Safe Haven

By Rocket

Episode 9.19

Part One

 

MacGyver watched as the Pennsylvania sky began to change from the glow of the warm sun towards a soft twilight. Fields of young crops stretched away over the horizon, the land looking as it had done for centuries. He closed his eyes and for a moment he almost drifted off to sleep in the passenger seat of the Jeep. It had been the week from hell, culminating in a hit-and-run that had almost cost him his life.

He was sure the attempt had been made by his new nemesis – the leader of the clandestine group resurrecting Project Atlas. Hopefully, his bloodied form in the river had convinced them that he was dead. For a moment, Seeley had thought he had been. MacGyver shook his head, remembering Seeley’s panicked shout filtering through the haze of concussion and shock, and the pain of being hauled out of the water. He had a badly broken ankle, bruised ribs, a concussion, butterfly clips across his right brow, and stitches in his right leg.

MacGyver rubbed at his thigh absently as he remembered coming into contact with asphalt at an insane rate of knots that most definitely should have killed him. In the week since the attack, the concussion had eased, but his injuries made him vulnerable to another attempt, should Atlas find out that they hadn’t killed him after all. For now, he hoped they thought he was a dead man, and he needed to stay off their radar while he healed. Pete, Seeley, Nikki and Willis were going to keep after Atlas, but MacGyver was on a different journey.

He looked at the scenery passing by, realizing after a moment exactly where he was. He glanced across at Nikki who was behind the wheel, and after a moment she sensed him looking at her.

“Something wrong?” She asked, tapping the brakes lightly as they rounded a bend.

“Yeah, the last time I was here I kinda parted company with the highway right about now…” MacGyver winced at the memory.

“Huh?” Nikki’s brow furrowed.

“I crashed my Jeep here after a tire blew a few years back, that’s how I got to know the Millers, where we’re headed.” He brushed a hand through the front of his hair and winced when it hurt more than he’d expected. “I thought you knew all about it.”

“Pete mentioned it, but I didn’t know details.” Nikki shrugged. “Are you sure you’ll be okay out here. Atlas …”

“Won’t find me,” MacGyver confirmed. “Elizabeth and her father-in-law are good people, and being Amish, they’re completely off the grid. Even if Atlas knew I was alive -which they don’t - this would be the last place they’d look.”

Nikki grimaced as she pulled off road, brought the Jeep to a halt and then killed the ignition. “Mac, you’ve got to be right about this, there are no second chances.”

“Yes ma’am, I know.” He smiled. “That’s why you guys need to keep working on this while I recover. I’m no good in the fight looking like Long John Silver and feeling like I’ve been hit by a semi.” He raised his right leg and scratched at the cast on his ankle. “Man, this thing itches,” he complained, swinging around in his seat and grabbing a pair of crutches from the back of the Jeep.

“Just where do you think you’re going?” Nikki asked looking confused. “There’s no one here, and you can’t exactly walk!”

MacGyver beamed and pointed to a horse and trap in the distance, heading their way. There was a teenager at the reins of about fifteen wearing a straw hat and a smile from ear-to-ear. “My ride’s here.” He hopped out of the 4x4 on his good leg, sliding the crutches under his arms in a well-honed balancing act.

“You’re way too good at that!” Nikki teased.

“Yeah, well, one too many skiing accidents,” MacGyver grinned back.

“How do we keep in touch?” Nikki tossed his holdall out after him.

“We don’t…no phones out here, which means they can’t tap any lines, it’s for the best. There’s a payphone in the nearest town though, about ten miles away.” MacGyver looked down at his bag, knowing Nikki was just daring him to come up with an ingenious way of picking it up without falling on his behind. He pondered for a moment, not wanting to disappoint, and then hooked the strap with the end of his crutch.

“Now what? There’s no way to lift that now you’ve hooked it,” Nikki watched, restarting her engine and sliding into reverse.

“It’s called a fulcrum,” MacGyver laid his crutch over a boulder without taking any weight on his arm. “You’d know all about them if you’d taken engineering one-oh-one.” Then he slowly leaned back onto the rock, sitting on the crutch at its central point, and watched as his weight lifted the holdall up within reach of his left hand. He grabbed it, and placed it on his knee. “Now I wait for my driver,” he beamed and nodded as Jacob Miller grew closer.

Nikki flicked her hair, shook her head and laughed before hitting the gas and spinning the Jeep around. “I think I’ll leave the heavy lifting to you, I’ll stick with finding Atlas.” Her smile faded. “Watch your back, okay?”

MacGyver gave a little salute, and Nikki pulled away, churning up just enough dirt in her wake to make the approaching horse pause and snort.

“Hey big fella, long time no see!” MacGyver shuffled to his feet and rubbed Thunder’s nose as the horse came to a stop in front of him. It nuzzled him back in a friendly way.

“MacGyver!”

MacGyver turned and realized the little Amish boy he had once known was rapidly turning into a man. “Whoa Jacob, you’re almost as tall as your uncle William!” He couldn’t help but grin.

Jacob shrugged. “I think I will be taller! Mother says William did not stop growing until he was twenty!”

MacGyver closed his eyes for a second and remembered Elizabeth. Even with all the simple, plain attire the Amish wore and the lack of any makeup, she was still a very beautiful woman. “How is your mom?” He asked as Jacob took his bag and lifted into the back of the buggy.

“She is well, as is grandfather.” Jacob offered MacGyver a hand up, and he took it gratefully, positioning his bad leg half out of the buggy. Jacob frowned at it, and at the cuts and bruises on MacGyver’s face. “It would seem you always come to us broken,” he mused, taking the reins and tugging on them for Thunder to turn around.

“Yeah,” MacGyver sighed.. “I get broken a little too often lately…”

* * * *

The Millers’ farm was just as MacGyver had remembered it – like something from another time. Somewhere that reality was on hold, and life had returned to a better, simpler way of existing.

A patch of grass grew darker than the rest, and MacGyver sighed as he recalled it was where the old well had once stood – a well that had brought a broken community together after a little girl had fallen down it. “How’s Christy?” He asked, watching Jacob for a reaction. Could two worlds still co-exist? Could they still be friends now, or even something more?

“She is away at college. I miss her terribly.” Jacob screwed up his face in sadness.

“Are you two..?” MacGyver wasn’t sure how to ask, settling for diplomacy “…still friends?”

“Yes…grandfather and the elders…” Jacob searched for the right words, “…mellowed somewhat, after your last visit.”

“Oh yeah?” MacGyver patted him on the back and grinned. “I tend to have that calming effect on folks.”

Jacob pulled on the reins again, and Thunder stopped outside the main barn. John and Elizabeth were waiting to great them.

“It is good to see you again, MacGyver.” Grandpa John nodded, his grey wispy beard sticking out like he had recently preened it. He offered up a hand and MacGyver shook it, climbing carefully down with a wince as the cart moved.

Jacob passed over his crutches, and then climbed down, leading Thunder away inside the barn to unhitch the carriage and remove his harness.

Elizabeth smiled, looking MacGyver over as if assessing the damage. “You will recover well, without the distractions of the outside world.” She nodded to John whose head bobbed in agreement before he silently turned and headed for the house. “He likes you, you know?” Elizabeth murmured.

“Yeah, he’s just not big with words. I know a few other folks like that.” MacGyver stuck the crutches under his arms and hobbled after the old man with Elizabeth at his side. Somehow, it felt right to be here, and in his mind he could see himself one day enjoying a simple life similar to the Amish.

At least if project Atlas and its allies didn’t kill him first…

* * * *

MacGyver enjoyed supper with the Millers, talking about how he might be able to help design a more efficient plowing rig without anything considered to be modern or vain. The challenge of engineering for such a simple community intrigued him, and he excused himself early, tired from the journey, but eager to pencil down some ideas before turning in.

His room was at the top of the stairs, and it took three times as long to climb the steps than usual with his bad leg. By the time he reached his bed, he collapsed on it, puffing with the effort it had taken. His ankle throbbed in time with his heartbeat, his ribs ached, and every other muscle and bone in his body seemed to have joined in. MacGyver closed his eyes, trying to will away the pain.

Eventually, he pulled over his holdall and unzipped a side pocket to tug out a pill bottle. He hated taking meds, especially painkillers, but he needed to sleep and rest to be able to get back into the war with the bad guys. Reluctantly, he slipped two of the capsules into his mouth and swallowed them dry.

He looked at the oil lamp on the bedside table, and with a quick puff blew it out, before rolling back onto the hand-sewn bedspread and exhaling. He threw his left arm over his eyes, blocking out a bright shaft of moonlight, and after awhile, he drifted off, dreaming of an ice-hockey match, good guys against bad. His team consisted of Pete, Jack, Willis, Nikki, and Sam, while Murdoc headed up his side with Zito, Mariotte, and three men in masks that his subconscious probably had created to be facsimiles of Atlas.

Images of the game bounced around in his head faster than the puck, and he tossed and turned as “Murdoc’s Marauders” scored goal after goal. He lashed out with his stick, trying to regain control of the game, but somehow he knew that in reality he was trying to regain control of the Atlas situation, and that he was losing. MacGyver looked down, seeing that he was trying to skate on thin ice with a cast still on his ankle. As realization hit, the ice beneath him gave way, and he sank deep into the darkness below.

MacGyver awoke with a start, rolling over and up into a sitting position. He rubbed at his eyes, careful of the cut on his forehead, and then checked his watch. It was after midnight – he’d been asleep almost four hours.

He wobbled to his feet and used just one crutch to hobble over to his dresser to pour a glass of water from the antique pottery pitcher there. He gulped down the ice-cold liquid, and then paused when he thought he heard something. The sound came again, like someone trying to yell out, but not quite making it. He shook his head and, picking up the second crutch on his way, shuffled over to the window. It was open, letting in the cool night air and making sounds from the outside more audible. MacGyver squinted, allowing his eyes to adjust to the muted moonlight.

Something in the darkness moved out by the perimeter fence, close to where the old well used to be. Shadows shifted until eventually, MacGyver could make out two figures, and it looked like they were fighting. He leaned forwards, opening the window wide and popping his head out as far as he dared.

There were two men scuffling, or rather, one man overpowering another with a choke hold. The second man lashed out with his arms in retaliation, and the pair dropped to the ground in a ball of limbs, disappearing into the bushes. An Amish straw hat rolled across the grass and came to rest by the gate, and then there was the all-too-familiar crack as a gun fired not once, but twice.

One figure rose from the melee and brushed himself down.

“Hey!” MacGyver leaned further out of the window, yelling. “Hold it right there!”

The shadowy figure spun around at the shout, then turned tail and ran away into the nearby trees. There was a yell, and the sounds of a further struggle, then silence.

MacGyver turned, his bruised ribs protesting the movement, hobbled onto the landing and began hopping down the stairs as fast as he could go, somehow balancing the crutches as well, until his left foot slipped and he crashed down the last few steps onto the floor below. He caught hold of the banisters, just saving himself from another fall.

As if by magic, and super-fast for someone of his age, John appeared in a long white Dickensian nightshirt. He held up a small lantern containing a candle, his features creased with curiosity in the dim light.

“MacGyver? Is there something wrong?” His beard twitched, his eyes sharp and young in his old face.

“I woke up and thought I heard something. When I looked out of the window there were two guys fighting, and…I thought I heard a gun being fired…” Suddenly, MacGyver realized how unlikely it sounded. Amish people no more used firearms than they did zippers. Could he have been dreaming? It had seemed so real…

“MacGyver, you know we don’t hold with guns here, not like you English!” John shook his head.

“I know,” Mac countered, “But I think only one of them was Amish. The clothes were different. Can we at least check outside?”

“MacGyver, I heard nothing…” John’s left brow quirked upwards, and his eyes rolled skywards too, as if he was sure it was a waste of time, but he moved to get his coat from a hook near the door anyway, passing the lamp to Mac to hold for a second. “You should wait here,” his accent was stronger as he spoke, as if it was an order. “Your leg…”

“No, I need to see!” MacGyver shook his head, giving John back the lantern and gesturing for the older man to go first. He followed, limping across the cold, damp grass on his crutches.

“Here, you say?” John stopped by the fence. He wafted the lantern across the ground, but there was nothing to see, just a muddy patch of earth and a few cart tracks. “I see nothing.” He turned to MacGyver holding up the lantern, “Except two men out in the cold night who should know better!”

“But I saw them…” MacGyver leaned over, examining the ground. It was true – if there had been an altercation here, there was no sign of it. He balanced on one crutch and ran a hand through his hair. “This is crazy,” he said softly.

“Perhaps…in your head? Have you been taking pills? The English painkillers? I have heard they can do this.” John nodded.

“I took some earlier, yes, but I know I saw those men.” MacGyver frowned. He had slept pretty deeply after taking the capsules, but he was almost sure that what he’d seen had been while he was very much awake. Hadn’t it?

“We should go back. It will soon be time for breakfast.” John pulled his coat tighter around him and turned, ambling back across to the house in the grey light of dawn.

MacGyver checked his watch, and then remembered the Amish rose early – real early. He groaned. He really wasn’t ready for breakfast, but maybe after some food, he could come back in daylight and figure things out.

* * * *

The sky was still nearly dark when they said grace and then tucked in to a hearty meal – all fresh produce from the land they worked. It never ceased to amaze MacGyver how a family in the 90’s could get away without needing anything from the modern world. He sipped a glass of milk, fresh from a cow, and pondered why the rest of the planet couldn’t be so simple and peaceful.

“How’s William these days?” MacGyver smiled at Elizabeth, remembering her huge brother as he toyed with the tumbler in his hand.

“He’s well,” she answered, wiping her hands on her apron as she collected the pots. “He is out on the south field, working the plough. Jacob tells me you plan to design us a new one?”

MacGyver nodded. Any other time he would have offered to help on the farm, but with a broken ankle he’d be more of a hindrance.

“I wish I could do more than sit around,” he admitted. He stretched out his leg, aching again after his hurried trip outside.

“There are jobs that can be done with just hands,” Elizabeth smiled, and then vanished into the next room. Two minutes later, she reappeared with a sewing basket, and a pile of clothes. “These need repairs, you have hands, you can sew!” She almost giggled as MacGyver balked.

“You really don’t want to let me loose with those.” MacGyver pointed to the basket and grimaced, but he was saved further embarrassment as William appeared in the doorway. He bobbed his head, acknowledging MacGyver, but focused on his elder, John.

“There is an emergency meeting of the elders,” William’s voice was worried and he spoke quickly. “Robert Beiler did not go home last night, and no one has seen him since raising the Yoders’ barn yesterday. His wife is gravely worried.”

MacGyver blinked. He hoped he was wrong, but could Robert have been the man being attacked outside in the middle of the night? Why would someone want to harm him?

John appeared to sense his thoughts and set a wizened hand on MacGyver’s forearm. He swallowed hard. “Perhaps…you were right after all…”

MacGyver bit his lip. “I hope not, because the gunshots and your friend not returning home would probably mean…” he petered off, not wanting to finish.

“John, we need to go.” William’s face was serious.

John stood from the table and grabbed his coat, turning to follow his towering relative.

“Say, would you mind if Jacob took me back out by the fence, and to speak with Mrs. Beiler? Maybe I can help figure this out? It’s the one thing I’m good at.” MacGyver glanced at the window, seeing Jacob looking in.

John paused at the door, swallowed, and then turned. “This is Amish business. Alles ist en Ordnung.” He nodded, sure of what he was saying, and vanished after William.

“I can help, you know that.” MacGyver watched him go, then looked at Elizabeth.

She thought for a moment, then moved to open the door. “Jacob, can I see you a moment please?”

“Is there something I can do for MacGyver?” Jacob was inside the kitchen within seconds, his face a mask of curiosity, and eager to please. His eyes lit up as he spoke, and it was obvious he had been listening in.

“Jacob, Robert Beiler didn’t go home last night. He is missing. Grandpa has gone to a meeting of the elders. I would like it if you would help Mr. MacGyver by taking him to see Mrs. Beiler and ask if there is anything we can do for her.” Elizabeth’s voice was firm. MacGyver raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t been expecting Elizabeth to disobey her father-in-law quite so quickly.

“I don’t want to get Jacob in trouble,” he began, but Elizabeth cut him off.

“John is set in the old ways, and usually I would agree with him, but sometimes the old ways don’t work in a new world. I think you know what I mean? Sometimes we need help from someone who can see the situation through modern eyes.” Elizabeth sat down on a wooden dining chair and looked deep into MacGyver’s gaze, as if sizing up his thoughts, his intentions. She nodded, as if she approved of what she saw.

“I’ll go look around and ask a few questions. Polite, respectful questions,” MacGyver promised as he pushed himself up with a groan. “And if you folks think I’m going too far, you can always take away my crutches,” he teased as Jacob helped him to the door.

Thunder and the cart were already hitched up outside, and Elizabeth frowned as she watched them go. “Jacob? Were you eavesdropping before?”

“I was prepared for any eventuality.” Jacob smiled as he took the reins. MacGyver wanted to smile too, but stifled it. It was better for Jacob if MacGyver’s outsider habits didn’t rub off.

“Can you just pull up by the fence before we see Mrs. Beiler? I want to take a look at the ground in daylight.” MacGyver pointed to the spot. Jacob nodded and gently brought his gargantuan horse to a halt. Thunder snorted and pawed the ground with his left hoof, as if he sensed something was amiss.

Mac leaned down out of his seat, hanging onto the buggy with one hand. His eyes scoured the mud, and in daylight it was apparent someone had tried to brush over the marks of the scuffle he’d seen. And then he saw it: A thin line of blood that trailed off to the road. He winced. That wasn’t a good omen for Robert Beiler.

“Okay, let’s go see Mrs. Beiler.” He pulled himself back up into the seat, stretching out his bad leg.

“You saw something bad?” Jacob stuck his hat in place and chewed on a piece of straw absently as he spoke. He wasn’t shocked, but definitely saddened. “Mother told me what you saw last night,” He explained as he took a right at a fork in the track and headed for a small farmhouse in the distance.

“Blood, or what looked like it,” Mac admitted, rubbing at his injured leg absently. “But sometimes appearances can be deceptive. Just last week I could easily have been taken for dead…”

“And yet here you are.” Jacob nodded. “Let’s hope Mr. Beiler is so lucky.” He sighed. “I thought living this way was meant to protect us, but it doesn’t. I sometimes wish I could go away, like Christy and study to be something more important.”

MacGyver licked his lips. He wanted to tell the kid that he should aspire to be whatever he wanted, and if that meant leaving here, then he should do it. But meddling in Amish affairs was not why he was here, and it wouldn’t be fair to John or Elizabeth. He hoped one day if Jacob really wanted to leave, they would see it and eventually give their blessing.

“The outside world isn’t always so great, either,” MacGyver countered instead. “Look what it got me!” He patted Jacob on the shoulder. “Just remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

“No, it is usually greener here!” Jacob nodded. “You English use too many chemicals to fertilize your ground!”

MacGyver looked at Jacob, but wasn’t sure if Jacob was serious, or if he had just heard his first Amish joke.

* * * *

Irene Beiler’s home was just like all the other Amish houses in the community, and yet as soon as MacGyver hobbled through the door he realized it felt different – as though the house and the people in it were unsettled and unhappy.

“I…I don’t see how you can help…Mr?” Irene looked scared as she welcomed Jacob and ushered MacGyver to a plain wooden dining chair that hadn’t been stained or varnished. She was wringing her hands as she moved to fill a kettle and place it on a wood burning stove.

“MacGyver, ma’am, but folks just tend to call me Mac.” MacGyver chose his words carefully. “I’m a friend of the Millers, of this whole community, and I think I might have seen something last night that involved your husband.”

Irene’s head lifted, and she stopped what she was doing, still looking scared. Her eyes darted to the door, then to a vase on the mantelpiece. “I… I doubt it, our land is nowhere near the Millers,” she also hesitated before speaking, but MacGyver suspected she had different reasons, and it wasn’t because she was scared of offending him.

“I saw two men fighting,” MacGyver continued, his voice gentle.

“We’re simple people; we have no cause for violence.” Irene gulped and turned away, as if something in her eyes might give her away.

“You know something about what’s happened, don’t you, ma’am?” MacGyver said softly, hoping she would relent, not withdraw from him.

Irene stood suddenly and she moved to the vase. Slipping a hand inside, she pulled out a wad of notes and shook her head.

“English money, and for all I know blood money.” She sat down and exhaled, putting the money down on the table. “Our farm hasn’t been doing so well. Our crops yielded barely enough to sustain us, and we have nothing left for the local market. We need the market money for other essential supplies we cannot make ourselves.”

“So someone made you an offer,” MacGyver asked. “What was the money for?”

“For the use of some of our land.” Irene saw Jacob watching her, and her expression turned to one of guilt. “A man came and offered cash to rent our lower pastures for a year. My husband knew it was against the rules, he knew the elders would shun us if they found out, but it was a lot of money, and we were desperate.” She watched as Jacob nodded.

“Maybe the men genuinely just needed land to rent?” Jacob suggested, his voice worried but not angry. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell…”

“No…my husband discovered something bad in the bottom field yesterday morning.” Irene shook her head. “He came home angry; I have never seen him like that before. He rushed back out, said he was going to confront them and demand they leave…”

“And you never saw him again?” MacGyver finished for her.

“No. He’s dead, isn’t he?” Irene started to cry, and tried in vain to blink away the tears. MacGyver looked at Jacob. If he had to put money on it, then he would have said yes, but that wasn’t what Irene needed to hear, not yet, until they knew more. “We’re going to find out.” He nodded to Jacob. “We’ll take the buggy down to the bottom field and have a look around.” He looked at Irene. “With your permission?”

“Anything if it helps find Robert.” She nodded and wiped at her eyes with her apron.


* * * *

The bottom field wasn’t exactly what MacGyver had expected. As Jacob pulled the buggy to a halt, all that could be seen was corn – plain old stalks blowing in the light breeze straight out of a promotional brochure for the state. It looked a good healthy crop.

“I don’t understand? I thought…” Jacob pushed back his hat and scratched his head.

“You thought we were going to find something sinister down here,” MacGyver finished for him. “If it’s any consolation, so did I. Ow.” He winced as he slid down out of the buggy, grabbing his crutches as he went. Jacob quickly followed, and they began walking the perimeter of the field.

It was a nice day, high broken cloud with filtered warm sunlight breaking through and warming their bones. MacGyver breathed in the air, closing his eyes for a second to enjoy the scent of growing plants. When he re-opened them, Jacob had moved ahead, and had stopped at a corner of the crop.

As MacGyver hobbled to catch up, Jacob turned, his face shocked. For a second, MacGyver thought he must have found Robert’s body. He hurried to Jacob, ignoring the pain from his broken ankle.

He stopped as he saw what was wrong. A cow had broken through a weak section of the fence from the adjoining pasture. The cow now lay dead at the edge of the corn, fresh stalks still in her mouth. Flies buzzed around the corpse and, in the warm Spring sun, it was already beginning to smell.

“This must be what Robert found and argued about with the people renting the land,” MacGyver leaned on his crutches, taking the weight off his leg.

“But why would simple corn kill the cow?” Jacob pondered, his face screwing up in distaste. “Something isn’t right here, MacGyver.”

“You’ve got that right.” MacGyver nodded, taking out his penknife and carefully cutting some of the corn, gathering samples. Around the base of the stalks, he saw blue granules scattered on the soil, which he guessed to be chemical fertilizers or pesticides. He sniffed the cut stalks, pulling a face at the bitter smell. “This is no ordinary corn, it smells like chemicals. What’s going on here? And who is behind it?” He passed the samples to Jacob. “C’mon, we need to find out what this stuff actually does…”

“Bad idea.” A new voice, deep and guttural joined them, and as MacGyver and Jacob instinctively turned, a short stocky man with a beard came into view. His eyes were bright and attentive, watching their every move, and in his left hand he held an automatic pistol.


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