American Dream Part 1
"So I press this and then it'll... Damn. What did I do?" Detective Kate Murphy ran a hand through her hair and sat back in the chair. "I'm used to Restoretool now, it doesn't work like this."
MacGyver reached past her to press a different key. The screen cleared and, line by line, the grainy photograph resolved into a clear image. Information scrolled down the side of the screen – the time of day the photograph was taken, the direction the photographer had been facing, their estimated height and a wealth of other information. Kate leaned closer to the screen to study the face revealed in the photo.
"You can zoom in on the part you want to look at too. Here." MacGyver scooted his chair closer to the keyboard and highlighted the face in the picture. The computer whirred and a close up of the face appeared.
"That's so sharp, you can almost count the pimples on his chin!" Kate shook her head at the young man in the picture. "I hate working gang crime, you see so many lives ruined because guys like Carlos here can't resist the temptation of the easy buck."
A detective moved aside as she stood up and walked across to the printer, waiting for the machine to spit out the image.
"You're right, MacGyver, this is much better than Restoretool. We'd be happy to trial it here. Just let me know what else you need and we'll get it set up."
"Thanks, Kate." MacGyver leaned closer to the screen, then turned, calling to Kate as she disappeared into the next room. "How did Carlos get involved with the gangs, anyway?"
"Hmm?" Kate returned, carrying two cups. "Grew up with uncles and brothers running drugs, got into the family business as soon as he got into double digits. You know the drill, MacGyver – drugs in his schoolbag, no-one suspects the kid, moved up to dealing a couple of years ago and now here we are and he's running the crew." She blew on her coffee and took a sip, setting the other cup down next to MacGyver. "And before you ask, yes, every effort was made with him to break the cycle. Some kids are just bad all the way to the middle. You can't save everyone."
MacGyver picked up his drink, studying the face on the screen. Flat, hostile eyes stared out of the photo, the young man's slicked back hair, neck tattoo and the chains hanging from his duster signalling his gang status. MacGyver clicked back to the original photograph. Carlos sat on the steps of a derelict building, smoke from his cigarette curling up past his hand, his mouth open and his expression furious, photographed in the act of dressing down another ganger. The butt of a gun poked up from the waistband of his jeans.
"I don't believe anyone's all bad, Kate." MacGyver got up and collected his papers, casting a last glance at the screen. Carlos glared back at him, dark eyes angry. "We'll need to set up cameras where they can't be found and vandalised, somewhere we can get back to in the morning to collect the film. Then it'll take the machine a couple of hours to scan the tapes for movement and clean up the relevant sections. After that, it's you and me and whoever else can be spared going through the tapes and picking out the images we want to look at in more detail." He flipped the cover on Kate's folder, reading the Dymo Tape label on the front as he drank his tea. "South Side Samurai? That's what they call themselves?"
"I know, right?" Kate smiled back at him, but there was little humour in it. "They fancy themselves as warriors, the top tier even carry swords. Go figure..." She moved the files and unrolled a map on the table. "Here's where we'll be."
MacGyver spent the afternoon in borrowed overalls, placing cameras with the help of two Phoenix techs dressed as power company repairmen. Climbing the poles to 'fix' the transformer cans and attach the cameras drew a certain amount of attention from local kids, some of whom wore the South Side Samurai's distinctive dusters. MacGyver was aware of hostile eyes on him, of being followed as they worked their way around the area. Waiting at the bottom of a pole, MacGyver looked around the street. Rubbish rotted in the corners, a drain had overflowed and the buildings had a run-down, scoured look, with peeling paint and boards over broken windows. A tattered curtain twitched in a second floor window and he caught a glimpse of a thin child in a dirty undershirt. The only car on the street was up on cinder blocks, graffiti bright across its rusted paint. A gust of wind swirled the dust and carried with it the sound of sobbing. Looking up at the tech setting the camera, MacGyver saw a figure crouched on a rooftop opposite. The figure stared back at him for a moment, then stood and turned, long coat flaring out behind it as it walked along the roof and out of view.
Cameras set, they returned to the van and headed back to the Foundation. MacGyver was glad to get back to his own part of Los Angeles, the sunshine in Venice Beach seeming so much brighter and warmer than it had in South Central. He looked around as he drove home, trying to imagine what it must be like to live in a place where it wasn't safe to leave your house, where the gangs owned the streets and 'police' was a dirty word. He shivered, despite the warmth of the evening.
His answer machine was blinking when he got in.
BEEP: "Hi Dad, I'll be out of town for a few days, got a story to cover out in Bakersfield. It'd be great to go to a game this weekend though, if you're free. Let me know, ok? Bye." MacGyver smiled. That would be good.
BEEP: "Mac! Compadre! I got this great idea. Don't hang up! I got this map, never mind how, and I –"
MacGyver shook his head, hitting fast-forward. Jack and his hair-brained schemes could wait.
BEEP: "MacGyver? I hope this is the right number. I wasn't sure who else to call and I need... Please call me back, it's 555-2131. I just... Um..." CLICK. MacGyver frowned and replayed the message. The voice and accent were familiar, but he just couldn't place them. He lifted the receiver and dialled.
The phone burred in his ear for a long time. He was about to hang up when the person on the other end picked up.
MacGyver blinked, recognising the voice.