People have all kinds of hobbies. Some people collect stamps. Others climb mountains. There are people whose idea of a good time is to sit in front of the TV.
MacGyver gets shot at.
No, Mac thought, that isn’t terribly accurate.
MacGyver gets shot at, but also has to defuse bombs (usually while tied to them), avoid knives, and generally get beaten up to a bloody pulp. In short, Mac has to run for his life.
As Mac ran for his life from the homicidal maniac with the RPG, he was thinking that maybe all he needed was a new hobby. But at least, he thought grimly, I’m original.
Of course, he was also way out in the woods with no one to know he was in trouble and no way of contacting anyone. Pete had asked him to take one of those new cell phones, but Mac had refused. What kind of a hike would it be if the Phoenix Foundation could call him whenever they pleased? Of course, now he knew the answer wasn’t ‘ruined’, as he’d originally thought, but rather ‘the kind in which he gets saved before getting blown up into little pieces’. But that was besides the point.
No; a cell phone wasn’t the answer. What he needed was a distraction. There was a mine down that road, he remembered. He’d seen it on his way up the mountain. And in the mine, they must have light bulbs and copper wire, and with the duct tape in his pocket and perhaps some of the dry leaves from the trees around the mine... his mind was already coming up with a plan.
He reached the mine faster than he expected. He almost missed the entrance, hiding behind the trees. Heck, with any luck, he wouldn’t even need his distraction. If his pursuer didn’t know the mine was there, he may yet lose him altogether.
But Mac had learned a long time ago not to trust luck to that level. No, luck was in the little details – the dry leaves on the ground, the abandoned cart, and – lo and behold! – the forgotten matches. Even the electric lights in the mine were working. Of course, they wouldn’t be working for long, not after MacGyver finished with them, but for now he didn’t have to work in the dark. Luck was in the small details. He left such ridiculous notions as ‘real luck is not being pursued by homicidal maniacs’ to other people, though. That would be too much to ask for.
But sometimes, MacGyver ran out of luck. Now, for example.
Oh, he’d managed to make his explosion, of course, and it had been nice and effective. That was the problem – it had been a little too effective. And his pursuer had gotten carried away with the danged RPG in spite of the confined space. Mac hoped the man hadn’t actually been caught in the rockslide he’d triggered, but it wasn’t much of a hope. At the very least, the maniac was now trapped in one part of the mine, and Mac was trapped in another section, completely cut off from the entrance.
Nothing for it but to start walking in the small, dark, confined space and hope there was a second exit. If not, he’d be in real trouble.
As he walked along the rusty tracks for a mine cart that would never run again, MacGyver had a moment to think of things other than survival. He wondered, for example, who the attacker was, and why he was after him. Mac was used to, well, pissing people off. It came with the territory. You don’t mess around with very rich, very corrupt people without making enemies along the way. Actually, if he had to come up with a list of people who wanted him dead and had the means to bring that death about, he’d run out of paper. Pete often said that if he had so many people angry at him, he must be doing something right, and Mac usually agreed. It’s just that Pete was sitting in his office right now. Probably eating a nice, hot lunch. While Mac was walking down a dark mine shaft and –
– and could see light from above.
Success! There must be another entrance there. Although when he got to the source of the light, he saw it wasn’t exactly an entrance. The mine must have been a cave once, expanded by the miners to get to the ore veins. This part of the mine was more cave than mine, and the light came from an opening above. It wasn’t too high, although it was definitely too high for comfort. Mac would have to climb up with his hands and feet on the sharp rocks all around, and if he fell, it meant at least a broken leg, if not a broken neck.
Why did he always get himself into these situations? Mac wondered as he started climbing. A ledge there. A piece of the rock sticking out here. He was getting up, he was doing it. Just a little bit more – don’t look down – if he could just catch that bit and pull himself up – don’t look down! His skylight, the small entrance to the cave was becoming larger and larger, closer and closer, and he was almost there, almost there, he just had to push himself forward, reach out a hand, grab something – and he’d done it! He was out of the mine.
He would have celebrated, if it hadn’t been for the gun aimed at his face.
This wasn’t the previous homicidal maniac. And it wasn’t the previous gun. No, this maniac was three inches shorter, had brown hair, and the eyes were different, too; but the smile – oh, the smile. It was the same smile of homicidal maniacs everywhere, just as they were about to squeeze the trigger.
“Well, well, well,” said the current homicidal maniac. “If it isn’t MacGyver.”
“Glad to know I’m famous,” he mumbled.
The homicidal maniac laughed. “They told me you had a sense of humour. I’m glad. It makes this so much more fun.”
Ah. One of those. “And who are you?” Mac asked, trying to buy some time. Think – something – anything! There had to be something he could do, some powder to throw at his would-be killer’s eyes, a way he could kick him at just the right angle, say the right word, make the right movement, something.
But Homicidal Maniac the Second wasn’t buying it. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Goodbye.” And squeezed the trigger.
After a few seconds, Mac allowed himself to open one eye. Then the other. He hadn’t been shot – he could tell that much for himself. But he’d heard a gunshot. Homicidal Maniac the Second was no longer aiming his gun at him – actually, he wasn’t aiming his gun at anyone. He was staring at the sky with unseeing eyes, blood dripping from his mouth and a hole in his forehead, and surprise written all over his face. Mac grimaced, then looked around, looking for the person who had shot the killer and saved his life.
“You.” That was, more or less, all he had to say.
Murdoc smiled at him. “You sound as if you’re not happy to see me,” he said in an almost insulted voice.
“I can’t imagine why.”
“See? That’s another thing we have in common, you and I.” If Murdoc was getting the sarcasm, he was doing a good job of pretending not to. But Mac had just survived two assassination attempts, and hadn’t even had lunch. He wasn’t in the mood.
“No! We’ve got nothing in common!”
“Why, MacGyver! You sound as if you don’t like me! What have I ever done to you?”
“Well, there was the time you tried to kill me, the time you tried to kill me, and, oh, yeah, the - time - you - tried - to - kill - me!”
“That’s all in the past, though, MacGyver.”
“That was three weeks ago!”
Ex-General Murdoc seemed to consider that piece of information, and then shrug it off. “Ah, but now, I just saved your life!”
Mac’s eyes were drawn, against his better judgement, back to the body that was lying on the ground between them. “Who was he?” he asked.
“A... colleague of mine.”
Murdoc sniffled in disdain. “They are getting rather sloppy in their recruitment process. I’ve told them that a thousand times,” he said.
“Wait, wait. Hold on.” Something here wasn’t right. “Didn’t you quit HIT? Didn’t they kick you out again or something?”
“Oh, they were happy to get me back,” Murdoc said happily. “I am their best employee, after all.”
“What happened, that whole working-for-dictators thing didn’t pan out?”
“I think I’m not quite suited for that kind of a job,” Murdoc agreed with him. “Too much cold-blooded killing. Don’t get me wrong – ” he said quickly, probably in response to the disbelief all over Mac’s face – “I don’t object to well-executed killings, the slaughter of the innocent, that sort of thing. But ... with dictators, it just lacks the personal touch.”
“You’re a people person.”
Murdoc beamed, genuinely happy with this statement. “Yes! Yes. I knew you’d get it. You really do understand me so well, MacGyver.”
Mac was getting tired of the verbal sparring. It was becoming more and more bizarre, even for a conversation with Murdoc. “Why’d you just save my life? You said they were from HIT.”
“Yes, indeed. There’s a contract out on you, MacGyver. For quite a hefty sum, too. You should be proud.”
“Yeah, I’m thrilled. I thought that contracts on me mean that you’ll try to kill me, not save my life.”
There was no mistaking the distaste on Murdoc’s face this time. “Yes, well, unfortunately, since you have proved so difficult to kill in the past, the heads of HIT have decided to give the job to someone else.” He made the words ‘someone else’ sound dirty.
“And you don’t agree with them?”
“My dear MacGyver, it’s a matter of professional pride!”
It took Mac a moment or two to work that one out, and when he did, he was so incredulous that he just spat it out immediately. “You mean that if you don’t get to kill me, no one can?!”
“Precisely! I’m glad we see eye to eye! Now, we really must be going. While you took quite a good care of our friend in the mine, and this one isn’t going anywhere, there will be another one after you. They gave the job to three different people. Just to make sure. We need to find cover and plan our next move.”
MacGyver looked at Murdoc unhappily. On the one hand, what he said made sense. And he could actually buy his line of reasoning. You could say a lot of things about the relationship Mac and Murdoc had developed over the years, but one thing could not be denied. It was a relationship. And Murdoc was honourable, in his own weird little way. If he said he wasn’t going to kill MacGyver – at least, not this time, not right at the moment – Mac could probably take his word for it.
On the other hand, of course, this was Murdoc. The prototype of the Homicidal Maniac. The one who visited Mac in his dreams, who had turned every dream into a nightmare. But there really wasn’t any other choice, was there? The only other thing Mac could do was keep on running in the forest, alone, with Murdoc behind him as well as yet another hired killer. At least with Murdoc beside him, Mac would know where he was.
“Fine,” he snapped at the beaming psychopath next to him. “Fine. I’m coming. On one condition. We deal with the third assassin my way. No more killing.”
“Or what?” Murdoc raised an eyebrow. “You won’t let me save your life?”
The plan was simple. First: stay alive. Second: get to civilisation. Third: find a phone. Fourth: call the police. Fifth... that was when things started to get tricky. Murdoc had pointed that out, of course, over and over – between the two of them, if they really needed the police’s help to take care of their pursuer, then they didn’t much have a chance to begin with.
“He’s carrying a gun, be sure of that. Maybe even a flamethrower,” Murdoc said. “He’s here to kill you, not ask you what you’d like for breakfast,” Murdoc said. “Duct tape won’t save you with this one,” Murdoc said.
Mac was doing his best not to listen. Murdoc had been trying to convince him, once again, to use deadly force against the assassin.
Murdoc had been carrying on like this for three hours already, whispering in Mac’s ear, while Mac tried to keep them moving and get them re-oriented. He hadn’t been lost when he’d gone into the mine, but nobody can stay oriented underground, especially not with explosions and cave-ins and unexpected exploration of unsuspected side channels. Murdoc hadn’t been lost when he’d found Mac – at least, he claimed he hadn’t been – but it was funny how quickly he’d gotten turned around after that.
“I told you we should have gone back to the mine entrance. We could’ve lain low there. Set a few traps and waited.”
The thing was, MacGyver hated waiting. Waiting was what hunters did, what assassins did – people like Murdoc. Mac just improvised. He felt better on the move, safer out in the woods. So, the woods it was.
“You still think you can find the mine entrance from here? You’re free to leave if you want to.”
“Well, not any more. Not now that you’ve managed to get us lost.”
What seemed like a long – very long – trip before had turned into an endless torture. Murdoc kept distracting him, talking while Mac was trying to concentrate. Murdoc didn’t even like the wild, and kept on jumping at perfectly harmless creatures or innocuous noises. And all the time, the unending string of unhelpful suggestions, sarcastic comments and hints that Murdoc had the better idea. Mac had gone camping with some tough crowds in the past – teenagers, gangbangers, drug addicts – but he’d happily trade Murdoc for a pack of the worst inner-city toughs any day.
“Look, MacGyver,” Murdoc started for the seventeenth time – and yes, Mac was counting. “We’re obviously lost, you have no idea where we’re going, and I’m getting hungry. We might as well go back on our tracks and try to save our lives, rather than walk around here in circles until we’re too tired to walk and just wait for the end to come.”
“Look!” Mac finally snapped. “I’m not gonna sit here and wait for the end. And I’m not going back to your friend, either.”
“He’s not my friend. He’s hardly even an associate.”
“Yeah? Well, you can stay here and wait for him if you like. I’m going on. And I am not lost!” he said in triumph. He’d finally recognised part of the hillside ahead of them, and that was his truck in the clearing there, not too far away. He was sure of it. He didn’t drive a yellow truck for nothing.
“Oh! Civilisation! How marvellous!” For once, Murdoc’s reaction sounded more genuine than sarcastic.
“Yes! And we’ll get in the truck, drive to the nearest public phone, and then keep on driving to the next town. It’s only – a hundred...” Mac’s excitement died along with his voice as he got a better look at the truck.
The tyres were slashed. All four of them.
“How long, do you think, will it take us to walk a hundred miles with no food?” Murdoc asked, the sarcasm back in his voice and in full swing. “Perhaps longer than it would take one ‘Homicidal Maniac’ – ” he repeated the words Mac had thrown at him in an earlier shouting match – “to find us?”
Mac’s brain went into overdrive. “Maybe... if I could somehow patch the tyres...”
“What about the engine?” Murdoc asked.
Mac looked at him for a moment, and then went to check the engine. Murdoc had guessed right. Ripped-out cables, missing spark plugs, a bashed-up alternator and a punctured cylinder... he’d need a garage and a couple of days at least to fix the damage. Duct tape wasn’t going to save the day this time.
“That’s it,” he sighed and turned to look at Murdoc. “This truck isn’t going anywhere.”
“I guess it’s just back to the mine then,” Murdoc flashed a smile. MacGyver grimaced.
Working with Murdoc on a range of traps and other devices to stop his would-be assassin wasn’t going to be fun and games at all, MacGyver figured. It wasn’t long before the two started arguing, when Murdoc made an offhand remark that reminded Mac why he hated his guts – he was, after all, a cold-blooded killer.
And then there were the weird moments. There had been one during the hike through the woods, when Mac asked Murdoc who, exactly, had ordered the hit.
“You know, so I can prepare myself for next time.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear, MacGyver. Your absolute conviction that there will be a next time... it’s quite heart-warming, really.”
“I’ve learned from experience that your buddies aren’t gonna let go till I’m dead, or they are,” he said testily.
“Not true, not true,” Murdoc sounded almost offended. “I left you very much alone several times!”
That started a series of accusations and counter-accusations. It took Mac half an hour to remember that Murdoc had never answered his original question. He asked it again, and somehow that conversation ended up being about fishing.
He asked again now, while they figured out the best way to stretch a cord along one of the tunnels to give them an early warning when the assassin showed up. Within a few minutes, Murdoc had twisted the discussion and they ended up talking about the weather, of all things.
“You don’t know, do you?” Mac sighed.
“Don’t know what? I know – well, not everything,” Murdoc amended the statement he had almost made, “but near enough.”
“You don’t know who ordered the hit. Who sent your friends after me.”
“What makes you think that?” Murdoc asked. His face was impassive, but to Mac, he looked worried.
“Oh, just the fact you’ve avoided answering my question.”
“Honestly, MacGyver. You’re too suspicious for your own good.” They started arguing again after that, and Mac noted – this time, to himself – that he still didn’t have an answer. Murdoc just didn’t know.
For a while longer, they worked in silence. Once Murdoc started working with Mac, rather than against him, Mac had discovered to his surprise – and horror – that they worked very well together. Mac was used to people who couldn’t keep up with him. He was used to doing his thing while people were gawping at him, or just standing and waiting for him to work his magic, and then going on about – what did Pete call it? Oh, yeah. ‘MacGyverisms’. But Murdoc actually seemed to understand what Mac was doing. He was able to make useful suggestions, he was able to make comments that made sense, and at one point, and even before Mac had had the chance to explain, he said, “Marvellous!” and then proceeded to complete Mac’s work, without getting anything wrong.
In no time, there were five different alarms set all around them, to make sure the assassin couldn’t surprise them. And then there were the dozen or so devices intended to slow him down. None of it was going to kill him – Mac had insisted on that bit.
“That oughta do it,” he said at last.
Murdoc sniffed. “We could do with so much less of all this if you’d just let me – ”
Murdoc sniffed again. “Well, how about some bait for our lovely traps? You could be the bait, and I’ll take care of my old, dear friend.”
“No, thanks.” Mac found a comfortable place to sit and doused the flashlight he’d retrieved from the truck. “How about we do this together, or not at all.”
Except that now it meant that they were stuck sitting in the darkness, together, waiting. And it didn’t help that Murdoc started to sing.
He didn’t realise at first that Murdoc was singing. It was so quiet in the dark mine shaft, that the silence was truly deafening. Mac had learned a long time ago that this wasn’t a figure of speech – it was fact. Too much silence, and you’d start hearing things. When Murdoc’s humming first pierced the silence, Mac thought he was imagining it, until it became overbearing and obnoxious. That didn’t take long, seeing as Murdoc was humming Ride of the Valkyries.
“What are you doing?” he hissed at Murdoc.
The humming stopped. “What do you mean?” Murdoc asked.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you were.”
“What was I humming?”
“Ride of the Valkyries.”
“Really?” Murdoc asked. He sounded genuinely surprised.
“What, that’s not what you usually hum?” Mac couldn’t stop himself.
Murdoc tsked next to him. “Usually I prefer going for something less... clichéd.”
“Well, cut it out. You’ll give our position away.”
“Isn’t that what we want? If our homicidal maniac doesn’t come our way at all, how can he be caught in our traps?”
“You know,” Mac started, realised he was talking way too loud – almost shouting – and lowered his voice. “You know, it’d be way better if he doesn’t find us. Then we can leave.”
“With no transportation, MacGyver? Is your truck going to spontaneously rise from the dead?”
“How’d you get out here, Murdoc?”
No answer. After a moment, Murdoc started singing again. “Help, I need somebody, help...”
“You’re doing it again!” Mac snapped.
“I am? Not Wagner, I hope.”
“Really?!” Murdoc sounded taken aback. “MacGyver, I fear you’re having a bad influence on me!”
“I didn’t mean the singing! I meant the evading. You’re doing it again. You didn’t walk up here, or flap your arms and fly. You’ve got something, stashed not too far away. You weren’t really turned around at all, were you, back there in the woods? You were just making sure I didn’t find your car, or whatever you used to get up here.”
Murdoc was silent for a few moments. “The Beatles?” he said all of a sudden. “Really?”
Mac sighed. “Really.” Okay, he thought, so we’re not getting anywhere there. But we will. We’ll get out of this, and if I can get you arrested and get rid of you, I will.
“Well, that’s awkward.”
“No kidding. I never figured you’d be a Beatles fan.”
Murdoc sounded almost hurt. “I have quite a varied taste in music, MacGyver. It will do you no good to under-appreciate me.”
Murdoc’s tone was light, almost friendly, but still MacGyver was sure that he guessed his intention. If they came out of this in one piece and got anywhere near a police station, Mac hoped he could finally get rid of the man who had tried to kill him half a dozen times in the past decade and had haunted his nightmares, time and again. He knew it and Murdoc knew it. But still, it seemed more... polite not to mention it. Best not antagonise your allies, as temporary as they may be.
Mac broke the silence after a few seconds. “I figured you for more the Metallica type.”
“Are you suggesting one cannot like both the Beatles and Metallica?”
“No,” Mac shrugged, even though Murdoc couldn’t see him in the darkness. “Just. You know.” This conversation was getting too awkward.
“No one’s coming, Murdoc,” he said after a long silence.
“Oh, trust me. He’s coming. He’s not going to miss the chance to kill – to fulfil the contract,” Murdoc said.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. I know these people, MacGyver. I’ve worked with them. I’ve worked for them. They were like a family to me, once, before I – ”
“Shut up!” One of Mac’s makeshift alarms started moving frantically next to his leg.
“Well,” Murdoc sounded positively offended. “I thought we were getting along quite – ”
“Shut up and listen!” Mac hissed again. This time, Murdoc fell silent. He’d heard it, too – someone was creeping along the shaft.
“It’s show time,” Murdoc said in a gleeful tone. Mac imagined he could see the sparkling eyes.
And then – and then Murdoc was gone.
“Murdoc!” Mac whispered, but to no avail. “Murdoc!” he stopped whispering. Still nothing. He had to go after him. “I’m gonna kill him,” he muttered and started running after the man who was, after all, a homicidal maniac.
He wasn’t fast enough. He should’ve expected it, in spite of Murdoc’s promise – or was it a just half-wink and a smile? – he was going to go after the assassin himself, personally. Mac couldn’t quite figure out why. After all, he was the target, not Murdoc. Perhaps, he thought as his legs were carrying him around the dark mine, Murdoc was afraid that word of his treachery would reach his bosses at HIT, that they’d discover he had helped MacGyver against his own colleagues. But they were assassins, for heaven’s sake! They should expect a knife in the back. Literally.
Except that Mac wasn’t going to let him do that. He started running faster in the dark. And then – and then he stopped. He could almost feel it, he could definitely hear it – someone was there with him. Murdoc? Was this where the double-cross would happen? Here in the darkness of the mine?
Maybe he’d imagined it, maybe it was all in his head – but no, Mac realised and froze as he heard the noise again. Someone was definitely there. Slowly, carefully, he retreated to the wall.
Someone went past him. A man, running down the mine, towards Murdoc. Mac shook his head and started to follow the figure – the assassin, he realised, wondering how such a well-trained killer could have missed him, even in this darkness.
He lost the assassin once, twice, always following the noise, in the end following Murdoc’s maniacal laughter. He caught up with them in one of the sections of the mine that still had working lights, to find Murdoc and his unknown assassin were circling each other with knives right above the gaping mouth of an empty mineshaft.
He shouldn’t have been surprised. He was dealing with two highly trained assassins. No wonder they started going at each other as soon as they saw one another. I should just stay out of the way and see who comes on top, he thought. That’d be a lot more clever... No. The really clever thing to do would be to run like heck. Whoever comes out on top was just gonna go after him.
But he had to do it. He had to stop Murdoc and his friend-cum-enemy from killing each other. Of course he did. But before he could spot an opening, Murdoc had gained the upper hand. He kicked the assassin, once, twice, disarmed him, threw something in his eyes – and there the man was, his would-be killer, hanging on for dear life at the edge of the shaft, turning – turning to look, not at Murdoc, but at Mac.
“Why – do – you – help – him?” he asked, and then his grasp slipped and the man fell. His last word was a long scream, a name. “Murdoc!”
It was all chillingly familiar.
Except that it wasn’t his name this time, and Murdoc was standing up and turning to look at him with a pleased smile on his face. “Well, all’s well that ends well, I always say,” Murdoc said cheerfully.
MacGyver looked at him for a second. The way the assassin had looked at him – as if it wasn’t Murdoc who was crossing a line to help Mac, but Mac crossing a line to help Murdoc. All of a sudden, everything else made sense. Murdoc’s suspicious appearance, the truck, his insistence on setting traps for the assassin....
“They weren’t after me!” he said in indignation. Murdoc smirked.
“Not entirely correct,” Murdoc said. “The first two were definitely after you - I sent them.”
“So I’d think someone was trying to kill me.”
“I needed your help, MacGyver. You were more than forthcoming. Thank you,” Murdoc said with a smile, and Mac was close – really close – to punching him.
“Who was he? Was he from HIT?”
“Why do they want to kill you?”
“Oh, you’ll love this one.”
“MacGyver, you are no fun at all. HIT and myself, you see, have run into what you would call ... an impasse. I wanted to rejoin, they wanted to kill me.”
“And you think they’ll let you rejoin now?” Mac asked, incredulous.
“Oh, yes. You see, that man is – was – the head of HIT He took over after Nicholas Helman met his sad end. Oh, don’t look so dismayed, MacGyver – ” Murdoc said, as Mac’s face reflected the disgust he was feeling. “You call me a homicidal maniac? At least I have some style. Now that was a man who was all ruthless efficiency. No sentiment, no heart in the job...none of that personal touch. Just do what has to be done. HIT under him was no fun at all. Much like you,” he added with a smile. Mac didn’t feel like returning the favour.
“So now what? Now they’ll let you back in?”
“Oh, it’s better than that. I do believe, MacGyver, that you are now talking to the new head of Homicide International Trust.”
Thinking it over, there must have been better reactions than this. But ‘really’ was all Mac could think about.
“Oh, yes, MacGyver,” Murdoc smiled his biggest smile yet. “Really.”
“So... now what? I suppose you’ll go back to trying to kill me after this?”
Murdoc just laughed. “Oh, why should I? After you’ve helped me so much? No, don’t worry. As far as I’m concerned, you and I can now go our separate ways. A new beginning. And look on the bright side – now you have the head of HIT as a personal acquaintance!”
Of course, the police arrived too late. Murdoc gave MacGyver a ride towards town, but dropped him off on an empty back road five miles from town. By the time Mac had hiked to a phone and called Pete, the trail was cold.
And of course, there was no body at the bottom of the shaft. MacGyver looked in disbelief at the police officer who had given him the news. “NO!” he said loudly. If he had two homicidal maniacs going after him now, instead of one... that was it. That was, quite clearly, it.
“Look,” Pete tried to console him, “we can widen the search. And Murdoc – why, he must be around! If we just go and – “
“No!” Mac said, quite emphatically. “No. Enough. I’m going home. And Pete, if you ever – ever – run into anything that has to do with Murdoc again...”
“Please don’t tell me.”