Cold Turkey

By Rocket

Episode 9.17

Part Two

 

Saturday 23rd December


“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.

* * * *
 

When 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 and milk.

“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 to sizzle.

“That’s the spirit!” MacGyver grinned back at her and flipped the pancake.

* * * *
 

“Are you going to report Matthew missing here, or near the rehab facility?”

MacGyver 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 missing junkies.”

“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.

* * * *
 

“I 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 inside.

“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!”

 

Christmas Eve


“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 to help.”

“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 bad decisions.”

“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 female.

“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 never asked!”

* * * *
 

“No, 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 know him.”

“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.

“OK, Mac.”

* * * *
 

He 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 on himself.

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.

He 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 this.

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 white.

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 that…

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 it?

Wouldn’t it?

* * * *
 

“I’m 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 ear.

“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 everyone!”

Continue...

 

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