Visit with an Old Friend

The Master

by Susan M. M.

Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing.Originally published in the fanzine Our Favorite Things #26 from Elan Press, which won the 2011 FanQ Award for Best MultiMedia Fanzine. This story is a semi-sequel to the episode "High Rollers," originally broadcast 3/12/84, from the 1984 TV show The Master, starring Vince Van Patten as Max Keller and the late Lee Van Cleef as John Peter McAllister. Based on characters and situations created by Michael Sloan.

"Visit with an Old Friend"

The Master

by Susan M. M.

San Diego, CA 1989

The summer sun was bright, but a cool breeze came up from the Pacific. The breeze was doubly welcome, both for the way it relieved the heat and the smell of freshly mown grass it carried. Max Keller knelt down on the grass, the better to talk to an old friend.

"Hey, old-timer. Sorry it's been so long since I've been here," Max apologized.

John Peter McAllister, of course, did not reply.

"Did you know I'm a father now? Shana and I have a little boy. We named him Jimmy, after my brother. And you remember, Suzie, her daughter, don't you? They're great kids, both of them."

The ocean breeze ruffled Max's curly brown hair.

"I don't go through bar windows any more. Actually, I own the bar now." Max grinned self-consciously. "Y'know, they're right when they say the only thing more overrated than Mom's apple pie is running your own business. It's a sports bar in Carson City - a couple of big screen TVs, four or five different sandwiches, some whiskey, a little wine, and forty different types of beer. Even a Japanese import, Sapporo. I think of you every time I pour one. It's only a few blocks from the Capitol, so we get a lot of reporters and legislative aides." Max shook his head. "The things I overhear. You wouldn't believe how much wheeling and dealing takes place over a ham on rye and a Budweiser."

Max ran a hand idly over the grass. "Shana gave up dancing professionally. She teaches aerobics part-time now. And Teri sends us a Christmas card every year."

"Max! Are you going to be much longer?" a teenaged girl's voice cried out. "When are we going up to the lighthouse?"

"Be there in a minute," Max called back. "We're doing the whole tourist bit: the zoo yesterday, and Seaworld tomorrow. Today we're going up to Cabrillo National Monument, see the Point Loma Lighthouse, then down to the tidepools. But I had to stop by here and talk to you. I owe a lot to you." Max gently touched the gravestone. "Wherever you are, I hope you know that. Hope you know how much I appreciate all you did for me."

Max bowed his head. "Domo arigato, sensei." He took the three red hibiscus blossoms he'd picked from the bush outside their hotel and laid them beneath the white tombstone.

Identical to all the other markers in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Point Loma, it listed his name, rank, dates, and the wars in which he'd served. Even in death, the military preferred uniformity. John P. McAllister. CAPT US Army Air Corps, LTC USAF. WWII, Korea. Jan. 9, 1920 - Oct. 16, 1986. It did not mention the decades he'd spent living in Japan, nor the fact that he was the first - and as far as Max knew, the only - occidental American to become a ninja master.

A teenager hiked down through the tombstones. "You ready to go, Max?"

"Yeah." He touched the grave marker and whispered, "Sayonara, old friend."

"Was that the guy who helped Mom four or five years ago?" Suzie asked.

Max nodded.

"He was pretty cool, for an old guy," Suzie allowed.

Max put his arm around his stepdaughter's shoulder. "Yep, he was."