COMES THE DARK
"I can't believe I let you talk me into coming here. It's wet and cold and downright bloody depressing." Methos rested his chin on his hands, gazing morosely through the steamy window of the London pub in which he sat. The jukebox in one corner of the room was pumping something violently loud and extremely monotonous directly into his left ear, and a woman nearly dressed in a skin-tight something was trying to sing along. She sounded as though she were being strangled, very slowly and painfully, by a gang of tone-deaf building-site labourers.
"Me talk you?" Joe Dawson, his voice at least an octave higher than usual due to sheer disbelief, drained the last of his pint of beer and shook his head. "This was your idea, pal."
"Yeah, sure." Sighing deeply, Methos gazed down into his own glass. It seemed to be empty again, although he was sure that he didn't remember finishing it. That kept happening. He was beginning to suspect the tall, bearded man sitting next to him. He looked oddly like a beer thief; although it might just have been the light.
"Hey, sugar." The cheerful Cockney tones sounded put on, as though the painted up woman was really from somewhere much further up north, and was putting on the accent just for the tourists. She leaned closer to Joe. "Dump your baby brother and come home with me. I like a beard on a man."
"Er… thanks." Flushing a deep shade of red, Joe smiled at her. "Actually my friend and I were just, er, just leaving. Sorry."
"Shame." She fluttered her lashes. "Maybe I could escort you back home?"
"Er… Actually me and Adam are, er, kind of together." Joe grinned winningly, and put his arm around Methos' shoulders. The old Immortal rolled his eyes and stood up.
"Yeah, Joe here is my toy boy." He threw some coins onto the table and nodded at the bartender. "Get youself what you want. Come on Joe."
"I'm coming." Leaving the woman to begin drowning her sorrows, they went out into the street. It was starting to get dark early now that the clocks had gone back an hour, and already the sky was black. The lights of the city dimmed the stars, hiding them behind a glowing sheen. Methos scowled.
"I hate cities. When I was younger, I used to navigate everywhere by the stars. Wouldn't have a chance of doing that around here."
"When I was younger, I used to navigate everywhere by road map." Joe grinned at him. "Cheer up, Adam. The night is young; and so are you supposed to be."
"Huh. Only bits of me." Methos dug his hands into his pockets, and Joe grinned.
"Yeah? Which bits?" He was rewarded with a smile; the first of the day. Methos shrugged.
"Depends on the weather, I think. It's kind of weird, being old and young, all at the same time." They strolled along the pavement together, away from the other pedestrians. "MacLeod's kinsman, Connor, is several hundred years old; and yet in many ways he'll be eighteen for the rest of his life. Plays hell with the hormones." He shrugged. "I don't know how old I am, physically or for real."
"I'll cut your head off and count the rings inside it." Dawson grinned at the scowl he got in reply. "Come on, pal, there's got to be something around here that you want to do. Something cheery? Aside from drink beer."
"I'd like…" Methos frowned in thought. "I'd like to take a boat trip along the Thames." He leaned over the railing which looked over the inky black waters. "I used to swim in there. My legion was posted near here, uh… a long time ago. We used to drink the water too, and catch fish in it. Then all of a sudden along comes the Industrial Revolution, and it looks less healthy than what comes out of the average sewage pipe."
"Adam Pierson; mild mannered Watcher by day, Eco-warrior by night." Joe chuckled to himself. "Alright buddy, we'll take a boat ride. Just try not to fall in, or behead the boatman, or anything."
"Gee, I'll try not to, dad." Methos set off along the riverside, managing to look both cheerful and sulky at the same moment. That was a trick that Joe had to marvel at, and which had to have taken the best part of five thousand years to perfect. He had become very close to his mysterious immortal acquaintance in recent months; especially since the rescue of his daughter from one of the old man's rather less savoury sparring partners. They had worked closely together for sometime before that - had known each other for a good ten years - and yet there was so little that Joe really knew about the tall, strangely English-sounding Immortal. All that he knew about him was gained through the occasional snippets of information that he sometimes came up with. Some were evidently lies, some obviously embellished truths. Sometimes it was harder to tell, and sometimes - during his rare, relaxed moments - it was clear that he was telling the truth. It left many large, unaccounted for holes in his friend's past, and he wanted to know more. Watching the lithe, dark figure of the old Immortal, Joe Dawson made a pact with himself; he was going to find out something of interest before they left London, or he had no right to call himself a Watcher.
The boats along the Thames were still running, despite the cold and the dark. Methos and Joe found places in one large, spacious looking craft, and relaxed into it. Methos spread himself out, lying down along three of four of the empty seats. He reminded Joe of a cat at times, the way that he could make himself so comfortable with so little effort.
"This is kinda nice." Joe closed his eyes, tipping his head back. "Ought to be music playing, the sweet presence of a beautiful woman…"
"No." Methos gazed up at the sky. "Last time I tried to go on a romantic boat ride with a woman, she got sea-sick and threw up all over my shoes." He made a face. "They were Italian. Very expensive back then."
"Back when?" Joe asked, keeping his voice low. There were two or three other people on the boat besides the small crew, and he did not want them to overhear.
"I don't know. Sometime." Methos frowned up at the few stars that he could see. "She was the daughter of somebody important, I remember that much. She was a pre-Immortal, and she married another of our kind called… Henry. Henry… Double-Barrelled-Chinless-Wonder. Something like that." He grinned. "He beheaded her before their first Wedding Anniversary. Can't say as I blame him. She was beautiful to look at, but boy did she have an attitude problem."
"I've known people like that." Joe smiled to himself, opening his eyes to watch as the boat docked at a small jetty. He glanced over at Methos to see if his companion was ready to disembark yet, but he seemed to be on the verge of sleep. "You want to stay on board for a while longer?"
"Yeah, sure." Methos smiled sleepily, before suddenly snapping his eyes open. He sat up, glancing around in a manner that Dawson had seen many times before. He grew tense, glancing around himself.
"Adam?" he asked softly. Methos hushed him, rising to his feet. He saw the dark shape of a man stepping on board the boat, and watched as he glanced over the few passengers. Their eyes met, and Methos smiled a cold, hard smile. He sat down. Moments later the new arrival drew level with him, and smiled down at the pair.
"Greetings, friend." There was a faint accent in the man's voice; some hint of something foreign. "My name is Steven Brown. Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?"
"Adam Pierson." Methos' brows knitted together in suspicion. "I know you. I've seen you before."
"I'm glad I made an impression on you." The man stared down at Joe. "Mortals? Again? You were with a group of them the last time we met, as I recall. I wonder what happened to them?" He toyed with something within the thick folds of his long coat; no doubt a sword, ready and waiting. "Are you prepared to fight?"
"Here? Somehow I don't think so." Methos sat back down, indicating that the conversation was over. "I don't have any quarrel with you. Go and sit down."
"You don't have any quarrel with Steven Brown; but how about Stefan Braun?" The man laughed lightly. "I took you at your word, Nicholai Grishanovitch. I brought the bullet to give back to you." He pulled some object from his pocket, and threw it at the seated Immortal. "Be watching, Grishanovitch. I will find you again." He turned, the long coat swirling about his ankles, and stalked away. They saw him take a seat at the opposite end of the boat, where his dark shape blurred into the shadows.
"Nicholai Grishanovitch?" Joe leant close to Methos to speak to him. "What the hell was all that about?"
"Nothing." Methos glanced down at the object that Brown had thrown at him. It was a bullet, still bearing the red-brown stains of old and dried blood. The bullet came from an old gun, long removed from circulation; a model which had been common amongst German soldiers during the Second World War.
"Nothing my ass. He was after your head." Joe made a grab for Methos' wrist, catching hold of it. The Immortal's fingers closed around the bullet, but a look from Dawson made him open his fist. The mortal took the bullet. "Old. Practically an antique. This is from a Luger, right?"
"Very good." Methos sighed. "Look, not here, alright Joe? We'll talk back at the hotel."
"You'd better mean that." Joe handed him back the bullet and turned to look towards Brown, but almost immediately the boat docked again. The over-coated figure of the Immortal vanished onto the jetty, and in the blink of an eye he had gone.
"So who was Nicholai Grishanovitch?" Joe asked, settling down on the edge of his bed and cupping his hands around a pleasingly hot mug of coffee. Methos paced a few times, then stopped and stared back at his friend.
"It was an alias. I used it to gain some time, back in… 1942 I think it was. Steven Brown was Commandant Stefan Braun back then. He was in charge of a Nazi invasionary force that I… sort of ran into in Africa. He ran a prison camp, and I was lucky enough to be one of his guests."
"I see." Joe stared at the bullet, lying on the table nearby. "Nice guy then."
"Charming. The perfect host." Methos shrugged. "I don't know what name I was going by back then, but I told him that my name was Grishanovitch for… all kinds of reasons. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I shot him. He shot me too, but I gave him back the bullet whilst he was dying, and told him that he could give it back to me one day. It was his First Death. I guess he's a little unhappy about something."
"Gee, I wonder what." Joe stood up, picking up the bullet. "Boy, you can sure pick your enemies, pal."
"Yeah. It's a talent." Methos sat down on a nearby chair, looking miserable. "What do I do, Joe? I mean, the guy was Mr Nazi, 1942 - a real devotee. He's not going to let this pass."
"When am I going to learn to stick to my Watcher's Oath, and steer clear of Immortal affairs?" Joe sighed, tossing the bullet up and down, like a gangster flipping a coin. "Okay. The way I see it, he's here for a reason, right? I mean, if he's still a Nazi, what's he doing here in Britain? This isn't exactly Dictator HQ. Maybe he's up to something; and if he is, we can soon find out what."
"Maybe." Methos nodded slowly and wandered over to the window, gazing out over London. "We might be able to leave the police to deal with him then."
"Precisely." Joe drained the last of his coffee and yawned. "Now make yourself scarce, old man. I need my sleep."
"Sure Joe. Thanks." Methos headed for the door which adjoined their two rooms, and vanished from the mortal's sight. Dawson heard the sounds of his travelling companion moving about, undoubtedly pacing restlessly, and sighed into the soft glow of his bedside lamp. It looked like it was going to be a long night.
Joe ate breakfast quickly, seated alone at his table in the hotel restaurant. Of Methos there was no sign, and it was not until he was heading back upstairs to his room that the old Immortal finally appeared. He ran up the stairs, taking them two or three at a time, and nearly careered straight into the cleaning woman on the landing. He apologised hastily, and she blushed, clearly not minding at all.
"Adam, where the hell have you been? I was actually starting to think about getting worried." Joe ushered his friend into his room, flashed a parting smile at the still blushing cleaner, and slammed the door shut. By the time he turned back to face the room Methos was already sprawled in an easy chair, looking perfectly at home.
"Relax Joe, I haven't been far." He stretched luxuriously. "I was making a few inquiries, asking around at the boarding houses, cheap hotels, stuff like that. There's a Steven Brown answering our fellow's description registered at a charming little establishment about a mile away, on the other side of the river. He's been there since last month, and he's had a lot of guests. All sorts of secret meetings in his room, or in the bar. He won't let anybody else nearby while the meetings are going on, but my friend Lucy says that one of the other guests heard something about a bomb. Course, he's an alcoholic, so nobody took him seriously, but all the same…"
"A bomb?" Joe began to pace, then stopped abruptly. "Methos, who the hell is Lucy? And what were you doing wandering around on your own like that? What if he'd been in the hotel when you went there? He'd have felt your presence, and probably taken your thick head."
"And I'm glad to be travelling with you too, Joe." Sounding hot, Methos stood up. "Look, this was your suggestion. As a Watcher, it's your duty to find out what's going on with Braun. Remember?"
"Of course I remember. But you still haven't answered my question."
"Lucy is an old friend. She escaped from Poland during the war, and I ran into her in Gdansk at about that time. She knows what I am. She said that a whole lot of these people that Braun has been meeting with were wearing long coats."
"Well gee, that's suspicious. I mean nobody wears long coats in cold, wet weather." Joe rolled his eyes. "I'm going to need a bit more than fashion reports to decide whether--"
"She knows what she's talking about, Joe. She's seen Braun sitting in reception, waiting for his guests, and she's seen the look he gets when one of them is coming. She knows what signs to look for. She had an Immortal lover for thirty years."
"Then Braun is meeting with other Immortals?" Joe sat down on the arm of the nearest chair. "What if they're all ex-Nazis? I mean, based on the average proportion of Immortals to mortals in this world, what do you reckon the chances are that there'd be enough immortal Nazis running about the place to make this worrying?"
"There's sure to be plenty of them. There are always a lot of Immortals in the years after a war. More people die than usual, so more of them experience First Death. Fifty, sixty years later, the numbers fall again. Most Immortals don't live all that long, especially nowadays. I'd say the chances are pretty high that Braun could get himself together a group of Nazi-sympathisers from the ranks of the Immortals. Some might have changed their minds over the last fifty years, but a whole lot of them wouldn't. They were a pretty dedicated bunch back then."
"Yeah." Joe rubbed at his eyes, feeling very tired all of a sudden. "Okay, pal, what do we do? I mean, if that guy heard right about a bomb, this isn't just about a few like-minded people sharing ideas."
"Well we can't exactly go to the police Joe. What do we have? A few people in a hotel room and a drunk who thought he heard them talking about a bomb. We can't even prove that they're Nazis. Who'd believe us?"
"True." Joe tried to imagine his young-looking companion insisting that he had been around during the forties, and that Steven Brown had been there as well. The police would still be laughing about it at their Christmas party. "Alright, so we've got a gang of Nazis who are probably planning to blow something up. What? What would a Nazi blow up?"
"A statue of Winston Churchill?" Methos grinned at the glare he received in reply. "Sorry. Er… Anti-Nazi League? They don't exactly keep a low profile. Wouldn't be the first time somebody tried to shut them down."
"They'd leave that for their would-be hangers on. These guys are pros, remember? The ones who tried to start it all off. Something tells me that they're not after cheap publicity stunts."
"True." Methos nodded slowly. "Okay, so maybe the Houses Of Parliament? or the London Underground? They're all old targets that other groups have gone for in the past, and since the IRA cease-fire, security isn't as tight as it used to be."
"It's possible. But why? Do they figure they can take over? I don't know, Methos, it just doesn't ring true. Why blow up the House Of Commons, or even the Palace? What good would it do?" Joe glared at the window, beyond which lay London, as though the innocent pane of glass should somehow have known the answers to his questions. "This is nuts. They're probably just getting together to talk over old times. Lots of people saw the light in '45. Why not them?"
"I don't know. I just don't believe that." Methos was gazing into his own past, dredging up long-forgotten half-memories of his encounter with Commandant Braun. "Immortals don't tend to change, that's all. Once they've chosen a way of life, they rarely alter it."
"You did," Joe told him, with pointed emphasis. Methos was silent for a second.
"Yes," he said finally, with great ambiguity, as though the truth might very well have been something different. "But I'm not Stefan Braun. If he's getting together with a gang of fellow Immortals, you can bet that it's not to look at a few old photographs, or to compare medals. He's up to something."
"Sure." Joe headed for the door, grabbing his coat on the way. "Come on."
"Where are we going?" Methos pulled on his own coat before they left the room. It was a favourite garment of his, which housed a secret cloth compartment in which his sword could safely be hidden. There was a dagger hidden somewhere in its folds, too. Joe had caught sight of it once. Its presence spoke volumes about the way in which Methos had managed to survive for so long; if his sword failed him, there was always an alternative.
"We're going to talk to your friend Lucy. I'll go in first and make sure that Braun isn't on the premises." Joe reached inside his own coat before opening the door, and checked to make sure that his automatic pistol was loaded. He knew that it was, but somehow the act of checking increased his confidence.
"Lucy doesn't know anything else." Sounding bewildered, Methos wandered alongside his friend as they headed towards the entrance hall. "She can't tell us anything."
"Maybe she knows more than she's aware of." Joe waved briefly to the doorman and strolled out into the street. "Switch to surveillance mode, alright buddy? If there's an Immortal anywhere, I want to know about it."
"Surveillance mode?" Watching his companion hail a taxi with consummate skill, Methos frowned. "Is that like playing I-Spy?" Joe's most scathing glare answered him, and he climbed into the black taxi after his mortal companion, a smile lighting his eyes. Behind him, waiting on the curb, another man was also smiling. He was a tall, grey-haired man in his early sixties, and was wearing an immaculate grey suit. As he watched the taxi pull away, he reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew a small cell phone. Staring after the rapidly disappearing vehicle he dialled a number, and began to stroll away along the pavement talking earnestly all the while.
The Champagne And Caviar Boarding House was a cynically named building, at least a hundred years old, which offered small and basic rooms at a small and basic cost. Looking around at the chunky wooden furniture and simple decorations, Joe couldn't help wondering why Methos couldn't have chosen it as their holiday destination, rather than the over-priced and fancy establishment in which they were currently living. The answer was simple of course. With Methos it was always a question of why be served when you could be pampered. Especially when clever reasoning meant that the Watchers were paying.
There was a single clerk at the desk, who informed Joe in a vaguely bored manner that Steven Brown was out for the day. Trying to look nonchalant about it, Joe wandered back out to fetch Methos, and then followed him to the manager's office. The clerk made no objection, showing that security was not his greatest concern, and Joe almost considered drawing his gun just for effect. The clerk would probably not have noticed. He was clearly reading some magazine, hidden within a copy of Hoteliers' Weekly.
"Lucy?" Knocking on the office door, Methos opened it without waiting for an answer, and Joe was treated to a glimpse of a comfortably cluttered office, with unopened bills lying amongst flyers for local attractions, and a menu for a Chinese takeaway.
"Methos!" An old woman of at least eighty appeared from behind the door, throwing her arms around her guest as though she had not seen him for years. "Sorry, I mean Adam of course. I forget these things." She had a Polish accent and a loud voice, and was at least as tall as Methos himself. She wore jeans and a striped shirt daubed with red paint, and her lined face was smudged with a similar colour. "What brings you back here so soon? And who is your friend?" She moved past Methos with great dexterity, and caught hold of Joe's hand. "Of course, you'll be Joe Dawson. Meth-- er, Adam told me that he was travelling with a Joe Dawson. Sit down, both of you. Would you like some coffee?"
"No thanks, Lucy," Methos told her, in a tone of voice which suggested that he knew she would take no notice. Immediately she hurried to the other side of the room, and began to boil a kettle.
"So what can I do for you?"
"It's about Steven Brown," Joe told her. She nodded thoughtfully, turning round rather suddenly with a spoonful of coffee granules, and spraying them about the room.
"Yes, I thought it might be." She frowned. "Methos, dear, you've got coffee in your hair. You should be more careful." She brushed it out with an affectionate hand. "I didn't like Brown from the moment I first saw him. I saw his sword in his room, although he doesn't know it. I checked for it, since I was so suspicious. He has books that I don't like the look of. I've seen them all before. Mein Kampf of all things. Not a good book." Her accent seemed to grow stronger as she spoke of Brown's reading matter. "They don't learn, these people. He must have seen it all, the first time."
"His real name is Stefan Braun. He was a Nazi in the last war." Methos took her hand. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything earlier. I wasn't sure what you'd do."
"I won't throw him out. I'm not stupid." She poured boiling water into three mugs and stirred them enthusiastically. "Sugar is, er… probably under last month's Council Tax bill." She rummaged for it, and managed to produce several spoons as well, then handed round the coffee. "Milk is a little harder though. Possibly it's in the fridge, but very likely not." She looked anyway, and produced a bottle half full. "Wonders never cease."
"Er, Lucy… Have you heard anything else from Braun and his people?" Sipping his coffee cautiously, as though uncertain that it was entirely safe, Joe looked up at the hotel owner. She hovered for a few more minutes, then sat down.
"I heard him talking about big plans, and about the millennium. I know he has something in mind. It involves lots of his friends and lots of money, and it is something he has had in mind for a while. He talks as though he has been working on something for a long time." She shrugged. "I wouldn't put anything past him." She fixed Joe with a bright, intense gaze. "You believe what Harry said, about the bomb."
"Yes." Methos gazed into the dark depths of his coffee, black and strong. "But I don't want you calling the police, Lucy. Is there anywhere you can go, until Joe and me have sorted this out? I don't want you in the firing line if things get messy."
"Leave?!" Indignant, she jumped to her feet, staring down at him from widened, fiery eyes. "Once before I ran away from those people, because I had no alternative. I will not run again." Methos began to protest, but she put her hands on her hips. "Just because you are the old Immortal, you can't tell me what to do. I got older than you a long time ago." She smiled at him. "You leave now, before he comes back. Tell me your 'phone number, and I'll call you when I get more information. I have some things around here. Some old tricks. A KGB man once stayed the night here, and when the police came to take him away, he left a lot of his equipment." She grinned at them both, looking like a young girl. "I'll find out what Herr Braun is up to."
"Don't take any risks," Joe told her. She laughed.
"Risks are unnecessary chances. What is unnecessary if it gets rid of people like this?" She collected up the mugs, frowning at Methos' still full one. "You never drink my coffee, Adam. What is wrong with it? I know, you prefer beer." She shooed him from the office. "One day, I shall get you to drink something that is good for you. Health elixir maybe. Raw egg and milk." She laughed at his horrified expression. "Go. Go on. Before Braun comes back, and I have fallen heads making a mess of my new hall carpet."
"We're going." Methos led the way out of the hotel and back out into the quiet street beyond. Joe took a deep breath.
"Wow," he said, shaking his head. "She doesn't stop, does she."
"Never." Methos wandered away, heading back towards the busier streets, where they could catch another taxi. "Not since the war, when she saw her husband shot dead as part of a reprisal against the Resistance. She said she would live for him too."
"She's quite something." They reached the main road, and Dawson waved his stick in the air to attract the attention of a taxi. It stopped for them, and they climbed on board. "I hope she's going to be okay."
"She will be." Methos gazed out of the window, frowning at the sight of a man on the pavement, talking into a mobile phone. He looked like a real poser, chatting away in the middle of the street, and the old man dismissed him from his thoughts. "She's more dedicated than we could ever be; far too much so to make any stupid mistakes."
"I sure hope so." As they settled back to enjoy the ride, far behind them a grey suited man in his early sixties finished his phone call and put his cell phone back into his suit pocket. He stared after the taxi for a few minutes, then stepped forward to the curb and raised his hand for a cab of his own.
Stefan Braun leaned back in his chair, gazing out at the view of the Thames with a coldly clinical air. The scene gave him no pleasure. He cared nothing for the stunning beauty of his surroundings, or the comfortable warmth of the restaurant in which he sat.
"You say that they were talking to the owner of our hotel?" he asked the man standing before him. The man, a tall, grey-haired individual in his early sixties, nodded.
"Yes sir. Just as I reported at the time. I was watching their hotel since the previous night, and I saw them leave early in the morning. They went to our hotel, spoke with the owner, and then went back to their own rooms. I handed over to one of the others then, to be certain that they would not realise they were being followed."
"Good." Braun lapsed into silence, gazing at a bottle of wine on the table. "Sit down, Gerald. Have a glass of wine."
"Thankyou sir." The man, Gerald, sat down, pouring a glass for himself as well as one for his employer. "May I ask what you plan to do, sir?"
"Nothing, as yet." Braun swirled the wine about in his glass, watching the dark red liquid move. "We will continue to keep them under surveillance. The owner of the hotel must be left alone, in case something is suspected. She is well known." He drank the entire contents of the glass without seeming to notice the taste. "If Grishanovitch and his friend get too close, we will bring them in for a little chat." He laughed without humour.
"Yes sir." Gerald rose to his feet, recognising the dismissal in his superior's eyes. "Oh, according to the hotel records, they are calling themselves Pierson and Dawson. Apparently they flew here from Paris about a week ago."
"Names, just names. What does it matter?" Braun reached for a cigar lying beside his plate, and lit it with an old fashioned lighter. "I'll have his head whatever its called." He waved with his hand, sending Gerald scuttling obediently away. Braun laughed, turning with amusement to the man sitting on the next table.
"You see how these mortals obey me? It'll be easy to do this. You'll see."
"I certainly hope so." The man toyed with a beard that seemed unfamiliar to him. "What about these others; Pierson and Dawson?"
"One a mortal, the other a cocky and unimpressive Immortal. Probably no more than a hundred years old, if that." Braun puffed on his cigar for a few seconds. "I can kill them both, if you'd like."
"No, not yet." The man reached for a glass of white wine and sipped from it delicately. "We wait, and we watch. I'll tell you what to do, when the time comes."
"Yes sir." Braun took a drag on the cigar and turned back to his own table. He was still determined to have Grishanovitch's head, no matter how long it took. But then, he mused as he settled back to contemplate the menu, some things were worth waiting for.
The next few days passed quietly, with little snippets of information offered by Lucy. Her phone calls came regularly, on the dot of noon, and invariably contained information about some new and sword-bearing guest, arriving to speak with Braun. On the fourth day, after the fourth such report, Methos scowled at the telephone as he hung up.
"I don't like this, Joe. Why are we just sitting around doing nothing?"
"Would you rather go round there and challenge them all?" Joe laughed at him. "Come on, old man. Relax. We'll do something just as soon as we've got something to do." There was a knock on the door and he rose to his feet, waving to Methos to put away the sword that he had been cleaning. "We need something to go on. Right?"
"Right." Methos covered up his weapon with the bedspread and put on his best unobtrusive and easy to ignore mask. The door opened to reveal a teenaged bus boy dressed in uniform, and Joe nodded a greeting.
"I have a message sir." The boy glanced from Methos to Joe, settling on the latter. "From a Miss Lucy."
"Lucy? But she was just on the phone." Joe took the piece of paper nonetheless, and nodded his thanks to the boy, who withdrew discreetly. "What do you reckon, Adam?"
"Are you kidding? She'd forget her own head if somebody hadn't bolted it to her shoulders." Methos took the note and read it through. "She wants to meet us at the Moon and Stars Café, soon as possible."
"Then we'd better get down there." Joe reached for his coat, but was surprised to see that Methos was making no effort to move. "What's up?"
"Nothing. I just don't fancy a trip to the other side of town right now. I think I'll stay here for a while, see if I can find out anything. Maybe the local library has leant out a lot of books on Nazism recently. Something like that."
"Fine. I'll see you later." Joe slung on his coat and headed for the door. "Don't stay out past your bed time, young man."
"Go fall in the Thames, Joe." Methos stood up and wandered to the window, watching as, a short time later, Joe set off along the street below. As soon as his friend was out of sight, he turned and left, heading off himself into the depths of London.
The Moon And Stars Café was a small place, quiet and immeasurably dull. The pale blue paint on the walls seemed to have lost the will to live and was beginning to peel away, and the old Formica tables were scuffed to the point of no return. Joe ordered a coffee that he could not quite bring himself to drink, and settled down at a table opposite the door. There was no sign of Lucy, and as the minutes passed, and his coffee grew progressively colder, so the woman behind the counter grew progressively agitated. He ordered a second cup of coffee in an attempt to pacify her, and it was with some relief that he saw a man enter the café. The man headed straight for him and sat down directly opposite the Watcher.
"Are you Pierson or Dawson?" he asked in a low voice.
"Joe Dawson." Joe extended his hand but the man ignored it.
"Come with me," he hissed. Joe frowned.
"What happened to Lucy?" he asked. The man glared at him, sliding his hand into his pocket. Joe recognised the shape through the cloth, and his pulse quickened.
"Don't be a fool, Mr Dawson. I'd hate to have to open fire in a public place. There are a lot of innocent people in the street outside."
"What do you want?" Joe kept his voice low, and filled with anger at his predicament. The man gestured with the hidden gun.
"Stand up and go outside. There's a car parked next to the curb. Get in the back and don't say a word."
"I don't have a lot of choice, do I." Joe climbed to his feet, moving as stiffly and as awkwardly as he could. It couldn't hurt to have these people underestimating him, after all. Outside on the street he saw a predictably black car parked beside the café. The windows were smoked, and he could not see anything more than the shadowy shapes of two men seated inside. The back door opened as he stepped towards it, and he climbed in. His contact from the café slammed the door shut and got into the front. The engine started up.
"Where are we going?" Joe asked, trying to sound cheerful. The man beside him smiled at him, his eyes cold. He pointed what looked like a pen at his companion, and Joe saw a small puff of gas explode from within it. He tried to dodge, but could not move quickly enough, and the sweet, sickly smell of the stuff filled his mind. He knew no more.
Beside him on the seat, the man with the gas pen heaved Joe back into a sitting position on the car seat and did up the seat belt to secure him into place. Then he put away his pen, ran a hand through his already immaculate, greying hair and nodded to the driver.
"Get us back to HQ," he said coldly. The driver nodded.
"Right away Mr Mayle." The speed of the car increased, and its long, sleek blackness passed unnoticed through the streets.
Methos closed his book with a snap, and stood up. A library assistant standing nearby cast him a disapproving look at the sudden noise, and he made a point of scraping his chair on the floor as he pushed it back under the table.
"Nice day," he commented to her, and she clucked her tongue and turned away. He grinned at her back, leaving quickly, and left his book lying on the table. He couldn't remember which shelf it had come from anyway, and doubtless the disapproving librarian would enjoy herself tutting about his irresponsibility whilst she put it away herself.
The street outside was heading towards dusk, and he took a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the new lighting level. Instead of the uniform soft yellow of the lights inside the library, he now found himself standing in the flashing glow of two hundred much too early Christmas lights, contending with the flashing neon of a nearby store. Huge black spiders dangled from shop windows, and flashing plastic pumpkins fitted with electric lights grinned at him through the glass. Halloween no longer seemed to have the attraction that it had done hundreds of years previously, when an enterprising Immortal could make easy money on the spookiest of nights by resurrecting himself and scaring the passers-by.
The old man wandered back towards the hotel with an easy, slow stride that did not quite hide the worry in his mind. He felt uneasy and restless after his afternoon's research, and bothered by everything that he had read. It was easy to dismiss, fifty years on; it had been easy to ignore at the time, as well, when information had been scarce; and it had seemed so conveniently to be someone else's problem. It was less easy to dismiss with a head full of photographs that would not go away, and eyes haunted by jerky cine-film.
Without quite understanding why, Methos walked past his hotel, and took a detour down a long side street. He walked for some time, taking occasional detours down alleyways and no-through roads until he came to the Champagne And Caviar Boarding House. He strolled towards it from the back way, hoping that Lucy had not already gone to bed. It was late by now, and the darkness had long ago become complete.
The shapes of figures in a lighted window caught Methos' attention, and he frowned at them, recognising Braun in their midst. He approached cautiously, long experience telling him how close he could get without warning them of his presence. It was with little surprise that he saw Lucy, dressed in a long, thick coat, crouched down beside a tree. She looked up at him without surprise as he came towards her.
"Adam! Hello." Without asking him why he was there, she dug around in her pockets and produced a directional microphone, which she pointed at the window. Immediately the sound of talking came to them faintly through the radio-like box on the ground at her feet.
"What is that?" Methos asked, but she shushed him.
"KGB equipment, like I told you. There are more of them tonight, Methos. It is important this time."
"Then turn up the volume." Sitting cross-legged on the ground, he leaned closer to the box, listening intently to every word from inside the room. He knew Braun's voice instantly, but the others were strangers to him. He recognised German accents and British ones, and the occasional sound of a French voice. There did not seem to be anyone present who did not come from a European country.
"We've chosen our target," Braun told them all, his voice as unemotional as ever. "We'll hit the restaurant at Harrods. It's always crowded, and it'll get a lot of attention when the bomb goes off."
"When do we make our first move?" a second voice asked.
"Soon." Braun was silent for a few seconds. "In a few days, I shall go to the top of the tower block we chose, and throw myself off. I'll make a show of it first, to attract attention. When they see me rise again, they'll listen to what I have to say. I don't care if they don't all believe it. Some will. Then when I go to the site of the bomb blast at Harrods, and manage to make all those certified fatalities rise again, more people will listen. We will have the ears of the world."
"What makes you think they'll really listen?" another voice asked. Braun harrumphed loudly.
"They'll listen. You have no idea how many people are willing to cling to any belief now that the millennium is approaching. The cults which have already sprung up over the last few years are growing at an unprecedented rate. People will believe in anything at a time like this." There was a creak as he sat down on a chair. "I'm not expecting the whole of the world to believe in me, but I am expecting to get enough of them to listen. Thousands of them will be prepared to hear what I have to say, and I shall tell them exactly what our leader has spoken to us of, so many times. You know the lessons, the doctrines. If all these Millennium Cults, with all their ridiculous thoughts and teachings, can spread like wildfire across the face of the planet, then so can our word. They can't argue with my power to bring people back from the dead. Many of them have been looking for a second coming at this time since this millennium began."
"There is a regrettable… prejudice, shall we say, against our beliefs." Another member of the gathering spoke quietly but with force. "How can we be sure that people will be prepared to follow our lead?"
"They will follow. Most of them have forgotten. How many of them truly care for something that they think was finished fifty-three years ago?" Braun leaned back in his chair, and the creaks of the wood nearly drowned out his next words. "We will resurrect our Reich, and it will have the devoted support of mortals across the whole of Europe. The Immortals will suspect, of course. They will know how my miracles are performed. But how many of them will speak up? If they do, they can be silenced, if not, let them fester. The Game is of no concern to me."
"Nor to any of us." The quiet voiced man spoke with his customary calm. "All that matters is finishing our work. We do not need to be the One, when we can have the All." He paused. "Did someone not speak of enemies? People who know of us, and are likely to try to stop us?"
"There are two." Braun sounded dismissive. "A mortal, and some Immortal I have met before. I have the mortal here, in the cellar. The other one will be dealt with, in time."
"I hope so." The quiet-voiced man sounded as though he was smiling. "We don't want any accidents this close to our Time."
"Of course not." There was irritation in the ex-Commandant's voice. "They will be dealt with. Have no fear."
"They have Joe." Methos stood up, glancing towards the house. "Stay here, Lucy. Please? I don't want them to know you're in on this."
"You're going after your friend? But there are so many of them." She made as if to stop him, but he pushed her gently aside.
"I'll be fine, Lucy. I know enough to stay out of their way. They can only know I'm there if I get close enough to them to let them feel me, and I don't plan to let that happen."
"Be careful." She spoke the words with firmness, as though to a small child, and he smiled at her and slipped away into the darkness. He could only hope that Joe was still alive, and that he was not going to make his way to the cellar only to find a dead body waiting for him in the darkness.
Methos levered open a ground floor window, and climbed inside the building as quietly as possible. His senses were strained to the limit as he tried to listen to everything, to hear the slightest sound that might allow him to remain out of range of the other Immortals, no matter to where they might happen to chose to move.
"Ouch," he hissed into the darkness, as he caught his shin on a thoughtlessly placed coffee table; or maybe a very thoughtfully placed one, since it made life rather unpleasant for any would-be intruders. He scrambled to the floor, glancing around into the darkness, and hoping that the cellar was clearly labelled; or that, at the very least, the key was still in the lock.
"I hope you appreciate this, Joe." Creeping across the entrance hall, Methos reached the shadows of a large pair of curtains across the front door, and then headed towards a likely looking door nearby. He opened it cautiously, meeting only silent blackness, and hurried inside. Beyond the door there was a long corridor, with doors leading to what appeared to be three ground floor bedrooms and a communal bathroom. He hurried on past, hoping that nobody was going to choose that moment to leave their room; and came to the far door. It opened easily, and trusting luck to have led him to the right place, he entered the room. It was empty, save for storage boxes and old filing cabinets; and set into one wall was a heavy, banded door, clearly marked Cellar. He tried the door handle.
"Looking for the key?" The voice was pleasant and even, and Methos froze. Several responses flashed through his mind, but he abandoned them all and turned around slowly. A tall, grey-haired man wearing a respectable looking suit was smiling at him questioningly. He seemed oddly familiar.
"Key?" Methos grinned at him, playing the part of the harmless eccentric with ease. He was Adam Pierson, mild mannered grad student, and he honestly had no idea what this strange gentleman might be inferring. "I'm looking for the wine cellar. The bar is totally out of my favourite beer, and the barman said that--"
"Nice try." The man's smile did not waver in the slightest as he reached inside his jacket for his gun.
Like lightning, Methos drew his sword, slashing out with it and knocking the wall lamp from its fixing. Instantly the room fell into darkness. The Immortal slashed again, this time hearing the unmistakable sound of an indistinct yelp, followed by the thud of a gun hitting the floor.
"Unlock the cellar," Methos hissed, pointing the sword to where he hoped he would find the other man's neck. A small gasp told him that his guess had been right, and he applied a little more pressure. "Be very good, and very quiet, and I just might not kill you."
"I'm not afraid to die." Gerald Mayle clenched his fists in the darkness, closing his eyes and hoping that his fear was not visible to his attacker.
"Yeah, right." Methos laughed shortly. "I've heard a thousand men say that, and they were all lying. Everybody is afraid to die. It's the only thing there's any point in being afraid of." A familiar sensation rushed through him, and his eyes flickered towards the door. "Do it. Now."
"Drop the sword." The door burst open with a crash, and the lights of the corridor outside flooded the room. Methos looked towards the three men now visible in the doorway, and wondered how much these new arrivals cared for their mortal flunky. He was willing to bet that it was not a lot. He hesitated.
"Drop the sword." Behind him he heard the sound of the cellar door opening, and he knew that he was surrounded. He wondered how many more mortals were waiting down below, ready to kill Joe if the command came. Resignation flooded his soul, and he lowered his weapon.
"Good choice," Braun told him, coming further into the room. He was holding his own sword, and he placed the point against Methos' neck as he took the other Immortal's weapon from him, handing it to Gerald Mayle. "Now you get to be reunited with your friend for a short while. Before you both die."
"Thanks." Methos smiled at him, wishing that he had some way of turning the tables. Right now he wanted nothing more than to wipe the self-satisfied smirk from Braun's face. "Lead on, alter kocker." Braun glared at him.
"You won't be so insolent soon," he said, his voice low and threatening. Methos didn't argue.
"Adam?" Peering through the gloom in the cellar, Joe looked up in surprise as the old Immortal came down the steps towards him. "What are you doing here?"
"Rescuing you." Methos grinned, trying to wipe a trail of blood from his forehead with his shoulder. "My plan may require some adjustment."
"You don't say." Joe looked him up and down. "If this is the bad news, pal, you'd better have some good news to go with it."
"I do, sort of." Sitting down next to his friend, Methos tried to work some life into his shoulders before replying. His arms had only been bound for five minutes, and already they were beginning to ache. "I know what the plan is."
"Why do I get the feeling that isn't good news?" Joe sighed. "Run it by me."
"Oh, you know, world domination, national brainwashing, idol worship. All the usual." The old Immortal gazed into the semi-darkness of the room. "Only this time I think it might just stand a chance of working. He's got it right about all that millennium claptrap. A whole lot of people are willing to believe in just about anything right now. You see it all over."
"Yeah, tell me about it." Joe sighed. "Okay, let me guess. One of them dies in spectacular style and then comes back to life."
"More or less. Except that they're going one step further." The old man explained the bomb plot. "You've got to hand it to them, Joe. It's good. When half the population of London sees Harrods go up, and the reports go out nation wide about the death toll, who isn't going to sit up and take notice when a guy already reputed to have returned from the dead works the same magic on some of the bomb fatalities? A whole lot of people will swear it's a hoax, but you know how people are. There'll be hundreds of them willing to follow Braun wherever he wants to lead them."
"And he's planning to lead them all the way to the Fourth Reich." Joe shook his head. "Would it be way too naïve to hope that people won't take him seriously?"
"Way too naïve." The old Immortal shook his head. "I thought I'd seen it all, Joe. I really did. But this? A group of my own people using a scheme like this one. Do they really believe all this claptrap? It's so… artless. So brainless. Even in our darkest days - and I'll admit that they got pretty dark - the Horsemen never killed for reasons like this. To be so utterly cowardly, that they felt the need to do all they did during the war; and in the years leading up to it. And now they want to do it all over again." He brought his anger under control with a powerful effort. "Last time around I convinced myself that it wasn't my problem. Thousands of us did; millions of us. But only I get a second chance."
"Don't do anything stupid, Methos." Joe wanted to reach out, to put a steadying hand on his companion's shoulder. "Come on, pal, you've been a shrinking violet as long as I've known you. Don't do an about face on me now."
"Lucy wasn't afraid. She never was." Methos did not seem to hear his companion's voice. "She's a mortal, but she still isn't afraid."
"She isn't suggesting going up against at least twenty Immortals. And definitely not with her hands tied." There was new urgency in Joe's tone. "Come on, Methos, think about it. You lift one finger against them, and your buddy Braun will have your head before you can take a step. What do you think your name is? Duncan MacLeod?"
"That's below the belt, Joe." Methos glared at him. "I have a good deal more sense than that over-eager white knight."
"Then prove it. Lose the man-with-a-mission look and listen to me." Dawson manoeuvred himself about with difficulty, so that he was facing his companion directly. "Think, Adam. We have to have a proper plan if we're going to get out of this, right? These people are partly responsible for the murders of well over six million people. You think they're going to think twice about killing us? I'm surprised we've stayed alive as long as we have."
"Yeah, so?" Beginning to relax, Methos listened. "What are you getting at?"
"I'm getting at why now. Think about it. Okay, so they like the millennium idea; but big deal. It's just a year on a calendar. If people are going to believe in him coming back from the dead, they'd have believed it in 1969 as much as 1999. Maybe more, 'cause they sure as hell didn't have the fancy camera trickery then that we have now. Most of the world is going to write him off as a fancy version of David Copperfield. Even this bomb thing isn't going to fool the real sceptics. If he really wanted support, he'd have been better off trying this maybe ten years after the war ended. So why now? If we can figure that out, maybe we've got a handle to work with. Something to give us a better chance of stopping this before it goes any further. And, er… just maybe staying alive? I like that part of the idea especially."
Methos smiled. His friend had a point, and he knew it; but all the same it was tempting to give in to his anger, and see where it led him. It was very rare indeed these days, that he was willing to risk his head for something. He couldn't remember the last time that it had happened.
"Braun said something," he muttered, his voice barely audible. "About a leader. Something about them following some man who had instructed them about the doctrines of their beliefs. Maybe they had to wait for him to gather them all together. Maybe he's at the centre of all this."
"A leader. That would make sense." Joe closed his eyes, trying to picture the scene. "Yeah, think about it. A bunch of Immortals, who all remain loyal to the Reich, but have no way of getting together; or who maybe get together, but can't decide on who will lead them, and what their plans are to be. And then finally somebody else comes along. Somebody who the others will all follow unquestioningly. Someone who can co-ordinate this whole operation."
"An Immortal, naturally." Methos nodded. "The one that we have to take out."
"Easier said than done, old man. Especially since they're planning to kill us at any minute."
"Not necessarily." Methos stood up, heading towards the stairs. "I have a plan, Joe. Follow me, okay? I have to buy us some extra time."
"I'm with you." Joe struggled to his feet, missing his cane. "This better work, Methos."
"Hey, have I ever let you down?" Methos grinned back at him, eyebrows raised in innocence. Joe snorted.
"Do you want the list alphabetised, or in chronological order?" He looked up towards the cellar door. "Okay, pal. The floor's yours."
"What do you want?" The noise of his prisoners' shouting having clearly woken him, the guard glared blearily at them from the top of the stairs.
"We want to speak to whoever's in charge." Methos took a few steps up the stairs, stopping when a powerful looking gun pointed itself straight at him. "Look, this is actually quite important."
"Sure it is. You want to beg for your lives." The guard shook his head. "Mr Braun doesn't want to listen."
"That's not what we want." The door was starting to shut, and Methos put new urgency into his voice. "Listen to me. The two of us, we weren't working alone."
"You want to talk business?" There was a gleam in the guard's eye now. Methos shook his head, feigning impatience. "There isn't time for all that now. Our partner is crazy. He's an Immortal like me; like Braun and his partners, and he couldn't stand living after your lot killed his family in the last war. You've read about all that, right? You did go to school?"
"Of course I went to school." The guard took a step towards him, eyes bright with rage. "Communist propaganda. All of that stuff never happened. The records have been falsified by--"
"Shut up. I was there, okay? I saw it." Methos glanced back towards Joe. "Listen, our friend - Nigel - he wants to destroy your operation. He doesn't care about the consequences. He's rigged up this whole place to explode. A massive bomb, and I don't know where. You have to find it. It could be anywhere in the building; or outside of it. He's got enough plastic explosive to destroy half the surrounding buildings as well."
"And he knows how to use it. He used to work in demolition." Joe joined his companion. "We're talking major bang here. The blast will be so powerful it'll atomise everybody, Immortals included. Having your head reduced to its basic constituents works pretty much like beheading. They'd all be dead."
"Are you saying that your friend would kill you both, just to get at us?" The guard shook his head. "I don't believe you."
"I told you, he doesn't care about the consequences. He'll probably kill himself in the blast too. Do you think he cares?" Methos took another couple of steps towards the guard. "Come on, be reasonable. Is there any point in dying for your cause if your cause is just going to die with you?"
"I - I'll have to speak to Mr Braun."
"Why Braun? Why not go to the top?" Methos took another step up. "He's here, right? The leader? The guy in charge? You must have seen him."
"I've seen him." The guard shrugged. "Old guy, has a beard. He usually only speaks to the Immortals, and to Mr Mayle."
"Mayle? He's the grey-haired guy, right? Real nasty." Joe stole a quick glance at Methos. "What do you reckon, Adam? Five minutes? Or do you think he'll set it for a long fuse, to make sure that everybody's here before it goes up?"
"Five minutes, most likely. Nigel never was one to hang around." Methos stepped up the last couple of stairs towards the guard. "Do you really want to die? Honestly?"
"Out." The guard levelled his gun at the pair of them. "Come on, move!"
"Where are we going?" Sounding as innocent as he was able, Joe clambered up the remaining stairs. The guard did not answer him. Instead he moved to a table at the edge of the room, where a small radio lay in waiting.
"Nigel?!" Joe whispered to Methos, as the guard picked up the radio and began to talk into it. Methos glared at him.
"It's a name, Joe. Just play along."
"Mr Braun is willing to talk to you." The guard put down the radio and gestured at the far door with his gun. His prisoners moved obligingly towards it, and out into the corridor beyond. The buzz of Immortality enveloped Methos as they neared the end of the corridor, and he nodded a polite greeting to the three sword-bearing men who awaited in the entrance hall.
"Shut up." One of the men put his sword against Methos' neck and smiled sweetly at him. "Shall I lead the way?"
"Please, feel free." Trying to keep Joe in his sight, Methos allowed the men to lead him towards the room where he had overheard the earlier conversation. He looked about as much as he could on the way, hoping that he would catch a glimpse of Lucy, but there was no sign of her.
"They tell me that a friend of yours has planted a bomb in our building." Rising to his feet as they entered the room, Braun stared from one to the other of the prisoners. "Why haven't we heard about a partner before? We had your phones tapped, we had you followed. You've never mentioned this Nigel."
"There wasn't any need." Methos glanced about the room. There were at least fifteen men in evidence; all of them Immortals as far as he could tell. Only Mayle was the exception, standing with his back to the window, arms folded. "I said I'd speak to the boss, Braun. Not to the flunky."
"You'll speak to whoever listens. Now that we know about the bomb we can leave at any time, and let you and the other guests in this place enjoy the fireworks when they start."
"But you can't. There's no way you can get everything out of here before the place goes up. You can't get your weapons and your books out in time." Joe grinned. "You have to find the bomb, and defuse it."
"And something tells me that you don't know how to defuse Nigel's handiwork. It's pretty impressive stuff. Only Joe here can stop it from exploding." Methos glanced at his friend. "Right Joe?"
"Only with your help." The mortal smiled triumphantly. "Unless he's used the Oswald fuse. Then we're all peanut butter, I'm afraid."
"Enough talk." Braun stepped forward, looming over the pair. "We will find this bomb, and you will defuse it."
"Don't bother." The voice came from a chair nearby, turned away from the gathering, where a man sat facing a three bar electric fire. He stood up, turning towards them, and they saw an old, white-haired man, sporting a white beard. He was not a big man, and he was dressed in a grey flannel suit. "Can't you see that they're lying, Braun? They're trying to slow us down."
"Can you take that risk?" Methos took a step forward, sensing immediately that this old man was the leader of the group. The man laughed.
"I'm prepared to gamble your life on it, yes." He moved closer. "So this is the Immortal who was trying to get in our way. I suppose I should take your head. I've never actually had a Quickening." He smiled, running his hand over the hilt of the sword that he wore around his waist. Each movement made its decorative hilt catch the light, and flash in tandem with the string of medals on his chest.
"Who are you?" Joe was frowning at the figure, certain that he should know the man's face. He had to have been a high ranking officer from the war, to have been able to inspire Braun and his fellows to this extent. The snow white head turned towards him.
"My name is of little consequence." His voice was soft; almost too soft for the German accent to show through. "What matters is that you tried to stand in our way. That can't be allowed. The only reason you're not dead yet is that I haven't chosen the most fitting way in which to watch you die. As enemies of our state, you should be executed in the right manner, don't you agree?"
"Charming." Methos shook his head. "Look, we're sorry we got in your way, alright? Old Stefan here approached me, so you can blame him for it. We would never have known you were in town if he hadn't been so determined to make his point."
"Is this true?" The old man turned sharply towards Braun, who took an involuntary step backwards.
"Well… yes. But I only meant that--"
"Silence." The German accent became strong for that one word, and the voice was like the crack of a whip. "You dare to risk our great plans, for the sake of one head? One single Immortal means this much to you?"
"You don't understand, sir. I met him during the war. He caused us to lose our stronghold on the West African coast, and he killed half of my men. I only wanted to--"
"You wanted revenge. You led him straight to us. What if he had brought the authorities with him? What if he had led the Communists here?"
"I'm sorry, sir." Braun's head was hanging, although he took care to turn his face towards Methos. The old Immortal was grinning, and Braun glared at him. His eyes spoke murder.
"Sorry isn't good enough, Stefan. I expected more from my second-in-command. Now I have to consider whether or not you're worth keeping on my staff. You're dismissed."
"Yes sir." Braun clicked his heels together. "Should I take the prisoners back to--"
"You shall do nothing except leave this room now." The white-haired man waved towards the door. "Go, Stefan. We shall talk later. I want to speak to these boys for a while."
"Yes sir." Sounding thoroughly subdued, Braun left. Methos watched him depart, and exchanged a grin with Joe.
"You can stop acting as though you have scored a victory." The old man limped towards them, his walk uneven. "There can be no victories for you, or for any of those who stand against us. We are unstoppable."
"That's what you said the last time," Joe drawled, his eyes filled with sarcasm. "Pack up your bags and go home."
"You think we are joking?" The old man stepped closer, leaning on a gold-topped stick to look into the mortal's eyes. "You think this is something to take lightly? Some joke?"
"Not a joke, no. A bunch of old men who missed their chance first time around, and can't take it that the world has managed to get by without them." Joe stared back into the cold blue eyes turned towards him, faintly disturbed by what he saw within them. He had met many madmen and amoral Immortals during his career - especially since falling in with Duncan MacLeod - but this was something that he had never before seen. It was the look of pure evil.
"The world has got by without us, has it." The white-haired man laughed softly, and his wrinkled, claw like hand reached out, touching the lapel of Joe's jacket, running down the soft material as though he were caressing a small child. "Do you know, my delicate mortal friend, how many Fascist groups are in existence today, world wide? How many European supporters there are of the new Neo-Nazi organisation? Have you seen the refugee homes burnt out by fire bombs?" He laughed, and his voice dropped an octave, sliding into the smooth insinuation of approaching darkness. "You must have seen what went on in the former Yugoslavia? Our old ideas are not so far away. In Africa too; in Rwanda. Many people are still prepared to use mass extermination as a way of removing undesirables from circulation. Is that any different to what your people do to criminals in the US? You kill them. We just use a slightly bigger scale."
"You're crazy." Joe tried to take a step back, but the Immortal's hand tightened on his jacket, pulling him closer still.
"No. You're crazy. You think that you can beat us. We already have people in power. Supporters in important positions. Armies of thugs prepared to fight for our cause. Right across Europe, Britain - and in America. They're there. They lack leadership, but they will come together when they see us make the first step. It will happen."
"Leave him alone." Methos stepped towards the old man, only to be brought up short by two of the guards, who grabbed his arms. The white-haired leader waved them away.
"Let him come. He still thinks that he can make a difference. Perhaps he still thinks that I'm exaggerating. Perhaps it's been too long since he picked up a newspaper."
"I don't think that you're exaggerating. I know what goes on in the world." Facing the devout old man with anger growing within him, Methos shook his head. "I don't underestimate you like some people do. I did, the first time around; but I learnt my lesson, and it's not going to happen again. I am going to stop you."
"How? You'll be dead." The old man laughed at him, pushing Joe away. Unable to balance himself with his hands tied behind his back, the mortal crashed to the ground. "For thirty years I've hidden in a monastery, afraid to face the world in this body, when anybody could take my head. I've never faced another Immortal in battle. I've never felt the feeling that you all know so well. Now perhaps it's time for me to take my first Quickening."
"You won't do that." The voice was female, and it came from the door. Lucy stood there, a rifle cradled in her arms. She walked past the ranked Immortals, none of whom moved to stop her, until she stood alongside the old man. He stared at her as though he believed her to be insane.
"You? You plan to stop me? How?"
"At this range the blast from this gun will take your head clean off. I don't care if your boys kill me. You'll be dead, and that's all that matters. Don't think that beard can hide who you really are. Do you think that I could have forgotten that face? That any of us who were there can have forgotten the way you looked, and the light in your eyes? So you wear contact lenses now, and there are no more little round glasses. You are still the same man. I know you. I have seen you in my nightmares for the past fifty years."
"Kill her." The old man spoke in a voice like ice. Lucy laughed at him.
"If I die, I'm taking you with me, Heinrich. You'll go to where you should have gone with all your comrades. You'll go to where you should be now."
"So will you." The rest of the room no longer seemed to exist for the pair, who stared at each other as though nothing else mattered. "Are you willing to die for your cause?"
"Yes. Oh yes. I have been willing to die for my cause for many years, Heinrich. But not you. You're not ready, are you? And you never were. What happened back then, hmm? When all of the others murdered their wives and babies, and committed suicide? You couldn't do it, could you. The Allies were on your doorstep, and you were in custody, and you still couldn't do it. You faked your own death. You ran and hid. And the irony of it is, that if you had had the courage to die for your cause then, you'd have been a young man now. Instead you waited until old age finally took you; and you have to spend the rest of eternity trapped in that ancient husk of a body. Your cowardice is written in every wrinkle in your face."
"Enough!" Turning to face the rest of the room, the old man stared around at his comrades, all standing like statues in their little groups. "Kill her! Kill all three of them! Shoot them now!"
"Only if you want to see your great leader die as well." Lucy also looked around at the room. "You will free my friends. Do it." Several of the Immortals moved to do her bidding, and she nodded in satisfaction. "His sword. Give Adam his sword back. And a gun or two I think. Yes?" Another Immortal handed over the weapons, and the old mortal woman smiled and nodded. "Good. Well done. Now you go, Adam. And you Joe. You go and you keep going, and you don't look back."
"Are you crazy? You'll have no way of getting out!" Methos took a step towards her, but the look in her eyes told him to stop.
"Adam, if we go together, we will be shot. You know that. It is clear. So go, please."
He stared at her, looking into her eyes, and seeing the fire that he had first seen lit all those years ago in Gdansk. He nodded.
"And stop Herr Braun. He left a few minutes ago. I think he goes to put the plan into action."
"Ha. There, you see? Even when you think you are winning, you are losing. Soon it will all be over. The world will be looking at its new leader." The white-haired Nazi laughed at them all. "You might as well surrender now. I might let you die quickly."
"Go to hell." Methos weighed his sword in his hand, wondering if there was anything that he could do, any difference that he might be able to make; but he knew that every second he hesitated, Lucy's small advantage was being put at risk. If he tried getting both of his friends to the door with just Himmler as a shield, they would soon all be dead. He smiled at her. "Good luck, Lucy."
"What I am doing does not need luck, Adam. You have the difficult thing to do. Go and do it."
"I will." He grabbed Joe's stick and hurried his friend to the door.
"And now what?" Himmler asked Lucy, as they stood together in the centre of the room. "Do we wait here until Doomsday?"
"No." She smiled at him. "I think we have waited for long enough."
"You seem to think that you know me. I don't know you."
Lucy laughed. "No, you never knew names, did you. You never knew faces. That is the coward's way. I see your face, Heinrich. I see the eyes that I have always longed to look into." She nestled the shotgun against his ear. "Because I am not a coward." She pulled the trigger. Seconds later, the other Immortals fired.
Outside, running away from the hotel as fast as Joe was able, the pair heard the gunfire and slowed to a halt. Methos stared back towards the building, his eyes closed.
"Do you think Himmler's dead?" Joe asked. Methos glanced towards him. The faint flashes of blue light which were visible in the hotel were answer enough.
"He's dead," he said softly. "And so is Lucy."
"Something tells me she's not too sorry," Joe told him, dropping a hand onto his friend's shoulder. Methos smiled.
"You're probably right. But it's not over yet." He turned and began to run again, heading back towards the street.
"Listen to me!" Shouting through the megaphone that he wore on a halyard around his neck, Stefan Braun stared down at the people in the streets below him. "Listen to me!"
"Easy, pal." The uniformed policeman standing on the rooftop next to him held both hands up. "Look, I don't know why you're doing this, but let's talk about it first, okay? There's no reason to jump."
"There is every reason!" Braun was still yelling through the megaphone. "We are on the dawn of a new age. The millennium awaits us! A new beginning for the world. And I am here to show you the way to that new beginning."
"Then come away from the edge, and we'll talk about it." The policeman smiled patiently. "Look, you've got half of London looking at you. There's a TV crew setting up down below. If you come down here, every channel is going to want to have an interview with you. I promise. So come on, and don't be a fool."
"You're the fool. You don't believe me. None of them believes me." Braun gazed down at the ranks of people standing below him. At any minute, he reasoned, he would have as many looking at him as were ever likely to. That would be his moment; the time that he was waiting for. Then Himmler's faith in him would be renewed, and the new age could begin. Far below him, he saw the paramedics and the policemen, and a lone fire engine. They were all there for him, and he liked it. He smiled.
"That's him?" Down in the street, Joe whistled. "Great. How exactly are we going to get him down?"
"We're not." Methos shielded his eyes with his hands, staring up at the distant figure of Stefan Braun. "Give me a moment, Joe." He hurried to a phone box and dialled a number. Joe heard the buzz of conversation, but could not make out the words. He frowned at his comrade as the old Immortal returned to stand beside him.
"What was all that about?" he asked. Methos grinned.
"My name is Gerald," he said, in the cool, calm voice of the completely confident. "I represent the World Liberation Army, and I have planted a bomb outside Harrods department store. You won't find it in time, but you might just have time to evacuate the area. If you hurry."
"You pulled a bomb hoax? Are you nuts?" Joe shook his head. "Dammit Adam, do you know what they do to hoax callers?"
"Well I wasn't planning to tell them it was me, Joe." Methos glanced back up to Braun. "By the time he realises that his audience is departing, there won't be any point in him making the jump. I hope."
"Can't we just go up and get him?" Joe rubbed his damp hands on his trousers, nervous and on edge. He wanted to be doing something. "Sorry, pal, but at any moment the bad guys are going to be here, right? I mean, they've got to know that we were coming after Braun, and it wasn't too hard for us to find him, once we noticed the traffic jams." He looked about. "Half of the city is waiting to see him jump."
"I know." Methos grinned. "But look over there. They're starting the evacuation. Trust me, Joe."
"Let's not get carried away." Dawson smiled. "Okay pal, let's hope you're right."
Up above the street, Braun watched in amazement as the crowds of people and cars below him began to disperse. He saw the steady, swift movement of the citizens in the street and shook his head.
"No, this can't be happening."
"Excuse me? Sir?" The policeman, still waiting nearby to do his obligatory Samaritan act, edged forward slightly. "I just got a call from headquarters, and it seems there's been a bomb threat. We have to clear out the area. Would you consider coming down now, sir?"
"No!" Yelling the single syllable at the skies, Braun let loose with a raging torrent of German. He raised his megaphone to his lips. "Damn you Pierson! You're down there, aren't you. I know it's you. Well you can't win, Pierson. I will have my world as I want it."
"Uh oh." Joe glanced towards his companion, worried. "Why do I smell trouble."
"You don't." Methos ran to the middle of the street, gazing up at the solitary figure, just visible at the top of the building. A policeman busy about his evacuation work tried to get him to move on, but the old Immortal resisted.
"Just a second." He stared up at the figure, raising his hand in a wave. "That's a friend of mine up there. I can get him down, if you'll just give me a megaphone." The policeman nodded, gesturing one of his colleagues to bring the required device over.
"Can you hear me Steve?" Tipping his head back to look up at the far away figure, Methos smiled into the mouthpiece of the megaphone. "They've all gone. You've got no audience anymore. I'm coming up."
"That isn't advisable, sir," the policeman told him. "There has been a bomb threat."
"So I heard." Methos smiled at him. "I'm prepared to take the risk, okay?"
"If you're sure. I'll tell my man to come down."
"Thanks." Methos handed back the megaphone and headed towards the building. He heard footsteps, and glanced towards Joe. "Go back, Joe."
"Are you kidding? And let you go up there on your own? You're Methos, remember. The one who doesn't like confrontation."
"And you're Joe Dawson, the Watcher who is sworn not to interfere. This is my battle, Joe. There's nothing that you can do for me up there." He smiled. "I let Lucy do her thing. Now you have to let me do mine."
"You're sure?" Joe looked up at the building, then back to Methos. "You're really sure? You don't know how good that guy is."
"I know." Methos smiled. "I hid before, Joe. Maybe I could have done something all those years ago. Maybe all of us who were around then could have done something. Fact is, it's too late for us ever to know. There were millions of people who paid the price then, for all of us who thought it wasn't our fight. I'm not walking away again." He took a deep breath. "I'll see you later, Dawson."
"I'll meet you in that pub, by the hotel." Joe smiled at him. "Make it quick, huh. Before I let some beautiful girl drink your beer."
"I'll be there." Methos turned away, walking quickly towards the door to the building. Joe stared after him.
"You'd better be," he whispered, then let the policemen hurry him away.
"So you came to see me. How thoughtful." Stefan Braun stepped away from the edge. "They've all gone. That was your doing, wasn't it."
"Yep." Methos drew his sword. "There's nobody to see us end this, Braun. So let's do it our way."
"I will win." Braun drew his own weapon. "I will come back here, and I will do this. I will show the world my death and my resurrection. They will follow me."
"They'll always be ready to follow some jerk. But it won't be you." Methos tried to loosen up his shoulders. "You're retired from the Messiah business, as of today. Your whole operation is over. Himmler is dead."
"You killed him?" A flash of rage passed across Braun's face. Methos smiled.
"No, Lucy did. But he's still dead."
"So will you be soon."
"Maybe." Methos smiled. "The important thing is, I'm prepared for that. And it's been a long, long time since I felt that way. How does it feel to be that easy to hate, Stevie?"
"Shut up." Braun stepped towards him. "You're a dead man."
Their swords clashed loudly, and Methos fell back, allowing Braun to lead. They moved about the roof together, battling in the pitch dark, the icy wind blowing about their shoulders. Braun was good, and he moved with practised grace. He had evidently been taught by a master, but Methos knew all of the tricks. He blocked and twisted, allowing all of his centuries of experience to come back to his arms. He let them do the thinking, turning off his mind and switching back to the perfect killing machine that he had once been.
"Got you." Swinging his sword about, Braun pinned Methos' weapon against the wall, holding it firmly. "I told you that you couldn't win."
"I'll let you into a secret." Methos smiled at him. "In five thousand years, I've never won all that many battles fairly." He pulled the dagger from within his coat and drove it deeply into Braun's side.
"You… you can't do that." Braun staggered back, gazing at the protruding dagger. "I--"
"Shut up, Braun." Methos kicked the other Immortal's legs out from under him, and sent his sword skittering away. He raised his own weapon above his head. "Time to meet your maker. I hope he's a very forgiving man."
"One day…" Braun gasped, staring up at the sword above him. "One day…"
"One day, pal, if we ever find ourselves in the same place again, you're welcome to take your best shot." Methos smiled. "You'll know me. I'm always the one dressed in white."
The Quickening, when it came, flooded the roof top in light, exploding the neon tubing of the lights on the building opposite and sending tongues of flame licking about at the surviving Immortal's feet. Methos leaned into it, letting himself absorb it all, feeling the hate and the anger rush through him in fiery bursts. He could not remember wanting a Quickening so badly in a long time. Finally, weak from the power of it all, he dropped to his knees, aware that the material of his trousers was beginning to singe. He had to force himself to stumble to his feet, collecting the swords and the dagger and hiding them inside his coat. By the time that he made it to the door leading to the stairs, Braun's body was already aflame. He did not spare it a second glance.
"How did it go?" one of the policemen asked, as Methos reached the safety line. He shrugged.
"I don't know. He told me to leave, or he'd jump. I think there's a fire up there. I could smell burning, but he'd locked the door and I couldn't get back onto the roof."
"We'll get the fire crew there as soon as we know it's safe." The policeman slapped him on the shoulder. "Nice try anyway. You look about done in."
"Yeah, I am pretty tired." Methos glanced up, seeing the unmistakable figures of some twenty people coming towards him. He could feel their approach the closer that they got. Apparently he was not going to get that rest just yet. "Er… you see those men there?"
"That crowd?" The policeman sighed. "Can't they read notices?"
"They're the ones who planted the bomb. I know them." Methos put real urgency into his voice. "Watch them, they're armed. They're after me because I know who they are. They've been staying at a hotel - the Champagne And Caviar. They killed the owner, and they've got a stack of weapons and stuff there. I swear it."
"You do, huh." The policeman stared at him, seeing the harmless, innocent face of Adam Pierson; young, charming and vulnerable. He nodded. "Okay. You'd better keep out of the way, and we'll deal with this lot. Just be around to give a statement when it's needed."
"Sure. I'm at the Regency Hotel." Methos headed away, allowing himself a small, inward smile. There really was nothing like getting somebody else to do your dirty work for you. "Just ask for Adam Pierson."
"You made it then." Joe pushed a pint glass across the table towards his friend, keeping the relief and the delight from his face and voice. Methos nodded, as though he were meeting a friend on an ordinary day.
"Yeah, I made it."
"Good." They looked at each other and smiled, then Methos sat down and took a long drink of his beer.
"Is it over?" Joe asked him. Methos shrugged.
"Is it ever over? He was right, you know. They do have a lot of supporters. It's a growing movement right across Western Europe. Maybe not just the west."
"I meant is it over for now."
"Oh." Methos nodded, staring into the depths of his dark beer. "Last I saw of Braun he wasn't looking too healthy."
"Yeah." They shared another smile and bent over their drinks; two relaxed and contented friends enjoying each others company. It was pleasant just to be able to sit, and let the warmth of the room overtake them. All about the pub the atmosphere of pleasant comradeship seemed to have taken a hold, and the noise of conversation fell to a muted buzz. In the new silence, the television above the bar became louder and more audible. It was turned to a news programme.
"There are reported to be no survivors in the refugee hostel fire-bombed today in Germany. Thirteen bodies have so far been recovered, including two small children. A Neo-Nazi organisation is said to have claimed responsibility for the attack. Elsewhere in the world, fighting is continuing in the former Yugoslavia, where civilian refugees are thought to still be under fire from opposing troops. The refugees, mostly women and children, are facing the added threat of night time sniper fire, as well as daytime bombardment. Here in Britain, the investigation into the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence appears to have hit another stumbling block--" A patron reached up, clicking the television over to the football on another channel, cutting the newsreader off in mid-sentence. Methos glanced up, surprised by the sudden change, unaware until that moment that he had been listening at all. His eyes met with Joe's.
"Forget it, Adam," the mortal told him. "It's over."
"Yeah, sounds like it." The old Immortal drained the last of his beer. "Let somebody else deal with it, huh. It's not our problem."
"I didn't mean it that way."
"I know." Methos smiled and stood up. "Come on, Joe, there are a few night spots I want to show you. Used to be a cool night club not far from here, called the Zodiac."
"Sure." Joe stood up, following him to the door. "Lead on. Do we walk, or take a taxi?"
"We walk, unless you're afraid of the dark." Methos stepped out into the darkness of the night and stopped to look up at the sky.
"I haven't been afraid of the dark in about forty years." Joe smiled. "Why, are you?"
"Maybe." The world's oldest man dug his hands into his pockets and glanced back at his friend, his eyes looking as though they were elsewhere, in some other time. "And it's going to get a whole lot darker before dawn."
I shan't insult you with the obvious details, unless you like being insulted, in which case you should probably be on one of those pages that the authorities are always trying to ban... Kronos does not apologise for his absence. I think he's getting lazy, actually, because he is starting to use the "I'm dead, therefore I can't be in it" excuse. That's never stopped him before. I can see that we shall have to have words.