Cold Turkey

By Rocket

Episode 9.17

Part Three

 

Christmas Eve


“So, I took the liberty of calling Sam, who said he’d round up some transport so we can search further, faster. I hope that’s OK.” MacGyver blew on his tea and sipped.

“The more the merrier, I guess!” Nikki spread her map out on one of the trestle tables and Doc’s regulars gathered around to look.

“Where’s the rehab again?” Mo followed Nikki’s finger. “OK, I know that neighbourhood. Me and my glamorous assistant here can take that part. Right, Alphonse?” The man Mo had smacked earlier nodded.

“What he look like?” Alphonse held out a grimy hand for the snapshot Nikki passed him. He looked at it, then passed it to the next person round the table. “What he wear?”

“Uh… New Day rehab centre said he had on a Christmas sweater. It would be the one my Mom knitted for him, I guess – red with a green Christmas tree on it.” Nikki sketched the design in the corner of the map.

“OK, good.” MacGyver leaned over, pointing at the Centre. “So, Mo and Alphonse start here. Leonard, you and Jose do the area around the Good Samaritan shelter." He moved his finger and glanced up, seeing Jose nod. “Doc, you and Sabrina take north of the rehab centre, but be careful who you talk to, OK? That’s a bad neighbourhood.”

“Uh-huh.” The bone-thin youth brushed her hair out of her eyes. “I been there before, Doc. I’ll keep you safe.”

“Thank you, my dear.” Doc smiled at Sabrina, who smiled shyly back. Then he frowned, looking at the door. “What is all that noise?!”

“Cavalry’s here!” MacGyver opened the door, expecting to see Sam and his girlfriend Andy. “Woah…” Santa Luisa’s yard was full. His landlord, Mel’s, decrepit Cadillac was parked next to the pickup. Kelly’s scooter was parked behind that, with Sam’s motorcycle and sidecar and MacGyver’s motorcycle tucked in beside them. Mel paused in wrestling a pair of wedged bicycles out of the Cadillac to wave to MacGyver, and Mama Lorraine bustled up the steps to plant a kiss on his cheek, before enveloping Nikki in a hug. Two Hell’s Angels roared into the yard and a hippy on an electric bicycle cruised in, exchanging a high five with Mel.

“Mel, what the…?” MacGyver ran a hand through his hair, lost for words.

“Well, I got talking to Sam, and…” Mel gave the stuck bicycle a tug. “And it sounded like you could use all the help you could get.” Another tug. “So, I banged on a few doors, and called a few friends and voila!” A final tug and the bicycles came free, pitching Mel into the middle of the Hell’s Angels, who caught him and disentangled him from the bikes. “Thanks, fellas.”

“This is great!” MacGyver watched his neighbours file up the steps and disappear into the building. Then he frowned. “Hey – how did my bike get here?”

“Andy.” Sam straightened up from the sidecar. “I gave her your spare key. I didn’t think you’d mind.”

“No problem, son.” MacGyver glanced back through the Mission’s doors as the noise level inside rose. “Shall we?”

 

* * * *

The convoy through LA drew little attention, Angelinos being used to the strange and unusual, and they came to a halt outside the New Day Rehabilitation Centre. MacGyver helped Leonard and Jose unload the bicycles out of the back of the pickup and they set off. Faces appeared at the windows as the Hell’s Angels roared away, and Kelly and Wyatt the hippy followed more slowly on the scooter and the electric bike. Eventually only MacGyver and Nikki were left.

“Let’s do this.” Nikki got into the pickup and shut the door. MacGyver watched Andy, Mo and Alphonse disappear around the corner on his motorcycle, Alphonse hanging on grimly in a makeshift trailer improvised from a shopping cart, some scaffolding and two of Mo’s scarves. He got into the pickup and started the engine.

“OK Nikki, you’re navigating.” He put the pickup into gear and pulled out into the traffic.

* * * *
 

“No.” Matthew pulled his shaking fingers away from the syringe and wrapped his arms around his knees. Shutting his eyes so he didn’t have to look at temptation, he tried to catalogue what he could with his other senses, the way his counsellor had taught him.

What could he hear? The rattle of a railroad car. Distant traffic. A couple arguing in Spanish somewhere close by. Water dripping.

What could he smell? The remains of a damp fire. Smog, catching in his throat and making him cough.

Excrement…

Matthew opened his eyes. He had to get out of here. Wherever ‘here’ was.

Placing an empty burger box over the syringe to hide it from view, Matthew stood up. He was stiff with cold. How long had he been here?

He staggered to the window and looked out, careful not to cut himself on the broken glass. Was he still in LA? The view outside gave no clues. He sat down, his legs wobbly. If he wasn’t in LA, there was little chance of finding anyone he knew, or anyone who might help him. And if he couldn’t find anyone to help him, there was little chance of him staying clean…

Was he still clean? He looked down at his arms, seeing no punctures. His eyes were drawn back to the upturned box and the bliss within, whispering to him from underneath…

* * * *
 

“Nada.” Mel shook his head as MacGyver and Nikki pulled up next to the battered Cadillac. Beside Mel, Doc shrugged helplessly.

“Sorry, Dad. We’ll keep looking.” Sam turned off his bike engine and took off his helmet.

“Don’t give up, Nikki.” Mama Lorraine’s voice was stern. “We’ll find him. There are plenty of places left to check. Right, Sam?”

Nikki’s despair grew as each team reported in. After the last pair, Leonard and Jose, had reported no success, Nikki slumped forwards with her head in her hands. “This is hopeless, Mac!” Her voice shook. “This time he’s really gone, isn’t he?”

“Who are you looking for?” A voice floated down and MacGyver stuck his head out of the truck window, trying to see who had spoken. “I’m up here.” MacGyver looked up, seeing a pale young woman leaning out of one of New Day’s second storey windows.

“Hi.” MacGyver smiled.

“Hi yourself.” The young woman blew a cloud of cigarette smoke out, adding to the smog. “Who’re you looking for?”

“Matthew Carpenter.” Nikki got out of the pickup and looked up. “You know him?”

“Uh-huh.” The girl took another drag on her cigarette and flicked the butt away. “What you want with him?”

“He’s my brother.” Nikki shoved her hands in her coat pockets. “He left here and he’s probably in real trouble by now.”

“Yeah.” The girl leaned on the windowsill, looking up at the sky. “Whole city’s full of trouble, just waiting to be found!” She looked back down at MacGyver and Nikki. “You find him, you tell him Christa says hi, OK? I like that boy.”

“Do you know where he might have gone, Christa?” MacGyver stepped out of the pickup.

“If he’s gone looking to score, he’ll have gone to see Copperhead Joe.” Christa took her elbows off the windowsill, preparing to go back inside.

“Where would we find Copperhead Joe?” MacGyver called up, and Christa stuck her head back out.

“Del’s.” The window banged shut, leaving MacGyver staring up at the back of the curtains.

“Cryptic…” One of the Hell’s Angels shook her head.

“Right!” Sam looked around the group. “Anyone know where Del’s is?” He watched everyone shake their heads, exchanging worried looks. Behind him, he heard a curse, followed by quick footsteps.

“Nikki, wait up!” MacGyver hurried after her, catching up as she banged on New Day’s front door.

“Hello? Open up, please!” She banged in the door again and stepped back as a light came on in the building.

“Can I help you?” The door was answered by a nurse wearing a cardigan over his uniform. He glanced at the crowd at his front door and frowned.

“I’m Nikki – Matthew Carpenter’s sister. Please – you have to help us!” Nikki reached out, taking hold of the nurse’s sleeve.

“Ah.” The nurse gently disengaged her grip. “You’d better come in.” He stood aside, allowing everyone to troop inside.

“We’ve been searching for Matthew, but we haven’t found him yet.” MacGyver shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned on the edge of the nurse’s desk. “We spoke to Christa just now, and she might have given us a good lead. Are you familiar with a drug dealer named Copperhead Joe, or somewhere called Del’s?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” The nurse folded his arms. “Copperhead Joe is well known around here, and he always seems to stay one jump ahead of the police. Del’s is one of the places he hangs out. I can give you the address, but I doubt you’ll find Matthew there – he may have chosen to leave here, but he was doing really well and he was very keen to stay clean.” His gaze shifted to Nikki. “He talks about you all the time.”

Doc produced the map and the nurse marked Del’s on it, giving directions for getting there. Just as he finished, the door buzzer sounded.

“I have to go, but good luck finding Matthew.” The nurse paused with one hand on the doorframe. “Please let me know if you find him, OK? I’d like to know that he’s safe.”

The group gathered around the map. MacGyver divided up the area surrounding Del’s between he teams, rolled up the map again and turned towards the door. Leaning against the frame was a haggard young woman wearing a grubby Christmas sweater.

“Where did you get that?!” Nikki’s voice was high and loud. The girl looked down and plucked at the sweater as if seeing it for the first time.

“This isn’t mine…” The girl’s voice was dreamy and far away.

“Damn straight!” Nikki started forwards, but Sam grabbed the back of Nikki’s coat, meeting her glare calmly.

“Miss, where did you get the sweater?” Doc pointed, his voice gentle.

“I didn’t steal it!” Panic surfaced through the drugged haze.

“I’m sure you didn’t. MacGyver cast a warning look at Nikki. “Just tell us where you got it, OK?” The girl looked down, stroking the knitted front of the sweater. When she spoke, her voice was quiet.

“I got it off a dead man…”

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