“C’mon, c’mon, pick up the phone!”
MacGyver opened one eye to see Nikki pacing back and forth
across her living room with the phone held to her ear.
He yawned and blinked, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
They had spent most of last night searching for Matthew
and finally given in around three. Nikki had insisted
that MacGyver stay at her place rather than drive all
the way across the city to his own apartment. He sat up,
the blanket sliding off his shoulders, and stretched the
cricks out of his back. At the movement, Nikki turned.
“Any luck?” MacGyver swung his feet off the
couch, yawning again and pushing a hand through his rumpled
hair. Nikki shook her head, busy redialling the rehab
facility’s number. “OK.” MacGyver pushed
the blanket off his knees and stood up. “Where’s
your bathroom?” he nodded as Nikki pointed without
taking her attention from the phone, and crossed the room.
He closed the bathroom door behind him, hearing Nikki
slam the receiver down and swear.
* * * *
MacGyver came out of the bathroom, Nikki had spread a
map of LA out on the kitchen counter. “Here’s
us.” She pointed at a coloured dot on the map. “And
here’s Matt’s rehab.” Another dot. “I’ve
searched this area pretty well, and… What are you
doing?” She looked up at MacGyver for the first
time, seeing him opening her fridge and taking out eggs
“I’m making breakfast.” He set down
the eggs and turned to face her. “Neither of us
will do our best work if we’re running on empty,
and I’m guessing you haven’t eaten yet.”
He nodded as Nikki shook her head. “I thought I’d
make pancakes. You got any flour?”
“That cupboard.” Nikki smiled as MacGyver
turned to the cupboard, a tea towel slung over one shoulder.
“And thank you. There are strawberries in the fridge.”
Nikki breathed in the homely smell as the batter began
“That’s the spirit!” MacGyver grinned
back at her and flipped the pancake.
* * * *
you going to report Matthew missing here, or near the
swallowed the last bite of pancake and laid down his fork.
“Near the facility, I think.” Nikki picked
up her coffee with a shaking hand. “I should be
used to this by now. He’s been in trouble ever since
we were kids, but having to report him as a missing person,
I just…” She shook her head and sipped the
coffee, cupping both hands around the warm mug.
“Yeah.” MacGyver sipped his tea, unable to
imagine how Nikki might feel.
“And there’s a good chance they won’t
really look for him.” Nikki pushed the remains of
her pancakes around her plate. “LA is hip-deep in
“Surely not!” MacGyver stood up and collected
the plates. “Everyone matters, including people
who’ve made… questionable choices.”
His expression was indignant and Nikki smiled as she looked
up at him.
* * * *
can’t believe I’ve just heard the police –
the POLICE! – say that!” MacGyver stopped
on the police station steps and turned as if to go back
“I told you.” Nikki grabbed his sleeve. “To
them he’s just one more missing junkie.” Her
tone was bitter but unsurprised.
“He’s a person! With the same rights as everyone
else!” MacGyver glared back at the precinct doors.
“Yeah, he is.” Nikki started down the steps,
turning back to MacGyver and waiting for him to follow
her. “Come on, Mac – I can get some more searching
done while the daylight lasts.”
“I’ll help.” MacGyver stuffed his hands
into his jacket pockets and followed. The city was so
big, so much territory to cover. And there were only the
two of them.
Only two of them…
“Nikki, wait!” MacGyver hurried to catch up
with her. “I have an idea!”
“And then she said no!” MacGyver ladled out
a bowl of soup and handed it to the homeless man at the
front of the queue. “Here you go, fella.”
The man nodded his thanks, picked up a bread roll and
found a seat at one of the long trestle tables in the
Santa Luisa Mission hall.
“Do you know why?” Doc tipped his pan of soup
to get the last ladleful out and turned to the stove.
“I’m sure many of my regulars would be glad
“Yeah, I know.” MacGyver handed another bowl
of soup across. “I think she’s embarrassed
about him. I guess she doesn’t want a whole lot
of strangers knowing… that her brothers made some
“He’s still alive, right?” The owner
of the gravelly voice was wearing at least three overcoats
and a rainbow of grubby knitted scarves, despite the heat
in the room.
“As far as I know, yes.” MacGyver nodded,
trying to decide if the person before him was male or
“Well then.” The scarves rose and fell in
a shrug. “If he’s alive, he can be found.
Ain’t no shame – we all done things we ain’t
proud of.” The figure nodded, took a bread roll
and shuffled away.
“Mo makes a good point.” Doc watched the figure
sit down at the table nearest the heater. “Where
there’s life, there’s hope.”
“Yeah.” MacGyver put down his ladle and untied
his apron. “Can you manage without me for a bit?
I want to get Nikki down here, so she can see people aren’t
going to judge her, or judge Matthew. They’ll just
want to help find him.”
“Sure.” Doc smiled, reaching out his hand
for the apron.
“Oh, Doc?” MacGyver shrugged into his jacket,
winding his scarf around his neck. “Is Mo short
for Maurice or Maureen?”
“Ah.” Doc smiled and shook his head. “I’ve
* * * *
Mac. I told you, no.” Nikki folded her arms.
“Give me one good reason why not!” MacGyver
ran a hand through his hair and frowned. “Even if
we work together, we can’t cover the whole of the
city. There’s no way!”
“He’s my brother. I found him before, I’ll
find him again.” Nikki’s voice shook.
“No, you won’t.” MacGyver sat down on
Nikki’s couch. “LA is about five hundred square
miles, even assuming he’s still here…”
he tailed off, shaking his head.“He’s
here.” Nikki sat down beside him, folding her hands
tight. “He has to be.”
“So, the more people we have searching, the sooner
we’ll find him. Let us help, Nikki. Please.”
MacGyver watched her start to say ‘no’ again,
then think about what he’d said.
“Why would they do this?” She wrapped her
arms around herself as if cold. “They don’t
“But some of them know what it’s like to be
him.” MacGyver’s voice was gentle. “And
none of them want to see anyone else having as hard a
time as they are.” Nikki nodded, still tightly curled
up on the couch. She looked up, seeing MacGyver waiting
for an answer. Se swallowed hard and nodded again.
* * * *
dreamed of water.
In his dream, it was dark and cold, washing over his feet,
smelling of dirt and despair. The air around him was cold
too, echoing with the formless howl of the wind. He saw
himself from far above, a tiny figure huddled on the floor
of a broken building, the water lapping the tilted floor
on all sides.
A dark shadow flew over him, blotting out the stars. It
circled the building in a lazy arc, it’s teeth and
claws needle-sharp and glinting in the chilly moonlight.
The water washed over his outstretched hand, the foam
at its edge seething and bubbling, stinging where it touched
his skin. He pulled his hand back, curling tighter in
The dark creature above him made one more leisurely circle,
then dropped. Frozen to the spot, he watched it hurtle
towards him, black scaly lips pulled back and needle-teeth
exposed. He could smell its acrid, chemical breath.
Matthew opened his mouth and screamed.
came awake thrashing, shoving away the tattered curtain
that served him as a blanket, clawing it off his face.
It had rained while he’d slept, blowing in through
the broken window to wet his jeans. He opened his eyes,
the squalid room striped orange and black in the streetlight.
Where was he?
He must have had another blackout. The nurses at New Day
Rehab said they should gradually stop happening, the longer
he stayed clean, but so far he’d seen no sign of
He looked around, seeing other sleeping people, a girl
slumped against the wall with her eyes half open and a
blissed-out expression, an overturned coke can and a discarded
needle, glinting in the sodium glare. Had he used? How
could this have happened?! His eyes widened and he pulled
frantically at his sleeves, disorientated when he found
his arms already bare. Why was he out here in just a t-shirt?
The air was so cold that he could see his breath cloud
Where was he?
He sat up, looking around himself, feeling for new punctures
in his arms. He didn’t feel high, and he relaxed
a fraction. But now that he was awake, need scratched
at the back of his mind... Doing just a little would clear
his head, help him calm down so he could work out where
he was, and what had happened to him. He ran his fingers
over his arms again, feeling the skin rough and ridged,
but whole. He remembered leaving rehab, unable to take
any more stories about other people’s efforts to
get clean and their falls back into addiction, but after
that, his memory was blurred.
He was cold. Where was his sweater? He’d definitely
had it on when he left, even though people had laughed
at him for wearing it. Nikki would be mad at him for losing
Where was he? He reached out and picked up the syringe,
holding it up to the light. A dab of liquid, amber in
the streetlight, remained in the plastic barrel.
Doing just a little would help him figure it out, wouldn’t
* * * *
not sure about this, Mac.” Nikki stopped at the
bottom of the steps, looking up at the Santa Luisa Mission.
She stepped to the side, allowing an old man to pass,
bumping his pull-along shopping bag up the steps behind
him. He grinned at her, showing mossy dentures.
“Everyone wants to help. You’ll see.”
MacGyver put an arm around Nikki’s shoulders and
climbed the steps, pulling her with him. He held open
the door and Nikki walked inside. As they stepped into
the hall, everyone turned to look at them.
“Is this her? We’ll find him, honey!”
A man wearing a tattered raincoat waved his spoon and
MacGyver waved back.
“We know all the places!” This from a bone-thin
youth, hastily swallowing a mouthful of bread.
“Don’t worry, Chica!” An elderly man
in a carefully darned sweater smiled a kind smile and
a younger, long-haired man sitting next to him nodded.
“Mac, she’s pretty! Hey!” A man was
cut off mid wolf-whistle as Mo clipped him around the
“Ignore him, sweetheart. He don’t got no manners,
but he got sharp eyes, so we tolerate him, OK?”
Mo glared at the man, who muttered something Nikki didn’t
catch and concentrated on his soup.
“OK…” Nikki looked around, taking in
the roomful of concerned faces. She smiled, feeling a
little of the pressure lift. “Thank you, thank you