This is the very first fan-ficion story I ever wrote. It features Mac and Richie and an Immortal of my own, Tom Karrow. It is the first of a four part series.

THE FINAL WORD
by Peg Keeley
Onenerveleft59@hotmail.com

The full sails of the racing sloops billowed blinding white against the deep blue sky as the boats sped towards the first turn. From the stands along the shoreline among the hundred or so other spectators, Duncan MacLeod raised the field glasses to his eyes and searched for the sail baring the emblem of a knight's helmet and castle close to the mast. There it was, in second place. He knew Tom Karrow would not be pleased with anything but the best. He could picture him, gray curly hair flying, screaming and his deck crew-- the picture of King Neptune himself. Regattas were sometimes difficult to really follow. Often it was hard to know even who was ahead, but this finish made the event worth while With only a few hundred yards remaining, Tom managed to pick up a side wind and with the perfected skill of a master, turned his sail to it to gain just the slight bit of speed necessary. He pulled ahead by half a length to take the title. Most of the people watching clapped, and cheered. A few who'd lost money shook their heads in disappointment.

Duncan made his way down to the dock.

Tom was coiling a rope and turned as he sensed his friend's approach. "Duncan!" he laughed with a smile. "Quite the exciting race, wasn't it?"

He smiled. "I knew you'd do it somehow."

"Always do, don't I?" He laughed again. "Did you put some money down?"

He nodded. "A little."

Tom turned back to a young man on deck of his boat. "What're you lookin' at? Get the sam hill down here and stow this rope!" he shouted.

The deck hand hurried to obey and Duncan winced at Tom's behavior. The old sailor paid his deck hands well--he had to for them to put up with his temper.

Tom laughed at him. "Keeps 'em in shape, MacLeod." He waved the check of prize money the judges had awarded him. "They each get their share."

Richie had known Eddie Fuller most of his life. They'd been mortal enemies in childhood: Eddie being from a wealthy family and born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In high school Richie's brief fling with freshman football had brought them together with something in common--they'd both been told they were too small. After that, they'd pranked every game, planting stink bombs, stealing light bulbs, even the flag once. But Richie had eventually dropped out. Eddie had gone on to National Honor Society and a ivy league university.

Now Richie felt uncomfortable even though he was meeting Eddie at the park, far away from his father's corporation. He tried, in vain to get a ketchup stain off his jeans and hoped Eddie wouldn't notice the loose sole on his shoe.

"Hey, Rich!" Eddie called from across the lawn.

Richie turned to see him hurrying towards him, pushing a stroller before him. "Hi!" he called back. "Hey, look at you!"

"My daughter," Eddie announced.

Richie bent down close to the small infant sleeping sounding, wrapped in a pink ruffled blanket. "Lucky kid. Doesn't look anything like you."

Eddie chuckled but seemed a little uncomfortable. "It's good to see you, Richie."

"You, too." They shook hands.

Eddie's joyful attitude slipped a little. "I, um, tried, Rich. I thought maybe Dad would have mellowed some."

Richie could feel the next words and beat Eddie to them. "He won't hire me, right?" He regretted ever trying this. He hated asking for anything, let alone from some one like Eddie.

He glanced away. "Sorry, Rich." His voice was heavy.

"Yeah, well, that's okay," he replied, attempting to sound unconcerned. "I've got lots of other irons in the fire."

"Sure," Eddie was quick to agree, but they both knew better. "Say, anything I can do, you know? Loan you something?" He hoped it didn't sound patronizing.

"I'm fine," Richie said taking a few steps away. "Say, your little girl's real cute. Congratulations." He turned away quickly so as to hide his disappointment. He'd exhausted nearly every other avenue before talking to Eddie. It always came back to the same thing--begging for help from MacLeod, like a little child hiding behind a parent. Not this time. It didn't even matter that he'd been evicted from his one room apartment this morning. And this humiliation with Eddie sealed his determination to go it by himself.

Eddie watched Richie walking away and felt ashamed.

At the far side of the park, a dark haired woman who'd remained carefully at a distance watched. Her memory and her hatred were still strong. Felica Martins could still recall that cold night on the beach, on her knees before the Highlander who was sparing her life because the young mortal who would one day be one of them had begged it. "I'll see you again," she'd threatened and she was always as good as her final word.

-------------------------

Tom's deep laugh seemed to shake the walls of Joe's. MacLeod felt comfortable bringing him here. He was a commanding presence and every eye seemed to be drawn to the large barrel-chested man with the curly gray beard and vibrant eyes. He was a master at telling tall tales. He always had been. Mac had first seen him in Italy in the mid 1600s and even then, he'd been spinning a yarn to a cluster of wide-eyed children. Since then, he'd only gotten better and by the 1800s had written several books under different assumed names. Most of the tales involved the sea or fairies and dragons. And now he entertained the entire bar with one about three seamen who had attempted a mutiny on their frigate and their eventual demise.

Mac glanced at Dawson. Only the two of them knew that it was a true story. And when the bar patrons reveled at the beheading of the mutineers, only Mac knew there'd been a quickening that followed.

Tom rose, carrying his empty beer mug. "Fill 'er up!" he announced loudly to Joe.

He did so and, as Tom attempted to pay, raised a hand. "On the house. You have a real gift there."

"Been at it all my life." Tom blew on the head, then took a huge gulp of beer followed by a stunning belch.

Duncan and Tom turned as one sensing someone at the door just as it opened. "Richie!" Duncan called to him as he entered. "I have someone for you to meet. Tom Karrow, Richie Ryan."

"Put her there, boy," Tom's large paw enveloped Richie's hand.

Richie gave a polite smile, but there was a glimmer of suspicion behind it. "Hi."

Dawson put up a clean glass on the bar. "You missed a good story, Richie. This guy can keep you on the edge of your seat."

"Yeah?" he said in mild curiosity.

Tom's eyes twinkled. "Keeps the mind sharp," he said softly. "Never watch TV."

Dawson poured the beer and pushed it towards Richie. He hesitated and Joe winked. "I'll put it on your tab."

"How're you doing, Richie?" Mac asked.

"Fine," he replied looking into the beer.

"Did you talk with your friend?"

He nodded. "We're working something out."

"I still need-"

"No," he interrupted. "I don't think the dojo's for me."

Tom cleared his throat. "Sounds like your friend here is a bit between pay checks."

Richie glanced at him. "I'm working on some things."

Tom laughed and clapped Richie on the back. "Aren't we all? Like the sea, boy?"

"Tom owns a small merchant shipping business," Mac offered. "When he isn't racing sailboats."

"The best men become men by the sea," Tom said in a loud voice, then added quietly to Richie: "You need some sea."

Richie did not laugh.

Tom took another long drink of his ale. "Lighten up, boy. Looks like you could use a good tale."

He shrugged and stole a glance at Mac as if looking for a cue for what to do.

Duncan gave a simple knowing smile and moved away from the bar.

"Long ago," Tom said quietly to Richie, "before the age of Nintendo, Sega, and TV; before even the age of radio, there was the age of legend. By the warmth of the springtime sun, where the pink and yellow wildflowers bobbed in the breeze and the view off the hillside of ancient Rome caused one to pause in reverence, I gathered the children. As they flocked about like little lambs, I suddenly looked up to see the young stranger approaching. He was one of us." He paused, waiting.

Richie looked up at him. "Yeah? And?"

Tom now burst into a full smile...

*****
(Italy 1630)

"The black stallion of the brave young king reared back in stark terror, it's knife like hooves slicing through the foul, smoke filled air. Without hesitation, the courageous youth slid from it's back, his sword drawn, to face the fierce dragon that had slain his parents and bride." Tom swung his arms and body back and forth to add realism to the story as the cluster of children gasped and squealed with delight. He looked up as he saw the young man in white linen shirt and long dark hair from across the meadow. Keeping one eye on him, he did not lose the momentum of the tale. "The dragon, whose eye sight was poor, but his hearing sharp, belched forth with a searing flame of dragon's breath, striking down the noisy stead. It became nothing more than a burning lump on the hard granite of the mountain. Remaining silent, the young king watched the dragon turn it's horrible head to the right--then the left." His voice dropped to a whisper. "It was searching for him. He picked up a palm-sized rock and with all his might, threw it to the left. The beast leapt towards the sound with a earth shattering roar. In that instant, King Leopold jumped for the scaly hide, the sharp sword piercing the soft underbelly. Writhing in agony, the mighty dragon stamped and spun, but his fate was sealed. His movements served only to drive the weapon deeply into his heart. The dragon collapsed to the ground flat. But, alas, the young brave king was beneath him and was crushed. And so, the two bitter enemies perished together, their blood mingling as one. That, my dear children, was the end of the last dragon."

The youngsters began to chatter and beg for another story, but Tom quickly shooed them away. "Tomorrow, tomorrow, little ones. Look, it is nearly chore time and your mothers with be cross with you. Off you go now!" He turned to the immortal who'd joined the group close to the end. "Tom Karrow," he introduced himself.

"Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod," he replied.

"And may I be of some service to you?"

He looked uncertain.

"Come on, I don't seek your head. That is, unless you have come for mine."

"Not at all," Duncan replied, his Scottish lilt plain. "I'm looking for Segur, the master swordsman."

Tom chuckled. "Segur?"

"Aye. My instructor Graham Ash mentioned him to me."

"Graham Ash?" Tom crossed his arms. "You seem to throw a lot of big names around very casually, young Duncan. I have promised my time to the Count Ruchilli this evening. He's throwing a party of some sort for a visiting Duke. He'd like me to entertain."

"Entertain?" Duncan murmured, looking confused.

"Have you a problem?"

"No, I--is Segur in Rome?"

Tom smiled quietly. "He's in Venice."

"Venice!" Mac was aghast. "That's a three day walk!"

Tom nodded. "You could take a coach."

He glanced away. "It is more healthy to walk."

"Hum." Tom noticed the worn shoes. "I would like a companion tonight. There would be a sum of money in it for you. Enough to perhaps pay the ticket on the coach--or buy some new shoes."

"What kind of entertaining is this?" Duncan asked suspiciously. "I'm not good with stories and things."

Tom gave a deep-hearted laugh and scooped up his maroon velvet coat from a rocky outcropping...

*****

(present)

...Tom's story was interrupted as two men entered the bar. Dawson looked up, knowing by the suits and ties that these guys weren't patrons. One he knew. The younger man had to be his partner by the way he cast a quick glance around the room, missing nothing. Tension suddenly sprang up within the saloon--everyone knew two police detectives had just entered.

Joe moved to meet them. "Clark," he nodded to the one he knew.

"Evening, Joe," he replied, his gaze still scanning the room. It came to rest on Richie who returned the look.

Richie rose from the table. "Later, Tom," he murmured and began to make his way towards the door.

MacLeod, also realizing something was happening moved to intercept his student. It was always better to get the facts than to run.

The younger detective had moved to block the door. "Going out, Ryan?"

"What do you want?" Richie demanded.

"You know an Eddie Fuller?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Need you to come with us, son," the older man announced. "Bring him, Benny."

"What is this?" Richie countered, as Benny took his arm and he pulled away.

Joe stepped forward. "Clark, what's going on?"

"This doesn't involve you, Dawson."

"The hell it doesn't," he snapped. "This is my place, Richie's my friend."

Clark glanced from Richie to Joe. "Questioning in the kidnapping of Chelsea Fuller."

"What?!" Richie gasped in alarm and turned towards Duncan. "Mac! Tell 'em, I didn't do anything!"

Benny took hold of Richie's arm again and for a moment, Mac thought Richie was going to fight him.

"Richie, just go with them, hear them out," Mac tried to sound reassuring. "We'll get this sorted out. Remember, you've got nothing to hide."

Richie fired a hostile look. "Easy for you to say."

-------------------------

As Clark's car pulled up before the police station, three news teams complete with reporters and camera men came running from the steps, tungsten lights blazing and cameras rolling.

"Is that him?!" a lady reporter shouted towards the policemen who attempted to block her view.

"It's nothing," Clark tried to push her aside.

"Is this the kidnapper of Chelsea Fuller?" she presented and the other reporters pushed in also.

Benny ran interference as they headed for the building.

The heavy door closed between the reporters and the police. "Sorry, Ryan," Clark muttered motioning towards the arraigning desk. "Get the paperwork, Benny."

But Richie's attacks weren't over. An elderly man suddenly burst from the cluster of people in the corner, red with rage, fists clenched. "There's the little bastard! Where is she! What have you done with my grand daughter!"

Richie eyes wide, but angry, backed into Clark as several uniformed officers leapt up to restrain the man he recognized as Eddie Fuller's father: Sedwick Fuller. "Whoa, here, I didn't do anything!"

Sedwick had always reminded Richie of a large gray heron. The skinny, angular man with a long pointed nose and beady eyes had always hated him. Always. Even before they'd ever met. "He tried to get a job out of my son! When he didn't get what he wanted he stole my grandbaby!" He visiously grabbed Richie's shirt in his fist as they were enveloped by a sea of blue uniform shirts.

"I didn't do anything!" Richie repeated, by now shouting back in Fuller's face as officers struggled to separate them.

"Where is she!" the old man continued to shriek as four policemen dragged him back.

Clark yanked Richie inside an interrogation room and slammed the door shut. They stood facing each other a moment, catching their breath. Clark ran a hand to smooth his hair. "That could have gone better," he muttered candidly.

Mac parked the car in front of the police station. Tom Karrow, pressed and dressed in an expensive three piece double-breasted suit looked nothing like the salty seaman he'd appeared to be yesterday. He sat in the passenger's seat flipping through a billfold of business cards. "You think you can really pull this off?" Mac asked doubtfully.

Tom glanced across at him. "Have you no faith, boy? It's the appearance that counts. If the behavior fits--you are the man."

"I don't know about that," Mac muttered.

*****
(Italy 1630)

...Tom Karrow, dressed in gold platted finery and a hat sporting a huge white plume kept the great white stallion at a steady trot as they approached the Count's castle.

Duncan, running on foot behind, could barely keep up and was out of breath as they came to the bridge. "Don't you think you could slow it just a pace?" he panted.

Tom smiled down, comfortably at ease in the saddle. "I wouldn't want to keep the Count waiting. He has a full evening in store!"

Mac rolled his eyes and tried to catch his breath.

"Announce us!" Tom ordered him, pointing towards the gatekeeper.

"Wha'?" Duncan responded, confused.

"You know," Tom whispered impatiently. "I am Sir Thomas, remember?"

"Oh," he said, recalling the plan. He stepped ahead. "Sir Thomas of the land of Yorkshire comes at the summons of Count Ruchilli!"

The gatekeeper came to the window. "Say again?" the old man cackled, hard of hearing.

Duncan's face betrayed his impatience as he shouted in the man's ear. "Sir Thomas of Yorkshire!"

The man backed up. "You don't have to yell, you know. I hear ya." He turned to the gate and pulled the rope on a large bell that tolled a few times. There was the sound of grinding wooden wheels, and the gate was slowly pulled back by a team of slaves hauling on pulleys from inside.

Tom tipped his plumed hat towards the gatekeeper and tossed him a gold coin. "Thank you, my good man." He trotted into the courtyard followed by Duncan

"You give him the money," Mac grumbled. "I did the work."

"Hush now," Tom snapped. "Take the horse, Duncan." He threw down the rein and swung down from the horse to face a page from Count Ruchilli. "Lead me to the Count," he ordered boldly and strode off behind the lad, leaving MacLeod to tend the horse.

"Lead me to the barn," Mac mimicked softly to the horse who responded with the blink of her eye.

When Duncan finally made his way up to the banquet room, Tom was reclining at the feast table of Ruchilli, a beautiful lady on each arm, and a challis of rich red wine before him. Giving a wave for Duncan to sit on the floor behind him, Tom took an enormous bite from the leg of cooked goose and still chewing, followed it with a gulp of wine. "As I was saying, Count, there is always a battle to be fought, a damsel to be saved. This is a glorious age to be a warrior in. Why, just last month I witnessed a moment of truth when evil was vanquished before my very eyes!"

Ruchilli clasped his ringed fingers in anticipation and glanced towards his guest, the Duke. "Oh please!" he encouraged, "tell us all about it, Sir Thomas."

Tom jumped to his feet and grabbed Duncan up by the arm. "My servant and I shall be honored."

"I was just hoping to get a bite," Mac whispered, his stomach growling and eying a glistening bunch of grapes.

Tom's roar of laughter covered his plea, and with a warning glance of the eye, Tom moved them both to the head of the table. He began to tell of a German youth who'd aspired to knighthood by rescuing a young Duchess from the hands of a foul baron who'd stolen her away in her childhood. He had Mac posing as a tree, rocks, a wild beast, and at last, as the vial baron. Tom punctuated his graphic description of the bloody battle between the knight and the baron by carrying out the punches and blows on Duncan as the dinner guests cheered with delight. At last, the tale of bravery was over and they all clapped politely and passed a hat that they filled with coins.

"You are truly the most fascinating story teller ever," one of the women whispered, pressing her body close to Tom as he returned to his seat. "Would you have a private story for me later tonight?"

He gently kissed her smooth, white neck. "I'm certain that could be arranged."

Duncan rolled his eyes, rubbing his bruised ribs, and decided it just wasn't fair.

It was daybreak when Tom met Mac in the horse barn and aroused him. "Time we were on our way," he whispered quietly. "Saddle the horse."

"Saddle it yourself," he snapped. "You're no more a knight than I am."

Tom glanced towards the liveryman, dozing at the doorway to the barn. "I am what they see me as, young Duncan." He jangled the leather pouch full of coins. "This purse is as much yours as mine. We split it when we're gone from here. They would never let a simple sailor come before them, but a knight," he smiled. "I give them what they wish to see. They are happy--and so are we. Come now, let's be off."

*****

Tom was pleased that he was not ushered before the detective he'd seen in the bar last night, although Clark would not have recalled him anyway. The Chief of Detectives was a large, black man named Powell. He cleared a chair for Karrow in his cluttered office and went in search of fresh coffee.

"Okay, counselor, how can I help you?" he finally said more falling into his chair than sitting on it.

"Tom Karrow," he introduced himself, noting the name plate on the desk. "Detective Powell, I'm here to represent Richie Ryan."

Powell blinked. "He didn't call no lawyer."

He gave a patient smile, like any lawyer would who was in charge of all he encountered. "I've been retained by some friends of his."

Powell snorted. "MacLeod, no doubt. Let me tell you something, Mr. Karrow. Richie Ryan and I go a way back. Way way back. You seen his rap sheet? I told MacLeod he wasn't doing that kid any favor four years ago, he's never been no good, never will. Ryan was committing B&Es while most kids were still wanting to be firemen."

Tom put on a tolerant glare. "Well, every man is entitled to legal representation. B&E is a long way from kidnapping."

Powell jammed a pencil into his blotter. "You don't know this kid the way I do. He's got no alibi. And I've got a witness. Picked him out of a lineup this morning."

This time Karrow's frown was genuine. "I would like to see my client."

-------------------------

Richie had been laying on the thin bunk of the cell, trying to piece together why life always gave him the shaft. What was the sense in being immortal if it was all like this? He caught his breath as he felt the sensation of the approach of another immortal. It was the second time today. During the lineup he'd felt the buzz, but never identified the immortal. He jumped to his feet, alert, and was surprised when it was Tom Karrow who came strolling down the corridor like he owned the cellblock.

Tom gave a confident smile as the policeman unlocked the door.

"What're you doin' here?" Richie remarked.

Not missing a step, Tom gave a polite gaze. "Your friends thought you needed a good lawyer. I am here to help you, my boy."

"Lawyer?" Richie muttered, a puzzled look on his face.

The officer moved away and they both sat down on the bunk.

"What is this?" Richie murmured. "I thought you were-"

"We can all be whatever we wish," Tom interrupted quietly. "We're never stuck in anything for more than a lifetime."

"Yeah, right," Richie replied, sulking. "No matter what I do, I always wind up back here again."

"The detective says there's an eyewitness to your kidnapping of the baby," Tom said quietly.

"There can't be," he answered, "cause I didn't do it. How long have you been here? Were you at the lineup?" he asked, hoping the answer would be yes.

A scowl crossed Tom's face. "No--you sensed someone there, didn't you?" he guessed.

He nodded, feeling fear rising in his chest. "You've gotta get me out of here. I've

got no sword and-"

Tom put and calming hand on his arm. "We will work as quickly as we can, but there is no bail in kidnapping. Do you know of anyone seeking your head?"

He scoffed. "Is that a joke, Karrow?"

"Well, in particular?"

He tried to think, but just how many people had he pissed off in the last year? The list was probably too long. "Look, I didn't do it--but somebody did."

"Yes, well," Tom cleared his throat, "we already know that. So, we must conclude there is either some well-meaning, but misled person who saw someone resembling you or--" he paused.

"Or what?"

"Or someone wants you here."

He shook his head and murmured in dread, "I'm a sitting duck."

-------------------------

Mac rang the doorbell and waited. The large brick home with it's circular tree studded drive did resemble a castle in many ways. He marveled how the Sedwick Fullers of the world had a manner of being imposing from the moment one saw their territory.

"May I help you?" It was a middle-aged maid in a black and white uniform.

"I'd like to see Edward Fuller," Mac said politely.

"I'm sorry," she said starting to close the door, "he's not seeing anyone today."

"Please!" Mac stuck his foot in the door, "it's a matter of life and death."

"It's all right, Vera," came a man's voice. Eddie opened the door wider to admit Mac.

"Duncan MacLeod," he introduced himself. "I'm a friend of-"

"I know who you are, MacLeod," Eddie said flatly. "And I know you're probably here to have me do what? Feel sorry for Richie Ryan?"

"I want to help," Mac countered.

"Help? In just what way?"

"Your daughter is missing. The police arrested Richie, but he can't tell them where she is because he doesn't know. He didn't do it, Fuller. I think you know that."

Eddie turned away and walked into his parlor. "I thought I did. But now I don't know what to think anymore. I hadn't seen him in years till yesterday. I show him Chelsea and now she's gone! There's a witness. She said she saw him."

"The witness is a woman?"

He nodded. "She described him. Everything! Build, clothes, even Chelsea's blanket!"

Duncan chould feel the pain the young man was going through; the terror of his tiny infant daughter stolen from their home. Maybe hurt, maybe... "I want to help you," he said gently.

Eddie gave a sardonic chuckle. "Why do I doubt that? You know, my Dad was right. All these years I've felt guilty because I had so much and Richie had nothing. Dad told me never to let the inferior class close because then you feel sorry for them and they rob you blind."

"Richie's not like that," Mac counted quietly. "And he didn't kidnap your daughter."

"Then who the hell did!" Eddie fired back, his pain overwhelming.

"Someone who could describe the blanket she was wrapped in."

Eddie stared at him in shock for a moment. "Why are you doing this to me?"

"Tell me about the witness," Mac said. "Did you see her?"

He shrugged. "Only for a moment. Woman about thirty. Dark hair. Pleasant enough. Dressed nice--you know, a professional."

Mac turned away, fitting the description to the knowledge that she was an immortal and had a reason to want Richie locked up. He felt an icy lump forming in his gut.

-------------------------

There was a light drizzle falling, but Richie paced the fence line of the small jailhouse yard anyway. He hated the way time dragged in prison and the feeling that his very life was in the hands of others. In fact it was. As he completed his third circle around the yard, he suddenly stopped short feeling a presence and quickly looked around.

"Hello, Richie."

He gasped in surprise as she suddenly stepped from around the corner right in front of him, only the cyclone fencing separating them. "Felica," he whispered in shock.

She gave a grin. "Happy to see me?"

"Um," he muttered, feeling naked without his sword.

"You've changed. You're sure not a little kid anymore," she poked a seductive finger through the fence.

He resisted the urge to step backward. I don't have to be afraid. She can't strike me through the fence. His eyes narrowed and he tried to not show his fear. "What do you want?"

She laughed. "What do I want? What does any woman want with a sexy man."

"I've already been that route with you once, remember? Just before you tried to take my head."

"But you didn't know any better then, did you? Now you know what I am--what you are. It's all different now." She ran her hand along the fence. "So, when did you--you know discover yourself."

"A while ago," he said evasively

She nodded. "MacLeod was good for something after all then, huh?"

"What do you want, Felica?" Richie demanded.

"I promised I'd be back."

"You said you'd come for MacLeod."

"And you too, if you recall."

He shifted his feet. "So?"

She laughed and reached into her coat pocket. Her hand came back out, a pink knitted baby bootie dangling between two fingers. "I always wanted to be a mama."

He slammed into the fence, grabbing at the wire. "Where is she! Where is she!"

She chuckled, tucking the bootie away. "In good time, Richie. I prefer taking my men one at a time." She walked to the corner and, with a little wave, was gone.

-------------------------

MacLeod knocked heavily on the door to Joe's home. When Dawson did not come quickly enough, he pounded again.

At last the door opened and Joe appeared, towel around his waist. "For the love of God, MacLeod, I was in the shower."

He pushed inside the door, taking no notice of the watcher's attire. "FelicaMartins."

"Who?"

"Do you know where she is."

"Who?" He was confused.

"Felica Martins. She saw Richie and taunted him with the Fuller baby's bootie."

Dawson moved away from the door. "Let me get dressed."

Mac seemed to suddenly realize that Dawson was in a towel and felt a sudden flush of shame as Joe went back to the bedroom. He'd never actually seen the man's artificial legs before. "Joe," he said more quietly. "Sorry, I mean, about barging in and all."

He reappeared in in moments wearing jeans and a T-shirt. "It's nothing, Mac. Now, what's this about Felica Martins?"

"She's here. She's got the Fuller child."

"Are you sure?"

"Richie is."

"Mac, she's one black widow of a woman."

"I've met her before. Just tell me where she is."

"I'll need to check with my people. It'll take a little time."

"Not too much, okay? That baby's life is in her hands."

-------------------------

The prison guard stopped before Richie's cell, keys jingling in his hand. "Ryan, come on."

He got up from the cot. "What's going on?" he asked suspitiously.

"Being moved."

"Moved?" he repeated, hesitant about this new event. "Moved to where?"

"Judge decided it's too hot for you here. We're gonna move you down state."

"Hey," he protested, "you can't do that."

He grinned. "Tell it to your lawyer." He fastened chains around Richie's wrists and ankles. "Come on." He led him down past the other cells in the small block. They went through the double-locked doors to the yard where a prison van sat, it's back door open awaiting Richie. There was the sudden impression of the presence of an immortal.

He stopped walking, rapidly looked around, but saw no one.

"Move it, Ryan," the guard snarled at him, pushing him forward.

Still looking for the other immortal, he was shoved into the van and they slammed and locked the doors. He sat down on the hard metal bench, trying to settle himself. There might be an immortal about, but locked inside here alone, he was at least safe for the moment.

The driver waved to the guards as they opened the gate to the jail and the van left the yard. Riding shotgun in the cab beside him was a female guard. Felica gave a wave to the officers as they left the compound.

-------------------------

Mac waited impatiently for Tom to return to the dock. The sailor had completed two practice runs down the ragatta course and Tom seemed in no hurry to cut the afternoon short. At last, the ship pulled in to the dock and Mac accepted the lines Tom threw to him and deftly tied the bow line as a ship's hand attended to the stern.

"She handled in a fine way," Tom shouted with a smile. "Almost worthy of the galleon I took through the Straits. Have I ever told you that one, Duncan?"

"No, but not right now," he said, trying to cut him off.

"You worry too much," Tom commented waving him aboard.

He leapt up the gangway and to the deck. "There's another of us about."

Tom chuckled again. "Does that surprise you so much, Highlander? After all, this is the time of the gathering."

"This woman is evil," Mac said bluntly.

"An evil woman?" He laughed outright. "Young Duncan, all women are evil--after a fashion." He finished pouring two glasses of wine. "Might this be someone I know?"

"Felica Martins."

He thought hard. "She murdered her lover's mortal wife and child, did she not?"

"Aye," Mac replied.

"I thought by now he surely-"

"She took his head a few years ago. He was unarmed and unprepared."

Tom looked surprised. "Devereux was an excellent fighter."

"That doesn't matter now," Mac snapped. "She's here. Richie saw her. It is she who took the Fuller baby."

Tom frowned and strolled the cabin. "As bait. For whom? And why have Ryan incarcerated? No doubt she is hunting."

"And I for her," Mac replied.

Tom raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps that is her goal, MacLeod. She will be ready for you." Tom's cellular phone rang and he quickly picked it up. "Karrow here." He was silent for a moment. "I was not notified earlier," he said into it, mildly indignant. More silence. "Yes, I will most certainly lodge a protest." He hung up and turned to Mac. "There were several phone calls to the police unit threatening Richie's life so Powell decided to move him to a more distant location. The transit van has vanished."

-------------------------

From the windowless van, Richie had felt every bump the wheels hit, every turn, every stop. He wondered how long this would go on. He was alone except for the single light in the ceiling and after an hour he was bored and worried. Just where were they headed? He wondered if Karrow was somehow behind this, but suspected it was Felica. One thing was certain--there'd been an immortal there when he'd come aboard the van and that person was still around, no doubt in the cab.

The van pulled to the side, then came to a halt, the sound of rubber tires on gravel road audible from inside. A door slammed in the front followed by footsteps. A key turned in the lock on the outside and there was the squeak of metal on metal as the door handle turned. Richie stepped back away, not sure what to expect.

The two doors parted, flooding the van with sunlight. In the opening at ground level stood Felica, sword drawn. "It's just the two of us now, Richie."

He glanced down at the chains on his wrists and ankles. "I'm unarmed, Felica."

She grinned. "What a shame. I did sort of plan it that way, you know. If MacLeod's your teacher, I didn't want to take any chances."

His eyes narrowed. "There's rules."

She laughed. "Since when do rules matter anyway? The only rule that counts is: 'In the end there can be only one.' First you, then MacLeod, then Karrow."

"You won't take MacLeod."

She gave a subtle smile. "Maybe you'd better worry more about me taking you."

He backed to the rear wall of the van although she had not moved from the entrance. "Then you'd better come and get me," he muttered.

She shrugged and lowered her blade as she reached forward to step up on the tail of the van. In that instant, Richie jumped forward, barreling into her and knocking her backward as he burst out of the van and onto the road where he rolled once, coming to his feet. He glanced around at the forested terrain just a moment, trying to formulate a plan. Felica was already spinning back around, sword in hand. He scrambled towards the front of the van, the shackles banging against his calves. He made it into the cab and slammed and locked the door just as Felicia's blade clanged against the steel door.

He turned to view the slumped dead body of the guard which had been shoved onto the passenger side of the prison van. He turned the key and slammed the vehicle into gear. Felica was running for the back, but wasn't quite quick enough. He heaved a momentary of sigh of relief as he saw her rapidly shrinking, hands on hips, in the side view mirror as he raced away. The relief was short-lived however, as he began to wonder what to do next.

-------------------------

MacLeod saw the two detectives out of the dojo and waited to be sure they'd really made it to their car before he went to the elevator. With a sigh, he closed himself in and took the short ride up to his home. Karrow sat on the couch smoking a rich aromatic pipe as he gazed at a sailing magazine. He barely glanced up as Mac came in.

Duncan looked at him. "That was the police."

"Really?" Karrow seemed uninterested. Using the pipe stem, he pointed towards the wardrobe on the far side of the room.

Mac walked over and opened the double doors to see Richie crouched inside. "Get outta there," he remarked.

He stepped out. "They're gone, huh?"

"Yeah, this time," Mac answered. "They'll be back. The dead guard was found. Cop killing is an international crime. There isn't going to be any safe place anywhere."

"I could stow him on a freighter for a year or two," Karrow offered.

"This isn't just about me. What about Chelsea Fuller?" Richie asked. "What about her?"

Mac was pleased he'd remembered there was more at stake. "I'll have to find her."

"Just how do we do that?" Richie demanded.

"We don't do anything. You stay here with Tom. I'll find Felica. Dawson should have something on Felicia real soon."

Tom glanced up from his reading as if he'd been oblivious to the conversation, which he hadn't. "She's a devious woman, Duncan, she knows you'll be hunting her so she will only let you find her on her terms."

"Perhaps," he replied, "but I have to find that child."

Tom put the magazine aside. "Are you both that naive? The child is dead. You know that. Felicia isn't the mothering kind. She killed the baby the night she stole her."

Mac shook his head. "Maybe not." He picked up his coat and headed for the back door. "I want to hope she's alive." He left.

Richie slowly looked up at Karrow. "You really think she's dead."

Karrow sighed. "In your heart, you know it, too, boy. Just as MacLeod does."

"I'm not just gonna sit here and wait for Felicia to take Mac's head," Richie remarked. "I've got a personal thing about this. She tricked me into thinking she loved me." He shook his head. "I was just a kid--not immortal yet--and she tried to use me to get to Mac then. He would have killed her except I begged him not to. It's my fault Felica got Eddie's child. Mac should have taken her head on that beach."

Karrow tapped out his pipe. "Hum," he said. "Seems I'm not the only story teller around here."

"It's true!" he insisted, wondering it Karrow believed him.

He gave a gentle smile. "Most stories have some basis in truth, boy. I have never added to my tales by letting others take the glory." His eyes twinkled as he retrieved his coat and tossed Richie his jacket. "Felicia wanted all three of us--then it's all three she shall face."

-------------------------

Dawson met Mac in the parking lot outside of the bar. "Wish I had more to give you," were his first words as he opened the passenger's side door. "The east dock area where the cheap boarding houses are. That's all I know." He got in and closed the door.

"And wha' are ya doin'?" Mac demanded.

"Me? I'm coming with you."

"No you're not."

"You could use another man," Joe argued, "besides, I'll just watch."

Mac opened his mouth to continue the fight, then decided it was useless.

-------------------------

Karrow went to the District Attourney's office and greeted the secretary with a broad smile.

She peered at him through wire-rimmed glasses and did not return the look.

Undaunted, he whipped out his lawyer card. "Thomas Karrow, Esquire, to see Melvin Spire."

"Do you have an appointment?" she asked, knowing he did not.

"No, but I believe he will see me," Tom said confidently.

"Is that so?" she responded, "and why is that?"

"I knew him in his old college days--frat brothers. I know some special stories that would make your ears burn," he said intently drawing close to her.

She looked unconvinced. She could not picture her bald, short, dull boss as being a rabble-rouser in college.

"I can see you doubt my word," Tom said with a laugh. "Well, the choice is yours, fair maiden. But if you really do turn away a college brother to the DA, he may not think kindly of you. Maybe you should go ask him."

Reluctantly, she rose from her chair and walked to the door of the office, glanced once back at Tom who grinned with pleasure, then went through and shut the door. He quickly dove into the files on her desk, found the one he wanted and routed through it for the address. He hurriedly scribbled it down.

The secretary came back into the office, annoyed. As she'd thought, her boss did not recall Karrow as a classmate, and was unhappy about the interruption. She looked around, but Karrow was gone.

-------------------------

Felicia strolled along the wharf listening to the calling of the seagulls. She had never enjoyed the States much. People here were very shallow and did not appreciate the luxuries and elegance that she treasured so. Having once been an accomplished artist, she still enjoyed committing to memory moments of natural beauty she might later translate onto canvas. She did not find many of them along this ugly rundown section of town. It was starting to rain lightly again and Felicia returned to the warehouse she had been hiding out in. It was partially filled with crated kitchen appliances which would provide ample hiding if necessary. She was irritated about having lost Ryan before. She had underestimated him and that would not happen again. She'd known MacLeod would come for her once she'd taken his student's head, perhaps he would come anyway. There was still the mortal child. She was ready. Men were such creatures of habit and she now knew MacLeod's. She'd not forgotten a movement, a parry, a feint, or an octave that he'd used in their previous encounter. She could now counter them all and was confident that she knew what he could do. Drawing her sword, she shadow played with the wall several minutes to warm herself up. Once she had the strength of the Highlander, there would be few who could challenge her. She turned, hearing someone moving along the dock. She carefully glanced outside.

There was a bearded man, black stocking cap on his head moving slowly along the dock supported by a cane. He peered into boxes and trash cans as he moved along.

She turned away. An unimportant mortal, and a bum at that. She sometimes killed such people for practice, but today held better promise.

Joe ambled slowly up the docks and then turned back to the street and just as casually made his way back to where MacLeod waited with the car. The slow tour of the east docks had taken hours. He gave a quick half grin as he stuck his head in the car window. "She's down there in the third warehouse off Second Street. Didn't hear or see anything to say the baby was there."

Mac nodded. "If I take her head, we may never find Chelsea."

"Mac, you know what Felicia's like," Joe said with apprehension. "Mother Teresa she isn't."

He stared straight ahead at the steering wheel for a moment before answering. "Are you sure, Joe? Can you prove to me that child's dead?"

"Well, no," he answered.

"Then I have to think she's alive. I have to think she's alive for Eddie Fuller. And for Richie, too. Right now Felicia's the only one who can clear his name."

"How do we get her to do that while she's trying to kill you?" Dawson demanded.

" Guess I have to make her want to."

-------------------------

Karrow pulled the car up before the modest two story boarding house. There was a "no vacancy" sign on the front. This one looked better than most; it had been painted recently and someone had tried to beautify it by planting patience plants along the walkway. He doubled checked his scrap of paper, satisfied he'd found the right address.

"Not bad," Tom remarked as he took out his bill fold.

Richie sat silent, as he had most of the trip over.

Tom flipped through a stack of business cards. He glanced at one, shook his head and went on. At last he picked out one. "This one." He handed it to Richie.

"Pest Treatment?" he said with question looking at it. "I don't get it."

Tom grinned. "Yes, you do."

His puzzlement slowly faded as it dawned on him what Karrow wanted him to do.

Karrow got out of the car and went around to open his trunk. He pulled out a neatly folded blue work shirt. There was a white oval on the left breast with "Tom" in red letters. "Here." He handed it to Richie.

Moments later, dressed in the workman's shirt, Richie rang the bell of the manager's office. "Here to check for roaches," he told the woman who answered.

"Roaches? Hell, yes, we got roaches," she announced loudly. "I made the dirty old bum moved out last week. I run a clean place here, now we got roaches everywhere! You gonna treat?" She noticed he had no spraying apparatus.

"Uh, not yet. I need to look around first."

She led him inside the building.

"Can I check each apartment?"

She nodded and handed him a master key. "Anything's missin' I stick the law on you." She winked, trying to look appealing. "You look like an honest young man though."

He grinned. "Why, thank you."

She walked away anxious to get back to her television.

It took only a moment to find Felicia's apartment. Inside, the one room studio was small, but neatly organized with walls covered by oil paintings. He stood there a moment looking at them, captivated by the detail. Something Felicia always did--pay attention to the details. He glanced around looking for anything that might give away that there had been an infant in the place. He moved to the bath and began routing through the clothes hamper. He abandoned the search there, leaving the heap of clothing on the floor. He went through cabinets, her dresser, even the refrigerator searching for anything that might give a clue that Chelsea Fuller had been there. He gave a last exasperated look around and spotted something in the couch. Kneeling down, he poked a hand in-between the cushions and saw the pacifier. Satisfied, he hurried back outside the Tom.

"Great news!" Richie announced. "There's a pacifier stuck in the couch."

"You didn't touch it, did you?" Karrow commented as he punched the numbers in on his phone.

"Of course not."

"Good." He turned out of the rain as the phone was answered. "Detective Powell please."

Richie scowled taking a few steps back. "Why are you callin' him?"

"So they can come toss the apartment and discover what you already have."

"But-"

"It will be all right, trust me. This is how we clear your name." There was the sound of Powell's voice and Tom gave him his attention. "I have information for you regarding the Fuller kidnapping. A woman was seen with an infant fitting the description." He quickly gave the address to Powell, then got off the phone. "Now we can let justice take it's true course." He turned back to Richie. Richie was gone.

-------------------------

Duncan wished he had a better plan for his encounter with Felicia. It was beginning to get late, street lights were starting to come on around the water front. Sword drawn, he made his way down towards the warehouse Dawson had pointed out. He waited, anticipating the feeling of her presence. The docks were silent and empty, the only sound that of waves gently lapping against the pilings and the raindrops hitting the water surface. He stepped inside the yawning opening to the warehouse and felt his skin crawl. "Felicia!" he called out.

"Yes, Duncan, I am here," she announced quietly, moving out of the shadow of the stacks of crates. "Have you come for me?"

"No, I have come for Chelsea Fuller," he replied.

She chuckled. "Who? A little mortal child? Whatever could the great Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod want with such a trivial life?"

"Don't play games with me; where is the baby?"

She swung her sword up with a whistle as it cut the air. "That's what this is all about, isn't it?" She came within striking distance, and stopped walking. "Do you think you can still take my head, MacLeod?"

"I don't want to take your head; I want the baby," he countered her gentle thrust.

"What a shame," she retorted, "because I want yours!" She lunged forward with an attack, sweeping the sword before her with strong broad movements. Mac feigned them off without effort, keeping his part in check. She laughed as she launched another offense. "What a terrific advantage! You don't want to kill me!"

-------------------------

Dawson kept up the wet hunt for Chelsea Fuller, searching amongst the crates and warehouses along the dock. He knew he could look forever and not find her. He hoped Felicia had not simply tossed the infant into the sea. It was dusk and he had exhausted not only the search but himself and began making his way back towards the warehouse to which Mac had gone. He was, after all, a watcher.

"Dawson!"

He spun to see Richie looking down at him from the road above the docks. "Richie! What are you doing here!"

"Watching the Watcher," he replied with a slight grin as Joe came up the steps to him.

"Felicia's here."

"She and Mac are..." he swished a finger through the air.

"I'm sure they aren't just talking it out," Joe remarked dryly.

"I gotta get down there." Richie pushed past him.

"Richie," Joe grabbed his arm, "you can't interfere."

"Yeah, well, Mac won't kill her."

"I know he doesn't want to."

"I'm telling you, she's gonna win, cause he won't kill her!" He pulled away and ran for the warehouse.

-------------------------

Mac's attacks became stronger and stronger as Felicia seemed to become more cunning with her movements. He was surprised that she seemed to know his each move even before he accomplished it.

"I know your method, MacLeod!" she announced, "I can beat you!"

He did not spend time with the response. He'd already become aware that she had memorized his common strategies. It required inventing new patterns as he went along. He remembered their first encounter andFelicia's uncanny ability to recall her opponent's attacks. It would not be too difficult to kill her. He allowed two sure kill opportunities to go by. The trick was in defeating her yet keeping her alive. The swords sparked as they clashed in the semi-dark warehouse. He dodged a thrust and Felicia sank her blade into the side of a dishwasher. It caught for a precious moment. Mac swept the katana towards her sword arm and at the last instant, she avoided it as the sword came free. But in the action, she was placed off balance and left her left side unprotected. He brought the sword in low, catching her left leg and she cried out moving to the right. His blade was there and he thrust it deeply into her side. She fell to her knees, her sword still clutched in both hands. The katana whipped through the air, ringing off the other sword as she blocked his blow. He returned with a back thrust and she spun her sword left causing the blade to slide down the katana narrowly missing Mac's hand on the hilt of the unguarded katana. She attempted to regain her footing, but his foot kicked hers out and she fell back to her knees, dropping a hand to steady herself. She cried out.

Duncan wielded the razor sharp sword with all his enraged might staying it just as it touched Felicia's neck.

She jumped in fear, realizing her vulnerability. "You kill me and you'll never find that child!" she squeaked.

His face close to hers, eyes blazing, he demanded. "Where is she, Felicia. For your own sake, she'd better be alive!"

"I have her," she assured him, her hands still shaking. "She's right here. I'll show you. But you promise not to kill me."

"I won't kill you--this time," he agreed. "Now, show me."

He kept the sword to her neck as she slowly got to her feet and walked towards the rear of the warehouse where a refrigerator had been revealed from its half torn carton. She opened the door of it, and instantly could be heard the plaintiff wailing of a small infant.

"You stuffed her in a freezer!" Duncan yelled.

She pulled out an large old canvas purse that twisted and squirmed with life inside. "Here!" She pushed the bag towards him coldly.

He accepted the baby with much more care than she gave and quickly opened the satchel to see the tiny screaming infant, her little curls plastered with sweat against her small red face. She was both hungry and wet.

And she had his full attention.

He never saw the dagger Felicia had hidden in her sleeve. She sank it into his back with all her strength. He gasped in shock and pain, staggering forward, and dropping to his knees managing to twist as he fell to protect Chelsea. He tried to come up with his sword, but Felicia was quicker, stepping on the blade and pressing it to the floor, pinching his fingers beneath it.

"So, Highlander, it all comes down to this. You care too deeply for these pitiful mortals." She laughed and raised her sword. "Will you beg for your life?"

He just stared at her realizing that this time there would not be any coming back from death. He wanted to ask her to spare the baby that still lay shrieking at his chest, but he did not.

"I always have the final word," she said, the tinge of a triumphant grin curling the edges of her lips. There was a sudden clatter of chains whipping through the block and tackle pulley of the loft of the warehouse and at the same instant the warning tingle of another immortal. Felicia spun in confused shock.

"Do it, Felicia, I dare you," Richie stood before her. His sudden appearance by sliding down the chain had made even the mortal's inborn warning system almost useless, for by the time she'd sensed him, he'd been there.

"You can't interfere," she snapped.

"So what, sue me."

"The rules!" she screamed.

"What rules? The rules you ignored when you wanted to take me unarmed and in shackles?" he demanded.

Before she could respond, there was another immortal at the door and Karrow came through, sword drawn.

"Well," he said quietly, tucking his machete back under his arm.

"This is my fight, Karrow," Richie declared.

"So it would appear," he agreed.

Felicia leapt back with the reflexes of cat. "Then take me if you can, boy!" She raced towards a translucent window which she dove through to make her escape from the warehouse.

"Let her go," Mac advised, still clinging to the baby, starting to recover from the knife wound. Karrow helped him sit up.

"You okay, Mac?" Richie asked quickly, but his attention was towards Felicia's exit.

"Fine," he muttered, trying to settle both himself and the crying Chelsea. "Where'd you learn that entrance?"

"Batman comics," he remarked, turning at a run for the door, sword in hand.

"Richie!" Mac shouted after him, "let her go!"

"Not a chance!" he shouted and disappeared through the open doorway.

As Tom pulled him to his feet Mac scooped up his sword. "Come on, we've got to stop him."

Tom held him back. "No we don't. It is his choice to make."

"She'll kill him, Tom."

"Perhaps," Karrow said evenly, "but it is still his choice. He must live his own life. Let him go." He pointed to Chelsea who had, for the moment, stopped crying to catch her breath. "We have a more important charge right now."

-------------------------

Felicia ran through the drizzling rain down the wharf of the waterfront, splashing through puddles knowing Richie was just moments behind her. She side stepped behind a steel cargo container. Richie had seen where she went and when he came to the spot, stopped, then proceeded more slowly through the narrow opening, sword first. He knew she was still close by, the this labyrinth-like passage between the cargo containers made for poor visibility. "Show yourself, Felicia!" he shouted.

"Consider yourself lucky, Richie!" her voice shouted back. "Maybe it isn't your day to die."

"We'll see who's gonna die." He made a quick turn around a corner but no one was there. The soft drumming of rain against the metal boxes seemed to gentle for the circumstances.

"Can you kill a woman you once made love to?" she called back, a softer tone to her voice.

"Just as quick as you'd kill me," he promised, no indication of hesitation in his reply.

"But I don't want to kill you." She said, suddenly stepping out in front of him, sword ahead, but lowered.

He took a quick backward step. "Yeah, right. What was that little act in the prison van? Exercise."

"It's never been you I wanted. I just wanted MacLeod and you and that Fuller kid were convenient."

"Convenient?" he muttered, anger plain on his face and in his eyes.

"You've got nothing to offer me. You haven't the experience to make a difference. I'll be back for MacLeod another day." She retreated a few steps, sword still lowered. "Live and grow older--maybe someday I'll be back for you."

"Fat chance, sister!" He shouted, striking forward with his sword.

Felicia countered the move and returned a high octave, that he counter-octave to the left, trying to sweep the blade from her hand. But she was far to quick for the plan and moved with the lunge. The dagger she kept in her left sleeve sprang to her hand and as she passed, she took a savage stab at Richie's side, catching only his coat which ripped loudly. "That was one of MacLeod's basic moves, Richie. They're useless, I know them all!"

"Mac always said you talked too much!" he snapped, feigning back, then moving in with a lower sixtie that changed course and speed half way through to end in an upward movement. She dodged it, just barely, and jumped back through an opening in the cargo containers. He thrust his blade through, angrily, after her, then followed it. He knew he'd have to rely on moves he's learned that were not MacLeod's. She really did talk too much. The rain was falling harder, running down the sides of the containers. He was soaked to the skin and the torn panel of his jacket dragged behind him like a puppy's tail. He cautiously moved through the passage between the storage boxes, straining his eyes and ears. The light was poor, coming from just one street light and than one almost a block away. He wondered if he should call off this little hunt for a better time, but decided that be what Felicia wanted. Perhaps the weather gave him an edge. There was a glimmer of metal and he jumped back just as Felicia's sword swept through an opening narrowly missing his head. The blades clashed, sparking in the blackness as she strove ahead with all her power. He retreated, step by step, knowing, without needing to look how much space he had till he reached the metal wall behind him. With two steps left, he turned bracing his left shoulder against the wall, and gave an upward sideways kick with his right foot delivered straight to Felicia's stomach. It did not have as tremendous an impact as it would have had on a man's groin area, but she stumbled back, having the air unexpectedly knocked out of her. He sprang after her, sword ready and descending, but she managed to get hers up. The blades locked for a moment, giving Felicia just enough time to regain her footing. She twisted away, bringing her left arm forward again with the dagger, but this time caught only air.

"You're not the only one who can learn," Richie muttered wryly.

She broke off the contact, backing several steps, then dodged back through the space between the cargo boxes. This time, she wasn't waiting to reform a strategy. She'd seen enough to know she just wanted to get away.

Richie followed in careful pursuit. As he reached the open wharf, he glanced around unable to find her. For a moment, he felt pangs of disappointment. The thought that Felicia was still running around somewhere embittered him. He didn't even know if the cops would buy into Karrow's evidence of the baby in Felicia's apartment. At last, water dripping from his hair and arms, he put the sword away. Tonight's fighting was over. He thought about checking in with Mac, then changed him mind. No doubt Dawson had been out there somewhere. He was too disgusted to talk with anyone.

He leaned against the damp cold metal of the street lamp for a moment, listening to the night. The rain had tapered off, but now seemed to gain new strength as the heavens themselves opened pouring new cold water over him. He snapped to attention as he thought he saw something move at the edge of the roof of the warehouse above him. A cat--maybe. Then he felt the sense of a presence. It had to be Felicia. He took hold of the slippery drainpipe and shinnied up effortlessly. Just below the roof line, he paused, listening, clinging to the pipe as his breath came in little puffs. One bolt from the bracket holding the pipe to the warehouse wall gave a loud snap as it broke from his weight.

"You should have left when you had the chance, Richie," Felicia commented.

He could tell she was right above him. She always did have to have the final word, he thought. Knowing where she was, he suddenly reached up with one hand and grabbed hold of her left ankle--right where he knew it would be and yanked forward. The other side of the drain pipe bolt broke and the pipe shivered.

Cursing, she fell loudly onto the tin roof, started to slip towards the edge, then managed to turn around head--and sword--first. As her arm reached the edge, she swept it and the sword downward. Legs wrapped tightly around the gutter pipe, Richie grabbed hold of the extended wrist with both hands to pulled her off the roof. The second bracket, unable to withstand the strain tore off just as Felicia fell from the edge of the roof.

She fell with a shocked scream that came to an abrupt halt below. Felicia lay impaled on the cyclone fencing that divided the dockyard from the street beyond. The sharp steel wiring had been driven deeply into her back.

The drain pipe gave an audible deep metallic groan and ripped free from the wall, throwing Richie towards Felicia on the fence. With an evil smile, touched by a wince of agonizing pain, she lifted her sword to greet him as he fell, kicking, atop of her. The cyclone fence buckled from the additional weight, crushing it onto a no parking sign.

Richie fell off the fence onto the rain soaked concrete sidewalk, run-through the chest by her sword. He lay curled on his side just a moment, made an unsuccessful attempt to withdraw the weapon, then, in spite of the pain, felt the electric tingle as the hair rose on the back of his neck. He looked towards the fence. "Whoa," he whispered. The sharp metal edge of a no parking sign and effected the clean decapitation of Felicia. A bright bolt of electrical energy exploded from Felicia's body and hit him where he lay still gripping the sword hilt in his chest. He received the rest of the quickening as the bolts blazed across the wharf area, knocking out he street lamp globe, and ricocheting off the metal cargo containers. The rainy puddles bubbled and evaporated in hisses of steam, windows shattered in the warehouse.

As the quickening faded away, he finally pulled the sword free with the last of his energy. Momentary death was approaching. He heard slowly approaching footfalls and looked up as Joe Dawson, shielded by an umbrella stood over him. "I had the final word," Richie whispered, then fainted.

-------------------------

Joe's was bustling with activity of friendly customers, clinking glassware and the warm moist aroma of beer. The cold weather made it seem even more cozy inside. Tom and MacLeod shared a corner of the bar, an island of sobriety in the sea of joyfulness around them.

Tom poked at the folded check that lay on the bar before them one more time as Mac glanced at his watch. "You checked it three minutes ago," Tom reminded him.

Mac made a face. "Just wondering."

Mike refilled their beer mugs as he passed by.

Just then, the door to the bar opened and they both turned, but knew it was no immortal. Joe Dawson came inside, shaking raindrops off his coat. He glanced around the room, meeting eye contact with Tom and Duncan. He slowly took off his coat, hung it on a hook, then made his way behind the bar.

Mac approached him. "Well?" Even as he said it, he felt the tingling warning and turned back towards the door as it opened again. He felt a weight fall away from him as Richie came through the door. "Richie!" he exclaimed in relief and hurrying over clapped an arm around his shoulder, ignoring the dripping water.

Tom motioned towards Mike. "Whiskey."

Richie slid onto a bar stool. Water dripped from his shredded jacket that he held close to hide the bloody shirt beneath. A small puddle formed on the floor. "She won't be back, Mac," he mumbled.

He nodded. "That's good. The police will be looking for her, will they find her?"

Richie picked up the shot glass and bottomed-up and whiskey. He winced as the strong alcohol stung his throat, but he felt the good wash of warmth that followed. "Yeah. They will. Accidental or maybe suicide."

"Good," Tom said with a smile. "The Fuller child is well. Her grandfather gave this to you with his apologies." He pushed the check across the bar top.

Richie angrily pushed it away without looking at it. "I don't want his sucker money. I don't want any part of him."

"Richie, they made a mistake," Mac said gently. "It was Felicia who set you up, not Sedwick Fuller."

He turned his back on the counter. "I'll see you round. I need some sleep."

Tom snatched up the check as Mac took hold of Richie's elbow to stop him. "Rich," Duncan said quietly, "can't I at least say thank you?"

He cracked a small grin. "You've sure bailed me out often enough. I owed you one."

"Why don't you come stay at the dojo tonight? Tom and I rented a bunch of Steven Seagal movies. Come with us," Mac invited.

He hesitated. "Naw, I'm tired. I've got things to do."

Mac let him go, wanting to say more.

Tom gave Mac a quick thump on the back, and with a wink, chased Richie up the steps. "Young Richard, it is time someone had a talk with you."

He rolled his eyes, hand on the door handle. "Really, Tom, Mac can tell you, I outgrew father son talks a long time ago."

Tom held up the check between two fingers. "How about financial counselor advice?"

"I don't want Fuller's guilt money," he repeated.

"Then you're a fool as well as stubborn," Tom announced and grabbed Richie by the nape of his neck in a viselike clasp of his large hand. "Dawson! I'm taking your office!" He announced causing every head in the bar to turn. He then pushed Richie inside the tiny rest room barely large enough to contain the toilet and sink. He locked the door.

"Hey, you're a good guy, Karrow, but isn't this a little too personal?" Richie remarked.

"You are immortal." He announced coldly, ignoring the remark.

"No kidding," Richie muttered, feeling oddly like he was in the principal's office.

"There is a responsibility that comes with that. Have you figured what it's all about yet?" Tom said quietly, drawing up face to face.

Richie looked him in the eye then dropped his gaze. "No. Know anybody who has?"

"We are give so much more to work with that mortals are. If you don't like your life you can change it."

Richie glared. "How?"

"By using your opportunities when they arise!" He thrust the check towards Richie again. "Damn Sedwick Fuller, money is money, boy."

He did not answer.

"We put our past behind us. I started life as a bee-eater. Do you know what that is?"

He shook his head.

"I was the simpleton of the village who found honey and took it from the bees, permitting them to sting me over and over in the process. I was a true simple fool, baring pain for others. My first death was not a noble one in battle, I died of bee stings! But I did not stay a bee-eater. I have been a doctor, a shipbuilder, seaman, captain, a lawyer and I hope to have opportunity to be much much more. I would like to sail the skies to the moon someday. Do you think I shall?" Tom looked him cold in the eye.

Richie slowly nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I believe you will."

"It all starts somewhere." He held up the check again. "Just invest half of this in a simple savings account and in a hundred years or so you shall be wealthy beyond your dreams. You have to stop dwelling on the moment and expand your horizons."

Richie slowly accepted the check from Tom.

"And you need to trust your friends," Tom added.

He sighed. "You don't understand."

"Oh, yes I do," Tom said quietly. "I've had my neck on the line more than a time or two--sometimes by those I trusted. We cannot change who or what we are, nor can we change what we must do. But the point is that taking heads is what we do, not what we are. You and only you can change what happens to you. Even an immortal's life is what he makes it." He suddenly opened the door and left, closing it behind him, leaving Richie standing in the little bath staring at the check.

-------------------------

"You sure you know what you're doing?" Mac asked as he tossed Richie the white duffel of clothes.

"No, not at all," he admitted closing the car door. He walked down the dock to where Tom's sailboat was tied up. "Why is this a mistake?"

Mac shrugged.

"Mac!"

"What?" He looked away.

"What am I getting into?"

"A little late for that, isn't it?"

He started to reply.

"About time!" shouted Tom coming up from below decks. "What a great day this is!" he announced spreading his arms to take in the deep blue sea and sky and the warm sunshine. "Get that box, will you?"

Richie tossed the duffel onto the deck and went to pick up the crate of Perrier water.

"Take it below." Tom watched as he disappeared with it.

"You sure you know what you're doing?" Mac repeated his earlier question, this time of Tom.

He gave a robust laugh. "You should join us. We'd have a grand time."

"Around the world in a sailboat?" Mac smiled. "I've done that before."

Richie bounded back up to the deck.

"Get that duffel stowed!" Tom shouted, giving it a small kick towards Richie.

He hesitated, then picked it up and disappeared again.

"You're gonna give the treatment?" Mac mumbled, hunching his shoulders.

Tom burst into a toothy grin. "The whole treatment." He turned and called down the hatch. "Get back up here! Time to cast off!"

Richie hurried back up the steps. "Mac?" he said, looking unsure.

Mac patted him on the shoulder. "I'll miss you," he admitted.

"Mac?" he repeated, a little more plantiffly.

Tom was casting off the lines. "Get that aft line, lubber!" he shouted at Richie. "We'll see you in time for Christmas, MacLeod."

Duncan stood on the dock, watching, as the sailor moved away from it's berth and, guided by the small motor, chugged out into the harbor.

"Mac!" Richie called one more time from the deck.

He smiled and waved. "Have a great trip!"

Moments later, the large main sail was unfurling into the morning breeze as the boat streaked towards the open sea, gulls calling behind it.

MacLeod watched until it was no more than a spec on the horizon, and then, with

smile, turned back towards home.

End