&&& Author's Note &&&
In my particular version of the universe, "Endgame" and "Avatar" never took place. Both Connor MacLeod and Ritchie Ryan are still very much alive and well. Not everything that is written here is strictly according to the story's canon either, but then, I am one of the charter members of the Liars Club after all.
The snow was still coming down. It had been snowing off and on for the better part of a week, and continuously since early yesterday, but that wasn't anything unusual for Seacouver.
As far as cities go, Seacouver was unique. Depending in which side of the line you were on, which in some cases ran down the middle of the street, Seacouver was either in the State of Washington, USA, or the Province of British Columbia, Canada. In most cases, the border patrols on either side didn't enforce the border restrictions in the area too strongly. Because of its unique position straddling the border, most Seacouver residents had dual citizenship.
There was only one set of police, fire, and other legal departments for the town of about two thousand, but they had 'official' jurisdiction on both sides of the border. In a sense, it was the best possible solution, and it worked very well for everyone concerned. Once you passed the city limits however, all bets were off and you were under the dominion of the appropriate authorities. Surprisingly, there was very little smuggling or other illegal border activity in the area.
Joe Dawson stared out the window. "This one's gonna be a real monster of a storm. I figure there'll be somewhere around three or so before it's all over." He said to the four people still remaining in his club. Most of the patrons had left 'Joe's' early to avoid the worst of the storm, but these four had stayed. At the moment, Duncan MacLeod and Adam Pierson were arm wrestling to see who was going to have the dubious privilege of taking Joe home since Joe's car was in the garage ... again. That clunker of his spent more time in the garage than it did in his garage. Ritchie Ryan and Amanda Darieux watched the contest intently. They had been at it for the better part of a half hour and so far, neither of the competitors had gained or given any appreciable advantage. Suddenly, Joe's attention turned to the TV set mounted at the end of the bar.
" ... There is now anywhere from eighteen inches in some neighborhoods, to drifts of up to six feet or more in the rural areas, and according to Doppler Weather, another storm front is coming in right behind this one." An onscreen map showed an area roughly from the Montana border to far out in the Pacific Ocean and from well north of Vancouver almost to Portland, Oregon covered with white to dark pink interspersed with blotches of purple, indicating a severe snowstorm. "It's expected to hit the area sometime around three AM. This one could dump up to another foot of the white stuff. Snow removal crews are struggling to keep vital roadways opened. Authorities for the Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver areas have declared a level three snow emergency for the foreseeable future. This means that only emergency and law enforcement vehicles are permitted on the roads. Anyone else will be ticketed and towed. All residents are directed to remain where they are until further notice." The announcer was saying. "Stay tuned to KSEA for further bulletins. In other area news, Mrs. Elvira Hessiton of Pilchuck celebrated her 100th ... "
"Well, guys." Joe said to the two Immortals currently deadlocked in front of him. "It's not gonna matter who wins. It looks like neither one of you is gonna be taking me home tonight. They've just declared a level three out there. It looks like we're stuck here for the duration."
Neither one appeared to be paying any attention to the Watcher. And it was probable that neither one of them even heard him. He turned to Ritchie and Amanda. "Well, I guess it's up to the two of you to break them up." He informed the other Immortals. "At least if they attack you two, you have a better chance of staying alive than I do. I'm only a mere mortal after all."
"Break it up?" Ritchie replied. "You've got to be kidding? Why would I want to do that? I've got fifty bucks riding on the outcome." He pointed to the stack of bills at the side of the table.
Joe looked at Amanda.
"Who do you think is covering his bet?" She added, shrugging her shoulders. "I've got a stake in this too."
"And just who are you betting on?" Joe asked.
"Mac's gonna win, of course." Ritchie piped up. "He's pure of heart and he's got the strength of ten men."
"In your dreams, whelp." Amanda said smugly to the young Immortal. "Methos is far older and much more powerful. And just for the record, Duncan MacLeod is anything but pure and innocent. I ought to know. Been there. Done that." She said with a seductive twinkle in her eyes. "With him. Repeatedly."
"Yeah. But do you have the tattoo?" Ritchie quipped, trying desperately to keep a straight face. That was after all, one of the more popular sayings. 'Been there. Done that. Got the tattoo.'
"You bet I do." She unbuckled her belt. "Wanna see it?"
"Never mind." Ritchie's blush was almost as red as his hair. "I'll take your word for it."
"Good." Amanda redid her jeans and tucked in her shirt. "I usually give private showings. And they're by invitation only."
"Believe her. She's got the tattoo. I've seen it." Duncan said without taking his eyes off Methos. "Repeatedly."
"And so have I." Methos added, not breaking his concentration. "Repeatedly."
"I think we may be getting company." Joe said. "Someone just came into the parking lot."
"I know." Duncan and Adam said at almost the same time. The buzzing in the Immortals heads indicated that another Immortal was approaching. The four turned facing the door. In nearly perfect unison, four arms reached for their swords.
The tavern door opened and a fifth Immortal was standing there, looking more like a snowman than anything else, his hand grasping the hilt of his sword.
As the two kinsmen embraced wholeheartedly, the others released their hold on their swords.
"What in the world are you doing here?" Duncan asked, slapping his cousin vigorously on the back. "The last I heard, you were in Central America working on some ancient Mayan archeological dig with that college professor from Chicago."
"Shows how much you keep track of family." Connor replied. "That was fift ... " He noticed Joe watching them. " ... A long time ago."
"You don't have to watch what you say." Duncan explained. "Joe knows all about us."
"You told him? But that about the Watchers? Aren't you worried they'll find out that a mortal knows our secret?"
"You know about the Watchers?" Joe asked.
"I've heard stories about them, but I've never seen or actually met one. And I probably never will, either. They're as mysterious as the wind and just about as elusive."
Joe unbuttoned his cuff and rolled up his left shirt sleeve. There on the inside of his forearm just above his wrist was the tattoo that marked him as a member of the secret society that kept track of all the Immortals. "Well, you just met one. Joe Dawson's the name." He held his hand to Connor. "I'm also the proprietor of this particular establishment."
"But legend says that you guys aren't supposed to ever reveal yourselves." Conner grasped his hand and shook it.
"Legends can be wrong. While it's true that the Watchers don't normally make their presence known, every once in a great while one of us decides to introduce himself to his charges. I'm one of that faction. I never interfere, though."
"Oh, yeah?" Amanda disagreed. "What about that time in ... "
"Well ... almost never." Joe hastily amended.
"I take it this is the famous Connor you've been telling us about." Ritchie interrupted.
"That's right, Ritchie. This is Connor. In the flesh" Duncan replied. "I forgot, Connor. You haven't met any of this motley crew, have you?" He paused for a moment. "This brash young puppy is Ritchie Ryan. He's sort of my protege. He's only been an Immortal for a few years, and he still has a lot to learn."
"I know he knows me." Amanda said. "Chicago. 1892. The Worlds Fair."
Connor studied her for a moment. "Amanda Darieux?" He said, pulling her into an embrace. "How could I ever forget you? You stole my heart."
"That's not all I stole. If I remember correctly I also stole your money belt, your watch, two rings, a set of gold and onyx cufflinks … and your horse and carriage. I also took a Boticelli painting on loan to the Exhibition, a set of Faberge eggs from the Russian pavilion, and a display box of rare Japanese black pearls. But then you wouldn't necessarily know about any of those things. They didn't belong to you."
"It doesn't surprise me one bit. You are a master thief after all."
"I am now … a reformed master thief ... if you don't mind." There was a sly twinkle in her eyes.
Joe glared at her reprovingly.
"Well ... sort of ..." She held out Connor's undershirt to him. "Got to keep in practice, don't I?" She returned Joe's glare. "You never know when a talent like that might come in handy. I'd have taken your shorts, but when I tried, I found that nothing comes between you and your Calvins." She smiled and rolled her eyes seductively. "Nice tush, by the way."
"Showoff." Connor quipped as he blushed. He took the shirt and stuffed it in his jacket pocket.
"And this is Adam Pierson." Duncan continued.
"Any kinsman of Duncan MacLeod is a friend of mine." Adam said extending his hand. "Seeing as how you're a cousin of Mac's I guess it'd be okay for you to call me Methos if you'd like."
"I don't know how long you've been Immortal my friend, but I should warn you that if you think you're going to get away with calling yourself 'Methos', think again. It's an almost guaranteed way to lose your head very quickly. Methos is only a legend. Trust me, you're asking for trouble."
"That's me all right. Trouble is my middle name. Adam Trouble Methos Pierson."
"It's true. He really is Methos." Joe confirmed. "It's been well documented in the Watcher Chronicles. I've seen the entries."
"And I had to come half way around the world to meet an honest to goodness living breathing legend." Connor said, his voice filled with awe. He wasn't certain whether he should prostrate himself, or kiss Adam's hands. "It is an honor, Sir. If you don't mind, Sir, I mean I know we just met, Sir, but can I ask you a rather personal question, Sir?"
"No you can't. Not if you insist on calling me 'Sir'. Call me Adam or Methos."
"If the legends about you are true, Sir ... I mean Methos, you would be well over 3000 years old. Is that correct?"
"That's a good question. Actually, it's been so long since my birth, even I don't have a clue. The prevailing speculation is that that I was born either in Mesopotamia or Egypt somewhere around 3500 to 3000 BCE. That could be true for all I know. I'm pretty sure that I'm at least five thousand years old. I don't even remember where, when, or how I became an Immortal either. Or maybe I was born that way. I don't know."
"5000 years." Connor said barely above a whisper, mesmerized. "That's very, very old."
"Yes it is." Methos said with a smile.
"You still haven't explained what you're doing in this part of the world, Connor." Duncan said.
"Actually, I was on my way from Tokyo to sunny Phoenix Arizona via the transpolar route, when my plane was grounded in Seattle because of the storm. So-o-o ... I knew you were somewhere in this general area, and since I hadn't seen you in a while, I thought I'd look you up. The police wouldn't allow any private cars on the roads, so I started walking. All I had to do was follow your buzz, and here I am."
"You walked all the way from the airport to here? In this storm? That has to be at least fifty miles."
"Sixty three point seven, to be exact. I've gone that far countless times before this. And quite a bit farther on many occasions." Connor shrugged out of his coat and pulled a chair from another table and sat down. Joe brought a pitcher of beer and five glasses.
"Wait just a cotton pickin' minute!" Ritchie yelled. "Everybody stop right where you are! A few minutes ago there was a hundred dollars on this table! Now it's gone!"
"Oh. That. I was wondering when you'd notice. I took it." Joe confessed. "Since technically neither Mac nor Methos won the arm wrestling contest, there can't be any payoff. Therefore I claim the money for the house. I'll use it to cover the cost of the libations ... " He pointed to the pitcher. " ... and the food that you guys are certain to consume before the snow plows reach us. If there's any left over, I figure the Ronald McDonald House will be the lucky recipient." He indicated a locked box and a sign at the end of the bar asking the patrons to contribute to that worthy charity.
"Fair enough." Amanda conceded.
"Okay by me, too." Ritchie concurred. "Although I really could have used the money."
"So can the families of the sick children." Adam reminded him.
"You know, you people are such wimps." Connor said, pouring himself a glass of beer. "You call this a storm? I remember one winter on the River Tay a few kilos sou'east of Glencarse." His burr deepened with each word. " 'Twas 1548, if I'm rememberin' correctly. Right after me first death. The weather was so bad ... "
Glencarse, Scotland 1548.
Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, huddled closer to the fire and drew his sheepskin cloak tighter around him. Not that it did much good in these frigid temperatures. One of the reasons he was out here, and not huddled under the thick bearskin blankets in his tent was because it was his turn on watch. He knew he could not freeze to death. His mentor, Ramirez the Spaniard, had taught him that the only way he could truly die was to be beheaded. Still, the bitter snow and the bone numbing temperatures were taking their toll on him. He was immortal ... not invulnerable. He held his hands over the fire and rubbed them briskly, trying to coax some feeling back into them. To spite the fur lined boots, he had lost much of the feeling in his toes as well. Periodically he would remove his boots and vigorously rub his feet to ward off frostbite.
He and other members of the Clan MacLeod, as well as many of the other Clans, were spending the winter here in the Tay Valley. In the spring, they would attempt to mount another offensive against the English forces sent into Scotland by Henry VIII. His goal was to 'unify' the island ... Under his rule, of course.
This was as good a place as any to wait out the harsh Scottish weather. Although it was too cold, and the snow was too deep to press anything more than an occasional minor skirmish, or a quick raid on the Roundheads camped on the other side of the narrows of Furth of Tay, the English forces couldn't attack them en masse either. For the same reason. The storm had not let up for the past week, and Connor could barely make out the tents of the other Clans occupying the largely barren snow and ice covered land.
"United Kingdom, me gran'muther's chamber pot. If that lazy blubber-assed despot sitting on the English throne thinks he's goin' to conquer us, he's got himself another think comin'." Connor spat as Algernon Scott, his relief, came up and handed him a steaming mug of strong scotch whiskey liberally laced with honey. "We ha' no been united since Hadrian built his wall, and I'll be damned if we'll be united now." He took a hesitant sip and relaxed slightly as the hot brew warmed his insides, if not his outside.
"I keen what you're sayin'." The tall stocky red haired Scotsman agreed as he sat down beside him. "And we especially ain't gonna be united under that fat Protestant pig." He too took a sip from his cup. "We'll go to the last man before that happens." He rubbed his hands together. "That is, if this damned cold doesn't get us first."
Algernon was the younger brother of Montforth, the head of Clan Scott. Their territory was on the eastern slope of the Highland Mountains. At over six feet tall and 300 muscular pounds, Algernon was a formidable figure. Connor was glad he was an ally.
"I know what you mean." Connor replied. "I was over to the Clan Dougal camp a while back, and they're usin' th' blocks o' ice they cut out o' th' river to warm their tents wit' ... An' they were succeedin' too."
"I know yer anxious to get back ta yer tent an' that warm bearskin blanket o' yours, but coul' ya stay jus' a wee bit longer?" Algernon said, sitting his cup down. "I gotta answer th' call."
He went behind a scraggily bush and returned a few minutes later. He picked up his cup and turned it upside down. The liquid, which a short time earlier was almost boiling, was now frozen solid.
"An' were ya able ta write your name in th' snow?" Connor asked jokingly.
"I would ha' if I'd knew how t' write." Algernon replied. "But it would na' ha' made any difference. Me piss came out as a liquid, but by th' time it hit th' ground, it was solid as th' other. Left a right nice yellow column stickin' up in th' snow nonetheless. Thick as me arm, an' came up almos' to me naughties it did. I guess I really had t' go bad."
Just then, Connor thought he heard something in the distance. He grabbed his sword and his musket and sounded the call to arms for the others. In minutes, a large force of Scotsmen was assembled. Slowly the hazy forms of a platoon of English soldiers could be seen through the swirling snow. A raiding party!
In the time it took for the English to cross the River Tay, Connor had each of his men build a snow soldier. This made the Scottish force look twice as large as it actually was.
"Okay, men." Connor said, brandishing his sword and gun. "Let's show those tin plated sorry excuses for soldiers what a real fightin' force looks like."
"In the storm, they couldna' see so well, and the snow soldiers scared the bejeebers out o' those Rounders at the prospect of bein' so greatly outnumbered. By th' time they realized that they weren't for real, it was too late. Several of them had already broke ranks an' the leaders had the devils own time keeping' the rest o' 'em in line.
We fought like banshees, an' we were gettin' th' best o' 'em, too. Then, when we were down t' only about a half dozen or so of 'em remainin', we ran out of ammunition. As luck would have it, I remembered what Algernon had said happened to him, and I ordered my men to take a leak. We used the resultin' icicles as pikes and skewered the Rounders with our frozen pee ... Now, THAT'S what I call cold!" Connor finished his tale.
"Just out of curiosity, who won the war?" Ritchie asked. "Obviously it had to be the English, because Britain is a United Kingdom."
"Actually, neither side won. Then again, neither side lost. It essentially ended in a standoff. You're right though, the British Isles were eventually unified, but not because of any battles. When Henry's only surviving heir, his daughter Elizabeth I, died unmarried and childless, the next in line to the throne was James VI of Scotland. He was a cousin through his father, Charles Stuart, who was the nephew of Henry VIII. James then became James I of England as well. It was a nonviolent and acceptable diplomatic solution for everyone concerned. If Henry had only bided his time instead of launching a fruitless campaign to force unification, his dream would have come true within the next generation without all the bloodshed and the killing."
"I think you're exaggerating a bit concerning the temperature." Amanda said. "I've been going to Scotland in the wintertime since long before your ancestors figured out how to walk without dragging their knuckles, and it was never all that cold. And I do have to warn you, you're getting in over your head with that tall tale. Especially with this group."
"And why is that?" Connor asked.
"Because." She paused to refill her glass. "We've all been around this earth for quite a few centuries, and every one of us has a tale or two to tell, and we're not above stretching the truth on occasion either."
"Are you saying I'm lying?"
"Like a dollar store rug."
"And I suppose you can do better?"
"With my eyes closed and one lip tied behind my back." Amanda retorted.
Connor stood and bowed deeply at the waist. "I defer to the lady." He said solemnly.
"What lady?" Duncan asked, trying desperately to suppress a giggle.
"Where is she?" Adam inquired, biting the inside his cheek to keep from laughing. "I don't see any ladies."
"You mean there's a lady in here?" Ritchie looked around the tavern as innocently as he possibly could.
"Okay you guys!" Amanda said in mock indignation. "Now you've done it! Pissed me off. There was another time somebody did that to me. Pissed me off, that is. It was in the summer of 1495. I was staying at a villa in Milan ... "
Milan, Italy 1495
" ... But Amanda, cara mia. You cannot do this to me." Vincenzo Di Millagro argued. "You know you do not mean what you're saying."
"Oh don't I? Just stay out of my way!" Amanda Darieux spat. "For two years you have been lying to me! Well, no more! I've had it with you and your two faced deceit. I'm leaving, and if I'm lucky, I will never see your ugly face again!" She pulled a dress from the wardrobe and hastily threw it into her traveling trunk. Vincenzo took the dress and hung it back in the wardrobe.
"I never lied to you."
"You never told me you were married either. That's lying, isn't it?" She took the dress and stuffed it back in the trunk. Before he could retrieve it, she forcefully closed the lid. Almost on his hand. "I had to find out from the Maestro."
"Leonardo had no business telling you that."
"He didn't exactly tell me. I overheard him talking to one of his other assistants. He obviously didn't know I was listening. He said something about what a beautiful redheaded wife you have. And what a shameful thing you were doing on her. And he WASN'T talking about me! As you can plainly see ... I ... do not have red hair!" ( At least not in this identity I don't. )
"Besides, you never asked." Vincenzo said as he took her gently in his arms and began placing butterfly kisses down her jaw line. If he kept this up, she'd never leave.
"What was I supposed to say? 'Vincenzo, are you married?' ... And expect that you would tell me the truth?" She pulled herself from his embrace. "It never occurred to me you were cheating ... both on her with me ... and on me with her."
"Everyone knows that having a mistress is a very acceptable custom."
"At least a mistress knows she's a mistress. To you, I was little more than a prostitute. Someone you could go to when you felt the need. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not some cheap whore you can use anytime you want." She glared at him angrily. "For your information, I am anything but cheap!"
"But ... But cara ... " Vincenzo sputtered.
She stomped to the door and nearly tore it from its hinges as she slammed it behind her.
Amanda sat on the bench in the small plaza across from the Monastario de Santa Maria delle Grazie and contemplated the past two years. She had arrived in Milan with the intention of staying only a few weeks at the home of Bernardo, another Immortal who she had run with on many occasions over the years. Then, at a party, she met Leonardo, a master artist. He was impressed by her beauty ... but then again, most men were. He even offered to include her in the fresco he had been commissioned to paint on the refractory wall of this very church by the Duke of Milan. Leonardo did not work on her sketches personally. That he delegated to one of his assistants. One Vincenzo Di Millagro.
Vincenzo Di Millagro was everything an Italian man should be. He was the only son of a wealthy nobleman. Tall. A lion's mane of raven curls framed a tanned, slightly olive complexion. Dark almost black eyes seemed to look into your very soul. Athletic. His body could conceivably have been sculpted out of one of the huge marble blocks that filled the atrium outside Leonardo's studio. And as with every other male in a five metre area, he was completely enthralled by her. To make the scenario complete, she was soon captivated by him.
He was everything that was positive in her life. Or in any of her lives, for that matter. He was talented, intelligent, attentive, charming, witty, charismatic, and absolutely fabulous in bed. And he couldn't get enough of her. Or she of him.
He was forever showering her with gifts, large and small. He even rented a small villa for her on the Via Lazzaro ... so she would not have to be indebted to Bernardo. At least that's what he had told her. Now she knew the real reason.
At the time, his attentions were almost enough to make her give up her past and start thinking about settling down and becoming domesticated. Almost.
She stared at the bag containing many of the gifts, money, and jewelry Vincenzo had given her over the years. By all rights, she should keep them. She had earned them, putting up with that lying bastard. But that wasn't enough. She wanted him to pay for his acts, and she knew that he was comfortably well off, even without the salary that Leonardo paid him. Losing the money would not hurt. Not like she wanted him to hurt. Suddenly, the perfect revenge hit her. She grinned widely. But she would need an accomplice. She knew just who to recruit.
She knocked at the door of the large villa on the Via Cappuci. That was the address that Bernardo had found for Vincenzo Di Millagro. She didn't ask how Bernardo found this place, and in truth, she didn't really want to know. ( Probably had him followed. ) She concluded.
When an auburn haired woman came the door, she was positive she had come to the correct house.
"Signora Millagro. My name is Amanda Darieux. We don't know each other, but we have something in common."
"You're right, Sigorina Darieux, I do not know you, but I have known of others who also have something in common with me. You're the first one I have actually met, though." She motioned Amanda inside. "The thing we have in common is Vincenzo, is it not?"
"You know?" Amanda said, taking a seat on the couch.
"It is difficult to be married to a man for fifteen years, and not know him better than he knows himself. You see, Vincenzo has a serious problem keeping his codpiece in place. I have known of his indiscretions for years. It may shock you, Signorina, but you are not the first, and I seriously doubt you will be the last of his dalliances."
"Somehow that doesn't come as a shock to me. And please call me Amanda."
"I didn't think it would surprise you, or you wouldn't be here telling me your tale. By the way, my name is Roselle."
"You knew he was cheating on you and yet you stayed with him?"
"There are many forms of cruelty. Flagrant adultery is one of them. He knew that I knew, and it never bothered him that he was unfaithful. He also knew I could do nothing about it. To be completely honest, there was never any great love between us to begin with. Ours was an arranged union. If I could, I would have left him in a minute. But then, where could I go? My family is not rich and my dowry was not large. If I were to leave him, I would not even have a single lira to my name, and three children to raise with it. I can't ask my family to help. They barely make ends meet from one month to the next as it is. Besides, they wouldn't believe me if he were to do it in front of them. They are convinced that Vincenzo is one of Leonardo's angels taken human form."
"Perhaps I might be able to do something to help you." Amanda said. She pulled the bag from her cloak and dumped the contents on the table. "Vincenzo gave me these so I could lead a life without being dependent on anyone. I can think of no one better to have them than you. They should have been yours in the first place. You could use them to start a new life." ( I must be out of my mind. But then, she does need it more than I do. )
Roselle stared wide eyed at the pile of jewels, gold, and coins on the table. "You don't have to do this. There must be a small fortune here."
"I wouldn't know how much there is. I've never bothered to tally it. You see, I have my own means." ( Even though most of it originally belonged to someone else, I've got it now. I stole it. That makes it mine. )
"What can I do to show my gratitude?"
Amanda smiled. "I was hoping you'd say something like that. Here's what I have in mind ... "
"Can you do it?" Amanda asked Leonardo.
"Of course I can." The Maestro replied. "Your idea is pure wickedness. I can think of no more perfect censure for someone who has treated the two of you as shabbily as Vincenzo has. In fact, your suggestion even helps me out of a dilemma of sorts."
"I still don't see how that is going to punish Vincenzo." Roselle said.
"You really think that everyone finally seeing him for what he truly is will be something that he'll be able to easily accept? You know as well as I do that his image of himself is twice as big as he is. He'll be ruined." Amanda explained.
Roselle smiled. "When you put it that way, you are right. It is a most fitting punishment."
"I can even help you, Signora Di Millagro." Leonardo said. "I have a friend living in Venice at this time. She, like Amanda, is a woman of great means. I will write to her and see if she will take you into her entourage. I feel certain she can help set you up in a respectable and decent enterprise so you will not have to worry about providing for yourself and your children."
"You would do that?" Roselle threw her arms around Leonardo and hugged him tightly.
" ... And Leonardo did just as he promised. He painted Vincenzo for everyone to know what a lying, cheating assoforo he was. Not just for his generation to see, but all generations to come." Amanda concluded.
"But how and where did he paint him? I know most of the works of the Renaissance Masters. Da Vinci is one of my favorites. I don't recall seeing any of his works entitled 'Vincenzo' or even 'El Batard'." Methos said.
"Oh, but you have seen him." Amanda replied. "If you've ever been to Milan, I know you've seen the 'Last Supper'. You've undoubtedly seen the evil and cunning face of Judas. Leonardo had a problem finding someone mean and sneaky looking enough to pose for Judas, so Roselle and I talked him into using Vincenzo as his model. It worked, too. Because of the fresco, Vincenzo was the laughing stock of Milan. No one took him seriously after it was unveiled. Especially the ladies. He died a lonely broken old man."
"Did you really know Leonardo Da Vinci?" Ritchie said in awe.
"No, you dip." Amanda cuffed him playfully on the back of the head. "Leonardo Shapinsky. He runs the deli over on Grant Avenue. Of course I knew Leonardo Da Vinci."
"Now I know you're lying." Duncan said. "You said that Leonardo promised to put you in the fresco as well. I too have seen the 'Last Supper' many times. And I happen to know there are no women anywhere in the picture."
"At the last minute, Leonardo decided that a frame of angels and cherubs around the outside of the fresco would be too much, so he discarded that idea. The sketches he was planning to use wound up forgotten in a corner."
DING! Joe rang the ship's bell that stood on the end of the bar and usually signaled 'last call'.
"Don't tell me you're cuttin' us off?" Adam asked, looking at his watch. "I know it's after hours, but we've got nowhere else to go."
"No, that's not last call." Joe said, replacing the empty pitcher on the table with a full one.
"Then what was the bell for?" Amanda asked.
"That's to indicate that you've just told a maxi-whopper. I figure somebody's got to keep this from getting too out of hand. And it'll cost you twenty dollars." He held the Ronald McDonald box to her.
"In that case, why didn't you ring it when Connor was preaching his particular version of mule pucks? That was the biggest out and out lie I've ever heard." Amanda said irately as she shoved a twenty dollar bill into the slot.
" 'Cause I didn't think of it until just now."
"You think I'm making this up, don't you? Well, I'm not. Three years ago, construction workers came across a previously unknown folio of Da Vinci sketches that were hidden in the wall of a house they were restoring. The sketches Vincenzo drew of me were among them. Right now, my likenesses are in the workshop of the Academia de Belli Arte being restored."
"And what of Roselle?"
"After she and the children left Vincenzo, Leonardo's friend Janette took her under her wing. She apprenticed her to a seamstress, and when she had completed her training, saw to it that she had a shop of her own. Roselle became one of the most famous dressmakers in all Italy. Women came from all over Europe to buy her wares. She became very wealthy in her own right and helped dozens of women in the same predicament that she had been in to find their own way in the world."
"Plausible. Plausible. It coulda happened." Adam admitted. "But I'm not conceding it did."
Amanda stuck out her tongue at Adam.
"Well. Since this evening is shaping up to be a meeting of the Liars Club, have I told you about my adventures on the Titanic?" Duncan said, pouring himself and everyone else another round.
"Now that's as bold faced a lie as there ever was." Connor challenged, emptying almost half of his mug in one sip. "I ought to know. I was on the Titanic, and I did na' see you anywhere."
"Tha's because ... I ... did not associate with any of the people in steerage." Duncan retorted.
"An' neither did I!" Connor said smugly. "My stateroom was on C Deck rear."
"Mine was just off the ship's promenade ... And ... I ... had a suite." Duncan said haughtily. "There were several other Immortals on board as well. And therein lies my tale."
"An' comin' from you, an exceptionally tall tale it will be, too." Connor quipped. "You'd best be gettin' th' bell ready, Joe. Yer gonna need it."
"Considerin' th' source o' that remark, I'll ignore it." Duncan took another draught of his beer. "His name was Gregory Teller. We were three days out of Queensland, County Cork, when we first met on the ship's main deck ... "
RMS Titanic April 13, 1912
Duncan MacLeod leaned against the railing and took a deep breath. There was something about the tang of salt air that invigorated him. It had cost him a small fortune for a ticket, but when a person has accumulated over six lifetimes of wealth, a small fortune is essentially pocket change. Besides, it was worth it for a promenade deck stateroom suite on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
At 882 feet long and 92 feet wide, with a cruising speed of 23 knots, The Titanic was the pride of the White Star Line. Theship's design incorporated some of the most advanced technology available, and she was touted to be virtually unsinkable. They were supposed to make New York Harbor less than three days from now. Crossing the Atlantic in under a week! Unheard of! But they were doing it!
The buzzing in the back of his head indicated that another of his kind was nearby. He had sensed at least three other Immortals when he boarded the Titanic in Southampton, but he had not seen or felt any of them since then. Instinctively, he reached for his sword.
"There's no need for that, my friend." The other Immortal said, raising his hands in surrender. "I have no intention of taking your head. However, if you wish to take mine, you will be in for a fight, I guarantee. My name is Gregory Teller."
Gregory Teller was almost six feet tall, with dark blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Like most of the Immortals, it was obvious that he was trim and athletic, even with a bulky great coat on. Incredibly handsome, he would in today's vernacular, be described as 'drop dead gorgeous'. He looked to be about thirty five to forty years old, but Duncan sensed him to be at least three hundred or more.
Duncan extended his hand. "I am glad to hear that. I have no intentions of taking anyone's head either. I am Duncan MacLeod."
"There are those on board who would willingly and eagerly take either one or both of our heads, though. I felt I should warn you." Teller took the proffered hand.
"I know there are others beside the two of us on board, and I am not for one moment naive enough to believe that they are all passive and peace loving. After all, I have learned a few things about survival in almost 500 years. I take it you're not interested in playing 'the game' either."
"If it comes down to a choice between losing my head or playing 'the game', I assure you, I will play. I've taken my share of heads, mind you, but mainly in self defense. I do not and I will not actively seek an unprovoked duel." He gave a half smile. "Besides, the Quickening that follows is extremely painful."
"I know what you mean. It hurts like hell." Duncan agreed.
"You said it. To change to another more cheerful subject. What is there to do on this tub for two adventuresome gentlemen like us? Assuming, of course that you would be willing to enjoy the company of someone like me until we reach New York."
Duncan put his arm around the other Immortal. "That I would, Mr. Teller. Why don't we go and see what trouble we can get into until we dock?"
"To begin with, the name is Gregory." He said as they walked toward the purser's office.
"And mine is Duncan. Tell me, Gregory. Have you ever tried your hand at flying an aeroplane?" Duncan asked. "I understand they have one tethered at the stern of the ship, and they have a flyer on the staff who is willing to give exhibitions."
"No. I can't say that I have."
"You must go flying! I tried it a few years back. It's the most exciting thing you can imagine."
"You were right!" Gregory said as they headed for the main dining room. "That was fantastic! I've gone ballooning, and I know that the hot air keeps it afloat. But I don't understand how that thing was able to stay in the air like that."
"Actually, it's very simple. I know you've flown a kite or two in your time. The principle is the same only on a much larger scale. Without getting into too many technicalities, the propeller ... that spinning thing on the front of the aeroplane's body ... creates a wind that flows past the wings. The shape of the wings traps the air underneath them, much like a kite does, and that lifts the aeroplane into the air. By changing the angle of the wings slightly with that steering stick, the flyer can control how high it goes and bring it back to earth. As well as make it turn left and right."
"How do you know this? Are you a flyer too?"
"No, but I did spend some time with Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton USA. They invented the first flying machine about ten years ago."
Duncan pulled his great coat tighter around him. Sunday had dawned dark and gloomy, and the weather was turning decidedly frigid as they approached the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The sea was relatively calm, but there was a light fog due to the merging of the waters of the warmer Gulf Stream and the colder Labrador Current in this area. It had been getting worse by the hour, and by mid afternoon, the temperature was near freezing, and visibility was only about a little over a kilometer or so.
"Good day for a disaster." Gregory Teller said glumly as he came alongside him. He leaned on the railing and stared sullenly at the mist enshrouded water.
"Why the grim outlook?" Duncan asked.
"I don't know." Gregory replied. "I just have this strange feeling that something terrible is about to happen.
Suddenly, Gregory tensed.
"What's the matter?"
"The ship. It changed direction. Didn't you feel it?"
"Of course it changed direction. It's perfectly normal. We're just about at the point where we should be turning to head south for New York Harbor."
"You're probably right. It's just ... I had this weird dream last night. The ship was sinking and everyone on board died."
"And that's just what it was. A dream." Duncan said, putting his arm around his companion's shoulder. "You've read the brochures. The Titanic is the safest, most advanced ship ever constructed. It cannot sink." Seemingly from nowhere, a cold chill not related to the weather ran through him. "I tell you what. Let's go inside. I hear they have the latest state of the art roulette tables in the ship's casino. Perhaps a run with Lady Luck will change your point of view."
Gregory smiled softly. "Perhaps it will."
It was almost eleven PM when the two Immortals left the casino. Although Duncan was a few hundred pounds poorer, Gregory was almost a thousand pounds richer. It appeared to have done wonders to improve his mental state.
Duncan yawned and stretched. "I don't know about you, but I am ready to turn in. Between the air, the sea, and the various time changes we've gone through on this voyage, I'm exhausted."
"I don't think so, MacLeod."
Duncan turned and barely had time to duck as Teller swung his sword at him. He dropped onto the deck and drew his sword at the same time. "What do you think you're doing?" He demanded as he got to his feet and crouched into a defensive posture.
"It's obvious, isn't it?" Teller thrust at him. Mac deftly deflected the blow. "I'm going to take your head." Teller said calmly.
"If your intention was to take my head, then why did you pretend to be my friend?" He countered another maneuver.
"Isn't that apparent? To lull you into a false sense of security." He swung and Mac barely had time to parry.
"I thought you said you weren't interested in playing the game!" Duncan said as he evaded another thrust.
"I'm not playing." Teller swung at Duncan and connected. It sliced neatly through the flesh of his arm. "And this isn't part of the game. This is personal."
"But you said you'd never seek a duel." Duncan backstepped a few paces and quickly checked the wound. Fortunately, his great coat had absorbed most of the blow. The cut was only superficial, and he was not in any great pain.
"I said I'd never seek an unprovoked duel. Well, this isn't unprovoked. At least not on my part." He said between lunges and thrusts.
Duncan had to admit. Teller was good. It was all the Scotsman could do to keep out of the reach of his sword and to keep him off balance.
"Ten years ago, you took my lover's head. Her name was Angela Buchanan. Now it's my turn to take yours in retaliation." He lunged and cut a swath across Duncan's coat that left a thin red line across his chest. The coat's dangling sides were wrapping around Mac's legs and were hampering his abilities.
"I remember her. It was one of those situations that couldn't be helped." Mac shrugged out of his coat. "I know it's of little comfort, but I killed her in self defense. She attacked me without warning or explanation. She just came up to me and started swinging. She had taken six heads in less than a week and she was drunk with power. She wanted as many heads as possible and she didn't care whose they were. Unfortunately, some of the heads she took were mortal. She had to be stopped."
"That's a lie!" Teller swung at his head, and Mac managed to duck beneath it. "Angela wouldn't hurt a flea!"
"Tell that to the people she killed."
They fought their way back and forth across the narrow foredeck several times as the sharp clang of steel against steep beat out a deadly rhythm. Teller now had Duncan backed against the ship's rail. There was little room for Duncan to maneuver. Teller swung for the head once more and missed. Unfortunately, that tactic put him slightly off balance. Duncan took advantage and tackled Teller around the waist and knocked him to the ground. Teller's sword went skittering across the deck
"Do it!" Teller cried. "Take my head now while you have the chance!"
"No." Duncan said, sheathing his sword. He turned and started for the passageway. "I do not want your head."
"Then, by all that's holy, I WILL take yours!" In an instant, Teller was on his feet. He grabbed his sword off the deck and, letting out a blood curdling scream, rushed at Duncan. Duncan turned, drew his sword and swung it in one fluid motion. It sliced cleanly through Teller's neck. Duncan watched mutely as Teller's severed head rolled across the deck and fell into the sea.
As expected, there was a loud rumbling and the huge liner seemed to shake from the force of the Quickening that followed. The sky was filled with the lightning and thunder that rose from the Immortal's decapitated corpse. At the same moment, every light and electrical circuit on the huge ship went amok. The energy finally coalesced and rained down on the person of Duncan MacLeod. Duncan shook with near agony as his body absorbed the essence that had been Gregory Teller.
As it slowly diminished and finally stopped, Duncan became aware that the ship's horn was blasting loudly and continuously. He glanced briefly at the starboard hull, which was jammed tightly against the ghostly blue-white outline of a gigantic iceberg. The sound of buckling and tearing steel could be distinctly heard amidships as the liner slowly ground its way along the mountain of frozen water.
"Three hours later, the Titanic was at the bottom of the Atlantic with almost two thirds of her passengers and crew still on board." Duncan finished. "It was one of the most disastrous wrecks of all time."
"I know. I was one of the lucky ones. That is if you consider hanging on to a travel crate in freezing waters for thirteen hours as lucky." Connor said in a subdued voice. "I never suspected you were there too."
"Actually, I wasn't. I made the whole thing up." Duncan said with a straight face.
"Then that whole story was nothing but a lie?"
"No. It's all true. Every word of it."
"But you just said ..."
"I know what I just said, and I'll let you decide for yourself which it is. Truth or lie." Duncan said with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
DING! DING! DING! "And that'll cost you a twenty as well." Joe said.
"But it's well worth it." Duncan dropped several bills into the box. "Just to see the look of confusion on my cousin's face. He'll have a time trying to figure this one out."
"Confusion. Shmonfusion. I haven't been able to figure you out since the day we first met." Connor grumbled. "And I doubt if I ever will, either."
"I'll bet Methos has a lot of tales to tell." Ritchie said pouring his forth mug of beer. "One doesn't live as long as he has and not have some interesting adventures." "How about it, Adam? Care to share an anecdote or two with the rest of us?" Joe pleaded.
"I don't know ... " Adam said as he filled his mug for the third time.
"C'mon." Duncan cajoled. "I know there's gotta be a tale in there." He pointed at Adam's head. "Out with it."
"This isn't the first time I've been known by more than one name. It's happened many times over the centuries, but the one I remember best was about eleven or twelve hundred BCE. I'm not sure of the exact year ... "
Island of Skyros 1190 BCE
Methos sharpened his sword on the whetstone. He ran it along his arm and noted with considerable satisfaction that he had shaved the arm cleanly and painlessly. ( Yes. ) He thought as he placed it back in its sheath. ( This will enable many a deserving Trojan warrior to cross the River Styx with ease. )
Several years earlier, he had left his centuries old companions, fellow Immortals Kronos, Caspian, and Silas, and had struck out on his own. They had ridden for many decades as the Four Horsemen. Together, they had carved a two hundred year swath of killing, rape and plunder across most of the known world. Kronos was 'War'. Caspian symbolized 'Pestilence'. 'Famine' was embodied by Silas. Methos was known as 'Death'.
Although he was no longer a member of the Horsemen, Methos was still itching for a good fight. When he heard that Paris, the King of Troy had kidnapped Helen, the wife of Menelaus of Sparta and that the armies of Mycenae and Achaia were organizing an expedition to bring her back to Greek soil, he wasted no time in offering his services to the Achaians. It seemed to be exactly what he was looking for.
Unfortunately, it was not what he got.
Their ships were blown off course by a terrible storm, and instead of landing on the coast of Troyas, the Achaian forces ended up on the Island of Skyros. They had been stranded here for nearly three months, cooling their heels while Achilles, their Commander, tried to figure out what went wrong and how to get the invasion back on track.
"So, what do we do now, Master?" Noleus, a slave that Achilles had given to Methos to act as a liaison, asked.
"We do the same thing we have done for the past few months, Noleus. We wait." Methos said glumly. "But then, I do not intend to wait very much longer. I am a warrior. I joined the army to fight, and by Zeus, I'm going to fight!" He grabbed his breastplate, helmet, and shield and headed for the door.
"But master, what of me? If you desert, then I shall be put to death. Master Achilles gave me strict orders to look after you."
"But Noleus. I am not deserting. I am merely going out into the countryside looking for a little action. You cannot tell me there isn't a village that needs plundering, or a fair maiden willing to be seduced somewhere in the area. I'll be back after I've satisfied my desires. Probably in about three or four days at the most."
Methos let loose a string of curses in at least a dozen languages that he was fluent in, and in a few more that he had only a limited knowledge of, as he climbed to the top of yet another ridge and surveyed the area. If he had known that the area was this inhospitable, he might not have been so eager to leave the camp. From what he could see, there was nothing but mountains, and more mountains, and still more mountains. The armies had apparently camped on the only level spot of land on the entire island. At least on this particular mountain there was a road ... of sorts. It was little more than a primitive dirt path well trodden by feet and by animals. It had to lead somewhere, and wherever that somewhere was, that was where Methos was going.
As he passed through a small canyon, the narrow passageway was filled with yelling and shouting that preceded the ambush attack by at least seven or eight men.
"Come on you bastards!" Methos bellowed, drawing his sword. "I've been waiting for three long months to try out my sword on you!"
They fought hard but he was outnumbered as even more attackers joined the fray. It was all that Methos could do to defend himself. After about a half hour of intense battle, he had managed to dispatch four of them to the underworld, but at a terrible price. He had numerous minor wounds and a severe wound to his right side. In addition, his left thigh had been sliced nearly to the bone. His shield had been hacked almost in two and was practically useless. His helmet had been lost in the first minutes of fighting, and blood ran into his eyes from a gash to his forehead.
Panting heavily, he managed to back up against a rock face. He could not hold out much longer. "As long as they don't go for the head." He mumbled, coughing up blood. "I should be all right."
He turned to fight off a man preparing to attack from his right. At that same instant, another came at him from the left. In almost slow motion, he felt the sword slice through his lung and enter his heart. Then everything faded to black.
He opened his eyes and stared into the face of the man bending over him. The man screamed and backed away. He fell to his knees and slowly approached him again, still on his knees. His two companions prostrated themselves and made no attempt to come any closer.
"Master." The first man said in a terrified voice. "Are you a god?"
"A god?" Methos replied. "No, I am not a god ... "
"Then you must be My Lord Achilles. We have heard tales that you are immortal. Obviously they must be true. You were dead. Run through and no sign of life for almost the entire afternoon. Now you have come back to life.
It is truly a miracle. We have prayed to Zeus for a savior. We were on our way to the temple to make a sacrifice for that petition." He pointed to a bleating kid goat that was tied to a nearby tree. "The gods have sent you to us in answer to our prayers." He rose and practically ran to a donkey tethered a few yards away. He returned with a wineskin and offered it to Methos. "Drink, My Lord."
"But I ..." Methos thought a moment. ( If they think I am Achilles, what harm can there be in that? It will only be for a few days, and it will save me a lot of embarrassing explanations. ) He raised the wineskin to his lips. He tried to get up, but his wounds were not quite healed and he was still a little shaky on his feet. Immediately the three men surrounded him. Gently, they placed him on the donkey and led him along the path.
"Timmor." The first man said to one of them. "Go ahead into the village. Tell the men to prepare the finest dwelling for My Lord Achilles. Have them kill a fat yearling goat and let the women prepare a feast for our guest."
"Yes, Sir. Right away, Sir." Timmor said as he hurried ahead of the party.
"I am Beaustephor, the Elder of the village of Dimities." Beaustephor explained. "I will see to it that you have everything you need."
"You do not have to do this." Methos said as he finished the last of the meal. It was truly a feast, complete with seemingly unending platters of foods and virtually unemptyable pitchers of fine wine. All of this was accompanied by singing and dancing that went on into the darkest part of the night.
"But we do have to do this!" Beaustephor explained. "You are our savior. Those men you dispatched were a part of a much larger band of robbers and brigands who have been terrorizing the village for several seasons. They come riding into Dimities regularly and demand a heavy tribute. If we do not pay, they wreck havoc on the land, defiling our women, killing our livestock, and burning our fields. We've tried to fight them, but we are simple farmers and goatherds and they are too many and too strong. I suspect they attacked you in order to exact a tax from you for traveling the road."
"In repayment for the kindness you have shown me." Methos said. "I will do you a favor. I will rid your village of this scourge. And I will teach you how to defend yourselves so that you will never become victims to men like those again."
"You would do that for us, My Lord Achilles?" Beaustaphor asked.
"I would." ( It must be the wine talking. )
He commissioned the village blacksmith to make swords and shields for all the able bodied men. After a week of concentrated lessons in hand to hand combat, he led a party into the hills after the robbers.
Methos smiled broadly. ( At last! A fight worthy of my talents! ) From long experience, he felt he knew the mentality of the bandits. They were basically bullies at heart, drawing their strength from numbers. They would be easy pickings for him and his men.
As he had surmised, they were indeed bullies and cowards, and were not used to their 'victims' fighting back. It was a short and very one sided fight. In the end, the crooks that were still able to leave fled in disorganized panic into the wilderness.
The feast that followed was of gigantic proportions. And it was not just for him, but for all the villagers.
In the months that followed, a few of the remaining bandits tried to mount a half hearted attack on the village. Led by 'Achilles' the villagers easily repelled them.
Methos lay back on the fine lamb's wool blanket and eased his head onto the soft, goose down filled pillow. He was literally living the life of a god. Under 'Achilles' protection and tutelage, the villagers were becoming more self sufficient and confident every day. In return, they could not do enough for 'My Lord Achilles'. They had built a veritable mansion for him and stocked it with the finest furnishings available. The villagers made sure that he was supplied with only the best possible food and drink. He had more than his share of willing and able partners.
"I have everything I have ever desired." He mused to no one in particular. "I think I rather like being a hero. It's much more satisfying than being one of the Four Horsemen. Or even in the army. Instead of mindlessly killing and wrecking havoc, I'm doing something useful and constructive for these people. And it's all legal. No more running. No more hiding. No more looking over my shoulder. I'm not feared anymore. I'm loved. I could get very used to this life."
As with all things though, especially those things built on a lie, it too soon came to an end. He was enjoying the summer day, lying on the top of one of the hills that surrounded the village when he spotted a familiar figure coming along the road. He rushed to intercept him. If he reached the village, it could be VERY embarrassing.
"What are you doing here, Noleus?" He asked his former slave. "Dimities is a long way from camp."
"Achilles is ... he is ... ready to set sail once more for Troy. I ... I ... am part of a party that was sent to search for deserters." Noleus said. He was both awed and terrified at the sight of his master standing before him. "Be grateful to Zeus that I am the one who came upon you. If anyone else had ... " The slave shook his head in disbelief. "But ... but you can not be a deserter, Master Methos. You are dead. We found the remains of your shield and your helmet in the canyon a few leagues back almost a year ago. We saw the crude graves there and we assumed that one of the bodies was yours. We dug up the one closest to your armament, and "you" were given a hero's funeral."
"As you can plainly see, I am not dead. But that leaves you in a quandary. And me, too for that matter. If I turn up alive in the camp, both of us will be put to death. I, for being a deserter, and you for not checking more closely to be sure that the man everybody assumed was me … was me." Methos quickly explained the events of the past few months to his servant. "I do have a solution that may serve us both well."
"I explained to the villagers that the fleet was ready to set sail for Troy once more and that Noleus, my ... " He cleared his throat loudly. " ... aide had been dispatched to escort me back to camp. A number of the men volunteered to go with me, but I told them that I had more than enough troops, and that they could be of better service to me by staying here and defending Dimities against the bandits and brigands that lurked in the hills. I made a great show of appointing Beaustephor and Timmor as my 'adjutants'.
A few leagues outside the village, Noleus and I parted company. Of course, I demanded a solemn oath of secrecy from him, which he willingly gave. The villagers thought their hero had led the troops against the Trojans and died had gallantly in battle. The Achaians believed that Methos had died heroically a year earlier in the hills surrounding Chora. I disappeared from sight, and no one was ever the wiser. Except for Noleus that is, and he had sworn never to tell."
"And of course there was nothing recorded in the Iliad about this, was there?" Amanda asked.
"Of course not. I was only a very minor officer in a very large army who was killed in an insignificant skirmish over a year before the armies even left Skyros for Troy. That wasn't important enough for a footnote, let alone a mention in Homer's epic story."
"You want to pony up a twenty, too?" Joe told Methos. "As I said earlier, I have access to the Chronicles. There isn't any mention of this in them either."
"I know there isn't. You forget. I masqueraded as a Watcher off and on for several centuries. Even back in ancient times, Methos was already becoming something of a legend. A myth. I wanted to keep it that way. So I ... manipulated the chronicles."
"And that confession, my good Methos, will cost you another ten bucks."
Methos glumly handed Joe thirty dollars for the charity.
"Can I tell the next one?" Ritchie eagerly piped up.
"NO!" Came a chorus of replies.
Because you aren't old enough to have had anything happen that's in a league with us, that's why." Amanda told him
"Well, maybe not as an Immortal, and maybe not in the same class as being on the Titanic, or meeting Leonardo Da Vinci, or fighting in the Trojan War. But I do have a story to tell."
"Okay." Duncan sighed, pouring himself yet another beer. "Let's hear your tall tale."
"Better watch yourself downing all that brew." Ritchie admonished his friend. "While it isn't exactly the story I was planning to tell, your drinking that much beer reminds me of what happened to a friend of mine named Willie Bright, who you might say turned out to be not-too-bright. Also, it sorta fits in with your story too, Connor. You'll understand as the story unfolds.
I guess it must have been about five years or so before my death and rebirth as an Immortal. I wasn't there for the whole thing, mind you, but the person who told me what happened after I left the scene wouldn't have had any reason to lie.
Willie and I were students at the University of Kansas at the time ... "
Lawrence, Kansas 1986
There are numerous high voltage transmission lines that crisscross the state of Kansas, as well as the nation. These are held up by transmission towers constructed of various materials. Those most commonly installed in rural areas are called Metal Ornament Towers (supposedly prettier and stronger than wood towers). Periodically, some of the more adventurous folks would climb to the top of one of these towers in order to enjoy the view. Most of them were cautious enough to stay away from the wires, and when they got bored, they'd merely climb back down without any appreciable problems.
"I just can't seem to get what happened with Ellen and me out of my mind." Willie told Ritchie as they headed out of the town toward the Interstate. "I know I still love her, and I know she still loves me, but after that fight we just had ... " He shook his head slowly. "I just don't know ... I can't believe she'd really call it quits over a silly thing like that. It just doesn't make any sense. No sense at all."
He stopped at a convenience store for a six pack, and the two of them went to one of the towers northeast of Lawrence, near I-70. Willie started climbing it, hauling his six pack with him.
"Willie." Ritchie called to him. "You're not thinking of jumping off the tower, are you? You know that won't solve anything."
"Hell no, Ritchie. I wouldn't do nothing as stupid as that. I'm just gonna go up to the top and think for a while." He perched on one of the cross members and popped the top of one of the cans. "Maybe I can figure out what I can do to make it all up to her."
"Okay. You do that. But don't expect me to stand down here and wait while you drink yourself into oblivion. And I sure ain't gonna climb up there with you." Ritchie said as he turned and started back to the town. "I'm going back to the dorm. See you later. Just don't forget we have an early class tomorrow."
"That's right, you fair weather friend." Willie yelled after him. "Go ahead! Leave me all alone up here! Desert a buddy in his time of need!"
The police later pieced together the events that transpired after Ritchie left the scene.
Willie apparently sat there on the tower some 60 feet or more above the highway for several hours, drinking beer after beer, and consoling his bruised ego. After five beers, he needed to do what most people usually need to do after consuming five beers. Since it was a long way down to the ground, and he was feeling none too steady at the time, he unzipped his pants and did what he had to do right there on the tower.
High voltage electricity is an extremely unpredictable thing. One doesn't need to touch a wire in order to get shocked. Depending on conditions, 100,000 volt power lines, like the ones supported by the tower, can shock a person as far as six feet away.
According to the investigating officer's report, when Willie took his 'whiz' near one of the conductor wires, the current arced up his 'stream'. (Urine is an excellent conductor of electricity, by the way.) In microseconds, it traveled up to his private parts, and blew him off the tower in a shower of sparks.
The people at the power company noted an outage on the line when that happened, and sent a repair crew to see if there was any permanent damage. When they got to the scene of the outage, they found Willie lying at the bottom of the tower. Very dead. His fly still open. And what was left of his genitals still smoking. They also reported finding a single beer and five empty cans perched in a row on the top of the tower.
"His funeral was very touching, although no one in the place really wanted to touch him. I guess they all were afraid that there might be some residual electricity still left in the body." Ritchie concluded. "Ellen did kiss him right before they closed the casket however, and later she said that even though he was dead, he still was able to send shivers running up and down her spine.
I've also heard rumors that if it was a very dark night, a faint blue-green glow could be seen coming from his grave. I think that may be an urban legend, though."
"And that little bit of deception will cost you a bundle." Joe said. "I should make you give at least fifty."
"FIFTY DOLLARS!" Ritchie protested. "C'mon! Cut me some slack, you guys. The guy who told it to me swore it was true. He said that one of guys on the repair crew that found Willie's body was his cousin's girlfriend's brother-in-law."
"Ritchie." Connor shook his head. "That entire story is an urban legend. It's been making the rounds since the first electric lines were strung sometime around the late eighteen hundreds. It's entirely possible that George Westinghouse himself might have even made it up to keep people from climbing the poles."
"But it's true! I swear! Willie was dead! I was at the funeral!"
"I have no doubt that part of the story is true." Connor agreed. "What most likely happened though, was that Willie got drunk and lost his balance and fell off the tower. Going sixty feet straight down is usually fatal, you know. The men who found him evidently saw the beer cans and remembered the story about relieving yourself on the tower and attributed it to Willie."
"You know, you're right. That does sound like a more reasonable explanation than the one my friend gave me. And to think I believed that story hook, line, and sinker all these years." He pointed to his forehead. "Do I have 'sucker' written all over me?" He said with half a laugh.
"As a matter of fact, Ritchie, you do." Amanda said with a wide grin. "It's written in a type of invisible ink that only a con artist can see."
Duncan reached over and rubbed his pupil's hair. "That's our boy ... "
"Tell you what." Joe said. "I'll make allowances for your youth and your gullibility. I'll split the difference. I'll settle for twenty five." He held the box to the young immortal.
"How about twenty like you charged the rest of the guys?"
"Okay. But only because I'm in a good mood."
Reluctantly, Ritchie opened his wallet and took out the bills.
"American!" Joe demanded. "Not Canadian."
"But I don't have twenty dollars American. I bet the last of my US money on Adam and Mac. And you already got that."
In that case … " Joe stuffed the Canadian bills into the container. "I guess I can accept them."
"Okay, Joe." Adam said. "Your turn."
"My turn at what?" Joe replied.
"At telling a story, of course. You've been a Watcher for what? Twenty five years now? Surely there's plenty of stories you can tell?"
"Adam. You've been a Watcher too. You know as well as I do that what we've seen and heard cannot be repeated under severe penalty or possibly death. I came very close to death once before for violating my oath as a Watcher, and I do not intend to repeat that experience ever again."
"Then tell us something that doesn't have anything to do with your being a Watcher." Ritchie begged.
"Maybe something from your days in 'Nam." Duncan suggested.
"I'm afraid my time in Vietnam was not very pleasant. However, there was this one episode ... "
Thang Lei, Vietnam 1969
Sergeant Joe Dawson carefully threaded his way through the underbrush. While the area looked uninhabited, one couldn't be too careful. Viet Cong were known to be in the area and they were masters at the art of camouflage. Less than three kilometers from where his squad now patrolled, there had been an ambush and firefight, and an entire platoon of Marines had been taken out in less than an hour.
After the French withdrew from the country in 1954, the United Nations divided the country at the 17th parallel into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. This division was only meant to be temporary, pending democratic elections and reunification.
Originally, there was only supposed to be only a small force of UN 'advisors'… mostly US troops … in Viet Nam to assist the country in the transition from a French Colony to an independent nation.
This did not turn out to be the case. North and South Vietnam both formed governments and political alliances. North Vietnam aligned itself with Communist China and the Soviet Union, and the South with the United States. The North Vietnamese sought to unify the country ... under Communist rule. The government of South Vietnam sought to make the division of the country permanent. They were supported in this by the United States, which saw the "Nation of South Vietnam" as a bulwark against the spread of "International Communism" in the region. Suddenly, the 'advisors' found themselves embroiled in the middle of a full scale civil war. By 1965, there were over 500,000 American troops in Vietnam.
There was a slight rustling to his left and Joe signaled the members of his team, Delta Squad, Hilo Company, to take cover. They all watched as a thin orange cat practically staggered onto the road. It was a wonder that the animal was still alive. Not only because of its condition, but cat was considered a delicacy. Especially to the starving villagers. Not only cats, but dogs, horses, cows, in fact anything that moved and wasn't human, was looked upon as a possible food.
When he saw the cat, Bill Fredericks, the man next to Joe started to get up. Quickly, Joe pushed him back to the ground. "You wanna get your flikkin' arse shot off?" He hissed.
"Why'd you do that for?" Bill whispered. "There's no one out there. Only that poor little kitty."
"Because it could be a trap. You see a cat and figure everything's all right. You let down your guard and stand up. That's when the VC open fire."
Just then there was another small sound from the same direction as the cat. Sixteen rifles leveled at the sound. A small woman, hands held high above her head, came timidly out of the brush. "Ne tirez pas! Ne tirez pas! Je suis un bon type! (Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I'm one of the good guys!)
"Hold your fire." He said softly. Even though she was wearing native clothes, Dawson could see that the woman was a European ... the name commonly given to any non-oriental.
"You are English? Non?" She asked haltingly.
"American." Dawson replied. "I'm Sergeant Joe Dawson, and these are my men."
"I am Seour ... Sister Marie Francois. I run the orphanage in Thang Lei."
"What are you doing way out here, Sister? We're pretty far from Thang Lei, and the VC are everywhere."
"I am looking for Robere."
"Robere? Is he one of your orphans?" Bill asked.
Sister Francois laughed. "Oh my, no." She pointed to the orange cat, who was now enthusiastically weaving himself around Joe's left leg. "That ... is Robere. He is the children's pet. He came into the compound about three months ago and made it his home. He got out last night and I've been looking for him ever since. The children have sort of adopted him. He is something that is all theirs and they love him, and he loves them unconditionally. You see, they have so little that brings them joy. That is why it is so important that I find him and bring him back." She picked up the cat and he started purring loudly.
"I don't understand what you're still doing here in Vietnam." Joe asked. "I thought the French pulled out over a decade ago."
"Les enfantes ... The children. Someone has to care for them."
"Aren't you afraid that the VC will get you?"
"Non. We are safe. The orphanage has been unofficially declared as ... how you say ... neutral territory by both sides. We have children from both sides of the fighting, you see." She started toward the village. "If you would like to come to the orphanage with me, I will tell the children you were the ones who found Robere. They will be most grateful."
"Thank you, Sister, but no." Joe replied. "We have a mission to complete. Perhaps at a later date."
True to their word, Delta Squad returned to the orphanage a few days later. They brought with them several cases of canned and dried foods, blankets, clothing, medicines, and anything else they could beg, borrow or steal from the supply room. In some instances, literally.
It was raining. Again. Still. Joe huddled at the door of his tent and stared at the mud soaked quagmire that masqueraded as the camp commons. What wasn't rain soaked was covered with mildew and mold.
December 24. Christmas Eve. The middle of the monsoon season. Back home in Chicago, there would be snow on the ground, and people would be getting ready for Christmas Eve midnight services. Here, there was rain and mud. And more rain and more mud. And still more rain and still more mud. He pulled his poncho around him, for all the good it did. At least the poncho hid the packages that he was taking to the orphanage. The rest of his men also had similar packages.
Joe and his squad had spent every free moment of the past week fashioning dolls, cars and trucks, and numerous other gifts for the children out of empty cans, discarded boxes, pieces of fabric, and any other items they could scrounge. While they were more or less primitive and crude, they had made enough toys so that each child would get something for Christmas.
"Sergeant." Captain Andrew Cord stopped him. "Come into my quarters for a moment." Dawson followed his commanding officer into his tent. "Coffee?" Cord said, holding up a pot.
"No, Sir. Thank you anyway."
"Relax, Sergeant. I promise I won't bite. Where are you going in this downpour?"
"On ... On patrol, Sir." Joe said. With the bulky packages under his arms, it was difficult to pretend to be relaxed. "My ... men are going to check out the area around Thang Lei."
"Well ... " Cord said with a twinkle. "If you're going to patrol anywhere around the orphanage, do you think you could drop these off?" He pointed to three huge mail sacks with numerous square shaped bulges in them. "They're for the Sisters and the kids."
"Oh come now, Dawson. The fact that you and your squad have been supporting the orphanage is the worst kept secret in Vietnam. How do you think you guys have been able to get all those things you've given them? The good tooth fairy?
Anyway, I wrote to some of my friends in the States and happened to mention the orphanage, and they sent these gifts for the kids."
"Cap. I ... I ... don't know what to say."
"How about saying thanks and getting out of here?" Cord said.
"Why don't you come with us? I'm sure the kids would love to thank you in person."
"Why not?" The Captain smiled broadly. "That way you can use my jeep without having to steal it."
Joe snapped numerous pictures of the smiling children with the toys sent by Captain Cord's friends. While none of the gifts were of much monetary value, they could have been worth a million dollars to the kids. Even the handmade toys from the squad were enthusiastically received. In addition to the presents, the Mess Hall had sent Christmas dinner for everyone, complete with turkey and all the trimmings. And of course, pumpkin pie. Where the cooks got that many extra turkeys, vegetables, and pies from, Joe didn't know, and he didn't want to know either.
Even the weatherman had cooperated. Shortly after they left base, the rain stopped and the sun even managed to come out. All in all, it was shaping up to be a nearly perfect holiday. At least as perfect as it could be in this forsaken hellhole of a country.
Whatever miracle that the Sisters had worked for Christmas had carried over. It had not rained for almost two weeks and the camp beginning to dry out. Maybe it would last.
As the jeep topped the rise, Captain Cord and the men of Delta Squad could see heavy black smoke coming from the area around the orphanage. That was definitely not good. Cord pushed the jeep into gear and took off for the orphanage.
What they found when they arrived was devastating. The building had been practically demolished. With rifles and guns at the ready, the squad went inside. Suddenly Hank Phillips grabbed for his face and ran outside. Blood was everywhere. The worst carnage was in the play room. Babies. Toddlers. Little children. Everywhere. Killed in their cribs and where they stood. A little boy of about five cuddled the bloody corpse of an orange cat. They weren't just shot. They were literally riddled with bullets. Shouting a stream of expletives, Joe picked up one of the Christmas dolls that was on the floor and threw it angrily at the wall.
There was a noise from the office area. Possibly someone was still alive. Cautiously, Cord and Dawson entered, guns drawn. Sister Francois sat slumped in a corner. She was conscious ... barely ... and she was hanging on to life by only a thread. Joe counted at least three major wounds.
"What happened?" Captain Cord asked, gently cradling her in his arms.
" ... They ... They came here." She said barely above a whisper. " ... They said we ... we ... were traitors. That we were ... helping the ... the enemies of ... of the Vietnamese ... Peoples ... Republic. That we ... we must die ... for our ... crimes. Then they began to shoot. The children ... They ...
Pardonnez-les ... Seigneur ...Ils savent ... pas ce qu'ils. (Forgive them, O Lord. They did not know what they were doing.) Sister Marie Francois coughed loudly and then closed her eyes, never to open them again.
Joe picked up his rifle and headed for the door at a run.
"Where do you think you are going?" Captain Cord asked as he physically blocked Joe's path.
"I'm gonna kill me some goddam VC sonofabitchin' bastards. That's where I'm going. They ain't gonna get away with this."
"Joe. Sergeant. Stop and think." Cord said. "If you go out there looking for Congs in the state you're in now, you'll get your damn fool head blown off faster than you can think about it. Calm down. Let's take first things first. Then we'll all go after them. There's not a man in Hilo Company that wouldn't like to see them pay for what they did here."
"You're right, Cap." Joe said putting his rifle down. "Let me call the camp and see if I can get some guys up here for a burial detail."
"We buried them in the compound. The Chaplain had a beautiful ceremony. Then we went hunting for the bastards that did that." Joe continued soberly. He took out his wallet and looked lovingly at a snapshot of a smiling nun and a group of laughing children surrounded by toys and other gifts. He brushed a tear from his eyes. "We found them too. It was a hell of a firefight, nearly half the platoon went down, including Captain Cord, but we got every last one of them." His voice cracked slightly. "That's where I lost my legs. Stepped on a land mine.
I woke up four days later in a DEPMEDS unit at battalion HQ. According to the medics, Captain Cord carried me to an aid station and I was helicoptered from there. I knew they were lying and I tried to tell them that. They thought I was hallucinating and they told me so. But I knew what I saw. I saw him hit at least a half dozen times. Once or twice right through the heart.
The next day he came to the hospital. You can imagine my surprise when I saw him alive and well. That's when he told me about Immortals. He also introduced me to Ian Bancroft, a Watcher.
That was the best thing he could have done for me. I was ready to give up. Without any legs, I felt my life was over. I wanted to die. Ian gave me a new purpose. He explained to me about the Watchers and he stayed with me while I went through the grueling months of rehabilitation. Then he became my sponsor when I joined the Watchers. The rest, so they say is history."
There was complete silence as the Watcher finished his tale.
Joe opened his wallet again.
"What do you think you're going to do?" Adam asked.
"Contribute to the pot. What did you think I was going to do?"
"Why? Every word you said is true." Adam spoke up. "I know Andrew Cord personally. He told me the same things you just told us."
"And when was that?"
"When I asked him how you became a Watcher." Methos said matter of factly.
"Since he doesn't have to contribute, I guess it's up to the rest of us to make up the difference." Connor said as he dropped a ten into the container. The rest of the Immortals followed suit.
Duncan MacLeod opened one bleary eye and stared at the window at the front of the club. He could make out the pink and lavender ribbons of light that signaled the approaching dawn. "What time is it?" He mumbled.
"Sometime in December." Came the muffled reply from one of the other persons around the table. Which one, Duncan was not certain. They all had their heads on the table, buried in their elbows. "I think it's this year, but I won't guarantee it."
"It's December 12. The time is 0741, and it's stopped snowing." Joe said as he wheeled a food cart from the kitchen loaded with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, hash browns, toast, and a large urn full of coffee.
"How come you're so bright eyed and full of energy?" Connor asked, propping his chin on his fists. "And the rest of us feel like something the dog had to drag in because the cat refused to do it."
"Yeah." Ritchie noted. "My head feels as though Methos and Mac are going to it in the back of my skull, and my mouth feels like the bottom of a mosh pit."
"You should be happy." Amanda grumbled. "At least you can find your mouth."
"In case none of you bothered to notice, I was providing the drinks, not imbibing them." He put plates and tableware in front of each of them. "Now dig in. You'll feel a whole lot better with something solid in your stomachs."
"And be glad you're an immortal." Duncan told his friend.
"Why is that?"
Because, unlike mortals, our hangovers only last an hour or two."
"Maybe so." Adam said, spearing several pancakes and loading them on his plate. "But I'm gonna load up anyway. I'm hungry."
"Just out of curiosity." Connor asked. "What time did we finally get to sleep?"
"Oh, I'd say the majority of you conked out sometime around four thirty or so." Joe replied.
"You mean we've only had three hours sleep?"
"Three hours and twenty one minutes." Joe corrected.
"In that case ... " Ritchie said as his head slowly toppled forward.
Joe quickly reached out and cradled the Immortal's chin with his hands. "Ah! Ah! Ah! Oh no you don't! Don't you dare plop your head in your eggs. They go on the inside, not the outside."
"Party pooper." Ritchie mumbled. After several tries, he managed to get some eggs on his fork and eventually found his mouth.
As Joe and Amanda finished washing the last of the breakfast dishes, there was a loud knocking at the tavern door.
"All right! All right!" Joe said as he wiped his hands on a towel. "Don't knock it down. I'm coming."
There were four men standing there dressed in heavy coveralls.
"Hi. I'm Pete Longham, and this is my work crew. That's Bill … and Jake … and the skinny one is Marty." He pointed to each of them. "We just stopped to tell you that the road to the highway is clear."
Jake sniffed the air loudly. "Is that fresh coffee I smell?"
"Do you think you could spare some?" He asked. "My thermos is just about out." He held up an insulated steel bottle.
"Sure. Come on in." Methos called from interior. Ritchie took the man's thermos and went into the kitchen to fill it.
"How long have you guys … and gal … been here?" Marty asked.
"Since last night. We were snowed in like everybody else." Duncan explained. "How about you guys? How long have you been out there?"
"Since 1AM." Pete answered.
"Yesterday." Bill added.
"And I'll bet you haven't slept either." Joe said. "Or had a decent meal. I can't do anything about the sleep problem, but I can do something about the food. Have a seat."
He and Amanda and Ritchie disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a refilled food cart. Everyone looked on as the work crew eagerly devoured the fare.
"So." Pete asked as he wiped his mouth with the napkin. "What have you been doing to pass the time?"
"We've been having a meeting of the liars club." Connor informed them.
"What's that?" Marty asked. "I've heard of the Moose Club, The Eagles Club, and the Elks Club, but never the Liars Club."
It's not exactly a club." Duncan explained. "Everyone tries to tell the biggest whopper they can."
"You mean like the kid's game of 'Can You Top This'?"
"Yeah. Something like that."
"Is this a private meeting, or can anyone get in?" Pete inquired.
Joe looked at the others. Everyone nodded agreement. "I don't see why not. I have to tell you though, it'll cost you twenty dollars to Children's hospital." He pointed to the overstuffed box on the bar. "More if you're caught in an out and out lie. It's got to be believable."
"Okay. Here goes." Pete said, taking out his wallet and putting a twenty in the box. "I remember this one incident. It was about ten years ago when I … "
Would I lie …?