Special thanks to Cindy Champion who beta-read and advised. Highlander, the concept, the characters of MacLeod, Richie, and Tessa belong to Rysher, P/D, etc. So does Joe Dawson, who makes a brief cameo appearance. No money, just pleasure. "Dream Catcher" takes place after "Turn About" and, sadly, just before "The Darkness."
Tessa Noel awoke with a start. The room was it should have been, dark and silent. There was a gentle, damp breeze blowing from the harbor that gently furled the curtains. The slow, rhythmic breathing beside her should have been reassuring, but she felt overwhelmed by panic. What is wrong with me? What is happening to me? She sat up amongst the sheets, drawing her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms tightly about them as if to find a way to give herself the comforting hug she needed so much. This was not the first night she'd been awakened; in fact, it was becoming an alarming pattern that terrified her. She couldn't remember the contents of her dreams, but knew they were horrible. Sleep was becoming a thing to dread.
She cast a compassionate gaze at the form of Duncan sleeping unawares beside her. Yesterday she'd wanted to tell him about her nightmares, but did not. What was there to say when she couldn't remember anything but the fear they raised? He had seemed preoccupied lately. Something was troubling him, but he'd insisted that all was fine. He already has too much to worry about she chastised herself. He's not only got all the normal mortal worries of life like paying bills and trying to keep Richie in school, but the constant fear of wondering which Immortal will drop, unannounced, through the skylight next. He's just trying to save me from the worry--everything is just fine.Her thoughts drifted back to the untouchable black fears of her night. Just like me. Everything is just fine. She kept repeating the words to herself as she sat in silence, knees drawn up, listening to the night. If she fell asleep, the fear would return, so she had to remain awake, awaiting the dawn.
"Hey, wake up!" MacLeod's teasing voice penetrated Tessa's gray daze.
She opened her eyes and felt the sharp twinge of sore muscles. She must have fallen asleep at some point and spent the last part of the night curled on her side. Now her arms and neck hurt. She remained unrested. "Awh, Duncan," she muttered sleepily, "my neck aches." She hoped he would massage it for her.
But he was already in the bath running the shower.
She lay there for several minutes, feeling tremendously sad for no special reason. I'm tired. She wanted to stay in bed forever. "I must be getting something," she said aloud to herself. If only she could find the cause of this oppressive blackness, she would then be able to deal with it. But not understanding why made this fathomless black pit with slippery walls she could not scale all the more frightening.
It took a force of will, but she made her way to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. Duncan did not always drink coffee, but Richie did. The act of doing something, anything, lightened her mood just a little. She found three oranges in the fridge and put them into the juice squeezer along with a stalk of celery. Duncan did always drink juice mixtures. She found it amusing how particular Duncan was about eating right. Not that he would get heart disease or anything. She caught her reflection in the microwave oven door and looked more closely. When they had met, people thought Duncan was the older man. Just how much older, she'd had no idea then. Years ago. Now they seemed just right for each other. Sadness washed over her again when she thought about the future. Some day people might think he was her son.
She turned away from the door and got out a box of eggs. She broke six and began scrambling them in a bowl. Just as she put them into a pan on the fire, Richie walked into the room.
"Morning, Tessa," he said with a grin and glanced at the cooking eggs. "Smells great."
His smile was like a ray of sunshine on her bleary day. She could feel her emotional fingers grasping for the energy of joy it contained and trying to draw it into herself. Smile again, her mind begged.
But he had turned away to the coffee pot.
She glanced at his T-shirt and cutoffs. "Going to work today?" She dropped the hint.
"Sure." He finished pouring the cup of coffee. "Oh." He recalled her criticism of his working apparel as of late. She thought if he was working in a fashionable antique shop, he should look the part. "I'll change after I eat." He dropped into a chair with a plate of eggs and toast. "Okay?" He grinned again.
"Thank you, Richie," she replied, and shared the smile.
Mac came into the room and gave Tessa a peck on the cheek. "Morning." He poured the juice from the squeezer. Then he gave a small frown. "I don't want eggs."
She blinked in surprise. His comment had shattered her momentary bliss. "What can I make for you?" she asked, tension creeping into her expression.
"Nothing, I'll do it myself." He stuck his head in the refrigerator, ignorant of her feelings.
"I'll eat those extra eggs," Richie offered brightly.
Duncan glanced over his shoulder at him. "You should be more careful about what you eat," he remarked a bit coldly. "I've told you before to eat right."
Richie made a face as Tessa piled up the eggs for him. "Don't mind him," she said with a smile.
Mac suddenly turned back to face them, one had on his hip. "What's that supposed to mean?" The tone of his voice betrayed irritation.
Tessa suddenly felt an unexplainable rush of fear. "Nothing, Duncan," she said quickly. It took all of her control to keep from running from the room.
Mac took a block of cheese and an apple out and placed them on the table. He stopped and looked at Richie, displeasure showing.
"What!" Richie demanded defensively.
"Didn't Tessa tell you the other day to cut out the rags when you're going to work in the store?" he said angrily.
"Yeah, she did. And she reminded me this morning. I'm just gonna eat, okay?" he replied hotly.
"Not, it's not," Duncan replied. "Change."
"My food's getting cold here," Richie said, taking another fork full.
"Duncan," Tessa said quietly. "He'll change." Fear lingered. Fear that was inexplicably connected to Duncan.
He turned back to her and, with a sudden change of mood, gave that impish little-boy grin that always melted her heart. "You are too soft a boss. He needs to learn a little more about following orders."
Richie rolled his eyes and finished the mound of eggs. He jumped up from the table and deposited his plate and coffee mug into the sink before beating a hasty retreat to change.
Mac sat down at the table to cut up the apple.
Tessa placed her arms lovingly around his neck. "So, I'm soft?" she whispered into his ear.
He grinned, reaching his arms backward and patting her backside. "In all the right places."
She leaned down and gently kissed his ear. She wished she could understand what was wrong.
"What's wrong?" he asked her suddenly, sincerely.
She was surprised. "Nothing."
He, lovingly, took both her hands, slowly moving her forward until they were face to face. "Something is wrong."
"I don't know what it is," she replied truthfully with a shrug. His mentioning it made this thing suddenly terrifying. "I just feel--like something isn't right. I wish I knew." There, she'd made an attempt. Why was her heart pounding in so much fear that it took her breath away? There was a momentary pause as time stopped, awaiting his response.
He was quiet, no emotion revealed on his somber face. "I'm sure you'll work it out."
And that was all. She felt as though he had let go of her and allowed her to drop into that black chasm. She said no more, disappointed and wounded that Duncan had not done more. There was a time when he would have hovered over her at the slightest thing. She wanted so badly to grab him, to cry, scream, tell him about this awful fear. She did nothing.
Tessa tried to put her attention into ordering from the exchange in Europe. Her paperwork was nearly a week behind, not co- incidentally timed with the start of the nightmares. Unable to concentrate, she finally gave up. Frustrated, she went out into her workshop and tried to work on a sculpture, but nothing would come. It was physically painful to be unable to create. She'd been blocked on this piece since last week. She was beginning to hate the large bronze spiral of interlocking metal plates. Right now it just looked like junk. She leaned against the workbench, arms crossed, glaring at the cold object. This must be creative constipation.
"Tess?" It was Richie, dustmop in hand, watching her.
"Yes?" she answered.
"Not comin' to you, huh?"
"Creating art isn't like working in the grocery," she commented. "It doesn't automatically happen."
"Yeah, I know that," he put in. "It's just that this one doesn't seem to give you much pleasure."
She looked from him back to the work. "It isn't."
He placed a friendly hand on her shoulder. "Maybe you just need to get away from it for awhile." With sudden enthusiasm he blurted: "That's it. Why not go spend the day at the arboretum?"
The idea seemed appealing. Just getting out of here became suddenly overwhelmingly irresistible. She gazed at Richie, wondering at how this teenager had been more able to touch her pain than the man she had loved more than twelve years. Her shoulder still tingled from the touch of his hand. She pushed the sensation away. What is wrong with me? The mental image of gentle greenery and sunshine of the park flashed before her. They needed to get out of here. She opened her mouth to reply to Richie's suggestion when Mac suddenly came into the workshop.
"Aren't you supposed to be cleaning the floor?" he demanded of Richie.
"I'm doing it," he answered, defensively. "Tessa was just-"
"The floor, Richie," he commanded.
Tessa felt the dread and panic wash over her. Trying desperately to climb over it, she announced quickly: "Duncan, let's make of picnic of it." She forced a smile she hoped was convincing. Why was she so afraid of Mac? Why was he so angry?
"Picnic?" He blinked like it was something alien.
"Yes," she said with enthusiasm. "Richie suggested we just-"
"Richie needs to do his work," Duncan commented. "He didn't finish the inventory yesterday. There are still two showcase lights burned out."
"I've gotta go buy the lights, Mac," he explained, anxious at Mac's disapproving tone.
"Then I guess you haven't done that either."
"Duncan," Tessa tried to interject, alarm on her face.
"Well, if I've done such a crappy job, why not just fire me!" Richie snapped, taking a defiant posture.
"Richie!" Tessa now turned towards him, trying to stop this unexpected and almost unbelievable exchange.
MacLeod gave a sardonic smile. "Think you can find a better job? Have at it."
"Duncan!" Tessa pleaded.
Richie angrily threw down the duster and stamped out the back door.
"Mac?" Tessa whispered, staring at him. "What is happening?"
He turned to leave the shop, stubborn pride obvious on his face. "It'll be all right, Tessa," he promised.
"I cannot believe how you just treated him."
"How did I just treat him?" he replied, defensively. "I just wanted him to do an honest day's work. We're making it too easy for him."
"Too easy?" She felt righteous anger boiling inside. Trying to control herself she went on, forcing calmness to rule. "A year ago you were the one who insisted he move in with us. You made a commitment to him. It's been hard for him to develop trust in us: to believe that we won't just turn on him like everyone else. You've been so cold towards him. It's as though you don't care anymore." About me or him the unspoken thought leapt to her mind.
Mac stood there patiently listening to her, then turned away without a word. She watched him go, her mouth literally hanging open. Nothing was the way it should be--most of all Duncan.
Richie wandered the streets of his old neighborhood feeling the jumble of emotions within him. He'd always known deep inside that this little life with Mac and Tessa was too good to be true. I was so stupid. Stupid, Stupid. Can't trust anyone for long. They always turn on me sooner or later. They get bored, or the check isn't enough to make it worth the time, or there's a fight or they want something else. I shouldn't feel so betrayed by Mac. Hell, Immortal or not, he's really just like everyone else. He lasted longer than most of them. But he did wonder what he'd done to cause the sudden change. The last week had been one incident after the next that had escalated into the final exchange. He wasn't even sure he understood what their argument had been all about. What about Tessa? She didn't turn on me. Quite the opposite. As Mac had become more and more withdrawn, he'd sensed a new closeness with Tessa. He'd worried about her. Does she need me?
There didn't seem to be many people about and over the course of the hour, he couldn't find any of his old friends which made him both happy and sad. Happy because he was in a bad mood and didn't want to hear the "I-told-you-so"; sad because he really longed for someone to be with.
He turned to see a sandy-haired man in sunglasses motion to him from the driver's seat of the convertible, cobalt blue Lexus. Richie's eyes drank in the beautiful sports car for a moment. "You talking to me?" he finally asked.
He glanced around, then stepped closer to the car.
"From around here?" the driver asked.
"My whole life," Richie answered.
"Calvin J. Franks." The man extended a business card. Even as Richie read it and recognized the title of movie producer listed below the name, Calvin explained: "I'm shooting a movie here. Going to be an Academy Award winner."
"Yeah?" Richie replied, not believing him.
"It's a crime thriller. You know, lots of shooting, car chases, things blowing up. I need a man who really knows this town to help me line up the shots. You look like that kind of guy. What would you say to five bills a week?"
Richie burst into a smile, unable to believe his good luck. "For real?"
"Real as they come," Calvin replied. "Just be my tour guide."
"You've got a deal. When can we start?"
Tessa found an old iron wheel she'd bought at an auction in Arizona over a year ago. She laid it on the workbench and looked at it for a while, an idea coming to her. Lighting the acetylene torch and donning the shield, she began to fervently throw herself into the idea.
Several hours raced by. It was wonderful to have this inspiration and desire. She focused completely on the task, driving thoughts of everything else, of the dreams, of Mac, of Richie, from her mind. She was unaware of the time until Mac came into the shop with a sandwich and tea for her.
"You seem to be getting over your block," he observed.
She turned off the torch. "This is something else." She picked up a hammer and pounded it against the rim.
"Food?" he asked meekly, waving the plate.
"Not now." She banged on the rim a few more times.
He shrugged and set the plate aside, feeling mildly rejected. He'd seen Tessa throw herself into a project before and knew there were times she was completely consumed by her art. This must be one of them. He took pleasure in watching her work. Things had seemed strained lately and he wasn't sure why. It was reassuring to see Tessa creating. It was the normal thing.
Forty-five minutes later, she put down the tools, turned to him, and picked up the sandwich. "What time is it?" she asked.
He glanced at his watch. "Almost five."
"Has Richie come back yet?"
He felt a sudden explosion of irritation at her question. "No."
Concern crossed her face. "Shouldn't we go look for him? He was pretty upset this morning."
You mean I was pretty upset this morning He bit the inside of his cheek. "Just give him time to work it out. He'll be back."
She turned away. This barrier seemed to be coming up between them and she didn't know why. "Duncan, do you feel something is wrong?" she ventured to say.
"I know you haven't been yourself," he replied with a non-answer. "You haven't been sleeping well."
"No, I haven't," she agreed. Does he think this is all somehow my fault? "I just feel like--like, I can't put a finger on it. Don't you feel it?"
He sighed. He didn't want to admit he did. He'd felt on edge for days and spent hours in kata hoping to feel better. Nothing had made a change. But to agree with Tessa would give this thing substance, a reality that he did not desire. Maybe denial was still the best choice. He had no past experience to compare this to and in four hundred years had thought he had seen it all. "I don't know," he told her.
"I feel afraid, Duncan," she admitted. "I don't know why. How can I deal with it when I don't know why?"
He put a protective, reassuring arm around her. "I won't let anything near you," he promised. In saying it, he felt a flash of revelation. He needed to fight to defend her. But fight what?
Richie and Calvin had toured most of Seacouver and the outlying regions in about six hours time. It was nearing sunset when Calvin spun the car back through the tourist section where bright lights were coming on and neon was beckoning. Calvin turned into a club parking lot. Richie was still chattering away about a place he thought might be a good spot for the conclusion of Calvin's car chase, but Calvin was barely listening as they entered the bar. He ordered two scotch and sodas and when they were delivered, planted one in front of Richie.
The bar tender hesitated and Calvin passed him a $50 bill. He noticed the bar tender's name tag. "Be cool, Joe."
The man, with a weary eye at Calvin, moved away.
"Drink up--partner," Calvin said, lifting one glass.
Richie, happily, did just that. He blinked as the alcohol stung his throat and stomach. His experience with liquor had been limited to ripple and beer before his new life with Mac and Tessa and only an occasional glass of wine since then.
Calvin chuckled. "Quite a kick, huh?"
He tried to act cool, not wanting to show a moment of inexperience to his new benefactor. "Not bad."
Calvin laughed and motioned to the bar tender. On the third round of drinks, the bartender pulled Calvin aside by the arm. "Take your business somewhere else," Joe growled.
Calvin smiled and pulled another bill.
"Keep it." He pushed the money back. "There's only one reason a man brings a boy in here to intentionally get him drunk and I won't be part of that."
Calvin gave him a quizzical look, his gray eyes boring into those of the bearded older man, then he suddenly smiled. "Your kind is always so limited in their reasoning," he murmured. Spinning away on his heel, he grabbed Richie's arm. "Let's find some fresh air."
Tessa glanced at the clock and worried. It was past ten at night. Duncan sat out near the fire reading a book, but she could tell he was not relaxed. His sword lay under the end of the recliner, within easy arm's reach. He looked more like a soldier on watch than a man at rest in his home. He had to be thinking, as she was, that Richie had not returned.
He looked up at her. The book had been open before him, but he'd not turned a page in some time. He'd been consumed by thoughts of the need to protect Tessa from some unseen power. How could he fight what he could not see? Nevertheless, he'd stayed alert, ready. When she spoke to him, he felt a fleeting moment of vexation. But when he looked at her, he could see the fear in her eyes and the urge to protect her was stronger than ever. "What is it?"
She blinked in surprise. Wasn't he even aware? Didn't he care? "Richie is still gone."
"I know." He felt a passing wave of anger. Why isn't Richie more responsible?
"We've got to go look for him."
He stared at the floor. "Tessa, I need to stay here with you."
"He could be in danger. We can both go, but we've got to find him," she begged, the fear rising up within her.
"He'll come back when he's ready," Mac murmured. He could not even consider placing Tessa at risk. Something is out there somewhere.
"No!" she shouted in panic. "Please! We've got to go find him! I cannot believe you aren't even concerned about him!"
"Of course I'm concerned!" he exploded at her. "But just once I'd like to see him show an ounce of responsibility! I shouldn't have to go out there in the middle of the night and bring him home like some lost puppy!"
"You aren't worried about him--you are angry with him!" she shouted back. "Something could have happened to him!"
"Something could happen to you!"
"Something is already happening to all of us!" she retorted, tears in her eyes. "Please, Duncan, what is happening?! I am afraid for him!"
"Don't be. Nothing short of-" He stopped himself short. He heaved a great sigh, trying to bring his rage under control. He could not believe he'd come so close to telling Tessa his real reason for bringing Richie to live with them. The promise to Connor.
"The boy will bear watching."
"I'll do it."
He rose from the chair, picking up the katana. The blade shimmered in firelight as he retrieved his black coat. The distraction of the movement gave him an opportunity to attempt to analyze his feelings. Just whom was he really angry with? Richie? Himself? Tessa? He walked to the door. "Keep it locked," he ordered and walked out.
Calvin led Richie into a social club of his hotel. Several scantily clad women were lingering near the bar. It was closing time. Calvin felt more at home here; he'd become familiar with the staff and the man at the bar willingly accepted his orders for drinks. When they were delivered, Calvin passed one on to Richie, who failed to notice the small white tablet drop into the alcohol. His attention was on the beautiful blonde who was bending over them.
"Evening, Cal," she whispered softly. "Who have we here?"
"Richie Ryan, Belle Evans," Calvin replied.
Richie, dulled by his consumption of alcohol simply stared at the woman's voluptuous cleavage, less than a foot from his face, his mouth hanging open.
Belle giggled, extended a slender index finger and gently touched Richie's chin, closing his mouth. "He's cute, Cal."
"I make a gift of him to you," Cal said with a laugh, shoving several hundred dollar bills into her bikini top. "Give him a good time now."
Like a cat would rub against a leg, she pressed herself against Richie, still perched on the bar stool. She caressed his face and whispered into his ear. "Come with me." She took his hand and pulled him to his feet.
Overcome by liquor and joy, he gave Calvin a slightly silly smile as Belle led him away.
Calvin chuckled into his glass as he downed his drink.
MacLeod had circled most of Seacouver twice by three a.m. As the hours had passed, he'd gradually felt like he was coming to himself, awakening from a strange dream. And as he did, his irrational concern for Tessa had lessened, to be replaced by a growing fear for Richie. He finally left the car and proceeded on foot to inspect alley by alley Richie's old neighborhood. As he entered one alley, a fat rat scampered under a trash can lid. It reminded him of Derrick's rats.
Derrick Kauffman had been the third alias MacLeod was aware of. What his given name at birth had been was anyone's guess. Derrick had always been tinkering in the sciences trying to find new ways of stimulating pleasure in the masses. He'd had a brief passing fling with herbal hallucinogens in the Far East where Mac had first met him in the late 1700s. An encounter with Keim Sun and his experiments had frightened Derrick away from that area. Unlike Sun who was seeking a method of controlling the mind, Derrick was constantly seeking to free the mind to higher plains of ecstasy. Now, in 1935, he was experimenting with rats to discover ways to stimulate the pleasure center of the human brain.
"Watch this," he advised Duncan. He'd injected a drug into the first rat as it gave a squeal of protest. He dropped it into the cage with another. For a moment, both rats ran around with no apparent change. Then the injected rodent suddenly stopped its random activity and zeroed in on its partner in strong sexual earnest. "Watch him go!" Derrick laughed. "A picture of complete joy!"
Mac had felt less enthusiasm. "Hope the other one's a female."
Derrick laughed outright again. "I didn't invent a love potion, Mac. It's more like a sexual freedom. Besides, you know such fine sexual distinction means little to me."
"What exactly did you invent?" Mac asked, turning away from the rats.
"An aid, Duncan. A method of finding peace and joy--releasing worry and fear."
"For you? Or them?" Duncan had demanded.
Derrick's continence hid his pain. "Them and me. Does it matter? You try living like this, MacLeod, then you judge me. I just experience whatever joy I can."
"We are what we are, Derrick. You have lived three hundred years and still cannot accept the way it is?"
Derrick ground his teeth and pressed his knuckles hard against the lab counter. "If you'd been reduced to a eunuch 335 years ago, would you accept that as it was? You were always damned lucky enough to enjoy your sexual exploits in the right cultures. I was not even yet Immortal when I became subject to my fate."
(South Africa 1658) She had been beautiful and still was, even as she shrieked at her father to be merciful. Her dark eyes flashing in fear and rage, her ebony skin still glistening. The place would one day be known as South Africa. But now it was tribal land ruled by her father, the grand potentate.
His growl had been his response. She was a princess, he the chieftain. To have his eldest discovered in intimacy with a pasty skinned Dutch sailor was beyond belief. Law proclaimed they both should die. But she was royalty--and a favorite of the people. There would be outrage.
"Do you love him?" he snarled back.
She hung her head, unable to look her father in the eye.
"Tell him yes!" Derrick had pleaded, unable to understand her hesitation.
"She hopes to save you," the father told him, expressing much more tolerance than he felt. "If she confesses love for you, her intended must then fight you to the death."
Derrick's eyes grew wide with fear.
"There is a way," the chieftain murmured. "Your barbarian missionaries claim your religion speaks about an eye for an eye, do they not?"
He nodded, ignorant of its meaning.
"Then it is so!" Her father turned with a shout to his council. "We shall spare the life of the defiler--and put him to his own laws!" It was not enough for such a horrific crime as touching the princess, the chief conceded, but it pleased the people.
With a roar of satisfaction from the tribe gathered around, six powerful warriors had taken hold of Derrick, tied him to a tree and torn away his clothing. The head witch doctor approached, his raised knife gleaming in the hot African sun. He passed the weapon ceremonially to the first wife and mother of the princess. The woman broke into a broad, proud smile. A moment later, Derrick issued a scream of terror and pain. The cry was drowned out by the cheers of the people as she waved the pale piece of flesh aloft and the blood ran down her arm.
Duncan shrugged. "So what's the point?"
"The point!" Derrick looked wounded. "I enjoy watching others have pleasure."
"I wasn't aware intercourse was a spectator sport."
"That's all I have."
"You'd be using them, Derrick."
"Would I? What do mortals fight over? It's the same thing we do--power. And why do they crave power? Because they fear others getting it first and using it on them. What if the craving of power could be curtailed? Replaced by a sense of well-being, trust, love, romance and lust?"
Mac glanced at the two erotic rats in thought. "Then whoever still desired the power would be a wolf amongst the sheep."
Derrick gave a small chuckle. "Always the warrior, MacLeod, never the dreamer. I cannot hope to make you understand."
Tessa was exhausted, but terrified at the idea of sleep. She spent the night hours nervously weaving leather strips through the old steel rim and decorating it with different sized beads. Then she had dug through the closets until she found the eagle's feather. It belonged to Duncan, but she would never have even considered he would mind. Anyway, this was a matter of urgency. It was nearly dawn when her dream catcher was completed. She carefully hung it in the bedroom, then stood back to examine it. It hardly looked like something a young contemporary French sculptor would create. Its meaning dated to the American west and the Lakota and cultural stories Mac had told her. She had hoped it would give her a sense of peace, but it did not. Wrapping her arms around herself in a hopeless attempt at comfort, she wandered her home, trying to keep the tears from coming. Why hadn't Duncan come back? And where was Richie? What was happening? Anxiety broke over her, dread attacked every cell of her being. She had to do something. She had to get away. Where is Mac? I have to get away from here. I have to find them. Something terrible is going to happen. She snatched up her car keys and fled out of the door.
The sun was up. MacLeod suppressed a yawn as he returned to the black Thunderbird and dropped, exhausted, into the driver's seat. Yesterday was like a bad dream; a bad dream from which he had yet to awaken. He'd tracked Richie down on several other occasions, but never had the boy ever vanished so totally. He did not want to check with the police. If he had been arrested, they would have called. He did not wish to announce to them he'd lost the teenager they had entrusted to him. Tessa would be worried. He turned the car back towards home, wondering how she would respond to his failure. She'd been so anxious lately and he was worried about what she would do. A part of him did not want to go back and face her. It was hard to pin a label to the feeling. She would be angry. She would blame him. He forced himself to acknowledge she might have another idea of where else to look.
When he pulled in behind the store, he noticed immediately that her Mercedes was gone. He hurried inside, surprised to find she had not even locked the door. "Tessa!" he called and silence answered. It took less than a minute for him to dash through the apartment and store and be convinced that she really was not there. Frustrated and mildly angry at this new wrinkle, he stopped suddenly at the doorway to the bedroom, seeing the dream catcher hanging by the window.
He knew what one was and what it was for. Little Deer had made one for them in 1860 and hung it in their tipi home. It was unexpected to see one made by Tessa. She was usually so practical, level headed; not at all a person to evoke spirits. She might have made it simply as an object of beauty, but something deep within him crawled in fear and apprehension. Something was wrong--it was getting worse by the minute. And he did not understand it or know what to do next. He gingerly reached out and touched the eagle feather vividly recalling the voice, the smile, the smell of Little Deer.
"The dream catcher collects the sleeper's dreams and traps all the bad ones. The good dreams pass down the feather to the dreamer."
"I don't have bad dreams," he'd answered gruffly.
She smiled without answer, for she'd seen him toss restlessly at night many times. "I will keep it for Kahani."
He had to assume that Tessa had grown impatient with his search and had begun to look for Richie herself. He'd told her to stay here, to keep the door locked. Something could happen to her. He wondered what places she might have thought to investigate he had not checked. Hurriedly scratching out a note instructing her to stay put if she returned, he rushed back out the door.
Richie awoke slowly. Something tickled his nose and he pushed it away with a sleepy hand. His mind was filled with vague memories of Belle -- the smell of her perfume, the feel of her body against his. His nose was tickled again. He batted a hand at it again, this time half opening his eyes.
"Rise and shine, Don Juan," Cal kidded, tickling Richie's nose with a drinking straw again.
He blinked, coming more alert and was startled to find a man in the bed beside him. He grasped for the sheets to cover his naked form, then stopped. It was just Calvin. It was okay for Calvin to be here. Calvin understood. The momentary fear was quickly washed away by a feeling of security and peace. In fact, Richie hadn't felt this kind of peace in--forever.
"Come on, we've got a time schedule to meet," Calvin reminded him, hopping off the bed. "I've been up and going an hour already. Here." He dropped a plastic bag on the bed. "Figured you needed some new threads today."
Richie sat amongst the blankets, checking the bag. He grinned upon finding the new clothes. "Hey, sharp stuff."
"Well, I cannot take another's credit," Calvin replied, watching with pleasure as Richie started to dress. "Your new friend, Belle, helped pick them out."
"Belle?" he whispered, remembering the tall blonde. He could recall pieces of last night, but most of it was a blur. "Next time I should have less booze first," he muttered. "I don't remember too much."
Calvin laughed. "Come on, we need to check out that spot at the park you mentioned yesterday."
The morning air was crisp, fresh, and filled with brilliant sunshine. The park was just perfect. Calvin listened as Richie gave his impression of shooting a love scene which was supposed to end with the arrival of the villain and the beginning of the car chase. Clad in the new expensive clothes, topped by the reflective sunglasses provided by Calvin, Richie was throwing himself into the role of picture consultant. He really liked Calvin, he decided. He'd never met anyone who was so carefree--and rich and who apparently accepted him just the way he was without seeking to remake him into something new. This is definitely more me than being a stock boy in an antique shop he thought to himself. He'd just completed pacing off the shot with Calvin for the second time when the arrival of the white Mercedes caught his eye.
Tessa spotted Richie, parked the car and got out. She was relieved to find him alive and well, and disappointed that he had been so negligent.
"Tessa!" he shouted, running towards her, excited and proud. "Get a load of this!" He spread his arms, as if to model the new clothes. "Hey, I've gotten a real job with real money!"
She stood there, straight-faced and unimpressed.
"Tessa?" Upon seeing her solemn expression, his joy faded a little.
"Richie, how could you!" she said, disappointment clear in her voice.
"How could I do what?" he asked, a little surprised, but feeling a sense of guilt.
"You did not call, you just--" she waved a hand as her English failed her. "Mac has been looking for you all night. We have been worried sick."
"Oh." His enthusiasm melted away until he stood before her, a picture of dejection. "I guess I just thought-"
"You just didn't think," she snapped back. "And lose those silly glasses."
He took them off, but it was the last thing he wanted to do for there were tears in his eyes. Tessa, her youth aside, was the closest thing he had ever known to a mother and her displeasure cut him like a knife. "I'm sorry," he murmured.
Calvin had arrived by now. "Is there a problem here? Calvin Franks, at your service," he said gallantly, planting a kiss on the back of Tessa's hand.
"Tessa Noel," she replied coolly, carefully withdrawing the hand. "We have looked for Richie all night."
"We?" he asked with a pleasant smile. "Oh, well, Richie," he glanced at him, "you never told me you'd have people looking for you. I deeply apologize for any inconvenience I have caused."
Tessa suddenly felt dizzy to the point of disorientation. She paled, bringing a hand to her eyes and tried to clear her fogging vision. Giving a small gasp, she collapsed and Richie caught her as she fell.
"Calvin!" he shouted, "something is wrong!"
He knelt next to Richie. "Nothing serious," he reassured him. "She's just exhausted. But you'd better get her home. Take her car and I'll follow."
Richie lifted Tessa in his arms and carried her back to the Mercedes. Laying her on the back seat, he found the keys and headed the car for the apartment.
Duncan wasn't sure the tip was good. A friend of a friend of a friend of Richie's told him Richie was seen going into the Green Olive club with a man who was supposed to be a movie producer and drove a convertible blue Lexus. It wasn't an area he'd have picked to look for Richie, so he hoped the tip was good. He entered the bar in late morning. It had just opened and was empty except for the young man stocking the liquor shelf.
"I'm looking for the bar tender from last night," Mac announced.
The young man turned. "You some kind of cop."
"Nope, just looking for a friend."
His expression revealed his lack of belief. His gum snapped as he chewed. "Well, Bud, you're in luck. Guy from last night only works one night a week--but he's in the back office right now picking up his pay check." He gestured towards the office.
Mac walked back just as a bearded man, leaning on a cane, exited the small office.
Joe looked up, a carefully concealed expression of shock on his face. "Can I help you?"
"I hope so," Mac replied. "I'm looking for a boy--teenager, red hair. Would have come in last night maybe."
He seemed too nervous and would not maintain eye contact. "Yeah, he was here. I should think you'd be following that dude he was with instead."
Duncan eyed him closely. "He was with somebody?"
"Expensive cat. Throwing a lot of cash around. Thirty years old or so. Sandy hair, blue eyes. I was afraid he might be trying to use the kid--if you take my meaning."
"Catch the guy's name?"
He thought for a minute. "No."
"Know where they went?"
He shook his head in a disinterested way. "I threw 'em out, Didn't see which way they went."
Duncan turned away.
Joe Dawson took his first breath in several minutes. That had been a little too close.
MacLeod got into the car and paused in thought. There had to be thousands of sandy haired, blue eyed men in this city, but he found himself recalling Derrick and his experiments again.
"It is real entertainment," Derrick argued enthusiastically. "If I perfect it, we can sit people down at the flicks and have them really sense what the characters do."
"Didn't the talkies take care of that?" Mac replied. "People don't have to read the subtitles any more. There's sound, motion; someday there will even be color I imagine. Let people have their own feelings. It's part of the job of the actors and directors to get people to feel the parts. It can't all be in a can."
Derrick laughed. "You are so sterile!"
Mac grinned, lightening the mood. "Aren't we all?"
"Not in that way, Mac. Our world is not so tame. There's adventure out there to feel! I want people to know the thrill it can be!"
"Then go climb a mountain, Derrick!"
"If you were a mortal--an old man dying flat on your back and someone offered you a way to feel happy, to feel love, exhilaration--would it be worth it?"
He shook his head. "And what about the evil, Derrick? Those out there who would take this miracle of yours and twist it to make someone love them? Or hate someone else? Couldn't they force people to be happy with evil instead of changing it? Don't you see the real possibility of harm?"
He checked his apparatus of beakers and Bunsen burners steaming on the lab table. "I will probably never make you see it." He slammed a file drawer shut.
The argument was halted by the young woman who stepped into the doorway of the lab.
Derrick burst into a wide smile. "Alice! Come here. Duncan, I've some one here for you to meet." As Alice came close, Derrick slipped an arm around her waist. "Alice McClorey, Duncan MacLeod."
Her smile was pleasant, if a little bit professional. "How do you do?" She extended her right hand in a pleasant handshake.
He noticed how the auburn hair, caught up on the top of her head in a bun to keep it out of her work, glimmered in the over head lights. There was a look of mischief in the bright green eyes. "Pleasure's all mine." He lifted her hand to give it a gentle kiss.
She blushed at the action. "I need to check the batch on the burner." With- drawing her hand, she nearly fled away.
"Did I do something wrong?" Duncan asked, his gaze following her from the room.
Derrick patted his arm. "Don't get any ideas, Mac. She is all mine. The most wonderful woman I've ever met. Quiet, reserved, smart, sensitive. She is all I have ever wished for. In all my years, I've never known anyone like her. She accepts me just as I am. Would that she were Immortal. I've never known such happiness."
"She knows about your Immortality?" The idea to Duncan was unbelievable.
"Yes. You mean you've never shared that with anyone?"
He shook his head quickly. "Never. I cannot imagine a mortal understanding something like that."
"You've never wanted to?"
"Well..." he paused, "...yes, once. But I didn't."
Derrick sighed with pleasure. "She is the love of my life, Duncan."
Calvin pulled the door shut to the antique shop as they went inside. Tessa was regaining consciousness just as Richie placed her on her bed.
"Richie? What happened?" she murmured.
He did not answer right away. When he'd come into the shop, the sudden sensation of anger and fear had hit him like a solid hand. He'd felt so good for the last day with Calvin and now the dread was back.I don't not belong here any more. He felt a passing sadness. I belong with Calvin now. "I think you're just tired, Tessa," he offered.
"Indeed," Calvin agreed, coming into the room. "Lack of sleep and the anxiety this lad unwittingly has put you through; the best thing for you to do is to sleep."
"But Duncan is still out there!" she replied, becoming animate.
"I'll go find him," Richie promised.
Calvin handed Richie a small white tablet. "Give this to her. She is obviously distraught. This will help her rest."
Without question, Richie got a glass of water and handed the medicine to Tessa.
"What is this?" she asked warily.
"Something to relax you," Calvin replied. "You are too tense."
She had to agree with that. She hesitated, not wanting to trust this stranger. Then she could feel returning fear begin to creep along her backbone, knew she would never rest like this, and accepted the tablet.
"Now," Calvin said gently, "you rest and we shall find MacLeod." As he started from the room, he turned to Richie. "You stay here with her. I shall find MacLeod."
He raised a hand. "She should not be left alone. She is vulnerable, frightened. Do whatever you can to calm her."
Richie regretfully agreed. Calvin was right. Calvin would look after them. It never occurred to Richie how Calvin would know MacLeod or find him. As Calvin left, Richie took a deep breath and walked back into the bedroom. "Tessa, can I get you something? Some hot tea maybe?"
She nodded. "That would be nice."
He scurried for the kitchen. "Be just a minute."
It would actually be four minutes--and just the timing Calvin, alias Derrick, had planned.
Mac toured the hotel district for nearly an hour, keeping his eyes peeled for Richie, but also hoping to sense the presence of another Immortal. He could not shake the feeling that Derrick was somehow here and involved. He glanced at his watch and decided to see if Tessa had returned home. Maybe she had managed to find Richie. In any event, he was hungry and wanted to rest a minute.
As he approached the store, he noticed with relief Tessa's car parked in the back. As he got out of the car and started for the door of the shop, he noticed something on the dashboard of the Mercedes. Frowning, he reached in and picked up the pair of women's glasses. A very special pair of glasses. The frames were of blue pearl and old, very old.. They were straight out of the 1930s and he recalled their owner.
Alice slipped the blue framed glasses off her face, carefully folded them and set them on the lab counter. "Are you very good friends with Derrick?" she asked of Duncan.
He looked up from the book of Derrick's he had been skimming. "We are friends," he confirmed. "We don't always see things the same way."
She gave a cautious smile. "He has a great dream to help mankind." She moved closer to him.
"He does," Mac agreed, giving her his attention.
She took the book from his hands. "He has a brilliant mind."
Duncan was aware of the look she gave him. It was one he'd seen many times on many women. Sometimes it gave him great pleasure, but not today. He could not betray Derrick by encouraging Alice.
"Will you be here long?" she asked him, moving her hand towards her hair. The red tresses suddenly tumbled down her shoulders.
"No. Just a few days." It took discipline not to touch the beautiful strands of hair.
"Oh." She sounded disappointed. "Derrick says you have been all over the world. You must have many exciting adventure stories." She slid onto the stool next to him so close that their hips touched, nothing but a few layers of cloth between.
"I've got my share," he replied, ignoring her body language. I should get up from here. I should run from here.
She smiled. "This experiment is time consuming, but a bit mentally boring. I have nothing to do but wait for the next step. If you wouldn't mind spending the time--I'd love to hear about you."
He hesitated. He did not want to offend her, or Derrick. "Sure." He spent an hour telling her a simple updated story about Amanda that left out many of the more amorous details.
"I cannot begin to imagine what things I would accomplish if I knew I had forever to do them," she whispered quietly at his conclusion. "Great things, great experiences--great loves..."
Mac licked his lips. She was a pretty and innocent girl, but he see there was something beneath the surface of her that longed to be set free.
She broke his thought with her observation. "It's hard to believe you've packed so much into your life, even as an Immortal."
"You'd be surprised at what you can do," he said with a grin.
"Yes," she agreed, leaning across him. "I just might be able to surprise you at what I can do, too, Duncan. There is more to me than this simple lab assistant." He fought to contain the laugh and glanced away from her. "You're kidding right?" That was probably the worst thing I could say.
She placed her palms on his chest, feeling the muscles beneath the cloth. "Derrick--he isn't like other men," she whispered softly. "He's not like you."
He felt embarrassed. "Alice, he loves you," he replied searching for the right words.
There was a glint of hostility in her eyes and sarcasm in her tone. "Love? He's not equipped to love anyone."
"You know what I mean," he retorted, stepping backward. "Derrick is my friend. He cares for you more than any woman he has ever known."
"And that means I must remain with him? Just because he loves me in his platonic fashion? Don't I have a choice is this?" she blurted angrily.
"Of course you do, but so do I." He retreated another step. "I won't do this to him."
"I don't love him! I love you!" She leapt forward and threw her arms around his neck.
There was movement in the door and they turned to see Derrick standing there, a blank look of shock on his face.
"Forgive me," Alice gasped. "I was out of place." She fled the room, leaving Mac and Derrick staring at each other, speechless.
Richie poured the tea and walked back to the bedroom with it. "Just how you like it," he said with flourish. "Cream and only one sugar."
"Thank you," Tessa whispered with a smile that lingered on her lips. She accepted the hot drink, but set it on the table beside her. "You know," she added softly with an odd smile, "you were a very bad boy."
He felt his ears redden. "Look, Tessa, I'm sorry about all that. Calvin's really a neat-"
She reached out and took his hand. "Come. Sit." She pulled him down to sit on the bed next to her.
"Ah, Tess," he started, his heart suddenly racing. This didn't look right--it wasn't right.
"Ssh," she said bringing her face close. "There's nothing to fear, Richie. After all, we're friends." Her fingertips brushed up the side of his face and through his hair. "It's all right."
He sat frozen in fear. Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice whispered malevolently Didn't you always want a woman like Tessa? You can have her.
"Surely you have found me attractive?" Her face was so close he could feel her sweet breath on his cheek. Her hands had somehow found their way to his shirt which unbuttoned in a smooth motion.
"Tessa!" he gasped, trying to pull back, wanting to resist both her and that little demon in his head. "Mac-"
She planted a kiss over his open mouth as he tried to speak. "Mac isn't here. You are." Her arms embraced him inside of the open shirt. She was pulling him down across the bed, atop of her.
She desires you. He could feel her hands playing over him, her body though clothed, moving seductively beneath him. Her right arm slid around his neck, drawing him to her as she kissed him, her tongue exploring playfully between his lips. Her left hand had slipped inside the waistband of his jeans. I've got to stop this. This isn't the Tessa I know. What is happening? His physical body was quivering with raging hormones as his mind reeled in shock. What do I do?
There was a movement at the door of the room and Richie turned to see Mac standing there in shock.
"Oh my God!" Richie uttered. "Tessa!" He yanked free from her grasp, staggering off the bed back to his feet. He could see MacLeod's gaze fix on the half unzipped jeans and the open shirt dangling from his shoulders. "Mac, this isn't what it seems!" he pleaded. This guy's an Immortal. He plays with swords. I am dead.
Duncan's hands gave the merest tremble as he quietly spoke. "Richie-"
Richie did not wait. He raced for the exit and in his haste, ran face first into the door Mac had left half open. He hit it with such force, it knocked him flat on his back, where he lay for a moment, gripping his face.
"You all right?" Mac asked coming towards him. He fought to contain his fury and display only concern for his fallen protégé. I know him better than this. I know Tessa better than this. Something is beyond their control here. Stay calm. "You okay?" he repeated, trying to put a note of humor in his tone.
But Richie wasn't laughing. He gave Mac a look of complete terror through his fingers as the blood from his nose ran down between them.
Mac had never seen such total dread in Richie's wide blue eyes and realized he was in fear for his life. "Richie, wait!"
Richie was up on his feet, out the door, and on the street running.
Mac was after him, but Richie's terror was a powerful motivation and he knew the alleys around here. In just a moment, he'd vanished. Mac gave up after three blocks, heaving a great sigh. He needed to get back to Tessa. What was she thinking? What was she doing? He didn't want her to run off again, too.
Richie rounded a corner of a back alley, having put six blocks between him and the antique store. He slowed to catch his breath. What a mess. He'll find me for sure.There was blood on his face and hands and spattered across the shirt. What do I do now?
A hand suddenly grabbed hold of his arm. He cried out in fear, then recognized Calvin. "Calvin!" he gasped in relief. "It's you!"
"What's going on here?" Calvin asked, gazing at the younger man's appearance. "What happened to you? Was it MacLeod?"
"No, man, no. I ran into the door," he grumbled. "And Tessa--it's all messed up. She just..." He felt unable to describe everything that had happened. He looked helplessly at Calvin. "Mac's gonna kill me." He was not speaking figuratively.
"Really," Calvin gave an unexpected grin. "Cheer up, boy. I'm certain we can make some kind of sense of this matter. Is MacLeod at the shop?"
He nodded, but cringed at the thought of facing his mentor.
Calvin noticed his response. "Let me speak to him."
"Mac'll kill me," he repeated weakly.
Calvin chuckled. "I'm sure there will be another way."
But Richie failed to noticed the tone of voice.
As he walked back to the store, Duncan tossed the confusing events through his mind. Certainly there had to be an explanation for Tessa and Richie's actions. A flash of anger shot through his consciousness. Really? And how long has this been going on? She's been awful nice to him lately even when he screws up. Screws is right.No, I know Tessa. I love her, I trust her. Something is wrong here. He looked down at the glasses still in his hand. There is an explanation.Derrick had to be here. He had left them as a calling card where Mac would find them. There was a message here and he knew Derrick would soon show, but why? What was all this about? Have we all just been the unwitting victims of a malicious experiment?
He had fled from Derrick's rage. The emotionally devastated Immortal had come screaming at him, sword in hand. MacLeod, not willing to kill Derrick over a misunderstanding had made a clean escape. He determined to seek out Alice and make her set the story straight. It was several days before she returned to her apartment, but when she did, he was waiting.
"Are you all right?" he asked of her as she unlocked her door.
Her look at him was different now. It was an empty, hopeless gaze. Her hair was disheveled, her skin palid. "Do you care?" she asked blankly.
"What happened to you?" He followed her inside the flat.
"You should leave, Duncan," she replied.
"Are you all right?" he demanded more firmly.
Tears suddenly brimmed her eyes. "Go!" she shouted. "There is no escape from him, Duncan. If you stay here, he will come and one of you will die." One tear slid down her cheek. "And in a strange way I still do care very much for him."
Duncan's eyes narrowed. "Did he use his serum on you?"
She did not answer. She turned her back and headed for the sink.
"Answer me!" he shouted.
"I will be fine, Duncan. It will be like it was before you came. I will work it out."
He felt guilty. Guilty he had not just taken her away. Guilty that he had, even in innocence, come between Alice and Derrick. "Alice, if you want to come away with me, I will take you," he said quietly.
The tears came faster now. She suddenly threw her arms around his neck, sobbing. "I have to stay here. I am sorry I ever said what I did. Please forgive me."
"I don't understand, Alice. You are unhappy with him."
She pulled away, and turned her back on him, walking to the window that displayed the semi-light of falling night. "One thing Derrick didn't mention about his experiment is that the drug is quite addicting." She shrugged. "I can't leave him." She glanced back noting the horror on his face. "Don't think ill of Derrick. He didn't know I was experimenting with it. I really wanted to love him. I hoped it would help me accept things as they were. It didn't."
"Does he know?"
She shook her head. "Leave now, Duncan. Your being here will only make it worse. Just go."
As Duncan approached the door, something in the alley caught his eye. Attached to the underside of the window of the kitchen was a small plastic electronic box. He approached it and examined the device. It appeared simple enough. Nothing more than a small box with an amplifier, and not much larger than a box of crayons. There was a tiny red light lit up on it. He cough feel a surge of anger within him, like something was here to fight. He wanted to make someone--anyone pay for what was happening. My life with Tessa is destroyed. I have been betrayed. He snatched the box from the wall and broke the wire inside. The little light faded out. At once, he could feel the rage starting to ebb away.
Carrying the box, he went to check on Tessa. She lay sprawled across the bed in their room as though she had collapsed into sleep the moment he and Richie had left the room. My Tessa would have followed up, excuses or reasons flooding forth. She would never have just calmly gone to sleep. For the moment, maybe it was just as well. If Derrick was involved in this, how had they met? What was his motive? Mac gazed again at the dream catcher. What mental torture has Tessa been going through? Was I so blind as not to have known? To have seen? Was Richie there for her while I was fighting ghosts and shadows that weren't there? Richie.The anger was fading. At the moment he'd discovered them, he could have killed Richie with his bare hands. Can I put the pieces back together?
He dropped his black coat on the trunk by the steps of the store and walked into Tessa's workshop, the small electronic box in hand. Right now it offered his only clue to what was happening. He carefully pried off the back. There wasn't much inside; just a bit of wiring, a small transistor,a nine bolt battery, and a two inch speaker. He was disappointed that it did not reveal more.
There was the sudden prickling sensation of an Immortal's presence and the back door of the shop opened, revealing Richie.
For one moment, Mac was taken aback. Oh no--not now. It's too early for him-- "Richie?" he murmured in awe, noting the blood smeared face. "What happened to you? Are you all right?"
Richie opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Calvin leapt through the door into the room and grabbed Richie by the back of the neck, a long double-edged sword suddenly present in his other hand, blade across Richie's throat.
"Hello--old friend," he growled at MacLeod.
"Derrick," Mac replied, realizing it was not Richie he'd sensed, but Derrick. Richie had not died, he was still pre-Immortal.
"It's Calvin now," he corrected, maintaining his posture.
"You're one of --"Richie murmured, in shock. "You guys know each other?"
"What's this about?" Mac demanded, a cold gleam in his eye.
"About?" Calvin muttered. "It's about you, MacLeod, and Alice. Did you get my hint? You remember Alice?"
"What about Alice?" he asked, hoping he could find out what was going on and end this peacefully.
"She was the only good thing I ever had," Calvin declared, his voice shaking slightly. "All I ever had--till you came along. Then all she could talk about, think about was you. And she hated me!"
Mac's stern look was melting into one of sorrow. "Derrick, I left. I stayed away from her. I knew how much you loved her."
"You stole her heart away from me!" he screamed. "It was gone-- then she was gone! I tried, God how I tried to make her love me."
"She did love you, she told me so. She even tried your drug. Did she ever tell you that?" Mac asked, still trying to maintain a calm composure.
"Yes, in the end she told me. She hated me, Mac! She had to resort to a chemical to make me tolerable! It was never like that until you came! She loved you, not me. When she could not have you, she took her own life! It was all because of you!"
Mac stared at him. It seemed unbelievable.
Calvin gave a sudden, manic smile. "I've worked hard, MacLeod. I finally perfected my concept--to control the feelings. Did you realize that? Did you feel it? I can control your joy, your sorrow, your hate. I can focus the feelings--like those of your sweet woman. I can control the libido at the touch of a finger. How fitting I should try it out on you."
Mac wasn't certain where Derrick, alias Calvin, was going with this, but he wished the sword wasn't quite so close to Richie's throat.
Richie was still attempting to recover from the shock at the sudden change in Calvin. He'd gone from protector to would be killer in a matter of moments. Richie tried to move, to pull free from the grip of the hand around his neck, but when he did, felt the fingers squeeze tighter.
"I have decided to destroy your life like you destroyed mine," Calvin went on to Mac. "How did it feel to see your woman in the arms of your trusted friend? And your boy here. Care about him?" Calvin grinned. "I thought about keeping him for myself. He could be a resource of pleasure for many years." He tilted his head and kissed Richie on the ear.
Richie shuddered visibly in fear.
Calvin gave a loud laugh. "But then again--naugh. He shall precede you in death--by a few moments anyway. Do you know what it is like, MacLeod? To have the mortals you love die in your arms and there is nothing you can do to change it?" His voice was plaintiff with sadness.
Mac remembered the pain, the helplessness, the rage, and the eternal ache of Little Deer dead in his arms. "I don't want to fight you," Mac said quietly. "We can just walk away from this."
"We can?" Calvin replied, wide-eyed. "I think not. I have planned and lived for this moment over 60 years! You certainly won't spoil it for me now! I have plotted your death every day over and over. And with you both dead, your poor, grieving mortal woman will be seeking out companionship--someone to take away the pain. And I shall be there for her to remove that sorrow with the flick of a switch. So, die, knowing I shall take your place!"
Mac tried to remain calm and maintain eye contact with Calvin, but at the same time knew he was unarmed; his sword in the coat by the steps a good fifteen feet away. He noticed the push broom leaning against the walk within arm's reach. With a sudden lunge, he grabbed for it.
In the same instant, Calvin shoved Richie towards Mac like a shield and drove in with his first thrust, aimed at Richie. Richie dove to the floor and rolled to the side as the broom handle collided with the sword with a dull thud, blocking the blow. A chip flew out of the wooden handle. Calvin thrust and parried over and over, Duncan only able to react on the defense using the broom.
Richie scrambled to his knees, spotted the black duster on the other side of the room and ran to it, finding the katana. "Mac!" He raced towards him, sword in hand.
Mac spun with the broom, aiming for Calvin's head, which the other Immortal ducked.
Richie, in his haste to deliver the sword moved directly into the follow through of the broom handle. It struck him across the face between the eyes. He collapsed backward to the floor, unconscious. The sword flew from his hand and Mac caught it in mid-air.
"Oops," Duncan uttered, his attention on senseless Richie instead of Calvin. It was almost a costly error. Calvin's blade whistled as it sliced the air; Mac's katana connected with it in just the last instant.
"I'll beat you," Calvin promised. "I have trained and practiced for this moment for years."
"Please, Derrick, I don't want to kill you," Duncan begged.
"Plead for yourself, Highlander!" Calvin shouted as he attempted a disengage that Mac foiled. The duel continued around the workroom, smashing vases, half finished sculpture pieces, and two lamps.
Mac dodged behind the large, heavy bronze sculpture Tessa had been working on before this nightmare began and as he did, Calvin toppled it forward onto him. Mac cried out as he fell under it, pinned to the floor.
"You are mine," Calvin whispered, a smile of vengeance on his lips. He swung in with his sword and Mac desperately deflected the blow, but was nearly helpless. On the next jab, the tip of Calvin's sword pierced Mac's right arm and he bit off a cry. On the back stroke, the saber caught the katana and nearly pulled it from his hand. Calvin grinned the smile of the victor and readied for what they both anticipated to be the final blow.
Then Calvin suddenly stiffened, bolt straight up, sword still extended from his side, the smile frozen on his face. Much to Mac's shocked disbelief, Calvin's head suddenly fell one way, his body the other, and he hit the floor with a hollow thud.
Mac was staring at Tessa, one of the swords from the showcase of the store still clutched in her hands, numb shock and fear painted across her face. "Tessa," he whispered in awe, pulling himself out from beneath the hulk of bronze. It was all he had time for. A glowing had started around Calvin's body and, in moments, electrical impulses were arcing through the room, bouncing from fixtures, shattering every showcase in the front and scattering antique jewelry, books, and artifacts across the floor. Mac gave a long cry as the energy found its mark in him. The three remaining lights blew out along with the television set, the hot water heater, and, lastly, the front window.
Then it was over. Tessa weakly dropped the French foil and sank to her knees where Mac took her in his arms. ------------------------------------------------------------------------
"It is a good thing we had our insurance policy renewed," Tessa commented as she shoved the pile of broken glass with the broom--the same broom Mac had used to defend himself. Her fingers lingered over the nicks in the wood.
"Damnedest thing I never saw," the insurance adjuster commented. "Never saw a gas leak do all this kind of damage."
"Those old hot water heaters can be tricky," Mac offered.
"Well, if there's anything else I can do, let me know." The man gave them his card and left.
"This mess will take forever," Tessa sighed, stepping over the broken glass and picking up an antique plate, the edge now chipped.
"I usually try to keep my conflicts away from home," Mac muttered, walking to where Richie lay on the sofa, an ice pack on his face. Mac picked it up and looked at Richie's two black eyes. He gave a little whistle. "Nice job."
"My head really hurts," Richie complained.
"At least it's still attached," Duncan pointed out.
He nodded, staring at the floor. "Mac, last night he must have drugged me like he did Tessa."
Mac pursed his lips. "Yeah."
He faltered, stammering over his words, still examining the carpet. "Do you think--I mean--he didn't--Mac--" He looked up, having run out of words, torment on his bruised face.
Mac gave a gentle smile. "He never touched you, Richie."
"You're sure?" he whispered, hopefully.
He nodded. "He was castrated in the seventeenth century by a Nubian princess' angry mother."
Richie took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, relief showing. "Then what was it all about?"
"He doesn't take part, he just observes. He probably sat back and enjoyed watching you and the girl."
"Oh." That, somehow, was almost as disgusting.
"Hey," Mac compassionately patted his shoulder, "he at least got entertainment from one of the best. Huh?"
Richie forced a smile. "Yeah."
Mac, with a paternal-like tenderness, placed the ice pack back across the upper part of Richie's face. He glanced over his shoulder at Tessa who stood looking out of the shattered window. He went to her. "Tess?" He placed his arms protectively around her.
She nestled back against him. "It never ends, does it? They just keep coming."
"It will someday," he promised. He reminded himself that Tessa had never before witnessed a quickening. He vowed she never would again. "I'll always be here to keep you safe." It was a promise he was making to himself as much as to her. He remembered finding Little Deer dead, re-lived the limp, cold feel of her in his arms. He could now sense the warmth of Tessa's skin, the rhythm of her beating heart. "We should go somewhere else."
"Go?" she murmured, almost absently. "We've only been back from Paris a few weeks. I have a show in a month. We're about to reopen the store. Where shall we go?"
"I don't know. Anywhere. Australia. You've never been there," he suggested.
She thought a moment. "He's dead, Duncan. I killed him, and running away won't change that."
He nodded, remaining silent for a minute or two. "Let's go to Australia."
"All right," she agreed. "After my show next month."
"Okay." He sighed. It would be all right again soon. The remembrance of Little Deer's death had forced him to recall the fact that mortals die. Someday Tessa would die also. But not for a long, long time. He would see to that. No one would ever threaten her again. He gave her a soft, gentle kiss. Tonight we will go to the club. Tonight I will ask her to marry me.