Shadowside

By MacsJeep

Episode 9.1: Part Two

 

Slowly and deliberately, Atkins raised his hands up. “Hey guys, you’re making a big mistake here.” He narrowed his eyes suggestively. “We’re here on official business. Hadn’t you heard my friend here just saved the shuttle crew?”

The guards edgily glanced at one another. They’d obviously heard something.

“You wouldn’t want to put a hole in a national hero now would you?” Seeley continued, raising a brow.

There was more hesitation from the security men – enough distraction, in fact for MacGyver to slide a ruler across the table and over the edge with one end, and under an empty mainframe spool the other. With a quick look over to Seeley, he slammed his hand down on the edge over the table, bouncing the spool up at the still shaking guard.

The man flinched as the spool clattered against his weapon, and he fell back slightly in surprise. Mac used the moment to jump from his seat and land a punch to the guard’s jaw. The guard dropped back unconscious, and Mac winced at the sight, and at the skin it had taken from his knuckles once again.

The second security man whirled, trying to aim at MacGyver. As he instinctively moved his gaze from Atkins, it gave Seeley the opportunity to pounce. The ex-fed grabbed the guard around the neck, squeezing just enough for the man to fall lifelessly at the side of his companion.

Seeley let out a puff of air. “Jeez, I’m getting old and slow…” He grabbed a phone cable that was protruding from the end of his desk and tied up the man.

MacGyver took a full mainframe spool and did much the same with the guard he’d knocked out, wrapping the tape over and over to bind the man’s hands behind his back.

“Oh boy…why am I sensing this part of the mission didn’t go to plan?”

MacGyver and Seeley both looked up to see Pete standing in the doorway with his cane, one brow cocked at them as if they were naughty school kids. “Nikki’s ready,” he informed, moving sideways slightly so his two colleagues could exit the room and join him in the hallway.

“We got the job done,” MacGyver sighed. “With just a little collateral damage.”

“Nothing a few Tylenol won’t fix, though, Mr. Thornton,” Seeley assured, straightening his tie again.

Pete winced, but didn’t ask what they’d just done as they headed for the exit.

“I’m worried Pete.” MacGyver stopped moving and ran a hand across his mouth. “Nikki might be ready, but what happens once she’s got Zito outside the institution gates?”

“Don’t worry, Mac, I’ve told Nikki to ditch Zito once they’re at a safe distance from the guards. She’s been given a microdot-sized tracker to slip on him; we can follow that to find Sam.”

Mac shook his head, the concern in his eyes flashing like lighting on a stormy night. “Zito isn’t dumb enough to fall for that kinda plan, Pete. He’ll know.”

“What else can we do?” Seeley looked frustrated, and his hand kept wandering to the side of his jacket where he kept his weapon. Atkins wanted action, he wanted to be able to take charge of the situation rather than the bad guys – MacGyver knew just how he felt – minus the gun.

“Right now?” Pete queried. “You can both get yourselves on the Phoenix jet and get to Alameda! I told the pilot to go get lunch so you better get over there and “steal” fast. Nikki should be waiting the other end by the time you arrive, complete with the tracking gear to get after Zito and his henchmen.”

Seeley looked to MacGyver. “Are we gonna argue who is gonna fly that puppy?”

MacGyver just managed a smile.

* * * *

Metropolitan Oakland International Airport
3hrs 20mins later…

 

MacGyver scrambled down the Learjet steps as soon as they hit the asphalt, with Seeley not far behind looking ever-so-slightly dishevelled. Their footsteps echoed ominously across the private bay as they raced across it to the exit area where Nikki would be waiting.

Except Nikki wasn’t there.

The area was unusually quiet and MacGyver’s stomach back-flipped when he realized a man dressed much like Seeley began beckoning them over. Atkins confirmed Mac’s fears when he held a hand up to the unknown individual, suggesting he recognized him. If Nikki wasn’t here, and someone Seeley knew was, that had to be bad.

“I’m Max Sterling from the Alameda office.” Max held out a hand, his face as dour as the Grim Reaper’s. “I’m a friend of Mr. Thornton.” His expression said that meant he knew how to keep quiet.

Something had gone wrong, badly wrong. It had to have, didn’t it?

MacGyver swallowed hard, but it was Seeley that spoke first. “Zito got Nikki, didn’t he?”

Sterling took down a breath. “She never returned from the state hospital and the police just issued a release saying Zito has escaped. The only upside is, the tracking device is active.” He passed a small receiver box to MacGyver that bleeped cheerily. “There’s a car outside, a red Ford Crown Vic.” Max squeezed a set of keys into Mac’s hand. “Go find Nikki and your kid.”

MacGyver nodded, but he felt like the wind had been knocked clean out of him. Sam being involved changed everything, and now Nikki too. Apart from Pete and Jack, they were pretty much all of his “family” and it was his responsibility to fix. He turned to Atkins. “You don’t need to get involved in this any more. It might get messy and…”

“And you don’t want another death on your conscience?” Seeley interrupted, putting a hand on his side as if he was suddenly annoyed. “Look, MacGyver, firstly I don’t plan on dying any time soon, and second you don’t get rid of me that easy. Over a year ago I stood outside Sam’s hospital room guarding him from Mariotte and his goons. As far as I’m concerned, nobody fired me, that’s still my job.”

Mac felt a relief inside he couldn’t explain. The burden of what he was up against somehow seemed halved now that Seeley was helping because he wanted to, not because he’d been ordered to, and MacGyver realized he might have to some day add another name to that list of “family” he’d just been thinking about.

Seeley slapped him on the back, waking him from the sentimental and emotional haze he’d slipped into.

“C’mon, let’s go get us a couple of madmen!” Atkins slid the car keys from Mac’s loose grip and began jogging across the private terminal, his black jacket billowing in the breeze that seemed to have whipped up as they spoke.

MacGyver shook himself and followed.


* * * *

The tracking device burbled in MacGyver’s hand as Seeley avoided a pothole in the road, the Ford rocking and bucking as the highway turned into nothing more than a short dirt track.

“I don’t like this,” Atkins said quietly as they approached what looked like an abandoned motel. “It’s perfect for an ambush…”

Mac shook his head. “Zito doesn’t work that way. He’ll want to play some kind of mind game before the kill. It’s how he operates.” The tracking device’s beep turned into an incessant whine, signaling they had arrived, and yet somehow MacGyver already knew they weren’t going to find Sam, Nikki, Zito, or Mariotte here. This was just the beginning.

He opened the car door tentatively and stepped out; Seeley did much the same, except he drew his gun lithely from its holster as he approached the rotting building.

Seeley took point, nodding to MacGyver to take the opposite side of the main door as they approached. The screen hung limp, its frame smashed and inner mesh holed.

“Whoa, I’m thinking Bates motel and then some,” Seeley whispered, his trigger finger ticking as he licked his lips in anticipation.

Mac frowned. The gun was making him nervous, not the reference, but he did suddenly have images of a bloodied shower curtain in his mind, and it made him shiver.

Not wanting to see any blood for real, MacGyver took the initiative and moved first, kicking at the damaged screen until it fell away and they could enter through the already half-open door.

The door led to what would have been an office. A dusty counter still sat in the corner of the room, an ancient telephone waiting for a call that would never come. The pale blue paint was peeling from the walls as moss and slime took over.

Attached to the space behind the counter where the usual obligatory calendar hung, was a map – a new map, that contrasted starkly against the rest of the décor. The chart was of the whole of the U.S. and spanned half the wall – and there was writing on it in bold red marker.

“A map to the sun or a map to your doom?
Figure it out, or Sam dies soon.
A piece here, a piece there, you’ll find him along the way.
A holy house in the desert, a storm on a hill, a token you’ll find when you get to the mill.”

MacGyver’s shoulders slumped. It was a very corny rhyme concocted as both a joke, and a riddle by Zito. And Zito was good at this kind of thing.

Seeley hovered around the room with his weapon, and when he was sure it was clear, holstered it and joined Mac, a scowl on his face as he read the riddle. “Just what is that supposed to mean?”

Mac tapped the map with his finger as his mind already began working. “It’s our job to find out,” he explained, biting his lip in concentration. “But it suggests there’s a time limit, or Sam dies…”

“You know, I hate to say it, but Zito and Mariotte will kill Sam anyway – if they haven’t already. And why no mention of Nikki?” Seeley’s tone was apologetic, but he didn’t pull any punches with the facts. It was his way.

“I don’t know,” MacGyver admitted, picking up an old pencil from the counter and twiddling it through his fingers as if it would speed up his thought process. “But it worries me…” What if she’s already dead? He shook himself. “First thing we need to do is look at the map. It’s a puzzle meant for us to solve. I’m guessing “a map to the sun” simply means Sam, and a map to your doom implies there’s a trap.”

Seeley leaned on the wall and put a hand to his side as he concentrated on the phrase, his brow creased in thought. “You know this is Zito laughing at us because trap or not, he knows we’re going to have to follow his game? And I really don’t like the “piece here, a piece there” part. I don’t have to tell you what that implies?”

MacGyver winced. “No, you don’t,” he said softly. “So we need to stop that happening.” He stared at the end of the riddle until the words began to blur before his eyes and jumble in his brain.

“A holy house in the desert, a storm on a hill, a token you’ll find when you get to the mill.”

Eventually, he ran a hand through the front of his hair and whirled around away from the map to clear his head. “So what place on the map has a holy house in the desert, a mill, and is stormy? It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack!”

“We can’t win this war…” Atkins pinched the bridge of his nose, and then whirled abruptly, slamming his fist into the decaying wall so hard it bloodied the knuckles of his right hand. The move surprised MacGyver. Until now, Seeley had always come across as the perfect, emotionless fed you saw in movies. But apparently, he had another side. He was about to comment, when the desk phone began to ring.

The motel hadn’t been used in decades, yet it had a working telephone? There could be only one answer, and Mac didn’t like it. He snatched up the receiver anyway, and before he had chance to speak, Zito’s smooth, serpentine tones filled the crackling line.

“Why MacGyver, so good to be working with you again…” Zito was his usual sardonic, malevolent self.

MacGyver tried to be calm, emotion now was a show of weakness, and yet he still couldn’t help the crack in his voice as he spoke. “I didn’t think “good” was a word in your vocabulary?”

Zito chuckled. “Why MacGyver, was that a hint of fear in your voice? Tut tut, you should never let emotion cloud your judgement. That was always Kate’s weakness…”

“Let me speak to Sam, or there won’t be any mind games.” Mac’s hand shook has he held the phone, and he was glad his adversary couldn’t see his trembling limb. You hope he can’t see. This is Zito, he could be anywhere…

“I’d love to oblige,” Zito oozed fake charm. “But I really haven’t had the pleasure of meeting your dear boy – yet. But don’t worry, MacGyver, Sam will get his just dessert, or should that be, desert?” Quiet laughter filled the line, just before it went dead.

MacGyver let the receiver fall back in the cradle and was silent.

“It was Zito, huh?” Seeley probed. “What’d he say?”

Mac snapped from his deep thought. “He said Sam will get his just dessert, or should that be desert, then hung up. It’s a word game – part of the puzzle we have to solve.”

“Dessert, desert? How the heck can that help us?” Atkins wasn’t impressed.

MacGyver ignored him and moved back to the map. “We have to be looking for a desert, it’s played a part in the riddle more than once now. There are so many, though, how do we find the right one?”

It was Atkins time for quiet contemplation, his eyes narrowed as he obviously wracked his brains for answers. “You know, I vacationed in Arizona a couple of years back, took my kid to Cathedral Rock, could the “holy house” part be that simple?”

MacGyver’s dark expression brightened just a touch. “Isn’t Thunder Mountain in that area too?”

Seeley nodded. “Yeah, but that’s got nothing to do with…” And then the penny appeared to drop. “Wait, I get it! Storm on a hill equals Thunder Mountain! We’ve cracked it.”

Mac’s right forefinger traced across the map and then paused. “They’re both in the Sedona area, but I don’t recall, or see any kind of monument, attraction, or place with the word “mill,” and that’s got to be part of the equation or Zito wouldn’t have used it in the riddle.” He took out the two pins holding the map to the wall and rolled it up. “There’s a phone in the car, let’s go call Pete.”

 

* * * *

The Ford was still sitting innocently waiting for them in the abandoned motel lot. Balls of tumbleweed danced around it playfully in the breeze, and the sky grew dark with raven black clouds that signaled a storm. Even the weather was against them.

MacGyver ignored it and climbed into the Crown Victoria, grabbing the car phone from the center console. It was a Phoenix vehicle, and had a direct line to the central office. He quickly asked to be patched through to Thornton, who was still in Houston at mission control.

“Pete, can you get one of those N.A.S.A. guys to look something up for me?” The line was buzzing and crackling, but Mac hoped it wouldn’t die. “I need you to do a cross reference of the words Sedona and mill. Zito left us a riddle and I don’t like the implications for Sam if we don’t solve it.”

“Okay, give me two seconds…” Pete’s voice sounded distant, but then it was. He returned after just five minutes. “We’ve got nothing, Mac.”

MacGyver wasn’t giving in, although he gripped the phone that bit tighter as he spoke. “Can you get them to widen the parameters they’re using?”

More silence, until Thornton returned a second time. “I think we’ve got something,” he said triumphantly. “There’s a seedy motel off the I-40 called The Mill House on the way into Sedona. Does that sound what you’re after?”

Mac’s face lit up, even though Pete couldn’t see it. “It sure does,” he confirmed and then added. “I’ll be in touch,” as he put down phone.

“Tell me you got it?” Seeley raised a brow.

“We got it.” Mac nodded as he climbed into the Ford. “We need to get back to the airport and fast.”

 

* * * *

The Mill House Motel
Off the I-40
Two Hours Later…

Sedona Airport was small, in fact, it only had one runway, but even so it had gotten Mac and Seeley to their target faster than any car could. With the help of a hire vehicle, they’d made good time to the motel.

The entrance lobby was tiny, and a scrawny looking man smoking a cigarette sat behind a table watching daytime TV. He looked up as they entered, scratching at one arm like he had fleas. The vest he wore was stained, like he hadn’t changed in a few days, and would have looked good on John McClane.

MacGyver ignored the manager’s attire and pulled out two photos – one of Mariotte, and one of Zito. He sat them down on the desk, along with twenty bucks. “Excuse me, have you seen either of these guys recently?”

The manager flicked ash onto the floor, scrunched up his nose, and then viewed the pictures. “Nope, nobody like that’s been around.” He belched noisily. “Your name wouldn’t be Angus though?”

Mac’s eyes widened in surprise and slight annoyance. “Why do you ask?”

“’Cause some short dude with long hair came in and paid me two hundred bucks for a room. He told me what you looked like, said I should give you the keys when you arrived.” The manager tossed a grimy key across the table and turned back to his TV, apparently finished with the conversation.

Seeley reached over and took the key before MacGyver could touch it. He smiled wanly. “I think I should go in first on this one…”

Mac knew it was an attempt to shield him from whatever horrors the room was hiding, but it didn’t change a thing. He wanted to be first inside, first to see if there was anything of Sam in there.

Seeley didn’t wait for a complaint and jogged from the office, his free hand reaching and extracting his weapon.

The room was just three doors down from reception.

Mac looked through the window. It appeared to be empty, apart from a small box on the bedside table. He nodded to Seeley, who didn’t bother using the key. Turning it in the lock meant making a noise and for-warning any possible enemy. Instead, the ex-fed launched at the door with his perfectly polished right shoe.

The door yelped in wooden agony as it was torn from the top hinge and burst inwards. Seeley followed behind it, scanning the room back and forth with his automatic. He moved to the bathroom, but that too was empty.

MacGyver moved straight to the box. It was beckoning him like it belonged to Pandora. Next to it was another handwritten note.

Mac wanted to check for explosives, every sinew in his body screamed that this could be a bomb, or a trap of some variety. And yet, concern for Sam outweighed any concern he had for himself.

Mac tore at the box lid, hearing Zito’s riddle over and over in his mind about finding Sam piece by piece.

He stopped dead as the cardboard flaps moved out of the way to reveal what was within.

A raggedly cut human finger sat innocently on a small scrap of cloth that was soaked through with blood.

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