“What was the last point of contact?” Jack asked, so angry he felt like he was glowing red as he stormed into the war room.
“Thirty eight minutes ago,” James replied, “then we lost all communication and signal.” He was standing in front of the wall of screens as though it were any other day. As though the agents that just went missing were people he’d never met, whose names he didn’t know.
But that wasn’t the case, which explained why Jack was mad as a tom cat in a flour sack. The agents missing weren’t just nameless grunts that could handle themselves and had signed up for rough service. The agents missing were Riley Davis and Angus MacGyver.
To James MacGyver’s credit, he didn’t ask how Jack discovered that they went off the radar. Didn’t voice aloud that somehow their communication system had broken down and Jack was let in on a secret he shouldn’t know. Didn’t call Jack out for abandoning the mission he was on and coming in. Instead he just stood looking at the screens like a dumbass who had no plan for finding the location of his only son.
“Where are they?” Jack asked.
“Last location from their cellphones was South Boston near the waterfront,” James said. Cool, calm, and collected. Just what a father shouldn’t be when their only kid went missing.
“How in the hell did we lose them in Boston?” Jack asked. “Didn’t we have eyes on?”
“What was the op?” Jack asked, poking and prodding for anything he could use to get his people back. Get his family back. It was like wringing water from a stone. No doubt if Mac were there he would tell Jack some fact about how there actually was minimal moisture inside stone that could be distilled when crushed or some stupid thing.
James continued to look at the data populating the wall screens. “I don’t think that’s any of your business Dalton. It’s not your op.”
“Where the hell is Matty?” Jack demanded.
Bozer ran into the room out of breath. He’d been the leak, the one to call Jack and let him know that something had gone south with Riley and Mac’s latest mission.
“It doesn’t matter where Matty is,” James said quietly. “I’m the director of The Phoenix Foundation and I’ll decide who is need to know.”
“And let me guess…” Jack trailed off.
Bozer spoke up between panted breaths. Kid must have run up from the lab. “They were on mission to gather intel on the Irish mob in Boston.” He quickly regained his breath. “An undercover CIA agent was compromised. They think it was a mole in the department, so we went in to try and get whatever intel we could.”
“The Irish mob?” Jack asked incredulously, stepping closer to James.
James just continued to scan the screens in front of him, hands clasped behind his back.
Jack stepped between his boss and the computer screens. “You sent Mac and Riley up against the Irish mob? Alone?” Jack asked, looking deep into James’ eyes, as though he could see deep down there the motivation that urged this man to send his own kid up against such a dangerous opponent.
James just stared right back and didn’t give a thing away. “I’m not going to find them if you don’t move Dalton,” he said finally.
Jack all but growled and bared teeth at the man. So easy to turn animal when looking out for family.
And there it was, for just a second James became unsettled, and Jack saw the fear shine through. Fear that said he didn’t know what to do. And then the mask was back.
That was all Jack needed to know.
“Get Jill in here!” Jack called, still not breaking eye contact with James, but pitching his voice for Bozer.
Bozer sounded confused. “Jill?”
Jack finally broke eye contact and looked at Bozer, who seemed to be unsure what he was being asked. “Yeah, blonde girl with glasses,” Jack clarified with a growl.
“I know who Jill is,” Boze sassed on his way to the door. “Wasn’t sure you did.”
Jack wasn’t messing around. No time for jokes and feigning stupidity about names when Ri and his boy were god knew where. Hopefully they were still alive.
Mac started talking immediately. Not spilling intel talking, but talking to try to distract the three bruisers away from Riley. Hopefully. It was a strategy that always worked for Jack: be annoying and obnoxious enough to keep the focus on himself and spare his friends. Mac didn’t have Jack’s charisma, but he hoped he could pull it off.
“You can’t hold us here like this!” Mac protested, struggling against the zip-ties securing him to the chair and trying to hold to the cover he’d made up on the fly: conspiracy theorists who had been sneaking into the warehouse to get a look at the magic stone tablet that had won Lincoln the Civil War. Riley’s eyebrows had shot up when he’d started spouting that nonsense. It was all from a terrible pulp novel he’d read on their last international flight: an action adventure Jack had loved and recommended. It was a terrible book, but with nothing else to do, Mac had read the thing cover to cover in one sitting. And it was the first thing that came to his panicked mind when the goons asked why he was breaking into the warehouse. “We have rights!” Mac continued to yell at the guys.
“You don’t have any rights here kid,” the voice was all Boston; a grating mix of Kennedy, too many cigarettes, and weathered drawl. “You came onto our property. You’re ours now.”
“We haven’t done anything!” Mac continued to struggle weakly against the restraints. He knew he didn’t have a chance in hell of breaking them, he’d been tied up too many times to know a secure bond, but his persona didn’t, so he kept pulling at them.
“Haven’t done anything?” One of the other guys spoke up, stepping closer to Mac and looming over him. “You shorted out our security system you little shit.”
“The world has a right to know about the secrets you’re hiding here!” Mac continued to play up his conspiracy-crazed character.
The guys looked at each other and laughed. “If you really are some tinfoil hat wearin’ mother fucker you’re gonna be really sorry you tried to break into our place.”
The third bruiser spoke up, still standing too close to Riley’s chair for Mac’s liking, hand on the holster under his jacket. “And if you’re not,” his voice was raspy and full of threat, “we’ll find out.”
“You took a guy who won’t even look at a gun sideways and threw him-”
James cut into Jack’s words with that quiet, professional, infuriating voice of his. “Angus is quite capable of handling himself.”
Jack ignored the interruption and just kept on talking. “…threw him into a fight against the Boston Irish mob? Guys who are notorious for shooting first and not even botherin’ to ask questions after?”
“Angus will figure it out, he’s resourceful.”
“This ain’t a math problem!” Jack was losing it in the face of James’ seemingly uncaring calm. “He ain’t figuring out the transverse angle of the blast trajectory of a nuke-”
“None of that made any sense.”
“Do I look like I give a shit?” Jack was done being ornery and conversational and was moving on to just plain angry and panicked. So he decided to start ignoring James. Talking wasn’t getting them anywhere but pissed off. Instead he focused on the problem. “Jill? What have you got?” Jack asked.
“I can track the last location of their phones,” Jill perched on the arm of one of the leather chairs, a computer balanced precariously on her lap. Jack tried not to think about how much she reminded him of Riley. How much Riley had taught her. “But that doesn’t get me a whole lot. The last message that Mac sent said they were cornered, but there was no follow up.”
“The last time I spoke to Angus, he said that he was going to short out the security system of the warehouse they were surveilling to get a look inside. Obviously it didn’t work out in his favour. If he hadn’t done that, and just sat back and collected intel like he was supposed to, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Jack was slack jawed. Did James really think so little of his son? Did a man who worked in the field so long actually believe that the outcome of an entire mission could be so easily blamed on one small action? When a million little things went into the way an op played out.
James caught Jack’s eye and misread the look. “What? I mean, we’re going to save them. I’m just saying. Come on people! We wouldn’t be in this mess if Angus-”
“You’d best stop talkin’ now boss man,” Jack said coldly. In his head he repeated the mantra: don’t punch him, don’t punch him, focus on Mac and Riley, focus on Mac and Riley, don’t punch him, don’t punch him.
“You know Dalton, this is as much your fault as his,” James said, turning toward Jack and away from the screens that were their best hope at finding the two most important people in Jack’s life.
“You’re gonna have to spell that out for me,” Jack said, turning toward his boss and all but knocking chests with him.
“If he wasn’t so dependant on you, maybe he would have better learned how to take care of himself and the agents under him in the field!”
Not like that thought hadn’t crossed Jack’s mind. If only he was there, backing Mac up like always, he would have solved it the Jack Dalton way. But that wasn’t Jack’s fault, that was James’ fault. Cause Jack hadn’t volunteered for a mission elsewhere while Mac was thrown to the lions. And before this was all over Jack would make sure James knew it. But the middle of a rescue was no time for placing blame. Jack had learned that early on with the CIA: blame doesn’t bring anyone home.
Jack took a deep breath. He couldn’t not say something. “Well, when you stick two science geeks in the field they need some muscle to back them up-”
“Angus has been in the field long enough-”
“First, don’t call him Angus, he hates that!” The name tasted weird on Jack’s tongue, he used it so infrequently. “And second: he won’t even use a gun! Sure, he’s great at… whatever the hell you call it that he does, but when you’ve got the mob on your tail MacGyverin’ stuff don’t really do you a helluva lotta good!”
“Always worked for me,” James said.
Don’t punch him, don’t punch him. Focus on Mac and Riley, focus on Mac and… Riley. Suddenly something occurred to Jack and he all but ran out into the hall his boots pounding his anger into the floor.
He pulled out his cell. Just looking at the thing, whole and intact, made him long for Mac by his side. As much as he complained about it, he’d give his damn phone up in a minute to have Mac back beside him. All of his anger melted into premature grief.
Jack shook his head to get back on track. They weren’t dead. He’d know. He’d feel it in his bones.
He dialled and put the phone up to his ear.
Jack didn’t even let the guy on the other end get out a hello. “You’ve had some dealings with the Irish mob in Boston, right?”
“Nice to hear from you too Jack,” Elwood answered.
Mac was genuinely struggling against the restraints now, despite the fact that he knew they wouldn’t budge. The bruisers were living up to their name and hurting Riley, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
Mac’s wrists felt like they were ripping open, and he didn’t care.
They’d hit her in the ribs a few times, and Riley’d clenched her jaw and not given them the satisfaction of even the smallest sound, but Mac could see it in her eyes. She was afraid.
“You know,” one of the mob guys said as he pulled an empty chair in front of Mac and sat down in it. “I think we got off on the wrong foot here.” He leaned forward, elbows on knees. Closer up, Mac took note of the little details that made up the man in front of him: his face was creased with years, his nose looked like it had been broken a time or two and never healed right, and there was a scar across his chin. This guy had done bad things and lived a hard life. “You can call me Murph, all my friends do. And I’d like us to be friends.” He leaned in closer like he was telling Mac a secret. All Mac could smell was stale cigarette smoke. “And I’d really like to stop hurting your girl. See, Sean and Finn here? They’re a bit messed up, see, and they’ll go on hurting her all day if I’ll leave ‘em to it. I think they enjoy it a bit too much. But I think we can come to an agreement.”
Mac didn’t say a word, but swallowed hard, trying to draw out the time that Sean and Finn weren’t hurting Riley.
“Now that agreement is, that you’ll tell me what you know, and I’ll leave the girl alone,” Murph said. Lying through his teeth, he wasn’t even trying hard to hide it.
If Mac told them anything, him and Riley weren’t even going home in body bags, they were going to end up in the harbour.
But what could he say? Other than stick to his cover, and hope these guys couldn’t tell a liar from a conspiracy theorist.
“I’ll tell you whatever you want man,” Mac pretended to cave.
Murph smiled a little. “Why exactly, does your girl carry around such advanced equipment?”
Mac spoke in hurried panicked tones that he didn’t have to fake. “She builds her own,” he blurted out, “cause that way she can hide the signals from the government and-”
Murph slapped Mac hard across the face. It made him angry, but he didn’t let it show on his face. He was just relieved that he’d managed to draw their focus.
“They sent you in after Hicks didn’t they?” Murph asked, giving the name of the CIA agent that had gone missing, presumed dead; the reason they’d been sent in to gather intel in the first place.
“Hicks?” Mac tried to look clueless and frightened. “I don’t know-”
Murph slapped him again and Mac felt his teeth clack together hard. “You know, I don’t believe a word outta your mouth.” He turned back toward the other guys, and nodded.
One of them took Riley’s face in his big hands, and when she tried to pull it away he gripped it harder. “Such a pretty little thing,” he huffed at her. “We’re gonna have some fun with you.”
Mac couldn’t stand the implication behind those words. Every muscle in his body tensed and he wanted to rage against his bonds, screaming and yelling. Instead he whimpered and tried to look pathetic. “Please,” he called out. “Please hurt me instead.”
Murph turned back to Mac and smiled a crooked grin. “Not a chance. They’re not gonna hurt you at all, and you’re gonna have to watch while they pull your girl apart piece by piece until you tell me what I want to know.”
Mac wanted to blurt out everything. But it really wouldn’t get them anywhere good. Their best chance of getting out alive was somehow convincing these guys of the weak cover story Mac had concocted on the fly. And even then, their best chance was still holding out long enough for Jack to find them. These guys were never going to let them go.
“Do your worst boys,” Murph invited as he stood up and pushed the empty chair back into the corner, too far for Mac to get hold of or make use of it.
Mac didn’t look away. He watched. Because he held Riley’s gaze as often as he could get hold of it, to let her know he was there. That she would be ok. Somehow he hoped she was getting that from the look on his face.
The first three punches to her face were hollow flat sounds. The fourth was wet, and blood sprayed out of her mouth.
Once the blood started, Mac couldn’t control himself anymore, and his yells and screams filled the small room with his rage and fear until his vocal cords were raw and strained.
Where was Jack? Jack would have never let this happen. Jack would have been able to draw them away, think of something better. Jack would have protected them. How could Mac have ever thought he was good enough to be Jack?
Jack climbed aboard the Phoenix jet, all but pushing Elwood ahead of him.
Jack raised his voice toward the cockpit, alerting the pilot. “Alright Ellie! All aboard! Let’s get this show on the road.”
Elwood sat down in the first row and Jack saw someone else sitting at the very back, staring at him: James.
“What in the hell are you doin’ here?” Jack asked.
“You didn’t really think I’d let you go on this mission alone did you? He’s my son.”
“I ain’t alone,” Jack said, motioning toward Elwood.
James huffed a laugh. Fakest laugh Jack had heard in a long while. “Yeah, I heard you dragged a civilian into this.”
“And since when have you ever treated him like your son?” Jack’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t let James answer. “You know what? I’m pretty sure I don’t wanna hear your answer. It’s a long flight and I don’t wanna have to sit through the whole thing across from some dude I punched.”
“Did you just threaten me, Dalton?” James stood up, arrogance written in every limb, every movement, and his tone of voice.
Jack puffed up his chest and felt the cold demeanour of his Delta days wash over him. In Delta mode he’d kill this guy without hesitation and with no regrets.
Suddenly Elwood was there, hand on Jack’s chest, stepping between the two men. “It’s been a long time since I felt like the reasonable adult in any room,” Riley’s dad joked. “How about I sit back here with the boss, and you sit up front for a bit Jack?”
Jack obeyed grudgingly. “This is gonna be one long trip,” he muttered as he made his way as far away from James MacGyver as physically possible in the little tin can.
“Riley?” Mac called out in the dark. “Riley?”
Mac had been struggling against the zip ties for… he had no idea how long. Before the goons had left they’d turned the lights off, and time was lost in the darkness. Couldn’t have been more than 8 hours, but beyond that he couldn’t be sure of anything more specific. The last blow to his head had made him groggy.
In the dark he could just make out Riley’s limp form across the room. He struggled against thinking of her as a body, and shook his head to restructure his thoughts and think of her as Riley instead. She was leaned over but not falling, still tied to her chair.
She’d been totally out since the last bout of “questioning.” They’d been even harder on her, hoping that Mac would break because of it. But he didn’t have anything to tell them. If Mac had any money he would have bet they knew more than he did. From the line of their questioning they definitely had more intel on the CIA operative they’d killed than even Phoenix did. They’d probably extracted that intel from the operative before they’d dumped him.
Damn if Mac wished he hadn’t thought to make something up though. Something to make them stop hurting Riley. Watching them lay into her over and over, bruising her soft round face had torn Mac up inside. Brave and tough as ever she’d barely made a noise, even spitting in one of their faces. But Mac knew her well enough to see the fear and hurt in her face, even if the “interrogators” didn’t. He’d screamed at them to stop until he was hoarse. But they’d only ever responded with: “Tell us about this,” or “if you want us to stop you’ll need to give us the name of…” Names Mac didn’t know. Information he didn’t have.
Throughout the whole thing all Mac could think was: Jack would never have let this happen. If he were here, he’d fix it. One of Jack’s greatest talents was being a good target. How many times had Jack and Riley been nabbed together, and Jack had always been able to draw the attention of the resident bad guy. Jack always came back bloody, Riley whole and untouched. Why didn’t Mac have that talent? Why wasn’t that something he could learn in a classroom? Be tested on? No matter what Mac had said, he just couldn’t turn their attention.
Riley wasn’t making any sound. He couldn’t even hear her breathing, but his panicked heartbeat was loud in his ears, sabotaging his efforts.
“Riley!” He kept trying anyway. Mac wasn’t one to give up on anyone, especially family. “Riles!”
His throat was sore and sent spikes of pain down his esophagus each time, but he kept calling out to her. The last thing he wanted was for her to wake up seriously hurt and think she was alone.
Two hours into the flight Elwood joined Jack at the front of the plane.
Jack had been trying to sleep, blanket over his lap, eyes closed. But the worry and fire in him were too much for his brain and he just couldn’t sleep.
“If you don’t punch him before tomorrow, then I will,” Elwood sighed out. “Can’t imagine that guy’s had many friends in his life.”
Jack’s phone buzzed. He pulled it out so quickly he fumbled and almost dropped it.
Incoming video call from Jill. He tapped to accept.
“Hey Jack,” she said, her normally bubbly demeanour gone, all business behind her blonde curtain of hair and thick black frames. “Last location of their phones hasn’t gotten me much. We had a team in the area, and they were able to find the discarded phones. Thrown onto the shoulder of the I-93. They were smashed. No data recoverable from either phone.”
“Ain’t you got any good news for me?” Jack asked.
Jack could hear James moving up the aisle of the small plane behind him. It must rankle the boss that the tech called Jack first. Jack almost wanted to smile at the thought, but his face just wouldn’t manage it.
“The only thing I can offer is intel: the area their phones were found in is controlled by the O’Briens. Which makes sense based on the…” she trailed off as her eyes darted to the side where Elwood sat.
“What is it? Out with it!” Jack demanded of the poor girl.
“Who’s there with you?” She asked.
Jack looked over at Elwood, who was leaning into the camera’s view to listen.
“She’s right, Jack,” James said. “He’s a civilian. He can’t be privy to this information.”
“This ain’t no time for national security!” Jack argued desperately. “Mac and Riley are in serious trouble here!”
“You know as well as I do, Dalton: in this business we have to put the needs of the many over the safety of the few. It’s why we do-”
Jill cut him off. “You’re right Jack. I’m sending it over now. There are several properties in that area controlled by the O’Briens. Some more likely for holding people than others. I’ve sent the list and sat photos, so you can look them over during the rest of your flight. I’ve marked my suggestions.” Jill’s gaze traveled up over Jack’s shoulder to where James was standing. “Oh, so fire me then!” She said before turning her attention back to Jack. “I’m going to keep going through everything. If I find anything else I’ll call.”
“Thanks Jill,” Jack nodded solemnly. He wouldn’t be “accidentally” mistaking her name anymore. What a spitfire! Why didn’t he see that in her from the start?
“Of course,” she said, before ending the call.
Jack pulled up the files on his phone and leaned closer to Elwood so they could share the classified intel. He ignored the fuming boss that loomed behind him and eventually returned to his own seat. Good. Make him feel like he’s out of the loop for once.
“Riley… Riley… Riles… Riley… Ri… Riles…” Mac’s mouth was tacky and dry, but he refused to stop saying her name. Refused to believe that she wasn’t going to wake up to his voice. Out loud he chanted her name, but inside he chanted: she’s not dead, she’s not dead, over and over.
When he thought his lips might start to crack from the effort of speaking, she made a noise. A groan followed by the wet sound of spit hitting the floor. He watched the shadow of her shift and move, almost toppling the chair before she got her bearings.
“Mac, is that you?” She asked, her voice thick and heavy.
Mac realized he was still repeating her name. It had become such habit over the last indeterminate length of time that his body hadn’t even stopped when he realized she’d woken up. As soon as he let his voice go silent he coughed a little. “Yeah Riles,” he choked out. “You alright?”
She shifted in her chair and stifled a scream that she turned into a grunt before she stilled her body and didn’t move anymore. “I’m alright,” she finally got out between clenched teeth.
“Do you know…” Mac trailed off, unsure exactly how to ask without making Riley panic. “…the extent?” He finished. He needed to know how badly she was hurt. Cracked ribs? Internal bleeding? Broken bones? External bleeding?
“Not a doctor Mac,” she huffed out. “Not even close.”
She was talking. Good. That was good. Keep her talking.
“Did they tie you tight?” Mac asked. The sooner they got loose, the better for her. “Could you get loose?”
Sounds of struggling, interspersed with pained hisses and whines followed her shifting in the chair. “It’s… no good…” she said between gasped breaths. Even that little bit of movement had put her out of breath. Not a great sign.
“It’s ok,” he tried to sound soothing, but his panic slipped through a little. “It’s ok Ri.”
“I know it’s ok,” she said. “Jack’s on his way right now.” There was so much confidence in her voice.
Mac smiled and felt tears burn his eyes at the same time. He hoped that she was right. Jack would never give up looking for them. Never. But would he be able to find them?
“You’re right,” Mac said, willing as much enthusiasm into his words as he could. “I’m sure he’s almost here.”
Mac looked around the room, trying to see in the darkness. Anything he could use. But the room was bare, and he couldn’t get loose, he’d been trying for hours.
“Nobody gives Jack enough credit,” Riley said into the dark. “Except you and me.”
“Dalton!” James barked as he jumped down the steps of the plane behind Jack and Elwood. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To save our kids,” Jack answered over his shoulder.
“How exactly do you propose to do that?”
Elwood followed Jack and kept his mouth shut.
Jack stopped and turned on his heel to face James. His whole life Jack had been following orders. Go here, do this, kill them, do that. Jack was sick and tired of putting the people he cared about in harms way because of orders.
Don’t punch him, don’t punch him, trailed through Jack’s brain over and over again as he calmed himself and put Delta Jack Dalton back in his cage for a little while longer. Soon there’d be someone he could hurt, someone he could take out all of that rage, frustration and worry on. James wasn’t that person.
“You can come along if you’re gonna be helpful,” Jack said to James. “And I can’t guarantee you’re gonna be happy with my actions. But I’m gonna go get your son back.”
James’ face was unreadable, which just made Jack want to punch it more.
“Make your choice, we gotta bounce,” Jack said, turning back toward the car that was waiting for them at the edge of the airstrip.
James huffed in response, but followed along.
Jack tossed his phone to Elwood. “Alright, you’re up. Make it good,” Jack said.
This had better work, Jack thought, unable to handle the alternative.
Riley’s laughter devolved into a painful cry.
“You alright?” Mac asked, unable to keep the concern from his voice anymore. The darkness was driving him crazy. Without being able to see her, he had no indication of what they’d done to her, or how badly she was hurt. It was conceivable that he was listening to Riley dying slowly and there wasn’t anything he could do about it, and he wouldn’t even know until she was gone.
“Fine,” Riley reassured in a quiet voice. “Fine. Laughing was a terrible idea. But that story gets me every time.”
“Come on,” Mac said, trying to keep it light, “he didn’t actually beat up the other kid’s dad did he?”
“Oh he did,” she said, “they even banned him from school property.”
Mac couldn’t help the genuine laughter that rolled out of him. Good ole Jack.
“Your turn,” Riley said.
Mac had started the whole thing as a way to keep Riley talking, keep her awake, keep her distracted. “Tell me a story about Jack,” he’d requested. And she hadn’t disappointed.
“What?” Mac asked.
“Your turn now,” Riley said. “Tell me a story about Jack. Your favourite story about Jack.”
Mac knew they were probably being monitored. The room had to be bugged. Mac just couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. What would discretion get them? They were already dead. Riley might even be bleeding to death across from him and all she wanted was a good story to make her smile. To make her think of gallant Jack on his way to get them. Mac could definitely give her that. He had those stories by the boatload.
“My favourite?” He said, trying to smile so she could hear it in his voice in the dark. “Christmas day, a few years ago. We get word that this guy needs to be put into protective custody immediately. So they send me and Jack out. We get there, and parked in his driveway is this brand new Hummer, with the big bow on top and everything right? All ready for Christmas morning.”
“What colour was it?” Riley cut in.
“Red,” Mac replied, smiling wider. He was glad she was engaging with the story, it meant she was still wide awake. “So, we’re walking up to the house and all Jack can talk about is that big red Hummer and how he wants to drive it so bad. And it’s brand new and he just wants to get one minute behind the wheel. Long story short we’re ambushed. And the company SUV we brought is totalled-”
“Please tell me Jack got to drive that Hummer,” Riley pleads.
“Oh he got to drive it alright,” Mac replied. “Took off down the street, laughing the whole way. The bow blew off the top and got caught up in the tires of the pursuit car. And we lost them.”
“No way!” Riley protested, laughing again, but quieter this time.
“Jack was so excited,” Mac replied. Then he put on his best Jack Dalton voice: “You never even had to build nothin’ Mac. Jack Dalton: 1, Angus MacGyver: 0.”
Riley’s voice was quieter still. Mac couldn’t even hear her breathing anymore. “Another one,” she choked out.
“Taiwan,” Mac said softly. “Taiwan’s a good one. Did you know Jack can juggle??”
“I did not, but go on,” Riley urged.
Jack, Elwood, and James sat in the car, hunched low, watching the pub across the street. Danny Murphy was set to show his face any damn minute, and Jack was getting impatient.
“Didn’t you say two o’clock Elwood?” Jack barked.
“That’s what he told me,” Elwood answered.
“Well, I hate to point out the obvious, but it’s two seventeen and we ain’t seen hide nor hair’a the guy.”
“He’ll show, Jack,” Elwood assured him, though he didn’t sound very reassured his own self.
“Well I don’t-” Jack stopped himself as a car pulled up in front of the pub. An old Chrysler that was well loved, but had seen better days. Two men got out.
“That’s Murph,” Elwood said with a sigh. His tone spoke volumes: he’d hoped to never have to see the guy again.
“Which one?” Jack asked. “The one who looks like he’s been hit in the face one too many times?”
“That’ll be him,” Elwood answered.
“Ok now Dalton, let’s work out a plan and approach this-”
Jack didn’t hear another word, because he tore open the door of the car and strode across the street.
The pub was well lit, but had dark little corners for dark little business. Jack was unimpressed. He needed to find Murph ASAP. But the place was empty. Not a soul in sight except the bartender. A huge guy, 6’2” if he was an inch, large arms braced on the bar. No doubt he had a weapon within easy reach.
Jack didn’t care. He stormed over to the bar. “I’m here to see Murph,” he summoned up all the authority the army and Delta Force had taught him. Sometimes sounding like you knew what you were talking about or where you belonged was enough to gain you entry. He didn’t think this was one of those times. But hell, it was worth a shot.
“And who the fuck are you?” The bartender asked.
Jack was frustrated and angry and didn’t have time for lackeys. “I’m the guy who’s gonna break your face if you don’t get Murph out here,” Jack kept his voice cold and flat, flaring his nostrils.
The big guy smiled. “Yeah, old man? You think-”
Jack reached up, grabbed the guy’s shirt collar and slammed his face down onto the bar as hard as he could manage. “You know what I think, chuckles? I think I’m the old man that just broke your damn nose. So maybe you’d better start helping me out.”
Blood gushed from the guy’s face, and his hands started to reach below the bar.
Jack pulled his gun and laid the cold muzzle right against the bartender’s temple. “I would think real careful if I were you, before reaching under that bar there,” he said. Cold. Angry. Full blown Delta Force Jack. Putting a bullet in this guy wouldn’t keep anyone up at night. He was a bad guy, a hostile. But for the moment he was useful.
The door to the street opened, letting in the sound of traffic and the noises of a busy day, before it closed and shut everything out again.
“Dalton!” James’ voice called out with a fake authority. “Stop!” He was no leader. No officer that out ranked him, giving out orders. He was a civilian and Jack felt no need to heed that order.
“Listen up,” Jack said, pressing the gun a little harder into flesh. “I just wanna talk to Murph. So where is he?” He growled the last bit. Let this guy think he was losing control. But Jack didn’t lose control. You couldn’t lead a Delta Force team and lose control.
A set of forearms leaned on the bar next to the guy’s head; Elwood.
“Hey Neil,” Elwood said casually, like he was sitting down to order a drink. “Can you let Murph know that I’m here? He’s expecting me.”
“You were supposed to come alone,” Neil’s voice was hollow from the way his cheek was pressed to the oak.
Elwood shrugged and smiled his greasy smile. “Didn’t work out that way,” he answered.
“Murph won’t be happy,” Neil replied.
Elwood smiled a little wider. “When is Murph ever happy?”
“Give me two minutes,” the big guy said.
Jack let him up, and the guy made his way toward the back room.
Patience was in short supply. Jack only gave the guy a minute and a half, and was about to storm into the back room when the door swung open again. The bartender came out followed by Murph and a few other goons.
“Elwood, you didn’t say you’d be bringing friends,” Murph said, the smile on his face made Jack’s blood boil.
Elwood didn’t get a word in before Jack took over the conversation.
“Where are they?” Jack spat, stepping closer to the little gang. He still held the gun comfortably in his grip.
“Woah boy,” Murph said, the smile still firmly in place. “Why don’t you get your little thug here to put down his gun and we’ll talk like civilized people, Elwood?”
Elwood didn’t say a thing.
“Little thug?” Jack sneered, narrowing his eyes. “This thug’s a trained army sniper bucko. So why don’t you just focus on answering my question.” Jack raised his gun and levelled it at Murph.
Every guy in his little gang pulled a gun and pointed it directly at Jack.
“Dalton,” James warned.
Jack didn’t listen. He knew what he was doing. He’d subdued warlords and terrorists, he could deal with this punk.
“You take a shot and you’re dead,” Murph grinned.
“You’ll still be dead too asshole,” Jack replied. “Special forces snipers don’t miss.”
Murph’s smile faltered.
Mac was alone. He couldn’t remember how long since they’d taken Riley away. He only hoped it was for medical attention, and not something more sinister. He doubted it.
He screamed his lungs out after they’d taken her. Insisting that he would tell them anything they wanted to know. Give them any information that he had.
No one had come back.
They’d shut the lights off again, and he was still in darkness. Slumped forward in the chair he felt completely hopeless. It wasn’t a feeling he’d had many times. Usually if he was trapped somewhere he had his arms free, or a way to get them free. And as long as Mac’s arms were free, he could figure his way out of pretty much anywhere. But he ached from being strapped so tightly to the sturdy chair underneath him. He’d even tried to shift his weight and topple it, but it was screwed to the floor.
Resigned that bad things were happening to Riley and he might never see the light of day again, Mac reached out for the only thing that could keep him level headed in any situation: Jack.
“What’dya say man?” Mac asked the empty darkness. “This worse than Cairo yet?”
It was easy enough to imagine Jack sitting there with him, surrounded by the empty pitch black dark. And he imagined a response from Jack too. Accented, and gruff, and exactly what he’d need to hear: Hey! We talked about this, we don’t talk about Cairo, man. We agreed on that. Even shook on it.
Mac chuckled. “Yeah I know,” he replied to his imaginary friend. “Just seems appropriate since I feel the same now as I did then. Stuck. There’s no good solution here. I can’t fix or build anything tied to a stupid chair.”
Nah, you’ll think’a somethin’ genius. We just gotta get outta these restraints and then you’ll cook somethin’ up in no time flat.
“Not in time to save Riley,” Mac said morosely.
Yes, in time to save Riley. Dude, when did you get to be such a downer? You know you can’t focus on stuff like that. Not when we’re still sittin’ here.
Well that’s a heavy sigh. Come on. You’re also forgettin’ that Riley is bad ass, and she don’t need nobody to save her. Best worry about yourself before you worry about her.
“I can’t help it Jack. She’s my responsibility and I-”
The door flew open wide. Someone filled the doorway, backlit from behind. Mac would know Jack’s silhouette anywhere.
“Jack!” He called out before his partner could find him in the dark. “I’m fine! Find Riley!” His voice crackled with overuse, still ruined from his earlier screams.
“You sure, Mac?” Jack asked, voice full of concern.
“Listen Jack, she’s really hurt. Bad,” Mac could hear the pain and fear in his voice but plowed ahead anyway. “I don’t know where they took her, but she needs medical. Go!”
Jack didn’t say another word, but pushed his way past the man following behind him and into the hall, on a mission to find his little girl.
Mac blinked a few times, unable to recognize the next shape in the doorway.
“Angus?” His father ventured into the darkness. “Speak up. Where are you?”
Mac sighed and hung his head again. Couldn’t Jack have just brought a tac team?
“Light switch is to your right on the wall,” Mac replied. “That’ll make things easier.”
The light flashed on, bright and blinding, reminding Mac of a flashbang the way it assaulted his senses.
Once his eyes had adjusted and he looked up, his father loomed over him. The look Mac read in his eyes was a mixture of disappointment and relief, though the disappointment seemed to weigh heavier.
“Are you alright Angus?” His father asked.
“Just peachy,” Mac snarled. “Were you thinking of untying me sometime this year?”
Jack’s gun was gripped too tight in his hand, shaking with anger and anxiety. If they’d done anything to Riley he was going to kill them all. And hell, from the way Mac had been talking they'd definitely hurt her, so Jack was prepared to kill them all. The fear in Mac’s voice had sent a cold chill down Jack’s spine.
Jack breathed deep, slipped into soldier mode, and his hands stopped shaking. His finger sat cold and still against the trigger of the gun, ready to smoothly pull the trigger at a millisecond’s notice.
He moved silently down the hall, practiced steps keeping his boots from making any sound.
Jack turned corner after corner, silent in the dim halls.
Eventually he found it. A random door in the middle of a random hallway.
The door was only guarded by one guy, who wasn’t paying any attention at all, checking his phone. Idiots. Jack took him out with Delta stealth; minimal noise and mess. Listening at the door was the hardest thing he’d ever done: waiting while she could be suffering, while she might even be dead. No. That wasn’t a helpful thought.
“Figure she’s dead?” One of the guys asked, echoing Jack's thoughts.
“Don’t think so,” a second voice said. A pause. “Nope, still got a pulse.”
“I don’t mind ‘em unconscious,” the first voice cut in again. “They don’t struggle that way.”
The second guy laughed. “They don’t give up any info either.”
“Fun now, business later,” the first guy sounded hungry. “Plus, we need to wake her up before we can get any info out of her anyway.”
That was all Jack needed to hear. Based on the sounds he could catch through the door he didn’t think there was more than the two of them. From their voices, he guessed their whereabouts in the room and pushed the door open. Two perfect shots. Clear. No more hostiles.
Riley was heaped on a table in the middle of the room like she didn’t matter. Discarded.
Jack was sure his heart stopped. He holstered his weapon and ran to the table, afraid to touch Riley for the shape she was in. Anywhere he laid a hand on her looked like it would hurt. He checked the pulse at her throat. The blood pumped strong and steady; the girl was tough as nails.
Jack gave her a quick up and down look. There were no open, bleeding wounds, just some dried blood on her face from her nose and mouth. But internal wounds could kill stealthily and just as quickly without treatment. The ambulance had only been a few minutes behind them, but he didn’t want them to have to navigate the twisting, turning hallways he’d just come through. He’d take her to them.
“I’m so sorry sweetheart,” Jack apologized in advance, as he slid one arm under her knees, and the other back around her shoulders. The moment he put pressure on her to lift her from the table she woke up and gritted her teeth against the pain, face contorting.
“I got you,” Jack said softly. “I’m sorry Riley, but I’ve gotta lift you up.”
Her eyes opened, and they were wet. Her lip quivered as she locked eyes with him. “Jack?” She asked, as though she thought she might be dreaming. The skin around her big brown eyes was starting to swell shut from the abuse she’d suffered, and she looked up at him with disbelief.
Jack felt his face start to crumple, but he swallowed back his anger, pain, and sadness. Not yet. She still needed him to be strong.
Riley took a deep breath that made her breath catch before she nodded to him.
Jack opted for the “like pulling a bandaid” approach and just lifted her in one swift movement, cradling her to his chest.
She growled a scream into his shoulder once she was up against him, and he felt her start sobbing there.
“It’s ok baby,” Jack said, making his way quickly from the room and into the maze of hallways. He knew the path he’d taken well, and retraced it easily, reassuring her with soft words the whole way, his hands holding her gently but wanting to squeeze her tight and never let go.
Mac sat in the back of the ambulance while they disinfected his wrists. From all the struggling he’d done, his skin had been sliced open and swollen up around the zip ties. Being cut away from the chair had been less enjoyable than he’d anticipated.
But he was free.
Now they were just waiting on Riley.
Jack had broken comm silence moments earlier to say that he’d found her and was bringing her out. He didn’t sound broken.
Mac was sure that if Jack had found her, and she hadn’t been… alive, Jack wouldn’t have made it out of the building. He would have collapsed and they would’ve had to go in after him. But Jack’s voice over comms had sounded steady; worried, but steady.
So Mac waited. He wanted to twine his fingers together the way he did when he was nervous. But the EMT was still cleaning and bandaging the stinging wounds that circled his wrists.
And then Jack came through the door, carrying Riley close to his chest.
More EMTs were waiting for him right outside with a stretcher ready.
Mac pushed the guy away from his wrists, ignoring the protests that he provided: “you still need bandages…” Mac’s legs were wobbly, but he jogged over to the stretcher, keeping back so they could work on her. He stood next to Elwood, who looked like he wanted to reach out and help.
She looked so much worse out in the fading daylight. Her face was swelling up, both eyes would probably swell closed, and her breathing was unsteady. Tears had tracked wet trails down her cheeks, and there were bruises everywhere. Her teeth were gritted against the pain of being carried out. But when her head fell toward Mac so she could see him past the blurred arms of EMTs strapping her to the gurney, she gave him a little smile.
Mac laughed and collapsed to the ground, his knees giving out at the thought of just how strong she was. And there had been forgiveness in that smile. And he was so grateful for that too.
They wheeled the stretcher away and Jack stepped forward into the space it had occupied to pick Mac up.
“You ok, hoss?” Jack asked, holding Mac around his back and pulling him to his feet.
Mac held his wrists up in front of him. “Minimal damage.” He hung his head and let out a large sigh. “I’m just so glad she’s ok.”
“Course she is,” Jack said, watching them wheel the stretcher into the ambulance. “You’re forgettin’ that Riley is badass dude.” He steered Mac back toward the second ambulance. “Now let’s get you sorted.”
Mac clung tightly to Jack as they stumbled across the parking lot, Mac still floored and unsteady, eyes on the pavement.
And then a pair of shoes stepped into view between them and the waiting EMTs.
“Angus,” his father greeted stiffly, as though Mac wasn’t wobbling all over the place and trying to make his way to an ambulance.
“Not really the best time for a heart to heart dad,” Mac said, adding particular venom to the word “dad.”
“I’m not here as your dad and I’m not here for a heart to heart,” James said. “I’m here as Oversight because all of this was avoidable and I-”
Jack cut in. “Hey Elwood!” He called back over his shoulder to where the stunned father was still watching after the long-gone retreating ambulance.
“Yeah?” Elwood was slow, and quiet, to respond.
“Can you, give me a hand over here?” Jack asked.
Elwood complied, walking to them like a zombie.
Jack as much as handed Mac off to Elwood. It said a lot about Mac’s condition that he let himself be “handed off.” But he wasn’t confident he would be able to stand on his own just yet.
“Mr Oversight, sir,” Jack said stiffly, voice full of disrespect. “You need to get the hell out of my way so I can get my boy some much needed medical attention.” Jack’s chest was puffed out like a gorilla and he walked right up to James.
Mac felt a smile cross his face, though he hadn’t intended it, and stood a little taller and more confident for having been called Jack’s “boy.”
“This needs to be addressed Dalton,” James said, not backing down. “There’s no better time or place to learn a lesson than when you’re still on the ground, having just been kicked. It really lends to-”
With lightning quick reflexes Jack pulled his arm back and punched James firmly on the jaw.
James hit the ground hard.
“Want me to kick you while you’re down there?” Jack asked, looming over. “And then we can talk about it?”
James groaned and held his jaw, but didn’t answer.
“That’s what I thought,” Jack said, stepping over James dramatically and motioning for Mac and Elwood to follow.
They skirted the writhing body of Mac’s dad and Jack grabbed Mac’s other side, pulling him back toward the EMTs.
“Thank god,” Elwood muttered, “I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”