story is the next instalment in a series. If you haven’t
read ‘War Stories’ and ‘Supply and Demand’,
I’d recommend reading those first and then coming
back. Up to you ??
“Come in, Mac,” Pete smiled and beckoned,
waiting until he heard MacGyver sit down.
“How did…” MacGyver shook his head,
“Never mind, I’m sure you’ve got spider-sense,
Pete.” He turned to the man sitting in the other
chair. “Hi, name’s MacGyver.”
“Gunther Schmidt.” The old man reached out
and shook MacGyver’s hand, his grip firm. He sat
back, watching Pete.
“Gunther, MacGyver is going to accompany you back
to Berlin tomorrow.” Pete glanced in MacGyver’s
direction, smiling again. “He’s been there
before, though not for a while.”
“More recently than I, I am sure.” Gunther
inclined his head as MacGyver nodded.
“I think you’ll find it very different now.
When were you last there?” MacGyver watched Gunther
look down, his expression angry.
“A long time ago.” The anger remained in Gunther’s
eyes when he looked up again, but his voice was calm.
“With your permission, Mr. Thornton, I will go and
collect my things.” He stood, stiff from sitting,
and walked to the door. Pete tracked his footsteps, frowning.
“That man is NOT enjoying our California sunshine!”
MacGyver watched him go. He turned back to Pete and raised
his eyebrows. “What’s eating him?”
“He’s a retired asset and he wants to go home.”
Pete shook his head. “He’s been here for a
lot of years and he’s decided he wants to go back
to Germany. Now that he’s been granted permission
to go, it can’t happen fast enough for him.”
He felt for a folder on his desk, ran his finger across
the braille label and passed it across to MacGyver. “Here’s
his file – he was quite a big shot in his time,
so don’t underestimate him!”
“Thanks.” MacGyver took the file and flipped
through it. “Berlin, pretty well up in the…
Oh.” He shifted in his chair and turned the page.
“Aha. OK.” He looked at Pete over the top
of the papers. “Now I understand. Is he really sure
he wants to go home? I’m not sure he’s going
to like the welcome he gets.”
“I know.” Pete shrugged, holding up his hands.
“I’ve been over this with him, but he insists.
And, whatever he’s done in the past, he’s
not actually a prisoner here. As a former asset he’s
had to get approval from the right people, but–“
Pete sighed. “They’ve decided he can go.”
“And that’s where we come in. OK.” MacGyver
put the file back on Pete’s desk and sat back in
his chair, one ankle hooked over the opposite knee. He
drummed his fingers on the side of his sneaker. “How
much of a welcoming committee do you expect him to get?”
“Hopefully none.” Pete rubbed his eyes, looking
tired. “He’s been out of the game a long time
and the official opinion is that anyone interested in
him has probably long since retired too.”
“Hope you’re right…” MacGyver
stood up and glanced through the open door to where Gunther
was sitting in Helen’s office, his back very straight.
“I’ll get him buttoned up and I’ll see
you when I get back, OK?”
“Sure.” Pete smiled up at MacGyver, but his
voice was worried. “Take care, Mac.”
* * * *
The hotel was nice enough. Anonymous, unobtrusive and
bland, but clean and quiet. MacGyver glanced at Gunther
waiting behind him, and decided the hotel matched him
very well. MacGyver checked himself and Gunther in, carried
their luggage up to their connecting rooms and checked
the rooms before allowing Gunther to come in. The older
man thanked him, went through the connecting door and
MacGyver heard water running in the small bathroom. He
pulled the curtains, shutting out the lights of LAX airport
and sat down on the couch.
For someone leaving the country for good, Gunther had
very little luggage. One small suitcase held everything
he wanted to take to his new life, and MacGyver found
this sad. As much as he liked travelling light and working
with whatever he found along the way, he hoped that if
he ever came to move from Los Angeles, his life would
amount to more than one small suitcase. He glanced across
at the connecting door. Maybe Gunther saw America purely
as his place of work, and that leaving forever was no
different from leaving the office for the day. MacGyver
shrugged, unable to guess.
He ordered food from room service, guessing what Gunther
might like, and switched on the television, flipping the
channels until he found a John Wayne classic. He considered
going through the Western Precision Electricals files
that Nikki had given him on his way out, then decided
to read them on the plane in the morning.
The water shut off and then Gunther came through the connecting
door, his sparse hair damp and combed back. He lifted
the dish covers on the room service trolley, chose a sandwich
and poured himself some coffee. He sat down opposite MacGyver
and watched the western for a minute. He shook his head
at the television and took a bite of his sandwich.
“You’re not a John Wayne fan?” MacGyver
stretched and picked up a sandwich for himself. Gunther
shook his head, chewed and swallowed.
“I have seen enough violence to last a lifetime,
Mr. MacGyver.” He sipped his coffee, frowning at
“Uh huh.” MacGyver waved his sandwich in the
direction of the television. “Makes a good story,
though.” They watched John Wayne galloping across
the desert, black-hatted bandits in pursuit. Gunther sipped
his coffee again, then set it aside.
“Mr. Thornton told me you have visited Berlin recently,
Mr. MacGyver.” Gunther watched MacGyver finish his
sandwich and make a rocking gesture with his hand.
“Not that recently. About five years ago, couple
of years after the wall came down.” MacGyver picked
up a glass of fruit juice and drank.
“And what was it like?” Gunther’s eyes
slid back to the television.
“Uh… It was kind of a mess, you want the truth.
I was there chasing a missing persons case, a favour for
a friend, and I would up looking through Stasi HQ for
records and travelling round East Berlin a lot.”
MacGyver took another sip of juice, watching Gunther over
the rim of his glass. “It was a weird time to be
there – kind of an odd mix of jubilation and destruction,
people laughing as they tore up anything from before the
wall came down.” He shook his head at the memory.
“And did you find the person you were looking for?”
Gunther’s tone was even, no emotion showing at MacGyver’s
description of his home city.
“Yes and no.” MacGyver ran a hand through
his hair and reached for another sandwich.
“Ah.” Gunther nodded but didn’t take
his eyes off the screen. “Not everything was as
it seemed, yes?”
“Something like that.” MacGyver blinked, seeing
Maria Romberg drinking root beer in the airport, stacking
toys and chattering about her wonderful new life in America,
giving him innocent eyes while the body of a Stasi agent
lay crumpled at the bottom of the stairs.
“It was ever the case in Germany.” Gunther
nodded again, watching John Wayne sneak around the back
of a Wild West saloon with his gun held high. “Secrets
“Well, you’d know.” MacGyver finished
his sandwich and stood, brushing crumbs off his jeans.
Gunther turned to face him, a flash of anger in his eyes.
MacGyver met his gaze calmly and, after a long moment,
“Mr. Thornton gave you my file. Of course.”
He turned back to the television. John Wayne burst into
the saloon, ready to shoot the baddies, but the saloon
“He sure did, Gunther. You got up to some pretty
hair-raising stuff back there.” MacGyver hooked
his thumbs in his jeans pockets, unconsciously mirroring
the unnamed bandit on the screen. “Are you sure
you want to go back? The welcoming committee might not
be all that welcoming, y’know!”
“It is my home.” In the light from the television,
Gunther’s face was blue. He looked as though his
thoughts were far away. He glanced at MacGyver, opened
his mouth to speak and then shook his head, turning away
again. “Besides, most of those who would wish me
harm are dead.”
“You sure?” MacGyver shook his head, convinced
that Gunther had been about to say something else. “Man,
I hope you’re right!” The film ended and white
credits rolled up the black screen.
the changed light, Gunther’s face was all shadows
and hard angles, his eyes dark. MacGyver could see the
ghost of the man Gunther had been, and he fought the impulse
to take a step back when Gunther turned to face him.
“I am sure.”
* * * *
In the dark, MacGyver stared at the hotel room ceiling
and listened to aeroplanes taking off from LAX. He had
read Gunther’s file and, at the time, had found
it difficult to reconcile the old man in his slightly-too-big
suit with the asset who had shot his way out of East Berlin.
Gunther had also poisoned a number of British and American
agents and delivered several more into the hands of the
Stasi before having a change of heart, deciding the government
there was too corrupt to tolerate, and making his exit
through a tunnel from an East Berlin basement to a West
MacGyver turned over in bed, punched his pillow to reshape
it and shut his eyes.
Gunther had allowed himself to be captured when the ship
he’d stowed away on had arrived in New York, and
had cut a deal with the American government on the understanding
that he would tell everything he knew about the dealings
of the Russian government in East Germany. His knowledge
had bought him a new life in America and he’d been
passed around a number of shady government departments
before being settled in California.
MacGyver shivered and pulled the quilt up around his shoulders.
Some of what Gunther had known had been chilling. Some
of what he’d done had been worse.
The list the DXS had compiled of who might not be pleased
to see Gunther return had not made good bedtime reading.
A large number of the names on the list had ‘deceased’
typed next to them, but enough were still alive that MacGyver
was worried. He’d encountered enough trouble during
and after his last trip to Berlin to know that ex-Stasi
agents were still present and watchful, and he doubted
that their departure from LA had gone unnoticed.
He turned over again and sighed, watching the aeroplane
lights slide across the ceiling. In the bathroom, a glass
tinkled against the tap as the aeroplane’s engines
made everything in the room vibrate.
Maybe Pete was right. Maybe no one cared any more about
a washed-up, long retired Stasi hitman.
By the time MacGyver drifted off to sleep, the sun was
rising in the east.