other cheek.” She smiled, indicating his bruised face. “Literally, this time!”

“Yeah…” MacGyver touched his split lip. “You’ll never know how close I came to hitting that lowlife right back!”

“But you didn’t, and that’s the important part.” Elizabeth got up, rinsed her mug and dried it. “I’m going to bed, MacGyver. I’ll see you in the morning.” She crossed to the door, and then turned back. “Thank you.”

“Any time.” MacGyver raised the mug in salute and watched Elizabeth smile, then turn away. Only when he heard her feet on the stairs did he allow weariness to show on his face.

He stayed in the kitchen for another half hour, watching the fire die down and thinking about how strong and dedicated the Amish had to be, to stick to beliefs so much at odds with the way the rest of the modern world worked. Men like Roy were everywhere, and MacGyver was glad he’d been able to help to stop this man from visiting more harm on the community than he already had. He made a silent toast to Robert Beiler with the last of the tea, rubbed a hand across his tired eyes and limped off to bed.


* * * *

“So when will you be visiting us again?” Jacob guided his borrowed brown mare around a hole in the road and the buggy swayed.

“As soon as I can,” MacGyver grabbed his crutch as it rolled with the buggy’s motion, “But I have to see to some things first.”

“Work things? Or stopping men like Roy?” Jacob glanced at MacGyver, and then returned his attention to the road.

“Bit of both.” MacGyver frowned, wondering how much to explain to Jacob. “I’ve stumbled across a group of people at least as bad as Roy, as a result of doing my work. They’re the reason this happened –" He tapped his plastered leg, “- but even so, I still have to stop them.”

“Be careful, MacGyver.” Jacob’s voice was worried. “I would hate for anything bad to happen to you. Anything else bad, I mean!”

“I’ll be careful.” MacGyver laughed at Jacob’s incredulous expression. “More careful than usual, OK?” He leaned out of the buggy to wave, seeing Nikki sitting on the hood of her car at the side of the road ahead.

“Hey, you look much better!” Nikki slid off the hood and stood in front of the buggy, stroking the horse’s nose.

“I feel better.” MacGyver smiled as Nikki reached out a hand to help him down from the high seat. “Thanks.” He pulled his bag out from under the seat and limped across to the car, throwing the bag into the trunk and then returning to his friends.

“Jacob here tells me that you’ve been keeping busy,” Nikki’s eyes sparkled and she exchanged a wink with Jacob, who grinned. “I’ll expect to hear all about it on the way back!” She stroked the horse again. “But I have to say – I was expecting a horse called Thunder to be bigger than this!” She frowned as MacGyver and Jacob both burst out laughing. “What did I say?”

“This isn’t Thunder! This is Maisie, she belongs to Mrs. Beiler.” Jacob shook his head, still laughing. “Thunder’s got another job today – pulling MacGyver’s new plough.” He shaded his eyes, gazing into the distance, and then pointed. Nikki followed his finger, squinting against the sun and seeing a massive, ginger horse leaning into his harness and pulling a plough easily across a field. The plough turned up rich, brown earth, ploughing in the stubble of what had until recently been a field of deadly corn. Behind him, the men following looked tiny.

“Oh, I got him. Nikki whistled. “Wow, he really is big, isn’t he?”

“He sure is.” MacGyver turned to Jacob. “Jacob, thank you for everything. I hope I’ll be back to visit soon, but you keep everyone safe until I do, OK?”

“OK.” Jacob reached down a hand and MacGyver shook it. “You be careful too, Mac.”

“Always.” MacGyver and Nikki got into the car, and Jacob watched them leave, waving until they were out of sight.

He watched for a moment longer, then sighed. He spoke quietly to Maisie, turned the buggy around and headed for home.


The End

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