"The boss wants to see you," Don said after ringing off. If Methos hadn't known better, he would've thought his partner looked worried. But he knew better.
He nodded in acknowledgement and downed his whiskey before following Don outside to their bikes. Finally, after almost a year of running errands, he would see if all of this was going to pay off at last. While driving, he concentrated on the patches on Don's jacket. The skull in the middle reflected the light of the street lamps, almost seeming to glow with its bright red and white on the dark leather jacket. What an inventive logo for the Skulls MC, Los Angeles Chapter, Methos mused not for the first time in the past year. And yet, he looked forward to complimenting his own jacket which currently only sported the lettering. Maybe tonight was the night.
They pulled up at the back door of The Crash Club and entered unceremoniously. While dodging through the kitchen Don said, "you'll have to give up your weapons before you can pass to Assaro. Do both of us a favour and don't make a scene."
Before Methos could answer, Don went into a room so small that already seemed overcrowded by the two goons standing next to another door at the back. Their jackets were thrown haphazardly over the two armchairs at the side, bare shoulder holsters showing off their semi-automatic guns. The shorter of the two stepped forward.
"Hand me your weapons", he barked in a tone that made it clear he was used to being obeyed.
With a smile that could have frozen the Los Angeles Reservoir in an instant, Methos pulled out his gun and put it on the tiny coffee table. Then he removed his sword from his coat's lining. With satisfaction, he watched the short one's eyes widen for a second before the bodyguard resumed his stoic stare.
The taller one motioned Methos over and patted him down, removing his back-up knife from its boot strap. He didn't even raise an eyebrow as he handed it to his partner.
"You can go in now."
"Are you coming?" Methos turned to Don.
"I was just supposed to bring you." Don shrugged. And there that look was again, that almost-worried one. "But I can wait here if you like."
"I don't think I need a babysitter." And with that, Methos was through the door.
He felt him before he saw him sitting at a long table. Phil Assaro looked much as Methos had expected, with a biker's jacket and leather trousers, but the clean shaven face and watchful eyes of the mafioso Methos knew Assaro was at heart.
Methos made sure Assaro caught his slightly panicked look back to the outer room where his sword leaned uselessly against an armchair before moving a mere inch toward the man. Assaro in turn smiled pleasantly as if he had expected that reaction as he filled a second glass with red wine, compounding to the mafia image.
"Come, sit with me." Assaro's baritone voice was not loud so much as carrying, filling the whole room easily.
As if suddenly plucking up the courage, Methos crossed to the table. He eyed the other man suspiciously, but didn't sit down.
"Why did you want to see me?"
Assaro's smile stopped reaching to his eyes as he made a tsk-ing sound.
"Where are your manners, young man?" He put forth his right hand. "I'm Philip Assaro." His handshake was firm, but not crushing. "And you must be Jude Nichols."
Assaro genially indicated the chair next to him and Methos finally sat down, feeling the other man's eyes scrutinizing his every move. Now may not be the moment he got his patch, but it was even more crucial. Methos busied himself with staring at the proffered wine as if he'd never drunk any before. Jude probably hadn't. Jude hadn't done a lot of things, but he had other qualities Methos hoped Assaro would try to exploit.
Assaro took a sip of his wine leaning back in his chair. He had all the time in the world and he was going to let Jude feel it.
"You should try it," he said indicating the other man's untouched glass. "It's imported from Sicilly. That's in Italy."
When no reaction came from the young man, he leaned forward again with a sigh.
"How long have you been in the Game?"
Methos didn't let the triumph show that this question brought him. You didn't ask that sort of thing unless you were sure the other immortal was a complete newbie. Anyone longer in the Game was sure to take offense at such a blunt question designed to estimate the other's fighting skills and experience.
"Long enough to know that that is none of your business," he replied gruffly. Jude may have been new to the Game, but he certainly wasn't brain dead.
Assaro just nodded appraisingly.
"Fair enough. But let me tell you what I was able to gather about you from my… associates. At least the Reader's Digest version." With that he relaxed back into his chair and started to tell Jude his own life story as if it were one of the Brother Grimm's fairy tales.
"You were brought up in Monte Vista, Colorado, with nothing to do but help on your parents' farm and try to avoid being dragged into church almost daily. As soon as you were old enough to get a license, you got one for a motorcycle. The matching bike you bought from all the money you had saved up but couldn't spend because in Monte Vista, there just is nothing to spend money on for a teenager." He shrugged as if to say he would've done the same.
"Your parents continued to support you throughout your first years working at the local auto shop even though they were worried that their boy would turn from God's path with his leather outfit, rock music and ear studs. They tried to bring you back into the flock, to see the light, but one night, you just couldn't bear it anymore."
"You had just gotten your first tattoo, the eagle on your shoulder, and your Dad was giving you a hard time about it, when your Mom came downstairs saying she had done what she should've done years ago. She had contacted the priest to do an exorcism. Your Dad just nodded as if she were about to solve all his problems in one fell swoop. You tried to leave, but he wouldn't let you, so you shoved him. He fell unfortunately, hitting his head on the door frame, but all you could think of was to get away. So you ran and left our mother to call an ambulance."
Assaro took a sip of his wine. The story was having the intended effect on Jude, who just kept staring straight into nothingness. Eyes apparently focused on memories.
"It was only three days later that you read in the papers of your father's death. But by then, too much had happened for you to go back. Not only did your mother still think you needed an exorcism, but your bike had been reduced to so much scrap metal. The doctors had said that after that kind of accident, it was a miracle you survived unharmed."
Jude shifted uneasily in his chair.
"From that day, you never again set foot in Monte Vista. In fact, you left Colorado entirely and changed your name to Jude. When you got down to Dallas, you met Peter Gilmore who taught you about the Game and instructed you on how to hold a sword. He lost his head a little over a year ago, leaving you to fend for yourself. That was when you came to LA and joined our little group."
He paused for effect, taking another sip of wine before continuing, "I hear you are quite proficient in getting people to pay their debts."
Abby was stuck in traffic like usual, but still she was humming along to the radio, beaming and drumming on the steering wheel. She had the week off and was en route to the police station where she would meet Nick to take him out for lunch. With plenty of time to get there and nothing else to occupy her, she let her mind wander to their first encounter.
She had just been hired by the L.A. Observer when Nick had help her with some research for a story. The article itself had been nothing special, just a report on how budget cuts were weighing down on the Los Angeles Police Department. Nothing had come of the story, but what had started with a simple interview had soon taken a life of its own. And here she was, singing "Walking on Sunshine" at the top of her lungs as traffic resumed. Life was good and she intended to live it, no matter the consequences.
Abby was still grinning like a teenage girl when she arrived at the station. The receptionist's bad mood couldn't touch her and neither could the woman's statement that Nick had been delayed and would be with her shortly.
"You can take a seat over there," the receptionist announced pointing toward a small waiting area.
Abby just shrugged and took the hint to leave the woman alone. She took a seat next to a magazine rack. She started flipping through some of them, but all were old issues of tabloids or dealt with motor sports.
She had been waiting for about ten minutes, when she observed a man in biker attire come down the corridor. He was accompanied by a man wearing a suit, clearly his lawyer, who seemed to be talking incessantly in a low voice. The biker seemed unfazed by the onslaught of words and just kept going. As they came down the three steps that separated the receptionist's desk from the waiting area, Abby's heart skipped a beat.
It couldn't be him.
Adam had left her without so much as a goodbye years ago, in Paris nonetheless. That was all the way over the Atlantic, she reminded herself as she stared at the biker. So no, it couldn't be him. But he sure looked like him. The nose, the eyes, even way he wore his long coat looked familiar.
But long hair? And what about the rest of the biker look? She shook her head. No, it must have been a trick of her overactive imagination. Besides all, Adam was not the type to get arrested. Or was he? The look of determination on the guy's face as he'd marched out was one she's seen Adam wear more than once. The last time she'd seen him with that look had been when he took off.
"You just don't get it!" Adam spat as he whirled around to face her. "This is not just going to go away." He indicated himself, then threw up his hands in frustration. "You don't know me and it may be better if you never did."
Startled, Abby watched as he stomped out of her apartment.
Abby had thought then that he'd calm down soon enough, but instead, he'd just vanished. Maybe he'd been right. She didn't know him at all. So who was she to say that that biker-getup was "not like him"?
She was still staring at the door that had closed behind the two men as they were leaving when Nick's voice snapped her back into the here and now.
"I'm sorry you had to wait," he said kissing her on the cheek. "We brought one of those biker-types in for questioning this morning, but he wasn't talking. We had to let him go after his lawyer showed up." He sighed. "I'm sorry, I know you're not here for the latest installment of COPS."
"No problem, I know you can't always run out as soon as I get here," she replied, automatically falling into their routine and even managing a smile. "And I love COPS. You can tell me all about it during lunch."
Methos slammed the door shut behind him with a loud bang when he stormed into the Skulls MC club house. All eyes were glued to him in anticipation as he made his way straight to Don, who sat at a table at the back playing cards with three other men. The other three backed their chairs away as Methos drew his sword and put it on Don's chest.
"You think that was funny, do you?" Nothing like something long and sharp to make a point, Methos thought satisfied as he saw Don wriggle to get more space between himself and the blade.
"Let me tell you a little secret, Donald. It wasn't." The last part he practically spat at the man, simultaneously making sure Don could feel the tip of the sword through his heavy leather vest.
"It wasn't my idea, I swear!" Don hastily defended himself.
"I told him to wait with calling you a lawyer." Bill called from the other side of the room, stepping into the circle of spectators that had formed around Methos.
Methos turned to glare at the chapter's vice-president.
"I just wanted to see how you'd fare with the cops," Bill mocked holding his gaze with a lazy smile. His arms spread out at his side as if to say 'bring it on'. Methos being called to see the boss without him present had obviously already made it through the grapevine and this was Bill's way of sending a message. Methos sheathed his sword looking around at their audience. Every last one of them was eager to see the show, so he decided to give it to them.
He charged the bigger man straight on knowing he had no chance in a fight, with Bill being roughly double his size. Yet, Methos managed to land an upper-cut on the other man's jaw catching his opponent by surprise. Damage seemed to be minimal as Bill took a swing of his own. Methos dodged that one only to find the side of his face connecting to the other man's fist with a smack. He staggered back holding his jaw. He could taste blood in his mouth and decided that had to have been enough to satisfy Bill's need to show who was the alpha male around here. He was bracing himself for the next round when he saw Bill coming towards him.
"Next time, you won't get away this easily," the big man whispered in his ear before turning on his heels, leaving Methos standing there as the small crowd dispersed. Some went back to their tables, resuming their card play while others headed out and again others went over to Bill to congratulate him on handling the new guy. Only Don hung back, looking sheepish.
"Jude, are you okay?" he asked tentatively.
"It's nothing," Methos muttered. Sometimes he missed Adam, his alter ego. Adam would have never let himself be drawn into a fight like that, let alone come charging in waving his sword around. But neither Adam nor Methos would ever be able to get close to Assaro. Only Jude could, he reminded himself. Besides, it wasn't all bad.
"Let's get some beer," Methos suggested with a crooked smile.