Through a drizzling rain Joe limped slowly through the dark passages that lead to an old warehouse in this desolate part of the city. He was wondering why Jenkins had asked him to come there. Jenkins had no current assignment, because the last time his immortal had almost found out about him and the watchers. So Joe had decided that it might be the best for Jenkins to keep a low profile for a few months, although Jenkins had not been pleased to hear that.
But Jenkins' message had sounded very urgent, speaking of somebody 'unknown'. Surely he had not meant an older immortal, but just a new one, but even so Joe was quite curious. He looked around and decided that he was just a few minutes away from the proposed meeting point.
A moment later he was glad that he was not there already. His handy buzzed, and when he answered it, he heard the Highlander's voice. "Hey Joe, I thought we had an appointment!"
He had completely forgotten about that. And he took a short moment to explain to Duncan why he had. At that moment a big black cat that was hunting something big and fast crashed into some empty cans and it screamed in surprise, and in the dark alleyway that sounded quite scary. So it obviously sounded over the telephone as well, because now Duncan asked "Where the hell are you?", and when Joe had told him, his next words were "Are you mad? I am coming." Joe could hear him swearing through the phone while he smashed down the receiver.
Joe frowned, and then decided that he would not really mind if someone was around who was a lot more able to defend himself than he was. Besides, Duncan was a friend. So he decided to wait for Duncan, since he was a bit early anyway.
But then he heard a sound from the direction he was heading to, feet running towards him, and then a scream that was cut off in the middle. And then a very short moment of silence, and feet running again, this time away from him. Joe just stood for a short moment, but then he told himself that the attacker must have been the one that ran away, and that Duncan would be here shortly, and that he might be able to help. So he walked, as quickly as he could, towards the point where he had heard the noise.
He saw something lying on the ground, like rags somebody had thrown away. He bent down, not without difficulties, and turned the man over. He swallowed, and said: "Jenkins. Oh my god." The man's chest still moved while he desperately was trying to suck some air into his lungs, but in vain; and instead in a red stream his life ran out of him. He opened his eyes, and saw Joe, and just managed to utter a few words: "Joe, be careful, he is mad - very mad and very dangerous. Take ca.." and then his head dropped to one side, and his struggles for air and life stopped.
Joe swallowed hard, and even if he had not known the man very well, and he had been quite some trouble on occasions, he felt some deep regret. He sniffed, and got up, and he was very glad that Duncan was coming.
He did not know how long he had been standing near the dead body, when he heard some other sound cutting through the thick silence. The unmistakable sound of clashing swords. A flash seemed to come out of the nowhere, shortly followed by a thunder, but it was not the weather that had caused it. It had to be indeed two very powerful immortals fighting there.
Joe rose immediately and turned towards the sound, and he hoped that Duncan was none of the combatants. After all, the Highlander might have taken another way.
But when he came nearer the place of the fight, a rather big yard that was almost empty except for some old and presumably empty boxes, he saw two immortals he had never seen before. One was a tall fellow, almost as tall as the Highlander, whose long dark hair was held together at his back. He was wearing clothes that had a slightly oriental style, although as far as Joe could see his face was European.
The other one was shorter, and he was wearing clothes like any kid on the street, everything two sizes too big, and even with a baseball cap on his head. He looked like a boy, but his fighting style did betray a few hundred years of experience.
Joe tried to move a silently as possible, and then hid behind the boxes. He knew that was madness, but he too was curious now. He also hoped that he saw Jenkins murder fall tonight, although he did not know which of the two it was.
The short one attacked now, and pushed the taller one backward, but then the taller one managed to stop a blow, and kicked the short one, who lost his balance, and with a blow the tall one managed to strike his sword away. It fell down at the other end of the yard. With some astonishing acrobatics the short one brought himself out of the way of his opponent's sword. Now the tall one was right between the him and his sword. Both men came nearer to the boxes Joe was hiding behind. He could hear the short one cursing under his breath, in a language that sounded very unfamiliar to Joe as he came nearer. Than, barehanded, the short one attacked, but the tall one kicked again, and the short one flew into the boxes. When they collapsed, Joe came down with them.
He was now clearly visible, and the two immortals stared at him in surprise. It was the shorter one how overcame surprise first, if only for a fraction of a second. He grabbed Joe's walking stick, just before the tall one lifted his sword again to strike. The strike came from the short ones left side, and he had grabbed the stick with his right hand, and so he stopped that blow half with his left arm. A very loud curse and a lot of blood showed that he had been severely wounded. The blow had also hit Joe's walking stick, which was several inches shorter now, but it had also become a sharp weapon. With a smooth movement he pushed the stick into the other mans chest, so hard that it came out on the other side again. 'Just where Jenkins was stabbed.' Joe thought horrified. The tall man made a few steps backward, dropping his sword, staring down in surprise at the stick that was stuck in his chest. The other man got up, slowly, and limped towards his sword, while keeping an eye on the other man, who was trying to pull the stick out of his body.
Then the short man reached his sword and picked it up, and then he turned to his opponent. The man looked at him, and suddenly fear appeared in his eyes. The shorter man limped towards him, blood dripping down his left arm, although the flood had already slowed down. Then he lifted his sword, and with a single blow the other mans head flew away - while from the street the Highlanders voice could be heard shouting "Parker! Nooo...."
From the beheaded corpse a blue mist seemed to rise, that circled around the winners' feet and rose higher and higher, and then the world seemed to explode.....
The Highlander saw his old pal fall, and watched his body sinking aside with horror. Then he looked around and saw to his great relief Joe, lying on the ground but alive. When he had found Jenkins body he had feared for the worst. Joe was staring fascinated on spectacle that unfolded before him. Duncan ran towards his friend and asked "Are you unharmed?" Joe just nodded, too horrified and too fascinated to speak. Then Duncan threw himself over his friend as the remainders of the panes in the surrounding buildings started to rain down on the three people and the corpse in the yard.
When the quickening had died down, in the middle of the yard a man crouched to the ground, holding his arm, weakened by the quickening and the loss of blood. He slowly tried to get up, when he realised that there was another immortal around. He turned towards Duncan, who had gotten up and drawn his sword.
The duel's winner just shook his head, and Duncan shouted at him angrily "He was a good man!". The other man shook his head again, and Duncan shouted again: "Why? Why, you bastard!" moving nearer towards the man. The man shook his head a third time, wearily, and when Duncan came nearer again, he reached into his trousers pocket and pulled out a small pistol, and then he shot him twice right through his heart.
He almost collapsed again, but caught himself, stumbled over to a bag that was lying on the ground, put his sword inside, put on some sort of trenchcoat, took a deep breath, lifted the bag and turned towards Joe.
Joe was now leaning against the wall, hardly able to move without his stick, staring in disbelieve at the Highlander's motionless body. He was half prepared to meet his fate, because he knew very well that immortals did not like witnesses. And this one had shot Duncan in cold blood.
But the immortal just limped over to him, looked at him and asked him "You are this man's lover?" His voice sounded soft, tired and cautious at the same time. He had a thick accent that sounded as unfamiliar as the few foreign curses Joe had heard him utter. Joe looked at him surprised and shook his head. "No, why? Just a friend." "You seem to care. And you know." "Yes." The man still looked at him, puzzled, when his eyes fell on the tattoo on Joe's wrist. He took his hand and looked at it and said "I see, Aristotle's' nosy bunch. I thought you keep your noses out of immortals business." Now it was Joe's turn to look puzzled and he asked "You know about the watchers?" but the man just said "He will be OK in a short while. I hope he will help you home, I can't." And with those words he turned away and moved towards the passage. Joe shouted after him "Wait!" but the man did not react, and when Joe heard Duncan groan he turned and began to move towards his friend.
A few days later.
Duncan stepped out of the book shop and looked across the street towards the park when he suddenly felt a buzz. Startled he looked around. At first he could not make out the other immortal, but then he saw somebody looking towards him at the other side of the road. Just from his appearance he would not have recognised the stranger, because the man had obviously changed his clothes. He was wearing black jeans now, a shirt and a casual jacket, not kid's clothes any more. But he still carried the bag with his sword. It was easy to recognise him, though. Especially when two bullets right through his heart were associated with him.
He was talking to a bulky woman to whom he said a few words now, she nodded, hugged the stranger briefly and then went surprisingly fast straight away from the Highlander.
Duncan crossed the street, and there the stranger waited for him, arms crossed before him. He just looked fiercely at Duncan. For the first time the Highlander was able to see the stranger more clearly. He was almost a head shorter, with dark brown hair that seemed almost black, cut so short that it almost looked like a crew cut, and clean shaven. He had the kind of face you could look at in a crowd and forget immediately afterwards, but for his eyes. They were of a very strange shade of emerald green; and to Duncan they looked like those of a beast of prey ready to jump. The smile that curled the strangers lips now was by no means more reassuring.
"Why did you kill Parker? And why did you shoot me?" "Why would you shoot a man that is about to behead you when you are in no state to defend yourself? As for Parker, he died for what he was." Now Duncan looked fiercely as well: "Parker was a good man, I knew him. And why did you kill Jenkins, when you let Joe live." The stranger asked: "Jenkins was the man in the alleyway?" "Yes, and just a watcher like Joe. There was no need to kill him!" Now the strangers smile had turned into a sarcastic grin: "Well, I must have done that just because I am such a bad guy, right?" Then he turned his head, and said: "Well, I have other things to do - friend of Parker" and with these words he moved towards the street. He started to cross it without much regard of the traffic, when Duncan shouted after him: "I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan of MacLeod, and I am going to take your head!"
The stranger almost jumped around, and said: "MacLeod? Conner MacLeod???" and he looked at Duncan with big eyes. "No, I am not Conner. My name is Duncan. Conner is a clansman of mine." "Do you know where he is?" Duncan just snorted: "Well, I would hardly tell you, would I?". The stranger looked undecided for a moment, and then he looked straight at Duncan's face: "Well, if you don't want to tell me where he is, the at least warn him. Tell him, if he is not *very* careful, he might loose his head!" and with these words he turned around and continued his way across the street.
Duncan shouted after him: "I am sure he is terrified by the thought that you are after him!" but the stranger just went away, shaking his head.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Early the same evening Joe sat in a comfortable chair and could not really bring himself to get up and open the bar, because outside the rain was pouring down, and there would hardly be anybody turning up anyway. He had a book on his lap, but he was not reading.
Instead he was recalling the events in the yard again and again. It had been gruesome, but fascinating. He had gone over and over the events again, alone and with Duncan. But there was one thing that did not really fit. When the taller of the two man, Parker, as Duncan had known him, lifted his sword, and the shorter one who had shot Duncan had lifted his arm to stop the blow - was that blow really aimed at the stranger, or at him, and had the stranger risked to be severely wounded to save him? But he had killed Jenkins, or at least Duncan was sure of that, because he had known Parker. And Duncan was usually a good judge of character. And then the man had shoot Duncan. It might have been self-defence, he had not taken the Highlander's head. Then again...
He got up, realising that he would not come nearer to the solution than the previous days. He could as well do his job and open the bar. In case it turned out to be a boring evening he would take his book.
An hour later he was yawning. His clothes had dried, but the bar was empty save for a couple that was very busy with themselves. Outside the rain had turned into a full-scale thunderstorm. Then, just when a big thunder crashed so loudly that even the couple was disturbed, the door opened.
Somebody wrapped into a dark trenchcoat came inside, a dark hat drawn deeply into his face, a large bag on his back, dripping wet. He shook himself like a dog, then took of the hat. Joe recognised him a moment before the man recognised him. The stranger pulled his shoulders upward and made a movement as if he would walk out again, but at that moment another thunder crashed, and he shrugged his shoulders and turned towards the bar. Joe just stared at him.
"Do I get a drink?" the man asked. Joe swallowed, but then caught himself and nodded. "Sure. What would you like?" The man looked at the bottles, but then said "You have something hot, like a tea?" "Sure" Joe said. He noticed the same unobtrusive features Duncan had noticed in the afternoon, and like Duncan, it were the strangers eyes that fascinated him. To him they looked like a sea of liquid emeralds, hiding mysteries kept over centuries over centuries.
He put the tea in front of the stranger. The stranger put his hands around the hot glass to warm his numb fingers. Then he put out his wet coat, but the clothes he was wearing were hardly any drier. In jeans and shirt he did not look like a kid any more, but, like many immortals, he seemed to be between twenty-five and thirty. Not that that meant anything with an immortal. "Wet outside, isn't it?" Joe said. He was pretty sure that most people would have been able to think of something more intelligent to open a conversation. "Yes," said the stranger, "quite. Nice place, yours?" "Yes, I brought it some time ago" "Hmmmm" the stranger mumbled and drank his tea. Joe cursed himself. If the conversation kept that pace he would at least know the strangers name in about a weeks time. Behind them a glass shattered on the floor. The couple had thrown it down, but had not realised it, since they were engaging in activities now that would have lifted any movie rating to 'parental guidance' at least.
A smile that looked a bit mischievous appeared on the strangers face and he said "Oh, to be that young again!" and he looked at Joe. Joe smiled back and nodded "Has been quite a while." "What are *you* complaining about?" the stranger said. "Yes," said Joe, "I suppose it has been a while longer with you." "Yes, I think it was." The smile lit up the strangers face, but it was also plain that he was not going to betray any more information.
Then the stranger asked: "Did you get home well? Sorry about the stick, but somehow I needed it." "Well, Duncan brought me home, and I had a spare one." "Good." the stranger said. "Duncan is *very* angry with you." "Yes, I met him. He is!" "Oh!" Joe looked puzzled. "He did not tell me you met!" "Well, it was just that afternoon. He seems to think I am *very* bad guy." "Well, are you?" Joe asked. The stranger pulled up an eyebrow and brought his head closer to Joe's and in a growling voice he replied "Why, do you want to find out about it?" Joe just grinned, as did the stranger.
Then Joe asked "Say, I did not find anything about you in our archives. Do you have anything like a name?" "Nothing about me? How negligent! I thought you find your information without interviews." He grinned. "Well, I do indeed have a name....." Suddenly he turned around, made a movement towards his bag, but stopped, as the door opened and Duncan came inside. Usually Joe liked to see him, but at the moment he wished the Highlander were back in Scotland. Or on the moon. Everywhere, but not here.
"Hello Joe, you don't believe..." Duncan stopped in mid-sentence, and then continued in a much less friendly voice "...whom I have met today!" "Uh, he just told me." Joe said. "Get out of here, at once!" Duncan roared. "Sure, and of course that is you place!" The strangers voice was ice cold now, as was the look in his eyes. Duncan just pulled his coat back a bit, so that the handle of his katana was just visible. The stranger just turned his eyes heavenward. "That's all you can think about, can you?" And to Joe "You have a very peculiar taste in friends." And to the Highlander again "I am not after your head, believe it or not." And with those words he grabbed his coat, put in on again, lifted his bag and walked towards the door. Joe had to shoot an angry look at the Highlander to make him give way to the stranger. Duncan moved towards the bar, making sure that his and the strangers ways did not cross. At the door the stranger turned around and said: "And for your dead friend, maybe you should check the papers from Atlanta from the 20th last month, before you die of grief over him." And with these words he walked out again into the darkness and the pouring rain.
Joe poured a glass of Scotch for his friend and placed it in front of him so hard that Duncan looked up in surprise. "But I knew Parker!" he protested. "Besides, all this guy wanted of you was information about Conner!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Later that night Joe sat in a comfortable chair at home and turned a baseball cap he had picked up in a dark yard in his hands around and around. Just as his thoughts.
Three weeks later
It was almost closing time, and Joe was glad he could get to bed soon. There were only a few customers left. His eyes trailed towards a baseball cap that was hanging on the wall and he again wondered what had become of its owner. He had not seen or heard anything of the stranger since he had walked out of the bar three weeks ago.
All he knew was that Duncan had tried to contact Connor to warn him, but had not reached him. He seemed to be very worried about that. No watcher either in America or in Scotland had seen anything of the elder MacLeod, either.
The door of the bar opened, and he was about to say "Sorry, we are closing.", when he saw that the woman that entered was highly pregnant. She also looked very tired. She walked towards a chair and simply dropped herself into it. Then she smiled at him and said "Sorry. If you are closing I will leave, but please let me sit down for a moment." "Sure" he said. "Do you want anything to drink?" "If I could have a cup of tea?" She looked at him pleadingly. "Sure" He was wondering what she was doing at this hour on the street. In her state of pregnancy moving around must be rather difficult. The last group of customers came to the bar and paid, and when they had left he brought the woman her tea. She said: "I am sorry to keep you up." He said, "Never mind, I will have to clean up a bit anyway. Stay where you are and have your tea." She nodded gratefully at him and sipped her tea while he collected the empty glasses and cleaned them. He did not notice that she observed him closely all the time.
When he had finished, he poured himself a drink, then looked at her. She shook her head, smiling. He came over to her and sat down. He looked at her curiously. What he saw was a woman in her mid-twenties, with brown curls that hung around her head, big brown eyes and a dark complexion that was no suntan. Her face was not stunningly beautiful, but certainly pleasant, especially when she smiled, as she did now. The clothes she was wearing were naturally not very elegant, but not cheap and they showed that she was a woman of taste. There was something about her that drew him towards her immediately, that made him want to just sit next to her and talk. He also felt that he had to protect her - although he had no idea what he should protect her from. As he looked at her, images of her on horseback, slender now, galloping through a dessert, and her long hair trailing behind her, came to him, and for a moment he wondered where these images came from. He felt utterly at home with her. And it made him wonder when he had felt like this the last time, and his eyes trailed towards the baseball cap again.
Then she said, "Actually, I came to you for help." She looked uncertain. He said "Sure. Everything I can do." She still looked uncertain. "Yamo told me you might be somebody one can trust." He looked puzzled. She looked even more uncertain, drew her brows together, and looked at him again. "But you are the watcher from the yard!" Joe said "Yamo is that guy who was after Parker!" "Yes, he said he had been here, too, in the rain, and had spoken to you." "So he did, but he did not tell me his name." "Not even a false one? The mysterious stranger, this time?" She smiled. Joe smiled back. "So at least I know his name now. And he said I was a man one can trust? Despite my peculiar choice of friends?" "Actually, if you make Yamo one of them, the choice will be even more peculiar." Joe shook his head. "Now why am I not surprised to hear that?" he mused. "But how can I help you?"
"I have been looking for Yamo." "I have not seen him since he walked through that door, three weeks ago." Joe replied. Her Answer was definitely *not* ladylike. "I was afraid you'd say that, but I had hoped... Somebody is after me, and I am pretty helpless for the next few days, as you can see." "Days?" he asked. "Yes, two or three days at the very most." "And you can't go home now?" "No, not like this. And all I have with me is a few dollars and my library card." "No, you would need somebody to protect you." She seemed amused when she replied "Usually I am not really worried about someone protecting me. That is, when I can move a bit better than a swan on dry land."
"Well," he said, "at the very least I can offer you a bed tonight. When have you eaten the last time?" "Do two donuts in the morning count?" she asked. "Let's go. Do you think a steak and some fried potatoes will do, or should we stop at a restaurant? By the way, do you have a name?" "Sounds like heaven to me! And my name is Isis."
In the car Joe wondered for a moment why he was helping a total stranger whose only reference was a man that was even more mysterious. But then he could not have sent a helpless girl out into the night.
* * * * * * * *
Two hours later the two of them lay in Joe's large bed. Joe was sleeping peacefully. Isis was almost asleep as well. She just thought that it had been indeed a good idea to trust Yamo's short description of Joe. She smiled when she remembered that it had actually taken some effort to convince Joe to sleep in the bed. But she did want to sleep on the couch, and she had no intention of letting him slept there, either. It seemed that assuring him that she was in no state to rape him anyway had helped. He appeared to be a nice guy. As for Yamo, she just wished she knew where he was, and whether he had found Connor. Well, for the time being she had a place to stay. Certainly Joe would not throw her out in the morning. Now all she had to do was to prevent him from getting any funny ideas like 'hospitals' or 'midwifes'. Well, she would manage that, too. As usual. And with these thoughts she went to sleep as well.
* * * * * * * *
In the morning Joe and Isis sat in the kitchen and were having breakfast. Isis was wearing an old sweater of Joe's that stretched alarmingly over her body, and an old pair of sports trouser that were ways too long for her. She did not look very elegant now, but very comfortable. She said "You are engaged." He looked up and said "What for?" "As my cook. There are few people who can make steak and fried potatoes the way you can. Not to mention this breakfast." Joe smiled. "Well, it is certainly a pleasure to cook for you! At least there is one woman under 50 around who is not on a diet." She just grinned broadly and mischievously. That grin reminded him a *lot* of Yamo's.
"Have you known Yamo for a long time?" "Oh, it has been quite a while. He is a good friend. And good friends are hard to come by. Talking about friends - what about your good-looking friend. Does he still want Yamo's head?" "Oh!" Joe could not help smiling. "I suppose if he would see him now, he would look for the next hole to crawl in." But immediately he became serious again. "He did not know, you know. All he knew was that Parker had once helped him to bring a group of children out of a besieged city, and that he had acted quite bravely by that. After that he met him only once or twice again, but he never suspected anything." "Well, it is hardly the kind of thing you ever suspect from someone you know." she tried to reassure him. Joe continued "You know, Duncan found him crouched over a dead girl's body, crying. He told Duncan that she was his daughter, abused and slaughtered." "Was she?" "Hardly any more than the girl that disappeared from the group one night, or the poor girl in Atlanta. When I showed Duncan the drawing of the suspect he did not believe it. He went down there himself. But it was true." Both sat in silence for a moment.
Then Joe wanted to know "How do you know that Duncan was good looking? Did Yamo say so?" "What he said was that Duncan looked like a wet dream. Although I suspect Yamo's wet dreams usually have better manners." Both smiled again.
Joe asked "How did Yamo know about Parker anyway?" "Well, back where he had spent the last few years, the daughter of a friend of his disappeared. Parker had been there at the time, and he became a suspect. When the suspicion became certainty, Yamo vowed that he would stop him. Unfortunately he did not catch up with him until it was too late for the girl in Atlanta."
Joe stood up to clear the table, and she stood up to help him. "Please, don't bother." he said, but she just replied "Let me do at least something helpful" He said "Well, we have to do something about you, you know, with the child coming soon. I will check with a hospital. If necessary, I will pay the bills." "Oh, err, well, there is still some time for that. I would not feel save in public." "But a hospital is hardly a public place. I mean if we would tell them someone is after you, maybe a case of domestic violence or something, then you would be save. By the way, who is after you anyway?" The conversation definitely went into the direction Isis wanted to avoid most, so she simply took a desperate measure: "Oh, well, that is a long story. But... you will have to excuse me!" and with these words she pressed her hands on her mouth and went as fast as she could to the bathroom. Unfortunately that would only provide a very short relieve. Again she cursed the idea to become pregnant *now*. But nine months ago everything had just seemed fine. She sighted, and then she let some water run, set up her most charming smile, and went back to Joe.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When she came back into the kitchen, Joe looked a bit worried. He made her sit down on a chair and gave her a glass of water and said: "Are you feeling better? Or should I call a doctor?" "No thanks, that is pretty normal. I am better now. Maybe I had too much to eat." And she thanked every god that might be listening that Joe obviously did not know very much about pregnancy. For the time being she would better play along, at least she was safe here from whatever had driven her from her home.
A few hours later she was on her way to a big hospital in another part of the town. At least that was where Joe was thinking she was going. She had no intentions whatsoever to go anywhere near a hospital. Instead she went to a bank and opened an account with a part of the money Joe had given her for the medical check. Maybe she would be able to transfer some money from her New York account to it, so that she could give Joe his money back. Of course, the transfer could be followed, but by that time she would be able to run again at least.
She observed the man walking in front of her. His purse stuck in the back pocket of his expensive suit, and it was thick. She decided that she needed a bit of extra money, bumped into him so that they almost tripped over. The man helped her up, she apologised, and disappeared behind the next street corner. There she counted the money. She had no use for the credit cards at the moment, and so she discarded the purse into the next letter box. 'Tough luck, boy' she thought. And then she decided to do some shopping. After all, she would need other clothes rather soon, and a few baby clothes as well.
When she came to Joe's place, shopping bags in her hand, Joe looked suspiciously at them. "Did some shopping." "Yes, obviously. But actually the money was intended for the hospital." "Oh, that! Well, I found a purse." "Found it?" "Yeah, in a fools back pocket." She smiled. Joe turned his eyes heavenward and said "There was no need for that. If you need clothes, I could have given you the money." She replied "I did not know you were a millionaire. And you need not worry, I would never take anything from you!" "That is not what I am worried about! Isis, really. So, what did the doctor say?" "He said I am doing fine, and that it will be still a few days. Nothing to worry about." Again she smiled that charming smile, and Joe just looked at her and smiled back, despite the fact that a moment ago there were a lot of things he had wanted to say to her and - especially - ask her. Maybe it was good he never got around to ask her, since he would not have got any answers anyway. None with a hint of truth in them at least.
An hour later he had left to open the bar, somewhat reluctantly, but when he had offered to call Duncan to stay with her, she had refused that vehemently, claiming that she wanted just some rest after the shopping trip. Isis was sitting comfortably in a chair when she felt a familiar dragging pain in her belly. 'Hey, I am lucky', she thought. 'This will be over before Joe is back.'
Another few hours later Joe was walking home. He had closed a bit earlier than usual, worried about Isis. His thoughts were with the mysterious woman in his flat, and again he asked himself why he had helped her as much as he did, and what her connection with the stranger - Yamo - was. Why had she come to him? Surely she had other friends? Surely Yamo could have sent her to some other friends of his. Where had she come from, and why had she arrived with nothing but a few dollars in her pocket - oh yes, and a library card. Why had she been so reluctant to meet Duncan? Did she know him? And who was after her? Tomorrow he would ask her, and he would not be put of by this charming smile of hers!
When he opened the door, he heard a groan, and he almost ran into the living room. There Isis was kneeling nakedly over a few towels she had put over a plastic bag. More towels and a bowl of water were next to her. Blood trickled down between her legs. She looked up and said "Hi Joe, you are early. Oh ****, that hurts!" She groaned again. Joe headed towards the telephone. She shouted "Put that bloody receiver down!" "You need a doctor!" "What for, this is not my first one. Now put that receiver down or I will have to get up!" Perfectly stunned by that outbreak Joe put the receiver down. He somehow had a feeling that she would really have tried to get up had he tried to call a doctor. But he almost grabbed the receiver again when Isis almost fell over and screamed. He looked at her, but she actually smiled. A lot of blood was running between her legs now, but there was something else between her legs. The head. He stared fascinatedly. Another few groans, and the child landed safely on the towels beneath her. It moved a bit, and Isis bent down to pick the slippery bundle up. Now there was a *lot* of blood between her legs, too, but she hardly noticed, and neither did Joe. He turned a bit pale when he saw what she did next: She brought the babies mouth next to hers, and then she sucked the slime out of the baby's mouth and spit it out to free its mouth so that it could breathe. Then she held it by its legs and gave it a slight smack on its back, and a tiny little scream showed that a new live had arrived on earth.
Joe swallowed hard, then he handled her a towel she was pointing to, and she wrapped the baby into it. The afterbirth came, and with it even more blood. She cut the umbilical cord, and only then they noticed the flood of blood. "Ops", she said. Joe's reaction was more specific. For a third time he turned towards the phone, and again she stopped him. He looked at her again, now panicking, but the blood flow had already stopped. And only then it dawned to him - the woman that had just born that tiny bundle she was cleaning up now, the woman who did not seem to care that she lost a lot of blood, the woman that refused so vigorously to see a doctor - that woman was an immortal.
And like through a mist he heard her say "I hope you can keep your mouth shut, watcher."
Part FourSame Time, New York
Yamo went to the apartment again, carefully watching out for any signs of the Shadow. But he neither felt the Shadow near, not any quickening. Maybe the Shadow had found a trace of Connor MacLeod and had given up to look for Isis for the time being. Maybe he had found one of them. 'Hey, no need for nightmares, Yamo. Isis can take care of herself.' he thought. But he knew she was pretty helpless in the last stages of her pregnancy.
Anyway, now the way into her apartment was free for him. That was, if he ever got around opening that lock. Hell, they really had improved over the last decades. He should not have stayed out of the game that long. He should have stayed in Seattle; maybe he could have got some information out of either Joe or Duncan once he definitely knew that the Shadow was on the loose again. He should have placed that add in The Times as soon as he had left his Indian hideout. He should open that lock now.
A click finally told him he had managed that. He went into the flat. Just as he had expected, tastefully and expensively furnished. In the short time since she had come to America from Cairo she had done a good job. As usual. He came into the kitchen, and when he took a closer look at the table he saw that she must indeed have left in a hurry. On the dirty plate in the kitchen he saw mould in at least 4 different colours. Maybe he should donate it to a botanical museum.
He went into the living room, that looked as if a hurricane had blown through it. Seemed the Shadow had been here already. But Isis was not in the habit of leaving notes out in the open. Not important ones, at least. He looked around for a chronic of any kind. He only found one, a 'History of the Civil War'. *The* civil war - he could remember a few more than one. Well, it was a chronic. So he grabbed a piece of paper and started to decode the message that was left in it by underlining letters. It did not tell him a lot more than he already knew. Isis was pregnant, the password for her bank account, her Internet address, her CompuServe address, (at least something useful) then the suspicion that the Shadow might be on the loose again, no word from Menes yet, Yamo was back again (he knew that much already), the address of someone who could provide papers (very useful), and as a last entry, a growing suspicion of the Shadow around.
It was just like Menes not to be around when he was needed. Well, he had not been there, either.
He added another entry, that he had been here, that the shadow was definitely around, although he knew not in which shape, that he had not found any trace of Conner MacLeod yet, and that he would get himself an online address as well, and post it in The Times, as usual.
He left, only taking a set of spare keys he had found in a drawer. Seemed he would not be able to avoid buying a computer after all.
He went to a bank to draw money. He could not help grinning when he imagined the face to the bank manager of a big and very old private bank when they received a letter that advised them to transfer a great deal of money from an account that had been opened 500 years ago and was untouched for more than 200 years. But he had to acknowledge the integrity of the bank - the money had arrived. That was the advantage of banks with traditions - they stuck to them. 'Whenever you receive a letter with a certain code, transfer money from this and that account where ever the letter says.' And the amount - well, that had been a lesson in compound interest. That was almost better than to bury treasures and dig them out again a few hundred years later. The stuff became hard to sell, and sometimes another digger had been there already. On the other hand, gold never went bankrupt, or was closed, or turned into a shareholder's company.
He went into the next computer store and left it with a laptop, a lot less cash and the definite feeling that he had been duped by that smart salesman. Well, if it did not work, he would be back. Then he went into the next book shop and stood speechless in front of the seemingly endless shelf with computer books. He finally left it with a few books and the phone number of the man who had sold them and the knowledge that at least he would not sleep alone tonight.
Later that night he lay in bed and smiled like a cat that had just found the cream pot. He looked down at the blond head next to him that was snoring peacefully, and he rubbed his aching wrist. Sure he had to learn about computers, and he'd better learn fast, but not on one day. Anyhow, he had managed to send a message to Isis' address - e-mail, that was called now. At least he hoped that he had sent it to the right address. Not that anybody else would be able to read it, save maybe an expert in ancient languages. He did not really understand how the message could possibly get to her when he had no idea where she was, but Jeremiah - the guy from the bookstore - had been certain about that. Well, he'd see. And now he'd call it a night. He felt a hand wandering up his legs. Oh well, maybe he'd call it a night just a bit later.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Same time, Seattle
Isis lay on Joe's couch, reading a book, and the baby lying on her belly. Then she put the book aside and stared at the ceiling. He baby moved, and she looked at it. Definitely hungry. She sat up, and put it at her breast, where is started sucking. She stared at the opposite wall now. 'Isis, there is in not written down, either!' she told herself. She had to come to a conclusion what to tell Joe. Not that he knew nothing of it. After all, he had seen the baby *born*. But could she trust him? Would he not tell other watchers, or worse, Duncan. What if the Watcher was a Hunter? Admittedly, the last thought was not very likely, but it had happened before. She looked down at the baby again: "I wish I had your problems. Milk and dry nappies and dry nappies and milk. You have no idea how much I envy you."
Joe walked home wrapped in his thoughts. He was more that a bit confused. Tonight he had put a glass of whisky in front of a customer who *never* drank any alcohol. He would never forget the mans look. Not to mention half a dozen shattered glasses, forgotten orders, wrong change.....
When Duncan had dropped by to say hello he had stared at his friend as if he were a ghost. He just hoped that Duncan had believed him when he said he thought he was developing a flu. He was still wondering whether he should have told his friend about Isis. But then he had remembered how fond Duncan was of children, and the seemingly endless patience he had with them. He knew it was hard for his friend to come to terms with the fact that he never would have any children. Might he not, when he heard of Isis, try everything? Even an honourable man like Duncan could act out of despair.
He opened the door and went in. On the couch Isis lay with the baby on her belly, shirt open to the waist. Obviously both had decided to take a nap in the middle of the baby's nightly meal. Then he saw Isis opening an eye and then the other and she said: "Hi Joe." "Hello Isis, feeling better?" "Yes, thanks. And thanks for not bothering me with too many questions today. I *was* tired. I know you must be dying with curiosity." Her stomach growled, and Joe said: "Let's make a deal. I cook something, and you tell me a story." "Now that's blackmail!" she smiled.
When they had sat down for a late dinner, she began:
"I am immortal, and I can have children. I fact, they are all my children - somehow"
"Who?" asked Joe.
Joe's eyes bulged, he swallowed, got it in the wrong throat, started coughing, and was pretty sure he did not look very intelligent at the moment. He was equally sure, though, that she had spoken the truth.
"Right," he said, when he had caught himself, "tell me more."
"It all started a very long time ago. I can't tell you exactly when, because my people had no calendar. If it was more than a lifetime ago, it was a very long time ago. My mother was a wise woman. She could call the powers."
"The powers of heaven and earth, fire and water. I was supposed to follow her. So I learned that. While I had very little difficulty to call the powers of the earth, the other three eluded me. I just could not master them properly. I could call them, but they did not always answer. There had never been anything like this before. I mean, either they answer or they don't. There is not 'Sometimes Yes and Sometimes No'. Either you master them, or you don't."
"So what was wrong?"
"Well, I had a brother. You see, the powers were not for man to handle. I mean, give a woman a knife and she will cut bread. Give a man a knife and he will cut a throat. At least that was what my people said. Actually, I found that to be true as often as not, but man have an unfortunate tendency to solve a problem with force. But be that as it may, for my darling brother the powers were something he should keep his fingers *off*. I mean, you need training to handle them. But the very same training would keep you from using them to destroy. My brother always was a shining example for that proverb, though."
"A shining example for the other half of that proverb?"
"Err.... things are hardly ever as black and white as they seem, you know. But I never made throat-cutting a hobby of mine."
Joe smiled as she continued.
"Anyway, the reason why I had difficulties with the other three powers was simply that he had eavesdropped when my mother was teaching me, and then he had tried for himself. He never mastered the powers of the earth, but he got some grip for the others. That was why I had problems with them as well."
"The powers of the earth are the only ones who are not destructive, are they?"
"Are you joking? Have you ever seen an earthquake? All of the powers can be used to build or to destroy. You can use them to follow either the light or the darkness."
"And he wanted to follow the darkness?"
"No, he was not fool enough for that. He wanted power. Power is not of much use when you destroy everything you could possibly rule over. Of course, that is a step into the direction of darkness, but as far as I know he never ever finally yielded to the darkness. Not that that made him a nice guy. He certainly never followed the light, either. In a spiritual sense, his life was pretty pointless. Actually, I am not sure mine makes much more sense, spiritually."
"Yes, but what happened? I mean, you people were not immortals, were they?"
"No, well, the time came when I was to follow my mother. It had happened before that the wise woman did not master all the powers when she took office, in fact, it took a lifetime to master them anyway. But on that day my brother challenged me. He said the office was his, not mine, since he mastered the powers as well as I did. You should have seen us, Joe. Both of us standing there, naked as we were born, painted with earth colours, screaming at each others at the top of our lungs. Not that the two of us quarrelling was something new for our people. But this time we both wanted to prove that each was the chosen one, and so we used the power. The earth was rumbling, each fire in the camp burning higher than any fire before, a thunderstorm blowing, flashes crashing down, rain pouring from the sky - what a show. And each of us calling every god we could think of to be our witness. Unfortunately, a particularly mischievous example of that species was listening. And just when I was promising my darling brother that I would follow him to the end of the earth to take the powers from him, and he shouted that I would have to take his head first, that god made his appearance."
Joe somehow had a feeling that he was slowly beginning to understand.
"He told us, that, since we were so serious in that promise, he would grant that to us. None of us would ever rule the powers completely until he had cut the other's head. And we would have time in abundance, since none of us could ever die before that happened. And we should wander about the earth until the feat was done. And we should never have anybody to take the deed from us, like other people. We would be on our own. That was that."
Joe looked at the baby.
"Yes, I know. But you know, I think that god was not all that omniscient. In our tribe it was not traditionally the child that took over their parents holy deeds, but the grandchildren. That was because if a holy task was assigned to you, that happened not before you were old. And by that time in all likelihood you children had already children they had to care for. And since the preparation for a holy task took a long time anyway, it seemed the ideal way to hand it over not to your child, but to your grandchild. I have never met any tribe that handled that in this way, so I only can assume that the god simply thought we handled that like any other."
"So you can have children, but not grandchildren. That is why the others are infertile, but you are not."
"But we know the parents of some immortals. You can't be their mother!"
"No, by no means all of my children are immortal. Some are, some are not. The one here, for example, is mortal. I will see her die some day. But if she has children, and those children have children, and the children of these children, they all carry to power of the quickening in them. And if the mate of any of those children, long into the future, carries the powers as well - than their child might or might not be immortal. So I was a bit generous when I called them all my children."
Joe nodded, and then got up and got himself and her a drink. He could not remember when he last had needed a drink *that* much. When he came back, one question was in his mind.
"But your brother. Who is he? Do we know him? Is he after you now? And when you meet him, is that the gathering?"
"I think you knew him. He liked to call himself Victor the last millennia, a bit over optimistic as usual. I think you knew him as the Kurgan."
"But he is dead! How then the gathering is supposed to take place now!?!"
"Seems the gathering won't take place at all. Not if I can prevent it. You see, one thing I have learned. Life is just wonderful!"
Yamo stood in front of a house that once had housed an antique store. Now a sign said: For Sale. He wrote down the number, but he did not put much hope into questioning the real-estate dealer. If that MacLeod was any good, he could forget that trail.
When he came out of the real-estate dealers office, he was not much wiser than before. All he had was a name: Rachel Hunter. No matter to what Connor MacLeod had changed his name, it was certainly not Rachel. On the other hand, if he was anything like his clansman, he would hardly have any trouble to find a woman who would do some business for him. Right, so the next trail was Rachel Hunter.
He checked the phone book, but there were a few 'Rachel Hunter's listed, and even more with just 'Hunter'. Well, he'd have to check them all.
Again he cursed himself for having stayed out of the game for so long. There had to be a more efficient ways of doing that. Retreating to the Himalayas and meditating was certainly a good thing - but not for almost 50 years. But he had been so tired. He wished Isis had never taught him how to reach out for and handle the powers. He had not been a very good pupil, not like their younger son, but it had been more than enough to make accessible concrete memories of those whose quickening he had taken. And not only accessible, but he could not ban them from his mind, either. Sometimes the pictures just took over. And the last quickening he had taken had been those of an immortal who had become an SS man in Auschwitz. It had taken him a long time to make sure he did not become insane by them. He had needed that break, no matter with how much he had to catch up now.
Ah, that was past now, so he went on with the hunt for Rachel Hunter.
Hours later, with no success at all, he went to the bookstore to pick up Jeremiah. At least something to look forward to. The young mortal had no idea who his latest boyfriend was really, but he liked him, despite his somewhat mysterious past and his obvious unfamiliarity with they ways of modern life. Jeremiah really considered it quite cruel of parents to take their child to some remote spot somewhere in India and then let the child grow up there without any knowledge of the outside world. Now that they were dead poor Yamo had decided to see the country of his origins, but there were so many things he had no clue about. Well, Jeremiah was happy to help him - after all, backwardish or not, he was a nice guy. Not to mentions this body - seemed Yoga and martial arts *did* keep you in shape.
After a most delicious meal in a nice, quiet and very expensive restaurant they sat in front of the computer, and Jeremiah tried to teach his friend a few more things about the secrets of this machine.
"Jerry, I sent this letter - sorry, e-mail, two days ago now. You said I could have an instant reply. I don't call that 'instant'."
"Yamo! You *can* have an instant reply. But if the other one does not answer, well, then you don't have a reply. Maybe your friend does not want to answer."
"No, that is not very likely."
"Then maybe she does not have access to a computer at the moment."
"Yes, I hope it is just that. Jerry, computers aside, how do I find somebody of whom I just have a name? A friend of my parents, you see?"
"Why computers aside? There are a lot of databases on the Net, legal ones and illegal ones."
Jerry grinned. For someone whose parents had fled the world to live a simpler and better life Yamo's morals were quite - flexible.
"Right, let's go to work then."
* * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning when Jerry went to work Yamo stayed at home. Provided with a list of addresses and access codes he started looking for Rachel Hunter again.
He skipped lunch, and his wrists started to ache. He continued typing. Then he thought about checking whether Isis had finally replied. He let of a cry of relief when he found a reply. It did not say more that that she was save and well, and a detailed description on how to get on to something that was called CB on something that was called Compuserve on that ****** computer, and that they would meet there at 4pm.
Until 4 o'clock he had found some traces that seemed promising. Then he started looking for that mysterious CB area where Isis was waiting for him.
Isis: Hey, found you. Do you see that, can you reply?
Yamo: Don't know. Do you see that?
Isis: Yes, I see it, now we can talk.
Yamo: I thought I would never hear from you again. Where are you?
Isis: Wishful thinking, my dear, wishful thinking. I am with Joe.
Yamo: Joe??? He is a watcher - are you out of your mind. What if he finds out?
Isis: He knows. I never wanted him to know, but he came in when I was actually giving birth. And then the bleeding stopped very quickly. Tough luck. But I think you are right, he is trustworthy.
Yamo: Oh great. What if he isn't. I mean, I hardly know him after all.
Isis: Where should I have gone? I had to leave New York, and I have never been outside New York. Not in this century at least. And the Shadow was close, I could feel him. Hell, I arrived here with a few dollars in my pocket and a library card. That might not have been a very good choice, but it was the only one I had.
Yamo: Just a moment, did you say 'when I was giving birth'?
Isis: Yes, it's there. A girl. Maybe I should name her Cleoparta.
Yamo: Sure, feel free - if you don't want me to speak to you for the next few centuries. How about some less beastly name patron - Lucretia, like in Borgia, for example?
Isis: Yamo, never mind, I was just joking. Have you found any traces of Connor MacLeod? And is the Shadow still around? Have you seen him?
Yamo: Neither - nor. The Shadow is still here in New York, but I have not seen him, so we don't know what he looks like this time. And MacLeod, I do have a vague trace, but not much yet.
Isis: Yamo, you have to find him, before the Shadow does!
Yamo: Tell me. I'd have never guessed. I am trying, but try to find a man that does not want to be found when you still have to find your own way around.
Isis: For someone who does not know his way around you are quite good.
Yamo: Thanks, my dear. Natural genius, I presume. Isis, when you are with Joe, can't you find out anything?
Isis: Joe? He does not even let me use his computer - I had to borrow some money from him to buy this one.
Yamo: It is not as if I didn't understand him...... Do you need money?
Isis: Oh, I do get his point as well. Yes, actually I do.
Yamo: I'll send some. Poste Restante, to Cleoparta MacLeod?
Isis: Some day, some day I swear I will take your head!
Yamo: Tomorrow, same time, same place?
Isis: Tomorrow, same time, same place. Take care - and don't loose your head!
Yamo did make a few phone calls that yielded nothing. He prepared a letter to Isis with some money, and then he decided that it was time to go and pick up Jerry. He brought a bundle of red roses on the way and was more than pleased to see Jerry actually blush. "Hey, I never got red roses before!" "What kind of boyfriends you had before?!? Live with it, occasionally I do have romantic lapses." Yamo grinned and then continued: "Hey, before we go home I have to post a letter to Seattle. My friend called today. And then we will celebrate that!"
Joe and Isis were having breakfast when Isis asked him: "Joe, could you mind the baby today for a few hours?" "Sure. But don't take too long, I am not sure whether I can prepare the bottle properly." "And I thought you were a bar keeper." Isis smiled at him. Joe smiled back, once again captivated by her charm. Then he said: "Say, how did you come by your name. I mean, Isis is an Egyptian mother goddess. And you may be a mother, but I always imagined a mother goddess - well, somewhat different." Isis asked: "Like what? Fat, breasts hanging down to the waist, like these old stone statures?" "Well, these were ancient images of mother goddesses, weren't they?" "As far as I know they were - but these were no images of me!"
Joe sat silently for a moment. Then he said: "Would you mind explaining this 'me'?" "Well, I am Isis. Ah, Joe, these were the days..... All the old bunch around - Me, Osiris, Seth, later Yamo came.... The world was young and so were we."
"Are you trying to tell me that you actually were a goddess. Or how am I supposed to understand this? And Yamo - he is *that* old?"
"Well, he is certainly a lot younger than I am, but that does not really amount to much, does it. And if you want dates - I can't give you any. We did count the month with the moon, but what need was there to count more than a few years - every year was the same. After the curse I wandered aimlessly for - I don't know how long. You see, today I can figure out a lot of things, for example the thing with being fertile. But back then I was just alone and frightened. I stayed here and there; whenever people became suspicious I left. Then I met Osiris, my first mate. He was also the first immortal I met. You can't imagine how frightened I was when I felt the quickening the first time. It felt like the powers, but I had not called them since the curse."
"But wasn't he your son, then? Or could he have been the Kurgan's son?"
"I have no idea. I suppose my brother was fertile as well, but I never found out. I am sure he never found out either, because that would have meant staying at one place for several month or having something like a steady relation to someone. Which he, as far as I know, never did. But Osiris could not have been my son, possible my I-don't-know-how-many-great- grandson. As I said, I wandered a very long time, and I did not know his people. We stayed together for a very long time, until......."
"What is it?"
"Someone. An immortal. It is not...."
"Whoever it is, they are coming near. Presumably your friend Duncan. Mind the baby, I'll be back."
And with these words she was up, grabbed her jacket and was out of the door at an amazing speed. If it was Duncan, then his friend had developed an amazing timing lately.
It was indeed Duncan who stood a few minutes later in the door. Just when Joe opened the door to tell his friend that he could not come inside the baby started to cry. Duncan looked very surprised. "Hi Joe. Does that sound like a baby???" and he went inside, so that Joe just could close the door behind him. Now that situation required some creative thinking - quickly.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo continued checking addresses. So far he had found a Rachel Hunter who was a college student; she was very pleased to help him, but had never heard of any MacLeod, a woman with eight children who wrought the promise out of him to come to a church service on next Sunday, in a hospital a Rachel Hunter had just been release dying from cancer and some more trails that had proved fruitless. He decided to make a trip to Jersey to check some more addresses. He called at the bookstore and told Jerry that he'd be later at home. He shouldered his bag which now contained not only a sword, but also a big bundle of money and a laptop, and set off.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"You know, that is the child of... the daughter of a watcher's daughter, you know, her mother died a few years ago, and I promised to take care of the daughter, and a few days ago she stood in my door, labour pains had set in already, and not a penny in her pocket..."
"Joe, calm down. I am no policeman investigating. - Oh but she is cute. Dadadada, come to Uncle Duncan..." and Duncan picked the baby up who just opened her eyes, decided he was not going to have her for breakfast and continued to sleep.
Joe was more than relieved that Duncan's fondness of the baby kept him from asking further questions. The phone rang, and he answered. "Was that Duncan?" a voice asked. "Hello, oh, err, Mary?" Between a fit of giggles from the other end of the line Isis said: "Oh Joe! There may be a similarity of images, but do I look like the virgin queen of heaven to you?" "Not really, sorry, yes, it was him. You're OK?" "I am fine, I have to get a few things done, keep an eye on the baby." And with these words she hung up.
Joe turned to his friend who said: "She need fresh nappies." "It is all in the bathroom - I am sure you are better with this than I am."
Meanwhile Isis made a phone call to New York to a man that was really good with documents of all kind and ordered new papers. She went into a photo shop to have a few pictures taken for them. Then she filled up her purse with the contents of some other people's. They all looked as if they could afford the loss. Then she checked the Yellow Pages for 'Weapons'. She needed a sword, and even if those you could buy from the shops were not exactly perfect, they were better than nothing. It was time to take up practising again.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was late, and Yamo was on his way home, or rather Jerry's home. He definitely preferred it to his hotel room, which was tastefully furnished with everything a cheap flea market had to offer, not to mention a mainly orange coloured flowered wallpaper and pink curtains.
He had had no luck finding this woman until now, and he just hoped that maybe Isis was after all able to get something out of Joe. He was also a bit worried that he had not felt the Shadow for two days now. Not that he missed him, but then at least he would know where the agent of chaos was. He almost wished the Shadow would turn up, and he could catch a glimpse on him - he had not even an idea what he looked like this time. On the other hand, as long as he did come nowhere near Seattle and nowhere near Connor, he could not be far enough from Yamo.
He brought another bundle of red roses for Jerry, and decided he would do the cooking tonight, so that they had a bit more time for themselves. So he went to a supermarket and tried to decide behind which of these colourful packings food he knew was hidden. He took some chances, paid and went towards the flat.
He met a neighbour of Jerry's in the hall and said "Hello!". The girl said: "Hi, helping Jerry to clean up?" "Why?" "Well, about an hour or so it sounded as if he was rearranging the furniture. Maybe he just brought a new bed." She smiled and went away, and Yamo went upstairs.
Two minutes later he knew that Jerry had not rearranged the furniture. Jerry would never rearrange the furniture again. What was left of him lay on the bed in a mass of blood, or at least most of it. The rest was spread over the carpet and the wall. On the wall, painted with Jerry's blood, was a strange sign. The sign of the Shadow.
Isis settled down for a quiet evening. She had set her laptop to check for e-mail every hour, just in case Yamo sent a message wanted to catch up on their missed chat. She had also given him Joe's phone number and told him that it would be save to call in the evening. She checked the baby and then settled down with a bag of chips and a book. The phone rang. She lifted the receiver and said:
"Hello." "Isis." Yamo. It sounded as if he were crying. "Yes, it's me, what happened?" "He killed him. He just slaughtered him. He is dead. Isis!" "Who killed whom? The Shadow? Whom? Connor? He found him?" But he would not have cried for Connor. "No, Jerry. He butchered him, and then left his sing on the wall." He continued telling her details that made her hair stand up but she listened. He had to talk now.
"Where are you?" "I am in my hotel." "Did Jerry have the address? Is it in his flat? The police must not catch you. Not now!" "I think - I don't know - I don't think he wrote it down, I stayed with him all the time so he did not need it." Yamo still sounded very confused. She'd better do the thinking now: "Check out there NOW. Go to the other end of the town, better sleep in a park or something. Yamo, you don't even have papers. And you were his lover, you'll be prime suspect. Even if you can prove yourself innocent, there would be too many questions, and it would take too much time. Is there anything left of you in his flat? "A pair of dirty socks and some underwear. I guess my fingerprints are all over the place as well. You are right, I leave here, I call you again. But this bastard, I have not felt him near for 2 days now, and he knew all the time." There was a break, and then Yamo just said "I'll call later." and hung up.
Isis thought that he must have really felt something for that Jerry, or he would not be that wrecked. Good luck at least that Yamo usually carried everything important with him or kept it in a safe place. That the police had his finger prints was bad, but unavoidable. And after all, Yamo had quite some experience in hiding.
It was vital now that the Shadow was found before he found Conner. She did not even want to know what would happen if the Shadow found him. Unfortunately she had an idea about it.
She went into Joe's study and switched his computer on.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo packed his few belongings into the plastic bags from the supermarket and tried not to think of the dinner he had wanted to cook. There would be time for mourning later. Now he had to act. His room was paid for another 3 days, and so probably nobody would notice. He managed to sneak out of the hotel without being seen. Then he started to look for a place to sleep and cry in peace.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Joe came home Isis sat in the living room and was typing into her computer. He went into his study to put something down and noticed that someone had tampered with his computer. Well, someone - that someone was sitting right into his living room. Very angrily he checked what she had done, but she had not got very far. He noticed, though, that she had come very close with one password.
He went into the living room and planted himself in front of her. She did not look up, but stopped typing.
"Isis, I *thought* we had an agreement!" "Has been cancelled due to an emergency." She still did not look up. "Oh, and who cancelled it?" "Guess it has been me." That remark did very little to cool of Joe's anger. "Yes, that is quite an educated guess. Isis, look at me. I trusted you." She looked up, and he saw that something was troubling her profoundly. "Isis, what is it. Why did you do this?" Instead she asked: "Would you have given me the information I need?" "Not if it was something about Watchers and immortals." "See." "Isis, listen, I would like an answer. What happened?"
Isis looked at Joe. She could not make up her mind to trust him, but then she had done so before and it had worked, at least so far. She just was not used to trust anybody she had not known for a few hundred years - at the very least. But what choice had she?
"The Shadow has killed someone. You see, Yamo came to New York the day I fled from there. He went to my flat, but he too felt the Shadow around. He did not know where I was, so he stayed. He also knew the moment he felt the Shadow that he had to find Connor MacLeod. And that is also the information I wanted to get out of your computer tonight." "Isis, try the whole story. I can't even guess what you are trying to tell me. Who is the Shadow, and whom did he kill? And what does that have to do with Connor?" "Right, let's start with the worst. In your opinion I guess that the Kurgan was about the worst that could happen. Well, he was not." "Oh great. I guess I should get myself a drink before you continue."
After Joe had finally settled down, Isis continued. "You see, I said that you can either follow the light or the darkness. Well, the Shadow *is* the darkness." "You know, I doubt a bit that there is anything more evil than the Kurgan was." "Try the 3rd Reich. But seriously, the Shadow is not just evil, as far as we know it is the most powerful agent the darkness has. 'And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.' You see, the void, being without form, total entropy - that is the what we call the darkness. And the dove upon the waters - that is the light. The darkness has just one aim. To return to the entropy. Absolute stagnation. Even scientists say so nowadays. But the power of the light is equally strong. Every single leaf of grass is a sign of the power of the light. Every thought that is thought, every house that is build, every tree that is planted is a way to fight the darkness. That way, even evil things can be part of the light. As I said, even my brother stayed away from total darkness because he knew about this total destruction. On the other hand evil is of course a way towards the darkness. But nobody with a grain of intelligence would ever give themselves up to the darkness knowingly."
Joe stared into his glass and thought. Then he said: "But the Shadow is human I suppose, so what happened?" "We do have to thank my brother for that. He knew about the power of the darkness, and he thought it might help him to find me, to gain the powers finally. But he did not want to find out by himself. He looked for somebody who would access the powers of the darkness for him. What he found was a young immortal who had tried black magic before, not very successfully, but he had tried. Shantao, that was his name, had become more than a bit mad when he discovered his immortality. The ideal victim. Together they worked for years and years, and finally Shantao accessed the powers of the darkness. That was about two minutes before my brother found out why he had not tried it himself. Shantao went totally over the edge. The very first thing he did was trying to kill my brother. I know that after that my brother spent *lot* of his time to run away from the Shadow. Serves him right. Because now the Shadow knew for absolute power he needed two things - my brothers quickening and mine." "Why, if he mastered the darkness already?" "Because our quickenings combined would enable him to rule the powers of the light as well." "Ouch" said Joe.
"But you said he killed somebody. Whom, if not Connor?" Isis explained: "Yamo met this guy, Jerry was his name, well, they met, and they liked each other, and Jerry proved helpful, so they stayed together." "You mean they became friends?" Joe asked. Isis looked at him and said: "They became a bit more than that." Joe tried not to analyse the feelings that arose in him. Instead he asked: "And why did the Shadow kill him?" "Just for the fun of it, I suppose, and he does not like Yamo very much, because he always was on my side. Also a reminder that he is still around, even if he seems to have lost track of both me and Connor." "Nice guy. I somehow have a feeling that I should abandon a few watcher's rules and help you as far as I can." "I'd appreciate that. "Isis answered.
Yamo woke up in the morning and felt miserable and guilty. Guilty because he had known the Shadow was around and still stayed with Jerry. He wondered how the Shadow had managed to follow him without being noticed, but then the Shadow had always found a way before. But now he had some other things to do.
First he went into a public toilet and changes clothes and shaved. Then he decided to change his style again. If they were looking for him, then changing clothes would be a good idea. The best thing would be if he hid in the public eye. He went shopping again.
A few hours later a gentlemen in a grey business suit and with expensive luggage checked in at a big and expensive hotel. His suitcase though was not filled with business papers, but with all newspapers he could get hold on.
When he was safely set in his room (at least it was somewhat more tastefully furnished than the last one), he started reading the papers. Thanks god another senator had been accused of sexual harassment the previous day, and so even this gruesome murder had not made the front page. He found the story somewhere in the middle of the papers. There were (not very accurate) descriptions of the findings, pictures of the Shadow's sign on the wall everywhere, and a call for witnesses, especially for a special young man that had lately been seen with the victim. But either the neighbour that had given the description was half blind, or she really thought him innocent. Neither was his hair light brown, nor his eyes. And certainly he was not 6 feet tall. 'Thin' did not fit either. Maybe he should send the girl some roses. Then again, maybe not.
He continued checking the papers. In another one he found a drawing, and for a moment he thought he finally had a picture of the Shadow, until he saw that was supposed to be him. 'Ouch', he thought, 'I don't look that bad.' And indeed he did not. Suddenly he stopped short. There was another picture - another drawing drawn with blood, this time on a writing pad. He had not seen it when he was there, and now he cursed himself as he tried to identify it. Something like a pointed capital M, placed on something: __M__ / \ and an Ankh sign. It had to be the Shadow who had drawn it, but why? The ankh was an ancient Egyptian sign, and why did the Shadow use it? His origins were the far east, and why would he use a sing for life? That was hardly something that symbolised him. Again he wished he had more than a bad photo, but that was too late now.
Aside from that, there was nothing of interest in the papers, and so he switched his laptop on, connected it to the phone and sent a message to Isis, stating that he was safe and as well as could be expected; and where he could be reached. Then he called the guy who was preparing papers for him and was glad to hear they were ready. He went downstairs to the restaurant to have a late breakfast even if he was not hungry. It would be of no use to anybody if he'd collapse because he had not eaten.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Joe and Isis were sitting at the breakfast table. Both were looking quite bad, as people look when having worked and talked all night. They had checked the records, and Joe had made a few phone calls, but unfortunately the Watchers had lost track of Connor MacLeod after he had seen Duncan a few years ago. After that, he had disappeared. Joe wanted to ask Duncan, he might know something, but Isis vehemently disagreed. How to make it plausible to Duncan why they needed the information without telling the story? And that was exactly what she had - for good reasons - avoided for the last 4000 years. And she did not think that Duncan was stupid enough not to realise there was a bit more to it than what Joe wanted to tell him - not after all Joe had told her about his friend.
They did not come to any solution. Isis looked at the baby that was having breakfast, too, sniffed, and got up to change its nappies. The baby was not pleased to have its meal interrupted and made that very clear. Joe once more thought about how to get any information that would be useful.
Isis came back and said: "Listen, I'll go for a walk. I have to think. I'll be back in an hour. The baby sleeps, let her have a nap." Joe looked a bit uncertain and said "Should you not take her with you?" "Joe, she has fresh nappies, had breakfast, is fast asleep and does not even have teeth to bite. Heavens, why are you that uncertain with babies? She's not breakable, you know. I'll be back in an hour."
An hour later Joe sat in his chair in the living room and was fast asleep when the doorbell rang. He opened the door to find Duncan outside. "Hi Joe, just came along." "The baby is in the bedroom and having a nap." Joe knew his friend. "And her mother, where is she? She should be with the baby, not being out every time I come in." And with this decided statement he went into the bedroom to pick up the baby. Joe thought that the whole situation started to become a bit complicated. "Joe, I need some new rompers, those are wet!" it sounded out of the bedroom. "I don't know where they are, possibly there are no clean ones left, we did not have very many." He went into the bedroom. Duncan was rummaging through the drawers. He pulled out some and said: "These are too big, but I can't find any others. Listen, I'll put those on, and then the two of us will go and buy some new ones." "Duncan, that's very kind of you, but I don't feel like a walk now." "Who's talking about you. The lady and I will make a shopping trip. What do you think, sweaty, in the mood for a walk with Uncle Duncan?" He took the scarf for carrying the baby, put it around him and put the baby into it. "I'll be back in an hour." And he was out of the door. Joe scratched his head and just wondered what he would tell Isis when she came home.
Isis had picked up the money Yamo had sent her, made another call and heard that her papers were ready, picked up the sword she had made a deposit on yesterday, brought some rompers and other baby clothes and went home. Suddenly she felt a quickening. Duncan MacLeod. Either she avoided the other immortal now. That was certainly the best, under the given circumstances. Or she had a look at him. Yamo had called him a pompous idiot (among a lot of other things) but Joe trusted him. Well, she'd judge herself. After all, a man that could change nappies could be useful.
When she saw Duncan he was looking around cautiously. He had felt the quickening, too. At the very moment he saw her she saw the baby. And as Joe only a short time ago, she thought that things were starting to become a bit complicated. She decided on a rather old-fashioned tactic. She set up her most charming smile and walked towards the Highlander.
Duncan had not expected to see what he saw now. The woman with the dazzling smile that walked towards him was - errr, nice. This pair of jeans fitted well, and even the loose shirt did not hide her good figure. A bit confused he thought that the shirt looked vaguely familiar. Then she had reached him. "Hello. Do I have a green spot on my nose? Or is anything wrong?" "Oh, no, nothing. Err, my name is Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod." "My name is Isis. And who is this?" As if she did not know.
Duncan lifted the baby a bit, so that Isis could see it better. "That is the child of a friend of a friend of mine." he said. "She's cute." Isis bit her tongue. "It's a she, isn't it?" "Yes, it is. We have just been shopping, some baby clothes." "Shouldn't you leave that to the mother?" "Seems she is neglecting the baby a bit. But then she's still almost a child herself, from what Joe told me." Just like Yamo some weeks ago Isis felt the incredible urge to kick his rear. Maybe this Duncan was really the pompous idiot Yamo had called him. She - not caring for her baby! Duncan misinterpreted her silence, and said: "I guess with 17 we both would not have been much better. She'll learn in time, I guess." That did not make things better with Isis, but then, whatever else he was, he was also the man who might have information about Conner. And so she just said: "How about a cup of tea somewhere?" "Tea? Are you English?" She gave him a rather irritating look that gave him ample opportunity again to admire her eyes and just said: "Occasionally."
Joe meanwhile checked some records and made some phone calls, both to find any trace of Connor and some information about the Shadow. He had no luck with either. There had been an unconfirmed sighting of Connor in New York a few month ago, but that was not much. He sat back and sighted. He just did not know what to make out of the story Isis told him. It sounded very unlikely even by immortal standards. But on the other hand what he had seen was impossible by immortal standards, and therefore he was inclined to believe her. But it seemed rather odd that they had never heard of the Shadow. Once more he wondered why he had ever got involved with the Watchers. It had been after he had lost his legs in Vietnam, and it had been something worth doing. But even if he were not that tired, at the moment he found it to be quite strenuous.
Thinking of Isis reminded him of something else - the baby. Duncan had not returned with her yet, and while Joe was grateful that his friend took care of the child (not because he did not like children, but because he felt helpless with them), he was not sure how Isis would react to this. And he could imagine her easily protecting her child like a she-tiger when she saw the need for it. And the fondness and care Duncan had for the seemingly neglected child did not make things easy, either. He closed his eyes while he still thought about what to tell her when she came back.
Isis found him fast asleep in his chair when she came back. She just smiled and put a blaket over him. He certainly needed his sleep. She dropped the baby clothes she had brought, so that they would be the first thing Duncan saw when he came in, and then rushed out again to wait till he had brought the baby back.
Minutes later Duncan entered. He saw the baby clothes and looked around for the mother of the baby. He snorted disdainfully when he did not see her, and looked down at the poor child that slept peacefully. The thought of having a family crossed his mind as it had so often in the past 400 years, and he stood silent till Joe stirred behind him. He looked around and saw Joe yawning and fighting with the blanket. "Duncan, what are you doing here? Must have fallen asleep. Thanks for the blanket." "I did not put it around you. Where is that girl? She should be here!" "She must have been here while I slept. Well, I guess she did not see the baby and went out again." Duncan snorted again, and then asked Joe: "Say, do you know anything about an immortal named Isis?"
Joe was not quite certain how to read his own feelings at that very moment - whether he wished that the earth would open up and swallow him, or weather a divine inspiration would do. "Isis, the name sounds familiar, but I can't recall any details at the moment. Definitely not America and definitely not the last few decades." "Definitely Seattle and definitely today." Duncan said. "Oh," said Joe, "I'll have to check that!"
A few days later Isis was on the way home - or rather Joe's flat - very thoughtfully. While she had had a dinner with Duncan (and he had been rather disappointed that it was not more than that), he kept rambling about the mother of the baby which he had started to call Ann. How bad a mother she must be, how little she cared for the child .... a few times her eyes had wandered towards the sharp steaks knifes. On the other hand, well, he did not know *that* she cared. And especially not that *she* cared. Somehow she had to solve that problem.
Of course, it would be the best thing to disappear into oblivion again. But then, ever since she had practised a sword fight with Duncan and had - of course quite accidentally - cut his shirt so that he had to remove it, she was rather disinclined to leave. Besides, it was about time that the problem of the shadow was solved, at the very least temporarily.
It was a shame Darius had been killed - not only was all his experience lost the way it had happened, he also had been prepared to take the Shadow should it be necessary. And there were not too many immortals that could take the Shadows quickening without being overtaken by him. Darius could have done it. She wondered whether Duncan would be able to, but she doubted it very much. Herself and Conner were of course out of the question. It would be half of what the Shadow always wanted. The other half would hardly be able to sleep very well if it ever came to this. Yamo might be able to resist the overtaking, but being forced to consciously experience the Shadows spirit would drive everybody insane. Ramose of course could have done it, but he was dead. She relished for a moment at the thought what she would have done to her darling brother for killing her son. That of course, had she not had good reasons to keep away from him. That again left Menes. Well, maybe he would be able to. But he had inherited quite a lot from his father, and while she liked that a lot, she wondered whether 'What the hell, I have always managed to get out of everything' was the right attitude for *that*. The Shadow would most certainly not like the thought. He had always been preferred to take over elegant people, people that could talk themselves into anything, not those who could sneak himself out of everything. Each time she thought about him, she still saw the picture of a three-year-old that had been determined to get some honey - out of the beehive, with bees inside it. And with that grin on her face she entered the flat where she quickly relived a crying baby of her wet nappies and a sleeping baby-sitter of his job.
* * * * * * * * * * * New York
Thoroughly fed up with the world in general and his fruitless search for Conner MacLeod Yamo did the same in New York. He'd probably start screaming if he had to hear the name Rachel Hunter again.
That many Rachel Hunters in the phone book alone. And he had checked them all. Plus the ones in the voters lists. He could not start checking every other Hunter. Couldn't it have been another name that was his only trace of Conner MacLeod? Something like Zwjksdfio or something? Something easier to trace? Also, no sign of the Shadow, either. Not that he was particularly hot to meet him. But he would like to know where he was, and what he looked like at the moment. It was most regrettable that the Lama was dead. He had held the Shadows spirit for more than 200 years; not even arousing too much suspicion in a land where people did not believe in spirits and miracles - they knew they existed. So an abbot of a monastery that was more than 270 years old (actually, it had been nearer to 800 years, but one should never push it) was simply something that was accepted. Accepted, but not necessarily something to tell outsiders about. So it had been a safe place to hide both for the Lama and the spirit of the Shadow. Until recently, unfortunately. He still was not certain whether it had indeed been a good idea to run away after he had discovered Jerry's murder. On the one hand, even if he had not been a suspect, he had been on file somewhere - something that was safer to avoid. On the other hand, the police had much better resources to trace somebody, like the Shadow. And maybe he would have been able to obtain vital information from them. Then again, maybe not. There was little he could do but to carry on with what he had been doing. Trying to find that elusive Rachel Hunter, and trying to catch up with the 20th century. After all, he had not seen much of it yet.
But the next morning, he found something in the newspaper that changed his plans. The police had investigated a strange power failure in the harbour area. They did not find out who or what was responsible for the failure, but they did find the decapitated body of a young woman. The murder was linked to the murder of a young man a few weeks ago by a strange sign on a nearby wall, painted in the victims blood. The sign of the shadow. And once again, the ankh and that strange sign beside it he could not identify. Yamo decided to take a trip to the waterfront.
The site of the murder was marked by yellow ribbons. No curious watchers stood around, maybe because this was an area where somebody looking around for a murder scene could very well become the centre of another one. A lonely officer stood there, obviously bored. And he stood right in front of the mysterious signs. Great. Yamo looked around curiously, like somebody just interested. He decided the officer looked hungry, so he pulled out a sandwich and started eating. (Food being the only thing he was even more likely to carry around than his sword.) Now the officer looked decidedly unhappy. "Want one?" Yamo asked. "My girlfriend made enough to feed an army." "Yeah, like my wife does. But I left my lunch-box at the station." The officer looked around to make sure nobody saw him, and took the sandwich Yamo held out for him, reassured by Yamos open smile, that had probably done more to his survival over the millennia than his sword fighting skills. It worked this time, too.
"A wacko" the officer said stepping aside and allowing Yamo a good look at the paintings. "Painted that in her own blood." Both man agreed that there were a lot of *very* strange people in this world. "That's his second, the paper said." Yamo said. "Yep! And god knows how much more it will be. Hell, another serial killer is all this town needs!"
"Actually, I roughly thought along that line, that's why I came here. You know, I did some work at University about semi-ancient cults, so when I saw the ankh sign in the paper, I thought that might be something like that." "Oh my god", said the officer, "ritual murders are almost as bad as serial killers." "Well, could be just a wacko with an interest in ancient Egypt.", remarked Yamo. "Great. Now why can't this wacko just behead himself, accidentally?" Yamo thought this a great idea, too, though not exactly for the same reason as the officer. "Guess there were no witnesses either?" He asked. "Nope", was the answer, "if there had not been that power failure, she might have lain here for days." "Do you mind if I copy the signs? Maybe I can find out something?" "Guess they have a few specialists working on that already, but go ahead." So Yamo copied the signs into his notebook, thanked the officer, offered him another sandwich (after all, he could not let the man stand there hungry), and went away.
He did not get far. He had been in no hurry, since he was still thinking about the unknown sign. A few minutes later, while he was just about to leave the harbour area, a car stopped in front of him. Two men got out who could be nothing but police. Yamo had seen that kind far too often for his taste in the past millennia, and through all times and all continents it had been the same air of handed down authority, which even the nicest of them would let appear from time to time like a magician a dove out of his hat. Just at more inconvenient times. And one of them bore that air around him like the smell after a dinner with a lot of garlic, while the other one at least looked reasonably civil.
The reasonably civil one said "Just one moment. We are investigating that murder. May we ask you a few questions?" Since Yamo knew that was not really a question, he just nodded. He hated situations like this. "Did you have any particular reason to come here?" "No, just plain curiosity." "May we have your name and address, please?" "Justin Meyer, I live in a hotel at the moment." He gave them his current address. The other policeman had watched the scene silently until now, but then he asked: "Mind if I have a look at your bag?" "In fact I do. Do you always questions harmless people just like that, only because they were curious?" "I do if I want to." The policeman snorted. "If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear!" "Yeah," said Yamo, and I would be the very first innocent to be hanged." He had not liked that kind five thousand years ago, and he did not like them now. He would have much less problems showing the officer his bag and get away had he not carried his sword in it. After last night, it was rather unlikely that they would let him just go with it. The officer pushed his jacket back and showed Yamo his gun. 'Great', thought Yamo, 'he must have quarrelled with his wife this morning.' He prepared for a very long afternoon at the police station. The officer grabbed his bag and looked inside. He pulled out Yamo's sword and said: "Well, maybe you would like to come with us to the station."
The police station did smell like any other one in any place and time, too. Fear, sweat and too much work. The only new thing was the smell of coffee, which had replaced the thin beer of Egypt. The room he was brought in was painted in a tasty green that reminded him of three week old fish. He was offered a coffee and cigarettes, and something to eat. He took the first two, but knew better than to eat something here. He never ceased to be amazed by the fact that mortals could actually *survive* that stuff.
"Right, guys. What do you want to know?" he asked. "So you co-operate?" "I figure that is the fastest way to get out of here." The civil guy smiled, and introduced himself as officer Gordon, and the other one (who had had troubles with his wife, presumably) as Max Swine. Maybe he just tried to live up to his name. Somebody brought in the contents of his bag, even including the sword. Gordon asked "Mind if we take the sword to forensics?" "Go ahead." "I must warn you. You are not formally charged, but if we do find her blood on it, or any blood, you are in trouble." "Any blood you will find. Mine, for example. I cut myself a few months ago while sharpening it. Also, that of a sparring partner. Also a few months old. Not hers, though. That is unless my sword has lately got into the habit of taking nightly strolls without me. And I have seen a great many things, but that is none of them." Swine made funny noises, and it took a few thousand years of experience to figure out that he was actually laughing. Gordon nodded, and said "If you are sure, fine with us." The sword was brought away, and the questioning began. "Name" "Address" "Occupation" (Immortal sword fighter, trying to protect the mother of all immortals from a mad sorcerer?) "Well, I inherited money from my mother recently. Now I spend it." "Married?" (9 times, and that were just the women.) "Not at the moment, no." "You were?" "Yep." "What happened?" (Cancer, old age, an infection, war....) "We simply developed into different directions. So we divorced." "Any reason in particular why you carry a sword - in New York City?" (Have a look at the crime statistics, man!) "I was looking for a dojo." "A what?" "A Dojo. A place where the martial arts are practised. Problem is to find one where sword fighting is taken seriously." "There are far too many idiots that take these *arts* seriously, in my opinion." Gordon remarked somewhat angrily. "Nope," said Yamo, "all they take seriously is their minor complex. Martial arts are about discipline and self-control, not about bashing up others!" "Yes, I have heard that before. It's just that I do see the others much more often, or their victims." "Yeah, I guess so. " Gordon picked up Yamo's notebook. He opened it, and looked quite surprised. He turned it around a few times, and then asked astonishedly: "What's that?" "Sort of stenography." "Uh! None I have ever seen!" Yamo was not particularly surprised to hear that. "It is a quite old-fashioned one." Swine growled from the background: "Fine, start translating!" "That's none of your business!" "That's for us to decide!" Yamo did not bother to answer. Gordon was browsing through the book, and then stopped when he found the drawings the Shadow had left on the wall of Jerry's apartment. "Mind explaining this at least?" he asked. "I read in the papers about the first murder, and I could not make them out, except the ankh. That's why I went to the scene of the second murder. The print in the paper was not too good." "And why are you interested in that?" "Well, as I told the officer at the scene, I am interested in semi-ancient cults. The ankh is certainly ancient!" "Just so? It had nothing to do with swords?" "Nope. I like sword fighting, not butchering." "So, you know that that was not a clean dead?" (Whenever had the deaths the Shadow inflicted been clean?) "The paper said it was an unusual bloody murder. And that was a New York paper." "Do you like blood?" Swine asked. "Bet you do. Sword, martial arts..." "No." "Just no?" "Just no. What else do you expect? It usually means someone is hurt, and why should I like that." "Thought that was the purpose of this all?" "Yeah, thought you would think that." "Ey, stop that, you two!" Gordon interrupted the upcoming quarrel. He somehow had a feeling that this guy could be real trouble if he decided to be. Another officer opened the door and said: "That Doctor James is there." Gordon got up and went to the door. There he turned, grabbed Yamo's notebook and went out.
Yamo lit up another cigarette, and waited patiently for his return, completely ignoring Swines presence. A few minutes later the door was thrown open and a woman stormed inside, followed much slower by Gordon. She was in her early thirties, dressed casually, with long red hair bound together in her neck. She waved his notebook before his nose and said: "That is demotic!" Yamo already knew that. "But I can't read it! It is no language I know!" Yamo was not surprised to hear that, either. He had learned that language even before he had ever heard about Egypt or something as strange as 'writing'.
He smiled at her and said: "My name is Justin Meyer. Hello." "Oh", she said, "I am Ann James, specialist in Egyptian language and writing at New York University. But that notebook..." "Happens to be mine, and unless you have a case against me, I doubt that its contents are any of your business. Sorry to have to curb your enthusiasm, Dr. James."
She looked so disappointed that he felt sorry for her. Well, presumably there were not too many people in this world that kept notes in demotic writing anymore, and he would have loved to discuss the matter with her. Unfortunately, this was neither the time not the place for it, and this kind of discussions usually got him into trouble - after all, it was a bit difficult to explain to scholars why he insisted that some things had been quite different from what they books stated. And they usually did not take an "I have seen it!" as an argument.
The phone rang again. Gordon picked it up, listened, and put the receiver down again. "There was blood on you sword." Swine growled from the background: "Guess we have a nice tight case there. Two perverts, members of some Egyptian devils cult quarrel who keep their books in demonic writing - hey, books of death presumably, they had those in Egypt, - and one murders the other and then goes on a killing spree leaving his devils signs behind and returns to the place of his last murder with the murder weapon in his bag! Maybe its the same guy that did those other beheadings a few years ago as well - we never managed to nail it on that Nash guy. Hey, or he murdered him, too, and that Jewish bitch that was working for him. They seem to have disappeared." Dr. James stared at him with some horror and utter disbelieve, Gordon just turned his eyes heavenward, and Yamo got a laugh attack.
"Swine" he gurgeled, "Swine, grammar aside, you really should try to get your prejudices in order. First, most 'perverts' are not mad mass murderes. Second, the writing is demotic, not demonic, has nothing to do with demons. Third, the book of death is supposed to guide the spirits of the death through the underworld, not a book about sending them there, and fourth, even if I would be fool enough to return to the scene of the murder, I doubt I'd carry the evidence with me for your convenience. As for the other murders, I have not been in New York couple of years ago." Not in this century, anyway, he thought. It was some consolation to him that obviously Connor MacLeod had had his difficulties with the police, too. Misery was a lot easier to bear if you were not alone in it.
Gordon just shook his head. "No, I'm afraid I doubt that's a case. A few signs on the wall are not necessarily an evil cult, he's right about the writing and the book, and unfortunately the blood is neither the girl's, nor Jeremiah Franks. But about that guy you have not quite been honest with us, have you, Mr. Meyer." Then he realised that Dr. James was still in the room, and with a regretful look he sent her out. Yamo just grabbed the notebook from her hand, which prompted an even more regretful look from her.
He looked at Gordon, who looked back at him. "You knew him, didn't you? Quite well, actually." Yamo quickly considered his options. It did not look as if he was the prime suspect - not Gordon's anyway. On the other hand, that man was *very* curious, especially since he might want to impress Dr. James with *any* findings about the notebook. Yamo had a strong suspicion that he was a bit sorry their acquaintance was purely professional. Oh well, time to change the story.
"Yes, I knew him, but not all that well." He simply told him the story of their brief acquaintance, leaving only the bit about his search for Rachel Hunter out. Gordon nodded occasionally, confirming Yamos suspicion that it had been a good idea to be frank. "But I did not murder him." he ended his story. Gordon nodded, as if he was believing him, and asked: "But what were you doing at the other murder scene?" "I don't know - looking for anything that might explain. It did not make sense." "Found anything?" "No, I am as confused as ever." "I am inclined to believe you, because we are fairly sure that the murder is taller than you, plus you came home after the murder, plus, the blood does not match. That does not mean you are not a suspect any more, though."
From behind Swine mumbled: "Does not mean anything - he might have more than one sword, he might have returned, and he might have been wearing high heels!" "High heels!" Yamo was fascinated of the thought of him wielding a sword - on high heels, maybe in a glittering dress.... The look in Gordons face indicated that he thought along the same lines - and that he discarded the thought *very* quickly. "No, we found footprints, and that were no high heels - and not his size, either. However, I still have a lot of questions." And he proceeded to ask them. Yamo answered them all, more or less faithfully, about Jeremiahs enemies (he knew nothing of them), about his (he was much less faithful on this), over and over, while at the same time trying to find out what the police knew. That seemed not to be very much, a footprint, a few bloody fingerprints that were not his, either, and the sign on the wall - at least he got a good look at photos of them now, but he could not make them out. And the subject of Russel Nash was not mentioned again - and he dared not to bring it in again.
Late at night they let him out again - without his sword, but at least with everything else, plus a monstrous hunger, and a cute young policeman following him who was so obviously unobvious that he spotted him on the first hundred yards.. He found a fast food restaurant and decided to give it a try. He regretted it an hour later in his hotel bed, but fell asleep regardless. Further plans had time until tomorrow.
Isis lay in bed, the baby in her arms, and stared at the ceiling. Joe slept peacefully next to her. She was trying to think of what to do next. She could not come to any conclusion - without the baby it would not have been that much of a problem, but how to provider for her. Orphanages were a very last resort - she had seen to many of them to consider them a solution. Joe had mentioned that they had definitely improved since the last century, which was not that much of a problem, but she did not like the thought. Neither did she like that of adoption. That had been hard enough with people she knew well and trusted, but she did not know anybody here.
Duncan would love to care about the child, and although his attempts be become the first eternal play-boy scout occasionally got on her nerves, he would be a good father. Furthermore Joe had assured her that Duncan was not all that bad.
Menes of course would be the obvious solution - if she had the faintest idea where he might be. She refused to believe that anything had happened to him - like a cat he would land on his feet whatever happened. However, he would plainly refuse to care about another of his younger siblings, as he had done every time before. As every time before, he would do it anyway. The drawback of that solution tended to be the fact that although the children learned everything life might require of them from him, his education tended to be a bit unconventional. Most children's education, in all places and times she had known, had not included martial arts, including sword fighting, pickpocketing, forgery, cheating, lock-picking and the ability to talk themselves out of and into anything, plus a few more *useful* skills.
Oh well, presumably Duncan then. Joe was out of the question - he liked children well enough when they were dry and fed put into his lap, but he was not a born father. It had just been good luck that the girl was mortal - otherwise it might have raised too many question. Now there was just the question as how to go about it. She'd give that more thoughts tomorrow.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo made up for the lousy dinner yesterday with a huge breakfast. He briefly considered bringing something out to the policeman that was supposed to follow him, but he decided that he was not in the be-nice-to-your-overworked-and-underpaid-policeman mood. In fact, when he was out on the street again, trying to figure out what to do next, he decided that he was in a definitely nasty mood.
So he turned into the next adult shop, one whose shop window looked extra cheap and tasteless, and started browsing through the shelves. It took the officer a while until he decided that it was his duty to follow him into the filthy shop, and then even more time until he started browsing the shelves himself - something his mommy obviously had prohibited to him. His pale face flushed when the first photo magazine contained a slightly different sort of showers he had known before. Yamo just grinned, until he realised that the magazine he held depicted activities for which he had never cared at all - and they did not look any better in graphical detail. With sheer amazement he browsed through the shelves, occasionally shaking his head. Erotic art was as old as art itself, and he had thoroughly enjoyed a lot of it - but this stuff did not merit the title of art. It had been done by people who did not put a bit of love or enthusiasm into their work, and it had been done for people who obviously thought that sex had mostly to do with genitals, and the bigger the better. He had always held the opinion that the more a society pressed its members into chastity and Puritanism, the filthier and more cruel sex manifested itself. If he had needed any proof, this shop would have done nicely. He knew why he had left England at the beginning of the puritan revolution. He went out of the shop again, even more depressed than when he had entered it, followed far to closely by the young officer. Thoroughly bored he sat down in a cafe, but the lousy tea did not lift his spirits, either. He drank it, paid, and decided to call Isis. If nothing else, it would be someone to talk to.
But it was not Isis who answered the phone. "Hi Joe." he said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Isis meanwhile sat on a bench in the park, and made several phone calls to help lines and social services, anonymously, trying to find a way to give the baby a legal identity, and possibly some parents, without drawing attention to it. The stories she told were as numerous as the phone calls, and after a few hours she saw little light. Bureaucracy had got worse and worse. While she saw some necessity in some of the regulations, it certainly did not make her live easier. In Cairo it had been easier - nothing a little tip did not fix. Unfortunately, she was not in Cairo, did not have the means to go there, and did not dare, either. Oh well, she'd think about that technical stuff.
* * * * * * * * * * * Joe meanwhile sat in a chair, the receiver pressed to his ear, and he said for about the tenth time "I am so glad you are well." Yamo had already expressed his regrets at having to leave Seacouver so quickly about as often, and generally the conversation did contain very little contend, but lasted for about half an hour.
When Yamo put the receiver down, he was in a much better mood. He stretched his back, because he had crouched towards the phone box, just in case the officer could lip-read. That was not too likely, but one never knew. He strolled along the street, when a lot of red hair caught his attention. He walked towards her, and said: "Hello, Dr. James. Can I invite you for a cup of coffee?"
What Joe had intended to do with the birth certificate was a question he had refused to answer. However, it came handy now. When she carefully inserted 'Duncan MacLeod' in the line 'Father' he let out a moan, though. "And how am I going to explain that to him?" he asked. "Well, since he takes care of the child so nicely, that poor unfortunate girl gave his name as the father's. Or shall I put yours in?" Isis asked. Joe shook his head vigorously. "See, thought so! Now all we have to do is to wait for the next young female corpse to show up somewhere in town, and you can tell him she's dead. He'll be glad to hear that, since I care so badly for my baby - according to him." There was an undertone in her voice that somehow announced some revenge she planed for that. "He has never seen you with the baby, what else is he supposed to think?" Joe tried to defend his friend. "Has she ever looked neglected or something?" Isis growled. "Oh no, there he is again, ready to rumble about me!" She headed towards the door while Joe just shouted after her "But he does not know its you!"
When Duncan entered, his first look was for the mother of the baby. Again, he did not see her - lucky her, for he had a few words to say to her about the baby. He picked her up and said "Hello Joe." Joe tried a smile, but somehow he did not manage a proper one. Duncan did not see it - he was busy with the baby, which was busy sleeping. He merely asked "Where is she now?" and Joe said: "I don't know, there was something with the papers for the baby. He, she is safe here, and I am quite capable to change her nappies or give her a bottle when she needs it." Duncan looked doubtfull at his friend, but said no more about it.
"Joe, why is everybody asking about Connor lately?" he asked after a while. Joe tried to look innocent. "Why?" "Well, first that Yamo guy, then Isis askes me about him, then you. yesterday. But frankly, I am a bit worried, I'd at least like to warn him - I don't like that Yamo, but he probably had a reason for that warning. And he's my clansman." "And you have no idea where he is?" Joe asked. "No, last thing he said was that he would have to stay with a friend who was ill, and that he would probably be away for a while. But why did you ask?" "Oh," said Joe, "I just read something about the Kurgan these days, and that made me think of Conner." "Well, I don't know where he is. Wish I would." And with that Duncan closed the subject.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Oh, I learned demotic from my grandfather. He had studied it in Oxford, in the 1930's. I found it fascinating, and so he taught it to me. It comes very handy if you want to keep notes - and keep them secret." Dr. James looked at him: "Yes, there are not too many people who can read demotic - but what language is it written in?" Yamo just smiled at her charmingly. As he had thought, Gordon had already called her to discuss her findings with her, in a nicer surroundings than his office. Love was the one feeling that would prevail until the end of the world. It was stronger than hate or greed for money or power. Even if it was not love on Gordons site, his hormones might do for the moment.
"Forgive me for for being that curious - but I found a few signs that are not demotic. What are they?" she asked. "Demotic is a nice writing, but but it has a deplorable lack of vowels. So I added seven signs for them." Obviously she was fascinated: "It's a shame the original had no vowels - it would make understanding the language much easier, not to mention pronounciation." He could of course helped her with that, but thought it advisable not to do so. The last time nobody had belived him anyway. She kept questioning him about the language, Egyptian being her passion, and she was qurious about everything that was related to it, as this definitely was. Yamo knew that. He changed the subject, asking her about her life, telling fake stories about his, and avoided carefully the subject of the language his notes had been written in. She was too polite to insist on the subject, and as much as she enjoyed the chat, Yamo could see her growing restless. Time for a business proposal.
"You know," he said, "we have something in common. Both of us want to know something - you my language, and I what Officer Gordon knows. If he knows anything, that is." "I can't do that. He likes me, I don't want to spy on him!" He started, in a low voice, to speak. She could not understand him at first, but then she heard some words repeated again and again - Isis, Osiris, Seth... Actually, he was quite glad he could not understand him better - he was not exactly telling the story the way it had become legend. He had had a more reliable source for it. He repeated it again, slower this time, and somewhat more by the scroll. He also left out all those words and phrases which would hardly be found in any writing, although they certainly did something to better describe some of the protagonists of the story. She still could not make out too much of it, but now was certain that the language was closely related the Egyptian. Her eyes had an intense look. Yamo smiled at her and asked: "How much more do you want to know?" "But I can't do that! It seems you are no suspect any more, so why do you want to know?" "So you know I am not a suspect any more?" "Yes, he said..... Oh, well, he said that, but I won't tell you any more! After all, that is the most important thing, isn't it?" "I wish it were. Listen, I can't tell you much about it, but whoever murdered those two people will murder more, and I think I know who he is really after. And this man I have to find first!" "What is this about - drugs?"
Yamo felt at a loss - he could not tell the woman what this was about, but he had tried everything, and the police might know things he could not possibly find out. After all, the resources they had were infinitely better than his. He tried to think of a convincing story. "You know, twelfe years ago my sister had an affair with a man named Russel Nash." (No, that was a bad beginning - but too late!) "He dealt in antiques, and he was offered a, a--- a very valuable cup, Roman, made of pure gold. It was one of the most beautifull pieces he had ever seen - it was really beautifull. This guy, who murdered the two, he was after that cup, too. He thought it was - the Holy Grail." (Ouch, he thought - she'll never ever buy that, and I used to be better at this. Much better.) "You see, he was thoroughly crazy even then. They, or rather Nash, brought it, and kept it, and this man has tried ever since to get it back, figuring it would guarantee him accedd to heaven after dead." (No, you can't make it worse any more, he thought.) "Anyway, he disappeared for several years, but seems he came out wherever they had locked him up a while ago. And now he wants this cup and he wants his revenge."
She looked at him, indeed not convinced at all. "If you know who he is, why don't you just tell the police?" she asked. Yamo thought that was an excellent question. "But I don't know who he is - all we know about him is what he wants, but neither me nor my sister have ever seen him - back then when he negotiated for the cup he used go-betweens, and after he tried to get it on a less legal way, he always made sure he did not show up his head." "And why did he murder these two? The girl was not your sister, was she?" Another excellent question, he thought. "He knows that I try to find him, too, so maybe he went to Jerry's flat to find me, and when I was not there.... As for the girl, maybe she got into his way, but really, I have no idea." "No, I don't belive you one word." (I would not, either, Yamo thought).
She continued: "Is it something illegal? Is it drugs?" "No," he said, "I have done a lot of things in my life that were not altogether legal, but drugs and the like were never among them. No, this is strictly private - and I have to stop him." She did not ask him how he wanted to stop the killer. Gordon had presumably not shown her photos of the corpses, those would be rather courterproductive if he planed a romantic evening, but he must have mentioned what they had looked like. "And you think he is after someone special?" "I don't think so - I know it. But really, you would not belive the truth any more than that story."
She leaned back, took a sip from her drink, and looked at him. He said nothing, waiting for her. She looked up and said "What else do you need to know?"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Joe had never, ever in his life made such a heartfelt promise to himself before - but the next time a pregnenant woman walked into his bar and wanted a cup of tea, he'd throw her out, merciless. He knew he wouldn't do that, but it felt good to think about it, anyway. Duncan was pale. "What do you mean, I am the father? Joe, I can't be... You know that! Hell, I did not even know her!" He had repeated that several times already. Joe had nodded every time, but had not trusted his voice enough to speak after his initial statement. Now he had to try: "Duncan, I know that is a surprise, but she only told me yesterday evening, and she promised to me to undo it. And now she is dead, and there is no one left to take care of the girl." This morning on the news there was a short bit about a deadly car accident of 3 teenagers from out-of-town . It was what Isis had been waiting for. Joe could have done without this for another century or so, though.
"You simply tell him that her mother is dead. Terrible car accident. Was so impressed by his care for the baby that she gave his name as the father's. That way he won't have any difficulties taking care of her. Tell him they pressed her for the father's name or they'd take the baby from her. It's easy."
"They pressed her for the father's name or they'd take the baby from her. She had to give them a name, and so she gave them yours." She had been wrong - that was not at all easy. "I'll have to give her up for adoption. What else can I do?" Duncan sounded a bit desperate. His celular phone rang. He dropped it before he managed to answer it. "No, I'm here at Joe's, sorry, I forgot about our appointment, but something terribly happened. .... Yes, sure, so come along if you like." Isis, obviously. Duncan told her the address. Joe just hoped that Isis would take the 'terrible' as an expression of surprise instead of terror. Otherwise he sincerely feared for the savety of his friend. Luckily for him the baby just woke up and complained loudly about wet nappies, so Duncan was busy until the doorbell rang.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo leaned back and yawned. He had not realised how difficult it was to *explain* a language to someone - especially if you learned that language so long ago that no calendar ever recoded the time. At least he was able to give her a place. Yemen. That he was sure about, at least. Whether she had brought the story of a small tribe in the most remote mountains there, that had not changed its language for the past several thousand years he could not decide. But it was the best explanation he could possibly offer her. Dr. James, or Linda as she had aksed him to call her, had agreed to meet Gordon again for diner yesterday, and she was sufficiently curious to aks him a *lot* of questions. Presumably she tried to make sense of the whole story, but he doubted she had been sucessfull. However, she seemed to trust him now, which was a good thing, because she was not the kidn of woman that would ignore her own moral standards just to satisfie her scientific curiosity. Yamo thought that was a good thing, because otherwise he certainly would not have trusted *her* so far.
She came back into the room with a tablet with tea and some sandwiches. They sat down to eat, both simply to exhausted to contiue working on grammar tables and vocabulary. "You know, it's really nice that you can stay that long with me working on this while you should have more pressing business." Yamo shrugged his shoulders: " I don't know where to contiue anyway, and maybe it's a good thing I have to think about something else for a while. Maybe I can think of *something* if I am not constantly busy with it. However, as soon as I can think of something else, I'll be off. But I promise to return and do some more work with you as soon as this is over." "Oh, but what I have now is already work for months. That language must have developed directly from a proto-semitic." Yamo thought: 'It probably *was* proto-semitic' She continued: "It is absolutely fascinating. I can understand you concerns about those people - they would be overrun with linguists if you'd make their location public. But maybe, some day..." She looked at him. He shook his head. "Sorry, it's nothing personal, and I am sure you intentions are only the best, but then the was to hell is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, it would be *their* hell." In fact he was not particularly worried about his fictuous tribe, but he had seen it often enough, when so called civilised people tried to 'help' remote peoples. The outcome had usually been a disaster. "Why did you leave there?" "Oh, I just grew a bit restless, and I wanted to see from what funny country my grandfather came as a missionary to them." Maybe he had not been that restless - after all he had lived there for about a hundred years - he guessed.
"Do me a favour," he said, "let's go through what Gordon said again. There must be something usefull in it, I know, I just can't make it out." They skipped the details of the murders, she because it was not a pleasant subject, he because they would tell him nothing important. They diskussed the signs again, and while he could have told her about the sign of the Shadow, both of them did not know why a murderer would paint the sign for life on a wall, or make out the omnious third sign. The Shadow must be taller than himself now, they had a bloody handprint that was too far up the wall for Yamo to make, with fingerprints that were not his. That was all they knew. She had not been able to ask too many questions about Russel Nash, but it seemed that Rachel Hunter had worked for and lived with him for a very long time. At least he knew a bit more about her now. She was in her fifties now, had been born in Eastern Europe, and come to the US as a child after the war. Gordon had told Linda that she didn't look well the last time he saw her, when he tried to find Russel Nash again. He had disappeared after a few other murders years ago, but Gordon was a man that would occasionally come back to unsoved cases. They did not let him sleep. As much as Yamo appreciated this attitude, he hoped that that would remain an unsolved case.
He knew there was at least a clue in all that he had found out so far, but it eluded him everytime he tried to pin it. So they settled down again on grammar tables and her questions, until hours later he left exhausted. Tomorrow he would record the story of Isis and Osiris for her. He had tried to write it down in latin letters, but she found that impossible to read, since he simply wrote it down as he thought it might fit. His thoughs however differed too much from the notation of liguists, so they had settled for a tape recording. He was too tired to go to a library to obtain a copy of that story, and hoped only that his version would not differ too much from the well-known version.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"I still think it's marvelous!" Isis craddled her baby - he might not know, but it was still hers - while Duncan still tried to overcome the shock. "She can't throw it at me like, like... like a bag of rags or something!" Isis tried to remain calm. She did not like to be accused of not caring for her children. "She just wanted to make sure that *if* something happened to her, there would be someone to take care of her, as you did. And you liked it!" "I still like it, but usually a man has about 9 months time to become a father." "Well," he said with a sigh, "I guess I will have to become a father much quicker than that." She gave him her most radieant smile, and said: "Maybe I should try to get along with those plastic nappies after all." The expression on his face made it clear that he would not mind that at all. She wanted to stay with the baby as long a possible, and certainly there were worse things to put up with than Duncan. He said: "I think she might need some more clothes, and then I need a pram and a bed for her and - let's just go shopping!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Seacouver, a few days later.
Joe brought the milk bottle to the table where Isis and Duncan sat. The bar was not yet open, but they had dropped by. He had performed a few songs for them, after Isis had insisted. She fed the baby. She'd rather bread-fed it, but that would simply be impossible to explain. She did it at night, or when Duncan was out of the house, but the milk already started to become less. Oh well, it was certainly better than gruel, which was what babies whose mother did not have milk enough and where not wet nurse used to be fed occasionally. The baby at least did not seem to mind.
"You know, my clansman is really a popular man." Duncan said. Joe almost spilled his beer, and the baby started crying, because Isis had pinched her accidentally. At least that distracted Duncan sufficiently from her startled face. "Why?" Joe asked as inconspicuously as possible. "Because today I had a visit from a private detective who was allegedly investigating some shady antiques deals. Connor has not dealt in antiques for years. He caught be with dirty nappies in my hand. I wish I knew what this is all about." Joe looked at Isis, who shook her head slightly. "As I said, I read something about the Kurgan, and that made me think of him." he said. Duncan looked at Isis. "Same thing, I knew the Kurgan, and heard it was Connor who killed him, and since he is your clansman I asked. I'd *really* like to thank him for that! Believe me!" Duncan was not at all convinced. "Somehow I believe that's true. I'd just like to hear the rest of the story." But a look at Isis' face convinced him that he would not hear it. "Hell," Duncan shouted, "who is after him? Even that Yamo told me to warn him!" He did not look at Joe, not suspecting him of anything, and so he did not notice the light shade of red that crept from his neck upward. Isis did, and she grinned. Yamo had that effect on some men - if he choose to. Or, if he choose to, on women.
"Listen, Duncan, all I can tell you - and don't bother asking for more - is that someone is after Connor, and I'd rather not have him getting at him. That's it. Now where is Connor?" Joe was certain that whatever Isis had done in her long life - she had never been a diplomat. "I don't know!" Duncan raised his voice. "I don't know, and I'd feel a lot better if I would! All I know is that he said he had to take care of a sick friend. That's it, I don't know anything, and I tried. Is that enough now?!?" "You don't have to shout at me!" Isis snapped back. "I try to help a clansman of yours, and you shout at me! You are really nothing but a Celtic barbarian!" 'Yes', Joe thought, 'throw the ball back to him.' It worked, Duncan apologised, but no one was particularly satisfied, apart from the baby that had finished its meal and was sleeping now. Duncan was angry about Isis and her secrecy, Isis was worried about the detective, and Joe was worried for Isis - and the world in general, because the Shadow obviously was nobody you would like to have absolute power.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A few hours later Isis was talking to Yamo on the phone. He was very worried about the detective, too. "You have to leave there, and soon. That can't have been a coincidence. And you don't have the training at the moment to confront the Shadow. Take that good-looking boy-scout and make a trip to somewhere far away." Isis grinned. Both men somehow did not like each other too much, but she figured they might get along once they knew each other better. "Maybe I'll do that, it might be safer. By the way, he really does not know where Connor is - I am sure about that now. Joe is trying, but he has not found out anything, either. The only thing I hope is that the Shadow hadn't any more luck than we did." "So do I, believe me. Leave Seacouver, tomorrow. And do keep me informed about your whereabouts. See you." "See you!" Isis put the receiver down and went down in the elevator to tell Duncan that they would leave tomorrow.
"What so you mean, leave tomorrow. An what means 'we'. I can't leave, what about the baby?" "What about the baby? We'll take her with us, of course!" "She's too young to travel, and why do you have to leave so suddenly?" "Because that detective this morning probably was not after Connor, but after me. And if he was, then he has seen us together. And that means someone I don't care about too much knows, too. I am not in the shape to confront him at the moment. I have to leave, and I want you to be with me - you and the baby." It was rather the other way around, but she would have difficulties explaining that to him. The Shadow would kill the baby just out of spite, because it was hers. He would not buy the story about the ominous mother for a moment, not when he knew that she had been pregnant, and that would not have been hard to find out, even if he had not seen her in person.
"Isis, whoever it is, I will protect you. Why is he after you?" That were exactly the two remarks Isis could have done without most. She was just glad Yamo was not here - she could already hear his sarcastic comments about boy-scouts. Frankly, they would have not been too different from her own, were she at liberty to speak. "Duncan, that is very kind of you, but I can take care of my own, usually. Besides, I don't *want* to confront him, and I don't want *you* to confront him either. Let's just leave here, OK?" "Damned, Isis! Compared to you the Gordic Knot was an open book!" "Don't mix your metaphors! Hey, what's wrong with Venice? The Canals, the music...." She went to him, put an arm around his waist and tried to convince him that there was nothing wrong with Venice at all, this time without words. A few minutes later he mumbled: "Venice is too crowded that time of the year. What's wrong with Paris?" There was a lot wrong with Paris, in her opinion, ever since she had to drive a here of cattle through it to save Yamo from a Guillotine and had almost ended up on one herself. "Paris would be wonderful, Darling!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Seacouver, three days later
"They have gone to Paris. It was a rather quick decision." Joe out the beer in front of Methos. "Seems so - why that? And who's they?" Joe quickly thought about how much to tell Methos - while it was not unlikely that he knew Isis, it might be better not to tell him too much in case he didn't. "He met a girl, and it seems that she wanted to get away from the States a quickly as possible, someone after her or something." "What, and Duncan did not offer to beat up the villain?" The corners of Joe's mouth trembled treacherously. "Oh, he did. And she declined?" "She said she'd rather take a trip to the Continent. Looks as if she had managed to convince him. But what about you? I thought you would be away for a while?" "I, uhm, have been called here, sort of. Funny way, keeping in contact, ads in The Times." Joe suddenly had an eerie feeling in his stomach. Ads in The Times, and was there somebody expected eventually. He had a growing feeling that Methos might indeed know Isis. He was still pondering the consequences of his suspicion when the door flung open and a man walked in - Yamo! - who flung his arms wide open when he saw Methos, and shouted through the bar: "Junior!". Joe just turned around to fix himself a double whisky. He thought again and made it a triple one.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A few hours later, when the bar had become almost empty, he sat down at the table with them. He had passed their table in the corner a few times, hearing them chatting in languages he did not even try to recognise. At one point, judging from the way Yamo's hands moved (for he was talking with his hands almost as much as with his mouth), he had told Methos the story of how he had met Duncan, and at another point it had looked as if Methos was telling the story of him and Alexa, and Yamo had taken him into his arms, comforting him.
"Hi Joe. Seems my baby has duped you all, again." "Your baby. Methos. I have to get used to that thought!" Joe said. "Yes," said Yamo, "my son!" and he sounded as proud as any father. Joe pictured him thousands of years ago, with a baby in his arms, and announcing the same to everybody who would bother listening, in the same proud tone. It was an eerie thought. "Now at least I know why you always said you don't remember much about your childhood and early live." he said to Methos. "Guess he'd rather forget a few things, too." Yamo grinned broadly. "Like when, you remember, when you tried to get at the honey in the bee hive - with the bees still in it!" Methos pulled a face. "I remember - and I remember you and Isis telling that story to everybody who was around - for the past 5000 years. Now would you mind changing the subject!" Joe could not help laughing. "Oh, that reminds me of how annoyed I always was when that story about me taking an early look at the Christmas presents at my aunts turned up." "Tell me!" Yamo demanded. Joe looked into two very expectant pairs of eyes. "Oh no!" he said. Four eyes continued gazing at him. "Only if I get to hear that story about the bees!" "It's a deal!" Yamo said. "I'm sure it's not *that* interesting." Methos mumbled.
Both stories were dutifully told, together with many others. Methos could not resist getting back at Yamo with telling Joe about the time when Yamo had been *sure* he knew where he had buried both their money and their swords - unfortunately after a bit too much wine. The bar had emptied, and with every other guest gone, the stories had become increasingly ridiculous and were told louder and louder. When Methos started yawning, everybody was surprised at the time - 4 in the morning. An empty bottle of Whisky stood on the table when they decided to leave. Joe staggered, and Yamo seemed to support him as much as he needed him for support himself. Methos was not much steadier on his feet, and grinned the whole way towards the door at the sight before him.
It took them a while to look the door, especially because the key seemed so big and the lock so small; and by the time they finally managed a taxi had arrived. "You take that one." Methos said. Joe looked at Yamo and asked: "Where do you have to go?" "Dunno. Gotta get me a hotel somewhere." Methos fiercely tried to suppress a grin - some dialogues had not changed for the past 5000 years. Just the language they were spoken in had. "Uh, err," Joe said, "too late for that. You can sleep at my place, if you like." No, the dialogue had not changed. It had been uttered with more grace before, but it remained the same - and always would, presumably. Yamo rather crawled than climbed into the taxi, and they left Methos behind, who did not try to suppress his grin any more.
Yamo yawned and tried to stretch his muscles without moving his head too much, not very successfully. Then he tried to remember where the bathroom was, and whether he could get there without having to open his eyes. The remembered, and he tried, only to stumble over his shoes. Holding his elbow on which he had landed, he decided he loved family reunions - but he hated the headache the next morning.
He held his head under cold water, and tried in vain to get that awful taste out of his mouth. When he stumbled back into the bedroom, he just stood there and looked at Joe, who lay between the tumbled sheets. Both had figured last night that they were much too tired to tumble any sheets any more, but then had managed, at least a bit. He decided that he might give Joe's kitchen a try and get something drinkable and hot.
He had a fight with the coffee machine. If its label had not said 'Coffee Maker' he had not known what it was for, and now he took a chance with the way it worked. To his great surprise something dripped through the machine that looked and smelled like coffee. A *bit* strong maybe, but so were his headaches. He gulped the first cup down, ignored his' stomachs complaints and his half-burned taste buds, and started to search the kitchen for something more substantial.
* * * * * * * * * * *
In Paris Duncan did the same. His efforts were much more co-ordinated, though. He had made the mistake once of asking Isis to prepare breakfast. How she had managed to transform something as simple as cereals and scrambled eggs into something that tasted that awful was a complete mystery to him - and her comment that she was no great cook the understatement of the year. Methos and Yamo both would have strongly advised him against letting Isis into any kitchen, and in fact had exchanged a few fond memories of her cooking the last evening, mercifully blurred by ages past.
Little Ann demanded her breakfast very loudly now, and he prepared a bottle for her. He sat down and fed her, still looking at her with some disbelieve. *His* daughter. What a strange thought that was, after 400 years in which he thought that he would never be able to have that feeling. Isis' head showed up briefly between the sheets, she looked at them, mumbled "You are an angel, Duncan MacLeod!" and fell asleep again. 'It is funny' Duncan thought. 'Whenever I had imagined to have a family, I thought it was somewhat different. Not a baby that was almost thrown into his arms, by a mother he never met, and a woman that just turned up and stayed.' Not that he did mind her staying, but it was just not what he had imagined. And he would certainly love to know a bit more about her.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Joe and Yamo sat in the bed, eating breakfast. Yamo had had to get up to get some hot water - obviously his coffee was a bit too strong for Joe. In fact Joe had suggested that that had to be the stuff that made immortals immortal - one cup of that coffee, and the dead would rise, never to lay down again. Yamo had protested that is was not *that* strong but went to get the water - after all that was not the first time he heard that, although he really did not understand it.
After breakfast both decided that they needed some fresh air and went for a walk. Joe, somewhat recovered now, was bursting with questions. Before Yamo could answer one, Joe was already asking the next one. Finally Yamo told Joe to simply sit down on a bench and shut up and just listen. Joe complied and did his best not to interrupt Yamo's story too often.
"I am not sure how old I am, but I was born into a tribe that followed half wild cattle in the area where Turkey is today. Well, somewhere around there. I died when a lightning struck a rock above me, and stones fell on my head. I woke up an hour or so later, found blood but no wound, figured my head was harder than the stones, and went home. I did not notice anything unusual until years later, when everybody around me seemed to age - everybody but me. My people did not know what to make out of this, either, but they seemed to think I was some kind of wonder like stars falling from the sky or something. But too many people I had grown up with died over the years. When my mate was dying, who had been our Shaman for a long time, I decided that it might be a good idea to leave and try to find out what was going on. So he called the spirits a last time and tried to find out what they had to tell about me. His revelations confused me beyond anything, I have to admit, although nowadays they make perfect sense to me. He saw my dead body under the place where the lightning had struck, numerous heads dancing around me in strange streams of energy, me married with children, pyramids, and a lot of strange stuff. He also told me I had to find a place where the rain would rise instead of fall every year, somewhere in the south, where one of my sons some day would be king. So when he died and I had buried him, I packed my things and went south, never to see my people again. I am not sure what confused my more back then - the thought of being married or the thought of rain rising instead of falling. But both, and all the rest, did indeed happen."
"So you, errrr, well, did not consider marriage back then?" Joe asked. "No, not really. I mean, I always wanted kids, and I had given it a try or two, but never successfully. But I had never considered marriage. But then I guess no immortal who is a couple of hundred years old, not to mention a couple of thousands still makes a dogma out of his preferences. That is a quite new concept anyway. I mean, some can't, even if they want, but with most people I have met its somewhere in between." Joe just nodded, and then asked: "And where does the rain rise instead of fall? Doesn't make sense, does it?" "It's the rain that did not make sense - at least not to Egyptians. To them water falling from the sky was something strange. So they called it the Heavenly Nile that fell from the sky instead of properly rising once a year. Its all a matter of what you are used to. If you are used to water rising from a river orderly once a year, then what is the use of it falling from the sky?" "Uhm," Joe said, "Guess that makes sense. So you went to Egypt?"
"I went south. It wasn't as if there had been any maps or even tales telling more than very general directions. Hell, I was surprised when I met a people that had the funny notion of living in one place only without following cattle around or hunting. I didn't get the point of that, I have to admit. Sounded a bit boring to me. I was in no hurry, either. I stayed here and there, learned things, met people, went on when the mood took me or I had stayed too long. I had wandered a long time already when I met my first other immortal. I was irritated by the quickening, and afraid of his sword. I had seen them before, but they were *very* expensive, as all metals were, so I had none. He tried to take my head, and I killed him with my knife and went my way. An hour later that bastard was after me again. I was scared like hell. I mean I had *killed* him. And I knew what I was doing. Well, we had another fight, and I managed to kill him again, cause he simply relied on having the longer weapon. I didn't have a sword, but I had hands and feet and a knife and stones to throw and whatever I could use. And I used it. He fell into a river, badly wounded, and I was sure I had killed the bastard this time. Guess what?" "Uhm, he turned up again?" Joe guessed. "Bingo! Three days later there he was again. By now I was angry more than anything else. I mean, I had killed him twice already, that should do it, right? Frankly, so was he. So it came bloody close this time, and then I noticed what I had noticed before already, that he seemed to be going for my head somehow. I had simply put it down to him being a lousy fighter, but when I had him on the ground finally, I gave him back. I smashed his head between two stones to pulp - that did it, and I received my first quickening. Now at least I knew that I should try to keep my head on my shoulders, although nothing more, 'cause he did not know any more himself. After that, I really started looking for the land where the rain rises instead of falls, because now I was really curious about what was going on." "And this time you found it?"
"Well, it still took me a while. I reached a place where Yemen is today, and I stayed there for a long time, must have been a hundred years or so. I had found somebody - ..." He actually blushed, and grinned when he noticed it. "Seth. He had been to Egypt, but thought it advisable not to go back there for a while. Actually, that was not uncommon with him. There was always a place where it was not advisable for him to go back for a while for as long as I knew him, and that has been a long time." He stopped talking for a moment, lost in memories. Joe waited as long as he could endure the silence, which was for about half a minute, and then asked: "So you two were together for that long? Somehow I seem to run in one ancient deity after another recently. How about you?" "Me, I hate politics. I kept myself out of this business. And for the rest, it was an accident more or less, simply becoming legend. With the notable exception of that little bastard Horus - he had no scruples of using his immortality to get power, power and more power. Nice mixture of Macciavelli and Nero, that kid. Even Isis hated him, and he was her son."
"But you had not met her yet, had you?" Joe asked. "No, not yet. Seth told me a lot about being immortal, and he taught me how to use a sword, too, but he did not want to go to back to Egypt for a while. Anyway, after a long while we went to Egypt, it was a strange land even then, different from everything I had ever know and will ever get to know. And there I met Isis, too. I was thrilled by the thought of being able to become a father finally, I have to admit. Something Seth had not told me. Guess he thought I might leave him or something, big stupid boy that he was. She had a mate back then, anyway." "Not, by any accident, Osiris?" Joe asked. "Oh yes, Osiris. That is where the legend came from. The two of them ruled upper Egypt, together, and for a long time. Actually, it was Osiris Seth had wanted to avoid. The two of them did not get along too well. Osiris was a nice enough guy, but he had that notion of having a duty to rule his people well. He was the first bureaucrat I have ever met. Unfortunately not the last one, though. You know, he became immortal when he was ritually sacrificed to ensure the fertility of the land. It was the time where kings were killed ritually after a time. Excellent idea to prevent tyrants, in my opinion, but of course he rose from the dead. And so he remained their king, and when Isis came to Egypt, she was his queen. They ruled for hundreds of years, until one of their children, that little bastard Horus, decided that *he* wanted the throne now. Anyway, he was not even born when Seth and I came to Egypt, and we all sort of got along fairly well. It was a good time, it was a good land."
"Puh, that might take me some time to swallow." Joe said. "I guess you could rewrite a few history books." "I guess I could rewrite most history books." Yamo answered somewhat immodestly. "But before I start, how about something to drink?" "There is a cafe in the park, let's go there." Joe said, and they went.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Duncan went along the Seine, carrying the baby in a scarf. In a way it felt odd, carrying a baby in his front and a well concealed sword at his back. He wondered briefly how he would ever be able to explain this to his - oh well, his daughter, it seemed. Another thought that felt thoroughly unfamiliar. How to deal with the absolutely unexpected? And not an unexpected fight, or a shipwreck that landed him into a strange country, but a little human that would need care and attention for years to come and would utterly depend on him.
Although he had a feeling that Isis might want to have a say in that, too. He had no idea why she stuck around the way she did. Compared to her Amanda was as easy to look through as glass, and he had never thought he would be able to say that of anybody. She reminded him of Methos sometimes, who occasionally acted out of a completely different set of rules - as he had once pointed out, he had been born before the age of chivalry.
So, obviously, was Isis. She had simply taken for granted that she would stay with him, and he had agreed. Granted, she obviously did know a lot more than he did about caring for a baby, and it was nice to be with her, but he had given to trying to convince himself that that was the main reason that he let her stay with him. What he was not able to figure out was why exactly he was attracted to her so much.
He had always liked independent women, but even that was different with her. There simply had to be some basic agreements about a lot of things in life, he had always thought. And it had always taken him a lot of time before started to take a woman for granted. But in a way he had already started to take her for granted, somehow skipping the part of a relationship where you start to explore the others interest and try to match it to your own. Some things he had always thought to be absolutely necessary did not seem to matter at all now. And whether he agreed with her or not on many things was something he had not been able to find out at all - she was too different to assess that. Surely she had very different views on many things - property, for example. She always seemed to have money, and he had not exactly been pleased when he found out that her favourite source for it was other peoples purses, which she picked from their pockets with an unbelievable skill. 'Tough luck!' had been her only comment. But he suspected that she would never ask him to help her out trouble she might bring herself into. She liked men (obviously), but she did not depend on them.
And strangely enough, he liked it. Even if sometimes he was more than surprised at her actions. But he definitely wanted to spend more time with her. Besides, she *did* know more about caring for a baby than he did.
Still pondering the mysteries of love, he suddenly became aware of somebody following him. He tried to get a better look, and after a wile he had made out his follower. It was a perfectly ordinary looking man in his early fifties, who seemed to be *very* interested in the many bridges that span the Seine. Duncan could not make out his tattoo, but was fairly certain that the man was a watcher. He'd pull Joe's leg a bit with that the next time he called him.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Methos did not look as if he'd feel any better than Joe or Yamo. Like Yamo had thought before, he remarked: "I do love family reunions, but the headache that follows - we should have them in Arabia the next time, at least there is less alcohol around." "Come on, sit down." Yamo invited him. Methos had called Joe on his cellular phone when he had not reached him at home. Yamo had told him to join him at the Cafe, so that he would not have to do all the talking, because Joe was still asking one question after the other. Joe found Yamo much more forthcoming with information than Isis, although of course Yamo was perfectly capable of hiding between all the talking and the nice stories the things he had no intention whatsoever to talk about.
Joe was still thoroughly confused by the thought that there was somebody around that called Methos 'Junior'. It had taken him a while to get used to the thought that he actually knew the oldest living immortal - to meet his parents had been a shock. He was amused, though, by the way Yamo still treated his son on occasions. He had just told Methos that the pullover he was warning was too cold for that time of the year. Just like his mother had, until a few years ago, when she had died. He had complained then that she obviously never fully realised that he had grown up. Seemed about 5000 years still was not old enough to escape that.
"What's so amusing?" Yamo asked. Joe told them. "No, it isn't old enough!" Methos complained. "I just wonder *when* I am old enough to decide which pullover to wear!" Yamo told him: "It could be a lot worse! Imagine Osiris was your father, and he'd still be around!" Methos pulled a face. "What was so bad about him?" Joe asked. "Nothing you can really call bad." Methos said. "It's just that he was so awfully orderly and responsible. And he always knew what was best for you. Not that he had not been right most of the time, but it was getting on my nerves. On Isis', too. Or he would have been my father." "So they spilt up?" "For a short time, at least. That was after they had abdicated the throne of Egypt to Horus, figuring 320 years on the throne were enough." "Yikes!" Methos interrupted. " Joe asked: "What's 'Yikes'?" "Horus. That little...." A look at Yamo's face told Joe that the two men absolutely agreed on that subject. "So, what was so bad about him?" "He was a rotten spoiled brat who wanted the throne of Egypt just because it was there, and he figured when he sat on it that nobody would be able to tell him to stop doing this and stop doing that." "This and that?" "Yes, he had a few habits that I have not learned to tolerate in 5000 years - especially concerning women and how to treat them." Methos answered.
Yamo continued: "So he talked his parents into giving to the throne to him, supposedly to hand it to mortals in the end. He had it for about a hundred years, until Osiris figured it was time to give it to a mortal. Horus first killed Osiris' candidate, and then his own father, saying that he finally succeeded where Osiris' people had failed all those years ago. Little bastard." Joe said: "Sounds like he was mad to me." "Oh no, he wasn't. Just obsessed with power." "And what happened to Isis. I can't imagine that she took that too well?" "No, she didn't, or rather she wouldn't have had, had he been still alive when she came back after she heard what happened, because she had been in Memphis at the time. Anyway, Horus figured that he'd better clean up the whole lot, so he went for me next, cause I happened to be around. He challenged me, and we fought, and that was near a temple site. We got onto the temple ground, and I dropped my sword as soon as I noticed. He didn't." Yamo stopped speaking, shuddering with those memories. Joe asked impatiently: "So, what happened?" "Uuuh, booooom. The whole world seemed to crash. There was a thunderstorm like I have never seen one before, and an earthquake that destroyed the whole temple. A flash hit him, and he died, obviously, and I received a quickening I hope never to receive again. It actually *hurt* like hell. And then I was burried under the temple ruins."
"We once heard that the volcanic erruption that burried Pompejii was caused by two immortals fighting on holy ground. It was not that bad with you then?" Joe asked. "No, it wasn't, probably because I had dropped my sword. I don't know, I have heard that rumor, too, if they didn't stop, both of them, I do belive it."
"And that was the end to your stay in Egypt?" "No, of course not! No, Seth dug me out, he was desperate, he was desperate, and I'll never forgett his face when he finally found me, and then Isis came back, and of course everything was in a state of turmoil, and so we tried to calm things down and end the rule of immortals over Egypt at last. Well, almost. Isis appeared as a goddes, cause supposedly she had gone to the underworld with Osiris, proclaiming that there was to be a new king that would be hers and Osiris' son, like all his decendants." "Who was that supposed to be, if Osiris candidate was dead?" Methos coughed. Joe looked at him, grinned, and said: "Your majesty!?!" Yamo chuckled, and Methos actually blushed. "I didn't want to!" he proclaimed, and I did leave my throne to my supposed son!" "Yes, and he finaly united upper and lower Egypt, too, and made it one country. And then he 'died' and we simply went on to live as ordinary people where we had lived so long. Appart from occasional trips, of course, we stayed there, almost, oh, most of the time of our lives, except from Methos, who always was a bit restless, and Isis, when her brother came anywhere near. And Seth, of course, if he had to leave in a hurry." Yamo grinned fondly.
Joe wanted to know: "Seth - you and him were together, weren't you? So you went with him, when he 'had to leave in a hurry'?" "As often as not - I mean you can't stay together for a few thousand years without needing a break now and then." "A few thousand years!" To Joe that sounded pretty long, even for an immortal. Methos nodded, too. "Dad does not mind having a bit fun in between, but basically he is a very steady guy." "Runs in the family, I guess." Yamo agreed: "Besides, when everything changes around you it's nice to come home and find the same guy at least." "So where is he now?" "He did not return from one journey, that was in the year, puh, around 1450 on your calendar. I never found out what happened to him." His hand went to his neck. Methos asked: "Are you still wearing it?" "Yes, well, I broke the chain yesterday, so it's in my pocket." Joe was about to ask what he was still wearing, when Yamo cellular phone rang.
He answered it, ignoring Methos' grin as he fumbled with the small buttons. "Yes. --- Oh, Dr. James! How are you doing? --- That's good, I am fine too. Met - an old friend. --- Oh, that's nice to hear! I hope you enjoyed it. --- Oh, did he! Well, he is a nice guy, and he certainly has an interesting job. ---- Yes, I think so. --- Of course, if I can. --- How I'd draw what? --- Errr, well, I'd draw the vertical line, then the ring, and then the horizontal line, why? --- Yes, basically, why are you asking?. --- How? Describe that again, please. --- No, sorry, but it doesn't. Sounds cumbersome to me. --- No, sorry, I can't help you. --- Good luck to you too, with officer Gordon. Bye."
He put the phone back into his pocket, looking very thoughtful now. He looked at Methos and asked: "How would you draw an Ankh?" "Huh? Well, like you, vertical line, ring, horizontal line. Why?" "Because the Ankh found at the murder scenes was drawn vertical line from bottom to top, then turned right into the one half of the horizontal line, then the left half of it and the ring in one line. It did not make sense to her. It does not to me, either. Unless....." "Yes," Methos agreed, "unless it was a broken ankh." Both looked at each other, half horrified, half suddenly understanding. Joe did not understand anything, until Yamo pulled something golden out of his pocket. It was an Ankh, and it was broken, one piece like this |_ and the other like this _o.
"What does that mean?" Joe asked. He saw that Yamo had tears in his eyes. He guessed: "Seth?" Yamo just nodded, and Methos said: "He gave it to him - I don't know when, he had it already when I was little. Dad was wearing one half, and Seth the other. I found Seth's half a few hundred years ago in China, and brought it back. Then at least we knew for certain that he was dead." "And ever since I have carried them together." Yamo said. "And what is that supposed to mean? Joe asked. "That the Shadow killed Seth, or that at least he carries Seth Ka now." Yamo did not sound as if he cherished the thought. If fact, he sounded a lot as if he'd start crying any moment.
"His Ka is his quickening?" Joe wanted to know. "Sort of - you see, every human being has two souls...." "According to Egyptian believes, that is." Methos interrupted. "Yes." Yamo continued, "But while it might be ancient, it certainly makes it easier to explain a few things. Anyway, the souls or spirits are the Ba and the Ka. The Ba is the power of live, roughly. The essence of being, so to say. The Ka is similar to your Christian belives, the soul with who a person is. It is difficult to explain, but that is basically the difference. Anyway, if you recive the quickening, then you basically get a persons Ba. But you also get the Ka, although you usually won't notice, because the Ka is not yours, and you have your own. However, some immortals are able to speak to the Ka of the people they have killed. Or access it, or whatever. The Ka is always there, in all cases, but most of the time immortals do feel very little of it. It helps, for example, if you killed someone who spoke a certain language, and then it is easier to learn that language. But it is like a very vague memory, something you hardly ever even dream about. However, you can learn to access it, to speak to the sould of the poeple you have killed, and even to the sould of the people *they* have l killed, and so on. But there are not many who can. It is not necessarily fun, either. I killed one who had become an SS guard in a concentration camp, mostly because he *liked* to torture people. It has taken me almost 50 years to get over some of his memories."
"So it can happen, as it almost happened to Duncan, that the Ka of a very strong immortal takes over, when he is beheaded." Joe said. "No," said Yamo, "that is a legend I have heard a few times, but no, impossible, with a single exception, and that is the Shadow. And he is not exactly your run-of-the-mill immortal, thanks God!" "But what about Darius, and what happened to Duncan then?" "Darius, well, look at it from his point of view: He was a good and honourable man, who saw war as the only way to put things right, to make the world better. Has never worked, but does not diminish his intentions, not at least back then. Then he killed the eremite, and suddenly he saw a different way to do it - yes, it was presumably his Ka, but he merely felt it, because the love for peace and all this was very strong in the eremite, so that Darius could catch a glimpse at it. But it was nothing more than that, he did not need more. He was the same before and after, I assure you. And I knew the eremite, too - it was *not* him! And Duncan - what about him?" Methos told him the story of Duncan's dark quickening briefly. "You ought to know what that was!" Yamo exclaimed. "Yes, of course I do!" his son replied. But tell Joe, cause he still is afraid for Duncan at times." Yamo looked at Joe a bit scornfully: "Don't worry, your boy-scout is good with his sword, I heard, and the 'dark quickening', well, if he got through one, he'll manage the next a lot easier. Although the chance that he'll ever get one more is rather low." Methos chuckled. Duncan's 'I know what's good and right and I'll do it' attitude got on his nerves occasionally, too. He'd haer a lot of *very* sarcastic remarks for and 0about Duncan from Yamo, should the two of them ever stick together for any length of time.
"So? What happened?" Joe wanted to know. "Well, you know anger, hate, fear. They are a sort of energy, and some - very few actually - people have learned to take that energy from somebody. Some simply let it go away, like a lightning rod. But some store it away, somewhere deep inside them. That's fine, as long as it is not too much. A mortal usually will never reach their limits. If an immortal does that often enough, though, BOOOOM. It has to go somewhere. You see what happens then. That's all. No Ba, although it is presumably the negative energy to the Ba's positive one, because it is transferable. Then you have to get rid of it somehow. And that, believe me, takes a lot. I know, I once got one of those. Wasn't fun, was it?" "No," Methos said, "it wasn't. I was there back then, and I remember you standing in front of the Dome in Cologne and screaming with pain and horror and fighting it. Lucky we were in Holy Cologne, it was so plastered with churches and monasteries that it was no problem getting you to one, where you could recover. Although you almost killed the priests who tried to exorcise the 'demon' in you." Yamo only managed a half-grin, and then asked: "Did they ever finish that dome? Last time I was there they had not managed." "Yes, about a hundred years ago. Great celebration for a united Germany it was. Bit late to finish a Gothic dome, but looks nice. Doesn't stand properly, though, they cleared up all the space around it, so it looses effect. I think they looked a lot more impressive if you'd suddenly stand in front.... are you listening?" Yamo looked very thoughtful suddenly, he scratched his head and said: "What, sorry, no." and fell back into silence. Methos and Joe looked at each other, both wondering what he was thinking about. When he didn't say anything for a while, Methos continued telling Joe about this church, then about another, until Yamo shook his head vigorously and said: "Junior, know what, I could need a bit of exercise. Is there a place here where we can fight?" "Sure, Duncan's dojo." "Let's go." "What's it?" "I dunno, but it is something - I just need a diversion, maybe then I know what I know."
When the car approached the dojo, suddenly both Methos and Yamo looked around startled. Joe saw it and asked: "What's wrong now?" And uni sono they said: "It's him. He's here!" Joe hit the braces. "I guess we want to go the other way, right?" Yamo nodded vigorously, Methos said loud and clearly: "Yes!", then both opened the car doors and went out. Yamo turned back and said: "Don't worry - its enough when we do. Hey, we have to go, or we will never have a quiet moment again. And wait here, and lock the car doors, and don't open them to anybody. Instead, when *anybody* comes close, hit the accelerator!" And both men went towards the dojo, Yamo mumbling :"I did not mean *that* kind of exercise."
Joe let the motor run, just in case, but he locked the doors. After he had heard how the Shadow had killed Jerry, he did not really want to take a chance - although whether a car was sufficient protection against the Shadow he doubted. He settled down to wait, knowing, no matter how short the wait would be, it would be a very long one.
A few minutes later though, he heard sirens, without having seen any sign of a quickening. Then he saw a fire engine heading towards the dojo. Knowing that the Shadow would avoid any publicity, and unable to bear the tension any longer, he drove to the dojo. Indeed there was a fire inside, but with much relive he saw something else - both Yamo and Methos, coughing, but apparently unharmed, at this moment heading out of the door. Yamo stumbled, and grabbed something from the floor. When they saw the fire engine, they stopped, and went slowly to the car, still coughing. A search warrant on them for arson was something both did not need right now, besides, their lungs were too full of smoke to run very fast.
The fire engine stopped, and Methos shouted: "Isn't too bad, we managed to put out the worst, so don't drown it." "We know how to do our job!" one of the fireman shouted back, already unrolling the hose (?).
Joe got out of the car, and demanded to know what had happened. "He must have got away a moment before us, seems he did not find anything useful, so he decided that he wanted some fireworks - my guess at least. He spilled alcohol, the way it smelled." Yamo explained. Methos added: "That was my favourite whisky! Now it's personal!" "Hell, Son, as long as it wasn't your favourite parent's blood, stop complaining!" "I'll buy you a new bottle." Joe offered. The men laughed at the lousy joke, out of relive, something that sent both immortals coughing again.
By now the place started to fill up, an ambulance had arrived, and a police siren could be heard. The ambulance men got out, heading towards the car, where Yamo and Methos stood with ashes (?) on their clothes and faces. They politely refused to be brought to hospital, Methos claiming not to be insured, and Yamo, not knowing what this insurance business was about, claiming that he was fine, really, that everything was OK, that he did not like hospitals, and that it was really nothing. He also made a mental note to say something about 'no insurance' the next time, too. Seemed to work a lot faster. He took a few sniffs from the oxygen they were offered, though. Immortal or not, it simply took a while to cough the smoke out of his lungs, and it hurt. Another ambulance man approached Joe, who still looked ghastly pale. But it was simply both shock and relive, so he too sent the man away. After being assured by the firemen that nobody had been inside the house, the ambulance went away, only to be replaced by a police car, whose officers started to ask uncomfortable questions.
Yamo left it to Methos to answers their questions, who decided for a version that did not differ too much from the truth. "The dojo belongs to a friend of mine, who is on holiday. We came here for a training session, when I found the door lock broken, and we smelled smoke. So we went inside, and put out some of the fire that was about to ignite more stuff. We let the couch burn when we heard the fire engine, since we had already inhaled enough smoke. We saw nobody, although not all of the alcohol that was spilled already burned, so it must have been a matter of seconds. However, when we smelled the fire we both did not think about running after whoever it was. As far as I know Duncan has no enemies." Of course he had to repeat parts of that a few times, until the officer believed him. A neighbour had seen them coming by *after* he had called the fire brigade, though, so they were no suspects. Methos asked whether he could go in and have a look, so that he could inform his friend. After some 'I am really doing you a favour' and 'I don't have to do that' the officer agreed, and Methos went inside and came out again quickly. The officer promised to call him when they were finished at the scene, so Methos could take care about the broken lock, and they left.
Inside the car, and on the way to Joe's flat, Yamo was the first to break the silence: "And?" "Guess who." Methos replied. "Cinderella?" Joe guessed, but he did not sound amused. "No, Snow White and the six dwarfs, having number seven for grilled lunch. Bastard. Left his sing on the wall again. That is, his sign on one and the two others at another. But I don't think he found anything, unless Duncan keeps his secrets in the same file as his tax declarations. One of those was missing." "Wouldn't be a bad place." Joe said. "Nobody likes to be reminded of his taxes." "I told you he is weird even for a wacko. Stealing tax records." That was Yamo. "Draw the other sign again for me, Menes." Methos did, and Yamo stared at it. Slowly an idea seemed to form in his mind, when Methos asked him for a handkerchief. He reached in his pocket, where he found what he had picked up from the floor when he had stumbled. "Damn!" he said. "What's it?" Joe asked. "It's a copy of a ticket to Paris." Methos remarked angrily: "How can Duncan be so stupid?" But Yamo said: "No, not Duncan. It's dated yesterday, and the plane leaves in 30 minutes." (?)
Joe already held his phone in his hand and dialled Duncan's number in Paris. It rang and rang and rang, but nobody answered. With every ring the men got quieter and more nervous. Until finally Yamo said: "Stop it. Try later." and he used his own to call the New York police to inform them that their suspect was probably in on this and that flight. They drove home, with Joe trying again and again to reach Duncan, but they had no luck. Their mood did not get much better when Gordon called them hours later to tell them that they had checked everybody on the plane, and even had fingerprints taken from some passengers in Paris, they had not found him. He also gave Yamo a lecture for withholding evidence when he had grabbed that piece of paper from the floor (which the Seacouver police had already retrieved).
Joe wondered aloud ever since immortals asked the police to help them. But Yamo argued that they had no idea who the Shadow was this time. Besides, none of them might be able to stop him, and then it was better he was caught. Of course there were dangers when immortals went to prison, and this one was expecting a life sentence at least. But on the other hand, once you knew where he was, there was always a way to get at his head. It wasn't *his* favourite choice either, but then the Shadow was a special case. Anyway, it had yielded nothing.
Restless, the two immortals had decided to take a walk, while Joe kept trying to reach Duncan. He also would pack a few things together - Methos and Yamo wanted to follow the Shadow, and Joe had stated that he would go with them. They had decided to leave the next morning, whether they had reached Duncan by then or not. Whatever the reason for Duncan's and Isis' absence was, until a few hours ago it could not possibly have been the Shadow. Methos, always the optimist, claimed he might be by now. Yamo threw something at him, and Joe looked as if he thought along the same line.
Methos tried to cheer Yamo up with stories about 'Uncle' Seth, but Yamo kept brooding over the fact that the Shadow now carried his quickening. Methos pointed out the advantages of that, the fact that he might be able to get through just at the right moment, but Yamo did not put too much hope into it. It was rare enough that it was possible at all, and they speculated a lot about the fact. The Lama had not felt any Ka souls in him, so it had to do with the new 'host' of the Shadow. He either was so unstable himself that it added up with the Shadows madness, or so strong and positive that he tried to fight him and had sought and got help. Whatever it was, thinking about it made Yamo remember the last time he had seen his pal, friend and lover the last time. Then he suddenly smacked his head and shouted: "Prague!" He smacked his head again, and again, and Methos asked whether everything was OK. "Yup, let's go!" was the only answer, and Yamo walked back, fast. Methos shouted behind him: "And where?" and then he tried to keep up with Yamo, which proved to be difficult, although his father was almost a head shorter than he was.
"Prague!" Yamo shouted as soon as they came into Joe's flat. Methos wondered how he could possibly do that - he was gasping for air. Joe looked at him, smiling and said: "How did you find out?" "Oops!" said Methos, "find out what?" "Where they are. They just called and said they are in...." "Don't! Please, Joe, don't say it, please, don't." Yamo was howling. Methos felt like it, too. Joe looked from father to son and back. "Errrr, is there anything else in Prague besides Duncan and Isis?" "I'm afraid yes - with a rather unpleasant probability Connor, and the Shadow knows. If he is not going there right now." The sigh Joe let out could have softened the heart of a tax collector. He grabbed for the phone, turned, looked at Yamo for confirmation, who just nodded, looked at Methos, who nodded too, and dialled the airport number.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Did he say four hours before we can even get to Frankfurt?" Yamo complained. Joe tried to calm him down. "It's in the middle of the night, and we can leave for Frankfurt in an hour, too. Only we'd sit at the Airport there for 3 hours, and I'd rather sit here. Maybe Duncan calls again, or Isis. And in the air they can't reach us. Here they can. Oh, and by the way, why Prague? I mean, I trust your hunches just as Methos does, I guess, but why?" "Valid question. Right, first, Rachel Hunter. Refugee from Czechoslovakia. Connor saved her from the Nazis, I guess. Well, there was a Rachel Hunter just released from a hospital in New York, dying from cancer. She 'wanted to go home a last time'. Connor's Rachel did not look very well when Gordon last saw her. Duncan said, his cousin had to 'take care of a friend', and that he didn't know how long it would take. So, that's one trail. The other, the ominous sign. Junior, what's in Prague?" Methos knew what he was driving at. "The Hradschin. With the St. Veit dome on top." "Uh," said, Joe, trying to remember his Geography lessons. "The Hradschin is a castle on a hill nearby Prague?" "It's more than a castle, much bigger, for once, and right in the centre of Prague." "And why should this be the St. Veit's Dome? There are others, how about that one in Cologne you mentioned?" "Well, indeed that is its bigger brother, even build by the same architect. But it does not stand on a hill. Besides, Prague is where I last saw him, standing in front of that Dome and seeing its twin towers rise." Methos said: "Are you sure it's not just his fond memories?" "Quite. One, Seth is - was - fond of memories, but not when there was more urgent business at hand. Second, the ankh is for memories - so the other sign has to be for something else. Listen, I know it's ambiguous, but the chance that Connor is in Prague is a rather big one. The Shadow has just left for Europe. Duncan and Isis are in Prague. So it is a good place to go even if I am profoundly wrong, and I doubt that."
* * * * * * * * * * *
They were walking over the Karl's Bridge. Isis was carrying the baby, and Duncan the bag with nappies and bottles and all the stuff that seemed to be needed nowadays for a baby. Some things she had admitted were quite useful, but others had got a suspicious glare from here, and had got lost somehow. Duncan too recalled times in which there was a lot less fuss about these things, and had - for once without arguing - agreed to most of what she had said. He also did not rally against the baby's mother any more for some unknown reason she started to argue with him every time he did that.
Why they had had to leave Paris in such a hurry she had not told him yet. Well, of course there had been the clumsy watcher, but to suspect someone behind him who worked for the guy who tried to kill her seemed to be a bit far-fetched. So he had gone out for a while, and when he came back he had found the boat empty and a note that said: 'I am at the airport. Will let you know where we have gone.' Had it been only her, he'd have regretted her departure very much. But for some reason she had decided to take the baby - HIS baby - with her. So he had driven to the airport in a neck breaking speed. He had found her still looking for a place to go to. He had started to shout at her, and only stopped when the airport police had threatened him with arrest. When he had calmed down, he saw that she was genuinely afraid, and she had claimed that whoever was after her had seen the baby now, and so she had decided to take it with her. That was what she had told herself, too, although it was as much fear as it was the inability to leave Little Ann behind.
Not convinced that there really *was* any danger, but seeing that Isis thought so, he had tried to postpone their departure. That too was in vain, and after another hour of arguing they had just booked two seats on a plane to Prague. Duncan had had no intention of going either to Egypt or Arabia nor to India, and she had wanted to go to a place she knew. Since she had not spend much time in Europe in the last 200 years, that proved difficult. So Prague had been a bit of a random choice, with the advantage of being full of tourists, so they would be a lot less easy to spot. Unfortunately the hotel they were staying at was taking advantage of the season, too. They were heading to the Hradschin, because Isis wanted to enjoy the view (so did Duncan) and because she wanted an overview of what had changed. In the Centre of the town, that was not too much - Prague being one of the very few Central European towns that did not suffer mayor destruction in the war. But everything around it had changed very much. It did not matter - all places changed, and here at least there were some things unchanged.
Isis stopped to admire one of the painters that were drawing views of Prague and selling them to the tourists. "Do you want one?" Duncan asked. "I could take one of these postcards and send it to Yamo. He likes pretty pictures." "You know that they are just pulling money out of tourists pockets?" Duncan asked. "I lived for 20 years from real cobbles from Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem, so don't tell me anything about duping tourists." She grinned. "When was that?" "During the first Crusade. Boy, were those Christians easy to dupe!" She chuckled. "Say, honesty is not on your agenda, is it?" Duncan asked. "But sure it is! It was the tomb of Joshua ben Josip all right - wasn't *that* one, but close enough for me!" Duncan still had his difficulties in coping with her rather liberal views on some matters. She brought a particular colourful postcard and said: "Guess I'll reach him at Joe's address, don't you think so?" She knew exactly that he did not. "Well, if you send it to the bar, Joe will surely hand it over to him." "No, no, not the bar. I am sure Yamo stays with Joe!" She grinned inwardly. So young they tended to be a bit naive sometimes. Duncan looked slightly confused. Then he shook his head and said: "Joe is a nice guy, but I am sure Yamo can afford a hotel!" "Yamo presumably can afford to *buy* a hotel, but why should he. After all, it's much nicer not to sleep alone!" Subtle hints seemed to be wasted on Duncan. He protested: "But Joe - he isn't - I mean, I'd know, and ..." His voice trailed off. After all, of course he knew Joe, but he had also learned that most people most of the time were able to enjoy both sides of the issue, some more, some less. Still, he had simply taken it for granted... "You have simply taken it for granted, haven't you?" Isis asked. "Of course not! It's just that I have seen him with a couple of women, and so I thought...." "Duncan, such a beautiful head like yours is just not made for thinking." she said, and pulled him down to her and kissed him. To his own surprise he embraced her, and the kiss lasted a lot longer than any of them had anticipated. Little Ann between them seemed to enjoy it very much, too, and gurgled. Still, he looked reproachful when they parted. She just chuckled, though. He just thought: 'Wherever and whenever this woman was born - it was not a place and time where women were told that men were their natural superiors, or that they should obey and honour them.'
* * * * * * * * * * * At the same time at a graveyard near Prague, Connor stood over a grave, a shawl drawn over his head, and he was speaking the kaddish for Rachel. He was sure her god did not mind, even if his house was not the one he usually prayed in. She had died peacefully in his arm, the pain taken away by morphine, and he had felt nothing, just sadness, knowing the pain would set in later - the be now familiar pain of surviving someone you love. He had so much wanted it to end when he had killed the Kurgan - he had believed it for a while. Maybe because of what his old teacher had said, Ramirez. That a battle in a city with twin towers would end it all. But it was not meant to be, and he stood there, wondering how often in the years to come he would stand at a grave of someone he loved, and if the pain would ever become less.
He had just finished the prayer, and was folding the shawl away, when he felt a buzz. He turned around, and saw a dark-haired women looking over at him in surprise, and then smiling at him looking very uncertain.
* * * * * * * * * * *
On Methos advice Yamo had chosen clothes that were fit for a tourist. Methos had laughed when he saw the collection his father had assembled in the past few weeks and months. The Himalayas were not a good place to catch the tidings of fashion, and consequently Yamo had tried out a few things. All best quality, of course. They also proved very practical for changing into a whole new outfit from time to time, if necessary. All three of them had not packed too many clothes, although of course Methos and Yamo's bags had to be big enough to keep a sword inside. The had checked in at the airport, Methos insisting that they paid cash, since one never knew whether the Shadow still had people following them, and now they sat in one row in the plane, that was rather empty, although it would fill up substantially in New York. For the next few hours, though, not too many people were disturbed by the fact that none of them felt like sleeping yet, and therefore they talked. Especially Yamo was very nervous, and was constantly moving in his seat, and talking with both hands, when he was not pressing Joe's. They were going through the evidence they had a few times, but could think of nothing new. Then they started to tell stories, but neither enjoyed them as much as they had in the evening at the bar. Duncan and Isis had not called again, probably no wanting to disturb them at the middle of the night. Neither had answered an e-mail, either. After New York the plane was full, and Joe simply pulled Yamo over to him, and only then Yamo calmed down, and fell asleep, together with both others.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"So you have never taken a head?" Connor asked. "No", she said, "the man who tried to kill me told me a bit when I asked him 'Why', but it was not much, and then he went for me, and I managed to shove him over a cliff, but he is after me again. When I felt you, I thought it was him!" She sounded pretty upset. "But we were in holy ground! No immortal would attack you on holy ground. It's a rule none of us would ever break. And you are safe with me - I don't go for heads just for the sake of a quickening." Actually, he was glad he had found her - maybe it was something to do instead of grieve. "Tell me all you know about this man." he asked her. "Well, his name is Yamo, he told me."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Duncan and Isis spent a pleasant day in Prague, sightseeing, dining out, and went to bed and fell fast asleep. Even the slight nagging feeling in her guts did not keep Isis awake. The Shadow could not be near, had he been in reach to feel him, it would have been unmistakable. Just nerves, she guessed, trying to arrange one arm so that it would not go numb (there is always one arm too much when two people try to sleep close together) and falling asleep while still arranging it.
* * * * * * * * * * *
At the airport in Frankfurt a steward tried to calm down a man who almost threw a fit when he heard that the plane to Prague would be late, although it was only half an hour. At that time of the night he hated overtired passengers who got upset over things no one could change anyway, like the weather. At least the other two men that were with him tried the same - calming Yamo down.
* * * * * * * * *
Connor was listening to her story. She had introduced herself as Christine. A student of anthropology, she had just returned from a field trip to Tibet, where she had taken a bad fall on a mountain side. She had counted herself just lucky, until, on the way back through India, she had encountered a man named Yamo. "And he told me he would take my head. I had no idea why, I mean I thought he was some kind of whacko, getting his kicks out of it or something. If he had not slipped on a cobble..." She shuddered when she thought of it. Connor tried to calm her down, telling her that he would teach her to fight, for that was the game she had to play now. She seemed to be grateful for that. After all, the shock of becoming immortal and not knowing what and why it had happened was something he remember only too well. It was absolutely scaring.
"Well, and you can stay a while with me." he told her. "Although I presumably will leave Prague rather sooner than later. I'll go back to Scotland, if you want to, it is easier to find a place there to practice, too." "I don't know." she answered. "But I'll think about it. I came here, you know, because I went to University here for a year, and I somehow did not dare to go home. Here at least I know the place." "I know that feeling, it is nice to come back to places one has felt at home at sometime." Connor really understood how she must feel after the story she had told him. He offered her his bed in the second bedroom, still not able to let her sleep in Rachel's bedroom, nor being able to sleep there himself. He would sleep on the couch, but would not tell the girl. And indeed he slept better than he had at any night in the previous weeks.
* * * * * * * * *
Later that night Methos, Joe and Yamo arrived at the airport, and, with the help of a friendly lady at the tourist counter, even managed to find a hotel. Joe called home again, where his barkeeper stayed at his place, to take any phone calls that might arrive. But none had. So they went to bed and slept uneasily until morning, occasionally even more disturbed by nightmares.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Suddenly she screamed. Duncan jolted up, turning to her, closed his arms around her, and said: "Eh, it's me, wake up, everything is all right!" Then Ann, too, started to scream, woken up suddenly by her mother's scream. Duncan told Isis to stay in bed, went over to the baby bed and carried Ann over to their bed, holding her in one arm, the other put around Isis.
"What was that? A bad dream?" "A nightmare - I think." Isis said. Then she shook her head a few times, and tilted her head as if she were listening to something. Duncan too felt around, and said: "There is no immortal near, if that's what you mean." "I just don't know whether I had a nightmare or whether he was really there." She shuddered with the thought, and she wanted this to be over - just how she did not know. She would not been able to fight him, Yamo was still in the US (as far as she knew), and whether Duncan had a chance she did not know, but she would hate to see him overtaken by the shadow. She had really grown to like him; and not only because he took care of Little Ann so nicely.
"There was not other immortal here, Isis, or I'd have felt it, too." Duncan tried to calm her down. She slowly nodded, and reaching out again, she felt nothing, so she put it down to a bad dream. For the rest of the night she did not sleep too well, though, and neither did Duncan.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Neither did Connor, to his own surprise. Although he had fallen asleep so easily, in the early morning he woke up from a strange dream - the Kurgan, but this time not fighting him, but he seemed to warn him. Which did not make sense at all, of course. He laid down again, only to see Ramirez in his next dream, and he too seemed to shout unhearable warnings at him.
He got up and tried to wake up completely, and had a look into the bedroom. Christine at least seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
The next morning was grey and dull. The first thing Joe did was calling home to see whether Duncan had called. He hadn't. That did not exactly raise their spirits. And although Yamo and Methos both managed to shovel an enormous amount of breakfast into themselves (this *not* being a hotel Adam Pierson could afford), they hardly noticed what they ate. All three of them tried to think of how to find their friends. Joe decided to see a fellow watcher. He knew that the man had not taken his 'treason' very well, but maybe he could convince him that it was important enough. That is, if the man knew anything about Connor or Duncan. Which was, unfortunately, not very likely. Methos would give it a try at the airport - after all, they had come spontaneously, and maybe booked a hotel at the airport or the tourist agency. Yamo would try hospitals, maybe Rachel had turned up in one of them. But mostly they were counting on their luck to find anybody - and hopefully not the Shadow.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Christine had told Connor that she needed to do some shopping, and somehow she had made it clear that she needed some time on her own, to digest what he had told her. He warned her to stay in crowded places, where there was no danger for such an untrained immortal as she was. They planed to leave Prague in two days, and go to Scotland.
Connor decided to stroll through the town again - after all, it held memories now. Memories of him and Rachel, knowing her end was near, visiting places she had known as a child, trying to find a trace of her history. It was hard to think about her - she had been the daughter he had never had, and like any parent, he thought that children should bury their parents, not vice versa. It was a good thing Christina had turned up now. She was a task, a duty to perform, something that would keep him from brooding too much. He walked through the Old Town, only to end up at the Ghetto. Here the madman Hitler had wanted to build a museum of a bygone race, once he had extinguished all Jews, and therefore pieces of Jewish art had been brought from all the countries he had overrun. He had not been able to extinguish a race, but he had extinguished a whole culture, those of the Eastern European Jews. Connor had briefly lived among them, around 1660, on his return from Japan. He went into the Old Jewish Cemetery, where he and Rachel had laid down a small stone on the grave of Rabbi Low, in place of the tomb of her parents, who never had had one. Suddenly he felt another immortal.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo had tried some of the bigger hospitals, guessing that they were the most likely ones where Connor might have gone to. But he had no luck. His way led him through the old part of the town, and he decided for a small detour through the Old Jewish Cemetery. He had always liked the place, it showed how the mortals came to term with the fact that they had to die. There was no place immortals had ever built where they could come to terms with the fact that they were immortal, and if they died, it was never peacefully, never prepared. Suddenly he felt a buzz.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Methos stood at the airport, thinking on where to go now. The lady at the tourist counter had been able to find some bookings made by either two adults or two adults with a child, and she had even given them to him. The story he had told her had served its purpose - about the baby maybe being infected when they saw a fried of his shortly before they had left Paris who had called him panicking about the possibility, and having no clue as the where they actually stayed. Well, he'd better start checking those hotels. And pray he'd find them.
Suddenly he jolted. There was a buzz - but not quite the usual one. It made him sick in the stomach. The Shadow! He was here!
Immediately he started looking around, and tried to make out the direction where the buzz came from by moving around. It started to weaken - the Shadow was moving away. There were so many people moving around, he was not able to single anybody out. The buzz got weaker. He went to the exits, and it got stronger again, only to become a lot weaker very quickly. He looked outside. There were a few busses and a lot of taxis moving away from the airport. No way to tell in which one the Shadow was. He cursed in several languages, some extinct for centuries now. Another chance missed to identify the Shadow. He went to the information counter and asked which machines had arrived in the past hour. As he had guessed, there was one from Paris among them.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Connor looked around, and saw a man standing on the cemetery, looking around both curiously and alarmed. Their eyes looked, and Connor went over to him. What he saw was a short sturdy man, with brown hair and emerald green eyes. He wore a long thin coat, obviously hiding his sword. The man was watching him approach, and looked at him so intensely as if he wanted to find out everything about him with this look. There was something very unsettling about him.
Then he spoke: "You are not, by any chance, Connor MacLeod?" Connor nodded in surprise. "And who are you?" "My Name is Yamo, and I..." Connor's eyes widened as he hear the name, and he exclaimed: "You are who??? You did not, by any chance, come from India recently?" Now Yamo looked surprised: "Yes, I did, but why? Hey, listen, we have to talk!" But Connor did not want to talk. "I know about you, and listen, you better stay away from me!" Yamo was speechless for a moment - that was not exactly what he had expected! When he had found his tongue again, and tried to answer, suddenly somebody behind them called out: "Herr Winter! Aber... Sie habe ich in Auschwitz gesehen!" (Mr. Winter, But... I have seen you in Auschwitz). "Thought so!" Connor said to Yamo, turned away from him, as an old Jewish man approached them from one side, while from the other a group of tourists flooded the cemetery. Yamo's confusion was written all over his face, while Connor, already going away, shouted at him "Stay away, if you want to keep your head!". The old man approached him, tugging at his arm, with a look of utter disbelief at his face. Yamo shot him a very angry glance, and looked after Connor, but he had already disappeared between the tourists.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"I am going to kill him! And before I take his head, I'll rip this stupid boy-scout tongue out of his stupid head! I'll make mincemeat of him! He's dead! That stupid idiot! Telling us he did not know where Connor was! He's dead!" Joe tried in vain to calm Yamo down. He had come back to the hotel from his singularly unpleasant visit from his fellow watcher, who had given him an one-and-a-half hour lecture about befriending immortals, only then to tell him he had not clue about Connor or Duncan.
He used all his strength to pull Yamo on the bed in their hotel room, to stop him from running around the room and kicking every piece of furniture in it. Yamo sat down, but he did not stop rallying. He finally calmed down enough to start telling what happened, and Joe began to understand why he was so upset.
Then something caught his attention. "Just a moment. Did he ask you whether you came back from India?" Yamo nodded. "But that is something Duncan did not know until he had no reason any more to warn his cousin about you - at least not so sternly that Connor would have reacted to harshly. He might not have recommended you as his best friend to his cousin, but he only learned that you have been in India at all long after he found out about Parker and why you killed him. If he knows at all - I don't know how much Isis told him about you at all, and I haven't seen him since you came back."
Yamo looked at him, uncomprehending. Joe too was confused. Then it began to dawn on both of them. Joe asked carefully: "Did the Shadow know you were in India?" "I went to see the Lama only a year ago, telling him where I had spent my time." Both men swallowed hard at the implications of that. "But would the Shadow not immediately kill him?" Joe asked. "I'd have thought so, but with him, you never know. Maybe he wanted to do Connor some dirty jobs for him before he takes his head. Like killing me, for example. Or even taking Isis head. Whatever. But how? Four-hundred-and-something year old immortals are usually not exactly naive about what they get told. Or they never become four-hundred-and-something. It must be someone he trusts!"
Joe thought so, too, and grabbed his notebook, to check Connor's file again, for any connection about friends of his who had been to the East recently. Yamo got ready to go out again, trying to find either Connor or Duncan and Isis. It had become a lot more urgent now. He was already half out of the door, when Joe wanted to know who the old man had been. "He saw me going out with Schneider at Auschwitz, and the next morning they found Schneider beheaded outside the camp. And Schneider had not exactly been SS man of the year for the inmates. Even among the SS, he was a dirty bastard." "And what did you tell him?" "That I was my own son, of course. Just hope he does not hold that angry glance against me, the old man, or being somewhat brusque." And he nodded, and went out of the door.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Isis and Duncan were the only ones who had a good time. Now they were sitting in an Art Nouveau Cafe, a real one, that had survived the time, not a pseudo fashionable one. Here locals mixed with tourists and there was a general noise of a crowd of chatting people around them. Both Isis and Duncan remembered such places from the time where they were common. They were exchanging memories about the Twenties. Duncan side-tracked with telling her about dancing Tango with Amanda on the Eiffel Tower, when they had thought that the next day the world would know about them. Isis laughed out loud and demanded a repeat of the performance, this time with her. "But can you dance a Tango?" Duncan asked. "Of course I can! Let's go out tonight and I'll show you!"
Later she would curse herself for ignoring the nagging feeling in her stomach, but it had to be said that the Shadow took great care not to come so close to her so that she could feel him. And so she put that feeling down to the far too eventful last weeks, and simply decided that she would have a good time - at least until she was either forced to do something or had the strength again to go out and look for the Shadow herself. But at the moment she felt treacherously safe; and even happy, with her baby in her arm and an adorable man at her side.
When they were about to leave, Isis felt for Little Ann's nappies, and then asked Duncan for a dry one. "Oh, we've run out of them. The one I put her on at the River Moldau was the last one, it seems." "Oh hell, she is about to complain!" Isis observed. "Back to the hotel then, my feet ache like hell anyway." "We don't have much left there too, I think" Duncan remembered. "Know what, you go back to the hotel and I try to get some new ones." In fact, he wanted to find out where one could go and dance, and where to find a baby-sitter, so he could take her out grand style. Isis, considering it an excellent idea that he'd do the running-around, agreed, and they spilt up in front of the cafe.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Joe and Methos sat together in an exceptionally bad mood. Methos had told Joe what had happened at the airport, and Joe had told about Yamo's meeting with Connor. Methos had just groaned: "One of these days, definitely!" and Joe had agreed wholeheartedly. However, this understandable agreement did nothing to help them now. They were at a total loss.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo felt the very same. That had been the last hospital on his list. Prague had more hospitals than these, but these were known to treat either cancer patients or tourists. He did not know whether checking the other ones would yield anything - especially when his Czech was so antique, nobody would understand him anyway. Cursing, he went back towards the hotel.
When he had to stop at a traffic light, a girl on the other side of the street suddenly smiled broadly at him. He did not know her, but the smile was so friendly, he tried to smile back, although only a ghost of a smile emerged. Being on the side where she could see any approaching car, or lack thereof, she suddenly ran towards him. "Herr Winter, no?" The way she pronounced the 'Herr' showed him that she did not speak German, and she continued to speak to him in Czech, with half a word of German occasionally in between. Yamo did not understand a word, and especially not why she was calling him a name he had discarded so long ago. However, when she had said 'Mein Mutter der Vater' (My mother's father) and 'Auschwitz' a couple of times, he realised that she had to be the old man's granddaughter. Why she knew him he still did not know. Maybe she had been with the old man at the cemetery. She grabbed his sleeve now and dragged him along, still chatting excitedly. She was so upset that he did not have the heart to break free, especially after he had been not exactly polite with her Grandfather only a few hours ago.
She knew where she was going, and after a few minutes they stood in front of a house that had seen better days, but still retained some grandeur, although it had, judging by the number of names at the door, turned into smaller flats. She rang a bell, and the look at her face suddenly reminded him of Methos. One day, still a boy of four of five, he had found a little crocodile on the banks of the Nile. He had presented it to his parents with the same proud look. It had almost bitten of his finger a few days later, but he had insisted of keeping it. It ran of a few years later, but it still was the only crocodile Yamo had ever seen that followed a boy like a dog.
The door opened, and she dragged him up a few stairs, and to a door where her grandfather stood. Indeed it was the old man from the Jewish Cemetery. He looked from the girl to Yamo and back, listening to her chatter, then, remembering his manners better than Yamo had, apologised for her 'kidnapping' and invited him inside.
His kindness, and the smell of freshly brewed tea, let Yamo decide that he would get nowhere today anyway, and that he could as well stay for a while.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Duncan meanwhile stood in a small shop and tried to explain what he needed. Padding an imaginary baby's behind, the woman behind the counter suddenly understood, and went to the back room to get what he needed. Suddenly a voice behind him said: "What do you need nappies for? Or did I get that wrong?" Duncan spun around and said: "Connor!" Both men embraced, and Duncan said: "I have a lot to tell you!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
'So that's how our good deeds come back to us!' Yamo thought. He was *really* in good spirits now. (At least as far as that was possible with the thread of the Shadow hanging over them). The old man had needed little encouragement to tell the story of his live, so that Yamo actually had not to do much talking. The old man had expressed his astonishment a couple of times at how much he looked like his father - not exactly surprisingly to Yamo. However, his story became *very* interesting when he told Yamo that he was member of the board of an organisation that cared for Jewish patients in hospitals, since there was no Jewish hospital any more. Yamo had immediately told him about Rachel, although he had not exactly told him why he was looking for her. The old man was grateful he could do anything for the son of Mr. Winter, and had gone down with Yamo to the post office and called a few friends. And now Yamo had in his pocket - Connor's last known address! And since it was an apartment, he was most likely still there.
In the light of the events in the morning, though, Yamo thought it advisable to get back to the hotel now and get either Methos or Joe to talk to him - he did not want to have his sword run through his guts. He went through the street, though, where Connor lived, but could feel neither him not the Shadow.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Connor meanwhile listened in astonishment to Duncan's story. There was more than a bit of envy in his voice when he said: "Father? And how old is she?" And he warned his cousin - he was just going through the pain of having lost a child. It was just a matter of time. But Duncan, although he knew what was to come eventually, just as much as Connor had known, was prepared to go through it.
Suddenly realising how late it was, Duncan said to Connor: "I have to got - Isis will be worried, and she is a bit nervous recently." "Then let's meet for dinner - I'd like to meet her - and the baby of course." So they agreed on a restaurant near the Hradschin, where Connor knew Little Ann would be welcome, too. Duncan went to the hotel in an exceptionally good mood.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Their mood was maybe not exceptionally good, but a lot better than it had been a few hours ago. Although dampened by the unpleasantly good chance of meeting the Shadow, at least they knew now where one of his prey was. And presumably a lead to the Shadow, too, judging from what Connor had said to Yamo in the morning.
Methos made a few jokes about good deeds coming back to us, when Joe asked the one question both had avoided carefully so far. "And what *if* you meet him?" Both immortals looked at each other, a look of fear on their faces. "We'll see." Methos said, but it did not even remotely sound nonchalant. Yamo just nodded, and said: "There is no one left I'd say can carry the Shadows quickening any better than the rest of us. That is, if he looses the fight at all. He has not lost too many, I'm afraid. That's the one occasion where I would not mind having Hunters around, I tell you." This time Methos nodded. Joe shook his head, not knowing what to say. He loved both men, in a very different way, and he did not want to seen any of them beheaded or worse - overtaken by a mad immortals quickening. Just when he had ceased to worry about Duncan being overtaken by a dark quickening, the one immortal where that fear was justified turned up. He sighted: "Well, nobody ever promised it would be easy."
They agreed that Yamo should stay away from Connor, to avoid a very unnecessary fight. Duncan presumably had mentioned Methos to his cousin, but even if not, Methos knew enough about Duncan to convince Connor that he was a friend - hopefully. So they would go to Connor's address, where either Methos would talk to him, or wait for him if he was not there. Yamo and Joe would accompany him and wait not too far away.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Connor meanwhile had left his flat again. He had managed to get a phone installed at his flat when he moved in there in a much shorter time than that usually took. And on the answering machine there was a message from Christine.
'Connor, I am sorry, I hope you are not worried too much. I am in Pilsen. You see, I met that Yamo today again. He threatened to kill me once again. Thanks God the streets were crowded, and I managed to jump into a tourist bus that just left. Unfortunately, I did not see where it went, and now I an stuck here. I think I best stay with the group, they will return at night, after some concert here. I already asked the driver, he promised me to bring me home to the flat when we are back in Prague. So don't worry, I am safe. I guess it will be around one at night. See you then. Christine.'
Connor was sorry that he could not introduce her to his cousin, but he had though about asking Duncan and Isis to come with them to Scotland, too. Whoever was following Isis, with him and Duncan around, she would be safe. It would also be a good thing to have as many people around as possible. He knew, alone he would fall into really bad depressions.
And figuring that it would be the best to leave as soon as possible, he went out again to check the flights to Scotland.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Whooooom?" "My cousin Connor - you remember, you wanted to meet him! The guy who killed...." "I know," she said, "but what is he doing here?" "You make it sound as if it was a crime or something to be here! I though it would be a nice surprise!" It would have been a much nicer surprise if there had not been the Shadow somewhere out there - and maybe he had followed them after all, or found out where Connor was. Well, there was nothing she could do about that, now. "Of course it is not a crime. I am just surprised, that's all. Of all towns in the world, we had to go to the same one. Well, I am looking forward to meet him!" "Good." Duncan said. She was not looking too forward to telling both of them the story, though. Or those parts they had to know.
She would have preferred to talk to Connor alone. It wasn't that she did not trust Duncan - oh well, she never trusted anybody, and therefore not Duncan, either. On the other hand, since she trusted him enough to bring up her baby, she might give him that much credit, too. Besides, she'd better learn to trust him - since the last thing in the world he would do was to give up the baby. And she would not give her up again, too. Well, she had seen no other way, and now she had to live with the consequences. Ont the other hand, if all consequences of her actions would have looked like Duncan, her live would have been a lot less difficult. And with those thoughts she concluded the internal debate, and started to think about what to wear and where to hide her sword. Her trust did not go *that* far.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Isis was getting angry. The two Highlanders did not believe her a single word. Well, maybe a word here and there, but not the story. Duncan looked as if he had suspected all along that her mind was maybe - a bit disturbed. Connor said: "But if I carry the quickening of the Kurgan, would I not be able to do a lot of things now, like commanding those powers, or whatever. And if what you say is true, why did Ramirez never tell me about it?" She answered the last question first. "He never told you, presumably, because he did not want you to know. Even a basically good man can be corrupted by absolute power. I mean, there was no need for you to know. The Kurgan's quickening was safe inside you, undisturbed, so why bother?"
"Then why do you bother now?" "I think I might have mentioned that the Shadow is on the loose again!" Her voice had definitely become aggressive now. The only one at the table that did not feel uneasy was Little Ann. No matter how angry Isis was, she held the baby as tender as she would a raw egg with a broken shell. Duncan looked uneasy at the baby. He did not like the thought that his daughter was in the arms of a woman that had obviously a severe case of persecution mania. Isis had by no means told them everything. And the less they believed her the less she was willing to tell more. Whether it would not have done any good anyway was not certain anyway. What she had not told did not make the story any more likely, on the contrary.
"Then, if he did not trust me enough for this, why did he seek me out in the first place?" Connor demanded to know. "Because he saw it in the stars. He was the best astrologer that has ever been around, and I have met a few in my times. He told me that they had told him that the man who would eventually carry the Kurgan's quickening had been born, and that he would seek him out when they would tell him he had become an immortal, so that he could train him. And when the time had come, he left. I still believe that he knew he would not see me again, too. The way he left."
Her voice still trembled when she remembered him. Connor and Duncan took that as the mourning of a wife. That was what she had told them. But he had been hers and Yamo's son. Brilliant-minded, thick-skulled, charming Rahmose. He had only become immortal after his own horoscope had convinced him that it was necessary to fight the Kurgan. And then, always one for a good show, he had thrown himself down from the head of the Sphinx - of course at a time the stars had recommended. He had been as mad as the rest of the family.
"And he is following you because he thinks yours and the Kurgan's, and therefore Connor's quickening will make him invincible?" Duncan's voice had the tone usually reserved for doctors saying something like 'Of course tomorrow you will win at Waterloo, Napoleon' to their patients, before locking the door *really* tight. "Yes, so he thinks. I knew the Kurgan, and for a time we shared a common goal, before I found out what he really wanted. After that, the Kurgan set up Shantao and tried the same - unfortunately, what came out of this effort was the Shadow." It was stretching the truth a bit - if fact, had it had a voice, it might have groaned. But it was no outright lie, as far as Isis was concerned.
"Then why, if the Kurgan was that powerful, am I not able to do things, or don't know more? I am stronger, but that's all." Connor said. "Because the Kurgan was not that powerful himself. He had the potential, and he had learned a few tricks, but he never mastered anything, and later he totally lacked the discipline. I mean, take sword fighting - no matter how well you *could* be, if you never learn properly, and don't train, it does not matter how good your potential is. Same with the powers. It is in you, potentially, but you have no idea how to."
Duncan said: "But Isis, come on, I know these past weeks have been strenuous for you, but that all is a bit hard to swallow." Connor suddenly looked very surprised. Like in a dream, a faint voice in his head said: 'You know, I'd stop my cousin if I were you. She is about to explode. And that's not fun - believe me.' Duncan was about to say more, when he saw the expression on Connor's face. "You don't start to believe that, do you?" he asked. Connor shook his head, but whether that really was a denial was uncertain. He looked at Isis. "Would I be able to hear others, too? Ramirez, for example?" She looked at him, closely. There was suddenly something around his mouth that she had seen often enough. "You just did, didn't you?" Connor shook his head again, and said: "I just don't know." Duncan was about to say something, but Connor stopped him. "This is between her and me, and I'll decide for myself what I believe and what not."
Duncan got up. "Fine, then I'll leave. Give me the baby!" The faint voice in Connor's head just said: 'Oh, oh, oh!' Connor did not need it though to read *war* from her face. Duncan saw it too, and said: "It isn't yours, so give her to me, and go after your ghosts!" Her voice was not loud, but everybody in the restaurant stopped whatever they were doing when she hissed: "As sure as hell, she is not yours at least! And you won't get her!"
Connor immediately called the waiter. And although the man had not been exactly fast all evening, he was at their table in a second. Connor paid, and then ushered the two others out there, before they started to jump at each other's throat.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Methos in the meantime had a rather boring evening. Joe and Yamo had been with him until about half an hour ago. Then Joe's stomach complained badly, and he sent them off to eat something. After all, even if Connor turned up, he had to talk to him first. Yamo had been reluctant, but finally agreed to join Joe. Methos was sitting in a small shop that served coffee, too. He had started chatting with the owner, who luckily spoke a little bit German, since Methos did not speak Czech. He had asked him about Connor, and the man had known him. He had even been to Rachel's funeral, because he thought it was so sad that nobody would be there but Connor. He also told Methos about Christine, and Methos made a remark about the MacLeods always having the nicest girls at hand. That brought the owner to the subjects of friends who always got the girls. It was a fruitful subject, and it passed the time. And it provided a distraction from the thought that it already might be too late. The time approached midnight, and if Methos would have looked out of the window, he could have seen the twin towers of the St. Veit's cathedral rising into the starlit sky.
* * * * * * * * * * *
On the place before the Hradschin, outside of the restaurant, Duncan and Isis were having quite an argument, and to the disappointment to a few passing tourists, they had it in Gaelic. Connor had taken Little Ann out of Isis arm when they had started shouting. Not that he was worried about her, but Isis had a rather strong voice. He did his best not to laugh out loud at some of Isis remarks, but when she shouted at Duncan: "The best thing that ever comes out of your mouth is your tongue - and that's not when you are talking!" he could not help a snicker any more. And in his head, something or someone was roaring with laughter, too. That brought him back, and he went between them, and told them to stop the argument, because if what Isis said was true, then they definitely could settle that argument later.
"And how are you going to prove that wild story of yours?" Duncan asked. "I don't have to prove anything to *you*!" She answered. "Please prove it to me." Connor said, interrupting them. She nodded, and looked around, and then said: "There. That is a good place, and will be empty too." She was pointing to the towers of the Cathedral. "Uh, em, are you sure? It's closed." Connor said. "Of course it is closed, do you want me to do this with flocks of tourists around you? We don't have to go in there, but it is a good place nevertheless." And she walked by the closed gates of the Hradschin, along the castle wall. Outside the sight of any potential onlookers, she began to ascend the wall. "Careful, there is a bit of an alarm system up here." It was, however, not very strong, more there to discourage drunks or too-nosy tourists than thieves. The buildings inside the Hradschin would be better secured, but they did not have to get into any of them. Isis quickly disabled it.
Connor reached Little Ann up to her, and they moved towards the Cathedral. Duncan muttered something about taking the baby with them, but was silent when Isis suggested that if he wanted to get rid of Ann, she didn't. Well, what had to be done would not put the baby into any danger, however, it was better done in a quiet place, and preferably a holy one. She hoped that the front of the Cathedral's doors would do.
They went over the second wall that surrounded the church, and sat down in front of it. Isis wanted everybody to calm down, and so did Connor. Looking for a safe subject to chat about for a moment, he asked: "Say, does any of you know an immortal named Yamo?"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo and Joe meanwhile were eating doughnuts. They had found a vendor selling them in the streets around the Hradschin, who was about to roll his cart home. So they had brought the last ones, one bag for them and one for Methos. They strolled towards the street where Connor lived, below the Hradschin.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"You better ask her about him!" Duncan told his cousin. "Why?" Isis asked Connor. "Of course I know him, I have for a long time. I did not know you had ever met." "I-" Connor was confused. Although it did seem that Duncan did not like him too much, he did not seem to judge him as an evil immortal. Isis definitely didn't. She looked at him expectantly. "Well," he said, "I saw him today, and I think he is after someone I know." Isis jaw dropped. That did not make too much sense, or did it? "Here! But he was in Seacouver yesterday morning! Why? He'd called me. Hell, yes, he can't reach me, but to come over - and whom is he supposed to go after? That's not very likely, unless..." "Unless it's your mysterious Shadow?" Duncan interrupted her. She shot him a glance that could have frozen hell. "Tell me everything." she asked Connor. And he did.
When he was finished, Isis was trembling. Then she hit her own head, a couple of times. Each time her hand hit her head, she said just one word: "Stupid". Then she looked up and said: "The Shadow is a woman this time! Great! And everybody has been looking for a man. Including me. Stupid. Stupid. STUPID!" Little Ann looked around, as if she wanted to know who was stupid, and gurgled a bit, as if she agreed. "Yeah, kick me, little one! Your mom has been just - stupid."
Duncan opened his mouth to say something, but Connor interrupted. "Settle that later, will you? Are you suggesting, that Christine..." "...is the Shadow, yes. It fits too nicely. I had a feeling he - she - was near, but he - damn, she - kept herself out of buzz reach. Or did not even know I was here. Don't know. Anyway, after she was not able to get me, she went after you. She probably knew all along where you were, and that you would not move as long as Rachel was alive. When Rachel had died, she came over." "How would she have known?" Connor was still sceptical. "She used private detectives to follow me, so there might as well have been some following you. What makes me nervous that that shows a lot more common sense than the Shadow usually shows. Usually he behaves like a madman on a rampage." "I can't believe this!" Connor said, but the voice in his head said: "Don't you ever believe in your dreams?"
He looked at Isis and said: "Listen, I want to know now. I want to know what's going on, and why I suddenly hear that voice." "When did you first hear it?" she asked. "I dreamt about him at night. He was warning me. Even the Kurgan was warning me in a dream." "Might have been the Shadows quickening. Absolutely possible." She explained once more about Ba and Ka souls. "And why do I hear him much better now?" "Might be *my* quickening. And after the loss of Rachel, you might be susceptible to these things." Connor shook his head, his mind still telling him that that was nonsense, but a feeling in his gut told him that she maybe was right after all.
She told him to sit comfortably, and asked him whether during his journeys through the east he had learned meditation. He nodded, and she handled the baby over to Duncan, whose face had not become any less sceptical. He put her in the carrying shawl, and sat down to watch.
Isis told Connor, whose breathing had become deep and regular now, to reach for his core, his inner self. "Do you see it?" Her voice sounded almost hypnotic. "Yes." Connor whispered. "And do you see the stars surrounding it?" "Yes" "Those are the souls of those whose quickening you took." "But there are too many." Connor's voice was barely audible. "Those are the souls of the people they killed, and so on. They are all there, like the stars, some more, some less, and some will have gone over to the eternal sleep." Connor focused on the lights in his soul. He started to hear voices, some he knew, some he didn't. He could make out one at least - Ramirez. 'I told you I'd be there if you'd call me. It was all written in the stars!' it said. Then suddenly it seemed as if a cloud darkened the stars to Connor. He shuddered. "The Kurgan?" Isis asked. "Yes." whispered Connor, fear in his voice. "Don't worry, he can not harm you - he is dead. But while the Kurgan could not really harm Connor, and had never learned the deeper secrets of the mind, brutal force did have its effects on Connor. The Kurgan simply opened up his memories, and flooded Connor's mind with the screams of the men he had slain, the women he had raped and the children he had slaughtered. And Connor screamed, too. "Yeah, that's the nasty part." Isis mumbled.
Methos was having a good time. His chat with the store owner had become quite animated, even though he had refused the drink he was offered several times. Like Yamo in the afternoon, it was good to think of something else. Suddenly his head jerked around. The buzz he had just felt felt unpleasantly familiar.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Christine had spend the afternoon and evening quietly meditating in a park just outside the town. Maybe, if s/he was lucky, Connor had already encountered and killed that pest Yamo. S/he knew he was in town, if Methos was, so was Yamo. It would not disturb her plans. If not, s/he would set Connor up again to.... There! An immortal. Methos.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Methos stormed out of the store, leaving a puzzled owner behind. This time the Shadow would not escape him. A dark figure stood at the end of the street and looked in his direction. There he was. He ran towards him. A police car turned into the street, and the dark figure turned and went slowly away from the car and Methos. He too slowed down, he did not want to draw attention to himself. He just hoped the store owner would not call out for them, because he had not paid yet. As fast as he could possibly go without drawing suspicion, he went after the Shadow, who went towards the Hradschin.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Yamo was just stuffing two doughnuts at once into his mouth, with Joe shaking his head at it, when he felt it. The curse he let out would have shocked Joe, had he understood the language. "What is it?" he asked. "The Shadow!" He dropped the doughnuts, and hurried towards the buzz. Joe tried to follow. Suddenly a figure ran into what looked like a small passage about a hundred meters ahead of them, followed by one both recognised. "Methos!" shouted Yamo. But Methos just lifted a hand in recognition, and ran on. Yamo sped up considerably. He did not want his son to confront the Shadow. Joe was left behind, but he too hurried as fast as he could towards the passage. When Yamo had reached it, he turned back and shouted "Sorry" in his direction, and then set off. When Joe reached it, he saw why - it was a stairway, that was so long that in the dim light he could not even see the end - it must lead all up to the Hradschin. He sighted - and then he started slowly to ascend it, the hurrying footsteps ahead of him.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After a time that could have been minutes or hours or days, suddenly Connor felt something different. He did not know what it was, but the screaming stopped. He heard the voice of Ramirez: 'The Shadow! He is here!' and he felt that the Kurgan who had just tried to drive him into madness suddenly switched to a fighting mood and spurred him to jump up and grab his sword. Uncertainly, Connor staggered to his feet. He saw Isis standing there, as if listening, and waiting for him to come back. "Don't worry - the first time is always the worst, and they can neither harm you nor overtake you." Her voice was forced calm. "What is going on now?" Duncan asked. "He's here." Isis said. "She is." Connor corrected. Duncan looked from one to the other, not believing that Connor would believe this stuff. Then they heard steel clashing against steel. If it was the Shadow, somebody had challenged her first.
Isis first impulse was to run away and take Connor with her, but then she stood for a short moment, and said: "Methos!" and started to run towards the sound, sword drawn. Like Yamo, she did want to protect her son. Connor too, not listening to Ramirez' warning, made a start towards the sound. Isis turned to stop him, took the baby from Duncan's arm, pressed it into Connor's and said: "Stay with her on holy ground, will you? You can't fight in that state!" The confusion in his head had not quite lifted, and so he sat down with Ann, knowing that Isis was right, but his sword drawn, holy ground or not.
Isis ran off, Duncan following after her, mumbling: "And how does Methos fit in here?" He did get no answer.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The sound came from the Golden Lane, and there Methos saw the Shadow, waiting for him. He stopped, surprised. There was something strange about the Shadow this time - he took a closer look. That was a woman who was the Shadow now. Well, he had been borne before the age of Chivalry, and there was no other way. He carefully approached her, trying to find out how the Shadow would fight this time. He had seen him fighting like a rampaging madman most of the time, but theoretically the Shadow could access the fighting experience of all quickenings inside him. Plus a few very nasty tricks of magic.
S/he looked at him, expectantly. "You have never been able to defeat me, Menes. And this time I won't make the same mistake as I have made when you took me to the Lama. This time I can control myself, because I am Christine, and I do *use* the powers of the Shadow. And together we will rule the world, when we have taken both their quickenings. Then nothing will stop us!" Methos did not like this. The only thing that had enabled them to stop him so far had been the fact that he had totally lost control, driven by his madness, not able to think clearly. This sounded a lot as if this time s/he were in control. Fear rose in him, and he embraced it and let it go. There was no time for this.
The Shadow attacked. S/he was fast, and he barely managed to fend of the blow. He retreated a step, and tried to land a blow, but s/he was already gone. Methos went into a defending pose, trying to gain some time. S/he attacked fast, but did not manage to get through. He suddenly recognised that s/he had a problem. S/he might be able to remember all the sword fighting tricks, but the host, the woman, obviously was not very trained in sword fighting. The brain gave the right commands for the fight, but the body lacked the training to execute them properly. Good. At least some advantage. Unfortunately, the Shadow had more skills than wielding a sword.
S/he suddenly jumped back, standing in a defending position, and he caught his breath. S/he seemed to concentrate, and there were suddenly sparks visible in the air. Methos immediately attacked. If s/he started magic tricks now, he was lost. Suddenly there were footsteps behind her.
Yamo turned around the corner, saw her standing there, pulled out his gun, the one he had onece used to shoot Duncan, and fired at her.
The sparks around her formed to a cloud that went between her and the bullet. The bullet seemed to hit something and made a 180 degree turn. It hit Yamo in the heart, and he dropped dead on the ground. But in the spilt of a second where the Shadow concentrated on the bullet, Methos had thrown his sword at him/her. S/he managed to rais an arm, but it cut into his/her belly and left a nasty wound. S/he screamed and looked down at it. The look s/he shot at Methos was one of anger and hate. Good. Maybe s/he'd loose control after all. A short glace at Yamo showed that he was already regaining consciousness again. The Shadow looked down at Methos sword, which started to glow red. Damn. Not good.
Then there were more footsteps behind him. The Shadow laughed: "She is coming to me! It will end!" Methos did not think so. He jumped at him/her. S/he fell to the ground with him. He pressed his arm against his/her neck, trying to strangle him/her. The look in his/her eyes became something even stranger. S/he released the power of the fire into him. It felt as if he was burning from the inside. He screamed.
Then it stopped. He rolled of the Shadow, to see his mother standing there, her arms raised, and she was doing something that she had not done ever since the day she became immortal. She was calling the powers, too. Her sword she had stuck into a gap in the pavement before her, and her eyes were half-closed. The earth below the Shadow seemed to open and swallow him/her. Methos retrieved his sword, which was still hot, and stood up. His legs were still shaking. The Shadow's face now had a searching look. Then the earth stopped moving, and the air between him/her and Isis seemed to burn. Isis dropped to the ground, moaning.
Suddenly the Shadow moved again, but in a totally different way now. This was not the controlled individual now that had been there before. This was the rampaging Shadow once again. S/he got up, and held the sword against Methos. It left his/her hand faster than Methos could react, and ran though his body and pinned him to the wall.
The Shadow approached him, pulling his sword out of Methos body, and rose it to take his head. "Stop" shouted Duncan, who had reached the Shadow now. He was crashed into the wall next to Methos by the movement of a hand. His spine did not take the shock too well, and he was immovable for a moment. The Shadow retreated a few steps and caught his/her breath. "Watch me taking her head!" he said and ran towards Isis, who was still crouching at the ground.
But at the other end of the Lane Joe had appeared. He grabbed for Yamo's gun, and aimed it at the Shadow. The moment the Shadow had reached Isis, a bullet was aimed at his back, and this time s/he was not able to fend it of. It hit him/her in the back. S/he turned towards Joe, bared his/her teeth, knees trembling, and then ran of in the direction of the Cathedral.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Connor held the baby, and tried to calm down. The experience had left him confused, and frightened. He turned to his friend Ramirez, calling for him in his mind. The faint voice he had heard a couple of times during the evening was much clearer now. 'Yes, my friend?' it said. 'I think I need some more information.' Connor answered silently. 'I think we have to make it short now, as long as the Shadow is around.' Ramirez started. And Connor listened to the voice inside him, and shuddered as Ramirez explained to him that he might have to access the Kurgan once again. The assurance that the Shadow was probably the one thing in the world where the Kurgan would agree with all of them did not make it any easier. Then he heard footsteps. Somebody came around the corner.
"Christine!" He looked at her, she was changed. Not something he could lay his finger on, but it was her expression. It seemed to shift between the uncontrolled will of destruction and the much more controlled will for power. He did not know what was frightening him more. S/he looked at him, and said, in a voice that was not really hers: "You should have taken my head - but then again, you would be dead now, too - and I would have your power." He wondered briefly why she did not approach him, but it seemed that she dared not, since so close to the Cathedrals door (he was leaning against it) was holy ground already. However, the Shadow had other means of fighting, too.
S/he concentrated, and suddenly there was the same rush in his head as before, when Isis showed him the way to the quickenings. And the pictured the Shadow drew up were even worse than those of the Kurgan. The Shadow could only call those scenes that had been enacted with the same intention as his/her own. Total destruction. And those now turned up in Connor's head. He was trembling, tears running down his face. It was so bad he was unable to scream..
* * * * * * * * * * *
Behind the church they ran into each other, Methos, Isis, Duncan and Yamo. Both parents shouted at their son: "You stay behind me!", one in ancient Egypt, the other in an Indian dialect. Methos snorted, and said: "Thanks, but I am grown up by now!" He grabbed Duncan, who seemed reluctant to be dragged from Isis, and shoved him to the one side of the church, and shouted at the others: "You take the other side!" Yamo mumbled after him: "We should have spanked him occasionally after all." and ran with Isis around the other side. "And stay behind me, for once!" he told her. For once, she did so voluntarily.
* * * * * * * * * * *
S/he heard the footsteps coming towards them, and turned up her attack on Connor. S/he told him to take the baby and smash its head, and then come forward. Connor felt his hand moving towards Little Anns feet, and then, suddenly realising what he was doing, shook his head and broke free from the Shadows attack. The energy the Shadow had used now flowed upward the church, towards its towers, and looked like a lightening striking from the earth.
The others at that moment turned around the corner of the Cathedral, all four their swords drawn. Yamo pushed Isis towards the church entrance, to get her on holy ground. The Shadow laughed, and tried to loosen stones from the stone ornaments above the entrance, to force them of holy ground. But the energy s/he used too flowed upwards the building. S/he cursed, and turned his/her attention towards the attackers, who were closing in on him/her. S/he tried to focus on Duncan, seeing that he had no experience fighting something like the Shadow. But the energy that had flown up the building had not just disappeared. A boulder had loosened, out of the stone cross-flower that sat on top of the towers of the Cathedral. The energy that came up now threw it down from its place where it had sat for centuries, and if fell downward.
When it crashed into an ornament, everybody looked up. Duncan could just pull Methos back who had been nearest to the Shadow. The boulder crashed right into the Shadow, who had tried to retreat. So instead of crushing his/her head, it had crushed his/her chest. The Shadow's face moved, in utter surprise. Methos sprang forward before anybody could stop him, and with a single stroke he separated the Shadow's head from his body. Both Yamo and Isis sprang forward to pull him away from the arising quickening, but there was nothing they could do any more.
At that moment Joe had reached the front of the Cathedral, too. And what he saw was the strongest quickening he had ever seen. The flashes that hit Methos seemed to be thicker and much more than he had ever seen. It blew out not only all lights on the Hradschin, but the flashes seemed to reach all over the Golden City. It was a breath-taking and frightening spectacle.
When it had died down, everything was dark, except from the full moon that shone above them. They were still blinded from the spectacle, their ears still deafened from Methos scrams, Little Ann's, who had been frightened, too, and those of Isis and Yamo who feared for their son. Methos body twitched, and Yamo carefully approached him. The terror of the possibility that the Shadow had won the fight for his son's soul and body written all over his face, he bent over him.
A hand grabbed for his neck. Methos pulled himself up, and drew Yamo close to him, and then - he pressed his lips on Yamo's, and kissed him as passionately that not even Isis could remember seeing such a kiss. When Methos released the iron grip on his father, Yamo fell back on his behind like a toddler that had lost his balance. Methos himself shook his head, and his face twitched. Isis jaw had dropped. Connor and Duncan, who had gone over to his cousin and held Little Ann now, did not look any more intelligent. Joe felt a pang of jealousy in his stomach, as big as the quickening he had just seen.
"Seth!?!" Yamo said with a very uncertain voice. The look he gave Methos was one of utter confusion. He had recognised that kiss. Methos shook his head again, looked at him and said: "Trust him to grab an opportunity when it comes along." Isis said: "Oh, oh, oh! That must be a nightmare!" Then Methos lowered his head again, seemed to listen to something, and exclaimed: "You did not cheat me on that one!" Yamo looked confused. Isis came nearer and kneeled next to her son, embracing him carefully. Methos still looked accusingly at Yamo: "The black horse in Babylon! You and Seth cheated on me!" "Oops! Yeah well, you know....." Yamo actually looked guilty. The he got up, and embraced his son, too. Isis said: "The two of you as a team - that's the stuff nightmares are made from!"
Joe approached them. "I hate to break up this happy family picture, but I think we might have to move away." And Duncan said: "And I think then a few people own me a *few* explanations.
"So, you found the Chronicle?" "Yes, it seems that it fell into her hand when she was researching. She was an archaeologist after all, specialising in Tibet and northern India. It describes how you took the Shadow the last time, and that the Lama went into the monastery. We are glad to have it back, and this time it will go into our deepest vault." Joe actually felt a pang of guilt that a Watcher's chronicle had caused this. Yamo tried to comfort him: "That thing disappeared centuries ago! But what a nerve she had!"
"Yes, she must have learned about her potential immortality when Geoge Michals tried to kill her to make her immortal and take her quickening. Only she escaped." "And then seeing the connection to the story she had read, went to Tibet. And lured the Lama out of the monastery - she must have seen him before, he felt she was a pre-immortal, and so when news of her death reached her, he went out of the monastery to see her and tell her what had happened. Only that she had committed suicide in the meantime and was immortal now. And the Lama, who had not fought for 2 centuries or more, was an easy victim."
Joe still did not understand one thing: "But the Chronicle is very specific, telling how dangerous the Shadow is. How could she have *wanted* his quickening?" "Maybe she thought she could handle it. Maybe she was so greedy for power that she did not care. We'll never know. But the Shadow was a lot saner this time, so she must have retained some control." "Could it have worked?" Joe sounded worried at the possibility. Yamo gave the question some thought: "I don't think so. It was not power the Shadow was after, but simple and plain destruction. And each time she used him, he would have got stronger. I mean, she attacked somebody on holy ground already. That was not exactly sane, even if it was not with a sword. No, it would not have worked."
"And Methos? Is he in danger?" "I hope not. When those who carried the Shadow had been able to lock him away once, there is no danger any more. He overtook either during the quickening, or never." "And Seth?" "I don't know. He is dead, and he is still there. I honestly don't know." Yamo leaned over and embraced Joe. Joe drew him even closer. He did not know whether he should be jealous of a man's Ba-soul or not. Time would show.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Connor came back from the world inside him. He found it easier to access it every time he tried, and easier to lock out the memories he did not want, too. It would take more time to master it, but slowly he was learning.
He saw Duncan coming up the hill from the house in the Highlands. He carried Ann, who gurgled happily in his arms. She was munching a cookie and spilling the crumbs all over him. Connor smiled. The amazed look had not left his cousin's face ever since he had been told the whole story. But at least it made him understand Isis better, and the two of them were getting along fine by now. Well, most of the time. And at that thought he heard Ramirez voice in his head, laughing: 'That's one of the most peaceful relation I remember my mother ever had!' Connor laughed quietly, too. It was good to have an old friend back.
* * * * * * * * * * *
In the kitchen of the house Isis sat at the table and watched Methos baking a cake. The recipe was as old as Methos himself. She had wanted one, and when nobody had volunteered to make it for her, she had threatened to make it herself. Suddenly the three men in the house had felt a definite urge to bake a cake. Methos being the only one who knew how to make this one, he had gone down to the kitchen and started. Isis came down later and watched him.
He was talking to himself, or rather Methos and Seth were discussing how many honey should go into it, and how long to leave it in the oven. During the quickening Seth had helped to keep the Shadow from overtaking Methos, and had taken the opportunity to stay near to Methos consciousness. Methos had not fought him - he had called Seth uncle, and had loved him dearly. Now it was really funny to have him around. His gambling skills for example had improved significantly. And the best about it was that nobody ever found out just *how* he cheated. Also, the stories Seth could tell did even amuse the 5000 year old immortal. And he had managed to hold him down when that was necessary, too, although it usually sent Seth in a sulking mood for at least 5 minutes.
The only thing that irritated him was the fact that Seth had been his father's lover for so long. He had not forgotten that kiss. It felt strange, but both would come to terms with this.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Isis grinned. She was absolutely content at the moment. Only that Yamo was not there was a pity, but under the circumstances, it might be best. For her - she had a baby, she had a man, and she was definitely safe. Actually meeting Connor had taken the rest of her fear of the gathering out of her. She did not want the powers any more, and neither did Connor. So at the moment she would just enjoy her live.
So while this story is finished now, a sequel is already in the making.
And if you DID enjoy (or didn't, but want to tell me anyway), e-mail me.
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