“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
“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
“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.
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,
“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
“No problem, son.” MacGyver glanced back through
the Mission’s doors as the noise level inside rose.
* * * *
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
“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.
* * * *
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.
What could he smell? The remains of a damp fire. Smog,
catching in his throat and making him cough.
Matthew opened his eyes. He had to get out of here. Wherever
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…
* * * *
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
“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
“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.
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
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.”
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
“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
“I got it off a dead man…”