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Unholy Alliance, part 1.5

His arms laden with two sacks of groceries, Richie fumbled for the button to open the elevator doors. Dawson had given him a lot to think over. He wanted to discuss some of it with Tessa before approaching Mac. Underlying much of what Dawson had said was his suggestion that Richie might make a good Watcher.

"Let me help," a man said. The doors opened and the two men entered the car. When the doors shut, Richie shifted the bags to one side as he reached for his card that would allow the elevator to reach the penthouse floor. In the process, his suspicions were aroused. The other man didn't punch in a floor, but stood waiting for Richie to do so first.

"Damn!" said Richie. "I must have dropped my card. Hurriedly he pushed the 'Door Open' button and stepped out into the hallway. Without a backward glance he headed for the lobby. The more people who were around him, the better he'd feel.

The other man followed him.

-----

The darkness of early evening covered the landscape. Streetlights winked on, and inside the houses of this middle-income residential area of Seacouver, the warm glow of lamplight filtered through sheer curtains.

Duncan tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He'd returned to the hospital, and managed to get Dawson's home address with a little subterfuge, but now that he was here, he no longer was certain what to do. He couldn't remain at the hospital guarding Charlie and still be able to find St. Cloud and Horton. Yet leaving Charlie worried him. Anyone could just walk into that ICU room and kill him. He'd been unable to convince the police that Charlie's life was still in danger. Besides… this wasn't a matter for the police… not really. The less they were involved, the safer it would be for him, his friends, and for the authorities.

He'd planned on checking in with Tessa again while at the hospital, but had found himself once more in the car, eager to drive to Dawson's before he remembered. He hated being apart from her. He wanted to be able to be there for her. Should he have taken them to holy ground? To the island? No… Horton knew about the island and while St. Cloud wouldn't violate its holy ground, Horton and his mortal followers would. They were safer at the hotel. It would be more difficult for Horton to get to them. Had he covered his tracks when he'd checked them in? He hoped so. He couldn't be everywhere.

And it was that thought that finally pierced his dark mood. Although helping him would put them in danger, right now he needed extra eyes. He wasn't facing just St. Cloud… immortal to immortal… but a whole host of mortal men whose one thought was likely: Kill Duncan MacLeod! Talking to Dawson was the best way to get someone else watching for others… if Dawson could be trusted.

Randi's words to him made him think that just possibly he'd misjudged the man. He opened the car door to step out when the lights in Dawson's house went out. Quickly he shut the door and waited. Dawson stepped through his front door and onto the broad porch. Then he awkwardly descended the steps. Duncan wondered why he didn't have a ramp… why buy a place with steps? Perhaps for the same reason that he actively watched MacLeod. He didn't like being reduced to a handicapped man. He was a man with special needs, but he didn't let those needs define him.

By this time, Dawson had reached the car parked on the curb. Again, he didn't park it in the gravel driveway leading to the detached wooden frame garage… possibly he didn't like walking on gravel. Perhaps he simply liked the exercise of walking to the curb. Seeing him in his own environment, moving without knowing someone was watching him, gave Duncan small insights into Dawson's character. There was also a bit of a thrill in watching the Watcher. When Dawson's car drove off, he followed at a discreet distance.

When Dawson eventually turned down the street to the marina, Duncan circled a block before slowly pulling into the lot. He'd wanted to give the Watcher time to get where he was going. He'd timed it perfectly. He could see Dawson, cane in hand, limping along the wooden dock towards a brightly lit small cruiser. Duncan exited his car to follow him down. Halfway down the dock, Duncan realized whom Dawson was meeting. Horton! His smiling enemy helped Dawson onto the boat and the two men embraced.

Duncan's temper exploded. All the insights he had into Dawson vanished in the face of this betrayal. "Dawson!" he yelled. The two men looked up toward him as he ran forward. Horton smirked. Dawson simply stared as if the world had come to an end. Then the cruiser pulled away from the dock and sped into the darkness of the bay.

Duncan snarled and stalked back up the hill towards his car. He stopped when he saw Renee Delaney standing by it, her hands in her dark coat, her blonde hair loose on her shoulders.

"What do you want?" he grumbled.

"I have a team of investigators… a bank of computers… but every time I get somewhere… there you are."

"I'm just lucky that way," he continued.

"Who are you MacLeod? I can't find anything on you in the system."

"Just an antiques dealer."

Renee laughed. "You are anything but an antiques dealer. Talk to me. Maybe we can help one another. I don't think you're involved with this gun-running operation, but I do think you know something about these men."

Duncan paused, thinking. "Maybe you're right." He did need help and Delaney might be able to help. At least she could be a second set of eyes. "Which is your car?"

"This one," she indicated happily. "I have lots of ideas and information I can share if you tell me what's going on."

Duncan lifted her hood and pulled several wires loose, removing the distributor cap. He handed it to her. "Stop following me for number one."

She raised an eyebrow. "And number two?"

He smiled and leaned close to her, he needed time before telling her anything. "Meet me at the hospital in the morning. We'll compare notes."

She smiled. "In the morning eh? I guess I can wait. But why not now?"

He lifted a lock of her blonde hair that had fallen across her face and brushed it out of her eyes. "Because tonight… I need to finish up a few things alone."

He stepped back, turned, and headed to his car.

As he drove off, Renee shook her head. Then she went to work replacing the distributor cap. At least he hadn't asked if she had a tracking device on his car. She hummed to herself as she re-attached the wires.

-----

"I didn't know he was following me," Joe told Horton carefully. He needed to find out just how his brother-in-law was involved. He seemed all too pleased with himself after they'd seen Duncan on the docks.

"You didn't? I did," Horton smirked as he poured them both a bourbon. He turned and handed Joe a glass. "You are a getting sloppy with your assignment. You fail to know where he is at all times."

"I'm giving him some space since he knows about us," Joe replied.

"And helping him with challenges."

Joe glared at Horton. "Listen to me James. You are no longer a Watcher. You broke our most sacred oath when you began killing immortals."

"They kill one another every day. They kill mortals. I was just striking a blow for mankind."

"You murdered how many? You used your power and position to influence the game. Who knows how badly it's been changed? Darius was one immortal you should never have killed!"

Horton slammed his glass onto the table and glared. "I didn't kill Darius."

"So you keep saying… but he's missing… and MacLeod thinks he's dead."

"That's MacLeod's problem. I admit killing others… I rather enjoyed it… and given the opportunity I admit I would have taken that despicable sham of a priest's head. The very idea of one of them pretending to be a man of God… using our very beliefs to protect his own existence!" Horton snapped angrily. "He was a charlatan and a murderer!"

"You're wrong," Joe replied. "So very wrong. Had you ever met him? Heard him preach? I had."

Horton threw his hands in the air and rose to pace back and forth about the cruiser's cabin. "I didn't need to meet Hitler to know he was a monster! Darius was no different."

Joe sighed. Horton was still adrift in his illusions. Nothing had changed. He'd begged the Tribunal for Horton's life, hoping against hope that he'd come to his senses and continue to be the husband and father he had always been. But his madness seemed worse. Maybe Joe should have let the Tribunal put James to death. "Are you working with Xavier St. Cloud?" he finally asked.

Horton turned to regard Joe levelly. "Me? Work with one of them? Are you insane. I want them all dead."

Joe wanted to believe him. "MacLeod said you were there when he fought St. Cloud at the warehouse last night."

Horton threw himself into his chair. "That wasn't me… though if I had been there… I would gladly have killed them both." He smiled. "But I'm not here to talk about MacLeod. I'm here to discuss a meeting with Lynn."

Joe didn't believe him. He sipped his bourbon thoughtfully. He would have to be very careful about what he said while here. Very careful indeed!

-----

On the drive back to his house, Joe considered what to do about Horton. James would have to be stopped, and Joe had come to realize that perhaps he would have to be the one to do it. He couldn't put this off on the Tribunal, and he sure as hell wasn't going to put it on MacLeod. He'd had a hard enough time the last time keeping the Tribunal from involving themselves with MacLeod. He had to keep both the Highlander and his own involvement in MacLeod's life off the radar. He'd have to say nothing for the time being while he arranged for Horton to die. He pulled into his parking space out front of his house, and walked to the porch. After laboriously climbing the four steps, he fumbled for his keys.

"So Horton isn't dead," MacLeod said from the shadows.

Joe took a deep breath and turned toward the sound of his voice. "I didn't know for sure he was in town… I went to see him about Lynn." It was a tissue of lies. Lies MacLeod didn't accept.

"You stay the hell away from me and mine. If I see you… you are as much a target as Horton or St. Cloud." He pivoted and stormed off the porch.

Joe watched him go. His throat seemed to close up on him as he tried to call after the Highlander. Nothing came out. Perhaps it was for the best. He'd deal with James on his own and tender his resignation. He'd give MacLeod's file to someone else. That would be the hard part… giving him up and remaining on the sidelines… but he'd do it if it kept the Highlander safe. Joe still believed that Duncan was the best immortal out there… the one who should win the prize. Sadly, he turned to his front door, unlocked it and went in.

-----

A light rain had begun to fall as a sober Duncan MacLeod headed into downtown Seacouver. He felt alone and bereft of all human contact. His illusions and plans had all been shattered. Charlie lay… if not near death… at least with possible brain damage. He'd cut the chain with Dawson. Randi had been wrong about him. Duncan had been wrong about him. The man was like Horton… a lying son of a bitch. Duncan needed Tessa. She alone had the ability to calm his fears. Despite not having finished with St. Cloud and the others, he needed her… at least for tonight.

He pulled into the parking garage of the hotel, locked his car and rode the elevator to the penthouse by means of his passkey. Once there, he knocked on the door of Tessa's room. She opened it, the small worry lines on her face vanishing as she saw him, her arms opening to embrace him. "Duncan," she whispered to him as he buried his face on her shoulder. Her arms held him within the only circle of comfort that mattered.

"I needed to see you. I need you," he said in a broken voice.

"And I'm here."

He kicked the door shut, kissed her firmly as if at any moment she would vanish into thin air, and then lifted her to carry her into the bedroom and lay her on the bed. For this night, at least, the outside world with all of its problems melted away into the mists of a white landscape and she was his only reality. The taste and feel of her became his whole world. Horton, St. Cloud, Charlie, Dawson, and Renee Delaney became pale shadows on the periphery of his thoughts. He'd deal with them tomorrow. For tonight… only Tessa mattered.