The police cars formed a rough circle in the street, cutting all but the initiated off from the activity going on within the confines of the cordon. As ever, there were interested passers-by hanging around, but none of them managed to get a glimpse of what was going on. There were too many policemen, too many cars, too many dark suited detectives patrolling around, keeping the public out.

"So what do we have?" The lieutenant sounded as if he already knew the answer, as though this were becoming all too familiar a set up. "Who was it this time?"

"Same as before." The younger detective led his superior through the cordon, towards the huddled shape lying on the road, hidden from view by police screens. "Single bullet to the back of the head, victim was probably kneeling at the time of death. He was about forty years old, athletic build, clothing suggests an income slightly above average."

"The same mark?"

"Yep. Same mark." The detective reached down to the body, and pulled back one of the shirt sleeves. A small tattoo was revealed; a curious, branched design within a circle. "This is definitely getting distinctly creepy."

"You're telling me. Seventh murder in a fortnight, all with those marks on them, and we can't even figure out what it means."

"I had the doctor check the tattoo," the detective replied thoughtfully. "It's been there a number of years. It can't be something that the murderer puts on his victims."

"I know." The lieutenant shook his head grimly, his fists clenching and unclenching almost without his knowledge. "This is too weird. What is this tattoo? Is it some kind of a cult, or a club, a secret society? Is it some crazy fashion? Might it be tied into a pop group or something like that?"

"I shouldn't think so." The detective gestured at the body. "This guy looks a little old to be a groupie. It's got to be a secret society."

"Then find out which one." The lieutenant kicked at the tarmac, his anger visible on his face only through his tightly clenched lips, and the malicious light in his eyes. "I don't care how tightly guarded a secret it is. Somebody in this city is a murderer, and I'm going to find out who; and who it is he's killing."

"Secret societies don't like being investigated, sir," the detective muttered. The lieutenant scowled.

"Hard luck. Because this one is not only going to be investigated, it's going to be busted wide open, so everybody in the whole damn US knows all about it. I don't like secret societies; especially ones that deal in murder."

"Yes sir." The detective scurried away, glad to get the chance to move off on a mission, away from his superior's growing wrath. The lieutenant stared after him, the scowl on his face growing darker by the minute.

"Damn secret societies," he muttered, then lit up a cigarette and stomped away after his underling, leaving his match to lie discarded in the street.


"Duncan, odd though this may seem, you really are not helping." Trying not to let too much of his exasperation show in his voice, Joe Dawson leaned back on his stool, hands still resting on the piano keys. "I am supposed to be concentrating."

"And I'm helping. I thought you wanted my opinion?" Resting his elbows on the top of the piano, Duncan MacLeod tried to look as helpful as possible. "I think it's very good."

"Good? MacLeod, I haven't made it past the intro yet. Damn it, I should have asked Methos instead. I did rather hope that you were a little more qualified to pass judgement."

"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Rising up from his position of glorious relaxation, sprawled across a row of bar stools, the world's oldest man coloured his voice with indignation. "All MacLeod knows about is opera, and those dreary dirges he thinks are relaxing."

"The music I choose to listen to," MacLeod announced, rising, as ever, to their ongoing debate about music, "equips me perfectly to the task of studying the work of an artist such as Dawson here. All your music equips you to do is develop tinnitus."

"I'm an Immortal; I can't get tinnitus." Methos opened a can of something with a loud pop. "What is all this in aid of anyway, Joe?"

"It's in aid of me daring to think, for one brief moment, that I might be able to get an honest, sensible opinion out of my two closest friends. It happens to be the birthday of a very close friend, in just a few days, and I would like to be able to present her with this song, as a… as a gesture of my affection."

"Hey, that's really sweet Joe." Touched, MacLeod frowned in concentration. "Okay, play it by me again. I'll listen this time. Promise."

"Too late. I've lost the rhythm now." Joe closed the lid of the piano and stood up. "Have you left any beer back there for the customers, Methos?"

"A bit." The old man stood up, wandering over to the piano with an expression of amusement on his face. "See, MacLeod? Some connoisseur of fine music you are. You managed to put the artist off his work."

"I put him off his work? I like that. I'm not the only person in this room, pal." MacLeod scowled as he realised that he was being dragged into yet another argument. Joe grinned.

"Children please. It doesn't much matter which of you it was that put me off. The damage is done. Now I have to open up in another hour and there's a lot of clearing up to do. Help or leave. Okay?"

MacLeod took the proffered broom automatically, then blinked in surprise when he saw that he was holding it. He began to use it half-heartedly.

"It really was a great song, Joe," he tried again. Dawson groaned.

"Mac? Leave it, okay? I'll sort the song out on my own." He turned around to begin cleaning up the bar, and frowned at Methos, who had retired to his place on the stools. "Are you going to do anything useful at all tonight?"

"I wasn't planning to, no." Methos did not open his eyes, and Joe sighed.

"You know, Mac might have a point about this place."

"He might?" Opening one eye cautiously, Methos peered up at Joe, evidently wondering just what point MacLeod might have made, and when. Duncan was wondering himself, but didn't speak.

"Yeah. He was saying that I'd get a much better class of customer if I stopped the live music and started playing opera here instead. Or Celtic music. Sort of a theme, you know?"

"You have got to be kidding." Methos stood up, gazing at Joe in confusion. "Dawson, you're a Blues man. Please don't tell me you're a fan of… of… all that harps and jangly stuff. It doesn't even have any proper tune."

Joe smiled. "If you don't start doing something useful I might consider turning the place into a permanent Highland Theme Club. I'll borrow Duncan's entire music collection to play over the loud speakers." Methos winced openly. "Now start taking the chairs off the tables, okay?"

"Okay." The old man wandered off to complete his task, whilst MacLeod leant on his broom for a second, regarding Joe with an expression of mock hurt.

"I might start to take offence at all these jibes about my musical tastes," he commented sourly. "My records are not that bad."

"Yes they are," Methos put in from the other side of the room.

"It's the music I grew up with! That's what people are supposed to like; what they used to listen to when they were young. Which leads me to wonder why you only ever listen to music from the last couple from decades."

Methos gave a short laugh.

"Are you kidding? MacLeod, the music that I used to listen to when I was young consisted solely of banging on a hollow log with a big stick. That or blowing down a ram's horn. It doesn't exactly compare with the intricacies of Hendrix, or Bonham."

"Fair point." Dawson laughed. "Anyway, nobody listens to just the music of their youth, or we'd all be listening to the same stuff all the time."

There was a silence.

"Do you think my music is boring Joe?" MacLeod sounded tentative, and it was all that Dawson could do not to laugh.

"Sweep the floor Duncan," was all that he would give in reply. MacLeod did not answer immediately, and the sounds of his broom scratching at the floor filled the room. If he had been about to make further comment, he was prevented by a sudden knocking on the door.

"Someone's early." Joe glanced at his watch. "Still a good fifty minutes to go before I open up."

"Might be important." Duncan looked over at Methos. "You're closest."

"Yeah, but you're a lot more helpful than I am." Methos took another drink from his can and continued lowering chairs. Duncan rolled his eyes.

"I'll get the door," Joe said before another argument, no matter how light-hearted, could erupt. He drew back the bolts and pulled the door open, blinking in surprise when he saw who his guest was.

"Warrell? What are you doing here?"

"What do you think?" A large figure pushed past Dawson and entered the bar, looking about carefully. MacLeod felt a pair of cautious eyes alight on his face, and experienced a moment's trepidation at the surprising intensity of the look. "This the hired help?"

"Not exactly." Dawson had exchanged a meaningful look with Methos, which had not gone entirely unnoticed by MacLeod. The Highlander watched as the old man wandered out of the shadows, his customary retreat when strangers arrived, and stood next to Joe. He looked concerned.

"Why are you here?" he asked the new arrival. The man turned sharply, then smiled.

"Adam. I wasn't sure if you were still involved. You've been so quiet recently."

"I'm still involved. I have a personal interest in the business." MacLeod thought that he recognised an edge to the old man's voice. Joe looked uneasy too. Obviously this man Warrell was well known in Watcher circles, and his arrival clearly was not good news.

"So what is it, Steve?" Joe lowered himself onto a bar stool, and stared up at his guest. "It's got to be bad if it's brought you way out here."

"It's bad." Warrell's eyes fluttered back onto MacLeod, but Joe shook his head.

"Forget it, Steve. Duncan is like honorary family. He knows all about us, and he's on our side. Right Duncan?"

"Right." MacLeod was extremely interested now. The atmosphere in the room had become one of tense expectation, with both Dawson and Methos looking as if they were expecting something truly serious. Warrell shrugged.

"Fine, if you're sure." He sat down opposite Joe. "We have a problem."

"You don't say." Methos rolled his eyes, but the visitor ignored the interruption.

"Seven people have been killed in the last two weeks. All Watchers. They were execution style killings; single bullet in the back of the head, victim apparently kneeling." He frowned. "All the deaths were in this city, which is why HQ wanted me to come and see you. Whatever this is, it's based here."

"Seven people? I don't understand; we haven't lost anyone." Joe frowned, obviously trying to remember. "Everyone I can think of is accounted for."

"Then they were all out of towners, here following Immortals. What does that matter? They're all dead, and they died here." Warrell held out a manilla envelope. "Names of all the dead are in here, along with dates of birth, places of birth, that sort of thing. See if you can find a pattern." He stood up.

"Hey, hey wait. You mean you're bringing this thing to me, and then leaving me with it?" Dawson stood up, but was not tall enough to stand face to face with the messenger. "I can't handle this."

"Somebody has to." The other man was already heading towards the door. "The police are getting worried, Dawson. We have to deal with this before they get any closer to finding out who we are. And hopefully before we lose any more of our people. I can't stay, you know that. I'm just the messenger."

"Messenger of doom." Methos moved in front of Warrell, his expression dangerous. "You're asking Joe to put himself on the line."

"That's hard luck." The visitor spoke lightly enough, but the sub-text beneath his words screamed at them all. Get out of my way, or you'll regret it. Methos remained where he was for a second, the frown on his face suggesting trouble.

"Leave it Adam. We have a lot of work to do." Dawson, still gazing at the envelope in his hands, did not look up. The old man glanced back toward him, still unmoving, and Joe raised his voice in impatience.

"Leave it Adam. He's just the messenger."

Methos moved aside, ignoring Warrell as if the other man had ceased to exist. None of the three Watchers looked at each other again as the visitor walked out of the club. The door swung shut behind him, and Dawson breathed out a long, pent-up breath.

"Who the hell was that?" Putting down his broom, MacLeod hurried over to Dawson, who shrugged vaguely.

"I know him as Steve Warrell. Others know him by other names. He's the voice of the Watcher Hierarchy; sort of the people who watch the Watchers. He's more of a myth than a man, so you know that when he comes to see you, it means trouble."

"Seven murders certainly sounds like plenty of trouble." MacLeod took the envelope and tipped the contents onto the bar. Seven sheets of A4 sized paper looked up him, and he ran a practised eye over the names and the attached photographs. "Must be driving the police nuts. There's a varied age group; two women, five men; three black, four white. No pattern at all." He glanced back at Joe. "Except the tattoo of course. Could spell trouble."

"Yeah. Every cop in town is going to be looking for people with the mark." Dawson shook his head. "Thousands of years of secrecy, under threat now. And I'm supposed to be dealing with it." He glanced down at the sheets, and picked up one which had caught his eye. "Sam Hendricks. Used to jam with him. Played harmonica as I recall. He was assigned to watch an Immortal named Harper, and I was watching another man who lived close by." He shook his head sadly. "Sam was married; had three kids. Couple of grandchildren too if I remember right."

"Too bad." MacLeod sounded sympathetic. "Look, I might be coming at this from the wrong direction, but surely they can't expect you to handle this on your own, Joe? If local Watchers are getting killed, you could be next on the list."

"True." Joe shrugged. "But that's hard luck. Somebody has to deal with this, and Warrell evidently thinks I'm the man for the job." He sighed. "It's probably some Immortal who's got wind of what we do. Most of them don't take too kindly to being watched." He grinned sheepishly, as if suddenly remembering who he was talking too. "Sorry. Hope you didn't take that personally."

"Don't worry about it." MacLeod frowned. "You're probably right. Who else but an Immortal would have reason to kill Watchers? Who else would know about the organisation? From what I've seen, you people are as secretive as we are." He paced a few times, face fixed in concentration. "I haven't noticed any new people around, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. And if it is an Immortal, no way are you handling this alone, Joe. You know what I think about mortals trying to deal with Immortals."

"I have no intention of heading a witch hunt." Joe began to collect up the names of his seven dead colleagues. "You should leave here now, Mac. You shouldn't even have been here when Warrell came. Watcher business is Watcher business."

"And what about Methos?" Duncan glanced up at his fellow Immortal, who was standing a few paces away looking thoughtful. He glanced up at the mention of his name.

"I'm a Watcher," he said, by way of a reminder.

"You haven't thought of yourself that way in months." Duncan suddenly grinned. "Although, let's be honest, having you here could be just the break we need."

"It could?" Methos looked suspicious. "What have you got in mind, MacLeod?"

"Oh, nothing much." The Highlander's grin grew progressively bigger, until it seemed to be in serious danger of breaking free from his face altogether. "Think about it. Somebody is killing Watchers, right? We want to find out who, and why. So what could be better than to offer a little bait; bait that can't be put at risk."

"Can't be put at risk?!" Methos sounded outraged. "I thought you'd decided that the killer is an Immortal? If that's the case I'll be deader than--"

"Relax." MacLeod interrupted smoothly. "I'm not going to send you off to meet an Immortal with your neck bared. We don't even know if that's what we're dealing with. Just think about it, okay? If he was to shoot you, we'd know who he is. You might even get to find out why he's doing it."

"Gee thanks." Ignoring the amusement on the faces of his friends, Methos climbed onto the bar, and sat there, head lowered in a sulk. "I am not going to go out there and wait for somebody to come along and shoot me."

"Why not?" MacLeod was warming to his theme, much to his colleague's chagrin. "He can't kill you."

"You don't know that. And anyway, being shot hurts, especially when it's in the head. It can take hours to recover from an injury like that, and I hate being dead for a long time."

"Oh come on Methos…" Duncan sounded coaxing. "For me? Please?"

"No, MacLeod." The old man caught Joe's eye. "But you are right about something; Joe isn't handling this."

"I beg your pardon?" Dawson straightened up, glancing toward his sometime associate in obvious surprise. "Says who?"

"Says me. It's too dangerous, Joe. Somebody is out there killing Watchers, and I'm not going to risk you being the next one. You can go to Paris for a few days."

"Like hell I will. Sam Hendricks was a friend of mine. I'm not going to swan off somewhere while his killer is still loose in the city."

"He won't be loose for long. MacLeod is going to paint one of these on his wrist," Methos held up his own tattooed arm, "and then put himself out as bait. Right, Highlander?"

"Wrong. I'm not having one of them put on." MacLeod grinned. "You're going to do it."

"I am not." MacLeod laughed, and Dawson sighed, his exasperation levels rising again.

"Can't you two stop arguing for five minutes?" He tapped thoughtfully on the bar with his fingers. "Okay, let's think this thing through. Adam-" almost unconsciously he reverted to using his friend's Watcher alias. "Go and check through the records. See if you can find any link between these seven people; any link at all. Maybe they were all following the same Immortal at some time. Anything."

"Okay." The tall man wandered away, vanishing into the shadows long before he reached the door. If he were only as good at fighting as he is at disappearing, MacLeod thought with a grim smile, he'd be one hell of an opponent. He glanced across at Joe.

"Anything you want me to do?"

"Not yet, Mac. Thanks, but I've got to check a few leads first. I'll speak to you tomorrow, and we'll see where we are then."

"Sure." MacLeod began to head for the door. "Be careful, Joe. I mean it. No more opening the door unless you're sure about who you're opening it to."

"I'll be careful." His friend smiled. "Night, Mac."

"Goodnight." Casting one final look back at the troubled mortal, the Highlander wandered off after Methos. He was worried, and he did not like the fact that there was nothing at all that he could do.


Claude Phelps heaved a tired sigh, and stumbled up the steps to his apartment building. It had been a long day. Following an Immortal was no easy task, and he was beginning to wonder why he had signed up to be a Watcher. Family tradition was one thing, but the reality was quite another. He fumbled for his keys, nearly losing them when his tired fingers rebelled against his desire for them to move. In this darkness he would have no chance of locating the keys if he dropped them. The street lighting was non-existent, and it looked as if the building's security lights had been targeted by the local gangs again. Claude didn't mind. Darkness was a Watcher's friend. It enabled him to get his work done without having to worry about being seen, although Claude didn't worry much about that. For the entirety of his six month tenure in the business he had been on an assignment to watch an Immortal named Charles Whitburn; two hundred and seventy pounds of amiable stupidity. Claude wondered if Whitburn would get the message if the Watcher wore a large sign around his neck, reading I'm watching you. He grinned to himself. That would shake up the bosses a bit, not that he really knew who they were. The secrecy of organisations such as the Water Buffaloes and the Freemasons was nothing compared to the Watchers. They had zealously guarded their anonymity for thousands of years, and with the exception of the tattoo they all wore on their wrists they were completely undetectable. Claude himself hadn't heard of them until six months ago, on his nineteenth birthday, when an uncle had decided it was time for him to learn the reason why his father was away so much.

The outer door finally yielded, and Phelps climbed wearily up the staircase to his apartment, three floors up. The lift wasn't working again. Typical. Not that it mattered, really. If he had relaxed in it for even so much as a second, he would have stayed there for the night.

The third floor came at last, and the tired Watcher fumbled his way to his door. Odd that the lights here weren't working either. He shrugged of the nagging concern on the back of his mind and unlocked his apartment door, fumbling for the light switch as soon as the door swung open. Nothing happened. He pressed the switch again, and felt something close over his fingers. It felt like a hand. For a second he froze, then jerked his hand away, falling over himself in his desperation to get out of the door. The hand closed on his shoulder, then another clamped itself over his mouth.

"Hello," a voice hissed in his ear, too quiet to allow for identification of any sort. "Welcome home."

Claude struggled fiercely, but he could not break the man's grip. Fear made his chest tighten, and he gulped in anguish, trying to tear his head free so that he could shout for help. Deep inside he knew that it would do him no good. Even if somebody did hear him, in this neighbourhood they would not come to his assistance. He was on his own, and it looked as though it was all about to be over. He felt himself being forced to his knees, and a strangled whimper found its way out of his throat. He closed his eyes. A faint laugh sounded somewhere behind him, and the hands released their hold. For a second, hope flooded through his mind as he wondered if he was being released, then the cold metal of a gun barrel was pressed against the back of his head.

"Sleep well, Watcher." The voice was a throaty whisper, filled with grim relish, and it was the last noise that Claude's brain was able to process. When it finally came, he never even heard the sound of the gunshot.


Knock, knock, knock. Duncan groaned in response to the sound, and rolled over, trying to bury his head in the pillow. No way could it be that time already. The knocking persisted and he sat up, glancing at his bedside clock. Half past five.

"What the-?" he rubbed his eyes, considering whether or not he could honestly be bothered to get up, and decided that he couldn't. After all, he was an old man now, and old men needed their sleep. He lay down again, then frowned, tension suddenly flooding through his body as he heard a short, sharp click, followed by the unmistakable sound of the door opening. Somebody had picked the lock. He stood up, feeling the familiar buzz of an approaching Immortal, and frowned into the semi-darkness. Thoughts about last night's revelation sprang to the forefront of his mind. Was the murderer after him now? He felt for his sword and raised it, ready to fight whoever it was that had broken into his house.

The tall, dark shape which entered the bedroom was tense and alert, and it gave a startled yelp as Duncan, reacting with his usual well-honed instincts, grabbed it by the shoulder, spun it about and caught it round the neck, pressing his cold, sharp sword blade against the intruder's throat. A smile of satisfaction crossed his face. Even half asleep he was still more than a match for the average housebreaker.

"MacLeod…" Methos' voice, sounding slightly aggrieved, filtered through the Highlander's battle readied state of alert, and he frowned.


"Who else?" Finally succeeding in pulling free now that Duncan's grip had relaxed a little, the old man straightened his shirt. "How many other people break into your apartment?" He turned the light on, and looked the other man up and down. "Were you in bed?"

"Of course I was in bed! Methos, it is half past five in the morning. And in answer to your question, I am not supposed to have anybody breaking into my apartment. It's not usually the way people like to carry on. Not nice, ordinary people, anyway."

"I'm not nice and ordinary." Wandering back into the front room, Methos sat down on the settee and stretched his legs out, obviously already at home. "I've been up all night checking the Watcher records."

"And?" Automatically going through the usual procedure of knocking his guest's feet off the coffee table, MacLeod sat down on a chair, and tried not to scream when Methos' legs immediately returned to their favourite resting place.

"Nothing. I couldn't find anything that suggested a link between those seven people. There is no common ground at all, excepting that they were all Watchers. They weren't even all born in the same country." He yawned. "Do you have any beer, MacLeod?"

"No. You drank it all, last time you were here." Duncan rubbed his chin thoughtfully, trying to decide whether or not he was fully awake yet. "So what do we do next?"

"I was thinking of paying Warrell a visit." Methos frowned darkly. "He's got to know more than he's letting on; he always does."

"You know where he's staying?"

"Sure. It'll be in the most expensive hotel in town, he's that sort of guy." Standing up, Methos began to head for the door. "Are you coming?"

"Sure. If you'll let me get dressed first."

"I certainly have no intention of walking down the street with you dressed like that." The old man changed direction, and moved towards the kitchen. "I'll put the kettle on. Tea?"

"Coffee." MacLeod vanished into the bedroom. "Try not to break anything."

"You are so funny, Duncan." Methos sounded deeply sarcastic, and MacLeod smiled. He had discovered some time ago that winding the old man up was one of his most favourite pastimes.

"Do you know this Warrell guy well?" he called out, hunting for some clean clothes, and beginning to drag them on.

"We've met. A couple of times actually. Once was when I first joined the Watchers, and the other was… six or seven years ago. I was in London on business with Don Salzer - and Joe."

"Watcher business?"

"Why else would I have been there with Dawson? We were following a particularly unpleasant Immortal named… Kurlan, or Kirran, or something like that. He'd left a trail of dead Watchers right across the Continent."

"And Warrell turned up to help you deal with it?"

There was a silence, and Methos smiled, although there was no way for Duncan to see.

"He turned up to tell us that we had to deal with it, then followed us when we were trying to get some evidence against Kirrlon, or whatever his name was. Joe had slipped the guy a drug so that we could climb around in his apartment and look for the murder weapon, but Warrell sent us on some wild goose chase and took Kieron's head." He stirred MacLeod's coffee with a strong, angry hand, whirling the dark liquid into a frenzy, and causing it to leap out of the mug. "We had an almighty showdown later, when I found out. Pretty much came to blows." He smiled sheepishly as Duncan came over to collect his coffee. "I damn nearly pulled my sword on him there and then."

"Probably deserved it." MacLeod drank the coffee straight down, feeling properly awake again at last. "Okay, let's get after Warrell. Maybe he's got a few theories of his own that he can be persuaded to share."


"So which do you reckon is the best hotel in town?" Leaning back behind the wheel of his car, MacLeod glanced across at his companion, who shrugged.

"Why are you asking me? You know Adam Pierson's experience of hotels."

"You must have some idea." MacLeod grinned. "You do live here."

"So do you."

"On and off." The Highlander sighed. "This could be a long night."

"Already has been, for me." Methos frowned in concentration, although MacLeod doubted that it was genuine. "Best place round here always used to be Ma's Hotel And Diner. She did the best stew this side of the Atlantic."

"And this was in…?" MacLeod prompted, not entirely sure whether or not he really wanted to hear the answer.

"1864." Duncan rolled his eyes. "No, no, I tell a lie. Can't have been '64, I was in Russia then. Must have been '63."

"And you think Ma might still be there?" MacLeod asked teasingly. Methos shook his head. "What a surprise."

"No, not really, since I took her head. She tried slipping me something in my stew. Haven't touched the stuff since."

"You move in such charming circles, Methos."

"I know." He shrugged. "Let's try the Grand Regent Hotel. I've always wanted to go there."

"Good a place to start as any." They pulled away from the curb, and out into the sparse traffic. The streets were virtually empty at such an early hour, and they soon pulled up in front of the huge, impressive building. MacLeod whistled.

"Nice. A room here must cost a fortune."

"Several fortunes." They climbed from the car, and ignored the porter who was trying to take Duncan's keys. "Do you think they'll let us in?"

Duncan grinned.

"They'll let me in," he shot back, and then eyed Methos' habitual jeans and over-large shirt. "Maybe we should look for a service elevator."

"Very funny." Methos frowned suddenly. "Looks like they've had trouble here." He nodded towards the doors, where several uniformed policemen were standing around. Squad cars were arriving all the time, and MacLeod felt himself become tense. He didn't like the feel of this; as if something were about to go wrong. Methos strode on ahead, showing his usual lack of concern for all things official, and nodded politely at the officers by the door. They showed some surprise at the arrival of a man dressed as he was, but to Duncan's relief, nobody made any attempt to stop the old man. He breezed through reception, heading for the lift as though he owned the hotel, and Duncan just caught up with him before the doors hissed closed.

"Hey! Aren't we going to find out which room he's in?" he asked. Methos shook his head.

"No idea what name he'll be using. Don't worry, MacLeod. He'll either be in 412 or 615."

"He will? How do you know?"

"He's a man of habit." Methos lapsed into silence, leaning against the wall of the lift with a troubled expression on his face. He glanced at the tattoo on his wrist, tracing it thoughtfully with a fingertip.

"Worried about Joe?" MacLeod asked. The old man looked up momentarily, then shrugged, and sank back into the uncommunicative state that the Highlander had become familiar with. MacLeod sighed, watching the progress of the lift instead. The fourth floor seemed a long time in coming, but when the doors did finally slide open, Methos was instantly alert, and was the first to leave the lift. He walked briskly along the corridor until he arrived at room 412, and then knocked sharply on the door.

"Methos!" Duncan's voice was little more than a desperate whisper. "What if it's not his room?" His answer was another shrug, and they waited together for a few seconds. Suddenly there was the sound of footsteps, and the door opened.

"Yeah?" The man at the door was dressed in a sombre black suit, and was clearly not Steve Warrell.

"We're looking for someone," Duncan told him. "Looks like we've got the wrong room."

"Not necessarily." The man looked them up and down, his expression suggesting suspicion. "Who were you looking for?"

"Just some man we thought we saw come in here." Duncan was already trying to pull Methos away, but something had caught the other Immortal's attention, and he was not going to be distracted. He leant on the door slightly, looking casual, and managed to catch a glimpse of what was going on in the room beyond. A shape lay huddled on the floor, covered by a sheet, and the old Immortal gave a sudden start. The dark suited man noticed.

"Someone you know?" he asked, moving aside so that the body, and all of its attendant police officers, could be more clearly seen. Methos and MacLeod exchanged a glance, and their host smiled.

"Okay boys, come on in. I'm Lieutenant Forbes, and I'm in charge here. I wonder if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions?"

"Questions? There's nothing we can tell you, lieutenant." MacLeod smiled politely. "My friend and I have obviously come to the wrong address. We'll leave you here--"

"Forget it." Resting his hand on his waist, so that the gun at his belt could be clearly seen, the lieutenant gestured inside the room. "Get in there."

Both Immortals glanced towards each other, and Duncan shrugged. He entered first, and looked about in interest. The room was as expensive looking as the rest of the hotel, with heavy, oak furniture and an impressive chandelier. The Highlander wandered over to the body and glanced down at it. Although the face was covered, one of the hands had escaped the temporary shrouding, and plainly showed its identifying tattoo. It had to be Steve Warrell.

"Names?" Facing the two new arrivals with a look of cold determination on his face, Forbes held up a notebook. "I want some answers out of this."

"There's nothing we can tell you, lieutenant." Trying to sound calming and faultlessly polite, Duncan used one of his best smiles, at the same time wondering if he recognised this particular policeman. He didn't think he did, which was probably just as well. Between the two of them, he and Methos had had a run in with just about every detective in the city at some time, and the stories of innocence and repeated assertions that they knew nothing eventually began to wear thin. Most of the local policemen were already more than enough on edge due to their conviction that there was a serial killer on the loose with a taste for beheading his victims. Another murderer was the last thing that they wanted. "Look, my name is Duncan MacLeod, and my friend here is Adam Pierson. We--"

"Show me your hands." Unmoved by the determined attempts to charm him, the lieutenant barked out the order so sharply that he surprised both men. Duncan frowned.

"Our what?"

"Show me your hands. Both of you." Forbes pointed to the items in question, as though trying to make it easier for them to understand. "I want to see them."

"I don't see how that's going to help you at all, lieutenant." Smiling cheerfully, MacLeod held out his hands, palm up, and watched as the detective scrutinised both wrists. "Do I pass?"

"Huh." Turning away from the Highlander, Forbes glanced at a sheet of paper, which MacLeod recognised immediately as a blow up of the Watcher tattoo. He frowned inwardly, and headed for the door, pushing Methos ahead. His companion needed no persuading.

"Where do you think you're going?" Turning back towards them, Forbes had laid aside the piece of paper, and was glaring at the pair in open suspicion. "I want to see both of you."

"Sorry lieutenant, we're in a hurry." MacLeod saw two large officers move into place in front of the door, and slowed to a halt. Oh well. It had been worth a try.

"You; Pierson. Show me your hands." Moving towards them with the air of a hungry shark, Forbes rested his hand on the butt of his gun, obviously itching to draw. Methos glanced at Duncan, who shrugged helplessly, then he took a step forward.

"Sure." The old man moved towards the detective with such easy speed and nonchalance that, for a moment, MacLeod himself thought that he was going to co-operate. Instead, at the last moment, the Immortal changed direction, quickened his pace, and made a dash for the open window. Caught by surprise, MacLeod stared as his companion dodged the officers who tried to intercept him, then leapt through the window, and with a surprising agility, began to swing down the twisting metal fire escape.

"Don't just stand there! Get after him!" Dashing to the window, Forbes watched in dismay as his new suspect reached the ground, and began to race across the street. A handful of uniformed officers hurried after him, their expressions clearly showing that they would be too afraid to come back if they allowed Methos to get away. Forbes was clearly a tough task master, Duncan observed, realising that this did not bode well for the old man. He wandered to the window and gazed out, ignoring the half a dozen guns which immediately pointed themselves in his direction. Methos was gone from sight, but already the squad cars seemed to be converging on the area. MacLeod sighed. Improvising was all very well, but he couldn't help reflecting, with a twinge of regret, that after five thousand years the old man should really have realised that thinking also helped, every once in a while. He heard a commotion, and saw the pursuit squad appearing back around the corner with Methos in tow. His hands were cuffed, and one of his captors held his sword in a very tentative grip. Obviously delighted, Forbes hurried to the door to greet his men as they arrived with the prisoner.

"Well?" he asked, his voice showing excitement.

"He's got the mark on his wrist, lieutenant." The officer with the sword held the weapon up. "He also had this, hidden under his jacket. Quite some weapon."

"Not bad, but not the murder weapon." Forbes prowled in a circle, eyeing Methos was evident relish. "So, we've got a live one at last. Would you mind telling me what that tattoo means?"

"What tattoo?" The innocence in the old man's voice was so faultless that MacLeod could not prevent a smile from appearing on his face. Forbes scowled and spun Methos around, grabbing the Immortal's wrist to look at it for himself.

"That tattoo," he crowed triumphantly. "You better tell me, Pierson, because I have bodies mounting up, and they're all marked in that same way. I want to know who you people are, and what you represent, and I want to know why someone is trying to wipe the lot of you off the face of the planet."

"Hard luck." His tone suddenly harsh, Methos pulled free from the detective's grip and sat down on the nearest chair, which just happened to be a particularly comfortable one with a coffee table in front of it. The old man assumed what was likely to be his favourite position, and lapsed into a customary silence. Forbes glared. There was something about this casually rebellious young man which could, he felt, come to annoy him immensely.

"Search his friend," he muttered to a nearby detective, and MacLeod felt an expert pair of hands frisk him quickly. He was unable to do anything to prevent them from finding his sword, and it joined Methos' in police custody. The Highlander sighed. Why did things have such a constant habit of not going well?

"So which of you is going to come clean and answer my questions?" Prowling about the room like a tiger, Forbes glanced from one to the other of his unwilling guests. "I want to know all about this secret society that you people are involved with."

"I am not involved with any secret society." MacLeod, frustrated almost to the point where his cool was starting to crack, glanced across at Methos, wondering when the old man was going to make his next move. So far all that he was doing was sitting, with his feet on the coffee table, studiously ignoring everyone. Forbes walked round in front of him and knocked his feet off the table, sitting down on it so that his eyes were more or less on a level with the prisoner's.

"You have a tattoo on your wrist," he said, speaking very clearly. "I want to know why."

"I liked the design." Methos sighed. "Look, lieutenant, finding out what the mark means is not going to help you catch the killer. It doesn't work that way. You have no way of finding him, believe me. He's not going to let a bunch of policemen run him into the ground."

"He's not, huh? Why is that?" Standing up, Forbes gazed down at the old man, taking in the jeans, loose, long-sleeved T-shirt and vaguely battered looking leather jacket. Adam Pierson was not exactly the image of a major criminal, but then he was also far from being the image of a respectable citizen. "I think you two know a lot more about all of this than you're willing to let on; so I'm going to take you down to headquarters, and we can talk about it there."

"Oh come on lieutenant. Wouldn't you rather be out there chasing proper criminals?" Exasperated, both by the detective's enthusiasm and his own inability to get past it, Duncan felt himself being propelled towards the door and out into the corridor. He tried to keep an eye on his sword as he and Methos were led down the stairs and out towards the waiting squad cars. Forbes had taken charge of the weapons, and was demonstrating a particular interest in them.

"All that you have to do is give me the answers to a few minor questions, and then you can go. I've got nothing to prove that you're involved with these murders." Making a final attempt to get through to the two men, Forbes scowled at the silence which greeted his remark. The case was becoming an obsession for him, and he felt that he had to know what the mysterious tattoo meant. It was all the more annoying knowing that the only people likely to be able to tell him were fiercely determined to maintain their secrecy. He slammed his hand down on the squad car roof, and stepped back to watch it as it roared away. His eyes narrowed. He would find out. He had to. One way or the other he was going to get those men to tell him what he wanted to know.


Kate Morgan ran down the alleyway, her hair flying in the breeze, her eyes bright with a look of panic. What the hell was going on? One moment she had been relaxing on the balcony, watching her target, and the next she was here, wherever here was, running down a network of twisting little side roads that she had never known existed. Footsteps echoed behind her, and she gasped in fear and doubled her speed. She could still taste the hand which had grabbed at her mouth, still smell the skin of the attacker. Fortunately she knew enough about self defence to have been able to pull free and make a run for it. Terror ran in cold shocks up and down her back, as rumours of a killer resurfaced in her memory. She had heard that there was a psycho out there somewhere; someone who hated the Watchers. The tattoo on her wrist suddenly seemed to burn her skin, and she became painfully aware of the way that it marked her out from the rest of the population. What had she been thinking of when she had joined this damned organisation? She had been looking for adventure, cheap thrills; it wasn't supposed to be like this. Watchers were supposed to watch; they were anonymous, unseen, shrouded in secrecy. They weren't supposed to be hunted into the ground by some insane serial killer. Who was he? What could he possibly have against her? She was just an ordinary, average American with two cars, two children and a bigger mortgage than she cared to remember.

Dashing around a corner, Kate flattened herself against a wall and began to take deep, shuddering breaths. She had to get a hold of herself. She had to find her way back though the maze of alleyways towards the main road, so that she could get help. Someone in the city must know what was going on. Some member of the Watcher Hierarchy must have some idea.

"Ah, there you are, my dear." The voice was oily and smooth, and Kate looked up towards it, fear filling her mind. She backed away, only to collide with something soft and warm. Arms grabbed her and forced her to her knees.

"Who are you?" she asked, her voice sounding small and terrified. She had had no idea that she was capable of such fear. "Why me?"

"Why not you? You're no different to any of the others." She tried to look up at the man when he said that; tried to see into his eyes, tried to gauge what sort of a man he was; but a hand gripped her head and forced it down. Tarmac filled her vision, and for the first time in her life she saw the fusion of tiny stones within it, and saw how they caught the early light. Some of them were even sparkling.

"You can't do this." The words came from a constricted throat, and she hardly recognised the voice as her own. She felt the bite of a gun, pressed hard against her skull.

"I've done it before." The voice which came in answer to her desperate comment was cold and emotionless. "You're nothing, Watcher." A loud click made her jump, and she realised distantly that it was the sound of the safety clicking off. She gasped, and her eyes screwed shut in terrified expectation. It wasn't easy to accept that your own private world was about to end.


"I hate prison." Sitting morosely on a bunk, Methos stared at the floor beneath him. "They're cold and depressing and miserable and--"

"I get the picture, Adam." Leaning against the bars, MacLeod looked back at his comrade and smiled. There was something essentially amusing about the sight of the old man looking so despondent, as he hugged his knees and rocked back and forth on the bunk. It was very definitely one of those moments when he looked like anything but the oldest man in the world, and more like a young, wayward mortal who hadn't got a clue what was going on. "I wonder how long they'll keep us here for."

"Years and years," his companion muttered, heaving a heavy sigh which suggested that the sorrows of half a continent rested within his soul. "We'll probably be let out by the last Immortal left at the end of the Gathering."

MacLeod laughed. "We could get out straight away," he pointed out, and earned himself a disparaging snort in reply.

"Yeah, right. I'll say 'Actually lieutenant, the tattoo means that I'm a member of an international organisation set up to monitor the movements of a race of Immortal warriors. Oh, except that I'm not really a Watcher myself, that's just a cover. Actually I'm an Immortal too.' That would be the perfect solution, naturally."

"I'm not suggesting that you be quite so honest. Just remember that every second we're in here, you know who is out there somewhere; and Joe Dawson might just be his next target."

"You think I don't know that?" Methos slumped back against the wall, listening to the primitive springs of his bunk creak and jerk about in protest at his sudden movements. "He should have gone to Paris like I told him to. Stupid, stubborn mortal."

"So what do we do, Methos?" Wandering over to the bunk, MacLeod looked up at the older Immortal, his expression questioning. The old man shrugged.

"How do I know? All I care about is getting out of here, and hopefully getting my sword back. I can't afford to worry about anything else."

"Anything else?" Duncan prompted. A pair of bright, hard eyes stared back at him.

"That's right. Joe isn't my concern. I gave him some advice and he didn't take it. All that I'm interested in now is sorting out my own problems. I'm not even supposed to be a Watcher anymore."

"So you're just going to let some whacko kill them all?"

"Sure. Why not. They're just strangers." Methos stared out through the bars. "Don't always be so eager to think of others before yourself, MacLeod. I've warned you about that often enough in the past. At the end of the day, the only person that you can be sure of protecting - and of trusting - is yourself. Never forget that. It's the secret of eternal life."

"If I really thought that you believed that I'd pull you down here and knock your block off." MacLeod shook his head and stomped back to the cell door. Methos stared at his back, his eyes boring holes into the other Immortal, staring at him for what seemed like an age as the silence moved about between them. Finally he sighed.

"What do you want me to tell Forbes?" he asked eventually. MacLeod did not respond immediately.

"Nothing," he said finally, his voice soft. "There is nothing that you can tell him; nothing that won't get us deeper into trouble. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll let us out."

"And what about Joe?"

"I thought you weren't worried about him?"

"I'm not. I was just asking." There was another silence. Methos seemed to be thinking something through. Finally he spoke up, his voice subdued.

"I'm sorry I ran off like that, and got you arrested too."

"Yeah, well admittedly that didn't exactly help. A little bit of thought might have been useful there."

"Hey!" Instantly on the defensive, Methos sat up, his voice sounding outraged. "I was trying to stop them from seeing this damn thing." He held up his wrist. Duncan nodded.

"I guessed that. But what exactly were you hoping to achieve by leaping out of the window like that?"

"I thought I could get away." Methos was sinking back into a sulk, and Duncan couldn't resist teasing him further.

"You didn't think at all; that was the problem."

"Now listen here." Jumping down from the bunk, Methos confronted Duncan with an expression which suggested deep indignation. "I was escaping from various authorities several millennia before you were even born, so don't give me any of that high and mighty Highlander superiority claptrap. Let's just remember who's in charge around here."

Duncan laughed, deciding that now was not the best time to point out that it was usually him who was in charge. He folded his arms and stared at the floor, trying to run everything through his mind. Methos paced about the cell thinking equally hard. It was extremely frustrating, being locked up when there was some madman lose in the city, intent upon killing off the Watchers one by one. The old man could not lose the image of Joe Dawson, lying under a sheet just like Warrell, his life blown away by a bullet. Somehow the odd mortal, with his cheerful smile, bad jokes and constant insistence on ignoring Methos' less than obvious seniority, had become a major part of the old man's life, and even though he liked to imagine that he cared about nobody but himself, Methos knew that it would hurt him deeply if anything were to happen to his friend. He didn't like to admit it, but the realisation was there in his mind. He couldn't face the thought of losing Dawson, and that made him all the more frustrated at his forced inactivity. A sudden thought struck him. Much though he would prefer to think that Joe was hidden safely away inside his club, there was one way that he could be sure of his friend's immediate safety. He grinned.

"Hey MacLeod. We haven't had our phone calls yet."


"So I think it's about time I called Joe, and asked him to come and bail us out. I know it's not as good as being let out for real, but at least it'll get us back out there, with a chance of finding the killer. And we get to keep an eye on Joe."

"Okay by me." MacLeod shrugged. "Just so long as they don't notice his tattoo on the way in here, and decide to chuck him in with us."

"Well obviously that would be a little inconvenient."

"Just a little." They grinned at each other. The prospect of a chance to return to the chase had them both impatient to be free. There was just the small matter of what their next move was. MacLeod knew that Methos would not like it, but he still favoured one plan above all the others. After all, it wasn't as though it would be all that dangerous…


"No, no, no. Absolutely not. No." Methos folded his arms and scowled fiercely. "I won't do it."

MacLeod and Dawson exchanged a look of vague amusement. The conversation had been going in much the same way ever since Joe had met them at the police station. Forbes had given them back their swords, and had handed over MacLeod's car keys, an expression of clear distaste on his face. A fluttering of suspicion had passed across the Highlander's mind as he took the keys, but it was nothing that he could put his finger on, and he had ignored it. During the drive back to the club he had tried to convince Methos to agree to the original plan, but the old man took no small amount of persuading.

"Why not? We'll be close by, Methos, you won't get hurt. We just want to see who it is, that's all."

"No." The long arms unfolded long enough to reach behind the bar and fetch a can of beer, and the sound of it opening seemed to symbolically mark the end of the topic of conversation, at least as far as Methos was concerned. MacLeod sighed.

"It's not as if he can kill you."

"I don't give a damn! Odd though it may seem, MacLeod, I don't much like getting shot. Of all the little pleasures I've experienced in my lifetime, being blasted away with a gun curiously isn't amongst my favourites. Debate over."

"Think about it. Just for a while."

"What's to think about?" Standing up, Methos began to pace. "So what if he can't kill me. What happens if he tries? How do we explain the regeneration? If he sees that we'll have to kill him."

"We can worry about that later." MacLeod frowned. "The first problem is discovering whether or not it's an Immortal that we're dealing with. Obviously, if we are, that alters things somewhat."

"You're telling me." Methos sounded emphatic. "No way am I doing this if it's an Immortal."

"I don't think it can be." Lowering himself down onto his piano stool, Joe frowned at the other two men. "If he's an Immortal, how does he know who to attack? There's no way that he can have got hold of any Watcher files, and there's no other way to know which victims to choose. Even most Watchers wouldn't recognise each other; it's all strictly need to know."

"This guy obviously knows." Taking a long, thoughtful pull at his beer can, Methos gazed into the middle distance. "He can't be going around the city grabbing hold of strangers to take a look at their wrists, then killing the ones who turn out to be Watchers. He must have some way of telling who's who."

"True." Duncan grinned. "Okay, so he's not an Immortal. That means we go back to Plan A." He glanced towards Methos, holding up his hands to forestall the inevitable objections. "We'll be with you, Methos. Don't worry."

"Huh. Don't worry. Easy enough for you to say." The old man shook his head, and sat down again, suddenly seeming resigned to his fate. "It is about time you two started showing a little respect. I haven't lived for five thousand years just so that I can put up with the combined insults and insubordination of a pair of children." He sighed, ignoring Joe's stifled giggle. "So where do we start?"

"I haven't got a clue." MacLeod shrugged. "We put you out in the open, I guess. Wait for a bite."

"What fun." Finishing his can, Methos threw it in Joe's general direction, and grabbed his jacket. "I might as well go home then."

"Hang on. We'd better go with you." MacLeod also moved towards the door, but Methos shook his head.

"You can't be that obvious, MacLeod. If this man is going to try and kill me, he's not going to do it when you're sitting in my apartment. Isn't there something a little less obvious that we can do?"

"I have some bugging equipment," Joe offered. "I used it a few years ago for some watching assignment. I think there's a location device around here somewhere. We'll know where you are, and hear what's being said around you within a ten mile radius. Should be fine so long as you stay in the city."

"Okay." Methos waited while the mortal fetched the equipment, pinning it to the lining of the old man's jacket. It was invisible to the casual observer.

"Don't go far," Duncan warned as Methos headed for the exit. "If you move around a lot it'll be hard to keep track of you."

"Don't worry. I wasn't planning to go on a grand tour of the state." Methos left without a farewell, and the door swung shut behind him. MacLeod and Dawson exchanged a glance. There was no real reason to be worried, but all the same they felt guilty. Somehow the feeling that they were taking a dangerous risk was very hard to shake off.


Lieutenant James Forbes, detective, sat behind the wheel of his car, gazing at the door through which the three men had disappeared. He stared thoughtfully at the radio system set up in the front passer seat, and frowned to himself. They had been talking about Immortals again, just as they had been in the prison cell, when he had been listening in. All very improper, of course, and hardly recommended police procedure, but he had had to do something. How else was he supposed to crack this case? He wondered if the bizarre topic of conversation meant that they had discovered the bug he had hidden in MacLeod's key ring, and yet couldn't bring himself to accept that his trick had been uncovered. Hiding the bug had been illegal, and he was well aware that any evidence it gave him would be inadmissible in court. It had been the only viable option, though. The only way that he felt he could possibly crack the secret of the tattoos, and try to come one step closer to catching the murderer.

He drummed nervously on the steering wheel, pondering over what he had just heard. One of them - the young British guy - was going to set himself up as bait for the killer, and that in itself was enough to cause Forbes to sweat nervously. If anything happened to the kid, and he knew about it, he could be held responsible; but if it got out how he knew about the plan, he could lose his job. Worse, he could lose his shield. He scowled, and drummed harder on the wheel, beating out a rhythm that he did not recognise. It grew louder and more insistent with his unease, and finally he slammed the wheel hard with his fist in frustration. Damn it all. Blasted civilians and their stupid risk taking. He ducked down below the dashboard as the doors swung open and Adam Pierson emerged, blinking in the bright daylight. He looked like a most improbable match for a serial killer; as though an unexpected gust of wind would knock him flying, but Forbes was not fooled. This guy probably was the killer. His looks were just a little too smooth, the eyes just a little too innocent, as if he were hiding some other personality inside; something that he did not like others to see.

Pierson stepped off the curb, and crossed the street, not noticing the car parked by the roadside. Forbes hesitated for only a moment before he climbed out of the car and set off after his quarry. Right now he didn't much care whether this guy was a killer or a potential victim; or even whether he was as confused and deluded as the conversation he had just overheard suggested. He was the only lead that Forbes had, and the lieutenant was not going to let him out of his sight. He was going to uncover the truth, no matter where it led him.


Drawing the curtains, Methos lay alone in his apartment, staring at the ceiling. It had been a disturbing couple of days, and so far things showed no sign of improving. It was all MacLeod's fault. If it hadn't been for the infernal Highlander trying to play at saving the world again, Methos would have been lying in deepest relaxation on some sunny beach, drinking ice cold beer and watching the tide come in. By fair means or foul, he would have got Joe Dawson onto a plane, and taken him somewhere where he could be safe, until MacLeod was able to hunt the killer down, and deal with him in some typically final MacLeod kind of way.

Heaving a sigh which had little to do either with boredom or his recent lack of sleep, Methos lifted his sword up from the floor and turned it over in his hands. It was a nervous habit, born of years of waiting for the inevitable. At one time, the cool, sharp and perfect blade would have given him a feeling of satisfaction and completeness, but now it disturbed him. He ran his fingers along the edge, so exact and so flawless, and allowed himself a brief shiver, unaware if it was one of fear or delight. Maybe it was the worry that he was unable to control the sword; the dread that his other half might reawaken, and that he would be unable to harness the bloodlust and the madness that he had buried so deeply within himself. Maybe it was because the sword represented the past that he would have preferred to remain hidden. Either way, the sword was no longer what it had used to be to him. Now it was the means to an end, and the realisation of that disturbed him even more. It was a symbol of the cold, inescapable fact that he was alive only because he had killed so many thousands of his own kind, and that he would undoubtedly kill again, without hesitation, if the need arose. Death was all that his kind knew, despite their supposed immortality.

Methos stretched, and stared at the ceiling, trying to steer his thoughts back towards some slightly more cheerful topic. His wandering brain fell upon the suggestion of music, and a smile painted itself lazily about his face. Music. That was the one sure fire way to cut through his nagging fears and force himself to relax. He stood up, his sword abandoned on the settee, and crossed to the music centre.

"A little music? How thoughtful." The voice came from behind, and Methos whirled about in shock, his heart leaping into his throat. His eyes flew first to the sword on the settee, and landed on a tall, unfamiliar man who stood in the centre of the room, the sword already in his hands.

"Who-?" Methos left the question unasked, for it was already clear who the man was. Who else would have broken into his apartment? At least now he was sure that he was not dealing with an Immortal.

"So you're Adam Pierson." His tone agreeable, conversational even, the stranger glanced about at the furnishings. "You haven't been at all easy to track down, my boy. It's been quite a search."

"What do you mean?" The worry in the back of the old man's mind was growing, and he could have kicked himself for being boxed in so easily. Experience should have taught him better than this. He glanced towards the door, and saw two more men waiting there. They were obviously professionals, to have gained access to his home so easily.

"I mean that you've haven't been easy to find." The tall man smiled pleasantly. "But that doesn't matter now, does it."

"You've been looking for me? Why?"

"Why? Because I considered it necessary. You know, you're quite a lucky man. At first I was just planning to kill you along with all the rest. Wipe the Watcher scum off the face of the planet. No less than they deserve." He took a deep breath, as if trying to regain control of himself. "Then I decided that I couldn't be quite so simplistic; not with you."

"What's so special about me?" Wondering, with increasing dread, whether or not he really wanted to know, Methos tried to think of a possible escape route. Improvisation was a particular strength of his, but right now he could only draw blanks.

"You are a friend of Joe Dawson's." The soft spoken stranger smiled. "Better still, you're a friend of MacLeod's. I have a… particular interest in them both, you might say."

"Oh great." Unable to prevent the other two men from grabbing him by the arms, Methos felt himself being pushed towards the fire escape. A flood of desperation rushed through his mind, but inspiration failed him completely. This really wasn't fair. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. He remembered his comments earlier, and sighed bleakly. Right now, a bullet in the brain seemed like an infinitely more attractive fate. He climbed out of the window, aware, in an oddly detached way, that the wind was getting up, and that it was no longer as warm as it had been. Should have worn a thicker jacket, he thought vaguely, wondering why such a thing should come to mind now. Then he realised that he wasn't wearing a jacket; he had taken it off when he arrived home. The recognition of that fact came to him like a hammer blow, and he glanced back just before the little group began their descent of the steps. His jacket, complete with location finder and listening device, was hanging on the back of the door. Wherever he was going now, he was on his own.


"This really isn't terribly friendly, you know." Trying to twist round, so that he could see what the men were doing, Methos winced involuntarily as a rope was pulled tight. "Ow."

"You're breaking my heart." Straightening up, one of the men nodded in apparent satisfaction at his work. "That ought to hold you for a while."

"I don't doubt it." Methos tested the strength of the bonds, but was not encouraged by the result. The knots which encumbered his wrists were sufficient enough to make escape more than unlikely, and the ropes across his chest which strapped him to a pillar completed the job with admirable efficiency. "Congratulations."

"Huh." The man wandered away with his friend and Methos sighed, settling back to contemplate the scenery. He was in a warehouse; one of Seacouver's interminable, abandoned monstrosities that so many Immortals seemed to chose as the venues for their battles. Broken and stained concrete stretched out around him, failing to give much inspiration to the dejected prisoner.

"Enjoying our hospitality?" It was his captor, as jovial and repellent as ever. Methos shrugged as far as he was able.

"I asked for a sea view," he shot back. "And the waiters are downright unfriendly."

"Sorry. You just can't get good help these days." The man shrugged dismissively. "But if it's any consolation, it won't be for very long."

Methos took this piece of information as a sign that the man might be prepared to speak further.

"So is this where you tell me what it's all been in aid of, or do I have to guess?"

His captor smiled. "It's in aid of my brother," he said darkly. "Tell me; did you know him?"

"Who?" The flash in the strange man's eyes suggested at insanity, and Methos made a note to try and avoid antagonising him. He received another pleasant smile in reply.

"My brother was a… friend of Duncan MacLeod's. MacLeod killed him in fact."

"MacLeod's killed a lot of people."

"Undoubtedly very true." The oily smile came back out for an encore, this time with even more of a hint of madness than before. "But he made a mistake when he killed my brother. He was a Watcher, you see, and his comrades failed to help him. Dawson even sided with MacLeod. So I decided that you should all suffer. All of you. None of you lifted a finger to help my brother. Only he realised the enormity of what we're dealing with. Only he was prepared to do anything about it." Breaking off, the man took a long, shaky breath, calming himself down. "And now it's time to pay for your mistakes. For the mistakes of all your kind. I'm going to kill every Watcher I can get my hands on. But Dawson… He won't get it quickly like the others. He should have been there for my brother, and he wasn't. He didn't do a thing; turned against him, you see. He's got to suffer for it. But he's tricky. I'm not going to risk losing him. Which is where you come in…" He moved in close, his gun appearing in his hand as if by magic. The muzzle pressed against Methos' temple, the cold metal nestling into the soft skin. Methos found the weapon rather less terrifying than the look of complete madness in the eyes of the man who held it. He swallowed hard.

"Once Dawson knows I've got his boy, he'll come running." The man was nearly laughing now. "I'll get MacLeod the same way. Make him watch while I take Dawson apart. You can watch me take MacLeod's head, if you'd like. Or maybe I'll kill you first, for Dawson."

"They'll never fall for it. They won't come." Methos was angry, but did not want to let it show. He couldn't risk antagonising his captor, or making him lose his obviously tentative grip on sanity.

"Oh, they'll come. I know them." The man was grinning now. "They'll come."

"Why? How can you be so sure?" The old man was rather more of the opinion that MacLeod would leave him to get shot, and then come along later to pick up the 'body'. His captor laughed.

"They'll come; just as soon as I tell them who I am. Who my brother was."

"Who are you?" Amazed at the suggestion that there was any mortal who could be expected to have such an effect on Duncan MacLeod, Methos narrowed his eyes, staring at the man in an attempt to recognise him. There was something familiar, about the eyes perhaps, or about the arrogance of his stance.

"My name is Frank Horton." The captor laughed, and used the barrel of his gun to force the prisoner's head up, staring into his eyes as if to search for a reaction to the announcement. "My brother was James Horton. Perhaps you might have heard of him?"


In the shadows, Lieutenant Forbes shifted positions restlessly. This was crazy. It was as if some strange story were unfolding in front of his eyes. What were these people up to? Who were these Watchers that this pair seemed to know so much about? What was all this about Duncan MacLeod being a killer? None of it seemed to make any sense. They were being so blasé about it. So uncaring. How many people had he killed, and why? What was he, some kind of mass murderer? And why did it seem to mean so little to his friend? Pierson seemed relaxed; as if this was the sort of thing that he did often. That in itself was weird enough. Forbes couldn't help thinking that if it was him in that position - waiting for some nutcase to kill him and his two friends - he would be decidedly less composed.

Watching whilst Horton moved away, Forbes slipped closer, and worked his way towards Adam Pierson. The prisoner was tied up some distance from where his captors had chosen to stand, and the coast seemed fairly clear. Forbes tugged experimentally on the ropes, but could see that they would not easily come undone. Methos jumped at his touch.

"Take it easy." Speaking in a low voice, Forbes tested the strength of the knots, and grimaced. "Sorry. I'm not sure that I can get you out of these without a knife."

"Forbes?!" Trying to twist around, Methos eventually gave up and flopped back against the pillar. "Are you crazy? What are you doing here?"

"Trying to help you. What does it look like?" The lieutenant cast a nervous look towards Horton and his companions. "That was a pretty dumb stunt you just pulled. Setting yourself up as bait? What would have happened if he'd just shot you instead of bringing you out here?"

Methos ignored the question, counting it as unanswerable. He glanced back towards the shadows that Forbes appeared to be hiding within.

"What are you doing here?" he asked. He thought he heard a grim laugh.

"Following you. I rather thought that you were the killer."

"Me?!" There was amusement mingled with the outrage. "What did I do?"

"I don't know." Forbes sounded faintly embarrassed. "Look, I have to get out of here and call for back up. Do you think you'll be okay here on your own?"

"I'll be fine." Methos frowned. "Listen, Forbes; don't go calling the police. You don't know what you're dealing with here. Trust me on this one, and--"

"Trust you?" Forbes laughed shortly. "You've got to be kidding. The police are perfectly capable of dealing with all of this, I can assure you."

"You don't know what's going on here. Listen to me!" Methos tried to crane his head round again, searching for the apparently invisible lieutenant. "Get out of here, and find Duncan MacLeod. Tell him whatever you've heard. It's important."

"Why?" Forbes' eyes narrowed as he stared at Pierson's back, trying for the hundredth time that day to figure the kid out. What the hell was going on here that this guy - a foreigner - knew more about than he did, a veteran police officer with several decades worth of experience? "I want some answers. Before we go any further, I want to know what these Watchers are. What is it that you watch? You some kind of vigilante organisation?"

"Hardly." There was distaste in the other man's voice. "There are some things that I can't tell you. I'm sorry, but you'll just have to accept that. Now will you please stop acting like a rookie and go find MacLeod!"

Forbes scowled. He was not exactly used to being spoken to that way by a younger man. This new insult was just about going a step too far. He leaned closer, his voice threatening.

"If you ask me, you people are all one grape short of a fruit basket. Don't think that I didn't hear all that mumbo-jumbo rubbish about Immortals earlier on today. Now if you don't want to wind up getting shipped back to Britain in a straitjacket to spend the rest of your life in a mad house, you better tell me what the hell is going on!"

Methos winced. The last thing that he wanted was somebody investigating the fact that Adam Pierson had no national citizenship, and couldn't be shipped back to Britain. Or anywhere else for that matter. He sighed, trying to find the right words to calm Forbes down, and yet also avoid answering his questions. He was saved momentarily by Horton, who was walking purposefully towards him.

"Get back!" Methos hissed between his teeth, and hoped that the lieutenant was as capable of silent movement as his presence in the warehouse suggested. Horton did not appear to notice anything, and slowed to a halt in front of his prisoner, a look of curiosity on his face.

"Hello again." Smiling pleasantly, Horton waited for a second before speaking what was on his mind. Methos waited, almost patiently, not wishing to press the man.

"My friends and I have been discussing something," Horton said eventually.

"Yeah?" Hoping that he sounded nonchalant, Methos wondered what was going on. Something about his captor's stance was different, and he seemed to be looking at the old man in a different way.

"We were talking about that sword that we found you with. It's old, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Methos was thinking fast, not liking the direction of this conversation. "I have an interest in such things. Pays, when you're in my line of business."

"Oh, I'll bet it does." Horton was nodding, and smiling. "The blade is very well taken care of. It's been used recently, too. One of my companions is quite an expert."

"Is he."

"Oh yes." Horton was silent for a second. "You see, we've been wondering. We've been wondering why a Watcher would have an old sword in his possession. An old sword, recently used. We've also been wondering why the same Watcher - or anybody else for that matter - would go back home on his own, without a care in the world, when he knows that there's a killer loose in the city." Smiling happily, Horton regarded Methos with interest. "Why do you think somebody would do that?"

"Abject stupidity?" Methos suggested, thinking that it really wasn't very far from the truth. A wave of anger passed across Horton's face, and his gun leapt into his hand. Suddenly Horton was standing close, the gun pressed against the Immortal's neck. Methos saw the mask of rage contorting Horton's features, and winced inwardly, chiding himself for being so flippant. Bad move, Methos.

"I don't think so." The other man's voice came as a venomous whisper. "I think there's rather more to it than that. Tell me, my boy, what the best way for a shy Immortal to remain unnoticed would be. And then what the best bait is for a serial killer."

Methos did not answer, and the gun rammed harder against his neck. It made him nervous to feel it there, where he was unsure of the damage it could cause. Horton was breathing hard, his eyes unnaturally bright.

"I think the best bait would be someone that you could be sure I couldn't kill. Someone who could take a bullet in the head, and not die. Do you follow my meaning, Adam?"

"No." Methos tensed, half expecting the gun to go off, but instead Horton laughed, and seemed to relax. He took a step back.

"What I mean is, that I think you're a very clever man, Adam. Very clever. How long have you been hiding within the Organisation, pretending to be one of them? Did you ever meet my brother? You must have been laughing at him."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Scared now, particularly since he was painfully aware that these people had his sword with them, Methos kept his voice calm and steady. Horton laughed again.

"What I'm talking about is immortality, my boy. Does anybody else know what you really are? Does Dawson?" The laugh became louder, and showed rather less humour. "How old are you really?"

"I still have no idea what you're--"

"Save it." Horton raised the gun, and placed it against his prisoner's chest. "Shall we find out, hmm? Shall we see if I'm right?" He giggled merrily. "If I am, it might be fun, and if I'm not… Well, it doesn't really matter. It's not as if I was planning to let you go anyway."

"Don't do this, Horton." Staring nervously at the gun, and thinking about the police witness hiding a few feet away, Methos wondered if there was any way to talk himself out of this latest disaster. Horton ignored him.

"Night night," he chuckled, and pulled the trigger. Methos heard the roar of the gun, and felt himself smashed back against the pillar by the force of the blow. Blood began to trickle from his mouth, and his head fell forward. He struggled to raise it, staring back at Horton with all of the force that he could summon with his failing strength.

"You're a dead man, Horton," he gasped, his voice thick and hoarse. Consciousness was slipping away, and Horton's laugh came from somewhere indeterminate.

"So are you, Pierson." His words were the final sounds that Methos heard before his strength gave out completely, and he lost touch with reality. Only the ropes around his chest kept him from falling to the ground.


He was still tied to the pillar. Wonderful. It was nice to know that there was continuity in the world. Words were edging in on his consciousness, creeping into his mind, and he frowned. He had a headache, and the noises were disturbing him. He had a chestache too, come to that. The ropes were pressing hard against that abused part of his anatomy, and had been for some time. He wondered how long he had been out. One could never be sure, when one had been dead. It tended to scramble the senses somewhat.

The voice was becoming more persistent, and Methos gradually came to recognise it as that of the police lieutenant. What was his name? Forbes, that was it. He sounded urgent, even scared. Unwillingly Methos opened an eye, and listened more carefully to the voice.

"Hold on, kid. Hold on. You're going to be okay." The old man rolled his eyes. If there was one thing he hated more than being patronised by Duncan MacLeod, it was being patronised by a complete stranger.

"Of course I'll be okay." Raising his head, Methos tried, and again failed, to twist his head back so that he could catch a glimpse of Forbes. "I'm fine. He missed."

"Missed?!" The whisper was filled with disbelief. "At that range? No way."

"Well either that or I've come back from the dead. Which do you think is most likely?" Methos smiled to himself. "Just relax, Forbes. I'm okay."

"I wasn't really worried anyway." There was a rustling noise as the lieutenant settled himself down. "Okay. I'd better work on getting you out of here. It won't take him long to realise you're not dead."

"I rather think he's already figured that out." Methos sighed. "Look, Forbes, you really would be doing everyone a much better service if you were to go to Duncan MacLeod…"

"Why? Because the police force isn't capable of dealing with a nut who's convinced that some people are Immortal?" There was amusement in the detective's tone. "Listen, kid, do you have any idea how many people I dealt with last year who were convinced that they were the second coming? Or that they were the reincarnation of Napoleon? Loyal subjects of Caesar crawl out of the woodwork every time some TV station shows The Fall Of The Roman Empire. I think I can handle this guy."

Methos drew in a deep breath through his teeth, trying to retain hold of his patience. There really was no talking to some people.



"What exactly did you hear Horton say?"

There was a silence. "He said something about you having a sword, and that you were hiding out in the Watchers. That's that society all you people belong to, right? The one with the tattoos."

"That's right. Then what happened?"

"He said he was going to find out what you were. I really thought you were a goner then."

"There's nobody about, Forbes. Why don't you take a look at my chest?"

"Huh?" There was another second's silence, and then the lieutenant crawled out of hiding. He looked somewhat dishevelled, with his tie half undone and his suit crumpled. Obviously his hiding place had been none too comfortable. He glanced furtively around, searching for onlookers, then turned back to Methos, to be greeted by the sight of a man covered in blood. Aside from the trail of drying redness which had trickled its way down his chin, Methos bore an impressive hole in his shirt, just above the ropes which bound him to the pillar. Red stains completed the image of gory violence.

"He didn't miss…" Forbes sounded hoarse. He stepped closer, looking at the undamaged skin beneath the torn cloth, and frowned. "He did miss. He must have done."

"He didn't miss. Listen…" Thinking hard, Methos switched his brain into top gear, smiling patiently. "My friend MacLeod and I work for the government. We've been testing top secret drugs, which speed up the healing process to unimagined levels. Horton is working for some foreign power - we aren't sure which one yet - and he wants to get hold of the drugs. You have to get to MacLeod, and tell him everything that you've seen. The police mustn't get involved, because of the delicacy of the situation. National security is at stake, lieutenant. Are you with me?"

There was another silence. Forbes frowned, processing the information slowly.

"National security?" he asked at last. "But you're British."

"It's all part of the spirit of Cross-Atlantic co-operation." Smiling reassuringly, Methos hoped that he sounded convincing. "My ID should be around here somewhere, but it might be a little difficult to get to right now."

"Yeah, sure. Don't worry about it." Forbes frowned. "Say, but didn't your friend plant a bug in your jacket? He should know where you are by now."

"You know about that?" Methos was taken aback. They were all going to have to be more careful if the local police force was prepared to listen in on their conversations. Forbes shrugged.

"Yeah, well, like I said; I thought you were the murderer." He frowned suddenly. "Where do the murders fit into all of this? Who are the Watchers?"

"One national secret at a time, Forbes. I need to clear you for the next security level before I can tell you about that." Methos smiled inwardly, congratulating himself. He was getting better at this all the time. "As for that bug we fixed up… do you see my jacket anywhere?"

The detective's eyebrows raised up. "You left your jacket behind? What kind of a secret agent are you?"

"Hey, it wasn't as if I had much choice in the matter. Now are you going to help me, or what?"

"I'll help." Forbes stole a look around. There was still no sign of Horton. "Are you going to be okay here for the time being?"

"I'll be fine." So long as Horton doesn't get frisky with that sword. "Just find MacLeod. You know where to look, right?"

"Yeah, sure. At that club." Forbes paused. "Good luck. You can count on me."

"Thanks." Methos watched as the police lieutenant slipped away, relieved that he seemed so adept at stealthy manoeuvres. Somehow, despite the other man's tendency to be rather aggravating, the place seemed empty without him; lonely and more forbidding. Methos tried to relax, but it did not come easily. He hated to think that Horton knew what he was; that this strange, insane man with an apparent grudge against both Watchers and Immortalkind should have guessed what so many others had not. It was a deeply disturbing feeling, knowing that his life was in the hands of a man like Frank Horton, and that at the touch of a sword blade, his life could be over, and his essence lost forever. With no other Immortals around to take his Quickening, it would be such a dreadful waste.

Trying to stretch, Methos felt his tired muscles rebel against their awkward positioning. It was far from comfortable, standing there with his hands tied. After so many years, and no small amount of experience where such things were concerned, Methos had reached the conclusion that he really did not much care for being tied up. It wasn't pleasant, and was definitely not a past time to be recommended to friends. No good had ever come of being tied up. Well, almost none. There had been one time… Methos smiled as a distant memory of Amazon warriors floated into his mind. If he really thought about it, he could almost feel the touch of the ropes of silk they had used to tie him to that tree…

Somewhere in Greece, circa 1000BCish



"Run this by me again. Why are we not trying to escape? These are women. We could tear the place apart before they knew what had hit them."

"Firstly, brother, they are not just women. They are Amazon Warriors. And secondly, we aren't escaping because quite frankly I don't want to just yet."

"I beg your pardon?" There was confusion in the other man's voice, and Methos smiled. To Kronos the world was so simple. If someone crossed you, you killed them. If they did you an injustice, you killed them. If they got in your way, you killed them. And if they committed such a grave error as to tie you to a tree - even if it was with silken ropes - you broke free and then killed them, preferably slowly. Especially when they dared to take away your sword.

"Kronos, think about it. Try and get past the bad points. This could actually be fun."

"In what way?" There was a dangerous edge to his comrade's voice, but Methos was not afraid of Kronos. Every other living being might be, up to and including Caspian, but Methos was the one man alive who could actually outdo his brother in matters of extreme degeneracy and violence; and had done so on more than one occasion. He rolled his eyes heavenward.

"They're Amazon warriors, right? A race of warrior women considerably more fearsome and efficient than any male warriors you've ever pitted your strength against."

"They are?" There was interest in Kronos' voice now. He actually sounded impressed. "Sounds like my kind of tribe."

"They only accept women, brother." There was an edge of dry humour to Methos' voice. "Sorry."

"Oh, right. More like your kind of tribe, huh."

"Very funny. Fact is, though, that they have hit upon one or two snags. Like where to get new female warriors from."

"Really." There was a short silence. "Really?"

"I think you're catching on, brother." Methos smiled broadly. "They've been kidnapping local men for several months now." Another silence greeted his comment.

"Is that why you decided to come down here?"

"No… I decided to come here because I felt like a change of scenery. It's all up for the Four Horsemen, and you know it. One more day together and I'm going to take Caspian's head, and feed it to Silas."

"Yeah. I had noticed that." Yet another silence. "So we're really going to sit here and wait for those women to… well, you know."

"I can't see any way to escape, can you?"

"Well we could always--"


"No, brother, I can't see any way to escape." They shared a short laugh. "Anyway, if I get bored I can always kill them all later."

"That was the plan."

"How long do you reckon it'll take them to realise… You know… That we can't help them in this."

"I've no idea. Several months at least, I'd say."

"Yeah, I'd reckon about that too." Kronos considered this for a few seconds. "They're not going to keep us tied up here all that time?"

"I doubt it. It might make things a bit awkward."

"Oh, right. That's okay then."

"You're not going to lose your temper and start tearing things apart?"

There was yet another silence.

"Methos, impatient I may be, stupid I am not."

"Just asking." Relaxing back against the tree trunk, Methos heard voices. "Sounds like they're coming."


"This could be really tough."

"Could be."

"Good luck, Kronos."

"Good luck, brother."


"I can't believe he left the jacket behind." Staring morosely at the offending item, Duncan MacLeod shook his head. "What the hell was he thinking of?"

"He probably wasn't thinking of much at all." Joe sighed. "You heard what happened. They took him by surprise."

"We should have been there. I did promise him that I wouldn't let anything happen."

"Bit late to worry about that now." Dawson frowned. "Still, didn't sound to me like a meeting between two Immortals, so he should be okay. We just have to find him."

"Shouldn't be too difficult. You heard what that guy said; they took him because of us."

"Yes… Did you recognise the voice?"

"Nope. Did you?"

"No." Dawson heaved a heavy sigh. "I suppose they'll call us."

"I'd rather not wait that long. If they want us, it's not going to be so they can discuss knitting patterns. I don't plan to walk into some trap. We have to find Methos ourselves, so that we can call in on them when they're not expecting it."

"And how are we supposed to do that?"

"I think I might be able to help." Both men swung round in amazement at the sound of the new voice. MacLeod stared in amazement.

"Lieutenant Forbes?"

"That's right." Forbes walked closer, his eyes on the jacket. "I see you've discovered that your friend went without your wire."

"You could say that." After hearing the conversation between Methos and his uninvited guest, MacLeod had hurried over to his friend's apartment, only to find no sign of the Immortal, and no clue as to where he had gone. There had been just the jacket, hanging by the door where Methos had undoubtedly put it when he arrived home. "What do you know about it?"

"I was following him." Forbes sat down on a bar stool. "Listen, I know there's something weird going on here. Pierson explained some of it, but I'm not sure how much I believe. I just know that that guy Horton is crazy, and-"

"What?" Suddenly MacLeod's voice was cold and hard, and it took Forbes by surprise.

"Horton, the guy who has your friend. He's mad, I'm sure of it. Keeps spouting about immortality, and about his brother. He thinks you killed him, MacLeod."

"His brother." Dawson relaxed slightly. "For one moment there I thought… Well, I don't know."

"Horton has a brother?" MacLeod shook his head, looking tired. "Great. Figures, I suppose. Did you know about this, Joe?"

"I think I heard him mention him once or twice." Dawson shrugged vaguely. "He was my brother-in-law. We talked about other things. I never really even liked him all that much."

"Horton mark two." MacLeod sighed. "Okay, Forbes, where is Adam?"

"First I want to know the answers to some questions. Who is Methos? Is that Pierson's code name?"

"Code name?" Duncan wondered what on Earth Methos had told the lieutenant, then nodded. "Yeah, it's his code name. Look, don't think I'm being rude, lieutenant, but we have got to find Adam."

"Okay." Forbes frowned. "Look, I know this is all about national security, and that it's pretty hush-hush, but shouldn't I call headquarters? We can't handle this ourselves."

"Yes we can." MacLeod and Dawson spoke the words together, in perfect tandem.

"Where's Adam?" Dawson asked, ending the debate with smooth efficiency. Forbes hesitated for only a second longer.

"He's in a warehouse not all that far from here. I'll take you there now."


"Ah, Adam. You're awake again I see. Looks like I was right after all." Sauntering up and looking smug, Horton stuck his gun back into his belt. "Well, I guess we can do without this then."

"I guess so." Glad that there was no longer a policeman listening in, Methos felt more able to talk. "What happens next?"

"Next? We wait for MacLeod and Dawson to start worrying about you, and then I call them and tell them where you are. MacLeod will come running, just like he always does when he thinks he can help out, and I'll be waiting for him. I know how to kill him, you see. I know all about you people. My brother told me everything." He laughed softly. "He never realised the irony of it, of course. He hated Immortals, you know. Made it his life's crusade to wipe them from the face of the planet. Especially one particular Scottish Immortal. He never realised that his own brother was one too."

"Sorry?" Confused, Methos frowned, and Horton moved in closer, Methos' sword appearing from within the folds of his long coat.

"Don't try and play games with me, Adam. You know it's true. Immortals can feel each other, I know that. You can feel me, can't you. Feel me power, my presence." He raised the sword, placing the blade across the old man's neck. Methos tried to pull away, the cold edge making him feel distinctly nervous. He knew only too well how sharp the weapon was, and how little Horton would need to push before serious damage could get done.

"Yeah, I can feel it." Breathless, Methos gasped the words out, staring back at Horton with a wild look in his eyes. Right then he would have said anything, if it would have made the madman back off, and remove that sword. "It's not strong yet, because you haven't had your first death…"

"I always knew it." Horton laughed manically. "Ever since my brother told me about his work. I don't look like anyone in my family, you see. There's no resemblance anywhere. My hair used to be red, and no one in my family has red hair." He giggled. "My poor brother. He never guessed the truth. He hated Immortals, and he never guessed what I really am…"

"You should do something about it." A vague plan was forming in Methos' mind, and for lack of something better to do, he went along with it. "If you kill MacLeod before you're immortal, the Quickening will be wasted, and he's a powerful man. Look-" He shifted position painfully, still trying to move away from the sword blade. "Use that sword now. Stab yourself in the heart. It'll hurt, but it won't be for long, and then you'll be a proper Immortal. You have to experience First Death before you can make use of your powers."

"Really?" Horton seemed to consider the proposition for a while, then smiled. "You're a clever man, Adam. You'd like it if I killed myself, wouldn't you? You're the only one who knows for sure, you see, aren't you. I can't tell whether I'm immortal or not; not unless I die. Only you can tell." He pressed the sword harder against his prisoner's throat, and Methos felt the skin begin to break under the pressure from the sharp blade. He cursed himself for keeping the weapon so damn bright and keen. Fear welled up within his heart. "You wouldn't be trying to trick me, now?"

"Who, me?" Methos had run out of spare millimetres into which he could back away. "That's not my line, Horton. I'm just looking for a quiet life. Honest."

"An Immortal who doesn't like to fight?" Horton laughed, and lowered the sword, failing to notice the evident relief on the face of his captive. "You disappoint me, Adam. I rather thought that you were all bloodthirsty maniacs, who like nothing better than the thrill of battle. That's what my brother always led me to believe."

"You're brother wasn't exactly a fair witness. I can assure you that there are plenty of us who would do anything just to be left alone." Various names did come to mind, actually, such as Darius, who hadn't hurt so much as an insect in many of the years leading up to his death at the hands of James Horton's people. MacLeod's friend Fitzcairn was another one; he had used his immortality as nothing more than a way to enjoy life more. Conor MacLeod, too, avoided conflict like the plague whenever possible. Rather like Methos himself. Joe Dawson might like to tease him that he hadn't learnt a whole lot in five thousand years, but one thing that he had learnt was that life was rather too precious to risk through unnecessary confrontations. He was in the midst of a confrontation now that he could well do without.

"I can't say that I will be quite so understanding when I begin taking heads." The sword raised up again, hanging poised in the air just short of the old man's neck. "I shall enjoy taking as many as possible. Beginning, I think, with yours, my timid little friend."

"Whatever." Methos forced a smile. "But you can't do anything until after First Death."

There was a silence. For a second, Methos felt that Horton was about to do something; either stab himself, or end it all for his prisoner there and then. The tension stretched out, as Horton thought about those words, and Methos could not take his eyes off the sword. It wasn't exactly the way that he had envisioned his long life coming to its eventual conclusion; beheaded with his own sword by an ordinary mortal man who had somehow convinced himself that he was an Immortal. Finally Horton stepped back, and the sword vanished once more into the long coat.

"First Death." He said, his tone one of intrigue. "First death. I rather think that I shall enjoy being an Immortal. But for now…" He grinned. "For now I couldn't give a damn whether yours and MacLeod's powers are lost forever when I take your heads. I have no intention of killing myself right now. Just in case."

"Whatever." Methos watched as the mortal walked away. Unease had filled his mind. He really wasn't sure how much longer Horton's sanity would hold out, and how much longer it would be before he finally gave in and beheaded his prisoner. The old man scanned the open expanse of desolated wasteland before him. He could only hope that Forbes had done what he was supposed to do, and that Duncan MacLeod was out there somewhere, coming to his aid. There wasn't a lot else to hope for.


"You two shouldn't have come." From his vantage point near where Forbes had gained entrance to the warehouse earlier, MacLeod watched the scene between Methos and his captor. "I should handle this alone."

"Like hell you will MacLeod. You're not the only person around here who can fight battles." Dawson shifted his position uncomfortably, trying to manoeuvre his cane around into a place where it could take a little more of his weight. "Are we close enough yet for him to feel you?"

"No. Another few feet." MacLeod drew his sword, earning himself a look of astonishment from Forbes. "I should have brought a gun."

"I've got one." Joe raised the weapon. "Can you see how many people we're dealing with?"

"There were three," Forbes told him, eager to be of some use. "Three of them grabbed Pierson earlier, and I haven't seen anyone else. I'm sure it's just Horton and two friends."

"Fine." Dawson seemed to come to a decision. "You and me will handle the accomplices, lieutenant. Mac, I'll leave Horton to you." He grinned. "It's becoming a family tradition."

"Tell me about it." Duncan began to edge forward. "I'd better let Methos know we're here."

In the middle of the warehouse, tied to his pillar, Methos felt the familiar buzz of an approaching Immortal. For one horrible second he thought that it was Horton, and that the madman had really turned out to be what he thought he was. Then he smiled. It was MacLeod; it had to be. After a few seconds, the feeling faded as the other Immortal no doubt moved off to deal with the enemy. Although they were not exactly out of the woods yet, Methos felt relief warm his soul. MacLeod might be an irritating jerk at times, but he was certainly a useful man to have around when your life was in danger. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a movement; what looked like figures moving cautiously forward. He grinned.

Horton, sitting with his two companions nearby, looked up when a faint noise reached his ears. He frowned. There was no wind, and the local animal population was virtually non-existent. Slowly he rose to his feet, and cast a look back at Pierson. The young man - or not so young, whatever the case might be - did not seem to have moved, but still stood in the centre of the yard, staring at the floor. The frown on Horton's face deepened into a scowl, and he began to walk towards the prisoner, keeping his eyes peeled. Something was not right.

"Nobody move!" Horton recognised the voice as Duncan MacLeod's from the extensive computer records that his brother had assembled. He swung around, seeing the infamous Immortal emerge from out of the undergrowth, his distinctive sword in his hand. With his impressive height, and his long coat swirling about his legs, he cut a imposing image, and one that Horton had no intention of fighting. He drew the sword from his own belt, and broke into a run, heading straight for Methos.

"Don't try anything!" Reaching the old man before MacLeod could prevent him, Horton held the sword against the helpless Immortal's neck. Methos groaned, angry at himself for imagining that it would soon all be over. He was beginning to tire of Horton's fascination with sword blades and throats. "I know all about you, MacLeod! I know what you are, and I know what he is. I'll kill him if you don't drop your weapons right now."

Methos saw MacLeod hesitate, and saw him look from side to side, as though searching for some unseen associates. After a second, Joe Dawson appeared, gun in hand. Even at that distance, Methos could see that his old friend looked dejected. What the hell was he doing here anyway? He was supposed to be back at the club, where he would be safe. Somehow, Methos had imagined that it would be just MacLeod, maybe with Lieutenant Forbes to assist him, that would be coming. He had never imagined that Dawson would come too.

MacLeod bent, lowering his sword to the ground, and Methos felt his heart lurch into his throat. Dawson threw his gun away too, casting his immortal companion a worried look as he did so.

"No…" The word was no more than a whisper, but it startled Methos nonetheless. He was not aware that he had been thinking aloud. Desperation overcoming his usual calm, he thought hard, but could not see how he was going to get out of this one.

The slight touch on his hand came as such a surprise to him that the old man nearly jumped. He pulled himself together instantly, anxious not to give the game away, and frowned slightly. He could feel something, some soft, cold pressure, and at the same instant the ropes around his wrists began to give way. He tensed his arms expectantly, watching Horton out of one eye, and MacLeod and Dawson out of the other. Slowly, painfully slowly, he felt the ropes across his chest begin to loosen, falling away as some unseen saviour cut through them. In the blink of an eye they were gone, and Methos moved. Leaping away from the pillar he raised his hands, grabbing Horton by the wrists. The sword hung in the air between them, then they crashed to the ground, locked together, fighting for control of the one weapon that could end both their lives. In the same instant MacLeod reacted, retrieving his sword and diving towards the other two men. Slower, but no less determined, Dawson grabbed his gun and headed off after his friend. Horton's two assistants had drawn their own guns, but MacLeod ignored them, racing towards them like some fearsome avenging angel. One of the men fired, the gun sounding unusually loud, but the bullet went wild, ricocheting off some distant wall. MacLeod was upon the man in seconds, a single blow from his sword hilt knocking the gun to the ground.

"Look out!" As soon as the words were out of Dawson's mouth, MacLeod heard a gunshot, or maybe two shots in quick succession. He whirled around. The second man lay dead, his gun still in his hand. Dawson kicked it away, just to be sure, his own gun smoking gently.

"Thanks Joe." MacLeod allowed his mortal friend to take over guarding the still living prisoner, then raced back to where Methos and Horton still struggled. It was clear that the mortal was the stronger of the two, with his heavier build and more powerful arms. MacLeod did not underestimate Methos, however. Like an eel, he slipped to one side, his eyes never once leaving the sword which still hung above his head. He grinned as he felt MacLeod's approaching presence, and with an almighty effort he pulled free from Horton's pressing weight, dragging himself to his feet and delivering a well aimed kick which sent the sword spinning away across the ground. Horton scrambled up and ran, racing away across the warehouse, and with a look of growing rage Methos bent to pick up his sword, starting after the fleeing mortal. He was stopped by MacLeod's hand on his chest.

"Leave it, Methos. He's mine."

"Yours?!" Staring at MacLeod in amazement, Methos shook his head. "What claim have you got on him?"

"This is between me and him." MacLeod sounded determined. "Between me and his brother. Leave it, Methos."

"No way." There was real anger in the old man's voice, and he raised his sword. "You're not the one he had tied to a pillar. The only way you're going to get to him is through me."

Stunned, MacLeod backed away, confused by this sudden display of rage. It wasn't like Methos to lose his temper with a friend over something like this. He watched as the old man took off after his quarry. Horton had begun to scale the old stone steps which led to the roof of the warehouse, or what little of it remained. Methos dashed up after him, taking the steps two and three at a time, his sword blade flashing in the fading light of the sun. After a second MacLeod followed. He reached the top of the stairs moments after Methos, and paused briefly. The old man was making his way carefully over the loose stones above the warehouse floor, his eyes fixed intently on Horton. The mortal, scrambling onwards in a desperate attempt to maintain his short lead, glanced back for a second, and his eyes widened. MacLeod saw the fear on the other man's face as he lost his footing. He made a grab for a support beam, missed, and let out a yell of sheer terror. Methos reached out, trying to catch hold of his enemy, but was still too far away to be of use. His hand snatched at empty air and he slipped, losing his own somewhat tenuous balance. The world spun past him, and Horton's terrified scream filled his ears.

"Gotcha!" MacLeod's voice came from somewhere above Methos, and in the same instance he felt a strong hand on his shirt. Hanging suspended far above the ground, he tried not to move as MacLeod dragged him back onto safe ground, laughing at him. "You damn nearly took a flying lesson then."

Methos managed a breathless smile, and flopped down on the roof, sword still held in one shaking hand.

"Thanks MacLeod."

"Don't mention it." The Highlander pulled him to his feet. "Are you okay?"

"Fine, now that that jerk is dead." Methos frowned as he made his way back to the edge of the roof. "I can't see his body. He did go over, didn't he?"

"Definitely." MacLeod did not say that he would never again believe a Horton to be dead unless he had delivered the killing blow himself. Time enough for that later. He glanced downwards, imagining all of the possible scenarios. Part of him knew that Horton could never have survived that fall, and yet in his heart of hearts he was equally certain that it was never that simple. Not with a Horton. Still, it was over for now. He slapped his companion on the back, very nearly knocking him over the edge again.

"Come on, old man. Dawson's waiting down below."

"Yeah, right." Methos took a last look down, searching for a final glimpse of Frank Horton, then shrugged and followed MacLeod back down to the ground. He could always have a look for the body later. It wasn't as if it was going anywhere. He smiled as he thought about the man's conviction that he was Immortal. Pleasant irony, then, that he should die so quickly and so easily. Even though Methos had tried to save him, he felt no sorrow now. As far as he was concerned, the issue was closed.


"Secret agents." Delighted with the thought, Lieutenant Forbes leaned back on the bar stool and shook his head in disbelief. "And to think I thought you people were dangerous."

"We are." MacLeod grinned, and Forbes laughed.

"Yeah, I guess you are." He looked around at his three new friends. "So do I get to know about the Watchers now?"

"There's little to tell." Methos had had some time to think it all through this time. "The Watchers are civilians, from countries the world over, who help us out when they get the chance. Sort of like the Reserves."

"I follow." Forbes nodded enthusiastically. "And the tattoo is so you guys can tell who you can trust. Clever." He grinned. "And you, Adam, wear the tattoo so that no one will know you're really a secret agent."

"The head secret agent," Methos corrected, with a complete lack of modesty, ignoring MacLeod's derisive snort. "Just remember that you're sworn to secrecy, Forbes. Not a word of this to anyone."

"Sure kid." Methos winced.

"And that's another thing. I have all manner of disguises, and one of them is that I'm a lot older than I look. Understand?" The policeman grinned.

"Sure. Look, I've got to go. I'll see you all around."

"I doubt it," MacLeod spoke up. "We have to keep a low profile." Huh, he thought with a smile. Chance would be a fine thing. He walked the detective to the door, then whistled in relief and wandered back to his friends. "Thank goodness for that."

"Yeah. Nice thinking Methos." Dawson was grinning. "I think I kind of like being a secret agent."

"Me too. And it might be useful having an ally on the police force." MacLeod laughed. "So long as he doesn't try to hang around here too often. Even he might guess the truth."

"I doubt it." Methos fetched a can of beer and sighed contentedly. "Let's face it, the truth is just a little extraordinary. Immortals fighting a battle for supremacy, Watchers chronicling it all for future generations, trying to ensure that the right Immortal wins. The secret of our existence kept for countless millennia…"

"The oldest man in the world being a beer-swilling rock fan with bad fashion sense," MacLeod finished, earning a fierce scowl from Methos and a suppressed giggle from Dawson.

"You really are determined to show a complete lack of respect for my seniority, aren't you."


"Fine." The world's oldest man took a long drink of beer, and grinned. "At least I know who's best."

"Yeah." MacLeod was laughing. "Me."

"Oh yeah?"

"Hey, it wasn't me that forgot my jacket." MacLeod chuckled softly, and Methos smiled back at him.

"I didn't forget it. That was a tactical decision, made in the heat of battle. Part of a carefully formed plan."

"Oh, right. Nothing to do with stupidity then?"

Dawson began to laugh. There were times when it felt as though he were living in a kindergarten. He picked up a bottle from behind the bar, and poured champagne into three glasses. They were beer glasses as it happened, but he didn't care.

"Enough, children." He handed them each a glass. "To the Hortons and their long rest in the Underworld."

"Hear hear." The three glasses clinked merrily and they drank deeply. That was a toast that they could all agree to. The sentiment would have been decidedly different, however, if they had seen the shadowy shape which at that moment was climbing down from its resting place in the old, abandoned warehouse. Filled with glee, Frank Horton was laughing. No-one had come to look for him. Nobody even suspected that he might still be alive. The world was his oyster. He pulled the gun from his belt, and checked the clip. It was nearly full. That ought to be enough to get himself a fast car and a little money, just to start him on his way. He could wait. It wasn't as though he was in that much of a hurry to fulfil his mission. He could go somewhere, and hide out, wait his moment at his leisure. Then in a few months, maybe even longer, he would come back. There were two Immortals and a Watcher who still had to die.


Driving back to Police Headquarters, Lieutenant James Forbes stared at the listening equipment in his car, a thoughtful expression on his face. Immortals, Watchers… It had all seemed so clear, so obvious, when Adam Pierson had explained it to him. Now it seemed that it had all been a lie, just to cover up the real truth. He frowned. Should he tell somebody about what he had just heard? Would anybody believe him? He halted the car and removed the tape from the machine on the passenger seat, then slipped it into his pocket. This was not over yet. In all his life he had never left a question unanswered. Whatever Pierson and his friends might think, they had not seen the last of James Forbes. He started up the car again, and slipped it out into the stream of traffic heading along the road. If this secret society had lasted for several millennia without anyone discovering them, they could have worked their way into the highest places. He shivered, imagining the conspiracies. He could trust nobody. The tape in his pocket would have to be his starting point, and then he would see what else he could come up with. Eventually he would blow this whole thing wide open. It was his duty. No matter how long it took, he was going to find out about the Immortals and their Watchers; and then every man, woman and child in the world would know the truth. It was all just a question of time.


Not a lot, rather obviously. It's set in 1997, so it's up to you to remember.

As for Kronos, I did try to keep him out, but it's not easy. You try saying no to him.