Disclaimer: Highlander, all its charaters including MacLeod, Methos, Richie, Amanda, Joe, so on and so forth are property of Rysher, P/D, so on and so forth. After a while it is hard to come up with creative disclaimers! This is the second half of what started in Values. I strongly recommend reading that first or this will have a lot of holes. There is a lot of geographical jumping around in this. I've tried to help by placing locale in () when there is a change. Hope it's not too confusing.
------ indicated change of scene
******indicated beginning and end of flashback (lots of those, too!).
Soo, fasten your figurative seat belts and remember to keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.
Remember: Will write for feedback.
by Peg Keeley
by Peg Keeleyonenerveleft59@hotmail.com
(Cape Town, South Africa)
"Hey, I finally have a chance to help somebody else for a change," he replied as he moved the potted fig tree to another corner. "Like it here?"
She nodded. "I just hope I don't let you and MacLeod down and mess up this business, too."
He chuckled. "Don't worry, Ginger." He picked up the cream sign with gold lettering that declared Antiques and went outside to hang it. As he climbed the ladder, he sensed the approach of an Immortal--Amanda. "You're just in time," he said without turning. "Does this hang right."
She knew he had not turned to look at her. This new "gift" of his gave her the creeps. "Up on the left. There, that's better." She carried an armload of drapes into the shop.
Ginger greeted her and they discussed the color scheme for several minutes. At last, satisfied that the color was right, Ginger said: "Let me get Richie back in here to hang these." She walked to the door and looked outside. "He's gone."
"Gone? He was there just a second ago," Amanda joined her as they both looked out on the empty street.
"Just like a man. Always disappearing when there's work to be done," Ginger kidded. "He'll be back in a minute."
But he would not be.
All good things must come to an end, Joe thought as he got his suitcase from the closet.
There was a knock at the door.
He answered it and beheld Borj Jenssen, District Head Watcher of South Africa. "Borj," Joe said, welcoming him inside. He smiled in a friendly way, but inside fear sprang to life. He had hoped not to encounter Borj's group again.
"I reviewed your report of the mine incident," Borj cut to the meat of his visit. "It is incomplete."
"Well," Joe tried to act casually, "hi to you, too. I told you before, Borj, there wasn't much to see. It was night. MacLeod went down, all three came back up."
"What of the others?"
"The two mortals," Borj's dark eyes flashed. "You did see them, did you not?"
"Yeah, but not down in the mine. They were in camp. They and the workers abandoned the camp sometime during the night."
Joe shrugged. "You'll have to ask them."
"I cannot," Borj murmured. "They are dead."
Joe could feel a ball of ice forming in the pit of his stomach. "Dead?"
"Hans Freuder's body was found in a river sixteen miles down stream."
Joe had realized that this might happen although he'd hoped that it wouldn't. "All I know is he wasn't with my people."
"Your people?" Borj repeated. "Your people contained at least one Immortal who's killed Watchers before."
"Freuder was not a Watcher," Joe declared. "Besides, even if he was, Mac wouldn't have just killed him in cold blood. Was there an autopsy?"
Borj nodded. "Blunt trauma. Fall from a great height. Or thrown."
"I didn't see the man. They didn't either."
"MacLeod has killed a Watcher before," Borj repeated. "Horton was your own brother-in-law."
"There isn't anything you can tell me about James Horton I don't already know," Joe fired back. "If you've read the history--"
"I have. In my opinion, an Immortal that killed one Watcher will do it again."
"And how about a Watcher who kills Immortals?"
"Meaning what, exactly?"
"Ngalo," Joe said, pacing the room. "You didn't tell me about him."
Borj shrugged. "I saw no need. Ngalo was a good man, a good Watcher. He's been on sensitive cases for me better than ten years. He meets up with your MacLeod and now he's missing."
"I told you, Mac didn't have anything to do with him."
"Perhaps," Borj said coldly. "If he didn't someone else did. We had an agreement, if you recall." He gestured towards the open suitcase. "I wouldn't leave town just yet if I were you. I have called Jack Shapiro in on this."
Joe winced. "Well, he was--sort of."
"Sort of? How can he be out 'sort of'?" Mac snapped, anger blazing in his eyes.
"Look, Mac, Jacob Galati whacked every top District Watcher in the world. Every one! What were they supposed to do? We pulled Jack out, the man got psychiatric help. He cleaned himself up."
Mac was silent, recalling the hysteria of Joe, Jack, and he waving guns at each other each screaming like maniacs on a rampage. Jack had been a man determined to make somebody--everybody pay for the death of his son by the hand of an Immortal. Mac had vowed to destroy Jack as nothing more than a new Horton. He had seen Shapiro behead his friend Jacob. Joe, driven by guilt at betraying Jacob, and frantic to seal of widening rift between Immortals and Watchers, had completed the scene. By a miracle all three men had survived. Since that day, there had been peace--until Ngalo.
"Mac," Joe drew him out of thought. "Jack will help. He knows about renegades. He's in charge of a task force to make sure they were all dealt with."
"He missed one."
"Look, until Jack got called into this, I thought Borj's big thing was Tom Karrow not finding out about Watchers. They threatened to kill him if he found out."
"What?" Mac sat up straighter, a slow burn starting in his eyes.
Joe touched his arm to try to calm him. "As long as Tom's at sea, he isn't going to be easy to find. And he won't have anyone telling him about Watchers. There will be an inquest into the disappearance of Ngalo. Just tell me he won't be found."
He declared: "Ngalo won't be found."
Joe gave a forced grin. "Always could count on you to keep up."
"I had to kill him, Joe."
Joe looked Mac in the eye and was disappointed to see how honest the Highlander looked while lying to him. He nodded. "I need to get back to Seacouver. Mike said something was happening but he couldn't say what. Now Jenssen wants me to stay here."
"Then go to Seacouver. If they want you, I'm sure they can find you." He looked up, sensing a presence and spotted Amanda on her way across the room.
"Duncan," she said breathlessly. "I've been looking all over for you."
"Richie is gone."
"One minute he was at the shop, the next he was gone."
Mac and Joe exchanged looks. "Still think I should go back to Seacouver?"
Richie, tied to the chair, eyes blind folded, noted the sarcasm in the older man's voice. "Yes, like I said three times already. It's been legally register--"
"Yes, yes," the voice interrupted. "You were so fortunate. Did you ever enter the Free State Rovic Mine?"
"Once," he answered truthfully. "Sort of a tour of the place."
"Who took you?"
"This guy who sells mines. I don't remember his name."
"The man helps you find a million dollar gem and you do not recall his name?"
"He didn't. I found it." He pulled against the binding ropes. "Look, who the hell are you?"
"I am looking for a friend. I think you know of him."
"I'm just a tourist, pal. I don't know anybody."
The man chuckled. "Oh, you know someone. A Miss Ginger Cadley for instance." He said the name slowly, enunciating each syllable. "She might be useful to me."
Richie froze. "She wasn't even there."
"So you say."
"What do you want from me," Richie demanded.
He could hear the man walking around his chair. The silence seemed to last forever. "Your friend, Tom Karrow. You bring him to me or you shall wish you had."
"Who did you expect?" Joe asked.
A new voice spoke. "I half expected our old friend, Duncan MacLeod."
Joe turned to face Jack Shapiro. Time and stress had not dealt kindly with the former CEO of the Watchers. Jack's hair had gone almost completely gray and he walked with the stoop of a broken man. The fire of life seemed to be gone from his eyes. "Jack!" Joe tried to sound pleased. "It's good to see you!"
Jack accepted the hand shake. "You, too, Joe. Wish the circumstances were better." He waved a file. "I see you are up to your old tricks again."
"I just tell the truth, Jack."
He did not respond, just took his seat. "Borj tells me you and he made a deal for the information on where Tom Karrow and Richie Ryan were."
Joe glanced nervously towards Borj. "He just wanted to be sure our security remained intact."
Jack's head snapped up from the file. "And did it?"
"How do you know?"
"They didn't tell him anything."
Joe cursed himself for a slip so soon. "Karrow doesn't know," he repeated.
Joe stared at Jack. "No, no, I'm sure."
Shapiro tossed out a fax onto the coffee table. "Read it."
Joe picked up the paper, and scanned the brief message that reported Karrow possessed a CD that gave the details on every Watcher station in the world. "My God," he whispered. "Who sent this? There's no name--no number."
"Does it matter?"
"Maybe it's not true," he offered.
Jack slammed a fist against the table. "Of course it's true! You remember that famous CD in Paris two years ago!"
Joe's mouth was dry. He flashed back through the living hell of Kalas.
He knew the CD had been destroyed, he'd seen the disk. But what if there
had been more than one? Salazar and Methos had designed the program--it
got Salazar killed.
Joe had met Methos in the hotel room on his return from the mine.
"Borj thinks Tom could be dangerous if he learned about Watchers; to the point of having him killed if he finds out."
Methos laughed. "Probably afraid he'd find a way to make a buck at it. Start a series of books--maybe a TV show."
"That man was serious."
"One thing about Watchers--it always did have more than its share
of paranoid lunatics."
"Joe, I'm going to handle the issue of Ngalo," Jack explained patiently. His doctor had told him that if he remained calm in the face of stress things went better. "You find Karrow."
"What?" he asked, his mind still reeling.
"You find Karrow. He's MacLeod's friend. He was hanging around with Ryan. It shouldn't be too hard for you." Jack sighed. "We'll call it Shapiro's Truce. We wrap up the Ngalo incident. You find Karrow. You agreed to handle it if he found out."
Joe glanced at Borj. "I'll find him and talk to him."
"Talk to him!" Jack leaned forward until they were eye to eye. "You kill him."
"Are you crazy!" Joe exploded. "I didn't agree to that!"
Borj jumped forward. "You agreed to deal with it."
"But not like this!"
"He will kill every Watcher he finds. He knows who we are and where we are!"
Joe ran a hand through his hair. "This is insane."
Shapiro jabbed a finger towards him. "You do it, Joe. Or I'll find
someone else who will. And then we take out you, too--like I should have
two years ago."
A fine mist filled the late afternoon air, dampening the dead brown winter grass and the frozen ground. It froze where it fell onto the cold head stones in the cemetery. Methos stood in thought before the small one with a little marble lamb lying across the top. It was old and the acids in the air of modern civilization had eaten into some of the words on the face. Victoria Monday 1855-1860. He had not been here in 130 years. The old spacious home was gone; blown up in the bombings of World War II. There was a grocery store on the corner now. The meadows had been eaten up by the city as it had slowly spread out like a cancerous growth until all that remained of the short peaceful world Methos had once known was this little fifty foot square cemetery plot.
I have done that which I promised to do. He brushed a hand across the stone lamb. Not that it matters to her. She is dead and gone. It matters to me. It may change nothing, it may change everything, but it matters to me. He heaved a deep sigh that escaped into the air as a visible vapor puff. He gazed at the iron wrought arch over the entrance and its words:
'A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. Ecc 1:4
"They are not like us," Silas said first. "But they are not like these Philistines. They are outcasts from their people." He gave a deep chuckle. "One tells me their leader is the appointed king of the Hebrews, imagine that!"
Methos found it amusing that there might be a noble disguised in the group of filthy, ragtag misfits, but his curiosity was aroused. He moved quietly amongst the soldiers camped in Ziklag seeking information. One evening he at last found the man Silas had told him about, crouching at the open fire, nibbling meat from the bones of a cooked quail. Just a commoner, like the rest. In fact, he seems not so much as the others Methos judged. He can't be over twenty-five years. He doesn't look like a commander of men, let alone a king.
"You are watching me," the man said. "Do you have a question."
Shrugging, Methos approached. "I've heard rumors. I wanted to see what a Hebrew king looked like."
He gave a mild grunt. "So say all at one time or another." He turned to look Methos in the eyes. "So? What do you think?"
Methos gave a smug smile. "You have a very good disguise."
He laughed outright. "David, seventh son of Jesse of Bethlehem of Judah."
Methos couldn't help his mild disappointment. He had entertained the idea of holding this would-be king for ransom. "Methos." He introduced himself.
David rose from the fire. He stood not over five and a half feet, but there was something to his gate, and a look in the eye that said he was the leader of men. "And do you want to know if I am really the King of the Hebrews anointed by the prophet Samuel?"
"It doesn't really matter to me," Methos said coolly.
"And sometimes I don't believe it matters to him, either," came the voice of another.
They both looked at the older, battle seasoned warrior who'd just come to the fire. "Joab, General to King David."
"Ah, then you are General to what--exactly?" Methos asked to intentionally taunt the man.
He touched the hilt of the sword in his belt. "I should slit your throat," he growled.
David just smiled. "He's just saying what all our men say as well. King David, God's appointed who rules over the flea ridden Philistine camp of Ziklag. Yes, Samuel said I was the man God had chosen. But some one forgot to tell Saul. Saul desires to rule for a long time to come and he's been seeking to kill me for more than three years."
"Twice David could have killed Saul and instead let him go," Joab grumbled.
"I will not lay a hand on the man who was God's appointed King," David said hotly to Joab as though it was a long running argument.
"Saul doesn't play by the same rules. Saul is a mad man. Israel needs David, but he cowers here in the Philistine home of our mortal enemies," Joab complained. "And I have news." He gave his attention back to David. "Achish is planning to attack Saul at Gilboa. He wants the help of our forces."
David looked quietly out across the tents of his six hundred men.
"If we take Saul, the kingdom will be yours!" Joab announced.
Methos looked closely at this man he thought should be rejoicing about the power about to be his. Instead David ran a hand through his thick curly hair. "What have I brought us to?"
"Am I missing something here?" Methos asked.
"For over a year we have raided villages along the boarders and given a percentage to Achish. The prince has believed we were raiding into Israel." Joab gave a chuckle. "Achish believes the Hebrews will never take David back and he is a man without a country. All the time we've been taking towns in Philistia."
"And leaving no survivors," Methos concluded.
Joab's grinning teeth seemed to glow in the dark. "And now Achish wants his comrade in arms to go into battle."
"Will you do it?" Methos asked. "Will you ride against your own?" As heartless as he often was, Methos could not see himself riding against his brothers.
David sighed. "Six hundred cannot resist all the armies of the Philistines.
We may have to."
Methos sighed and let the freezing mist collect on his hair. He remembered the torment he had felt when he had allowed Jacob Gilati be turned over to the Watchers. This was different--wasn't it? Hiding behind the skirts of the Watchers was not something he could be proud of. Hiding from what? Karrow? He doubted he could take Karrow in combat. In the last 200 years, he'd taken only two heads: Kirsten, whose method of fighting was to take her men with their pants down; and Silas. Even now, it was painful to remember Silas. If I had not led Kronos to Silas, he would never of left the forests. He would stll be alive in his anonymity. Until I came, Silas had lived 2000 years and troubled no one. I took his head because of MacLeod. And what would MacLeod do now? He hoped MacLeod would never know. Watchers were good at keeping themselves a mystery. No doubt some obscure Watcher hit man was cleaning his gun and sharping a blade right now. If he finds out, what will Mac do? Is justice worth this price? He could still see the young laughing face of Vicky Monday, and hear her screams of terror. He had been unable to help her then. This did nothing to help her now. Maybe this wasn't for her. Maybe it's for me.
He turned in surprise, and beheld a young woman in a tan trenchcoat, her short, light brown hair partially hidden by the black umbrella she held. "Hello," he replied.
"I didn't mean to startle you," she apologized.
He walked over to where she stood by the gate. "Not at all," he answered.
"I couldn't help but notice. No one ever comes to this small cemetery. Are you related to the Mondays?"
He was close enough now to see the velvet blue eyes and the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. He hesitated.
"I-I'm sorry," she quickly said. "I'm Elizabeth Farrington." She extended a hand.
He accepted it lightly. "Adam Pierson. I am a historian. I was just curious."
"Really?" Her face lit up. "I work for the British Historical Society. I've been appointed to research the history of this little family plot. The Society wants to put up some kind of a plaque. I was hoping to find a family member."
"Well," he shrugged, burying his hands into his coat pockets. "That's not me."
She looked at him in amusement. "You put flowers on Vicky Monday's grave."
He grinned. "It seemed a nice thing to do."
Elizabeth knew better. She had watched him standing there for a prolonged period of time. "I don't mean to pry, Mr. Pierson, but this is my first assignment. I really could use some help. If I can dig up something on the Mondays maybe I can get a chance to do something more--important."
"Dig up?" A look of amusement at her unintentional pun crossed his face.
She caught on and gave a little giggle. "You will help me, won't you."
No way, Babe, he thought, but said: "It's nearly tea time.
Can I take you somewhere out of the rain for a drink?" Sometimes
I wish I wasn't so damned nice.
It was 2:30 in the morning. Joe had not slept. He had packed his bag and arranged a flight to The States. He didn't want to be on it. He wondered where Karrow was. By now, Tom knew Joe was a Watcher. He wondered if that would help the Immortal understand that not all Watchers were like Ngalo. It was bizarre that the Watchers had remained unnoticed until Horton had become involved. I recruited Horton. How do I answer for that? Maybe I deserve to have an Immortal kill me. Borj and Jack were right about one thing. Karrow is going to be angry and dangerous. Where would he be? I shouldn't think that'll be a problem. He'll probably come for me.
There came a sudden loud pounding at his hotel room door and Joe jumped. "Coming!" he called, struggling to his feet.
"Dawson! Open this damned door!" It was unmistakably Richie Ryan.
"Richie!" He threw the door open in relief. "Mac's been looking all over for you!"
Face set in fury, he pushed his way into the room, ignoring the joy of Joe's expression. "Your friends! Your buddies!" he shouted angrily.
Joe noticed a door across the hall crack open, then shut quickly. He
turned to Richie as he shut the door. "Keep it down, will you?"
he said softly. "What is this about?" He'd never seen him this
"Your friends--Watchers! They kidnapped me! They pitched me into the city dump!" he shouted, still angry.
"How about a shower?" Joe asked, trying to be calm and find a way to settle Richie down.
"I don't want a shower! I want you to do whatever you do and find Tom right now!"
"You know all this stuff, right?" He grabbed the laptop off the desk. "Here--use it. Find Tom!"
"Richie, it isn't that easy. What happened!"
"They threatened Ginger if I don't find Tom."
"Watchers! I told you!"
"What did they look like?"
He paused for a moment. "I couldn't see them. I was blindfolded."
"How do you know they were Watchers?"
"Of course they were Watchers! It's always Watchers! They said they wanted to know what happened to their friend at the mine!"
"Richie there were two men there! One was not a Watcher!"
He tossed the laptop back to the table. It landed with a thud. "Find him!"
"Richie, Tom took off in a boat across the ocean! I can't find him till he ends up in a port somewhere! We don't have a satellite surveillance system you know," Joe was trying to keep his own emotions in check. Everybody wants Tom Karrow. Whom is Tom Karrow going to want first? That's who will find him. "Look, Richie, this is more complicated than you think. It looks like Tom has found out about the Watchers."
He scowled. "How?"
"That doesn't matter right now. What does matter is getting to him before someone else does. Don't you think I'd find Tom and warn him if I could?"
Richie looked at Dawson for a moment. "You're a Watcher, right?"
The words cut Joe deeply, but not as deeply as the suspicious, angry face of Richie. He gave a sigh. "Richie, I am your friend."
He turned away. "Right." He sounded unimpressed. He opened
the door to leave. "If anything happens to Ginger, you won't have
to worry about Tom or your buddies. You'd better start worrying about
me!" He slammed the door behind him.
Richie went directly to Ginger's apartment. It was time to take action before someone else did. He ran up the outside stairway, sensing Amanda before he ever got close to the top. Good, Amanda stayed with her. He grabbed the key from under the doormat and quickly unlocked the door. "Ginger!" he shouted as he entered.
She jumped from the couch she'd been dozing on. "Richie!" she exclaimed running to him. She threw her arms around his neck, oblivious of the smell of garbage and gave him a kiss. "I was so worried? What happened? Where did you go?"
"Get your stuff. We're getting out of here," he stated.
"Not now. Come on." He was already grabbing his duffel and tossing both clean and dirty clothing into it.
"Where are you going?" Ginger asked in confusion and dismay.
He stopped and looked at her. "Get your stuff. We've gotta get out of here."
"I don't understand!" she pleaded.
Amanda appeared in the doorway. "Richie?"
He kept talking to Ginger. "You have a suitcase or something, right? Get what you need. Hurry."
Ginger had been elated and relieved when Richie came through the door. Now she was frightened and confused. She turned to Amanda.
"Richie? What is this all about?" Amanda sounded remarkably maternal. "And what is that smell?"
"The dump. They threw me in the dump," he replied. "I've gotta get Ginger out of here."
"Why?" Amanda answered.
He paused, looking for an explanation he did not have. "Look, Amanda, she's in danger. We've gotta go."
"Well, how about a shower first. Nothing can be that big a hurry."
He nodded, trying to calm himself. He wanted nothing more than to get Ginger as far away from here as possible. "Fine. Ginger, pack. I'll be two minutes." He disappeared into the bath.
"What's going on?" Ginger asked of Amanda.
"I don't know, Sweetie. I'll get Duncan over here." Amanda went after the telephone.
Moments later, Richie was out of the bath, hair wet, dressed in fresh clothes. "Ready?" he asked of Ginger.
Amanda was in the back room, having just reached MacLeod on the phone.
Ginger hesitated. "Richie, I need to know more."
"Later," he said. "Come on, we can buy you some clothes
later." He nearly forced her out the door.
Dawson sighed as he looked at the results from his latest computer search. Nothing. He slumped back in the chair by the table in the hotel room and fixed a stuporous gaze on the laptop screen. Being a Watcher was definitely half science and half instinct. The Science part had struck out and he was too tired to be inspired. He closed his eyes. Maybe when he got back to Seacouver he could find Karrow. His mind wandered to Mike's phone call. What if Karrow was back in Seacouver? He dismissed the thought. Nobody could make it that far by ship that fast.
There was a knock at the door.
Joe jumped, now fully awake.
"Joe?" He heard Mac's voice on the other side.
He rubbed a hand over his exhausted face as he opened the door. "What time is it?"
Duncan did not seem interested in the hour. "We've got to talk," he announced.
He sighed. We usually do, especially in the middle of the night. "Is it Richie?"
"How did you know that?" Mac asked. "Has he been here?"
"He was a couple of hours ago. Claimed he was held captive by men who were after Tom and threatened Ginger." Joe closed the door and motioned Mac to the chair.
Mac noticed the open laptop. "Working late?"
He made a face and sighed. "Looking for Tom."
There was a fleeting thought of suspicion across Mac's face. He knew Joe, he trusted him, but he had to consciously remind himself of the fact. "Amanda called me. Richie went back to Ginger's place, got her, and they're on the run."
Joe gave a pained expression. "He thinks the guys who held him are Watchers. I told him he was wrong. He wouldn't listen."
"Why is he wrong?" MacLeod asked.
"Everything bad that happens isn't Watcher related," Joe commented defensively. "For thousands of years everybody did just fine. Look, that creep, Freuder, was into all kinds of stuff. Maybe these are some of his buddies. They were looking for Tom."
"And so are you."
He shrugged. "Well, it's what I'm good at."
"Why do you want him?"
Joe shook his head. He did not want to go into this. He should not go into this.
"It's Shapiro, isn't it?" Mac insisted.
Joe sighed. "I need to find him first. He's learned about Watchers. I need to try and fix this up."
Mac suddenly recalled the morning after the mine incident...
Mac, Richie, Tom and Amanda had been finishing up an awful powdered egg breakfast.
"How did that man come to know who we were?" Tom had asked of Richie. "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."
Mac suddenly looked Joe in the eye, truth dawning. "Richie knew."
Joe looked at him in question. "What?"
"Richie knew back at the mine that Tom would be in trouble if he found out about the Watchers. How did he know that?"
Joe closed his eyes for a moment. Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive...
"Joe?" he demanded. "You told him, didn't you?"
He nodded, while staring at the floor.
"Then you were at the mine."
He nodded again. "I met Richie the morning after. I asked him to tell me what happened."
Mac jumped up, anger swelling. "You lied to me, Joe! You said you were not at the mine!"
"And what about you!" Joe shouted back. "Don't come at me with this sanctimonious act about me lying to you! How about you?!"
"Me?!" Mac hollered back.
"Who killed Ngalo?" Joe fired at him.
Mac stood still in shock. At last he said much more quietly. "You knew?"
Joe nodded. "Yeah, I knew."
Mac turned away for a moment. That's different he tried to justify to himself, but could not. At last he sat back down. "Okay," he said quietly.
"I omitted some things in the report," Joe offered. "At least for now. Believe me, Mac. Watchers are not after Richie."
Mac nodded. "Can you find him?"
"Richie?" He cracked a grin. "That won't be hard." He pulled the laptop over and began to tap in the search.
"Joe," MacLeod said quietly. "What did Shapiro want?"
"He's going to investigate if Ngalo was renegade."
"And why were you looking for Tom?"
He watched the computer screen as it display a readout. This was a good time to try to change the subject. "Richie and Ginger are on the train headed for Johannesburg. It arrives at 10:47 in the morning."
Mac thought he should apologize for being less than truthful to Joe. But he didn't. "You think Richie is looking for Tom?"
Joe shrugged. "Maybe. Right now he's just running scared."
"I'll fly to Johannesburg and meet the train," Mac told him.
Joe could feel his heart thumping loudly and his conscience stabbing him. If I don't come all the way clean right now, this will come out later. Now is the time. "Mac." He licked his lips. "One thing more."
He looked back in question.
"Karrow." He pulled the crumpled fax from his pocket.
Mac scanned the sheet, the look of question gradually melting into deep concern. "How could this happen? Who would do this?"
Joe gave a shake of his head that was all he could manage.
"A CD? We destroyed it. I saw it. It was the only one."
"I thought it was the only one," Joe murmured thickly.
"Then....." Good God, no! Mac thought to himself. He stared at Joe in open shock and dismay. "Why?" There has got to be another explanation. Methos, why?
"I can't explain it," Joe said, not only feeling his sorrow,
but knowing the pain MacLeod was enduring at the realization that two
friends, both of whom he loved dearly, were going to destroy one another.
The lighting was subdued in the rail car. Most of the riders of the "red-eye" were trying to get a little rest as the train rocked rhythmically down the track. Richie sprawled across two seats, back to the glass window where dawn was a mere suggestion on the horizon. Ginger lay across his lap, her head resting on his chest as she slept fitfully. He was exhausted, but too frightened to sleep. He glanced around the other passengers of the car. I'd never know if one of them is a Watcher. There was a man with a goatee--he looked suspicious. Maybe the older woman using her large bag as a pillow; She looked so innocent. She would not look the part--perfect. He rubbed his eyes with his hand. It all seemed like too much. He did not understand what was happening. Why were they after them? I killed that bastard, Ngalo, is why he told himself. I should have talked to Mac. Maybe I should have trusted Joe more. Maybe I should have trusted Joe less.
Tom's voice echoed in his head. "You need to stop dwelling on the moment and expand your horizons. And you need to trust your friends."
Ginger moved, awakening. "Richie?" she whispered. "We there yet."
"No," he gently patted her hair. "Go ahead and sleep."
He looked out the window. "It wasn't safe."
"But it is here?" she asked without malice.
"I don't know," he admitted.
"I think you'd better tell me the whole thing."
He shook his head. "I can't. You wouldn't understand. It would be too dangerous."
"Too dangerous?" she repeated. "Looks to me like it's already too dangerous. Let me decide what I do and do not understand."
"There's a group of guys who want me to find Tom and turn him over to them. They said they'd hurt you if I didn't." Richie wasn't sure whether Ginger was still buying into his tale about being a spy. It had been just a little thing at the time.
She was quiet a minute. "So what now?"
He looked out of the window at the lightening sky. "I don't know."
"Are we running away from something or to something?"
He pondered that a moment. Where were the exotic places he and Tom had
talked about sailing? "To something," he finally decided.
Disappearing in the Twentieth Century was no easy task. Methos was still the expert. He carried no credit cards, but did posses a falsified driver's license and passport. He had never particularly liked England, but the people were private and willing to let him be the same. He wondered about checking in as Adam Pierson at the Watchers branch, but decided against it. Dawson might be waiting for something like that. Dawson. The one person who would put it all together. And what would he do with that? Information regarding Adam Pierson had been carefully deleted from the CD he had given Karrow. He dropped his bag onto the floor of his two room, pre-furnished apartment.
Elizabeth Farrington. Why was it that as soon as he decided to distance
himself from people someone like her dropped into his life? She wasn't
extraordinarily beautiful or full bodied, not even extremely witty. She
appeared quite innocent and trusting. After all, she had let him, an absolute
stranger, take her to tea. They'd made simple talk about the weather,
about her work, as strangers do. Any comments he had about the Mondays
he had kept to himself. He was not sure why. It would have been an easy
thing to toss her a few tidbits and be done with it. He'd told her nothing
and she would be back. He dropped across the bed, still fully clothed,
and stared at the picture on the wall of a British officer on horseback,
a sword raised over his head.
David's band of men had hung to the rear of the armies massing to ride under orders of the King of Gath. Silas had been as thrilled as a child at the fair. The dust was thick in the hot air and the noise of hundreds of horses and camels combined with the yelling and jeering of thousands of fighting men stirred the blood of the horseman.
"We will see glorious fighting! Do you know that the legions of Philistia are the toughest most disciplined in the world?" Silas did a little jig. "We'll have good stories to share with Kronos."
Methos smiled. "We shall, Brother," he agreed. He should have been excited by the sites around him, but his curiosity about the Hebrew man who would be king was greater. Would this man fight against his own? Even a Horseman understood the sanctity of brotherhood. He could not imagine himself ever betraying his brothers for anything.
Towards the tent where the leaders of the armies were discussing their strength, shouting erupted. The flap was thrown back and a large Philistine prince in full armor stormed outside a fist raised towards Achish. "No, I will not ride!" he shouted.
Methos came closer.
A second man, just inside the door was trying to reason with Achish. "Your memory may be clouded, Achish, but mine is not. What is to keep David from turning his allegiance to Saul to find favor with him in the heat of battle? It would be the heads of my brothers, not his that would fall. I will not ride."
Achish took David by the arm. "He is a great warrior! He has stood beside me for over a year!"
The first man came back to the tent. "He is a great warrior. Have you forgotten how the women of the Hebrews danced and cheered him when he killed Goliath! My cousin! Your cousin! And you have taken this man into your confidence! There will be no man from the town of Gath who will ride with that Hebrew at his rear!"
Achish, heaving a sigh, turned to David. "You won't be welcome. I know you are an honest man and would have fought well for us. But I guess it is not to be. In the morning, take your men back to Ziklag."
As David walked away from the princes, Methos met up with him.
"I guess you will not have to find out if you could fight against your own," he commented.
David glanced at him. "My army will be disappointed. There will
be other battles. God stopped me for I would have fought against the armies
of Saul. I had made my pledge to Achish." He gave the hint of a smile.
"I shall be more careful about my oaths."
"Try not to do anything today which shall create a yesterday
you won't want to answer for tomorrow," Methos' own words echoed
through his mind again. Damned good advice. Too bad I didn't come up
with it in time for myself. He decided he would give some little bits
of Monday history to Elizabeth tomorrow, enough to satisfy her, and then
be gone. He wondered about Joe Dawson. He knew the mortal had been left
in the line of fire every bit as much as Tom Karrow. A piece of him regretted
that. Joe felt too much, care too much. In his own way, he expected the
same total conversation to high ideals as MacLeod. Sometimes one just
could not live up to those expectations. Sometimes that hurt--a lot. Sometimes
being the survivor can make me feel like a real bastard.
The flight was late. Mac had thought he would be an hour ahead of the
train, but there were delays, then more delays. When the wheels touched
down to the tarmac, there was less than fifteen minutes before the train
would be into the terminal. It would take longer than that to just cross
town. He'd already studied the map of Johannesburg and had a route plotted.
He took off at a dead run.
They were squeezed along the flow of bodies towards the exit of the car. Ginger murmured: "What do we do now?"
Richie had asked that question of himself repeatedly during the long hours of the ride. He still had no answer. "Just look normal."
They stepped onto the platform and he cast a quick look around.
A gray-haired man turned from the magazine stand and noticed Ginger. His gaze lingered. She reminded him of his daughter he had not seen in three months.
Richie noticed the look. He's watching us. He grabbed Ginger's hand. "Come on." He hurried into the crowd, blending in with a tour group.
The guide was shepherding his flock towards the tour bus. He chattered loudly in Italian, waving his hands. He never noticed the two extra passengers who slipped to the rear.
"Where are we going?" Ginger whispered.
"Away from here," Richie answered.
She glanced around at the strangers around her and wondered if she should
take control. Richie was clearly just running. They needed to stop, take
stock of what was going on and develop a plan. But stuffed in the back
of a bus was no place to discuss this. She hoped the tour would stop at
a point of interest soon.
There was a handwritten 8 by 10 notice taped to the front door of the bar. It read 'Closed. Family emergency'
"What the hell," Joe muttered. He yanked it down and crushed it into a ball in one motion. Unlocking the door, he entered and flipped on the light. The overheads threw radiance across the empty floor with the chairs stacked neatly on top of the tables. Mike should be here. He should be. He wasn't. Joe recalled the man's anxiety on the phone and for a moment wished he had not lingered another day before coming back. Earlier he had wished he wasn't leaving Africa and the unfinished business there. Sometimes there just is no doing the right thing. He walked around behind the counter, turning on the rear lights as he went. The counter was spotless, rows of bottles standing at stiff attention across the back. Something crunched and Joe stopped. On the floor behind the counter were the remains of a shattered a Jack Daniels bottle. He picked up the phone and began calling. As he went through number after number getting only answering machines and disconnected lines, his concern grew like a swelling wave. Every Watcher in the Northwest was gone. He had to think about what to do next. There was no doubt in his mind that Tom Karrow had been here.
His hands shook as he picked up the broom to sweep the broken glass away. It was all he could think of to do for the moment. He heard movement in the dark behind the band stage. Some one was there. Joe was surprised at his own nearly panicked fear. "Who's there?" he demanded, harshness disguising his fright.
Tom Karrow stepped into the light. His curly peppered hair and beard seemed to glow in the light, as the shadows nearly hid most of his facial features. The big ancient Immortal casually walked towards Joe.
"Oh, hi, Tom." Joe hoped his voice sounded friendly. "How did you get here so fast?"
"Trade secret." The response held a tone neither of hostility nor friendship. As last, Tom stood across the bar from Joe in full light.
"A drink?" Joe offered, not letting eye contact break. His
heart raced, but his face looked calm.
Karrow said nothing, offering no assistance.
Finally Dawson spoke. "It would seem most of my help took a sudden vacation."
Tom gave the hint of a sly smile. "Mortals are prone to superstition."
"Then I trust they will be back," Joe said with more bravado than he thought he had. At least my knees can't knock together.
"I would not count on it," the response was cold. "I can be very convincing." Tom made a sudden movement and there was a twang of a sound.
A bowie knife was embedded in the wooden counter top, between two of the spread fingers of the left hand Joe had placed there. Joe gave no expression at all, but was grateful the bar was between him and Karrow and he could use it to keep himself upright. He calmly reached out and tugged the knife from the wood. He held it back out to Tom, their eyes meeting, neither revealing a thing. "You owe me a finish job."
Tom accepted the knife, then, leaning across the bar, took Joe's shirt in his strong fist and pulled the Watcher forward, touching the blade to Joe's throat. "Give me one reason I should let you live."
"Duncan MacLeod," Joe answered without hesitation.
With a lift of the eyebrows and a small nod, Tom released him and said in an unexpected tone of humor. "A good reason." He put the bowie away.
Joe pushed one shot glass towards Tom. "Bottoms up."
Tom gulped down the whiskey. "Is this how you solve life's problems?"
Joe tried to find a smile. "With booze? Or with offers of friendship?"
"Is that what this is? An offer of friendship?"
"I thought the friendship we already had," Joe remarked.
"According to the Watchers Oath, that would not be likely. What I am to you, at best, is a report. At worst, I am an abomination."
Joe winced internally. "Watchers aren't there to judge Immortals. We record history, we preserve it accurately."
"Tell me the Ngalos, the Hortons, Wolfs, Luces, Carters--and God knows how many others--tell me they are interested in anything other than the obliteration of Immortals."
"What about those like Ian Bancroft?" Joe fired back. "And what about the other four hundred plus Watchers dedicated to sitting in cars all night in the damned cold; hiding around corners; the shadow that is never quite seen, faithfully recording the lives of those special people privileged to transcend time. All the while those Watchers themselves age, grow old, and die. Do you know what a Watcher's greatest sadness is?" Joe paused to catch his breath and to add emphasis to his point. "It's to outlive his Immortal."
"You may be a gimp, but you can sing and dance with the best of them, Joe Dawson," Karrow remarked.
From anyone else, the statement would have been an insult, but Joe understood. He began to think there was hope. "Think of all the history Watchers have archived for the future world."
"The archiving of history doesn't trouble me so much as the making of it," Tom answered. "I do not like having my life trifled with."
"You have viewed the CD Methos gave you. What do you think?"
"There was nothing about my Watcher," he answered.
"You don't have one. Damn, how would you follow around a guy who spends half of his life at sea?"
Tom showed mild interest. "You knew about Methos?"
Joe nodded. "Yeah."
"You didn't record that."
He rolled his eyes. "At the time, it was the right choice. It still is." Joe answered truthfully.
Tom paced the length of the bar and back. "So, you trash your oath when, to you, it seems to be in the interest of good. Other Watchers trash theirs for what they think may be good--the elimination of us."
"Tom, the Hunters are small group. There has been a task force from within the Watchers whose job it is to track them down and deal with the problem."
"The problem? You make it sound so trivial."
Joe raised a hand. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to. Look, Tom, you of all people I should think would understand the need to preserve the history, the culture, the stories of the past. You are not so far removed from us. We, also, are the storytellers."
He walked over to a table, took down a chair and sat on it. "I wondered how long it would take you to get to that point," he said. "I thought of that myself two days ago."
"There are differences, you know." He shook his head. "I cannot effect the outcome of tales that occured hundreds of years ago. But for whatever the reason good or evil, Watchers do effect the outcome of the lives of Immortals."
Joe came around the bar counter. "Everyone effects everyone's lives, Tom, is that so bad? The girl at the register of the supermarket gives you the special smile; that effects you. Sometimes you remember that for years. So what? Watchers know it is better we be unseen because our knowledge in the wrong hands could give an Immortal an unfair advantage. But to effect one another's lives isn't some kind of unforgivable sin."
Tom rose from the chair and paced the distance to the bar counter and back. "You are trying to change this to a philosophical issue. Watchers are not a philosophy. They are real. You are real. That tattoo on your wrist is real. From the records of your own people you and MacLeod have teamed up more than once to complete whatever it was you decided to be in the best interests for yourselves."
"Not for ourselves, Tom. You know better. We're friends."
Tom looked towards the ceiling and took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled
it. "Your friendship is cheap. MacLeod is your friend. I assume Amanda
and Richard are in the number also. Who else? You said you and I were
friends. Is everyone who crosses the threshold of this bar suddenly become
your friend? And that makes everything all right?" He shook his head
slowly. "Tell me something, Dawson." He gave the Watcher a sideways
look. "Is Methos your friend, too?"
Duncan had spent half an hour vainly searching the railroad station for Richie and Ginger. He never sensed his student. Disappointedly, he finally gave up. He wondered where they might have gone next. Where does Richie always go for answers about Watchers? Joe? He's already been there. Who else? He mentally threw out idea after idea. Why didn't he come to me? He bought a bottled Coke and leaned against a pillar as he sipped it. His gaze drifted to the overhead billboard. It depicted a man wearing a suit with a large inflated swimming ring around his middle and sunglasses on his grinning face.
It said: 'Get Away From It All.' It was an ad for the Canary Islands.
Mac decided to return to the airport.
Amanda had not done much all day except read Ginger's movie fan magazine and play with Percy. Playing was not something Percy really did. He did watch patiently, head cocked to one side, as Amanda dangled a string before him for several minutes. At last, deciding he had tolerated this human enough, he turned his back, and with a flip of his tail went off to take a nap.
An hour later, Amanda heard him give a pitiful yowl at the front window. "Want to go out?" She walked to him. The cat gave another meow that was clearly a warning of sorts. She glanced past him out of the window just in time to see two men in suits and colored glasses getting out of their car. They were headed toward Ginger's apartment. Amanda watched only a moment and in that time, Percy jumped down from the window and went to the back patio door where he stood meowing loudly.
"I think you have the right idea," she agreed. Picking him up, she slipped out the back door. She got to the street through the alley and paused just a moment to collect a stray hair.
A black car came to a quick stop beside her and the power window slid down revealing a gray haired man with a pistol aimed at her. "You will come with me."
She dropped the cat and took two steps away.
"I realize this won't stop you permanently, but it would make a mess. Besides," he gave a smirk, "it would spoil that lovely dress."
Slowly, Amanda got into the back seat.
"Doesn't this thing ever stop?" sighed Ginger. It was hot, smelly, and she was afraid she was about to get motion sickness.
Richie had been trying to piece together the guide's rushed Italian based on the smattering of Spanish he'd learned from Mac. "I think they are on a slow route to the airport," he replied.
"How slow? I need to get out of here," Ginger pleaded.
He sighed, trying to remain patient. He was numb from lack of sleep and too exhausted to make a decision right now. All he wanted to do was get somewhere safe. He recalled Tom commenting on how safe the ship was.
"Immortals don't walk on water," Tom had said cheerfully. "They can't sneak up on you. Shipboard might as well be Holy Ground."
He thought about a ship. Johannesburg is landlocked. But a plane was almost as good. His sword would have to be stowed in baggage, but then so would any other Immortal's. "We'll catch a plane," he decided.
Ginger looked a little less than pleased. "To where?"
He shrugged. "Anywhere. No, the States. Your Dad is there, right?"
She gave a half nod.
The bus began to slow to a stop and the guide jumped up, loudly announcing plans in Italian. The doors swung open and the herd of tourists moved as one mass towards the exit. When they were through the door, Richie and Ginger burst free from the group and stood for a moment on the sidewalk appreciating open space.
"Come on," Richie said, tugging Ginger's sleeve. He suddenly felt like a target on the breezy sidewalk. The terminal was a bustle of normal afternoon traffic as businessmen and travelers scurried about in human rivers from check ins to gates to baggage claims. There was an irresistible aroma drifting from a small pizza stand.
"Let's get something to eat," Ginger decided and Richie was too hungry himself to refuse.
With a wary glance around, he followed her. The Cokes and pizza helped
a lot. "I'll get us booked on a flight to the States," Richie
said was he wiped away crumbs with a napkin. The food had made him see
just how tired he was. His body wanted nothing else but rest. If he sat
another moment, he was afraid he'd sleep a year in the restaurant booth.
He moved to the closest TWA ticket counter.
MacLeod gave up on his search of the bus terminal. Instinct told him Richie would not stay in Johnnesburg. He was scared and wanted to protect Ginger; he'd go some place he considered safe. That would be Seacouver or Paris. Either way, he would have to get there by air. He headed back towards the airport.
He hoped they might be here, and had not already had spread wings to
anywhere in the world.
"Cairo! I thought-"
"There wasn't a direct flight until tomorrow. From Cairo we connect to London. We'll be in London by tomorrow morning. The next day, we leave London for Orlando." He shrugged. "That was the best I could do. Anyway, we've got to move quickly. They're already boarding."
He hurried her across the terminal to the gate. The smiling stewardess glanced at their tickets and passports, then shooed them down the tunnelway. They were just stepping through the plane's doorway when Richie felt a faint tingle. "Mac," he identified it.
MacLeod had been walking by the gate and felt a slight tingle of an Immortal
just barely in range.
The uniformed guard at the ticket counter jumped forward. "Have you a ticket, sir?"
"No, but it's important. My friend-"
"Only ticketed passengers beyond this point."
"But you don't understand-" he argued.
In the plane, Ginger turned to Richie. "Is something wrong."
He frowned. "I need to go back. Mac is here."
"How do you know that?" she asked.
Ignoring her, he turned around.
The smiling stewardess stood there as the door was sealed behind her. "I am sorry, Sir. This is final boarding. We are preparing to depart. Please take your seat."
Mac quickly had given up trying to argue with the ticket agent. "Okay, can you tell me where a passenger is headed?"
The man frowned. "We do not give that information out, as a rule."
"He is a very good friend. Please, this is life and death," Mac insisted, quietly slipping an American $100 bill into the man's hand.
"Well, I suppose, if the man was a relative..."
"He's my son," Mac insisted, passing another bill.
"Well, in that case," he gave a reassuring smile as his fingertips danced over the keyboard as Mac supplied the name. "One way tickets for two. Cairo to London to Orlando, Florida."
"Get me on a flight to intercept."
"The family was descended from the Earl of Essex in the 1700s. They took up residence here shortly after the turn of the 19th Century. See here--" she pointed to a head stone bearing the writing Geoffrey Hamilton Monday beloved husband, devoted father. "He had a large home built here. He made a real killing in the War of 1812. Went from a minor merchant to a wealthy shipping company."
Methos grinned. The girl had a way of using puns unconsciously that nearly had him in stitches.
"What?" she asked.
"I did it again, didn't I?"
He nodded, trying not to laugh. "Killing in the War of 1812?"
She looked blankly at him for a moment, then realized what she had said and gave a little laugh. "Well, anyway. Old Geoffrey had a pretty colorful history. Kept several women besides his wife. It was a leading scandal of the town. He had an odd death in 1848."
"The British blockaded ports in Ireland during the potato famine and Geoffrey made a healthy sum capturing International ships and bringing them back to England. The King paid him a reward for every one he intercepted. Apparently enough money to buy off all the mistresses to keep their mouths shut. One day they found Geoffrey dead." She paced a short distance through the cemetery, to the base of the huge elm tree. "Right here."
"Yes. He'd been beheaded."
Methos gave a staged wince. "What a way to go. It sounds to me like you already know quite a bit about the Monday story."
"Anybody could find that much out." She opened the picnic basket she'd brought along and handed Methos the bottle of wine.
He fooled with the cork. "It doesn't bother you picnicking in a cemetery?"
She laughed. "I don't think the sleeping ones mind."
"I suppose not," he replied. He did not usually find women who took the subject of dead people so casually. He poured the wine into two glasses she held.
Elizabeth sat on a soft blue blanket in the sun and looked up at Methos. "Tell me, Adam, what has your research found."
Kneeling down on the blanket, he looked into her young deep eyes and found joy in her excitement of life. He did not feel like talking about the Mondays and this unusually early spring day. He felt drawn to her like some irresistible force was pushing him forward. He almost kissed her. Checking himself, he drew back. "Hum, the Mondays." Better put this campfire out or I will be here till I am the one beheaded under the elm tree. "Randolph wasn't Geoffrey's son. He was the wife's son of an earlier marriage whom the old man adopted."
Elizabeth leaned forward a little. "I never read that!"
"He, hum, inherited it all from his mother when he turned 21 in 1852." She is so lovely, so simple in her ways. Something about her reminds me of Alexa. "He had a family." The sun makes her hair seem to glow like some kind of ethereal angel. He blinked once. Snap out of this silliness. You are not some love sick puppy. "His wife was Abigail."
She seemed so close, the scent of her perfume filled his mind. She did not seem to notice how he looked at her. "Three children," she recalled. "Michael inherited the empire from Randolph."
"She died," he whispered.
"Vicky died in a fire."
"The gardener killed her."
"Huh," he uttered, licking his lips. "I'm sorry." He pulled away some. "My mind was on--something else." He took a quick sip of wine.
Elizabeth flushed slightly. "Adam, I'm not trying to make a play for you or anything."
"No, of course not," he agreed.
"I mean, not that you're not...." She was completely crimson by now.
"Elizabeth, it's okay," he assured her. "You are a lovely woman. I was just thinking more about you than your research." God, how stupidly corny!
She looked away. "You don't have to patronize me. I have never been known as a knockout. Didn't even get a date to my senior prom."
Emotion overruling his aged judgment, Methos leaned over and this time
"There is nothing to be afraid of, I assure you," Jack Shapiro explained to Amanda.
A young woman entered the room with hot tea and offered some to Amanda. She slowly accepted the cup, letting it sit on her lap. So far, things seemed unthreatening. The living room setting of the Watchers Headquarters seemed hospitable enough. Dawson had told MacLeod that Shapiro was a changed man, or at least a recovered one. But she did not forget what he had done. "What do you want?" she asked evenly, showing her lack of intimidation.
"Information. Joe Dawson tells me Ngalo was a renegade Watcher. Borj Jenssen disputes that."
"Sounds like none of my business," she countered.
"Were you in the mine with MacLeod."
"Yes. I never saw that Ngalo guy there though. Only Hans Freuder. He was nuttier than a fruitcake."
"Why was that?" Jack was already counting points. Dawson had not mentioned Amanda's presence on that fatal night.
"Something scared him."
"Something or someone?" Jack asked moving closer.
"I don't know. I didn't see anything."
"Did you hear anything?"
"You tell me."
She glanced at him, then away across the room. "As a matter of fact, I did hear something. Freuder pissing in his pants."
Shapiro saw no humor in her response. "MacLeod was with you."
"Mac and I went down following Hans. We wondered why he carried a rifle."
"Who else was there?"
She took a small sip of tea. "Got any sugar? This is bitter."
Shapiro could feel his blood pressure rising. He struggled mentally to control himself. Finally, he asked in a very calm voice. "Did you ever see Ngalo behave in a threatening manner?"
"I didn't see him down there," she repeated with a shrug.
"But MacLeod told you Ngalo shot Tom Karrow and threatened to take his head."
"Really?" Amanda asked, wide-eyed in faked innocence. "Did he tell you that?"
Jack sat on a stuffed chair across from Amanda. "Look, this is very irregular and once it's done, this all vanishes from the records. I'm not trying to get you or MacLeod." As much as I might like to "I am just trying to keep a clean house here. Unfortunately, I have to question the validity of Dawson's story."
"Why is that?" she asked genuinely interested.
"Can you see him getting down that stairway?"
"Someone reported to him. MacLeod is his friend. You can see the complications of an Immortal reporting on his own actions to a Watcher."
"If he didn't, you all wouldn't have much, would you. MacLeod didn't tell me anything. All I know is that Hans fell off the walkway. Mac, Tom, and Richie came walking back up the tunnel. That's it. That's all she wrote!" Amanda set the tea aside and got to her feet. "This is really starting to bore me. I think I'll go find the cat."
"I have arranged for you to be our guest for awhile," Shapiro announced.
She sighed. "Why does this not surprise me."
Joe's back had become stiff from the straight-backed chair he'd occupied for over four hours. He needed to do some serious lying down and muscle stretching. He wondered if Immortals ever got cramped muscles. Maybe not. Tom and he had talked, argued, shouted, raged, laughed, almost cried during the passing time. He wondered if anything had drawn them any closer to a resolution. Could there be a resolution? What kind of resolution could there be with Jack's death order still hanging over him?
Tom had opened the third fifth of whiskey. If the alcohol ever dimmed his judgment, it did not show. He poured new drinks. Joe's sat untouched. "These renegade Watchers are something new then."
"I don't really know. I think so," Joe answered. "Until Horton killed Darius there had never been interference. That was what pulled Mac and me together. I had to convince him we weren't all killers."
"And you did convince him."
"Hum." Tom downed his drink. "He may be a sentimental sap, but he isn't gullible. Must have been quite a job."
"Not as much as now," Joe sighed more to himself than Tom.
Tom looked up at him, a twinkle in his dark eyes, and chuckled. "Yes, I guess so. You know, it really doesn't matter what conclusion you and I come to here, Joseph."
"Your Watchers have already made their judgment. There is a order for my destruction."
"You know that?"
He nodded with a slight smile. "That was the whole point to this, right? Methos hoped the Watchers would do what he was too cowardly to try himself."
With the subject brought up by Tom, Joe asked the question that had plagued him for two days. "Why did he do it? I know Methos to be a good man. I can't imagine him setting up one of his own."
"He is hardly one of my own," Tom replied with distaste, lips curled in hatred, eyes blazing. "You and Hitler were both mortals. Is he one of your own?"
"Of course not, but I wouldn't compare Methos and Hitler," Joe answered.
"Nor I." Tom agreed. "Hitler did us the favor of dying."
Joe pursed his lips. "But things change. You are recalling the Methos of thousands of years ago."
"Was it the Method of a thousand years ago who started this madness? See things for what they are. He started this, not me. And it was two weeks ago."
Joe waited for just a moment. He knew Tom had not answered the question and wondered what the risks were of restating it. "Will you tell me why Methos did it?" he asked more humbly. "I know what you are saying, but it is so contrary to the Methos I have come to know."
"You want to hope he had a good reason, that he is not just a personification of evil." Tom strolled the length of the bar again. "To him it is a good reason. Who is to say? Events that happen hundreds or thousands of years ago don't always stay buried. Four thousand years ago he murdered my son. One hundred thirty years ago a child he cares for is in the wrong place at the wrong time and dies by accident and it is my fault. But this time your good man has pushed your Watchers forward to take the brunt. They believe I will kill them. He hopes they will kill me. Not very noble by anyone's standards."
"We can stop it," Joe replied, desperation in his voice.
"Really? Do you think you can change the mind set of such a formidable group as the Watchers?"
He wanted to say yes, but knew he had not gotten this far by lying. "No."
"And so that leaves us where we have been from the beginning. Your people plan to kill me." Tom turned the shot glass upside-down on the table. "Who gets the lucky job?"
Joe glanced up at him. "I do."
It was nightfall when the jet touched down on Egyptian soil. During the three-hour layover, Richie and Ginger had bought her a change of clothes and gotten a real meal into their tired, hungry bodies.
As they ate, Ginger watched Richie and smiled. "Do you remember our sophomore year in high school?"
He chewed on the unidentified meat. "What about it?"
"I had the most awful crush on you!" She giggled. "Angie and Desiree and I would peek through the cracked window of the boys locker room and watch you shower."
He flushed. "You did? Really?"
She laughed. "Don't worry, it was pretty steamed up in there."
"But you really liked me? I mean, I was a jerk."
"You were cute," she corrected. "And yeah, we all followed you everywhere. You mean, you never saw us?"
He shook his head, but was surprised at how good that conversation made him feel.
"My father found out and he nearly blew a blood vessel. I mean, he was this military top brass with a daughter having the hots for just a normal kid."
He laughed. "I was hardly normal."
"That may be true. I mean, the police dragging you off once a month probably didn't help." She was silent for a minute, then gave a sad smile. "Daddy always has been a bit pigheaded. Mama died August of 92, and he requested a transfer. We wound up in Africa. God, how I hated him for dragging me away from everybody."
Richie pondered what he was doing in August of 92. Things like hiding in Conner MacLeod's trunk and trying to rip off the antique shop. "I didn't know about your mom."
"Well, I think you had dropped out by then."
He knew he had.
"I was so mad at Daddy making me move, things were never the same for us again. Neither of us wanted to be together. I think he was surprised when I decided to stay in Cape Town when he retired. He could have chosen to stay, too, you know. Instead he went back to Florida."
"You talk to each other now?"
She shook her head. "Not since he left a year ago. He sent me a Christmas card but I just couldn't see a point in sending one back. We just don't relate."
"Family is important you know," the boy who had never had one offered. "Maybe when we get to the States we can look him up. I think I'll call Joe and apologize when we get to London. I was pretty upset."
She considered it. "Daddy would be surprised to find out how well you turned out. I think I'd like to tell him I still love him. We are landing in Orlando, aren't we? I guess it isn't too far to Tampa." A tear crept into her left eye, but she blinked it away. "Even if it's just for mama's sake."
Richie's exhaustion was catching up with him. How long had it been since
he'd slept? He wanted to listen to Ginger, but he couldn't keep his eyes
open. He didn't mean to, but within moments, he was in a sound sleep,
slumped over his plate of food on the table. His final conscious thought
was that he wanted to talk to Mac.
"Jack," a lesser man entered the office where Borj and Jack sat talking, "she's making her escape."
"Let her go," Jack advised. "She'll take us right to MacLeod. He's already probably headed after his student who's gone after Karrow." He spread his arms. "It all fits together."
"You told Joe Dawson to handle Karrow," Borj commented.
Jack looked at him placidly. "Did I? Well, I guess I just had to change my mind."
Borj glanced at the stack of chronicles on the desk before them, his brow furrowed. "Jack, there is pretty strong evidence. There are eight Immortals here that were not heard from again after Ngalo followed them. Maybe MacLeod had to kill him or be killed. We can't condemn him for that."
"I don't." Then, seeming to change the subject, he asked: Who do you suppose told Karrow about Watchers?"
"Do you use CD based software here?"
"Of course, but nothing that is beyond my district."
"Exactly. Nobody does that; it's too risky." Jack leaned forward to the desk, elbows on the top, fingers pressed together. "In Paris in the Spring of 1995 there was a compromise involving CD based data. An obscure little Watcher named Don Salazar created an extensive database of all Watchers and known Immortals in one."
Borj's eyes grew wide. "Dear Mother of God."
"Exactly. It was almost the ruin of us all."
"Is it this that Karrow has?"
"I don't know. It was supposedly destroyed. At least Dawson produced a charred disk. No way to prove it was the disk." Shapiro picked up a pencil and played with it. "So, who gave the disk to Karrow? Dawson? MacLeod? Someone else?"
"Was there anyone else involved in that affair?"
"Yes, there was." Shapiro suddenly stood. "He helped Dawson in the Jacob Gilati business. He's just a researcher. But he's the one who developed that database with Salazar. Adam Pierson."
"Could he have given the CD to Karrow? Why would he have?"
"You are asking questions I don't have answers to," Jack said, thinking. "All I know is that Pierson is friends with Dawson which means he may also have ties to MacLeod." He stood in thought recalling Adam's sudden appearance at headquarters during Dawson's trial. The only one who could have told him about that hearing was MacLeod. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. The doctors had told him it helped to stay focused. He was focused. "If we follow Amanda, she will lead us to answers, I'm sure of it."
"It's just you," she sighed, recovering herself. She cautiously
opened the door and turned on the light. "Oh my." The front
room had been thoroughly tossed by an expert looking for something. What?
Percy bounded across the shredded couch back to the table and meowed again,
his tail making little curli-cues in the air. "Well, nobody will
gripe about you clawing the furniture now," Amanda remarked. He issued
another meow for a reply. Her gaze was attracted to the answering machine.
Its small idiot light was blinking to say there was a message waiting.
The lid was open and the tape was gone. She looked around on the floor
thinking it might have gotten knocked out, but she did not find it. Whoever
had searched the apartment had taken the tape. She picked up the phone
and called the hotel to see if Mac was there. He wasn't.
"Yes, ma'am," came the professional voice.
She stopped. "Wait a minute, do you have any messages from him for Amanda? That's me."
"Yes, ma'am. He says he needed to go to London on business. He shall return shortly."
She hung up the phone and looked at the empty machine again. If Mac had
left a message there first, someone else knew about the trip to London.
"Damned Watchers," she muttered. "I can't understand why
someone as nice as Joe ever got mixed up with them." She picked up
the phone again and called the airport. "I need to make a plane reservation
"Where is he?" Jack asked through a yawn.
She was sitting at a small table drinking tea with milk in it and eating scones.
"Coffee," he told the waiter.
"Adam, you'll never guess!" Elizabeth was bubbling with excitement. "I turned in my report to my director last night and he is thrilled! He's going to give me an assignment on a castle in Kent! It's a small ruin on property recently donated by a family. Tourists just love to tour old castles. I've been assigned to do the research and begin the preparations to restore it. I owe it all to you!"
"You did the work, Elizabeth," he said with a smile. I really will miss her. She is so innocent and full of life. You have your own five thousand year old life to think about. "You deserve all the credit."
"He wants to meet you," she went on.
"He should be here any minute. He'd like to thank you for your help."
"No, Elizabeth, I really can't-"
"It is decided," she said, lifting her head. "So be it."
"So be it?" He laughed. Sighing, he weighed his options. "It won't hurt I guess. But, Elizabeth," he reached out to take her hand in his and made eye contact. "I need to leave today."
The excited look on her face melted away into sadness. "Oh, Adam."
He gave a gentle smile. "You will have your time filled with castles and folklore."
"I was hoping you'd go out to Kent with me today and tour the castle. Do you really have to go today?"
He nodded and offered a kind smile. "Yes."
She nodded quietly. "You won't be back, will you?"
He did not answer and he found he couldn't quite look at her. He hated himself for inflicting this pain. "It isn't you. I wish I could stay. My life," he hesitated, "my life is complicated. I would like to come back. But I can't promise anything. I won't lie to you."
"Thank you, Adam, I appreciate that." Her voice was barely
more than a whisper.
She jumped. "Oh," she burst into a warm smile, shoving her disappointment away. "Adam Pierson, my director Harold Dicknut. Professor Dicknut was my instructor in school."
Methos extended a hand for a shake, but it took all of his five thousand years of discipline to keep from bursting out in laughter over the man's name. "How do you do," he managed to say. "You taught history?" He cleared his throat.
"Archeology actually," he replied.
"I really dig archeology," Elizabeth added.
Methos could contain himself no longer. It started as a chuckle, but quickly expanded into full blown laughter. "I am so sorry," he managed to utter as he contained himself. "She pops those blasted puns all the time."
Harold stood there, unmoved. "Well, I do want to thank you for the invaluable assistance you gave Elizabeth on this project. "I would be honored if you would help her oversee the Kent castle project. I would, of course, recompense you for your time."
"Adam was just telling me he was needed at a site in Arizona," Elizabeth interrupted.
"Oh, most unfortunate. There is a chapel at the Kent site that has
some of the most exquisite stained glass I have seen in all of Britain."
Ginger glanced out of the window. "There's water down there."
"England in on an island," Richie reminded her.
"Have you ever been here?"
"Well," he stretched carefully. "We've got a whole day."
She noticed he seemed much more at ease than he had in days. Maybe this is all over. We're safe. It's okay now. It has to be okay.
Within twenty minutes they were exiting the plane into the terminal. They strolled down towards an exit, enjoying the relaxed pace. Richie suddenly stopped in his tracks, total astonishment on his face.
"Richie?" Ginger asked, anxiety springing to life.
A short distance away, Methos had stopped also, sensing an Immortal. Elizabeth was giving him the same quizzical look that Ginger gave Richie. He looked around.
"Methos," Richie whispered, recognizing the signature. He looked around rapidly.
Methos had considered making a quick get away. He did not want to encounter anyone right now. Then he paused, spotting Richie who was looking right at him. There would be no quick escape. He wondered how much Richie had learned since they had parted.
"Adam," Richie said, approaching them, Ginger at his heels. "Boy, I'm glad it's you."
"It's me," he answered. "What brings you here? I thought you were opening a shop of some kind."
"We were before Ngalo's buddies came looking for us."
"What?" Methos asked. He knew this was not a good place. It was too public. Ginger and Elizabeth were standing there.
"Can we talk somewhere?" Richie asked.
"Well," he hesitated. "This isn't a good time. I was about to catch a flight."
"It's important. There's always another flight," Richie insisted.
He sighed. I'm going to regret this. He knew he had not intended to involve Richie in the matter with Karrow. He thought he had found a way that would not place the young Immortal in harm's way and that would not incur the wrath of MacLeod. He now wondered if he had accomplished either.
Elizabeth seemed to sense the two men needed to talk. "Why don't we go freshen up?" she suggested to Ginger and they moved off towards the women's room chatting like long lost friends.
Methos gestured Richie into the small pub that opened onto the wide corridor of the airport. He ordered a beer and they sat on stools at the counter in silence.
Richie was aware that the old Immortal was not comfortable. Methos had offered him a beer, but he'd chosen coffee. "I've had lots of experience with people who wished I was somewhere else," he remarked.
"Really?" A small smile curled Methos' lips. "Then I suppose you know I wish you weren't here."
The bluntness caught Richie by surprise.
Methos gave a chuckle. "Well, if we both know it, why not just say it."
"You're supposed to deny it," Richie answered. "That's how it goes."
"What's going on? Why did you vanish in South Africa?"
He gave a smirk. "I don't need a high profile, Richie. I like a quiet, secret life. Alone if possible. I left because that was what I wanted."
"Why did Tom leave?"
He raised a hand as if to physically push away the topic. "That is his business."
"But you know why, don't you?"
In the flash of an instant, he weighed the potential outcomes. "I have an idea."
"You told me he had a piece of his past catch up with him."
"And is that so hard to believe? Get real, Ryan. Immortals who have lived thousands of years make enemies. Tom has his share."
"But Joe told me the Watchers were after him."
But have they found him? "Richie, what do you want from me?" Methos asked.
"I want to know what's going on," he demanded, a little of his former anger swelling. "Why are Watchers chasing me? Why did they threaten Ginger?"
"What?" he asked. You little bastard. You just led them right here. He turned away and took a handful of pretzels just to be doing something to try to keep from getting angry.
"Hey, you're the only guy I know who's both Immortal and a Watcher. That would seem to give you an advantage in some cases," Richie remarked. "Why would Watchers try to hurt Ginger?"
"They wouldn't. It has to have been some kind of mistake. Watchers do not involve mortals."
"Don't tell me that," Richie snapped back in an angry whisper. "I remember Horton. I remember him trying to get me and Tessa to hurt Mac. And that bastard Wolfe. If he hadn't kidnapped Tessa, she might still be alive."
"Horton is dead!" Methos retorted hotly, and just a little bit too loud. A business man drinking across from them shot a curious look, then moved away. "They are all dead, Richie," Methos repeated more quietly.
"God, this stuff sucks," Richie whispered, elbows on the counter and fists shoved into his eyes. "I don't want to run anymore."
"The Watchers are looking for Tom," Methos reminded him. "They may not even find him. But you've made your separation from him--they know you can't help them anymore. It is over. You and Ginger are safe," he promised wondering if he was right.
Joe had only gotten three hours of sleep. He was not sure what had been accomplished with Tom, nor did he know exactly how he was going to juggle the situation. Tom had been right about one thing: Watchers were not going to just go away. No doubt, Watchers were out there somewhere keeping an eye on both of them. He was sure that somebody, somewhere knew Tom had shown up at the bar. They'd finally gone back to Joe's home. How would he explain giving the guest room to the man he was supposed to kill?
The phone rang, startling him out of thought and sleepiness. "Dawson."
"Oh, good, I've got you." It was Richie's voice.
"Where are you?" Joe questioned back.
"In London. We're okay," he answered. "I wanted to tell you I'm sorry--you know--about what I said and all. I was kind of upset at the time."
"That's all right," Joe replied. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. Methos is here. He explained some stuff about extreme Watchers." He gave a grin Joe could feel across the phone line. "Anyway, he doesn't think anybody is after us now."
"Methos is there with you in London?" Joe asked in surprise. He had thought the Ancient One would have buried himself deep for a long, long time. He had not expected to see him again is his own lifetime. In a way, he was glad. He liked Methos. He knew he needed to get to him and talk to him.
"I'm bringing Ginger back to the States tomorrow--unless she decides to stay and tour England." He sounded cheerful.
Joe sighed, wishing he felt so happy. He knew he needed to get to London and see Methos, but first he needed to follow through with Tom. He made small talk with Richie for a few minutes, than managed to get off the phone.
Just as he hung up, Tom came out of the guest room. He helped himself to a cup of coffee and handed Joe the small, leather bound volume that was not much bigger than a cheap paperback novel. "Made for good light reading," he remarked. "But some of the writers have very poor style."
Joe chuckled. "Well, chronicles are more for history than entertainment."
Tom tapped the cover. "Imagine one's entire life reduced to a few pages."
"Yeah, well, in your case there are a lot of holes between those pages."
He gave a confident smile. "Just as well. Remarkable the things it does contain. Most of the entire epic in Rome--even my first encounter with MacLeod."
"That was his Watcher's report."
He sipped the hot coffee. "Well, if you aren't going to kill me, I think I shall be off."
"It isn't that easy, Tom. You walk out of here and somebody else will be after you. One thing Watchers are very good at is tracking once they have the lead."
"What do you suggest?"
"Faking your death."
He gave a small half laugh, that gradually began to grow until it was a full guffaw. "And how do you propose to fake a beheading."
"Give me time to think about it."
"Not too much time, Joe. I'm anxious to be away." Tom turned away from Joe, examining the shelf behind the sink. He took down a bottle of Burgundy and examined the label. "Not a very good year," he commented critically.
Joe smiled. "I keep that for the unwanted guest."
With a stout swing, Tom struck Joe on the back of the head with the bottle.
Remarkably, it did not break, but Joe sprawled unconscious to the floor.
"It works quite well on the unwanted host, too." Tom picked
up Joe's phone and called the airport for a flight to London.
Methos and Elizabeth slipped into the small castle chapel to view the stained glass work.
"The artist designed it so that at sunset, the rays hit the face of Christ praying on the Mount," Elizabeth explained. "The priest once wrote he could see the tears of blood that weren't visible at any other time."
Methos glanced at his watch. "Still an hour till sunset."
She was examining the gray lead mortar of the glass picture. "I'll need to get a sample of that for my research."
He had come up behind her. She knew he was close, she could feel an electric-like tingle from his closeness. "Adam?" She turned to face him.
He smiled gently. "Anyone ever tell you that there is a small mole on the right side of your neck?" he said softly.
"Right here." He kissed her neck gently.
Her cheeks flushed; her arms moved by a force of their own around his strong neck as his wrapped around her waist drawing them together. The kiss was a passionate, yet delicate thing. "I'm glad you stayed," she whispered.
He maintained the embrace. "I doubt the priest ever planned such an interlude in his chapel."
"I think he spent the last hour before sunset in deep contemplation," she whispered softly.
"Well, I shall contemplate you deeply," he promised as he imparted another small kiss on her cheek.
She brought her lips to his again. She could feel his heart pounding
as they pressed together and felt her own pulse quickening. As she felt
his caress, warm ecstasy bathed her mind. Passion intensified as they
wrapped their bodies together in erotic joy. They did not even notice
the cold stone floor.
"Not really," she admitted. "It seems a shame to come all the way to England and not stay long enough to enjoy anything. I haven't even shopped."
"Adam thinks everything is okay now," Richie commented.
"Did you tell him about those men?"
"Well," he hesitated, "a little." He knew Mac had cautioned him about admitting to anyone about the death of Ngalo and was wise enough to figure that included Methos. "I just said that there was a misunderstanding. I think they just wanted to steal the money we got for the diamond."
"I think it was brave of you to see to it I was safe."
"Brave! I was the one who got you into danger in the first place." He shook his head. "I even messed up your new business venture."
"Oh, I imagine it's still back there," Ginger commented. "After I make things right with Daddy, I'll go back. I guess I have you to thank for that, too. It will be good to see him again."
He picked a grape off the bunch. "Well, I never had a dad, but I do know what it's like to try to make up after you screw up. It's scary but feels good once it's done."
Ginger glanced at the sky. "The sun is setting. Where are Adam and Elizabeth?"
"Oh, they'll show up soon." He put an arm around Ginger's shoulder
and gazed at the sunset.
"What?" he replied.
"The tears of Christ! Look!" She jumped up, rearranging her clothing, and hurried closer to the stained glass windows.
Another man might have been offended that she could forget their romantic moment so quickly, but Methos was amused. There was something about Elizabeth's impetuousness that was attractive.
It was good he had just finished straightening his garments for the double wooden doors to the chapel suddenly slammed open revealing four men in dark suits. Methos gasped at the recognition of Jack Shapiro.
"Pierson," he said, voice tinged with a hint of ire, "I've chased you over two continents."
"I didn't know you were looking for me," he replied passively--and truthfully. If I'd known, I'd have dug myself a much deeper hole.
Two of the men stepped forward and grabbed him, one on either side. "We need a little talk."
"And I don't suppose it could happen over drinks." he commented.
Elizabeth spoke up. "What do you want?" she demanded fearlessly of Shapiro. "You are trespassing on a site of the British Government Historical Survey. I demand you release him and leave."
Jack put on a little smile. "Oh. We are leaving, dear. Sorry to be a bother." He motioned to the men. "Bring him."
"Adam!" she shouted.
He glanced back at her. "It will be all right, Elizabeth. I know I can explain this later."
The Watchers managed to make the trip from the chapel to the car out front with amazing speed. By the time Elizabeth had run for Richie and Ginger on back lawn, they were in the car and headed down the drive.
"Come on!" Richie shouted to the girls as he ran for the car.
"It's no use," Elizabeth sighed. "Adam has the keys."
He was already at the front of the cart. "The hood! Pop the hood!"
"What?" Elizabeth scowled. "Oh! The bonnet!" She yanked the little lever under the dashboard and the spring released.
Richie grabbed the wires. The engine coughed once, then caught on the second try.
"What skills!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"He's a secret agent," Ginger commented as they all jumped in the car.
Richie inwardly winced that she still believed that line. He floored
the gas and raced off in the direction Elizabeth had seen the black BMW
"Mac, it's me!" He heard Richie's harsh whisper, then saw him emerge from the other car.
Tucking the sword away, he complained: "I have been following you all over the world."
"Yeah," he muttered. "Sorry. The Watchers took Methos."
"You know it was Watchers?"
"Mac," he grumbled. "Who else? I mean, he is one of them.
We tried to tail them, but they got away."
Shapiro was restless. He had received reports that Dawson had probably not completed his orders. That did not surprise him much, considering Dawson's sympathetic ear to Immortals. He used to be a good friend. Jack could not understand the change in Joe over the past few years. He was scheduling a backup team to complete the task. They all entered the office and Shapiro motioned Adam to a seat.
Methos shuffled at his usual disinterested pace and sat across from Jack who moved behind the desk.
Jack liked desks. They offered a symbol of power. They offered protection. He motioned the others to leave the room and they did.
"Well," Adam commented flatly, "Jack Shapiro is in business again."
"I have a few questions for you."
"The kind that make you kidnap a man?"
He gave a half laugh. "You know Joe Dawson pretty well."
He shrugged. "We're friends."
"Does he keep his word?"
He sighed. "Usually. What is this about? I'm sure you are not nominating Dawson for Watcher of the Year."
"Hardly. He had orders to kill a man. Will he follow through?"
Adam blinked and took a slow breath. "Well, that would be a tall order."
"Ever heard of an Immortal named Karrow?"
Adam could feel his heart rate increase. They had wanted to make Joe kill Tom? He cursed his bad luck. It would not happen in a million years. "No. Oh, wait. Now I recall something about Karrow in the States last year--racing sailing boats, wasn't it?"
Jack did not speak right away. He could read through that Adam was lying. The man knew Karrow all right. They must be in this conspiracy with MacLeod and Dawson. I should have killed MacLeod when I had the chance. I won't blow it this time. I've got them all here at once. MacLeod, Dawson, Pierson, Karrow is on his way. Amanda is even here looking for MacLeod. I'll take Ryan out for good luck. He probably knows something, too. I can rid of the whole problem in one blow. "Did you keep a copy of that CD you and Salazar made?"
"It was destroyed," he answered.
"But you keep backups, don't you?"
"I don't know why we ever made it in the first place. It was too dangerous."
A young man walked into the room. "Dinner has been brought in, sir."
"Thanks, Tim. Why don't you join me, Adam," Jack suggested.
'Won't you come into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly. With
a mild look of balanced concern, Adam followed.
"Holy shit," Joe grumbled, realizing that London was about
to be turned into a massive blood bath. He quickly fired off a warning
to Methos' mailbox, praying he would take the time to read it. That done,
it was a mad dash to make the flight to New York.
"Why are you here, Pierson?"
He smiled in a pacifistic way. "Research."
"Oh?" Jack lifted his eyebrows.
"There is a lead on the Methos Chronicles here. That girl I was with is studying the old castle. I believe there's a tie to him."
"What kind of tie?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. You interrupted us. Look, I am in research, remember? I'm not a field man." He felt very uneasy about Shapiro. The man was supposedly reformed. They had said he was recuperated after suffering a complete mental collapse. Right now, he looked extremely close to the edge.
"You are in a conspiracy with Dawson and MacLeod," Shapiro suddenly accused.
He allowed a look of injured shock to cross his face. "Conspiracy? Jack, really. What ever would I do in a conspiracy?"
"You are in this and I can prove it. A Watcher is dead because of MacLeod. I hold Dawson to blame. Just as he was to blame for David's death. Oh, I know," Jack raved waving a hand, "Dawson was cleared. By the time the council had concluded that piece of trash nobody knew who'd done what. It was my right to vengeance! Dawson betrayed us! He as good as turned my David over to that Immortal to kill."
"Well, I believe there was a little matter of James Horton," Methos commented mildly, hoping to calm Shapiro down.
"Don't give me that!" Jack slammed a fist against the table and a glass bounced off and shattered on the tile floor. He took a few deep breaths, trying to remind himself of the techniques the doctor had shown him, but nothing helped. "MacLeod got away with it that time--he won't again. I know you are as dirty in this as Dawson and he." He pulled a small pistol and leveled it on Methos.
He pushed back from the table in open panic. "Hey, see here, Shapiro! Let's not get carried away. I'm one of us, remember?" He waved the tattooed wrist. "If you want Karrow killed, fine, do it. Give me the gun, I'll do it for you. But if you kill Dawson, you will have our people coming after you. Think about it."
"Jack," Methos whispered intently. "They almost didn't let you back in. Twelve directors were killed in that incident in France. There are those who hold you to blame. They say you may have known, that you drove away just before it happened."
Shapiro stared at him in open horror. "Me? No. I was appointed to a task force."
"Where they could keep an eye on you," Methos added. It did not matter that he was making this up as he went along, it was working. "If you kill me--or Dawson, they will be all over you."
"Dawson disregarded orders."
Methos sighed and straightened. "Yes, well. Receiving an order to kill someone can be a bit unnerving."
"They aren't human, Adam. They are not like you and me. It's not like killing a person," Shapiro stated, the nervous tick starting in his left eye. "They don't really feel it."
Methos could not find a response to that right away. The shock of the statement was too great. He swallowed once. "Give Dawson some time to work this through, Jack."
"There is no time. I cannot raise a resident Watcher anywhere in the Northwest. I sent a team of two after Dawson. They reported twice that they'd seen him with Karrow. Now I haven't heard from them."
Methos knew the team was probably not dead. It was more like Karrow to frighten them out of their wits. But if they had refused to scare... "Let me go see if I can find Dawson." He offered.
Shapiro in a sudden mood swing glared at him coldly. "Nice try, Pierson." He rose from the table and called for Tim. "Lock him up for the night. He makes a move, kill him."
Richie ground his teeth at the warning about Watchers. For a group who professed non-interference, they sure made a lot of trouble. He'd be glad when Tom arrived, maybe he'd explain what was going on around here.
There was the sudden warning sensation of a presence and Mac sat up on the couch.
"Amanda," Richie told him.
He jumped off the couch, just as she knocked at the door.
"You sure make it hard to find you," she lectured as she entered. "What a little dive. Who picked this place? You, Richie?"
He made a face.
"Amanda, what are you doing here?" Mac asked.
"There are some Watchers who are anxious find you."
"See, I told you, Mac," Richie commented. "They want to get to me and Ginger."
"Actually, they seemed more interested in what became of our old friend Ngalo."
"What did you tell them?" Mac asked.
"What you told me," she answered, kicking off her shoes and collapsing onto the couch. "It is the truth, right?"
Mac staggered towards the Mr. Coffee on the counter without a word.
Richie rose from the computer, gesturing towards the screen. "Joe sent Methos a message here."
Mac poured his coffee. He paused to inhale the aromatic vapors. "You broke into Methos e-mail?"
"Then it wasn't the truth," Amanda remarked.
"So what did he say?" Mac added.
"The Watchers were hunting Adam Pierson now. And Tom's coming. That'll help, right?"
"Oh, yeah," Mac said sarcastically. "Joe actually said that? That Watchers were after Adam?"
"Well, sort of. Jack Shapiro wants to talk to him. Joe's on this morning's Concorde."
That's the problem with the world now Mac thought. Everything happens too fast. All this mess is sure happening too fast. "What time is it?"
Richie squinted at his watch. "Four o'clock."
He sank back down onto the bed, pushing Amanda out of the way. "What time's the Concorde?"
He nodded. "Maybe Joe will be able to clear this up."
Amanda had been silent a few minutes. "You lied to me, Duncan."
"I did what?" He was too tired to fight right now.
"You said you killed Ngalo."
"You didn't. I can tell when you're lying."
"Not now, Amanda." He pulled the pillow over his head.
"Good night, Amanda."
She relaxed, pressed up next to MacLeod, pouting. She was tired, but not so tired that she would tolerate being stone-walled. "Duncan."
Richie turned off the computer and moved to the stuffed chair and tried to get comfortable.
She glanced at him. "Just like MacLeod to think he even has to protect the likes of Tom Karrow," she muttered to Richie.
He didn't answer her either, just curled up on the chair.
In a flash of revelation, she realized Mac would not have risked all for Tom, but would have for Richie. Her eyes widened. "My God," she whispered, looking at Richie in wonder. "It was you."
He turned, surprised at hearing MacLeod's voice.
"Hey, you are the one guy I did not expect here," Joe said with a laugh.
Mac fell into step beside him as they moved to the escalator that headed downward. "Well, I think we're rehearsing for the Gathering here," he remarked dryly.
"Richie found Methos here. I found Richie, Amanda found me."
"Anybody found Tom?"
He shook his head. "But Shapiro has Methos."
Joe stopped walking. "Damn. I guess I'd better head for there first."
Mac scooped up Joe's bag as it rumbled across the conveyor belt. "Joe, Shapiro probably isn't happy with you either."
"That's an understatement," he commented. By now he knows Karrow is alive. I didn't follow his orders. My head will probably roll right after Methos'. He paused, contemplating the irony of his thought. "I think I can reason with Shapiro."
Mac did not quite believe anyone could reason with Shapiro. "I'm coming."
"That will just make things worse, MacLeod," Joe replied. "I can handle this myself."
"Oh, I'll be discreet," he insisted.
Joe gave a chuckle. He knew his friend well enough to know an argument
would not make a difference. When the stubborn Scot made up his mind,
nothing changed it.
"Hey, hi, Joe," Richie said with a smile. "No hard feelings, huh?"
He gave the younger man a gentle punch on the shoulder. "No hard feelings."
"Well, I've got the car right outside."
Mac noticed Richie seemed nervous, maybe because the parting from Joe before had been less than friendly. Maybe something else. "Richie, Joe and I are going to see about Methos. The fewer Immortals around there, the better--if you know what I mean."
He hesitated. "Oh." He tossed Mac the keys. "I guess I'll find my way back." He vanished into the crowd.
"Doesn't that strike you as just a little strange?" Joe asked.
Mac nodded. "Wonder what he's up to."
Joe waited until they were in the car, headed away from the airport before
he remarked: "Richie has found Tom."
He could feel perspiration gathering under his shirt collar. As of late, none of his contacts with Shapiro had been good ones which was a shame because he could still recall the pleasant times they'd had. He remembered the week's cruise in the Caribbean with Jack and James. They had all stayed drunk for three days. James. God, how could I have ever been so wrong about him? Did he start this Hunters thing, or just buy into it? How can we ever stop it? I thought it was stopped. I thought it was over. Jack told me it was over. He was supposed to find them. And do what? Eliminate them or unite them? Joe felt as if a cold stone had settled into his stomach.
The elevator doors slid open and Joe was face to face with a young, attractive woman. Her expression was all business. "You have the wrong floor, sir," she stated flatly.
He showed his tattoo. "Not likely."
She moved back. "I do not know you."
"That's all right," he put on his Louisiana drawl, "you can get to know me better." He winked.
She did not respond. "Wait here." She walked away.
He shrugged. Oh, well, I tried to be nice. He stood in the empty hallway, examining the red and gold carpet and the grass electric candle sconces. The place had a rich look, but Joe decided it was too stuffy for his tastes.
"Good afternoon. I am Greg Hudson," a middle-aged man said as he came towards Joe.
Joe opened his mouth to speak, but Hudson beat him to it.
"You are Joe Dawson--should I said 'the famous Joe Dawson,'" he remarked leading Joe down the hall into an office suite.
"Me?" He laughed. "Hardly famous."
"Our Bureau is terribly jealous that MacLeod moved out of the Highlands and spends most of his time in your region. He is a special Immortal, don't you think so?"
Joe nodded. "He's full of surprises."
A new voice spoke. "Not so many for you, I would think."
Joe turned to face Jack Shapiro. "Hello, Jack. We meet again."
"So we do." Jack stood there looking at him for a moment. "You are supposed to be taking care of Karrow."
"I am. I tailed him here."
"He spent two days with you in the States."
Joe sighed. "He's as afraid of you as you are of him. He doesn't want to hurt anyone."
"Tell that to the ten Watchers who fled the area for their lives," Jack's response was bitter. "And the two missing agents I had watching you both."
"He is just trying to survive, Jack. Like you, like me. He just wants to be left alone."
"So first you take up for MacLeod and now for this killer, too!" Jack shouted.
Joe sighed, his shoulders visibly sagging. "Jack, let's not go through this again. Come on, it isn't healthy for you."
Jack shot a glare at him. "I am fine now. The truth is, I was probably fine before. I just let that MacLeod get to me."
Below him, Methos felt it, too. He wondered whom he should expect. He doubted Richie would be able to break him out of here. If the kid could set up enough ruckus, though, he might work out his own escape.
Above, Mac picked the lock of the closed office. The windows had been painted shut long ago and wouldn't budge. Placing his jacket against the pane, he broke it, hoping that it wasn't making too much noise. Thankful that these older buildings had small ledges outside each floor, he stepped out onto the sill, then carefully lowered himself down to the third level. It worked well, surprising him since it wasn't something he had ever tried before.
Methos turned, hearing a light rap at the glass. In shock, he saw Mac framed in the window.
It was early afternoon when there was movement near the large, budding elm tree. "Richard."
"Tom!" He leapt to his feet from the bench sensing him. "Am I ever glad to see you! You can't imagine the mess we're in. I'm sorry, I should have just told you about the Watchers right off." His words tumbled over each other.
Tom gently raised a hand towards him. "Things are as they are, Richard. We play the hand we are dealt." He walked slowly across the small lawn and stopped before a tombstone. "'Here lies Geoffrey Hamilton Monday, beloved husband, devoted father.'" He looked back at Richie. "Sounds like a fine gentleman."
He shrugged. "Yeah, sure I guess. What's the point?"
Tom gazed back at the monument. "He was one of us. At one time a friend of Darius the Priest. Unfortunately, unlike the priest, he did not have a great awakening. He assisted in the slow starvation of seven million mortals during the Great Potato Famine."
Richie stood there in silence. He wondered, not about Hamilton Monday or why a man, mortal or Immortal would commit such a thing, but what Tom was trying to say.
"Dawson told me of your great rage and fear because Ginger Cadley was placed in danger. If an Immortal slew the mortal family you loved, how long would you pursue him?"
He frowned. "I-I don't know. As long as it took. Did you take this guy's head?"
He nodded. "I had a mortal wife who had three children before we met. They all died of starvation."
Richie was quiet, still sensing this was still the introduction.
"As Immortals, we love many times, but our great loves," he sighed, "may come only once or twice."
Richie recalled vividly MacLeod's torment surrounding the death of Tessa and the tearful tale of Little Deer and her son. When Tom remained silent for a minute, he commented. "I don't think Ginger is close enough to be something like that."
Tom gave a tolerant smile and sat down on the bench, motioning Richie to sit also. The storyteller began his explanation in his usual fashion. "Long ago, before conventional man counted time and years, when civilization was still quite primitive, man's emotions were not. Because mortals lived just a mere thirty years or so, much was compressed into a short time. All feelings were intense. Love, compassion, hate. There was a woman, her name was Small Pebble."
"Pebbles? Like Bedrock and Fred?" Richie cracked. Tom's quick glare made him regret the comment. It finally dawned on him that this story was something deadly serious.
"She was courageous and she was the love of my life. She had a sister and, as so often happened, the sister became ill during her pregnancy. As she labored, it became evident that she was dying. She made Little Pebble promise to save her child. The tribe's doctors were a superstitious lot that believed the infant of a dying woman was condemned with evil spirits. They would have let him die. But Little Pebble, herself, snatched up a sharp knife, cut open the body of her dead sister and drew Gray Sky from the womb. She kept him, and we nurtured him, in spite of shunning from the tribe. When the witch doctors saw that Gray Sky neither died nor brought us evil, they became angry. The people starting saying Little Pebble had stronger magic than they did." Tom gazed across the small plot, but was really seeing into the past. "It is little wonder that they took advantage of a drought to accuse her of bringing evil on the people. They burned her alive in a sacrifice to their sun god."
Richie could feel the sorrow, still present after all these thousands of years.
"Her last cries to me through the inferno were to save Gray Sky because she knew he would be next. "'Save him from the flames!'" Tom stopped to clear his throat.
Richie could not recall a time Tom had sounded so deeply connected to a story. "I did save him for a time. We moved to a tribe I had known years before. They knew I had come to live with them as a man who does not die. They knew of four other demons who did not die, so they feared me and left Gray Sky alone. In exchange, I promised to protect them from the demons. Until the day the demons came. And I could not stop the demons. I did not try. I ran. All I wished to do was to save Gray Sky as I had promised." He cleared his throat again. "But I could not."
There was silence for awhile. "The demons," Richie whispered. "They were Immortals."
He fixed a stare at the ground, fitting in the pieces. Four demons, Four Horsemen. The Four Horsemen killed Tom's son. He did not know much about Methos and the Horsemen except that he had been one of them. He had always tried to placate it by assuming Methos was just along for the ride and was always a nice guy. "The Four Horsemen."
Tom gave him a sideways glance. "Yes."
"Mac and Methos killed them," he said.
"I know. Kronos was raised in the barbaric Norse country, he was a savage--he knew nothing else. Silas was a Slovak hunter who followed because he was accepted. Caspian was a foundling raised by the wolves in the Teutonic region. Nothing more than an animal. But Methos...." he stopped.
Richie's heart skipped a beat. I am not going to want to hear this.
"He knew what he did. He was the thinker--the survivor. Raised by the grandson of Noah called Javan. He knew what he did. He planned their raids, took joy in the power, the blood, the killing. And when he lifted my son and threw him into the flames to die in screaming agony--he knew what he did!" Tom's voice rose in intensity and his rage, smoldering over the centuries, burst forth.
Richie's mouth hung open, his knees weak. It was unbelievable. Methos, who had agonized over Alexa. Methos, who had stood Dawson's side when the Watcher's condemned him. Methos, who had come to Mac's aid against Kronos. Methos, who had assured him just this morning they had nothing to fear. Methos.
"That is just the start," Tom declared.
Richie closed his eyes. How could anything be worse?
"I waited for centuries, millennia. The grandson to the Dung King finally transformed into civilized being. When I defeated old Monday I vowed to watch out for his family left behind. From the shadows I did just that. I merely observed them. It was how I found Methos again. He had adopted the common life as a simple gardener working for Randolph Monday. I sought to take that life of peace away from him. But I was careless." He walked towards Vicky Monday's grave where the wilted flowers still lay on the grass. "She died. It was an accident, but I don't suppose that matters. Ironically, she burned to death also."
Richie decided he was going to be sick to his stomach.
"Methos was blamed and hung for it." Tom took a deep breath, held it, then slowly let it out. "I did not see him again until Yakwur brought us together. I mistakenly believed it was in the past. Eye for an eye and all that." He gave a little smile. "I should have known better where Methos was involved. It really was a most ingenious way to get even while protecting his survival. He gave me a CD about the Watchers, then reported the incident to them."
Richie sank onto the park bench. "Does Mac know all this?" he murmured.
"I doubt it."
He looked up at the large story-teller. "Then why did you tell me?"
His gaze softened. "It matters to me that you not remember me as something evil."
"Remember you? Like you're going away or something?" Puzzlement furrowed his brow.
Tom gave a fatherly smile and patted Richie's shoulder gently, as opposed to his usual bone jarring thumps. "You have the makings of a pretty good weaver of tales. Just in case things don't turn out well with Methos, I'd like to know some of all those stories I told you in the mine will live on."
Richie couldn't speak around the lump in his throat. Tom is going to challenge Methos. His initial thought was that somehow his killing Ngalo had caused this. It must be my fault. I should have owned up to it and not let Mac hide it. Maybe I should have told Tom about Watchers first. Is there anything I can do to fix it now? He blinked back emotion and tried to steady his shaking hands.
Tom gave a fatherly smile. "It will be all right, Richie. All things change."
Richie tried to nod. But what can change this?
"MacLeod, I did not expect you," Methos said quietly, "but thank you."
"Joe is still in there," he answered, not looking at him.
"Well, he's pretty good with fellow Watchers," Methos remarked.
Mac fired a look. "Including Jack Shapiro who sentenced him to death once already."
"Well, what do you suggest? I did just break out of the place. I'd rather not walk back in."
"Give him fifteen minutes," Mac decided, "by then I'll think of something."
"Fine. Want to grab a beer across the street?" Methos had intended it at a joke, but Mac missed the humor.
"I have been running all over the world. Part of this is your fault. We have to talk," Mac announced.
"No we don't," he retorted, accurately judging where the conversation was headed. "I am going for a walk."
Mac grabbed hold of Methos' arm and slammed him into the brick wall. "Why!? You son-of-a-bitch! Why did you do it?!"
"You wouldn't understand," Methos replied coldly, with remarkable calmness.
"Try me," Mac snapped.
"No, MacLeod, you would not. You never do. You judge who is right and who is wrong. You make mistakes--other people commit unpardonable sins. I believe your term is 'crossing the line.'" He attempted to pull his arm from Mac's grasp. "You most definitely would not understand. And know something? I don't care. I am tired of you. I am tired of your honorable, puritanical way of making the world fit what you think it should be. You can have your world, I am out of it." Methos hated himself when he got onto one of these rolls. It was pure manipulation, an experiment to see how far he could push the Highlander. He did not want MacLeod or Ryan or anyone else following him again. If they hate me they will leave me alone. Survival goes to he who carries the fewest attachments.
"I won't let you just push me off," MacLeod insisted, still pinning Methos back. "I have accepted you; I have accepted your past and I know the kind of man you are now. I just saved your butt. You owe me this one."
"I don't owe you or anyone else anything," Methos answered hotly. "I never have."
"And if I hadn't gotten you out and Jack had decided to shoot you--what then?"
"I would have had the blessed opportunity to vanish for twenty years or so--maybe longer. I may not be good at playing super hero, MacLeod, but I am good at staying alive. That is what it is all about in the end, isn't it? In the end there can be only one."
"This thing hasn't gone too far yet," Mac insisted. The tone of his voice softened. "You're my friend. Tom's my friend, too. It doesn't have to be this way."
Methos closed his eyes and looked away. "It's too late, MacLeod. There can be no kissing and making up. Things do not always work out the way you want. What has happened four thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, a week ago--none of it can be changed. And too much has gone down to fix this."
"What are you saying."
He looked back at Mac. "What I am saying, dear friend, is that if the Watchers do not destroy Tom Karrow, he will most definitely try to destroy me. One or the other--or both--will happen. I cannot stop it now. And neither can you." He pulled his arm free of Mac's hold and walked out of the alley.
Methos hurried down the curbing of the street, trying to steel his heart.
He wished he could do something to salvage his friendship with MacLeod.
He liked the man. They had been through a lot together. He had a fondness
for Joe, too. The kindest thing right now is to keep them away and
finish what I have started with Karrow. Will they ever understand that?
Maybe it doesn't matter.
"You do see it, don't you Joe?" Jack asked of him for the third time. "I don't want Watchers and Immortals at war. I remember that incident with MacLeod. They struck the first blow when they killed Ngalo. There had been peace."
"Did you read Borj's report? He says that Ngalo had probably killed eight or nine Immortals," Joe commented, trying to sound reasonable, but his patience was being tried. "What should they have done?"
"It's all lies. Planted lies. They plan to rule us one day--you know that. The Gathering when one Immortal will be all powerful. They think they are gods. That's it." He paced the floor rubbing his hands together. "Yes, they do. They think they are gods."
Joe sighed audibly. "All right, Jack. I'm going to leave now." Nothing quite like the direct approach. "I'll try to pick up Karrow's trail in the city. We'll see what happens next." He turned and left the office, carefully making his way towards the elevator like he was not in a rush. Each step was bringing the door closer. He'd been in the place just over forty minutes, plenty of time for Mac to free Methos. He hoped the timing was right. He pushed the little button by the door and it lit up as it haled for the car.
It was taking too long. Joe turned towards the stairway, knowing the descent would be difficult--but public. At the top of the landing to the third floor, he looked down to the lobby and saw MacLeod just entering the front door, a baseball cap pulled low over his face. He was headed for the stairs.
Behind him, Joe heard a shout. "Pierson's gone!"
"Stop Dawson!" he heard Jack scream maniacally and there were running feet.
He stepped down the first step, the second.
Mac was at the bottom, starting up at a run.
Hudson and Tim grabbed hold of Dawson's left arm. "Hold it, Dawson."
He attempted to pull free, but on the steps was unstable. "Mac!" he shouted.
The men were pulling him back up to steps.
The cane slipped from Joe's hand, rolling down the stairway, landing at Mac's feet. He scooped it up and continued up the staircase at a full run.
Tim had Joe down on the floor at the top of the landing by now. Mac was only ten steps away when Hudson turned, a small pistol in hand and aimed it at Joe. "Stop where you are." He ordered.
"Just lay the cane on the step and leave." He demanded.
"He's my friend," Mac retorted.
"If you want him as a live friend, do as I say. This will be your only chance. Believe me, this is a small enough caliber that nobody will notice the shot--but it would be quite lethal."
Mac slowly laid down the cane.
"Now, nothing's going to happen to your friend Dawson right away. If you helped Pierson escape, bringing him back here will go a long way towards helping Joe. Understand that?"
Mac nodded. "We'll be back." He did not plan to come in peace.
Richie and Tom were still in the cemetery when they sensed a presence.
Richie caught his breath. "It's Methos."
Tom glanced at him. "You know that?"
He nodded. "Ever since the mine I know who's coming."
Methos came to the iron entryway of the cemetery and stopped.
Tom took a step towards him. "We meet sooner than I had thought. You should have gone into a hole and pulled it in after you."
Methos gave a slight nod. "Perhaps I should have."
"These mortal Watchers are still just mortals, Methos. You expected too much of them."
He shrugged. "One can only hope."
Richie spoke up. "You guys aren't really going to---we can talk this out."
Methos gave a genuine smile. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Richie. You sound just like MacLeod."
"He's usually right," the younger Immortal answered. "Look, I know about Gray Sky and little Vicky and all. Doing this won't change that! You've both been around for thousands of years and you can't come up with a better way to solve your problems than to whack away at each other!"
"It is what we do," Tom answered.
"But we can choose not to," Richie pleaded. "Just give it up. Let's all just go get a beer, okay?"
Methos moved his arm and the sunlight played across the steel of his blade.
Tom slid his jacket back revealing the machete.
"This is Holy Ground!" Richie shouted so loud his voice cracked. "You can't fight here."
They hesitated, both realizing that in their anticipation, they had not noticed.
For this instant he had their attention. Richie repeated: "How about that beer? I'm buying. One for the road--or whatever?" He sounded hopeful.
Methos turned and walked out of the cemetery, Tom followed without a word.
Richie tailed after, knowing they were not headed for any bar. Frantic for a way to put a halt to the madness, he sensed Mac coming around the corner. "Thank God, Mac! Come on!"
Mac joined him and they followed about fifteen yards behind the pair. "I needed Methos to help rescue Joe."
"I thought Joe was saving Methos. Right now I think these two have other plans." Richie hoped his mentor would wax eloquent and save the day. "You're gonna come up with something here, right?"
Mac looked away, knowing there was nothing more to do or say.
"Methos, Tom, just wait a minute. There has to be a peaceful solution to this somewhere," Mac asked, standing between them.
Methos lifted his sword. "Not this time."
Mac spun around towards Tom. "Tom, you've said there are always alternatives."
"Have I?" He shrugged. "I may have been mistaken." He and Methos both reached around Mac to touch blades, then assumed a fighting stance.
Mac backed away from them, sadness written on his face. He moved about fifty feet away to sit on the old rotting porch step. He stared at the ground so as not to see what would happen. He had been here before with other friends. It was bad enough to have an enemy take the head of a friend, as had happened with Kalas and Fitz. To have two friends fight to the death was grief past endurance. There were no winners when either way a good man died.
Richie was furious. "Was that it?" he shouted at Mac. "That's all you're gonna do!"
"Richie, it is their decision," he mumbled numbly. "We can't interfere."
"To hell with interfering! I'm not gonna interfere--I'm gonna stop this thing!"
But he was already running, sword drawn to the two fighting men. Stepping in, he deflected Methos sword aside.
"This is not your place, Richard," Tom commented.
"The hell it's not," he answered. "I'm not going to let you kill each other over something that happened thousands of years ago!"
They side-stepped around him, Karrow sweeping his machete low in a strike Methos countered while bringing his sword upward. The correct defense would have taken them across Richie's path, but they moved the other way. Ignoring his efforts to come between them, their blades sparked and clashed amongst the early springtime crocus that bobbed their violet and yellow heads in the lawn.
Mac got up and walked towards the fray. Richie moved to block their strikes and as he did, MacLeod grabbed his arm.
"We cannot interfere," Mac repeated, firmly.
"The challenge was given and accepted. Those are the rules of the Game, you know that."
"Well, I don't give a damn about any stupid Game. They can't do this!" He glanced back as Tom's machete ripped through Methos' coat sleeve, but missed the other Immortal. "Please, Mac, help me get them to stop!"
"I can't and neither can you." He was angry. Angry at Tom, at Methos, at himself wishing more than anything he could do what Richie wanted. Angry at Richie for not displaying more control. "This is just the way it is."
Richie's countenance was red with fury. "Why? Because of honor or duty or some such shit?"
"I don't see any honor. I just see two old farts who are too stubborn to put aside their past!" he shouted towards Tom and Methos.
Methos lunged in towards the left and Tom's heavier machete deflected the blade to the side, but not before it had made a deep penetrating wound into Tom's leg. He stumbled back, regaining his footing as Methos advanced.
Richie raced forward again. "No!" he shouted. His sword clashed against Methos' stopping a sure kill strike. In a perfect counter octave maneuver that had become second nature to him, Richie spun Methos' sword back, pulling it from his hand, sending it sailing through the air to land point end down into the ground twelve feet away.
Eyes wide in alarm, Methos stepped back, both hands raised.
Richie spun towards Tom. The machete was in mid-strike. It caught him across the waist, just above the belt with enough force to lift the younger Immortal off his feet. He gasped, a look of pained shock on his face.
Tom lowered him to the ground, pausing to give a glance at Methos who stood before him, still disarmed and open-mouthed. "Get the damned sword, Horseman," Tom growled. "MacLeod," he called, but Mac had already stepped forward. "Remove your damned student."
"This can stop here," Mac commented. "What have you got to prove? One can take the other's head? Big deal. This time there is more honor in letting go of the past."
"I wish I could say this had something to do with honor," Tom replied.
Methos had picked up his sword while Mac was talking. He and Tom both watched as Mac pulled Richie over by the porch. "Well, Bee Eater?" Methos offered.
Tom turned his attention back to him. "At your service, Demon." The blades clashed again.
Richie curled on the ground in agony, gave a small gasp. "Stop 'em, Mac," he begged of Mac who crouched on his knees beside him.
"No one can do that now," the Highlander replied sorrowfully. "You'll heal."
"It sure hurts," he whimpered.
There was a ring as the steel blades crossed. The machete, being larger and heavier, seemed more powerful. Methos backstepped until they were next to the house. He ducked as Tom's blade whistled pass at neck level. The steel blade slammed against the side of the house severing an electrical conduit. The high voltage shot through the machete and into Tom. With a loud cry, he was thrown back to the ground dazed.
Methos stood over him, lips pressed together, jaw squared, his razor-sharp sword touching Tom's neck.
"Finish it," Tom demanded, no trace of fear in his tone or eye.
He raised the sword, and as he did, the torn coat sleeve dropped back, revealing the tattooed wrist.
"You bastard," Tom uttered.
Richie lifted his head. "Amanda," he mumbled at the same instant the others felt the sensation.
But it was Jack Shapiro's shrill voice that pierced the mood. "You have him! Do it!"
Methos stepped back in stark shock.
Jack pushed into view with Hudson and Tim holding Joe and Amanda at gun point.
Looks of astonishment were exchanged by all. MacLeod rose from Richie's side and approached the newcomers. "Shapiro, what do you want?"
He gave a wry smile. "I'm here to Watch. Finish it, Pierson!" he shouted.
Methos slowly lowered his sword to his side, knowing if he took Tom's head now his cover as a Watcher was blown forever--and Methos would be exposed. He glanced at Duncan.
Now he wants me to help Mac thought angrily. "We had a truce, Shapiro. You leave us alone, we leave you alone."
"That was before you started killing Watchers again. You didn't keep your part!"
"Ngalo would have killed us," he shouted back. "I spared his life and he nearly took my head while my back was turned!"
"You managed to kill him while you weren't even looking at him!" Jack shouted with a look at satisfaction. "You see, it was Karrow all along. I knew it! He must die, he must!"
"No! It was me!" Richie called out from where he lay healing.
Jack's eyes grew even larger. "You!"
"It does not matter!" Mac shouted, trying to intercept the Watcher. "Ngalo was going to kill one or all of us!"
Jack shook his head vigorously. "And you, Joe, went right along with the lie. You falsified the records."
Joe closed his eyes, dropping his gaze towards the ground. Would this nightmare never end?
Jack's voice dropped to quiet, soothing, tone. "You see, Joe, it's like I said. They can't be trusted." Then he pointed wildly at Mac. "They aren't human; they are some kind of animal--aliens!"
"Jack," Joe tried to sound calm and friendly in spite of the scene before him. With two Immortals on the ground, another about to be exposed, guns pointed at Amanda and himself, and Mac and Jack less than three feet apart screaming at each other, this place was about as safe as ground zero in World War III. "Listen to me. You need to calm down."
"Calm down!" Jack yelled. His left eye was twitching, veins popping out on his forehead and neck. "I'll calm down in about three minutes when this is all over! Shoot him!" He pointed at Mac.
Hudson turned the gun towards Mac and, at the same moment, Joe whacked his arm with the cane. Hudson cried out as Joe made a grab for the gun.
Tim's attention was on the scuffle instead of Amanda and she suddenly was attacking him.
The gun in Joe's scramble went off. The stray bullet struck Methos in the chest and he collapsed to the ground, dead instantly.
Shapiro was shrieking in hysteria.
"Shut up!" Joe yelled back, waving the weapon.
Tim had managed to retain his weapon and turned towards Joe.
"Drop it!" Joe shouted, "I don't want to kill you, Tim, but if I have to, I will!"
He hesitated, trying to decide if Dawson was bluffing.
"Shoot him!" Jack screeched.
Joe fired one shot into the ground at Tim's feet.
The young man dropped the pistol.
With all the fire power on his side now, Joe glanced at Hudson. He had moved closer to where Methos body lay sprawled on his back, sightless eyes staring up into the late afternoon sky, a large dark pool of blood staining his white sweater. "He's dead," Hudson whispered.
Joe nodded. "That's what happens when you give an idiot a gun."
"Don't you care!" Hudson fired back.
"More than you'll ever know!" Joe shouted.
Tom had risen to his feet, retrieved his machete and sheathed it. He stepped over Methos body and stood over hulking over Shapiro. "So, this is an example of the Watchers finest?"
Shapiro winced. "You are a monster," he claimed. "Borj told me about you. How many mortals have you killed?"
He burst into a menacing grin. "Only the ones who needed it."
"It doesn't matter, Jack," Joe said. "It's over now."
"It'll never be over!" Jack countered. "Not as long as one of them lives!"
Mac gestured at him. "What happens to him, Joe? Last time you said he was out. You said that things were okay. We were supposed to all just walk away. Then you told me he understood, he was back but he was better. Where is the truth, Dawson? Did they turn him loose to finish the job Horton started?"
"Mac, you know better."
"Do I, Joe? What happens now?" he demanded.
"You want me to kill him in cold blood?" Joe yelled back. "Like he wanted me to kill Karrow? Then what's the difference between you and him? And what about them." He motioned towards Hudson and Tim. "Do I have to kill them, too?"
Mac glared at Hudson. He walked over until he was right in the man's face. "We're supposed to be monsters, inhuman, aliens?" He grabbed Amanda and took her hand. He placed it in Hudson's. "Feel it," he ordered. "It is warm, there is a pulse, flesh and blood." He brought his face within inches of Hudson's. "We feel passion, hate, love--just like you."
Jack started speak. "They don't-"
"Shut up!" Joe stuck the gun in his face.
Still keeping his attention on the Watchers, Mac walked over to Richie. "Shapiro says we don't feel pain like you?" He yanked Richie's torn shirt aside, displaying the deep abdominal wound that was still healing. "You think he feels that?"
Richie glanced at the men, allowing the intensity of his injury to show plainly on his face. This was no place for stoicism.
There was a sudden gasp and cough and all attention turned towards Methos.
Jack jumped away from Joe, eyes grew wide in horror. "He's one of them! No! No!"
Methos gave a deep sigh, knowing his anonymity was forever destroyed.
Shapiro dove after Tim's gun that still lay on the ground.
"Jack! No!" Dawson pleaded.
Shapiro fired into the newly revived Methos three times, causing the body to literally bounce off the ground and sending him instantly back into death. "Stay dead, you bastard!"
"Jack!" Joe aimed at his one time friend. "Please, don't make me!"
Shapiro in his frenzy turned the gun towards Joe and fired, but Mac was faster, blocking the slug with his shoulder. He stumbled to the ground.
Joe pulled the trigger. As the projectile tore through Jack's flesh, it emotionally tore through Dawson's heart.
Shapiro lay on the ground, gasping for breath and the life's blood pumping out onto the ground.
Everything else seemed momentarily forgotten as Joe dropped down beside him, cradling Jack's head in his arms. "Jack, why? Why did you make me?" He sobbed.
Shapiro gazed at him as the color of his face turned to ashen gray. "Murdering bastard...." he whispered, and was gone.
Tom walked over to where Methos lay, newly bloodied and dead again. He glanced towards MacLeod, preoccupied with Dawson, who huddled over the slain Shapiro. Mac knelt, right arm around the shoulder of the weeping Watcher, left hand clutching his own bleeding wound.
Tom moved closer to Methos and put his hand on the hilt of the machete in thought.
"You're not," Richie declared.
Tom turned to face Richie, standing before him and gave a grin. "It is certainly tempting, isn't it?"
"You'd take the head of the world's oldest Immortal while he's dead?
What's the honor in that?"
"There is more to living that honor," Tom replied.
"Yeah, I know. Survival." He said it like a bad word. "Just try to survive. I don't get it. You told me all that stuff about trusting my friends and that life is what you make it. You said I could change if I wanted. Then you two go at it over something centuries old. Maybe Shapiro was right. Maybe we all are just murdering bastards."
Tom raised an eyebrow. He removed his hand from the machete and placed it on Richie's shoulder. "You are a fine man." He turned and started to walk away.
He glanced back. "Don't worry, we shall probably meet again one day--as friends I hope." Then he added with a twinkle in his eyes. "Try to stay out of other people's fights--and beyond the range of a friend's blade." Tom stepped through the opening of the hedge and disappeared from view.
Amanda had collected both pistols, deciding to keep them from harm's way. She eyed Hudson and Tim who stood uselessly together in shock. "What happens to these two?" she asked of MacLeod.
He looked up at the men from where he knelt beside Joe. That was a good question. These two had seen Joe kill Shapiro, knew Adam Pierson was an Immortal. The younger one could not be much older than Richie. Where does their allegiance lie? He rose and walked towards them.
Hudson licked his lips nervously. "What happens now?"
Mac sighed. "I guess that sort of depends on you."
"You want us to say silent?" Tim guessed.
"I cannot do that," Hudson commented, fear in his voice. "I'm a Watcher. I made an oath to keep the truth."
"What is the truth?" Mac asked.
He glanced around. "I think Shapiro was insane. I didn't fully realize that till Pierson revived. I joined the Watchers to record history, to be part of what Immortals were--not to destroy them. But if you want me to say nothing, you'll have to kill me, too." He crossed to Joe. "Watchers determine their own justice. He killed a maniac in self-defense. As for Pierson, well, he is an Immortal. I will record that."
Mac looked Hudson in the eye and knew the man was honest. He nodded.
"Joe," Hudson looked down at him and Joe looked back. "I'll put in a transfer to the Great Northwest. I hear you need some new people out there. I'd like to work with you. That goes for my son as well." He motioned to Tim. "He's only been with us a month."
Methos gave a cough as life surged through him. "What a headache," he muttered. He glanced at Amanda and Richie as he sat up. Is it safe to come out?" He noticed Shapiro. "Joe?"
Amanda nodded quietly. "This time I think it really is over--Adam."
Hudson and Tim would handle the disposition of Shapiro. Mac comforted Joe knowing that Joe had destroyed a one time friend. Both of Mac's friends had survived. At Joe's insistence, the three Watchers left together, leaving the four Immortals behind at the house.
"What happens now?" Amanda asked.
Methos was silent.
"This is over," Mac stated firmly.
"Why, because you say so?" he replied.
Richie interrupted. "I kept Karrow from taking your head while you were dead. You owe me."
Methos opened mouth to protest, but Mac spoke first. "You owe him. You owe all of us. Adam Pierson the Watcher is gone. Adam Pierson the Immortal lives. Methos the oldest Immortal is still a legend. You will survive."
He let the anger drain away slowly. "Yes, I suppose that is right. I knew a man once; a man who would be king. He was stopped from destroying one of his own by divine intervention." He gave a small smile. "Who's to say? Maybe, in a way, I have been blessed, too. If Karrow stays away from me I'll leave him alone, too."
"He will. He's gone," Richie insisted.
He nodded. "I think I shall drop out of circulation for a decade or so."
"What about Elizabeth?" Amanda asked.
He had not thought of the girl at all. He felt mild embarrassment. "Elizabeth?"
"I got her and Ginger to go out to Kent for the day. I felt it would be best if, you know, they weren't stumbling into anything," Amanda explained. "We could drive out there."
He gave a pensive smile. "Well, maybe I shall disappear--tomorrow."
Mac parked the car next to Elizabeth's. He tooted the horn. Within a moment, Elizabeth appeared at the west archway of the ruin. She hurried to them, and threw her arms around Methos' neck, giving him a kiss.
"Amanda told me you had important work today. Then Ginger told me about the Secret Service. I didn't know what to think. I was afraid something might have happened to you!"
He looked confused, noticed Mac's high sign, and decided to let it pass. "Everything's fine," he assured her.
"Where's Ginger?" Richie asked.
"She went up to the west rampart. Something about getting a picture of a sunset over the water."
He went into the castle, and started up the flat stone steps. "Ginger!"
"Up here!" came her voice.
He reached the top of the steep climb, but did not see her. "Ginger?" He walked down the rampart.
"Here," came an unfamiliar voice. He spun to see a large man, restraining Ginger before him, hand over her mouth. "I have not forgotten you," he told Richie.
Richie recognized the voice as one of those who had held him blind-folded. "This is over," he said, angry fear creeping over him. This is over, right? Shapiro is dead. The others agreed. What's this about? "Don't you guys communicate? Shapiro is dead."
"I don't know any Shapiro," the man sneered. "I told you not to run. I told you I wanted your partner."
Richie still could not get past all that had already happened. "But--you guys are supposed to back off."
The man gripped Ginger harder, cutting off her air. She managed a squeal as her eyes widened. "Look, boy, I don't know what in hell you're saying. I want that gold of Freuder's back. It was mine."
"Gold?" he whispered. The gold Krugerrands. This has been
about those blasted gold coins!
"I know that. But you know where they are."
"No!" he pleaded. "I don't. Tom's gone."
The man gave a sudden cry as Ginger's teeth sank into his finger. Her heel crushed against the arch of his foot and as he hollered again and she broke free.
"Run, Richie!" she shouted. As she broke into a sprint, the man managed to catch hold of the edge of her jacket, spinning her to the side. She slammed against the waist high stone wall of the rampart and with a shriek of terror went over the side.
Richie with cry of rage, ran for the spot she'd been, but was intercepted by their assailant and they began to exchange blows.
Ginger's cry had caused the others down below to look up.
"My God!" Elizabeth screamed, her hand flying to her face as they saw Ginger plummet over the side. She caught hold of a jutting stone about six feet below the edge of the wall.
Mac was already running up the steps. Just as he reached the fight, Richie delivered a perfectly executed kick to the man's chest. The assailant stumbled backwards, also crashing into the low wall. He flipped backward and over the edge. Nothing stopped his fall except the rocky ground.
"Ginger!" Richie shouted leaning over the side. "Hang on!"
She looked up from where she dangled, both hands gripping the very small stone that jutted from the wall. "Hurry, Richie," she pleaded. "I can't hold on!"
He leaned over the side, but did not come close to reaching her. "Mac!"
MacLeod took a turn, but she still nearly a foot out of reach. He pulled off his shirt and leaned over again, swaying it towards the terrified, sobbing girl. "Grab it!" he ordered as the shirt came within inches of the rock.
"I can't! I can't get go! I'll fall!" she begged.
"Mac, grab my belt, maybe then I can reach her," Richie pleaded.
He nodded and Richie climbed over the wall. MacLeod, lowered him, holding the belt, as far as he could. Blood rushed to Richie's head, thundering in his ears. "More, Mac!" he shouted. "Lower."
MacLeod let go of the belt and held on by Richie's hips.
"Come on, Ginger," Richie begged. "We're almost there."
"Richie, help me!" she begged. Her hands were numb, shaking. "I can't hold on!"
He stretched for all he was worth. "Grab my hand!" Inches still separated them.
Mac was now clinging to Richie's knees. Richie's fingers just brushed the top of Ginger's hand. "Grab my hand, Ginger!" he shouted.
"I can't let go!" She glanced at the ground forty feet below.
"Don't look down! Look at me!" he pleaded. He wiggled and squirmed, trying to get just that inch more.
Mac held on, himself stretching as far as he could. "Just grab her, Rich!"
He made a final lunge, felt his fingers closing around her wrist. I've got her!
Then suddenly he didn't.
All he could do in open horror was watch her drop, screaming and flailing
to the ground below. For a moment, his shriek of agony mixed with hers.
Hers ended and his was left alone on the air.
MacLeod came over carrying the pink invoice, Dawson just behind him. "Papers are all done," Mac advised quietly.
Richie nodded solemnly. "That's all there is then?" He murmured. "Like shipping a hunk of furniture."
Mac did not reply. He remembered taking Tessa home for burial. He knew the long flight ahead would be an eternity in itself.
"She told me her dad couldn't stand me. She wanted to prove to him I'd turned out to be something better than he thought." He blinked a few times. "She was gonna show him....she was gonna make it right with him...she was gonna...." his voice dropped off.
Mac put an arm around his shoulder and glanced at Joe. The Watcher gave a sad nod of sympathy.
The two Immortals looked up as they sensed a presence.
Amanda entered the waiting room, tickets in one hand, Percy's cat carrier in the other. "Ready?" she asked quietly.
Richie was staring at her. "I didn't know it was you."
"What?" she asked.
"I didn't know who it was." It was frightening, like being blind. He had come to accept the identifying sensation. It was gone.
"I knew it would pass," Joe said quietly. "I did a bit of research. Three cases. One an Immortal blind before her first death. She had it. The other two had experiences something like yours in the mine. For them it was temporary, too."
Percy pawed at the door to the carrier and Amanda took him out for a moment to soothe him. He squirmed to get free. "I think he wants to go to you, Richie."
He shook his head. "That cat hates my guts."
Nevertheless, Percy wormed free, and jumped into Richie's surprised arms. The two looked at each other eye to eye. Then, the orange cat licked away the young Immortal's tears as they fell.