stood on tiptoes and waved, almost knocking the hat off
the lady behind her.
“MacGyver! Over here!” She beamed as MacGyver
waved back at her and strode across the airport lounge.
“Your flight was really late! And I thought I might
have missed you because I was late too, and then there
was such a nice security guard who let me in even though
he really shouldn’t have, and I’ve been waiting
ages for you, and…” She took a breath.
“Hi Penny,” MacGyver smiled down at her.
see you, my daughter, I see you there in the airport,
waving to your beau. He doesn’t look at all as I
imagined he would, but these are strange times.
I followed you here, to make sure you were safe. For it
is not time, not yet. Many things have to happen before
then, and happen they must, for then order will be restored.
going to just love New York!” Penny linked arms
with him and they walked out of the lounge. “I’ve
got this cute apartment, and the theatre is amazing, and
the director is just… Well, you’ll see.
“What time do you have to be at the theatre tonight?”
MacGyver dodged around a bag lady pushing a supermarket
trolley. “Pardon me, ma’am!”
see you talking to him, so happy and carefree. I see the
gestures you make and I think you are telling him about
the fate of my poor son. You make the shape of his doom,
you describe how he perishes and your beau tells you to
stop. In my heart I hear him tell you not to talk of such
terrible things, but you are not chastened and you lead
him away into the city.
He is a gentleman, your beau, for he moves aside to let
one less fortunate pass, and talks to her kindly when
most would cast her aside and spare her not a second thought.
until six.” Penny flagged down a cab, smiling at
the driver. “The first act is amazing! There’s
this enormous helmet and it comes down onto the stage
really fast and Peter – he’s playing Conrad
– he does just the best death scene, and –“
“Penny!” MacGyver waited until Penny turned
to face him. “I’ll see it this evening, don’t
spoil it for me, OK?” He waved the ‘Castle
of Otranto’ playbill and smiled.
“OK.” Penny got into the cab and told the
driver her address. MacGyver sat back in the old Crown
Victoria, letting Penny’s chatter wash over him
as he looked out at the skyscrapers sliding past the window.
see you get into the cab and roll away, to be swallowed
up by the press of traffic. Now I turn away, heading back
to my home. I will see you again soon.
I have things to prepare, events to put in motion, delicate
balancing acts to perform if my story is to play out as
it should. For only by completing the story can I make
right the tragedy that has occurred.
I walk all the way back, as a penitent man would, while
others ride in automobiles. The sidewalk is cold through
the thin soles of my shoes, and I feel my heart echo its
chill as I compose myself for the task ahead of me.
O, my daughter, I regret the sacrifices that will be necessary.
call from Penny had arrived at just the right time. After
his adventures in Egypt, MacGyver had felt in need of
some time off, and a trip to New York to see her perform
in her new play seemed like the perfect escape. He’d
been pleased to see she had one of the lead roles too,
her hard work finally paying off. Even if the theatre
was so far off Broadway it would be hard pressed to see
it on a clear day…
He wasn’t familiar with the story. Penny had tried
to explain it, but enthusiasm had got the better of her
and he’d been no wiser when she finished. He closed
his eyes, enjoying the thin Spring sunlight slanting through
the cab window.
arrive, slipping in through the back door. I stand in
the warm darkness, breathing in the dust and the velvet
and the words that linger in the rafters.
I climb high, making sure that everything is perfect,
that the story can begin as it must, setting into motion
the chain of events that will lead to the return of him
who was taken from me.
I climb down again, walking the boards and mouthing the
words in the gloom.
Everything is ready.
you see, my character’s a real tragic heroine!”
Penny ladled spaghetti and sauce onto two plates, handing
one to MacGyver. “Matilda gets ignored by her father
because he likes his son Conrad better, and then Conrad
gets squashed by a giant helmet on his wedding day, and…
Are you alright?”
“A giant helmet?!” MacGyver choked on his
spaghetti and reached for a glass of water. He took a
sip and stared at Penny, who blinked back at him, confused.
“Yeah. So he gets squashed and his dad – my
character’s dad – goes crazy and decides to
marry Conrad’s fiancée himself because he’s
so mad that he doesn’t have a son now –“
“As you do…” MacGyver twirled his fork
in the spaghetti and tried to concentrate.
“Right. But Isabella – that’s the fiancée
– she runs away because she doesn’t want to
marry her fiance’s dad, and Theodore the peasant
hides her in the church and –“
“Penny!” MacGyver held up a hand. “I’m
coming to see it this evening – don’t spoil
it for me!” He ate another bite of spaghetti and
smiled around it. Penny smiled back.
“OK, Mac.” She picked up her fork and started
on her own meal.
* * * *
MacGyver took off his coat and stuffed it under the theatre
seat. The theatre lacked the glamour of Broadway, but
it was full and people sounded excited to be seeing the
are one face in a sea of guests, but I see you. You hide
amongst the wedding crowd to watch my son and his lady
married, and I see you. Now it is time, and you will see
my story unfold.
lights dimmed and the heavy curtains rolled back to reveal
a castle scene, set for a wedding.
MacGyver had been ready for another of Penny’s heartfelt,
but badly overdone performances, but was pleasantly surprised.
Her acting had improved and her portrayal of the sad,
forgotten daughter was convincing. He watched Lady Isabella
proclaim her love for Conrad, watched the chorus of servants
finish decorating the stage and listened to Penny sing
of her happiness at the wedding and her sadness at losing
her brother. Up in the rafters, giant heraldic banners
and suits of armour swayed gently.
breeze lifts the hair on the back of my neck. I watch
your doom, my son – it sways and it sways in the
same breeze and you do not know what awaits… What
happens here tonight must undo what went before. In my
heart, I know that this is true. I will have you back…
took the stage again, telling his father of his love for
Isabella. Above him, the armour swayed faster and the
small orchestra started playing what MacGyver thought
of as ‘danger music’.
watch. I watch. Soon he will suffer your fate for you
and you will be returned to me. I am so excited!
eye was drawn to the giant suit of armour. The workmanship
was impressive, he thought. It almost looked like real
metal instead of cardboard and canvas. The happy couple
walked down the ‘aisle’ in the middle of the
set and the orchestra struck up with the Wedding March.
The helmet swung once more and then fell, whizzing down
on a rope just as Conrad stepped to the front of the stage.
The Wedding March dissolved into more frantic ‘danger
music’ and the helmet crashed to the stage, landing
inches from Conrad, the impact echoing all around the
theatre. The rope snaked down out of the rafters after
it, landing on the stage in a rumpled coil.
entire cast jumped, and Isabella gave a very realistic
scream. The actor playing Conrad had gone pale under his
makeup and collapsed to the stage in a dead faint. MacGyver
saw Penny take a deep breath and step forward, speaking
her line loud and clear. The rest of the cast rallied
and carried on, Isabella crying some very real tears and
Manfred, her father, clearly shocked. MacGyver frowned.
Either this cast were far better than he’s anticipated,
or he’d just witnessed a very real stage accident…
* * *
you OK?” MacGyver stood aside to let two actors
and a stage hand out, all looking shocked. Penny ran
down the steps and hugged him. Even through her heavy
coat, MacGyver could feel her shaking.
“Six inches to the left and it would have hit
him, Mac!” Penny’s voice was muffled against
his jacket. “It would have killed him!”
“I know.” MacGyver rubbed her back and
waited for her to stop crying. “How about we
go back in and see if we can figure out how it happened?”
Inside they found the actor playing Conrad sitting
in his dressing room with three of the chorus, drinking
brandy and telling them how he was done with New York,
that he was going back to Ohio, where you could walk
across a stage without fear of getting flattened by
low-flying armour. They left him to it, and Penny
pointed up a ladder at the side of the stage.
“That’s how you get up to the catwalks
and the flyspace. Where the scenery hangs, that it.”
She stepped out onto the stage, looking up nervously
in case something else came tumbling down.
are you going, stranger? What are you doing here?
Are you looking for my son? He is not up there, I
I cannot find you, my beautiful son. Perhaps it will
take time for you to return to me from so far, so
far away. Perhaps the story has to play out, so that
you can come in at the end and take your bow with
Perhaps I have failed you. The fake Conrad still lives
No. I will make the rest of the story come to pass,
and then you will come back to me. I will not fail
Macgyver started up the ladder, trying not to look down.
Getting to the top, he inched out along the catwalk, looking
at the ropes and pulleys that controlled the stage sets
and the props. Hanging on tight to the railing, he glanced
down at the stage to see where the helmet had landed,
and moved a little more to his right. Looking up again,
he reached up to a pulley and pulled out a tuft of something
stuck in the wheel. He frowned at the fibres and put them
in his pocket. He pulled out his Swiss Army Knife and
used the screwdriver to unscrew the two halves of the
pulley, revealing some bright, new scratches on the inner
“Penny?” MacGyver heard her walk across the
stage to stand underneath him, but didn’t dare to
look down. Vertigo was already causing his vision to swim
and he could feel his heart beating fast. “Penny,
I think we got a problem…”
does he see up there, the stranger? He does not belong
up there. He sees my work, my wasted work…
He must not know.
When MacGyver got back onto the stage, they looked for
the director, only to find she’d already left. They
checked on Conrad, who’d taken the brandy bottle
and gone home, and found that the janitor was the only
one left in the building.
do you go, stranger? Back to my daughter’s house,
I think. I know where she lives. I know where they all
live, these players. They act their scenes and speak their
lines and they do not know.
They do not know that they are walking across your grave…
Walking down the cold night street, the neon lights reflecting
on the wet tarmac, MacGyver felt Penny take his arm and
huddle closer to him.
“Hey,” He looked down at her. “Hey!”
he waited until she looked up at him. “We’ll
figure it out, OK? I’ll come in with you tomorrow
morning and go over everything with the stage hands. We’ll
make sure nothing else happens.”
“Thanks, Mac.” Penny nodded and sighed, her
breath spiralling away in the cold air.
MacGyver put his other hand into his jacket pocket, feeling
the scrap of rough rope. It had been cut, not worn away.
He frowned in the darkness, feeling the familiar fizz
of adrenaline start in his stomach.
Someone at the theatre had tried to murder Conrad…