Title: The News
Series: In The Open
Summary: The discovery of immortals by the general public. A series of connected vignettes.
Disclaimer: All characters and settings belong to Davis/Panzer.
Note: Don't forget about the Perspectives series, different characters thoughts on the events in In The Open.
Although Duncan's name had yet to be publicly connected with his revival on CCTV the previous day, now the lead story on the news, the two Immortals knew that it was only a matter of time. It was also only a matter of time before some of the Highlander's friends began to turn up at the door as well. Something the older Immortal was not precisely looking forward to. It was a known fact that many of Duncan's friends had rather strong personalities.
In the mean time, they had to at least start to figure out what could be done now. Duncan was, for the most part, wearing the same clothes he had had on when he turned up at Adam's door, although he'd been able to borrow an old T-shirt from the other Immortal, it didn't fit particularly well. Between the mystery of the 'police' search of the Dojo and the media coverage, the two had decided it would be best if he stayed out of sight, at least for now.
The morning news shows had little new to say from the breaking of the story on the previous day. However, the announcers were hinting at possible new information coming out later on. For now though, it was time to see what the morning paper had to say on the topic. Certainly now that it was over twenty-four hours later the story would have made it to the papers. Later, Methos would go to the news-stand and pick up a few other papers, local, national and possibly even international to compare it with.
BACK FROM THE DEAD? DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN? Duncan's coming back to life was front page news above the fold. Underneath the headline, which was more reasonable than the younger Immortal thought it might be, was a close up of his face taken from the CCTV footage. Adam unfolded the paper on the kitchen counter. Not only was the story above the fold, but it took up the entire front page of the paper.
The article, aside from the reporting of the previous day's news conference and a retelling of the events as shown on the camera, was filled with speculation. The ideas ranged from remotely plausible, such as a publicity stunt or an unannounced movie stunt, to wildly outrageous suggestions along the lines of aliens, seeming more suited to some of the wilder tabloids. Nothing came close to reality though, and the two Immortals had to laugh at some of the ideas, despite the seriousness of the situation. "Joe's probably getting a good laugh at this as well," Methos said. "He's got to have seen the paper by now."
Thankfully, there wasn't too much more beyond the front page, and the rest of the paper was filled with reports of the previous day's news from around the world. The two Immortals were obviously thinking along the same lines, as nearly simultaneously, Duncan said "With that picture on the front page, someone's got to recognize it soon," and Methos commented "It's only going to get worse from here." At Duncan's incredulous look, he expanded his statement: "They haven't had time to write too much yet. The paper today was more or less set yesterday evening. Tomorrow's paper will probably see the editorial pages carrying the story, plus perhaps letters, and most of the daily columnists might have an article on your revival written by then." The younger of the two was looking more and more mournful with each item listed.
Once he'd gone over the paper, Duncan found there was little else for him to do in the apartment. There certainly wasn't enough open space for him to do any of his daily practises. Until they knew more of what was going on, such as why the dojo had been broken into by alleged policemen, especially so soon after his revival, Duncan was forced to remain hiding in the apartment. Methos had gone out only a short time before to get groceries and, if possible, a few of the basic necessities for his unexpected house guest. With nothing else to do, he ended up poking thorough his host's shelves to pass the time.
When the eldest Immortal returned from his errands, he was also carrying a selection of newspapers, including the other major local daily paper. There were none from outside of North America, which surprised the younger, as that was something Adam had been looking for specifically. It turned out that they weren't carrying the story yet. On the other hand, he had copies of five of the biggest North American papers with him. As well as a couple of T-shirts and sweats among other basic necessities.
Even before putting down any of the bags he was carrying, Adam handed over the local paper to Duncan. Once he saw the headline, the Scotsman could see why: FORMER ANTIQUES DEALER RISES FROM THE DEAD. The lettering took up the top third of the page. Underneath the headline were two photos: one a still from the CCTV footage, possibly the same one shown in the other paper, and the other showing Duncan with Tessa and one of her sculptures. This was the first paper to identify him.
Before reading the one article, Duncan glanced at the headlines of the other papers his host had brought. They were all variations on the theme, without identifying him. One, from Toronto showed the now extremely familiar camera image along with the headline DEAD? OR IS HE? Underneath it was "Unknown man shot in the chest but walks away, leaving behind him a pool of blood". Without looking up from the article, which merely summarized the information given out at the press conference the previous day, with added sensationalism, he commented, "I'm surprised Amanda hasn't descended on Seacouver yet.
"So am I," the oldest immortal answered. "Given her habit of just dropping in, though, I hope she calls first this time. I have no idea what she'd find if she simply dropped in at the loft as seems to be her way."
"What do you mean?" Duncan asked, looking up from the papers at Methos' statement.
"One of the things I did this morning was call Joe and meet him for coffee." he replied. "He got me the Watcher reports on your place for the last couple of days." He paused, "Or, at least that's what I think he gave me." He brought out a few CD cases, opening them to check. Two of the five had unlabeled CD's in them. The other three were music. "I'm pretty sure someone was following him, so I suspect his phone was tapped as well. Joe seemed to think that was the case as well. Field Watchers are all trained in surveillance techniques, so I assume that he can recognize them, even if he can't always execute them."
While Methos loaded one of the two mystery CD's into his computer, Duncan went over the other national papers. Although the headlines were intended to grab the reader's attention, such as DEAD MAN WALKING, there was little information in the articles which had not been present in any of the other papers Duncan had already read that day. On the other hand, there seemed to be an element of hysteria and fear in the way the articles had been written. Mostly, the papers were asking questions like "how did he survive?", "are there others?" and "is he dangerous?". Questions without answers, all of them.
Duncan turned back to the paper which had identified him, figuring it had the most new information. There was something familiar about the name of the columnist, a regular writer for the paper. Then he recognized it. Not only was she someone he read regularly, appreciating her views on art and the world, she was the columnist who had covered Tessa's art career, as well as writing her obituary when she'd been shot several years previously. She'd managed to chart his current identity extremely well, giving not only his name, but Duncan's supposed age as well as his current address at the dojo. In addition she had written about his past career as the headline suggested and wrote about his change in occupation from antiques dealer to the owner of the dojo. There was also some mention of Richie, which was slightly worrying to the older Immortal. If the revealing of the Scotsman's immortality didn't go well, it might put his former student into more danger, along with anyone else known to be associated with him, such as Joe, and Methos.
The oldest Immortal was still working at the computer when Duncan finished going over the papers. "Have you read the papers yet?" he asked him.
"Some of them, but not all, I did read the one identifying you, of course," he replied, not turning from the screen.
"Do you have any ideas on how things are going to go, or what might be the best course to take?" He took a breath, continuing, "It looks pretty doubtful that I can take up a new identity, even if I had one fully prepared. Not with this story likely to become the next nine days wonder around the globe. And, I can't stay hidden in your apartment indefinitely."
"No, I haven't any idea yet. For all the questions I've seen in the paper so far, there's one big one that's missing as yet," was the reply as he turned from the computer. "It's 'What are we going to do about him or them?'"
That stopped the conversation cold for a minute or two as both Immortals thought about the possible courses of action that might be taken against their kind as more were discovered, and the oldest Immortal remembered well the Medieval witch hunts. Both knew that after the revelation of Duncan's coming back from the dead it would be impossible for others to remain hidden indefinitely.
"What did Joe have to say?" Duncan finally asked, breaking the silence which had fallen.
"He didn't say much that was relevant, but the reports he gave me are pretty comprehensive." Methos replied. He gestured to the younger man to pull up a chair beside him at the computer.
"There are really two different sets of reports he gave me. The first are centered around your home, as we expected, given that I'd requested the surveillance there. The second, however, are a surprise."
"He's really breaking his oath with these." He inserted the second CD, and opened one of the files. Reading it, Duncan saw what the former Watcher meant by his comment. It was a copy of the Watcher's reports on Duncan's 'cousin' Connor for the previous week.
The other files were of the same type, and Duncan knew nearly all of the names: Amanda, Richie, Gina, Robert and many others, including all of the known Immortals in Seacouver. Most of the files were copies of e-mails sent to Joe as the Regional Director, but a few were transcriptions of phone conversations between the two Watchers. All of the files were never intended for an Immortal's eyes, although Methos said that Joe had edited them somewhat, removing addresses and the like. If the Tribunal ever found out that Joe had sent them, well they'd threatened to kill the Watcher before. This time it probably wouldn't be a threat.
From the files, though the two of them were able to piece together at least some of the reactions of Duncan's friends to what had happened: Richie had left New York three days earlier than he'd planned, the day the story broke. His reaction was the easiest for the Watchers to record. He knew about them and, in fact, had gotten to recognize his assigned Watcher (when he didn't simply tell Joe what his plans were), and made sure that he knew his plans ahead of time.
Amanda: On hearing the news story, she'd more or less disappeared to the Watchers. However, that wasn't too unusual for her, so they were simply waiting for her to reappear somewhere else. The thief could have had any number of reasons for doing so, ranging from an unexpected visit to check on Duncan, to arranging for a new heist. Only time, and wherever she turned up next, would tell. Both however were good possibilities according to her Wacher. Apparently there was a new exhibit of jewelry at one of the European galleries which Amanda had been heard discussing just the week previously. Joe, however, figured that she was heading for Seacouver to find out what had happened with Duncan, and said so in his own added note on the file.
Connor's report didn't have anything out of the ordinary, but then, he was known to be both a loner and cautious. The Watchers had learned long before to be careful with him. With the number of times Duncan's elder kinsman had nearly caught them, it made Watching him a real challenge. As a result, his files were much sparser than those of some of the other Immortals.
The Watchers had noticed a general increase in tension in their Immortals since the news broke, particularly those living in Seacouver and the regions around. And, one other key thing: no heads had been taken since the news broke, either. It looked like they were all waiting to see how things went before doing anything which might draw more attention down on themselves. According to the reports, it didn't look like any of the other Immortals in Seacouver were planning to try and take the Scottish Immortal's head for his part in the revelation of their existence, which was a relief to both Immortals.
Joe had also included some files on the reactions of the Watchers themselves, both as individuals and and the organization in general. So far, there seemed to be no consensus about what should be done with the revelation of Immortal existence. However, Joe, as well as most of the Watchers he'd talked with agreed with the feeling that now one Immortal had been revealed, that Immortals in general couldn't remain in hiding for very long. There were a few Watchers that Joe had decided to keep a close eye on, as they had suggested that Duncan be hunted down and killed in order to try and silence the discovery. Thankfully, none of those were in Seacouver as far as the bluesman could tell. For now, the general trend seemed to be to wait and see, just as the Immortals they Watched were waiting to see what the future would bring. Still, although the revelations would perhaps, change the ways the Watchers went about their task, he didn't think it would change their overall mission to observe and record Immortal history.
After going over the files one or two more times, Methos put in the other CD he'd been given, the one with the files on the surveillance of Duncan's loft. When they loaded, he soon found a more detailed report on the 'police' break in then the one that Joe had given them right after it had happened, as well as reports covering the time since.
While Methos was reading those and making notes, Duncan turned to the T.V. and began skimming the local news channels to see if they had any new reports.
Now and again, the oldest Immortal would comment on something in the reports out loud, as well. Sometimes, Duncan would simply nod a response, other times he would make an observation in return.
By this time, it was nearly noon and they decided to break for lunch while watching the noon news report.
This time, Duncan made the sandwiches, having had more than a day to become familiar with his host's apartment. However, the news came on before they'd had more than a bite or two, and the lead story made them forget about food entirely, and Methos scramble for another blank video cassette.
"...Breaking news on the ongoing story of the murder victim who rose from the dead. Our mystery man was identified this morning in the papers as one Duncan MacLeod, who ran an antiques store until just a few years ago. He now runs a martial arts gym in the older part of the down-town region. One of our reporters went to that address to see if she could get an interview with the man in question. This is what she found. Leslie?" The scene changed from the newsroom to a reporter standing on the street outside the dojo. The broken doors were clearly visible, as was scattered shards of glass on the pavement. Other reporters and camera crews were also clearly present. Presumably they were also running stories, but neither Immortal wanted to change the channel to see what they had to say, in case they missed something on this one.
"I came out here, not knowing what I would find, expecting it would probably lead to nothing, and found a puzzle instead." Sirens could be heard in the background. "As you can see, the doors have been broken in in some form of break-in. The question is, who caused it, why, and when. Was the mysterious Duncan MacLeod at home at the time of the break-in?..."
At that moment a couple of police cruisers pulled up at the curb, sirens still going and lights flashing, drowning out the reporter's voice. Four policemen got out, and while one stayed with the reporters, the other three entered the building. Within a few minutes, one of the three returned and joined the fourth outside questioning the reporters. Most of what they said wasn't picked up clearly by the camera crew, but the two Immortals were able to understand enough that they could tell that the cops were questioning the reporters on what they had seen at the building and if they'd gone inside to look around.
Shortly after the police had arrived, the news cut back to the station, and the announcer's voice. "In addition to the breaking news shown live just now from the alleged home of Duncan MacLeod, the man who seems to have revived from death two nights ago, we have a report from the Seacouver metro police press consultant with some new information, which came in within the past hour, leading to the press conference which has just started mere minutes ago. We delayed in showing this due to the events at Desalvo's Gym."
The news studio cut to a typical scene of a press conference. The man behind the podium was just finishing up his introduction, summarizing all of what had happened over the past couple of days. "...Although we have made no progress towards finding either this Duncan MacLeod, or an answer as to how he revived and walked away from his death, we of the Seacouver Police force have found an answer to the question of whether there are others who have the same ability."
The two Immortals watching froze, waiting to see what would be said and who else would be revealed. Anyone listening in the apartment could have heard a pin drop at that moment, both at the press conference and in the room.
"There are at least two others, and possibly more, which we have identified," the speaker continued. "One was a Jane Doe who committed suicide from the roof of a downtown office building about four years ago. The body disappeared from the morgue a few hours later before it could be identified. No sight of her has been reported since."
"Felicia Martens." The two words were enough to identify the immortal to both those in the room. There was a murmur of sound from the audience behind the camera when the speaker paused.
The second case was about two years later, in 1993: A young woman who was afterwards identified as one Michelle Webster was killed in a car crash. However, a few hours later, family and police discovered the body had vanished, leaving only a small blood stain. The body has never been found. At this time, we are assuming that she has the same abilities as Duncan MacLeod. Interestingly, our mysterious man, now identified as Duncan Macleod has been connected with both of these women.
The next few minutes were filled with the rustlings and mutterings of the audience as they absorbed what had just been said before the question portion of the press conference began.
"It's a good thing I sent Michelle off with Amanda," Duncan said. "She's probably safer in Europe now than she would be as my student."
Before the oldest Immortal could answer, however, the speaker announced that he would be taking questions, and the two Immortals turned their full attention back to the T.V. and the conference.
Most of the questions were, of course, related to the shooting which revealed Duncan's immortality and the police had to admit ignorance at some of them, such as ways to identify these people who came back from death. None of the reporters present asked anything about the break-in at Duncan's loft, nor did the spokesman for the police make any mention of it.
The final question, which was nearly inevitable was "Are they a threat?" combined with "What is going to be done with them"". It gained a whole lot of non-answers as the police spokesperson tried to talk around the question without actually answering it, probably because he didn't actually have any answers. However, the answer ended up being rather less than reassuring to the Immortals listening as well as the press:
"There has been no overt threat from these mystery people, however, not knowing how many of them there are, or what they want is worrying. With no way to identify them until they are caught reviving, we simply cannot answer any of these questions." The speaker paused, then continued, "In the case of Duncan MacLeod, he has no criminal record, although he is known to the police from various incidents over the past several years."
With that, the cameras switched back to the news studio for a recap of the day's news, including several clips from the just finished conference.
Methos turned off the television and both Immortals fell silent, thinking about what they had just heard.
Finally, after a long silence, the younger of the two spoke: "Well, that didn't sound good at all. First, that the police have managed, even tentatively, to identify others of us, and second, the implications and inferences of his answer to the last question." Methos nodded, and Duncan continued speaking. "Implying that I'm a criminal!"
"It's a very effective way to build fear," the elder commented, adding, "implying things and making suggestions without giving any hard facts. You're going to have to nip this in the bud pretty quickly. I think now, we've seen the tack that they're going to take on the issue of Immortals."
"Or, could it just be the thoughts of the Seacouver Police Department, or even of the one individual speaking?" The Scottish Immortal was now thinking out loud. "I doubt there's been enough time for a course of action to have been decided on and handed down from the federal levels."
"That's also a possibility," Methos replied thoughtfully, "or perhaps at the state level, although the same thing is probably true there. Whatever the case is, that conference will end up being broadcast across the nation, possibly around the globe. The station may only have been one of the local networks, but the highlights, if not the entire conference are sure to be picked up for the later news broadcasts by other networks." While he was speaking, he grabbed a nearby pad of paper and a pen and began scribbling.
"Not to mention, it's been nearly two days, plenty of time for some of the networks across the country to get a reporter and crew here to cover the story, so they'd be present even if the conference was called on extremely short notice," Duncan added.
"I've got to find some way to counter the hints made at that conference," he said, "and do it in such a way that it gets to a large number of people quickly."
"The problem the idea of it just being one person's attitude influencing his answers," Methos said, still writing, "is that break-in the same night. According to Joe and the Watchers, it was certainly no random snatch and grab type burglary. The intruders were wearing standard police jackets, and used at least an approximation of police procedures. And," he said after another second or two, "they were awfully quick off the mark. It was no more than three hours after the incident, and it wasn't until over a day later that you were publicly identified, yet someone knew who you were and where you live."
"It had to be someone with authority," Duncan added, "as far as I can tell, not having been there, it sounds as though the alarm system was either disabled somehow before the intrusion, or they were able to override it, as it does have an audio component, which, I can tell you from the couple of times I've accidentally set it off is quite noticeable. Surely the Watcher doing surveillance would have heard it. Nor did anyone arrive to check on it afterwards. One of the features I paid for was that if the alarm went off and there is no answer to a check-in call, the police would be notified to send a patrol car around."
Methos nodded. "Suggesting one of three possibilities: the alarm never went off, or the alarm company never made the call, or if they did make the call, the police didn't respond," he summed up what the younger Immortal had suggested, laying out the possibilities. "So, who do you think it is?"
"I know that the dojo isn't in the best part of town," Duncan admitted, "but no mere criminal or gang could pull that off that easily. They could disable the alarm, perhaps, but not get the police jackets. As far as I can see, it had to be either the police themselves, or a military unit masquerading as the police. Especially with what you and Joe have said about being followed," he added.
"I agree," he host said. "Now, what are you going to do about it?" he asked.
"I can't do anything from here, and I certainly can do nothing if I'm constantly worried about official reactions or ending up in a laboratory somewhere." The long-haired Immortal was emphatic about that. "Given the possibility that Joe is under surveillance, they'd probably know about my friendship with you too, and I don't know how safe you are. It just depends on what they want me for."
"Do you have any ideas then?" Methos asked.
Duncan nodded. "It sounds crazy, but what about doing a press conference of my own?" he asked.
AN: My apologies for this having taken so long to write, and I promise, I'm working on more of the series now. Currently, I'm writing the next of the pieces in the Perspectives set.