Chapter 12 of 12
Standing outside Meinhoff's building, Duncan and Kendall could both feel the other immortal... evidently looking down at them from a window. Duncan could see curtains pulled back slightly.
When Kendall began to cross the street, a set look to his jaw and a glare in his eyes... Duncan stopped him. "Wait... I think he may be coming down. He knows we are here. There's a cemetery just down the block... let's meet him there."
"So we can talk!" Duncan said through clenched teeth. This guy was really pushing for a confrontation that might not have to happen.
Reluctantly Kendall agreed. Ten minutes later Johann Meinhoff joined them at the edge of the small cemetery. "Yes? Where is the good doctor?" His voice was laced with sarcasm.
Kendall sneered as he began to draw his sword. "If you think you can use me to get to him... you have another thing coming!"
Duncan grabbed the older immortal's arm. "Not here!" he reminded him. "We only want to talk," Duncan said calmly to Meinhoff. "Why do you want to challenge the doctor?"
Meinhoff laughed, "Has he not told you what he did to me? Has he not regaled you... his friends... with how he robbed me... framed me... ruined me? How he ran and keeps running?" Meinhoff's bitterness dripped from his words and burned in his eyes. "He is a thief, a murderer, a coward who hides behind others and now he will meet me... or I will do to him what he did to me!" The German's voice rose in accusation.
Duncan faced him squarely, "Perhaps if you explain..."
"You will meet my challenge now!" Kendall drew his sword, pointed it at Meinhoff and then stomped off toward a nearby side street.
Meinhoff grinned. "Of course. Challenge made and challenge accepted." His eyes narrowed at Duncan's. "And you cannot interfere! He killed my student... I will kill his!"
As he reached the alley, Kendall turned in a crouch, ready for this youngster to pay. He obviously had no idea how old Kendall Crane was... nor how skilled. For once, his relative youth and innocent face might come in handy. But Kendall Crane had been well trained by one of the fiercest swordsmen he'd ever seen. He knew how to fight.
Meinhoff entered the alley, drawing his sword as he approached. His confidence was in his very manner. Duncan followed reluctantly behind.
"You do not have to do this!" he bellowed, still trying to find a way to talk through this.
"But I do!" said Meinhoff. He raised his sword in an opening move as he and Kendall began circling... each trying to get a feel for the other.
The three immortals looked up as their senses were assaulted by the immediate arrival of a fourth.
"The challenge was to me." There was no anger... or any passion in Methos' face or voice. There was only a cold calculating demeanor.
Kendall shook his head, "No! It's my fault! I'll deal with this!"
Methos shook his head.
Meinhoff grinned, "You are all I have ever wanted."
"Then let us begin." Methos raised his broadsword, crouching slightly as he and Meinhoff began to circle.
Kendall tried to insert himself once more into the fight, only to be pulled back and slammed against the wall by Duncan. "Let them be... you know the rules."
"But it was my fight... my challenge!"
"No... it was and is theirs! Whatever happened... they need to settle it!"
Kendall watched the opening feints and moves. There was an urgency and desperation to Meinhoff's slices. Adam was calmly... almost with a bored sense of movement... feinting and parrying them away. Obviously his teacher did not consider Meinhoff a real challenge. He nodded at Duncan and relaxed. "I won't interfere... But if this goes wrong for some reason... I will finish it!"
Duncan released Kendall. The two immortals settled back to watch.
Methos spun, tripping Meinhoff so that the German stumbled as he lunged past him. Next Methos slammed the broadsword onto Meinhoff's back with force. Again Meinhoff stumbled... grasping his back. For a moment he was vulnerable as his defenses crumbled. Methos backed off. Duncan could still see that cold look on the elder immortal's face as he expertly swiveled his broadsword about in his right hand.
"Is he playing with him?" Duncan wondered.
Once Meinhoff had recovered enough to begin again, Methos attacked with a flurry of cuts and slices that caused the German to back up again and again until he tripped over some wooden crates stacked in the alley. As he landed in a heap, Methos once more backed up... waiting.
Meinhoff roared his anger as he stood once more and attacked his opponent with fury. Left... right... left... right... right again... Meinhoff slashed again and again... but his strokes were met only by Methos' sword. For every move Meinhoff made... Methos' defensive moves were an elaborate shield against them.
Meinhoff backed off breathing heavily. Methos gazed at him evenly. Duncan could see there was still no passion in the ancient immortal's face... but there was sadness.
Once more Meinhoff attacked! This time Methos slashed him suddenly across the chest so that the German fell... mortally wounded. He gurgled as he coughed blood. Methos once more backed away... apparently waiting for Meinhoff to recover once more.
"Why do you not finish it?" screamed Kendall.
Methos spared him only a momentary glance... all his concentration still on Meinhoff. When Meinhoff, using his sword to assist his rising once more, had reclaimed his feet, Methos attacked. With a single move he brought an exhausted Meinhoff to his knees once more. Blood dripped from a number of healing wounds. Meinhoff was hopelessly outmatched. Again Methos backed away.
Meinhoff glared up at him. "Stop playing around!"
"Are you so ready to die Meinhoff? Is it your death you want?"
"Finish it!" the German screamed, tossing his sword away.
Methos leaned in close to him. Calmly he whispered. "I cannot undo what happened. I do regret it... but it is over. I learned centuries ago that guilt is an emotion we cannot allow ourselves. If we do... then we are vulnerable... and we die. Is it death you really want? Are you angry that Isabela loved me and preferred me to you? Or is it guilt that you goaded your student into feeling he had to challenge me to win your approval? Is it guilt you feel in that you allowed your student to die in your place? Get over it... life... even our lives are too short to spend them wallowing in self-pity. Get over it and move on... or die. "
Methos kicked Meinhoff's sword into the air deftly catching it. He tossed it toward Meinhoff. "It is your choice!"
"Now I have a choice? What choice did you leave me? You killed them! I was blamed! I spent years in prison! I lost them because of you!"
Duncan saw a shadow cross Methos' face.
"Did I encourage Isabela's infatuation with me to get back at you for your jealousy and actions? Yes! Do I regret Lorenzo's death? Yes... every day since then I have vowed never again to let my emotions rule my actions! I am sorry Meinhoff! But I do not feel guilt! You cannot make me! What was done happened because I reacted to the moment. If I had it to do over... I would have found another way... but you were not there. Your student refused to stand down... and Isabela got in the way. It's over... move on. Let them rest in peace!"
Meinhoff grasped his sword and struggled to his feet. "I cannot beat you now... but I will!"
Methos turned and shoved the man against the wall, his sword at Meinhoff's throat. "Either let this go or I will kill you. This has to end, Meinhoff. Let your anger and desire for vengeance go... You cannot build on vengeance and hate. They are empty emotions that rob us of our lives. I have been there. I have stood where you are standing and I know this. Take the chance I give you and walk away. Walk away and leave me alone. But I tell you this... follow me again... trouble me or my friends ever again... I will kill you. I will mourn your death... but I will not feel guilty."
Methos pulled back, pivoting sharply as he hid his broadsword once more in his coat and walked away.
Meinhoff breathed heavily. He was healing... but he was still drained and exhausted. The German glanced at Kendall and Duncan.
Duncan gave him a nod as he thrust his hands into his coat pockets and followed Methos from the alley.
Kendall glared at the German. Then he, too, followed the others out of the alley.
Behind them, Johann Meinhoff dropped to his knees and sobbed in the sudden release of pent-up emotions. He wept for love lost, friends' deaths, and the emptiness of the last two hundred years of his life. Only one thing had kept him going through these centuries... killing the man who had destroyed his life... now even that was gone. Meinhoff had nothing... unless he found a way to build a life without hate. Slowly he regained his feet to return to his rooms. He had a lot to think over.
The next day Methos, bag of beer in hand, whistled as he climbed the gangplank to Duncan's barge. He owed the Highlander some answers... perhaps he could give the beer as a peace offering instead. Methos paused. Already he could sense that someone else was here as well. Methos groaned. It had to be Kendall.
Entering MacLeod's living quarters he stared warily at the two immortals... sitting side by side on the sofa... drinking scotch and laughing.
"So just what have you two been up to?" Methos asked hesitantly, not certain if he really wanted to know.
"Comparing notes," Duncan said with a grin.
"Notes?" Methos shifted the beer in his arms. He had a very bad feeling about this.
"Notes!" Kendall grinned, arching his eyebrows in amusement. "I was filling MacLeod in on some of our more colorful escapades a few centuries ago."
"Boy scout!" smiled Duncan.
"Albatross!" agreed Kendall.
Methos felt like tossing the beer into the air and leaving. But wasted beer was not an option he cared for. Besides... surely he could handle these two... surely he could keep them off-balance. He was the master of obfuscation, the doctor of misdirection, the champion of the misleading comeback! Already he began to plan the confusing web of replies with which he could dazzle them and keep them from really knowing anything. He set the bag down, pulled out a bottle, opened it and settled across from them. "So guys... do we have dinner plans or are we just drinking this evening?"