After the Wall

By Rocket

Episode 9.6

Part One

 

This 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 ??

Rocket



“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 the taste.

“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 within 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, Gunther nodded.

“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 was empty.

“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.

In 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 Berlin sewer.

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.

 

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