Highlander, the concept, and all that including Duncan, Richie, Joe, Methos, Amanda, and the continent of Africa (just kidding) belong to Rysher and Friends. The only payment is your expressed feelings. Tom Karrow is mine.

Featured regulars: MacLeod, Richie, Amanda, Methos, Joe

Values
by Peg Keeley
fpkeeley@admin.hilconet.com

(Cape Town, South Africa)
The glass doors to the airport terminal hissed apart as Tom Karrow exited onto the walkway, searching in vain for a taxi. Behind him trailed Richie Ryan, although it would have been difficult to identify him laden down with three duffels and a garment bag.

A tall, uniformed porter spotted them and extended a gloved hand towards Richie. "May I be of assistance?"

Tom waved him away. "No, we're fine." He kept looking around for transportation. "Tell me," he called back to the porter, "how does one get a cab?"

He offered a broad smile. "They are on strike."

"Blast," Tom grumbled. "You see why I never bother myself with public transportation?"

"Uh-huh," Richie replied as the garment bag slipped and fell to the pavement.

Tom scooped it up and draped it back over the top of Richie's load. "We'll need to rent a car. I tell you, Richard, America is contaminating the world. Cabby strikes, indeed. Wait here. I'll be back."

"Happy to," he muttered and promptly dropped the luggage to the sidewalk in a heap. He watched Tom go back into the terminal and wiped a hand across his brow. It was hot and humid. It had been cold and snowy when they had left Seacouver. It didn't seem right that South Africa should be hot in January. Tom had explained it to him--something about the earth's tilt on its axis and proximity to the sun, but he hadn't really paid attention. Geography had always bored him--or was it astronomy? He wondered how hard it would be to locate Genevieve, Tom's forty foot sailboat. The guy was still barely talking to him, even though he had only been following Tom's orders when he sold it. He sat down on the mound of baggage to wait.

Tom Karrow -- friend of Duncan MacLeod -- the large, bearded, sailor who wandered through his Immortality spreading stories and folklore. Richie had thought it would be exciting to sail the world aboard Genevieve, but Karrow had proved to be as harsh a captain as he was captivating a raconteur. Richie had been considering jumping ship when they put in at Cape Town. In an odd turn of events, Tom gave him the title to Genevieve with instructions to sell her then vanished. It seemed logical that another Immortal had taken Tom's head. In a panic, Richie had raced for Seacouver believing MacLeod would know some answers. When the living nightmare was over, Tom was alive and well, and looking for his boat.

It just wasn't fair. Richie sighed.

"Richard!" Tom's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Up with you now!" A car key on a little, cardboard tag hung over one finger. "The rental lot is that way!" He gestured across the highway and airport parking lot.

Richie judged the distance to be almost a quarter mile. "How about I wait here with the bags?" he suggested.

"Don't be silly. Get that stuff up and let's go." Tom started off, not waiting for him.

Cursing how he ever got involved with Karrow once, let alone twice, Richie collected the bags and hurried to catch up.
--------------------------
Tom stood for a moment on the street corner in silence. The part of town was poor and, although poor sections of Cape Town were certainly not hard to find, this one seemed to have outdone itself in squalor. Many of the shacks lining the dirt road were of corrugated tin and fiberglass held together with who knows what. Small, nearly naked children peeked out of doorways and on seeing well-dressed foreigners shyly approached, open hands extended. Tom looked back at the weather beaten two story frame building. "Why in Heaven's name did you pick such a place?" he muttered to Richie as he found a few coins and a pack of gum to pass out to the children.

"I was in a hurry, remember?" Richie commented. "I didn't exactly have time to place a classified ad and wait for results."

"But--really." Tom shook his head, indignation showing."Very well. Go up there and talk to the man."

"Me?" Richie asked, surprise plain. He remembered Gunther Van Korf well. The man had been rude, filthy, and intimidating.

"And why not you?" Tom demanded, impatience swelling.

"Well, it's just that..." his voice trailed off.

Tom turned his back on Richie and drew in the cluster of children. "Would you all like to hear a story?" he asked them excitedly.

There were giggles and squeals of delight.

"Once upon a time, in a land where it is dark for half the year..." Tom began.

Richie sighed and crossed the street. He stood at the bottom of the outside stairway for a moment, glanced back at Tom, and caught the older Immortal's warning glare. In resignation, he slowly climbed the steps that ended before an old door whose paint at one time had been white. When he knocked, the peeling yellowed paint fell away in chips.

"Come!" came a thick voice from inside.

Richie opened the door and stepped through it.

Gunther sat sprawled behind his paper littered desk. The same sticky puddle from some kind of spilled drink was still on the desk top from two weeks ago. There was a slowly rotating ceiling fan caked with greasy dust, but the air hardly moved in the stuffy room. Flies buzzed relentlessly in a holding pattern above an open box of old donuts. "You," Gunther muttered around the cheap cigar in his mouth, recognizing Richie. "Got another boat to sell?"

"No," he said. "I came to get back the other one."

Gunther sat still, then issued one snort of a laugh. "Get lost, kid."

"I've got your money-"

He jumped to his feet sending the donut box flying. Four roaches scurried away from the desk where it had been. "Beat it--now!"

Richie reached inside his pocket after the money, but before he had made it half way, Gunther was on him--a gun at his throat.

"Hand back out--real slow like, Kid."

He froze, trying not to gasp at the closeness of Gunther's unwashed body. "I've got your money."

Gun still in hand, Gunther took one step back. "Show me."

Gingerly, Richie pulled out his wallet and peeled off the bills.

"So, what's the deal here?" Gunther asked, keeping his eyes on the money.

"Seller wants it back. He changed his mind."

"You stole it, didn't you? You get caught?"

"No!" Richie insisted. "You remember, I showed you the title."

"Yeah--good copy job, too. I says to myself I'd keep you in mind if I ever wanted to do some recycling work--know what I mean?" Gunther dropped the pistol into the desk drawer. "But, kid," he shrugged. "This is business."

"Did you sell it?"

"Hell, yes. You don't think I'd leave a two hundred thousand dollar boat laying around, do you?"

"Two--you gave me a hundred thousand rand. At the exchange rate--"

"Yeah, yeah," he waved the cigar. "Three times as much. Welcome to inflation."

Richie's ego hurt. He had already been outsmarted by this guy once. "Well, who'd you sell it to? I'll go talk-"

Gunther waved a hand. "Naw, nobody's gonna talk to the likes of you." He paced the room, pretending to be in thought. "Tell you what I'll do. You give me the money--and, say, twenty percent more for the trouble. I'll go talk with the buyer and get back to you with something."

Richie stuffed the bills back into his pocket. "No way, dog breath." He turned his back to leave.

Gunther leapt forward, slamming Richie into the closed door. Grasping Richie's collar, he flung him over the desk onto the floor as bugs scattered. "I tried to be nice, Kid!" Gunther punched him in the face. "Now just give me all you got!" He delivered a second blow that Richie got a hand up to stop. But Gunther was big and fast in spite of his slovenliness. Furniture crashed and shattered as they fought and in just a matter of moments, Richie was flat on his face on the floor, Gunther's knee in his back, his arms pinned behind him. "Now," Gunther said with a laugh. "I get the money! Otherwise, I can get the money and more. White slavers take cute little boys, too, you know!"

The door suddenly exploded inward off its hinges and Gunther was slammed across his messy, sticky desk. He stared, eyes wide and mouth agape, into the purple, furious face of an enormous bearded man whose large fist was using Gunther's shirt collar to squeeze off his air.

Gunther issued a guttural sound, trying to breathe.

"My boat," Tom Karrow thundered.

Blood pounding in his ears, Gunther's mouth moved rapidly as he tried to talk through the strangle-hold.

Richie scrambled to his feet. "We can't find the boat if you kill him, Tom."

"Shut up!" Tom snapped at him. "Is this the little sniveling worm who helped you fence it?" He turned his attention back to Gunther and snarled: "Where is it?!" He released the collar just a little.

Gunther, still gasping for breath, mumbled something unintelligible. Finally, glaring at Richie, he managed: "I knew it. That little bastard, he said he held the title. But I thought it was a fake."

"That didn't stop you from selling the boat," Tom stated coldly. "Where is it?"

"I'd have to look it up." Gunther waved a hand towards a half open file cabinet.

Tom released him. Gunther quickly rallied himself and made it to the far side of the room where the file cabinet stood. "Records," he muttered. "I keep records." He reached into the drawer that was stuffed with paper. "You're gonna make this little thief pay, right?" Gunther asked of Tom.

Tom looked at Richie who was wiping the blood off his nose. "I'll think about it," Tom offered.

Richie started to open his mouth, but Tom's look made him stop.

Gunther spun from the file, a gun in hand, a little smile on his lips. "Can't be too careful, can we?"

Tom half raised his hands. "Aha," he said calmly. "It would seem the last hand has not been played."

"How true." Gunther motioned to Richie. "Get over there with him."

Richie moved beside Tom.

"Now, empty your pockets. You first." He pointed the gun at Richie.

He hesitated wondering if Tom had some kind of plan. Mac would have had a plan.

"Do it," Tom advised him.

He angrily dumped out the boat money, a collection of coins and a few US dollars onto the desktop.

"Now you," Gunther instructed Tom.

"Just for the record," Tom said quietly. "It was the real title."

Gunther shrugged. "Looked fake to me."

"Oh no," Tom assured him. "There's a watermark on the lower left corner."

Without taking his eye off Tom, Gunther reached down with his left hand, slid open the upper desk drawer and pulled out a cigar box. Opening the lid, he picked up the title. He cracked a grin. "Well, I guess I can sell it again then, can't I? Seeing as you'll both be dead. Thanks for the tip. Now, if it isn't too much trouble--your valuables," he said politely to Tom.

Tom reached his hand into the inside breast pocket of his jacket.

Gunther tisked with a smile. "Uh-Uh, use the left, if you don't mind."

Tom gave a simple smile, bringing his hand back. "As you wish." There was a sudden whistle as the machete gripped in his left hand cut through the air, slicing through Gunther's right wrist.

Gunther shrieked in pain grabbing the stump of arm as the blood spurted across the room.

The desk light shattered on the floor as Tom grabbed the light cord and wrapped it tightly around Gunther's arm to control the bleeding. He calmly picked up the twitching hand and lay it on the desk in front of the agonized man. Snatching the cigar box off the desk, he grinned. "If you go very quickly to a hospital, you may find a good surgeon who can reattach that." He turned to Richie who stood, transfixed in shock. "What's the matter with you? Didn't you know I was left handed?"

"Uh," he murmured.

"Get your money. Let's go."

He hesitantly reached across the desk where the appendage still twitched, grabbed a handful of his cash and fled as his stomach threatened to return his lunch.

As they decended the stairs to the street, Richie tried to settle his stomach and his nerves. "You told me to sell that boat, Tom."

Without missing a stride, Karrow slammed Richie in the head with a backhanded blow, knocking him face first into a wooden wall. Richie tumbled down the stairs to the dusty ground. He jumped back to his feet in angered surprise.

"What the hell was that for?" he demanded.

"Stay in character," Tom growled.

--------------------------------------------
Richie was not sure what made him pause outside the store front of the pet shop. Maybe he needed some unconditional love and the little white puppy on display seemed to be putting on his best show in the cedar chips just for him. He watched for a minute or two before he noticed the "going out of business" sign in the window. It was a cute puppy. He wondered what would happen to him. He entered the shop, not really planning to buy the little dog, but he was curious.

The girl at the register looked up quickly, wiping her eyes.

She's been crying. What about? Richie felt a sudden urge to protect her. "Hi," he tried to sound friendly, then stopped and stared.

She was staring at him, too. "Do I know you?" she asked timidly.

"Ginger Cadley?" he guessed.

"Richie Ryan?" she said with a smile, shaking her head. "Who would have imagined that half way around the world-"

"What are you doing here?" he put in. "I haven't seen you in-- six years?" She's older. She looks older. Not old, just older. She's a woman. I'm a boy. I'll always be a boy.

"You haven't changed a bit!" she said cheerfully. "I can't believe I ran into you in South Africa of all places!"

"I was, uh, in town," he offered lamely. "You work here?"

"I own the place. When my Dad retired from the military I decided to stay here. It's an exciting place to be. I really like it but--" she shrugged, "--I guess I don't have a good head for business. I lost my lease."

"That's too bad," he consoled her.

She tried to brush it off. "So what brings you here?"

"I--hum--" An idea burst into his mind. If Karrow can do it, so can I. "I'm in investigation." He made it sound mysterious.

She looked doubtful. "You? The most likely to flunk out? You work for police?"

"Well," he shrugged, "I wouldn't say police--exactly. I'm really not supposed to talk about it."

"How cool," she answered, envisioning things like CIA. "You here for long?"

"You know how it is," he said quietly, leaning across the counter. "You never know. But I'd love to take you to dinner."

Ginger sighed. "That would be great, Richie, but I really need to find a place for these animals."

"Oh?" He looked around at the cages amongst the cardboard boxes.

"I have a buyer for the supplies," she explained, "but I need a place to keep the animals until I can get a buyer for them. It'll only be about a week." She looked at him meekly.

He opened his mouth, then shut it.

"I don't suppose..." She looked at him with large sad eyes.

He swallowed.
------------------------------------------
"This is the last," Ginger promised as she hauled a bird cage containing a large multicolored macaw up the stairway of the boarding house where Tom and Richie were renting a studio.

Richie followed with an animal carrier in either hand and an empty litter pan tucked under one arm. They shut the door behind them and the little white puppy came running across the floor yipping at them hysterically. In his excitement, the dog wet on the floor.

Ginger set the bird cage down and the parrot squawked and flapped its wings, sending feathers flying. "He's molting," she explained, brushing the fine white down off her shirt.

He put down the two carriers. One contained a three foot python, the other an orange tabby cat. He opened the one containing the cat. "Here kitty," he put a hand inside.

The cat spit at him and scratched him with a savage swipe.

"Ow!" He retreated.

Ginger hurried over. "Are you okay? Percy really is a sweetheart once you get to know him." She lifted the large cat out and it glared coldly at Richie.

"Uh-huh."

"This is really great of you," she said, putting the cat down on the couch and scooping up the small monkey that was hanging from the drapes.

"Oh, it's nothing," he assured her if Tom doesn't kill me.

"I promise, I'll get them out of here as fast as I can." She dragged a large bag of dry cat food over to the kitchen sink. A ferret scurried across the cage to chatter at her. "Oh." She knelt. "She is so sensitive. It will take her a while to adjust."

"Adjust?" he asked. "Hey! Stop that!" He dove under the table to stop the puppy from chewing on a chair leg. Just as he grabbed it, he felt the tingle of an approaching Immortal. Coming up, he banged his head on the table. "Ow!"

The door opened and Tom stood there for just a split second viewing the pandemonium. He carefully shut the door, booting the monkey back inside gently before doing so as if the little primate had always been there. "Richard," he said quietly. "Have we dinner guests?"

"Tom Karrow, Ginger Cadley," Richie said quickly wondering when and if Tom would explode.

"A pleasure to meet you," he said to Ginger with a smile. He walked over to the refrigerator, opened the door and pulled out a half empty bottle of wine. "Join me?" he asked them.

Ginger shook her head, glancing at Richie who looked about to faint.

Tom shrugged, poured a glass and took a sip. He paused to savor the flavor. "I assume there is some explanation for Noah's Ark." He walked over to the couch where Percy lay and sat down.

"Watch out!" Richie warned.

Percy had already slowly risen and stepped over to Tom, sniffed him once and curled up in his lap.

Richie scowled.

"I lost my lease on my shop," Ginger offered. "Richie's letting me keep my animals here until I can find a buyer for them."

Tom nodded quietly. "Very generous of him."

Ginger smiled. "Oh yes, and you, too! He said his partner was a wonderful man."

"Did he now?" Tom gave a broad smile and lifted his glass towards Richie.

Richie winced.

"It was okay, right?" she asked. "I mean, his telling me about what you do."

"What we do?" Tom said smoothly.

"Intelligence and all," she said in a whisper.

"My dear girl, I do not doubt Richard's ability to judge a trustworthy person. I know our secret is safe with you."

Richie turned away to the kitchen sink wondering how he would ever justify this to Tom but grateful he was covering. There was a yowl as he stepped on a kitten's tail. He picked it up and petted it; the little creature wiggled and batted with his fingers.

"Richard," Tom called to him, "about our mission."

"Mission--oh, yeah?" he asked.

"Should I leave?" Ginger suggested.

"Perceptive young woman," Tom commented patting her arm. "That would be best."

"I'll pick you up at eight for dinner," Richie told her.

After the door closed Tom glanced around the room and shook his head.

"Tom, I-"

He raised a hand. "Intelligence?" There was a sparkle in his eye. "You're learning, boy!" He gave Richie one of his teeth jarring back thumps. "Now, about the Genevieve. She left port two days ago headed for India with a crew of four."

"India? We need to go after her?" Richie asked.

"The tour was listed as a sight seeing venture. She will return."

"When?" Richie asked.

"I don't know, but I think we should wait her here for now. Besides," he waved around the room, "it seems you have your hands full here."
-------------------------------
Richie awoke with a start. There was a little black puppy nose in his mouth. Jumping to a sitting position, he spat. "Yuck!" The little white puppy was hopping all over him, its whole back end wagging wildly with its tail. Richie's bare feet touched the floor and into a cooled puddle of puppy urine. "Shit. No wait! That'll be next!" He grabbed a pair of pants and pulled them on quickly as he looked around for a leash. The monkey jumped away from the bathroom sink where it was trying out Richie's toothbrush on its fur. It scolded him loudly when he tried to take the brush away. Unable to find the leash, he put his belt on the small dog's collar and headed for the front door. The way was guarded by Percy who issued a tiger-like snarl as they approached. Both Richie and the puppy backed away. Gathering the whimpering pooch into his arms, Richie went out onto the patio landing, swung over the railing and dropped the one story down to the street. The puppy was totally terrified and relieved himself all over Richie's T-shirt. "Aw, man!" He put the dog down and walked him through the back alley, trying to remain hidden. After what seemed a short eternity, the puppy finished his business and Richie headed back up to the room.

As they came through the door, Richie expected to encounter Percy, but the orange cat had disappeared. Richie pulled off the soiled T-shirt. The monkey started to chatter loudly from where he was scampering around on the top of one of the animal carriers. Richie suddenly realized that it was the one the snake was kept in--and the door was open.

"You let the snake out!" He hollered at the little creature who ran up the curtain in fear and sat there peering down at him. Richie raced around looking under furniture and in closets trying to find the python. He did not know much about pythons, except they squeezed their prey to death and swallowed them whole. On his search, he found two kittens he popped into a carrier. The puppy darted around him thinking his scrambling was a game just for him. He found the last kitten under the stove and put her with her siblings.

"My God, where's Percy?" he whispered as he crawled under the table.

There was a loud knock at the door.

Getting out from under the table, he hit his head again. He yanked open the door. "What is it?" he growled and stopped cold. He was staring into the adam's apple of a large stranger.

"I am here to see Tom Karrow," the man said, a faint Dutch accent to his English.

"He's not here." Richie, for the first time, wondered where Tom was.

"I am Hans Freuder," he introduced himself and extended his right hand.

Richie accepted the handshake slowly, always suspicious and expecting trouble. This guy was tall, muscular, square jawed. He looked like he came out of Arnold Schwarzenegger's gene pool. "Well, Tom's not here," Richie repeated.

Hans moved into the room casting a quick glance over it as though looking for Tom. "I have a proposition for him."

"Well, I handle his affairs, so I'll give him the message," Richie answered, trying to sound tough.

He extended a business card. "I am in the diamond industry."

Richie chuckled, recalling Tom's collection of business cards. He gave the card a quick glance. "Yeah, right. You don't exactly look like somebody from DeBeers Consolidated." He slipped the card back into Hans' shirt pocket and gave it a pat. "Anybody can make a card, pal. Have a nice day and don't trip in the dog shit on your way out."

Hans' expression never changed. He did not move. "Is this some kind of act or are you actually this incredibly stupid?"

Richie was spared giving an answer as he sensed Tom's approach. The door opened. "Tom, this guy's asking for you."

Tom did an analysis of Freuder in an instant as he stood filling the doorway.

Hans turned and extended his card again.

Tom glanced at it as he shut the door. "Herr Freuder, how may I help you?"

"We have a mutual--acquaintance," Hans said casually. "I have some unfinished business with Mr. Van Korf. Did you hear he had a most unfortunate accident yesterday?" he asked in mock innocence.

"Really?" Tom said without surprise.

Richie moved away from the two men, keeping one ear on the discussion as he glanced behind the refrigerator.

"There is a most interesting part." Hans paused to light a cigarette. "The doctors were so surprised. He came out of surgery well. For some unexplained reason he fell dead. Most unusual." He gave a slight smile. "It may have been poison."

Richie was trying to look nonchalant as he glanced under cushions on the couch and behind the window drape.

Tom crossed the room to the kitchenette. "I assume there was a reason for his demise?"

"He was careless and loud."

"Would you care to join me in a drink?" Tom was aware it was not yet nine o'clock, but it still seemed like the right choice. "I am somehow mystified as to how I can be of assistance." He noticed Richie squat down and look quickly under the recliner. "What the devil are you doing?" he suddenly asked of him.

Hans turned.

Richie flushed. "The snake," he mumbled.

"The snake?" Tom repeated.

"The snake got out."

Hans glanced around. "What kind of snake?"

"Dangerous," Tom murmured, looking deeply troubled. "Cobra. Terribly poisonous. It might be better if you came back at another time."

Hans hesitated, then got back on track. "Mr. Karrow, I have come to offer you a business deal. You came into some unexpected wealth. Perhaps I might offer some financial counsel."

Tom looked at Hans with no hesitation. "Unexpected wealth? Could it be you have me confused with someone else?"

Hans managed a tolerant grin. "I think not," his voice was cold. "Gunther never could keep his mouth shut. There was over a million dollars worth of gold krugerrands in that box in his office. And you do have that box."

Tom gave a small shrug. "I claimed the title to my ship."

Hans crossed the room, breaking eye contact momentarily to make sure the floor was clear of serpents. He glanced at Richie who was checking out the bathroom. "You seem to be a man of the world, Mr. Karrow. I am not here to rob you." He brought a folded map from his inside jacket pocket. "The Free State Rovic Mine."

Tom glanced at the map and shook his head. "It collapsed years ago."

Hans spread the map across the table. "The section here." He pointed to a spot. "I have the rights and a geologist's report."He slowly handed the document over to Tom like a precious object.

Tom glanced over the paper, stopped and looked upward. He reached up into the chandelier and slowly lifted down the python. "Richard," he said flatly.

Richie accepted the reptile, looking carefully at its length, wondering if there would be a bulge if the python had managed to swallow a twelve pound cat. Yet, it seemed sleek and slim. He stuck the snake back into the pet carrier and sighed. He began to pay more attention to the discussion. Tom never told me about any gold. Why not? Was he keeping it for himself? In sudden revelation, he wondered how well he knew Tom Karrow.

Tom seemed bored. "Why don't you just sell the mine to a diamond cartel?" he said with a shrug, already knowing the answer. "South African law is very tough on illegal diamond transactions."

Freuder began to carefully fold his map. "Men like you and I do not need the attentions of conventional businesses. But," he gave a staged sigh, "if you have no interest, I shall be off."

Tom put a hand on Hans' that held the map. "I would need to see more."

Hans burst into a full toothy smile. "Exactly my thought."
-----------------------------------
The two land rovers sped up the smooth dirt road, leaving a dust trail in their wake. The first was occupied by Hans and his driver in front, Tom and Richie in back. The second vehicle held two more men and their supplies.

"Four hundred miles," Richie called over the wind and noise into Tom's ear. "It's a wild goose chase!"

Tom smiled and pointed out the window to where three giraffes had been put to flight by the vehicles. Their graceful gait seemed magically elegant for their long legs and necks. "Beautiful, aren't they?" he called back.

Richie watched them a moment, taking in the flat veldt dotted by shrubs and trees. There was a mystique, a wildness that the open savanna possessed he had seen nowhere else. He was not what one would call a wildlife fan. He preferred his air conditioned and his big game on the television set. Tom's point would be to relax and enjoy the minute. Carpe Diem. He sighed and let the hot, dry wind blow across his face. He hoped Ginger would get his note and feed her animals--and change the litter.

Hans said something in Afrikaan to the dark skinned driver, whom he called Ngalo, and he nodded in agreement. "There!"Hans said to Tom and pointed towards the bluish hills in the distance ahead of them. "Diamonds!"

Tom squinted and gave a nod. "We shall see, Herr Freuder."

"Yeah, right." Richie shook his head. "Four hundred miles of bugs and sand for what?"

Tom grinned. "The possibility, Boy. The dream."
----------------------------------------
Ngalo was definitely the one in charge of the workers. He shouted at the other two continually, making wild hand gestures, as they unloaded the supplies from the two land rovers. He was small, thin, and, Richie thought, a little insane. The skin was stretched tightly over the seemingly fragile bones of his hands and arms. His face, in contrast, was a road map of deep folds of wrinkles, although he was not over forty, and his large eyes bulged whenever he shouted at the workers.. His shotgun was usually either over one arm or in his hand. He laughed at nothing or everything with a peculiar giggle that was irritating. But he orchestrated a camp setup in less than five minutes, complete with a cook fire.

Richie wasn't happy with the great outdoors and did not look forward to sleeping on the ground. "Why couldn't we stay in a town somewhere?" he muttered.

Tom laughed. "The mine is here."

"Here where?" he asked , looking around the hillsides.

Tom chuckled. "We find the pipe--where the diamonds are in the earth. And we dig."

"Dig? Like shovels and coal?"

"Something like that." Tom patted his shoulder. "Tomorrow."
-------------------------------------
Tom awoke just after daybreak and could smell frying meat and coffee. He rolled over in the blanket and glanced at Richie still snoring beside him. "Wake up." He thumped him on the chest.

Richie's eyes flew open as he gasped. "Good Lord!" he muttered, collapsing back. "You scared the hell out of me!"

"Let's go," Tom stated, ignoring the complaint.

Hans was at the fire sipping on a bottle of beer. "Today you shall see the mine," he told Tom casually. "You shall not be disappointed."

He nodded and accepted a cup of black coffee. "So far, everything you've told me seems in order."

Two hours later, they were at the entrance to the entrance of the diamond mine.

"It looks like a big hole in the ground," Richie muttered in disappointment.

"What did you expect?" Tom asked, "a large neon sign blinking 'diamonds here'." There was a wooden reinforced path that led down one side of the hole that measured almost fifty yards across. It zigzagged its way downward until it disappeared into darkness below.

"This way," Hans stated boldly and led the way down the steps.

With only the slightest glance around, Tom followed.

Richie stood at the entrance and took a deep breath. It didn't look or feel safe. He had the odd premonition that this was going to be a big mistake. He glanced at Ngalo standing behind him.

The man gave a large grin and giggled.

"What's so damned funny," Richie muttered quietly, took another deep breath for courage, and followed. The temperature above ground had been fairly warm, but the air cooled rapidly as they descended into the mine. They passed one landing that Hans ignored. The second he made a comment about a false lead that had only yielded industrial quality gems in the 1930s. There were two more landings where tunnels led off that he also passed. Richie looked back up at the surface. It seemed so far away. They had to be nearly two hundred feet deep. It would be a long tiring uphill trip back. But Tom thought this was for real. He wondered how much they could make in illegal diamond trade. Then he remembered again that Tom had not told him about the gold Krugerrands.

Hans came to what was the final landing. Below this point, water could be heard gurgling. "An underground lake flooded out the chambers below this level," he told Tom. He lit a kerosene lantern and shone it into the tunnel. "This way and watch your step."

It was good advice for the tunnel was littered with debris from rocks that had fallen from the roof and sides of the tunnel. Some appeared somewhat new. "How long his it been since there was work in here?" Tom asked.

"Several years. An old Afrikaaner came down here looking for gold--dynamited a bit. No gold, but made a bit of a mess." Hans continued ahead as his lamp threw odd Halloween-like shadows along the roof of the tunnel.

Richie wished he could tell how far they were going. Maybe I should have counted my steps or something so if we get lost in the dark we can find our way out. He shivered, but not all from the damp cold. He didn't like the dark. He never had.

Hans had stopped walking. He moved close to the wall of the tunnel. He held the lantern up and motioned Tom to come close. Richie wondered what they were looking at and moved in also. The surface was wet from condensation, brown from mineral deposits. A tiny spec of diamond gleamed brilliantly capturing and refracting the dim light of the lantern.

Hans stepped back. "Well, Mr. Karrow?" he asked formally. "Are you ready for the investment of a lifetime?"

Tom gave a broad smile. "I believe we may come to an agreement."

"A signature here and the deed to the mine is yours!" Hans held out papers in his hand.

"Right here? Right now?" Tom asked.

"Of course!" Hans laughed. "The romance of it all!" He paused. "I assume you did not leave your payment in camp unattended."

Tom took the forms, but Richie felt all his warning systems lights and bells going off at once. Why couldn't Tom see this? It looked like some kind of a set up.

"Actually, the gold is not with me. It is in a safe place," Tom commented slowly. "We wouldn't want anything unexpected to happen, would we?"

Hans handed Tom a copy of the deed theatrically. "I shall show my good faith, Karrow." By the dim light, Tom and Hans completed the formalities. As Tom finished the last signature, Hans' grin got a bit wider. "Congratulations!" Hans announced with a laugh. "It is all yours!" The contract vanished into Hans' pocket.

Ngalo suddenly appeared from the darkness, his shotgun in hand and pointed towards Tom and Richie. He giggled.

Hans stepped forward and quickly frisked Tom, then Richie. "Where is the gold? I know you had the coins when we left Cape Town. They must be somewhere in camp." From his pocket Hans drew what appeared to be a remote control. "It shall be unfortunate that the tunnel chose this moment to collapse." He and Ngalo began to back away back into the tunnel leading to the mine entrance.

"Why go to all this trouble! Richie shouted angrily. "Why don't you just shoot us!"

"The cave-in is Ngalo's touch," Hans laughed. "He finds buyers with no heirs. With the death of the owner, the site is returned to me to sell again--and again--and again. And I legally keep the payment."

"Then the activity at the entrance--"Richie started, then stopped.

Hans grinned at Tom who had been silent. "You see? He can learn after all." He and Ngalo, shotgun still pointed at Tom and Richie, continued backing away, taking the lantern with them. Richie felt the dread of darkness closing in...
...the explosion wiped it all away.
-----------------------------------------------------------
Tom gave a deep gasp that reverberated around the cavern as he revived. Opening his eyes did nothing to change the view--total blackness. He instantly was aware he was pinned beneath a mound of rubble from the waist downward and couldn't move. Even though revived, the crushing weight of rock kept rebreaking the bones. He groped through his shirt pocket and found the small pen light. It's little beam of light piercing the blackness, seeming blinding. "Richard!" Tom called quietly.

He played the light across the grotto and found Richie, on his back, eyes wide open, his chest smashed by the blow of a rock.

"Blast," Tom muttered. He would need to wait for Richie to come back to life. He wondered how long that would take.

It was another hour. When the tell tale gasp of breath came that signified life, Tom turned the small light back on. "Welcome back," he greeted Richie.

He looked around quickly. "We're trapped in here," were Richie's first words.

"Not forever," Tom replied.

"I knew that guy was a creep. I could see it," Richie remarked hotly. "Why couldn't you?"

"I never said I was perfect," Tom responded. "If you don't mind, I could use some help getting out from under this mess before we lose the light."

"What?" he asked.

"This little light won't last too long. You need to dig me out."

Richie moved over to Tom's side and began heaving the rocks away. "Not sure I really should," he mumbled. "I hope you have a plan for getting us out of here."

"Just wait for Hans to come back and set up for his next customers," Tom replied.

"He doesn't expect to find us alive," Richie remarked.

"No kidding." Tom gave a chuckle. "The world will have a new ghost tale to add to its annals. I knew it was a scam. I just wanted to teach that blackguard a lesson."

"Well, we're the ones in here," Richie commented. "Look who learned the lesson."

"You must see the whole picture," Tom's voice echoed with enthusiasm. "Think of it. Hans digs out the entrance and beholds two ghostly beings. It will scare the living shit out of him. Those beings continue to haunt him for days, weeks, months. It's bound to hit the tabloids sooner or later. He will be totally discredited. Finished. A laughing stock."

"Just how much time do you expect to give this?" Richie asked, glumly.

"Does it matter?"

"We're just going to sit here for weeks? Months?" Richie grunted as he pressed his shoulder against the last large stone long enough for Tom to extract himself. "We'll starve to death."

"Of course not," Tom assured him in a jovial tone. "It's much more likely we'll die of thirst first."

Richie issued a four-lettered word.

Tom flipped off the light and heard Richie's gasp as they were enveloped in the total disorienting blackness one can only experience beneath the earth.

It was cold, but it wasn't the temperature that caused Richie to shiver. "It's dark," he murmured.

"You have a gift for understatement," Tom commented flatly. "It isn't so bad, really. You still have your head. You know, there was a time I spent in the Americas. It was 1520, I think. Cortez was conquering Mexico. I had to hide in an Inca temple for awhile, that turned out to be six years."

Richie moaned and wondered if he would spend six years listening to Karrow's stories.

--------------------------------------------
Ginger knocked once at the door before unlocking it and entering. "Richie, are you back?" she called hopefully. The same silence that had answered her for more than a week replied. She sighed and picked up Percy. She rubbed him between his ears, listening to his rumbling purr and smiled. "Getting lonely?" she asked, still amused at the note Richie had left about the snake having possibly eaten the cat. He sure doesn't know Percy very well. She talked to the cat as she got him some food, then tended to the parrot and the puppy. The rest of the animals had been placed.

A week. It's been two weeks. She pulled Richie's scribbled note from her pocket. She looked at the phone number scribbled at the bottom. I waited two weeks like he said. Today is the day. She picked up the phone and dialed the overseas operator.
----------------------------------------
(Seacouver)
The phone rang once.

It rang again.

"Duncan," complained Amanda's voice in the dark and she poked his shoulder. "Are you going to answer it."

"Nope," he mumbled, half asleep.

It rang again.

"Why not? It could be important."

"Because it could be important and I want to asleep."

It rang again.

"For the love of--" She flopped across his body and picked up the phone amid his protests. "Hello."

"Is this MacLeod?" came a quiet feminine voice that sounded as if it was underwater.

"Who is this?" Amanda demanded.

"My name is Ginger Cadley. I know this is so irregular, but," there was a pause. "I know you're Richie's contact and I think something has gone wrong on the mission."

"The what?" She asked. "Wait a minute." In disgust she dropped the phone onto Mac's bare chest. "Some girl about Richie Ryan and a mission."

"I told you not to answer it," he growled. "'Ello," he uttered into the receiver, "this is MacLeod."

Ginger hesitated a moment. "Are you MacLeod?"

He yawned. "Yes."

"I know you guys aren't supposed to talk about your agency and all, but I know you're Richie's contact and I think he may be in trouble."

"Agency? Contact?" He tried to clear sleep away from his brain. It did register the Richie in trouble part. "This is about Richie Ryan?" he clarified.

Amanda turned on the light.

He groaned and put a hand over his eyes. The clock read 3:11 a.m.

"He and his partner are on a mission. I guess you probably know about it," Ginger said hopefully. "He left me a note saying if he didn't come back in two weeks to call you."

"He said what?"

"A note," she repeated. "I hope that was all right."

Mac was finally awake. "Where are you calling from?"

"Cape Town."

"Cape Town," he repeated. "South Africa?"

"I think he and his partner are in trouble. You need to send an agent, or whatever you do," Ginger said.

He sighed.
----------------------------------------------------
(Joe's)
"I need your help," Mac pleaded with Methos.

"What you need is a brain transplant." He watched as Joe filled the beer mugs and placed them on the bar.

Joe grinned. "Sounds exciting to me."

"Exciting!" Methos gave a smirk and the shake of his head. "Have you ever been to South Africa, Joe?"

"No, maybe that's the point."

"Oh, it's the point all right. Hot, bugs, sand, poverty; not to mention things like lions."

"And tigers and bears, oh my," Mac added. Methos waved a hand, a slight smile on his face, but there was a glimmer of controlled something anger? Mac wondered, in there.

"Let it be, MacLeod. Richie is a big boy. I can't imagine anything happening that superhero Tom Karrow cannot talk his way out of." Methos sounded clearly sarcastic.

Mac thumped a hand on the bar. "I'm going anyway. With or without you. But I could use the help."

"Without I should think," Methos stated and took a drink of beer. "Now, let's discuss something really important--this new brand of beer."

"New local brewer, what do you think?" Joe asked.

"Not bad," he commented, "at least for a domestic brew."

"So that's it?" Mac asked, a bit annoyed.

"I'll go," Amanda said cheerfully. "I've been thinking about taking up a new career. I'd like to try photographing wildlife. Be a great place to start!"

"Amanda will go," Methos replied, coolly. "One good con deserves another."

"I'll go," Joe offered.

Mac just looked at him.

"Hey, I need a good vacation. Sounds like an adventure." He raised an eyebrow.

Methos smiled at Mac, amusement plain. "Well, there you have it. Amanda and Joe, a nice little commando squad. I wish you luck. You are going to need it." He turned back to his beer, to avoid MacLeod's caustic glare. If it was anyone but Karrow, MacLeod. For a fleeting moment he considered telling MacLeod, but only a moment. He liked Mac and experience had been a hard teacher, but a thorough one. There were some parts of the past it was best to leave there.

************
(Mediterranean 2000 BC)
The terrain about the Mediterranean was rich in grass lands in 2000 BC, but there had been less rain this year. The nomads had been forced to graze their sheep across larger areas, so the men were farther from their women. That meant the village was ripe for the picking. Kronos' horse stamped impatiently, sensing the growing excitement of his master. Kronos drew his sword and turned to the three beside him. Brothers! We ride!"

They thundered down from the hillside with the shrieking war cry that had come to be part of the terror of the Four Horsemen. Within moments, new screams of astonished horror and death joined it as mothers grabbed for their children, and the elderly lifted their arms helplessly against their fate. Within moments it was over. Black clouds of smoke billowed into the sky as the humble hide tents burned. Caspian dismounted and smiled as he approached two young girls he had trapped. He grabbed one by the arm so fiercely, he broke her elbow. She cried out in pain and he laughed.

Kronos whistled as he moved amongst the slain, grabbing a trinket here and there. He glanced over at Methos who was plundering furs and bronze pots from a flaming hut. "Where is Silas, Brother?"

Methos tossed the goods aside. "He chased someone up into that grove of trees. I'll find him." In a smooth motion, he swung up onto the back of his horse and with a gentle goad of the heels, trotted up the hill.

There was a small cave of rock and Silas was crouching in the door way. "See what I've found, Methos!" he said with pleasure.

He dismounted with a sigh and approached. As he did, he felt the presence of an Immortal--more than just Silas.

"See here!" Silas held up a small wooden cup of honey. "He gave it to me!"

Methos stuck his finger in it. "Honey," he commented.

"He is one of us," Silas eyes gleamed. "Can I keep him? He will find me more honey! And he told me a story!"

"Come out," Methos ordered coldly.

The man slowly moved from the shadows. He was brawny, big. Methos' first reaction was to strike him down instantly, he would be too strong to keep for long. But the man appeared mildly stupid.

"Your name," Methos demanded.

"The Bee Eater," he replied, glancing from Silas to Methos. He held something wrapped in a bit of hide in his arms.

"What is that?"

Before The Bee Eater could respond, the cry of an infant issued from the wrap.

"Well," Methos said to Silas, "bring them to Kronos. We'll see."

The man walked between the two Horsemen who rode their mounts back down to the village. Methos watched the Bee Eater's expression carefully as he kept looking around in astonishment. Everything he had known was gone, destroyed in just a moment of time. He tightened his grip on the baby. Methos noted the lack hostile vengeance he usually saw on the faces of captives at such times.

"What have we here, Methos?" Kronos said with a laugh. "More gifts?" He had just finished his pleasure with the girl Caspian had brought him. Her blood still glistened on his sword.

"Silas has a man who finds honey and tells stories," Methos explained without passion.

"Silas," Kronos said with remarkable gentleness. "You aren't going to ask me to keep him, are you?"

Silas looked worried. "He tells fine stories." He held out the honey.

Kronos eyed the bearded man. He, too, was concerned that this prisoner was no wimp of girl, not even an aged sage. He was large, probably strong, potentially dangerous and another Immortal. He looked him in the eye, then glanced at the squirming fur. He snatched the small baby from the Bee Eater's grasp and tossed it to Methos. "And this?"

The Bee Eater started to move forward, but Caspian's sword was in his face. All he could do was stand by helplessly as Methos yanked the fur away and held up the naked, crying infant by one leg.

"Is this another pet, Silas?" Kronos roared with laughter.

Silas grinned. "Okay?"

"No," Kronos replied. "Only one."

Silas shrugged. "I like the honey."

Methos gave a nod and threw the child onto a flaming tent. The tiny shriek lasted several seconds as Kronos gave a sadistic laugh. Caspian chuckled, lowering his sword.

The Bee Eater in a burst of boldness, leapt forward, yanking Methos' sword from his belt and in one vicious strike swung at Kronos head. Ever quick, Kronos ducked and it missed almost. The blade tore savagely up the right side of his face cutting deeply to the bone and laying back the flesh. Kronos gave a cry of pain as blood poured out between his fingers.

Silas and Caspian brought their swords forward, but the Bee Eater, still clutching Methos' sword was backing away from them and towards Kronos' horse. He made it onto the horse and spun it around, waving the sword back at them. "I will see each of you in hell!" the man who would one day be known as Tom Karrow shouted, and kicking the horse, raced away over the bluffs.
*****************
(Cape Town)
"It's totally unfair," Amanda grumbled to Joe as they exited the same door of the Cape Town airport Richie and Tom had nearly three weeks before.

Joe shrugged. "There's always something, Amanda. By now I thought you'd know that."

"But really--cab strikes!"

A dark porter extended a white-gloved hand. "May I help with your bag, Ma'am, Sir?"

They happily accepted, just as Mac pulled up in the rent car.

The porter, the same man Richie had met, smiled as he loaded the luggage and accepted Joe's tip. As the car left the curb, he moved to a telephone. Being sure the white glove concealed his tattooed wrist, he tapped in a number. "They are here."
-------------------------------------------------
Ginger was waiting for them at Tom's apartment. It had been two days since she had spoken with Mac on the phone. She was a bit taken aback by him and his "team." It was not hard to believe that the tall handsome, long-haired man before her might be some kind of secret agent, but the woman was a bit flighty and the older man looked much more like a liability. Putting her personal judgment aside, she smiled as she ushered them inside.

The white puppy shot towards them, yipping excitedly, leaping around MacLeod.

"He's harmless," Ginger said, flushing with embarrassment.

The pup wet on Mac's shoes. "Really?" he muttered. He couldn't imagine Tom keeping a dog. "This is Tom's dog?"

"Well, not exactly," Ginger said twisting her hands together. "Richie just let me keep them here for now."

"Them?" He noticed Percy glaring at him from the window sill.

Amanda stuck a finger into the parrot's cage, then jumped back as it attempted to bite.

"Well, most of them are gone now," Ginger added. "I got rid of the snake."

"Snake?" Amanda gasped.

"He's gone now," Ginger repeated hurriedly.

Joe was happily playing with the puppy and now straightened. "Well, maybe we should try to find out about Tom and Richie." He pulled a small notebook from his jacket and went to the phone.

Mac tried to pat Percy on the head and the cat hissed at him. "I'm going to check the marinas for Tom's ship."

"What can I do?" Amanda asked.

"You wanted to photograph wildlife," he remarked. "Shoot the cat."

---------------------------------------------------
(Free State Rovic Mine)
Like identical twins, limbs entangled around each other in the eternal black womb of the mine lay the two dead men. In just a moment, the cave echoed with the deep gasp as Tom took a breath. He knew Richie would take a little longer to revive. He always did. This had been their fourth death since their entombment here. When the parched thirst, swollen tongues, and bodies screaming for fluids could be tolerated no longer, they had taken each other's life simultaneously. Only, the first time for Tom, that death had not been so swift. So, he provided Richie with instructions on piercing the body to hit just the right spot. By the third time, the death had been almost painless. He heard Richie gasp.

"Welcome back."

"Yeah, right," he heard Richie mutter. "We can't just keep doing this forever, you know."

"Nothing is forever," Tom replied casually. "Hans will return."

"In six years?" Richie snapped.

"What is six years in eternity?" Tom pointed out. "Besides, it isn't too bad a vacation."

Richie didn't answer. He felt his way to the comfortable spot he'd hollowed out in the rock. Mac would never have let this happen. How many times have I thought that in this eternal pit? "How long have we been here, anyway?"

Tom gave an invisible shrug. "Assuming that we probably get to the death point from dehydration every four to five days---four deaths--three weeks or so."

"Good," he answered. "I left a message for Ginger to call Mac after two weeks."

"You did what?"

"Told Ginger to call Mac if we didn't show up."

Tom didn't answer right away. He knew that his old faithful, but strict, friend would come. No doubt about it, MacLeod would come. Not for him, but for his student. There'd be hell to pay. "You should have trusted me more."

"Yeah, right. Like about the gold."

"Gold?"

"You didn't tell me about those gold Krugerrands," Richie's voice sounded accusing.

"And?"

"Why?" he demanded.

"I never promised to tell you everything I did."

"Were you going to keep it for yourself?"

"Of course," Tom answered simply. Upon hearing Richie's grunt of displeasure he added. "I told you to make the most of what comes your way."

"Part of that should have been mine."

"Why?"

"We're partners," he replied, then after the momentary silence said: "Aren't we?"

Tom chuckled. "You are a good man, Richard. I was going to do some improvements to the Genevieve. You would have known when the time was right."

He was silent for a moment. He wasn't sure if he believed that.

Tom burst into a round of laughter that echoed through the cavern. "You should have asked ages ago." He changed the subject. "So, MacLeod will be coming. I should not think our incarceration will extend beyond another couple of weeks then. That will help you rest better." He stretched out his long legs in the dark. "So, now it's your turn."

"My turn?"

"I've been telling you stories for eons. Entertain me."

"Me? Not me," Richie refused. "I'm not good at that kind of thing."

"Of course you are. Reminisce."

"About what? I haven't got four hundred years of stuff behind me like Mac, or thousands of years like you or --Adam," he internally shivered at his near mistake. "What do I reminisce about--lunch last week?"

"We all have the story of our life."

He didn't answer, just shook his head in the dark.

"Richard?"

"What?"

"When did you meet MacLeod?"

"I was still pre Immortal."

"Tell me about it."

"He had a antique shop--I broke in."

"Day or night?"

"Night."

"What kind of night?"

"Cold."

"Who was there?"

"Mac and...Tessa." He sighed.

Tom allowed silence to reign for a few minutes, knowing that sometimes it could say more than words. He knew the story would come now, on its own, like the birth of a child. Nothing could stop it from happening. It would come to life.

And it did. Richie told of that night, how he'd broken into the shop. He had become distracted playing with a sword of all things. An omen of the future perhaps. He'd been terrified at Mac's appearance in the doorway, the katana ready to strike. His panic was vividly recalled. It had been Tessa who had brought sanity to the moment, but just that moment. Seconds later Slan Quence had broken through the skylight and Conner MacLeod through the window. Richie's life had been changed forever. In a hushed awe, he went on to explain the night at Soldier's Bridge and the amazement of Slan's quickening. He knew now that Mac had taken Slan not only for Conner and himself, but for Richie, too. As he finally ran out of story, he was surprised at what he'd said.

"You see?" Tom said in quiet wisdom. "It is there inside of all of us. We all have a story to be told."

Richie didn't speak. He was considering things and people he had tried hard not to think about for years.

"Richard," Tom's voice was filled with compassion. "Tell me about Tessa."

And Richie's heart broke.
----------------------------------------------
The harbor master found the Genevieve listed on the second sheet of the port-o-call log. She had been in port for two days. Mac found it uncanny that her name was still the same. Her current owner had no secrets--or didn't care.

He stood before the yacht, observing the young woman on deck. She was dressed in a white shirt and shorts, her auburn hair flowed in loose curls over her slender shoulders. Sunglasses hid her eyes.

"Permission to come board?" MacLeod called up the gangway.

She turned from her companions. Her eyebrows lifted on seeing the attractive man on the dock. Her ruby lips parted in a full smile. "Of course!"

He came up onto the deck that he'd known well. He couldn't help but think Tom would have been pleased with such a beauty on his ship. "Duncan MacLeod," he introduced himself.

"Willi Reese," she replied extending a dainty hand.

"This ship used to belong to a friend of mine," Mac got to the point. "I thought you might have some information that would help me find him."

She turned towards an older man who was just coming on deck. "Oh, Jarrs owns the yacht."

Mac, disappointedly released her hand, but he continued to gaze at her a moment longer. A stunning young woman.

Jarrs seemed less than impressed with Mac. "I bought her fair and square," he stated flatly.

"I'm not questioning that," Mac said, but wondered if he should be. "I'm looking for a friend, he owned her before you."

"He's dead," Jarrs declared without sympathy.

"Oh?"

"Gunther died of some kind of freak accident after surgery."

"Gunther?" He showed no hesitation. "How unfortunate."

Jarrs crossed his arms. "Lost his hand in a mishap, then died in the hospital."

"Two accidents?" Mac pretended surprise.

Jarrs shrugged. "Didn't know the man well. Just did occasional business with him. Does seem to have been unlucky."

"Know where I might pay my respects?"
-------------------------------------------------
Joe had contacted Watcher Headquarters for Africa by phone and was disappointed with the response. As a result, he went to the address. Compared to the large castle in Europe, this was a small time operation. The single story dwelling seemed little more than a relay point for someplace else.

"We do not keep a lot here," Borj Jenssen commented apologetically. "We don't have many Immortals who reside here. Most are passing through."

"Did Tom Karrow or Richie Ryan pass through recently?" Joe asked as hesat on the couch in Borj's office.

Borj handed Joe a glass of iced tea with a nod. "I must comment, though, Dawson, you are considered a bit of a maverick. You have been known to--how shall I express this--break the rules now and again. Why do you need to know?"

"MacLeod is here," he explained. "I think he might be after Karrow. I need to be able to keep a step ahead of him."

Borj gave a one syllable half chuckle. "I know he's here. So is Amanda, his occasional lover. You all arrived on a plane together several days ago."

Joe made a slight face.

"We try to do our job well here," Borj added coldly. "Now, the truth might serve you better."

"Truth, huh?" Joe tapped his cane on the floor, considering his options. "All right. Truth. MacLeod got called here to look for his missing student. Ryan was last with Karrow."

"And your role in all this?"

He eyed Borj without emotion. "Helping as a friend--not as a Watcher."

"But you came here," Borj stated. "You want Watcher information to help you?"

Joe competed with gravity as he pulled himself back upright. He would take this no farther. "Thanks for nothing, pal." He started towards the door.

"Dawson," Borj called him back. "Personally, I'm with you."

"With me? What does that mean?"

"You aren't the first Watcher to befriend his Immortal. There are others like you."

Joe just gazed at him, trying to determine his truthfulness.

"I was one. Until Luther went mad from his lust for the crystal we were friends."

Dawson stared at this senior Watcher in a three piece suit who was baring his soul to him. "Why are you telling me this?"

"So you will know I am sincere when I caution you to be very careful. MacLeod may be as trustworthy as the day is long, but not all who know of us are."

"For instance?"

Borj turned back to his computer and typed in a command. "Has he told Karrow about us?"

"I don't think so."

He tapped the "enter" key. "Karrow is a dangerous man. He may be the jovial story teller who sails the seven seas, but his past is stained with much blood--not all of it Immortal."

Joe quickly summed up mentally that Borj had not asked him if Richie knew of Watchers. Would he have mentioned them to Tom? He would not want to guess about what Richie might have said.

The printer had finished with the report Borj had prepared for Joe. He tore it off and handed it to him. "Here is what you want. It comes with a price."
-----------------------------------------------------
Hans Freuder greeted Amanda with a broad smile that, to Amanda, seemed more like the cat inviting a canary to dinner. "Rarely do I have sure charming clients," he commented smoothly, seating her in his small but professional office. Behind his desk the wall showed a large map of South Africa with large red circles drawn around certain areas.

She gave a pleasant smile, but internally decided she would like to undo this smug man. She reminded herself she wanted him condescending. If he thinks I'm a floozy, all the better. "A friend mentioned your name to me," she said, deliberately evasive.

"A friend?" he repeated, pleasantly. "Does he have a name?"

"Does it matter?" She smiled and brought up her hand, bearing one of her favorite stolen rings on the second finger. The large diamond sparkled.

Hans' eyes were fixed on the piece. "How may I help you?"

"I'm interested in an investment."

"Investment?"

"I was told you had some less well known mining interests that might be for sale."

Hans rested back in his chair, fingertips pressed together as he contemplated Amanda. He usually investigated his customers, not they him. It should be a warning. Yet, he was impressed with this lovely, fearless woman. His gaze drifted from the ring to her lovely figure and he fantasized her beside the hot spring pool of his estate, droplets of moisture glistening in the moonlight on her luminescent flesh......He snapped back to reality.

"Mr. Freuder?" Amanda was saying, her dark eyes large with staged innocence.

He cleared his throat. "I will speak to my associates," he said quickly.
------------------------------------------
"How do I look?" Amanda asked, modeling her safari outfit complete with pith helmet.

Mac chuckled. "Ready for anything, huh?"

She tapped one of the three cameras that hung from around her neck. "Well, if we don't find Richie and Tom--I'm still going to get some great pictures!"

Mac turned as Joe came across the dirt parking lot towards them, Ginger at his side. "Loading up, huh?" Joe asked pleasantly. Nearby Ngalo was loudly instructing his men in the stowing of equipment for the trip.

"Hans is taking Amanda to inspect a mine. It's got to be the same place Borj mentioned in his
information," Mac explained.

"Good," Joe nodded with satisfaction. "We're going to find some answers."

"We?" Mac frowned.

"Hey, I said I was coming to help."

"And you did. Now stay here."

"No way, Mac," he declared, two prosthetic devices and a cane spread in a defiant stance. "This is my business, too. Besides, I came for the adventure, remember?"

"Adventure!" Mac shouted. He couldn't imagine trying to keep Joe from harm with everything else that he feared could happen. Ngalo and company were packing loaded weapons and, he suspected, not just because of the wildlife.

"Don't worry, Joe and I will look after ourselves," Ginger supplied.

"What!" Mac roared, and now words failed him for a moment. He took a few steps away, then came back. "You're not serious!"

Over by the land rovers, another disagreement was taking place.

"Not the right time," Ngalo insisted in Afrikaan to Hans.

"Time enough."

"No," he insisted. "I must prepare the mine first."

"Look at them," Hans said softly gesturing towards Amanda and her party. "They haven't a clue. This is a safari for the dumb and the ignorant."

"No," Ngalo repeated. "I do not trust them. You did not check them out. Too much, too fast."

Hans chuckled. "I'll take care of this bunch. Westerners without an idea of the veldt. They won't make it a day."

Ngalo's large eyes bulged as his pitch rose. "No! Too many chances!"

Hans gripped the driver's shirt. "You just make the mine set up happen. That's your job."

Ngalo broke away and turned to the supplies. He knew Hans was a fool who could get them killed He glanced at MacLeod and knew the man would be a force to be reckoned with.
-----------------------------------
Mac glanced out the back window of the Land Rover. It was the sixth time Amanda had seen him do it since she'd started counting.

"You think Joe and Ginger are out there somewhere?" she asked, humor in her tone.

"He gave up too easily," Mac muttered.

"You worry to much," she commented. "They are adults, you know. They can make their own choices. You are not the appointed parent of us all."

He rolled his eyes and drummed his fingers on the door sill. "They had no business coming along. They could have gotten hurt."

"And you can't?" she said with a smirk.

"You know what I mean."

Amanda stared at the scenery flashing by the window. "I know what you mean. Do you know what I mean? You're not the clan chieftain here, you know."

"You trying to say that Joe and Ginger coming was good thing?"

She counted to ten before answering. Is he being deliberately obtuse? "I'm saying their coming was their responsibility, not yours."

"Until something went wrong."

"You egotistical Scot!" she shouted angrily. Something suddenly caught her eye and the argument was forgotten. "Stop the car!"

Ngalo slammed on the brake. "What! What, Ma'am!" he shouted.

"There." Amanda said calmly. She pointed to a large shade tree thirty yards from the road where a pride of lions were napping in the heat of the day. The squeal of the stopping Rover had caused one male lion to raise his shaggy head sleepily. "I want to get a picture!" She started to open the door.

"No, please," Ngalo said hurriedly. "Too dangerous."

Mac suspected he was not as emphatic as he might be. Could it be the driver actually hoped Amanda would disembark from the vehicle and become a midafternoon snack? Why?

"Only take a minute!" she assured Ngalo.

"Amanda!" Mac shouted grabbing her elbow.

"Mac, get a life," she snapped and opened the door.

Mac noticed the tip of the male lion's tail flip gently as the beast watched. "Amanda!"

The second vehicle containing Hans, and all of Ngalo's crew pulled to the front, loud, angry voices babbling at Ngalo.

"They say this a bad thing," Ngalo commented to Mac, then issued a giggle. "Your lady, she have money, but no brain."

"Yeah, tell me about it," Mac muttered, and thought: Maybe no head if some lion chews it off.

Amanda had positioned herself in the tall grass and began taking pictures of the pride. The more pictures she took, the more creative ideas she came up with. She moved to a different position.

Mac noticed the lion never took his gaze off Amanda. When she moved, so did his head. "Amanda!" he whispered loudly. "Enough! Come back!"

She stood up and waved at him to leave her alone. As she did, the lion's ears went back and he suddenly moved. Amanda looked back just as the lion burst into a full charge. With a yelp, she ran full tilt for the car as everyone in the Rovers started to yell hysterically. She made it inside and slammed the door just as the lion reached the road. He paced back and forth roaring loudly, his tail lashing in fury.

"There," Amanda said calmly, settling her helmet. "Nothing to it, MacLeod. I told you, you worry too much."

He sank down into the seat, hand over his face.

Ngalo cursed in Afrikaan.
--------------------------------------
It was nightfall as two figures stood in the brush observing the camp a short distance away. Joe was not thrilled at involving Ginger, but the girl knew the lay of the land. It had not been difficult convincing her they were part of a backup team and were to stay in the shadows, out of the way. She had recognized the old diamond mine in Borj's instructions and even managed to get them here ahead of Hans group. He
wasn't quite sure what to do with her now, but the for time being he could do what he was supposed to do--watch. Time might come soon enough for action. He hoped he would not have to pay the price for Borj's help. He liked Karrow. He hoped Karrow still knew nothing about Watchers.
-----------------------------------------
Mac and Amanda sat by the fire staring into the flames. The tents around them glimmered from the lanterns inside and near the supply tent a group of workers were holding wrestling matches. Two guards paced the perimeter of the camp, rifles held loosely over their arms.

Hans came over and sat next to Amanda, ignoring Mac. "Tomorrow morning we shall go down to the diamonds," he told her, offering her a glass of champagne. "What you see shall amaze you."

I can just imagine, Mac thought.

She smiled pleasantly. "Diamonds scattered everywhere?"

Hans gave a gentle smile. "Not exactly--but easily obtained."

Her eyes widened a little in pretended innocence. "Do we have to go underground?"

"Don't worry, my dear. Entirely safe, I assure you."

Amanda placed her arm in his as he sat. "Can't we go tonight? It's so hard to wait."

"The stairway down is hazardous by daylight. At night--"he shook his head, "impassable unless you know the way."

She sighed, seeming to accept the decision, but Mac knew Amanda better than that. As he thought she would, she changed the subject. "Africa is so romantic, mystical."

Hans patted her arm protectively. "There are ancient stories about everything here. A land of heritage over the centuries."

Amanda batted her eyes at him.

Mac glanced away, hiding his expression. She's really doing a number on this jerk. Maybe it's just as well. If he's not thinking straight he may be less dangerous.

"Tell me an ancient story," Amanda begged of Hans.

There was a momentary look of surprise on his face.

Great, he doesn't know one, Mac mused.

"You see the boabob trees?" Hans pointed to them. "They look so funny, like their roots are in the air. The gods came looking for fruit on one. There was no fruit, so in anger, they pulled the tree from the ground and put it in up-side-down. So, now all boabob trees look like their roots are at the top."

Mac gave no outward sign, but recognized the story as one of Tom's.

Amanda, aware of a change in Mac, rose, her arm still in Hans' and led him off across the camp. "Can't you just show me the mine entrance?" she asked as they moved away.
---------------------------------------------
It was almost two hours later when the camp bedded down for the night. Hans, having delivered Amanda to her tent went looking for Ngalo. "We need to prepare the mine tonight."

"I will go," Ngalo said quietly. "But I should have more time. To remove the rubble and the bodies will take time. And I need to set the charges. I go now."

"I'll go with you," Hans replied.

"No," Ngalo said firmly, his eyes nearly glowing in the dark. He gave his hideous giggle. "Your party needs you here." Ngalo picked up a loaded rifle in addition to his pistol on his belt

Hans gave him a suspicious look. "What do you plan to shoot?"

"Insurance," Ngalo giggled. He picked up a lantern and walked off towards the mine.

Hans, hands on hips watched him go. Repeatedly over the last year he'd suspected Ngalo had a personal stake greater than their scam. It was Ngalo who usually hand-picked the marks, did the research. Ngalo who always went back to do the housekeeping chores. Hans suspected he robbed the dead and that didn't concern him at all. As of late, he had begun to wonder if Ngalo was pilfering the mine was well. The diamonds there were considered to be almost worthless, but what if Ngalo knew something he didn't? He also had not forgotten the missing gold kruggerands. Perhaps Ngalo knew they were somewhere in the mine. Hans waited several minutes, then followed Ngalo.

Mac had almost drifted to sleep when he heard Amanda's whisper outside.

"What do you want?" he whispered intently, stepping outside.

"That driver, Ngalo, left camp!" she whispered anxiously. "He was headed for the mine entrance. Hans followed him."

"Yeah, big surprise," Mac commented emotionlessly. "To salt your mine."

"Come on!" she hissed, "let's follow!"

"Amanda!"

"Mac, Ngalo had a rifle. Why would you need a rifle to salt a mine?"

Mac felt something cold grip his stomach. "And why would you need a rifle to dig out dead men?" They exchanged looks in the dark, realizing that Ngalo had to know about a lot more than salting diamond mines. She led the way to the large mine hole. Their trip down, without a light that would give them away, would be slow going. At least at the moment, they could still see Ngalo's light far below.
---------------------------------------
Tom's rich baritone voice echoed through the cavern as he told the story of Tadhg Mor O'Kelly. Richie found himself wondering what the world had really been like in 1014 during the Battle of Clontarf.

"The morning was crystal clear, the air crisp, and autumn leaves splashing the hillsides in hues of red, orange, and yellow. The sea beyond the battle field sparkled in the sunlight. But the Danes were coming across the valley, destroying the valiant defenders of Brian Boru before them. Brian, the High King of Ireland lifted his eyes upon hearing a new battle cry--the cry of the hopes of Ireland as Tadhg Mor, sword held high, led the Clan of O'Kelly into the fierce foray. His battle cry "Turris Fortis Mihi Deus!-God is my Tower of Strength!" rallied not just the clansmen of O'Kelly but all the forces of Ireland to take heart and renew their fight. The Dane commander, knowing the strength of the defenders lie within Tadhg, sent orders for his crack troops to take him at all costs. They managed to entrap Tadhg in the shallows of the sea where, at last, one delivered a mortal strike, ending the life of the grand chieftain. It was then the most extraordinary thing happened. The sea began to boil and fume like a hot cauldron. From the depths of the foam arose an immense creature said to have the head of a fox, chest of an elephant, mane of a horse, forelegs of an eagle, the body and hind legs of a hound, and the tail of a lion. Issuing flames and a fearsome roar from its mighty yaw, the breast stood protectively over the floating body of the slain warrior. The Danes, upon seeing the creature were set to flight and driven to defeat." The echo of Tom's
voice faded as he paused.

"I told you I don't like those dragon things," Richie muttered, unimpressed.

Tom chuckled. "That happens to be one of my favorite tales."

Richie suddenly whispered. "I heard something."

Tom listened, then heard it too. "I knew they would come at last."

"What happens now?" Richie replied, pulse quickening at the thought of finally being free from this eternal imprisonment.

"Keep your eyes closed at first. Follow my lead."
----------------------------------------------------
Ngalo carefully removed the rocks from the closed shaft one at a time. He had done this work often enough to know just how to do it right--and what to do next. His rifle was propped against the wall, cocked and ready to use. He worked quickly, not happy that a whole party was camped at the top of the mine entrance. He hoped rifle shots would not be heard. Sweat pored off his body and soaked his shirt, in spite of the cool air, so he took it off--something he rarely did. The lantern light played off him and as he reached for the next rock, the tattooed left wrist shone with perspiration.

Hans leaned carefully out from his hiding place around the bend in the tunnel determined to unveil Ngalo's secret. He was about to get much more than he'd bargained for.

Ngalo pulled a rock from the top of the barrier and the dark of the cavern beyond could be seen. He poked a flashlight through and shone it around.

Even the faint beam of light was blinding to eyes that had seen nothing in three weeks. Richie gave a yelp of pain that was stifled as Tom clapped his hand over the younger Immortal's mouth. "Eyes shut, I said!" he hissed into Richie's ear. "It will only last a moment."

As Tom said, the pain of the unused eye muscles coming to life lasted less than a minute--for mortals the experience would have been hours, or days.

Ngalo, seeing nothing, had pulled his light back through and continued to pull away rock.

Hans, totally consumed by his curiosity, had stepped into full view behind Ngalo. It didn't matter, Ngalo was too busy to notice.
---------------------------------------
Mac and Amanda had arrived at the entrance where Mac had gestured Amanda to wait. "Listen," he said quietly. Above the gurgling of the water below was the faint sound of someone moving rock. "Come on."

Ngalo's hole was rapidly enlarging and nearly big enough for someone to walk through.

"Well? What now?" Richie murmured to Tom from the shadow.

Ngalo had stopped his digging and again picked up the flashlight. He aimed it into the hole.

Tom leaped to his feet, arms up and hands outstretched, howling at the top of his lungs. For an instant, Richie jumped in fear, then quickly followed suite. The specter of the huge bearded man, hair flying wildly through the gray clouds of dust, eyes wide in rage, thundering screams echoing through the grotto would have been enough to put any person to panic, but Ngalo reached for his rifle.

There was a shriek of total hysteria, this time from behind Ngalo and the black Watcher dropped his flashlight in surprise. He turned to see Hans, all six foot six inches of him, white with dread, hair literally standing on end in shock, screaming wildly.

Ngalo turned shouting to Hans in Afrikaan "It is a hoax!"

Hans stumbled backward, still yelling , and raced back through the mine.

"Stop!" Ngalo begged, getting the rifle into his hands. He was afraid between the screams of Hans and the Banshee like-howling of Tom and Richie, the sound would travel back to the camp above. He knew the native workers spooked easily.
-------------------------------
"What the hell is that!" Amanda shouted, hearing the chaos echoing through the tunnel.

"Come on!" Mac shouted. "That's Tom at work!" But before he could take a step, they heard the running steps approaching and Hans, a man deranged, appeared. Mac took hold of him. "Hans!"

He shouted and gestured, none of it making any sense.

"He's out of his mind," Amanda muttered in wonder.
--------------------------------
Ngalo, turned back towards Tom and Richie and raised the rifle. "You are abominations!" he screamed, the lantern light giving even more accent to his bulging eyes and deeply wrinkled face.

Richie stared, the man seemed like a black skull shouting at them. Then the tattooed wrist was caught in the light.
"Watcher!" He gasped in horror.

Tom, his ghost imitation forgotten squinted at this mortal who had shown no fear. "What?"

Ngalo's eyes narrowed. "I know what you are," he said with his mad giggle. "You die." He fired, the bullet hitting Tom square in the heart. The large man collapsed backward.
-------------------------------
Mac and Amanda heard the rifle report. "Keep a hold on Hans!" Mac shouted and raced down the shaft, drawing his sword as he ran.

Hans began to scream again and broke into a run towards the mine entrance, Amanda at his heels. In the darkness, he ran full speed into the wooden railing of the stairway, his three hundred pounds slamming against the fragile walkway. The railing shattered and he plunged over and down to the river below. His last shriek of terror ended abruptly.

"Damn," Amanda muttered peering down into the darkness.
--------------------------
"You cannot hope to stop me with that!" Ngalo chastised Richie who stood before him, sword raised, panting in fear.

"I sure the hell can try!" he answered with more bravery than he felt. Tom's bright ideas. He never thought of this happening! On impulse, Richie leapt back into the darkness beyond the rock framed opening.

"You've no where to go in there," Ngalo called with a giggle. He picked up the flashlight and shone it into the hole. Richie was not to be seen. Ngalo carefully stepped over Tom's fallen body and pulled the machete from Tom's belt. "I have your friend's sword! I take his head and while you are still recovering from his quickening, I take you!"

Richie blinked as he suddenly felt the presence of another Immortal. Not just any Immortal, but somehow he knew it was MacLeod.

As Ngalo lifted the machete, he felt a sudden gentle poke of a sharp point in his back.

"Then why don't you try me first?" MacLeod suggested quietly.

Ngalo turned in surprise. His large eyes stared at MacLeod.

Mac gave a smirk of a smile. "Nothing to say?"

With an animal-like sneer of a madman, Ngalo spun around with the machete whistling through the air towards MacLeod's neck.

Avoiding the stroke was simple. Mac countered it without effort. "It stops here!"

"Never!" Ngalo screamed, "Not while one of you lives! We will hound you to the end of the earth!" He stabbed again with the machete.

Mac sidestepped him, not really wanting to kill this mortal.

Richie stepped out of hiding and bent down next to Tom as the latter took a breath.

Ngalo swung the sword around wildly, in manic frenzy.

"Don't make me do this!" Mac shouted.

Much to his surprise, Ngalo suddenly stopped his attack, panting heavily, moving his eyes from Mac, to Richie, to Tom. As if realizing he was outnumbered, he blinked a time or two. He dropped Tom's machete in the dirt. It was an anti-climactic ending.

"What now?" Richie asked quietly.

"I'll take him back to Cape Town--turn him over to Joe. He can figure it out." Mac heaved a sigh. "Let's get out of here-- if you two haven't gotten too attached to the place."

Tom got to his knees, a million questions in his mind, but for the moment, he voiced none of them. Not yet retrieving the machete, He stepped into the tunnel and walked to the wall where he pulled out a small rock. Inside was a little cloth bag containing the kruggerands. He waved them towards Richie with a grin.

"Ready now?" Mac asked. "Let's go." Mac turned to lead the way out when Ngalo suddenly gagged and stumbled.

"Mac!" Richie shouted the warning, but in the split moment it took Duncan to turn back, it was over.

Ngalo's headless body lay in the dirt, Tom's machete still in the fingers of the dead hand. Mac slowly fingered the slice in the back of the collar of his shirt. He looked at Richie, standing horror stricken and pale from more than lack of sunlight, his sword blade stained by Ngalo's blood.

"Mac," he whispered, "I--I'm sorry. I had too--he was..."

Tom picked up the machete. "Never get a head in business that way, boy," he remarked, but his gaze remained on the tattooed wrist.
-----------------------------------
By the time Amanda had explained Hans' fate and the four Immortals had made the long trip back up to the surface, dawn was creeping in the eastern sky. The workers were nowhere to be seen; they'd taken a Rover and fled during the night.

"Can't say that I'm surprised," Amanda remarked with a sigh. "There was enough screaming going on to scare everything off for fifty miles."

Mac picked up a coffee pot that had been dumped on the ground in someone's haste. Without comment, he began to search for something from which to make a breakfast. He hoped if he was occupied no one would talk to him. He wished Richie had not killed Ngalo. Renegade or not, Ngalo had still been a Watcher and a mortal. He wondered if Joe's people would find how who had killed the man--by beheading no less. Like it or not, if the Watchers found out, Richie would now be on the list of dangerous Immortals. If they found out. He was glad he'd made Joe stay in Cape Town.
------------------------------------------
Richie lay in the stream letting the icy water run over his body. The warm sun tingled his skin. The cold trickling water washed the weeks of dust from his pores. Cold and hot, sounds of the birds and animals in the distance, all made him feel more alive than he had been in a long time. After all that time in the dark, it was like coming alive again. He doubted he'd ever take daylight for granted again. He wondered about immortals he'd heard about who'd been buried alive for centuries; about Tom's telling him he'd once been entombed for six years. Just how did that effect someone anyway? It didn't seem to have bothered Tom, but then, nothing much ever bothered Tom. Mac had been silent and brooding over the death of Ngalo; Tom thought it was a joke. Richie could still recall every moment of the incident: his blade slicing through the skin, muscle, blood vessels, and bone; the sounds, the feeling of the body going from life to death under his hand. No quickening--no nothing. Just death.

"Richie."It was Joe Dawson's voice.

In surprise, he sat upright, water running down from his hair onto his neck, chest, and back. "Joe!" He gasped in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

He smiled softly and sat down on a large boabob stump. "My job."

"Oh."

"Good to see you, Richie."

He grinned self consciously. "Good to be seen."

Joe though it was a bit of an odd statement coming from a man sitting naked in a brook. "Mac doesn't know I'm here; let's keep it that way."

Richie did not answer, but suspicion sprang up in his mind and on his face. He liked Joe, but he didn't like what he did.

"I'm--hum--at a bit of a disadvantage," Joe explained quietly. "About last night I mean."

"Why?"

"That walk down into the mine isn't exactly ADA approved," he remarked dryly. "I saw Hans and Ngalo go down--they didn't come back."

"Oh."

Joe waited, but Richie didn't offer anything more. He finally pushed a little. "I need you to fill in the blanks for me. What happened down there?"

His feelings of warmth and happiness had vanished. He now felt uncomfortable sitting on the stones in a stream in his birthday suit. "I'm not a Watcher, Joe, and I don't plan to be. Leave that double life to Methos."

There was a hint of frustration behind Joe's attempt at being pleasant. The non-judgmental bar keep look was slipping. "Richie, this is important for you--for Tom. Better the truth than what some stupid Watcher branch guesses at. I couldn't make Ginger go down there last night, could I?"

Richie jumped up in alarm. "Ginger?! She's here?! Good Lord, Joe!" He grabbed his just washed jeans and forced the wet cloth over his equally wet skin. "Look, what happened down there happened, okay? None of us planned it. That crazy Ngalo planned it. He was the Watcher--a page straight outta Horton's book. We just stayed alive, Dawson!" He turned his back and started to walk away.

"Does Tom know about us?" Joe demanded after him.

He was tempted to make a joke about he and Joe being an 'item' but instead just stopped, hands on hips, rolling his eyes skyward.

"Did he kill Ngalo?" Joe persisted.

Turning back he shook his head. "No, he did not."

Joe relaxed some. There had been such conviction behind Richie's declaration he did not doubt it was the truth. "Thank you, Richie," he said softly.

"And he hasn't asked about Watchers yet," he added. "But he will."

Joe's eyes grew wide with emphasis. "Don't tell him--don't let MacLeod tell him. For his own good."

Richie scowled. "I won't lie to him, Dawson."

"Then don't say anything." Joe splashed into the stream, ignoring the water that slopped into his shoes. "If Watchers Headquarters found out he knew anything, there'd be a contract out on him."

Richie just stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowed and anger on his face. "And how would they find out unless you tell them?"

"I've worked for these people almost thirty years and I still don't know how they find things out." Dawson's look was almost begging. "They know Mac's aware of Watchers, they've managed to accept that. But that's it. If Mac killed Ngalo, they'll find out, I'll smooth it over. The guy was nuts after all. But if Tom killed him--there is a lot to that man's past. Ask him about the Great Potato Famine."

Richie's gaze dropped. "Mac didn't kill him either."

Joe and he stood in the middle of the stream in complete silence a moment. A mosquito landed on Richie's bare shoulder and he made no move to stop it. Joe slowly reached up and brushed it away. Joe cleared his throat. "I take it we may also assume Amanda is clean."

He nodded, just barely. "So, will they come after me, Joe?"

Joe took time, looking carefully at this forever teen. The boy who'd taken three bullets in the chest for him; whom he'd saved from certain beheading by MacLeod. He wanted to embrace him in a bear hug, tell him he was like a son to him, but thought Richie might be embarrassed. Richie did not tolerate Kodak moments well. "I'll make sure they never know."

He nodded and started to walk away. "Joe, I'm sorry, I mean, he was a fellow Watcher and all. I never killed a mortal before. It's not the same."

Joe just nodded and watched him leave.
----------------------------------------------------
The other three were eating omelets Mac had made from powdered eggs when Richie returned to camp. He picked up a plate and dumped a pile of yellow mush onto it.

"Haven't eaten like this in almost a month!" Tom laughed as he set his plate aside and patted his stomach. He relaxed back against the log and enjoyed the sun on his face. "It is a good morning to be alive."

Richie glanced from Mac to Amanda wondering if Tom had already played twenty questions with them. "We gonna go back after the ship now?" he asked.

"I own a diamond mine here," Tom said with a laugh. "A mysterious one at that! I could get movie producers down here shooting horror flicks for years. Just imagine what those workers will say when they get back to town!"

Richie lost his appetite.

It was Mac who spoke. "Sometimes it's just best to leave things alone," he remarked. "You wouldn't really give the Genevieve up for this hole in the ground, would you?"

Tom eyed him closely, then burst into a grin. "Yeah, in a moment."

Amanda laughed a nervous laugh. "There are going to be a lot more than curiosity seekers all over here in a few days, questioning the disappearance of two men. Probably be better if we weren't here--if you know what I mean."

"Which brings to mind," Tom said, pausing for a long yawn. "How did that man come to know who we were? A Watcher--isn't that what you called him, Richard?"

"Uh, no," he said hastily, "I saw his watch. I think I said 'Wow, what a watch.' Yes, I'm sure that's what I said."

Tom frowned. Mac and Amanda looked at Richie in surprise.

"What is the truth?" Tom asked, no humor in his tone.

"I don't know," Richie replied, his face reddening. "He just knew. I guess there are mortals somewhere who might know--right? Somebody must of let it slip sometime." He winced, knowing the excuses were flimsy, too flimsy.

"Is that so, MacLeod?" Tom asked of him.

He instantly decided that whatever Richie was doing was for a reason. He waved a hand with a shrug. "He must know what he's saying," he replied simply.

Tom said nothing more about it, which surprised Richie. He'd expected an interrogation at the least. Instead, Tom rose, his feelings of disappointment well hidden. "Well, time to move on then, isn't it?" He headed towards the Rover where he had left his boots.

Richie, felt ashamed and knew Tom was aware he'd lied to him. There was a time he wouldn't have cared, but they'd spent three weeks of life and death together. He followed Tom to where he was pulling on his boots sitting on the car fender. "Tom, I'm sorry," he murmured.

"About what?" he asked.

"You asked about the Watchers thing. I'd tell you if I could, but I can't," he tried to explain. "It isn't safe."

He stood up and turned to face Richie. "Safe for whom?"

He looked away. "I can't say anything, Tom. We aren't supposed to know. It usually isn't like this though."

"Like what?"

He looked away across the veldt. Heat waves were starting to shimmer off the plain even though it was still morning. "I can't, Tom."

He patted Richie's shoulder. "All right, you can't. We all have stories we cannot tell."

Richie felt uncertain. "Then there are things you haven't told me, too?"

"Boy, I haven't scratched the surface," he replied with a chuckle. He pulled his foot back out of the right boot and shook out a rock.

Richie saw the sparkling gem hit the ground, glittering as it rolled. "Tom." He picked it up. The rough diamond was almost as big as the tip of his thumb.

"Well," Tom examined it in Richie's hand. "This venture is not without some profit for your trouble. It's all yours, Richard. Finders keepers."
---------------------------------------------
(Cape Town)
Joe made his way down the thickly carpeted corridor of the hotel, appreciating the civilized feeling of it all. The carpet, the brass ceiling fixtures, even the damned wallpaper all seemed so reassuring after the two nights in the savanna. There'd been no comments from the desk clerk, just a curious look as he headed for the elevator. He longed for the shower and was glad he'd secured a handicap access room where he wouldn't have to settle for a tub bath. His skin, hair, even his ear canals were coated in dust.

He opened the door and was startled by the sounds of a western shoot-out. In a split moment he realized the television was playing.

Methos lay sprawled across the king sized bed, propped upwith pillows, bottle of beer in hand and a bag of chips on his chest.

"How did you get here?" Joe asked as he recovered from the shock.

"I like this movie," he remarked. "There's always something so--American--about John Wayne."

"What are you doing here?"

"Watching 'The Alamo.'"

"He dies in that one."

"Everyone dies in that one."

Joe returned to his point. "Why did you come."

"Couldn't stand the wait. I got curious. And your room was paid for."

Joe sighed and pulled off his dusty jacket. "They let you in?"

"I told them I was your lover."

"You didn't."

He just grinned and took a sip of beer.

"I need a shower." He walked into the bath and slammed the door.

Thirty minutes cleaner, and more willing to endure Methos', Joe came back. The movie credits were running.

Method hit the remote and turned off the set. "You're right. He dies." He got off the bed. "I take it MacLeod saw to it that Karrow and Ryan survived."

Joe nodded and sat down on a stuffed chair.

"Single handed, I'll bet."

"Almost," Joe replied. "You didn't really come all this way just because you got curious."

"Why not? None of the rest of you came for a good reason either."

Joe gave him a side-ways look. "If I didn't know you better, I'd say something was going on."

"I'm glad you know me better then," he remarked and set the empty bottle on top of the TV. "I take it you did get the exciting report you were after."

"Yeah, except I probably won't tell it."

He lifted an eyebrow. "Well, that wouldn't be the first time you held back on the ol' boys back home now, would it?"

"Since you're here and you probably know how people like Jack Shapiro will respond, tell me what you think."

Methos pulled a chair up opposite Joe and sat before him, elbows on his knees, a look of genuine interest about him. "I'm all ears."

"A Watcher named Ngalo, know him?"

Methos shook his head. "Most of the guys operating down here are unknowns."

"How about Borj Jenssen?"

"He watched Luther for years. Got chummy with him, I think."

"You knew that?"

Method shrugged. "I always did try to keep my eyes open, you know. Especially when talk about the Methuselah Stone was surfacing."

"He is senior officer down here. How do I tell him his man Ngalo was renegade and tried to whack a couple of Immortals?"

"He did?"

Joe nodded.

"Karrow?" Methos' eyes now shone with keen interest.

"And Mac and Richie," Joe added.

"He took on all three of them?"

"Well, I don't really know--I didn't get much. He, unfortunately is now dead."

"Ah," Methos said. "Jack's truce will be over. Unless, of course, they accept Mac's same reasoning as before. Unless Karrow killed Ngalo."

"No, it wasn't Karrow." Joe decided to let Methos think MacLeod had done the deed. "Karrow didn't know about Watchers."

"And now?"

"Richie says he's still in the dark--for now."

"I shouldn't imagine that will last," Methos commented.

"You know we don't have much of a file on Karrow. It's a little hard to watch a guy who keeps floating around in the ocean. No first death date--only one quickening on record."

Methos shrugged. "I don't really know very much about him. A windbag sort of guy, you know." He knew his expression did not change, nothing would give him away. In five thousand years he had become an expert liar when the occasion called for it--even to his friends.

Joe shook his head. "Borj thinks Tom could be dangerous if he learned about Watchers. To the point of having him killed if he found out."

Methos gave humored smile. "Probably afraid he'd find a way to make a buck at it. Start a series of books--maybe a TV show."

Joe tried to attempt to be light, but it failed. "That man was serious."

"One thing about Watchers--it always did have more than its share of paranoid lunatics," Methos commented with a smile. He let his gaze drift to the vase if silken yellow flowers....
*********
(Randolph Estate, England 1860)
Methos had found an easy living in 1860. It was a time of peace and prosperity for England. Spring was lush and gentle this year. He had contented himself with a gardener's life at the estate of Randolph Monday. He'd not seen or felt an Immortal in nearly ten years.A new record, he thought with pleasure. The Methos of his past was long gone. Dead. Vanished into eternity. And no one would seek him.

"Mr. Sam! Mr. Sam!"

He turned hearing the joyful calls of little Vicky. Sam was a simple name, for a simple man. He had spent almost two hundred years moving from place to place to finally become that simple man. He was amused at how, while others struggled to become more, he'd fought even harder to become unseen. The five year old came dancing through the garden, her golden curls framing her delicate face. Petticoats and lace
festooned around her as she clutched the delicate china doll to her breast.

"See Papa's gift!" She exclaimed. "His friend the sea captain brought it from France."

He crouched down next to her and examined cherished present. "It must be your birthday!" he guessed.

She grinned and shook her head no. "Guess."

"Christmas?"

She laughed outright. "That is in the winter, Silly."

"So it is," he replied. "You will just have to tell me."

"We are going on holiday, to the shore. Grandmum will be waiting."

"How nice for you," he said pleasantly. He walked with Vicky through the flower gardens helping her select a pleasing assortment of flowers to decorate the table for dinner. He had known her all over her life. For him, the experience of watching her grow from infancy into childhood, seeing the world as a play toy was something irresistibly fascinating for him. The innocence of the child bathed his world weary soul in peace. He'd never known such contentment.

Mrs. Farnsworth, the in-house maid, appeared on the back porch calling his assumed name. "Sam! The master requests an audience with you."

He turned away from Vicky and her flower hunt. "Now?" he asked in mild surprise.

"Aye. Sounds like trouble brewing. Come right quick, ye'd better," she advised.

He hurried up the flagstone steps, scraping his shoes along the edges to kick off the peat and soil. He stepped through the doorway and fear gripped him as he felt the presence of another Immortal--a sensation he'd not had in ten years. Swallowing once, for he was unarmed, he glanced around. James, the butler, was ushering a visitor out the front doorway.

The ship captain, clad in full dress blues, turned and looked back, meeting eyes with Methos.

He gave an audible gasp that did not escape Mrs. Farnsworth.

"Do ye know him, Sam?"

"N-no," he whispered, tearing his attention away from the Bee Eater who was no longer a simpleton hiding in a cave, but a man of prestige and wealth.

Tom Karrow turned away and, with a nod to the butler, left.

Methos stepped into Randolph Monday's parlor and Mrs. Farnsworth slid the mahogany pocket door shut behind him. Randolph stood beside his desk with two constables and an inspector. He looked deeply troubled.

"Sam, this is Inspector Graves from Scotland Yard. He has received the most alarming story from Captain Karrow of His Majesty's Ship Excalibur. It would appear he has offered ironclad evidence that indicates you may be implicated in the train robbery in Londonderry last month."

"What?" Methos murmured, trying to maintain his guise as a simple gardener, but the color was draining from his face. He could feel this life he had worked so hard for crumbling through his fingers.

"You'll have to come with me," Inspector Graves informed him.

Unnoticed at the door, little Vicky had been listening. Not understanding much except that her best playmate was being taken away, she ran from the house in tears to the barn where she threw herself into the soft horse hay sobbing.

Graves gestured one of the constables. "Go with him to get his personals."

Methos remained standing there in shock. "This is a mistake," he managed to utter.

Monday sighed. "I have known this man nearly seven years, Inspector. I would trust him with my family. This is so hard to accept."

"Chin up, chap." Inspector Graves tried to sound cheerful. "We of Scotland Yard pride ourselves on thorough accuracy. If you are innocent, we shall be sure to find that out."

Numb, Methos turned and, followed by the constable, headed for his room in the barn. He blindly gathered the two shirts and extra pair of pants that was all he owned. So, this was the price for anonymity. The Methos of old would have robbed that bank--and been long gone. The Methos of old would not have cared about Vicky or her family, or anything else.

"Come on, bloke," the officer commented. "We'd best be-" he never finished his sentence. A sudden sheet of flame exploded up the dry wooden wall of the barn. The man took one step towards the door and fell, a knife sunken into the center of his chest.

In shock, Methos bent down over the man as life drained out of the gray eyes.

The barn was of old wood and the fire was already raging across the rafters of hay.

Voices outside were screaming. Field hands were running forwater pails.

An oil lamp came crashing through the window of Methos' room. It shattered across the wooden floor and the fuel instantly whooshed into blue flame. Methos staggered back, stumbling over the dead body of the constable and heard something new--the small girl's shriek for help above the crackling inferno. "Vicky!" he shouted, hands up over his face against the conflagration. He needed to get to her, rescue her. The faming beam overhead collapsed on him, knocking him out...

...He was first aware of the inconsolable wailing of a woman. Abigail Monday lay prostrate on the ground, hands clutching at the soft green grass, mourning the death of her child. There were people everywhere: workers, townspeople, family, the curious.

"He's come to, Sir," the officer standing over Methos announced.

Methos, stil coughing out smoke squinted up into the beet red face of the Inspector. "Mr. Monday had pity for you," the officer sneered. "You beastly animal. You murdered my man, set fire to the barn to cover your escape! Monday's daughter has been burned to death! You are the only one they managed to save. You'll swing for sure!"

Within a week Methos had been convicted. Death by hanging would be unpleasant, but something he could get through. The death of Vicky Monday was a different matter. The evening before the execution, he had a visitor.

As the jailer led the man in, Methos felt the buzz and ground his teeth in hatred.

Tom Karrow gave a menacing grin. "It does my soul good to see you like this, Methos," he said quietly.

"It would not be enough to just take my head, would it?" Methos spat.

"You are correct," he said with a nod, but no emotion.

"But why them?"

"Why not? I spent three thousand years waiting for the right moment. It took you long enough to develop a sense of conscience. For a long time, I never thought you would. You wanted a life of ease, of peace, of friendships and love. I am here to take away something you value more than yourself."

"You murdered two people because of me?"

"That officer was a vehicle to be used to an end. The child-- well, that was an accident."

Methos gripped the bars, his face twisted in fury. "A vehicle? An accident? Could it be the years have done you less justice than me? I've become something more--a man of conscience, so you say. But you the sensitive honey collector, the story teller--you are nothing better than a heartless killer."

Karrow issued a half chuckle and turned away. "It is not that I'm insensitive, I just don't give a damn. I will not take your head; it is much more rewarding to know you will live with this for a long, long time to come. You always were, after all, the survivor."

Methos would hang the next day, an execution handled by one of the best England had to offer and as painless as such a death could be. His body was dumped, along with ten others executed that day, into an open pit for burial. As good luck would have it, the grave diggers took time out for tea before filling in the hole. During that time, Methos revived and escaped.

He would vanish from England, from Europe, but he stopped at the grave of little Vicky Monday to place a small bouquet of wildflowers on the fresh earth. Never again would he get so close to them: the innocent, the helples. Never again would he permit himself the luxury to care. Before he rose from his knee, he swore by her blood he would one day avenge her by taking the head of Tom Karrow.
***********
(Cape Town)
Tom had little trouble with Jarrs. The landlubber had already bored of owning a ship. Within a day, Tom had bought her back and by the end of the same one, was stocking provisions. He was looking forward to getting back to sea. He felt a presence as he finished stowing some food below deck and, expecting Richie, moved upward to greet him. "Richard?" he called.

"No, sorry," came the voice of his arch enemy.

In surprise, he saw Methos. "Shall I call you Adam?" Tom said with reservation.

"I decided to just drop by," Methos said quietly.

Tom ushered him inside watching him closely. "What do you want?" he said coldly.

He grinned. "I have something of value to you."

"You? Methos, the grandson to the Dung King have something of value to me?" Tom's pride swelled. "Be grateful I allowed you onto my ship."

Methos tisked with an impish smile. "You always were the one who valued knowledge, weren't you? The rest of us might have been ravaging the world--you studied flowers, Bee Eater. This!" He held out a CD. Spotting Tom's computer on the table, he booted it, inserted the disk and the Watcher's emblem started to glow on the screen.

Tom clenched his fists in controlled fury, trying to wait out Methos' playing with him.

"They are called Watchers. A mortal group who observe Immortals and record our history. They have not been around as long as you and I, but almost. They are supposed to observe and not interfere, but no one is perfect."

Tom scowled as he scanned through the information on the disk. "Why bring this to me?"

He sighed with a sly smile. "I have owed you this since the day Vicky Monday burned to death. I took a blood oath; did you think I could forget it? The Watchers have sworn to kill you if you learn of their existence. I care about MacLeod and Ryan too much to ever take from you what is mine. I shall let the Watchers do it for me." He walked out of the cabin onto the afterdeck, headed for the dock.

"You are a coward, Methos."

"No, Bee Eater, I am the survivor," he snapped back.
---------------------------
Richie stared at the glass on the table and watched the melting ice in the bottom. "I can't believe it," he muttered. "He left, didn't even say good-bye."

Ginger sympathized as she patted Percy sitting on her lap. "Aren't you supposed to be working together? Tom seemed like such a nice guy."

Richie shrugged. He wondered if Tom had held it against him that he wouldn't spill about the Watchers. He hoped someday he could explain better. What was it Tom always told him? Nothing is forever? He suddenly felt a presence, and knew it was Methos. This new ability to sense an Immortal's signature was disturbing. He made a point to mention it to Mac. There was a knock at the door. As he rose, Percy snarled at him. "Why did you keep that cat?"

"I didn't. He kept me," Ginger replied. "He's been bringing me the newspaper."

"What?"

"Never mind."

He opened the door for Methos. "I didn't even know you were in Africa," he said. He turned to Ginger. "Oh, um, Adam Pierson, Ginger Cadley."

Methos nodded to her. "Excuse me, but I can't stay. I was just in the neighborhood and I wanted to have a word with you." He drew Richie outside and they walked down to the parking lot. "I just wanted you to know that Tom was sorry he had to leave without saying good-bye. Something--urgent came up."

"Tom never has anything urgent," Richie replied. "Look, you don't have to make excuses for him. He was pissed off because I held back the truth from him."

Methos didn't say anything for a moment, just walked quietly beside him. "No, Richie, it wasn't you. He had a piece of his past come due for payment."

Richie cast a quizzical glance.

Methos thought about his next comment. He'd been thinking about it before he ever came to Richie. At first he had decided he didn't care, but he did care about the Kid. There was something special about him. Maybe it was that MacLeod's ethics were not that firmly graphed to him yet. He didn't expect everyone to be good until proven evil. And he didn't try to push people into his mold. He was owed some kind of answer. "You cannot walk through thousands of years of mud and not get any on your shoes. Someday, thousands of years from now, if you are still around, you may come to understand that."

"If I'm still around?" he said with a smirk.

"Richie, you once asked me if a five thousand year old man had any words of wisdom. Well, I have one for you. Try not to do anything today to create a yesterday you won't want to answer for tomorrow."

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

To be continued with "The Survivor"


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Apologies to James Mitchner's "The Covenant" for the Boabob story
The legend of Tadhg Mor O'Kelly is from research I did on my
husband's family history.