The silent surf brushed languidly at the sand, stroking against Methos' feet, and he stretched dreamily. The tide was coming in, and it would soon be time to move. It was such a shame that moving required so much energy; in fact it was almost a crime. Immortals should be born with the power to levitate, in order to avoid such unnecessary strains.

A shiver ran through Methos, and he snapped his eyes open, looking up into the familiar face of Kronos.

"Oh, it's you."

"Well who did you think it was?" Kronos drew his sword, and put the blade against his old friend's neck. "Were you expecting anybody else?"

"It doesn't hurt to check." He pushed the sword away and sat up. "Had a busy day?"

"Busier than yours, brother." The smaller Immortal slid his sword back into its sheath, a teasing smile playing across his mouth. "I met with the Contessa de Moncheaux."

"You met with the Contessa?" Methos laughed. "That must have been fun for her. Did you hold her up?"

"I resent that." Kronos spoke loftily. "As a matter of fact I'm rather more sophisticated these days."

"Yeah, right." Methos grinned. "Okay, go ahead. You met with the Contessa de Moncheaux."

"She has some very interesting luggage."

"Really?" Methos was fully awake now. He stood up, and they moved towards the shade of the pier. There were not many people around, and it seemed to be safe to talk. "How interesting?"

"About half a million pounds worth." He grinned, and his eyes sparkled. "There's a diamond necklace, and her coachman swore blind that she has a pearl the size of a duck's egg. He was exaggerating of course, but all the same..."

"All the same, I think it warrants a closer look." Methos matched Kronos' grin. "Where's she staying?"

"The Grand Hotel of course. Where else?" They began to stroll along the beach, two business men talking together. Nobody paid them any attention. "She has three servants, plus a footman for the coach-"

"And the coachman."

"Er - no." Kronos looked away out to sea. "He had an accident. Terribly unfortunate. I don't for the life of me know how it happened-"


"Hey, if he can't keep his balance it's not my fault. He tripped, and my sword just happened to be in the way. I didn't like him anyway."

Methos shook his head. In all their wanderings together he had been unable to educate his friend past his tendency to eliminate people. "Why not? Did he smoke the wrong tobacco?"

"Well as a matter of fact it wasn't very pleasant." Kronos grinned wickedly. "He was suspicious, that's all. There are always certain casualties in our line of business, brother. You have to accept that."

"I do." Methos stopped walking. "But we took up this line of work as a challenge; as a way of removing some of the tedium of immortality. Killing everybody makes it all too easy."

"Okay, no more killing." He scowled. "For now anyway. You're a hard man."

"I have to be." Methos slipped his hands into his pockets and stared out to sea. "We'd better get changed into something a little more businesslike. Tonight we dine at the Grand Hotel."

"Fine by me. Are we still Taylor and Andrews?"

"No, I don't think so." Methos frowned thoughtfully. "Someone might have put two and two together. Last time Taylor and Andrews checked into the same hotel, all of the jewels in the safe vanished. And the time before that too."

"Yes. Odd how those things happen." They shared a chuckle, and walked onwards again. "So who are we now?"

"Now we are Foster and Henderson. Landowners from Britain, I think. Looking to invest some money in... Something, I don't know."

"Sheep perhaps?"

"Why sheep?"

"I don't know. What else would a landowner invest in?"

"How should I know? I'm a jewel thief." Methos shrugged. "Maybe we're trying to invest in the railway industry. That always attracts interest back in Britain." He nodded briskly. "That's it. Railways. We'll have the clientele at the Grand Hotel eating out of our hands by the end of the week."

"Sounds good to me. Are you Foster or Henderson?"

"I'm Foster. Paul Foster. Son of Colonel Foster of the Welsh Guard." Methos looked down at his feet. "And I've left my shoes behind."

"They'll be floating about in six feet of water by now." Kronos didn't bother hiding a smile. "The greatest criminal mind in history..."

"We all have our faults. How am I supposed to remember a little thing like shoes when I have half a million pounds worth of jewels to think about?"

They walked on in silence. Shoes, after all, were not the hardest of items to replace. In the hotel room which at present was his home, Methos had a collection of clothing supplied by the world's greatest tailoring artists. Suits from London, shoes loving made - no, created - by the finest French craftsmen. Silk shirts produced in the East. There were reputations to develop, and images to project, and Methos loved to project them to the fullest.

The hotel was deserted, which was just as well. Fully intending to present their fellow guests with an impeccable image of neatly tailored splendour, the pair of ancient Immortals had arrived windswept and sandy from the beach, and looking more like labourers than landowners. They collected their keys from an unattended desk, and hurried up the broad staircase.

"What's the time?" Methos asked, as they reached the doors of their respective rooms.

"No idea," Kronos replied unhelpfully. "We have plenty of time; stop worrying."

"I suppose." The older Immortal vanished into his room, and immediately reappeared in the corridor. "And don't forget to shave."

"How long have we been doing this?"

"Not long enough. It doesn't hurt to be well prepared."

"Fine." Kronos escaped by entering his own room. It was not much of a refuge, since the rooms were interlinked, but in the event of Methos becoming too precise, the adjoining door could be locked. And barricaded if necessary.

Despite his apparent concern about the time, Methos did not hurry over his preparations. Paul Foster, he had decided, was a smooth individual, who liked to dress well, but not stiffly. A loose grey cravat fitted snugly against his neck, and his dark hair, cut short as the style for long hair and wigs departed unmourned into history, could be neatly covered by a hat, sitting at a jaunty angle. He pulled on a pair of shiny black boots, and settled into an expensive jacket, individually tailored by a Swedish gentleman who had been an unwitting accomplice in three major jewel robberies. Once he had discovered that the little man liked to talk as he tailored, Methos had returned to the shop almost as though he were on a piece of elastic. He had wound up with six or seven jackets of varying colours and styles, but had still managed to come away several hundred thousand pounds richer.

Fixing his best sword belt around his waist, Methos regarded himself critically in the mirror. For a man who had been born in a time when the ancestors of the local people had been living in caves, it should theoretically not be difficult to look sophisticated. Theories always had their flaws, of course, which probably helped to explain Kronos. He crossed to the door which linked their rooms.

"Are you ready brother?" he called.

"Of course I am." The door opened. "I don't make my clothes before I put them on." Methos looked him up and down, his eyebrows raised. He would probably never successfully convince Kronos that a tie was a tolerable and largely inoffensive piece of clothing. The smaller Immortal wore a short jacket, all the better for drawing his sword swiftly, and despite the expensive clothing, he still managed to look faintly ruffled. It was the unmistakable signature of the Iron Age, Methos decided.

"What?" Self conscious, Kronos glared up at his friend, a glint of hostility flaring in his expressive eyes.

"Nothing," Methos said quickly, and smiled. His partner scowled, and then abruptly grinned.

"Okay, so I'm no 'Paul Foster'. But I'm the still the best cat burglar you've got to call on, brother, so don't get too critical." He glanced down at his loose silk shirt and smirked. "At times like this I always wonder about Silas and Caspian."

"They wouldn't recognise you. Or me for that matter." Straightening his cravat, Methos led the way from their rooms and into the corridor. "We'll have to check out of this place first thing tomorrow, and take some rooms at the Grand Hotel."

"The Contessa is on the first floor," Kronos put in immediately. "Room fifteen."

"Jolly good." As they went down the stairs, Methos was already figuring some designs out in his devious mind. "Say... three floors up and a couple to the side. That ought to make us unlikely suspects, don't you think?"

"Unlikely culprits, I'd say. Three floors up? Are you kidding?"

"Oh what are you complaining about?" Smiling gallantly at a pair of women in the entrance hall, Methos momentarily broke off the conversation, resuming it in the street outside. "If you fall it can't kill you."

"Thankyou so much. Your concern touches me deeply."

"Never let it be said that I don't care for you."

They walked briskly down the cobbled streets. A few coaches clattered past, taking who knew what passengers to their various destinations. The Immortals scanned each one as it passed, looking for likely customers. The more footmen attending a coach, the more likely there was to be something worth attending. It never hurt to look for future targets. Methos nodded at one coach which passed close by. It was pulled by four black horses, painstakingly matched, and driven by a coachman dressed in stiff scarlet livery. Kronos nodded appraisingly, and the pair both made a mental note of the potential of this particular coach. Perhaps the occupant would be the next lucky client of the two oldest thieves on the planet.

The Grand Hotel loomed up, already lit in anticipation of the approaching dusk. A uniformed attendant lit the last lamp along the front of the hotel, a burning taper in his hand, and descended from his long ladder as Methos and Kronos approached. He bowed shortly and doffed his cap.

"Good evening gentlemen," he said, his tone both polite and oddly superior.

"Evening." Methos nodded graciously, and passed the man by, his mind on bigger things. It was not a good idea to ignore those who worked in hotels. They were the easily forgotten constant presence that all too often turned out to be witnesses. Even though he had not given the man a second glance, he had noted the face, and also the name that was clearly written on his uniform jacket.

Inside, the Grand Hotel buzzed with activity. Methos left Kronos to surreptitiously check on the security in the lobby, whilst he himself went over to the desk clerk. Reacting to the new customer's air of polite authority, and also to the diamond headed pin fixed in his cravat, the clerk was soon nodding enthusiastically. There was a pair of rooms on the fourth floor, with large windows, and he would be glad to send a porter in the morning to help transfer any luggage. In the meantime he gestured imperiously at a small busboy. The boy hurried over, a bizarre figure in a jacket that was several sizes too big. A dark little face peered up at Methos from under an oversized cap.

"Take this gentleman to the dining hall," the clerk ordered, and the small boy nodded, the cap wobbling dangerously as he did so. Turning briskly about, the boy began to head towards a pair of large oaken doors at the end of the lobby.

"This way sir," he said, doing his best to sound grave, but betrayed by an immature voice. Methos suppressed a grin, and beckoned for Kronos to follow. Turning the huge brass handles which decorated the oak doors, the boy pushed hard.

"In there sir," he said. Methos nodded down at him.

"Thankyou," he answered, and the boy disappeared back into the lobby. Methos grinned over at Kronos. The small busboy had had the unmistakable air of someone who is greatly put upon, and no doubt suffered considerably at the bottom rung of the hotel staff list. One day he would grow up to be so much more important than any of his present colleagues; and would quite possibly still be forging a whole new life for himself when his former employers had been dead for centuries. Even so, it mattered little now. The two Immortals strolled into the dining hall, looking about at the tables of guests. There were a few more potential candidates here; self possessed people who flaunted their wealth with expensive clothing and jewellery. It was Methos' philosophy that such people deserved to be burgled.

The Contessa sat at a corner table, next to a large pair of windows looking onto the beach. She nodded regally in Kronos' direction, and he grinned at Methos' intrigued expression.

"She was having some trouble with some beggars," he explained. "I convinced them that they might like to move on." He saw the old man's eyebrows raise. "And I didn't even draw my sword."

"Maybe you're learning something after all." Methos strode further into the room, and selected a table near to the Contessa, although not near enough to be too obvious in his interest. They sat down, and a waiter wandered over, to take their order with an air of arrogant disinterest. Methos surveyed a glass of wine with the eye of a connoisseur. The liquid was a satisfying deep red colour, and he took an experimental sip, savouring the taste and nodding happily.

"Perfect," he said. Kronos regarded him with amusement, and shrugged.

"It's alcohol," he said, cheerfully uncultured. "That's all that really matters." Methos shook his head.

"Expensive wines are wasted on you, my friend. You might just as well be drinking whisky."

"I wouldn't object."

They ate slowly, taking the opportunity to listen to the conversations buzzing around them. Nobody spoke to the Contessa, which was a good sign. It meant that she was almost certainly travelling alone. Individual targets were so much easier to hit. She was evidently feeling the effects of this useful solitude, for as the pair finished eating, she approached their table.

"Good evening gentlemen," she said. They both rose.

"Good evening," Methos replied, surprised by her approach. He had been intending to introduce himself eventually, to try and gain the woman's trust, but this way was much better. The less he was seen to push for her attention, the better it would be. The Contessa turned to Kronos.

"I never got the chance to thank you properly earlier on," she said. "I don't know what you said to those men, but it certainly worked. They looked terrified."

"I didn't say much," Kronos told her, his expression unreadable. He had hardly needed to say a lot. The old Immortal, who had once terrified whole continents, needed only to allow a little of his characteristic murderous insanity to light his eyes. The beggars had not been able to run away fast enough.

"Well whatever you did, I'm grateful. And I never even found out your name."

"Really?" For a second Kronos could not remember his name. "It's Henderson. Jack Henderson. This is my business partner, Paul Foster."

"Mr Foster." She shook Methos' hand firmly, introducing herself. "I'm the Contessa Alexia de Moncheaux. It's a cumbersome title, but we live with these things, don't we."

"We do indeed." Methos indicated a chair. "Please, sit down, your Grace."

"Thankyou." She sat down, and watched as the polite Mr Foster poured her a glass of wine, and then she sipped it delicately. "Very good. I admire your taste, Mr Foster."

They drank in silence for a few minutes. Methos watched his guest carefully, trying to judge what she was like; whether she would easily come to trust him, and give him the confidence to make a play for her jewels. The challenge of the robbery came as much from creating the perfect character reference as it did from the robbery itself. The victim always had to trust him implicitly, so that he was the last person they suspected. On the most recent occasion, he and Kronos had been invited to a cocktail party at the victim's request, and had attended with the stolen jewels still in their possession. Nobody had suspected a thing.

As she emptied her glass, the Contessa smiled at them both. "So what brings the pair of you to France?" she asked.

"Business." Methos put on his best businessman's expression. "We're looking for investment opportunities."

"Oh yes? Anything in particular?"

"All sorts of things. Railways mainly."

"Railways? Are you sure?" She shuddered. "Horrid, noisy, dirty things. I don't like them at all. They haven't caught on in Europe yet, not as much as in Britain. And anyway, they're hardly suitable for carrying people."

"Maybe not, but they're perfect for freight." He stared thoughtfully at Kronos for a moment. "We have other interests as well. My friend here is something of an expert with jewellery, and we've both got experience in selling it."

"Really? Perhaps you should take a look at mine sometime. I'd appreciate an independent opinion." She smiled. "Assuming that I can trust you of course." They all laughed. Methos smiled inwardly. The fish was nearly hooked.

"We'd love to take a look at your collection, your Grace," he told her. "Do you have much in that way?"

"I have a few little trinkets." She smiled broadly. "One tends to rather collect these things, over the years. People present them as gifts, little tokens, and it's impossible to refuse; you understand."

"Of course." He nodded knowledgeably. "I hope you have adequate security though. It must be a worry if you're travelling alone."

"Not especially," she said dismissively. "My servants are in the room all of the time, and my collection is in a strong box. I don't think a thief would be able to get far if he tried to carry that away; and he'd only have a few seconds to get the jewels out before he was discovered."

"I see." Methos' eyes met Kronos' across the table. "Well I suppose we'll see it for ourselves if we give you a valuation."

"Yes, you will." She smiled. "I think I might rather enjoy showing somebody my little pieces. I can never wear them all of course, and some of them haven't seen the light of day in years. Do you have rooms here?"

"We're moving in in the morning. Fourth floor, rooms twenty one and twenty two. You'd be welcome any time."

"Thankyou. Thankyou very much." She accepted another glass of wine, and sipped at it slowly. Methos launched into a tale, telling of a largely fictitious encounter with highwaymen during a voyage in Italy. The Contessa listened, enthralled, and he knew that she was hooked. In no time at all they were like three old friends, and the trap closed a little more. With luck, he would be able to use her trust to his advantage, and lure the servants from her room one night. That would be the perfect opportunity for a robbery.

The evening soon drew to a close. As the clock rung out nine loud chimes, the Contessa rose, and took her leave. The Immortals rose also, and watched her depart. Kronos scowled.

"I don't like the sound of that strong box," he said. Methos shrugged.

"It's no big deal," he said dismissively. "Maybe we can find out how to open it when we value her jewels."

"That's another thing. When did we become experts in jewellery?" They headed for the door, and the room was empty enough for Methos to be free in answering.

"Oh come on. After all the jewels we've stolen and sold on, we've come to know something about them. We'd probably make pretty good security consultants too." He took a deep, satisfied sigh. "It's been a rather good evening, all in all. Wouldn't you say?"

"Probably. The Contessa is hooked anyway."

"Well and truly. We'll take a few days to let everybody see what good friends we are with her; flash a bit of money around so that they don't suspect anything, and then we'll make our move. This time next week should do it." He grinned as they left the lobby, and strolled out into what was left of the daylight. "Maybe we'll take a quick look at the hotel safe too. Should be something there to catch our interest."

"Undoubtedly." The spark of adrenalin had ignited inside Kronos' eyes, and it needed no encouragement to leap across and infect Methos too. The next few days were likely to be very interesting.


The days at the Grand Hotel passed quietly. Foster and Henderson, the British businessmen, soon became well known amongst their fellow guests. They were an odd pair; one silent and the other talkative, who drank a lot in the bar without ever getting drunk, and who continually bought drinks for anybody who stayed long enough in their presence to consume them. They dressed well, and were not afraid to flash a little of their money around. They were, to all outward appearances, the perfect example of the idle rich; well connected young men who lived a life of lazy luxury, and had no real concerns beyond their immediate pleasures. The Contessa spent much of her time in their company, exchanging stories of intercontinental travel, and comparing experiences in cities all over the world. Methos had nodded sympathetically at her tales of troubles encountered in India, although the last time he had been there had been long before the vast country had been opened to the West.

It was on a bright and sunny morning, some four or five days after their arrival at the hotel, that Methos and Kronos were walking along the beach front beneath their hotel windows. Everything was deserted at such an early hour, and it was the perfect opportunity to make a few plans. Methos pointed towards their shared balcony, indicating the likely places to hang a rope. Although it would be no easy task to climb down into the Contessa's bedroom, it would certainly not be impossible. They resumed their stroll, but had been walking for no more than a few paces when a shrill scream shattered the peace of the morning. It was more a scream of outrage than one of fear, but it echoed about the empty beach. The pair spun around, in time to see a shape crash through the glass of the Contessa's bedroom window, hurling itself into the sand below. The figure staggered to its feet, looking wildly around, and ran off, spraying clouds of sand into the air as it did so. It held something black in its hand which, to the two experts watching, was clearly a leather pouch.

"He's got the jewels." The expression of outrage in Kronos' voice was clear. "Come on!" He started off along the beach. Methos hesitated for barely a second; just long enough to see the Contessa come to the window to witness their heroic chase. The pair ran after the thief, along the sand and up onto the promenade. He dodged through alleyways, skidding along the cobbled streets and darting up side roads, crashing through the early morning market traders who were beginning to set up their stalls. Undeterred, Methos and Kronos followed, their own speed easily equalling his, centuries of experience in matters of pursuit giving them an edge which they used to their advantage. They pushed past the angry traders, leaving a chaotic shower of snuff boxes and similar wares strewn about the street. Their quarry increased his speed, trying, with growing desperation, to escape his tenacious pursuers. Undeterred, the pair closed the gap. The man cast a wild look back over his shoulder, his face showing signs of fear as well as exhaustion. Suddenly, turning back to look ahead, he skidded, nearly running into a young man who had appeared from nowhere. The man put his hands on his hips, and stared at the thief, a vague air of righteous outrage on his face, and the hapless criminal whirled about to take off in a new direction. This time he had three shadows, as the third man joined the Immortals in their pursuit. They hurtled up a side street, careering around a sharp corner and through another unfortunate market display before, finally, Kronos pulled close enough to grab the thief by the shoulder. He whirled him around, drawing his sword in the same, smooth movement. Methos skidded to a halt beside them, more concerned with preventing bloodshed than in capturing the criminal, and the third man caught the prisoner by the arms.

"Got you!" he said cheerfully, and grinned at his fellow thief takers with an expression of unbounded enthusiasm. "Good show! Who is he? I heard the lady scream."

"He's just a thief." Certain now that he could trust Kronos not to permanently end the thief's career, Methos twitched the black pouch from the man's hand, and opened it, suddenly anxious for his first close up glimpse of some of the Contessa's riches. A necklace of perfectly matched emeralds winked up at him, catching the light and flashing merrily. He whistled softly, and their strange assistant raised his eyebrows.

"Not bad. That must be worth quite a bit."

"Quite a bit," Methos agreed, delighted at this chance to prove his good faith. Once he and Kronos had returned the necklace to the Contessa, armed with a helpful independent witness, nobody could reasonably suspect them of involvement when the jewels vanished. He smirked at the thief, suddenly feeling extremely pleased with himself.

"You, my friend, have a date with the authorities I think." The anonymous man scowled at him, his eyes flashing as wildly as the emeralds, and let loose a stream of French which made Methos' eyebrows rise so high that they nearly disappeared into his hairline.

"I don't think he's happy," Kronos observed dryly, earning a wry nod from Methos.

"I think you're right."

They dropped the thief at police headquarters, where an officious looking individual in a dark suit took their names, and then locked the prisoner away into a cold stone room. The three men returned to the hotel, carefully skirting the mangled remains of the market, where their faces were not likely to be welcome. The Contessa met them in the lobby, and gave a cry of delight to see the leather pouch in Methos' hand.

"My necklace!" she gasped. "Is it alright? Are you alright?"

"It's fine, and so are we." Methos handed the pouch over. "The thief is locked up, so you don't need to worry about him now."

"Thankyou. It was terrible. I woke up, and he was just standing there, looking at me." She smiled ruefully. "The one time that I didn't lock it away in the strong box. Typical really." She frowned suddenly, turning to her third saviour as if seeing him for the first time. "I'm indebted to you, young man, but I don't know your name. I am the Contessa de Moncheaux, and I am very grateful."

"Your Grace." The man looked startled. "I am the Honourable Martin Newcombe, ma'am. At your most devoted service."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Mr Newcombe."

"The honour is entirely mine, I assure you, your Grace." Newcombe bowed shortly. "I was glad to be of assistance to these gentlemen."

"Well you were wonderful, anyway. All of you." The Contessa handed the pouch to a servant, and he retired discreetly, no doubt to secure the errant jewels with their brethren. "Come into the bar and I'll have them find us some champagne to celebrate with. Mr Foster, Mr Henderson, I had no idea that you were going to prove to be quite so indispensable."

"It was nothing your Grace." Methos let the modesty fill his voice, and then hung back slightly with Kronos as the other two walked ahead. He grinned at his friend. "Perfect," he said happily. "This is perfect. At this rate she's going to wind up giving us the jewels."

"You should have let me kill that thief," Kronos muttered back. "He might try again."

"I doubt it. Anyway, she'll be more careful now." He shrugged. "Besides, you couldn't have killed him with the Honourable Martin there."

"I could have killed him too." Kronos stared after the Honourable back, which was vanishing into the bar room. "He deserves it."

"He is something of a fawning fool, isn't he. Still, he could be useful. He can tell everybody what perfect citizens we've been." They walked into the bar, where Martin Newcombe was pouring four glasses of champagne with a proprietorial air. "And you can always kill him later."

The four sat down around the table, and the Contessa raised her glass into the air.

"To my gracious saviours," she pronounced loudly, and the Honourable Martin blushed delightedly.

"You're too kind, your Grace," he said, with bashful pleasure. "Anyway, I didn't do much. It was these gentlemen here who did most of the work."

"Perhaps." The Contessa waved her glass dismissively. "That doesn't matter. I have my jewels back, which is the main thing. My only concern is that they may try again."

"They?" Kronos frowned. "There was only one man."

"That we saw, yes." The Contessa put her glass onto the table, in a slow, precise movement. "The truth is, there's been a gang of crooks after my jewels for some months now. I have reason to suspect that there's going to be more than this one attempt to rob me during my stay here at the hotel."

Methos glanced up. The Contessa could not have been more right, but she did not even begin to suspect just where the danger was likely to come from. "A gang of crooks?" he inquired, keeping his voice even. She nodded sadly.

"You can't trust anyone these days. I'm not even safe in my own hotel room." She sighed. "They made the first attempt six months ago, and another a few weeks back in Italy. They won't rest until they've got my jewels."

"And you think that that man today was part of the gang?" Martin looked intrigued. "Interesting. That can only mean that the rest of the gang are nearby."

"Precisely; and they're sure to try again." Slowly she shook her head, and then offered Methos a light, mischievous smile. "Which is why I'm rather glad to have the protection of some people that I know I can trust. If somebody was to guard my jewels for me; somebody who is a little more competent than my servants..."

"You mean Jack and me?" Methos smiled broadly. "Your Grace, I hardly think that we're qualified for something like that." Besides, he could have added. If we're guarding them, it'll be rather harder to steal them.

"Please, Mr Foster. I don't know who else to turn to." She refilled his glass hopefully. "It's not as though I'm asking you to sit in my hotel room all day; nothing like that. You see, I have some business to finish here in town, and then I'm going on to Austria. The crooks are likely to stay here watching me. If someone were to take my jewels for me, they ought to be safe, at least until I move on again."

"You want us to take your jewels to Austria?" Methos had a job to keep a straight face. What could be more perfect? Out on the open road, anything could happen, and he could hardly be blamed if some thieves came along and stole the jewels. No one was immune to highwaymen after all. "We'd be delighted, your Grace. It would be a perfect honour. Wouldn't it Jack?"

"Sure brother." The possibilities of this latest development had not escaped the younger Immortal's notice, and he grinned at the Contessa. "We'd be glad to take your jewels for you." Methos suppressed a grin at his friend's choice of words.

"Good." The Contessa rose to her feet, and lifted her glass into the air. "The I'd like to present a toast. Provided that Mr Newcombe is agreeable, of course, the three of you can leave in the morning."

"The three of us?" Methos looked blank.

"Yes, of course. The more of you there are, the less likely you are to be robbed on the road." The Contessa indicated Martin with her glass. "Mr Newcombe will be my third courier, and then I can be sure that my jewels are safe." She looked to Martin. "You don't object, do you Mr Newcombe?"

"No, of course not." Newcombe raised his glass cheerfully. "Here's to a successful operation, right boys?"

"Right." Methos lifted his drink mechanically, and managed a quick smile. This changed everything. With Newcombe present they could not hope to stage a robbery. It complicated matters no end. "Are you sure that you can spare the time, though, Mr Newcombe?"

"Of course." He leaned back in his chair. "I'm going to Austria anyway. My wife and I have a second house in Vienna, and she's there at the moment. I was on my way to join her."

"Oh. How... fortunate." Methos drank the toast without tasting it, and glanced over at Kronos. "Isn't that fortunate, Jack?"

"Absolutely Paul." The Immortal glanced back at the Contessa. "When would you like us to pick up the jewels?"

"Tomorrow morning. Better make it early, before anybody else is awake. Shall we say... four o'clock?"

"Fine." Kronos stood up. "If you don't mind, then, Paul and I have some things to take care of."

"Of course." The Contessa smiled understandingly, and turned back to speak to Martin. Methos and Kronos retired to their rooms, and the older Immortal threw himself onto his bed, tugging loose his cravat and hurling it across the room.

"Damn and blast it!" he pronounced eloquently. "The perfect opportunity, and she has to ruin it by asking Newcombe along. You were right; we should have killed him earlier."

"You'll think of something." Kronos sat down on a chair on the balcony, and gazed thoughtfully back at Methos. "He could have an accident before tomorrow morning. That's not a problem."

"We can't kill him." Methos stared at the ceiling, searching for inspiration amongst the alabaster swirls. "No matter how much of an accident it seems to be, the Contessa is sure to think that it has something to do with this gang she's so scared about. She'll never let us go through with the trip then. And besides, we have a deal; no killing, remember?"

"True..." The two Immortals sat silently for several minutes, musing over their apparent misfortune. Half a million pounds worth of jewels was just too much of a temptation to resist, no matter how difficult it seemed to be to get them. If they were all as spectacular as the emerald necklace, it would be worth any amount of hard work. Finally Methos sat up, and wandered out onto the balcony. He leaned on the handrail, and stared out to sea, his expression suddenly hard.

"Enough defeatism," he pronounced, the steely glint of determination settling itself in his eyes. "Okay, so it's not going to be easy. Newcombe is a problem we could do without, but we've overcome greater hardships than this one." He turned to face his comrade, and folded his arms across his chest. "Remember the Duke of Leicester? We had to climb up three stories of sheer brickwork, in through a locked window, and break into the toughest safe I've ever laid eyes on, before or since. Then we had to escape across ten miles of park land with a pack of guard dogs on our tail." He grinned. "And the Duke still came to see us off when our ship sailed three days later. He never suspected a thing."

"That's true." Kronos allowed a smile to cross his face. "Maybe the pain in the neck downstairs isn't too much of a problem after all."

"That's the Honourable pain in the neck downstairs," Methos corrected. "We have to work on your respect for authority, Kronos my boy."

"Huh." Kronos stood up, and kicked aside the chair. "I'd be happy to show the Honourable Martin a little authority of my own. I could take the jewels and have the Contessa lying in a gibbering heap at my feet. If the mood took me."

"And if I let you." Methos smirked. "Come on, brother. This is the perfect challenge. We're not going to let a twit like Newcombe stand in the way of half a million pounds worth of jewels; are we?"

"Of course we're not." Kronos rested his arms on the railing, staring out to sea as the old man had done before. "We're the greatest jewel thieves in the world."

"Exactly. Every government in Europe would like to get their hands on us; but none of them know who it is they're looking for." Methos grinned. "And Honourable Martin or not, we'll soon have another success to mark our card with. We'll just have to think about it a little harder first."


At four o'clock precisely, Methos and Kronos knocked at the door of the Contessa's room. It was opened by a dour faced woman with whom they had become familiar over the last few days. She was at least as dour as her expression suggested, and she led them into the Contessa's bedroom without a word. Martin was already there, and he jumped to his feet as they entered, smiling merrily.

"Gentlemen! Glad to see you! This is going to be a fine adventure, wouldn't you say?!"

"Probably." Methos tried to ignore him politely, and turned to the Contessa. "Your Grace. We'd like to be away as soon as possible, so that we won't be seen by many people."

"Of course." She crossed to a large dressing table, and with the assistance of a burly servant she took a large metal box from the top drawer. The servant slid the box open, revealing a hidden keyhole, and the Contessa took a key from somewhere within the copious folds of her skirts. She opened the box and began to unload numerous leather pouches from inside it, opening them all as she did so. For the first time, Methos and Kronos saw the full extent of the collection on which they had set their hearts. The diamond necklace that the unfortunate coachman had spoken of lay in silent splendour for them to marvel at, and the huge pearl, set in a brooch of gold, sat quietly, looking for all the world as though the moon itself had fallen from the sky, to land inside the darkened room. Other pieces, too, were no less impressive, and Methos tried to value them; there were several large rubies, and a collection of ear rings bearing some stones that he was not entirely sure he could name. There had to be more than half a million pounds worth there.

"I say. There is quite a bit of it, isn't there," Martin commented, raising his eyebrows comically. "Perhaps we should split it between the three of us? That way, if something happens to one, the other two thirds of the collection should get through alright."

"My thoughts exactly." The Contessa gestured to a servant, who came forward with three leather bags to be filled. As she handed them each a bag, Methos noticed that the Contessa seemed to have given her favourite pieces into Kronos' care. That suggested that she still saw him as her foremost defender. How wrong people could be. They stood, the precious collection in their hands, and she smiled at them.

"I've arranged for a change of horses for you, at an inn near the border," she said. "Now, good luck, and please be careful. I may see you in Austria. Somebody will meet you in Vienna."

"We'll be there. We certainly hope to be back in your company again sometime soon." Martin gave one of his short bows, and the three men headed for the door. It closed behind them, and they were soon leaving the hotel. The Contessa had arranged for three horses to be waiting for them. Martin climbed onto one, his enthusiasm not entirely hiding a suggestion of nervousness. He watched the effortless way in which his two travelling companions swung onto their horses, and his eyes betrayed a certain amount of envy.

"You look rather good at this," he said brightly. Methos shrugged.

"We've had lots of practice," he said offhandedly. A couple of millennia worth.

"Perhaps some of it will rub off. I'm afraid I haven't had much experience riding horses. I can do it of course, but nothing special. I'm afraid I can't gallop, or jump, and I can't ride bareback at all."

"I shouldn't think you'll be needing to. At least, not for a while." Methos wheeled his horse about, and headed off after Kronos, who was already vanishing into the near distance.

"Oh, right. No, of course not." Martin spurred his horse onwards, and they caught up with Kronos. Soon the coastline and the town were left behind, and they headed into the open country. The sun was soon fully in the sky, and its pale early light was deepening into a matured glow before they encountered their first fellow traveller. A small man, approaching the onset of middle age, he looked up at their passing horses, his face showing considerable interest. It was clearly not often that three well dressed young men passed this way, riding expensive looking horses. His eyes travelled to the leather bags fixed to the three saddles, and a shadow of intrigue passed across his face, fluttering in his eyes. Methos frowned as they left the man behind.

"That's all we need," he muttered. "As soon as he gets back to the town he'll tell everybody he sees all about us."

"I'll kill him if you like." Kronos' hand went automatically to his sword hilt, and for a second Methos genuinely considered the offer. Martin laughed.

"You sound almost serious," he said jokingly. Kronos did not reply, but merely looked askance at Newcombe, his eyes glittering. Martin did not notice, already pulling ahead, and he missed the flash of fire which danced across the Immortal's face. Methos did see it, and he frowned deeply. This was not the time or the place, although it would solve a few problems. He was still determined to solve the mental equations necessary in order to commit this robbery without resorting to murder. Killing Newcombe would be too easy. Kronos allowed the moment of rage to pass, and offered Methos a wan smile, before riding on ahead.

They camped that night next to a stream, a small campfire lighting their gathering, and attracting every mosquito in the vicinity. Their bites did not bother the skin of the Immortals, who healed as soon as the blood sucking creatures departed, but they both took some venomous pleasure in the knowledge that Martin was suffering greatly.

They ate fish caught in the river, and talked until the faintest of the stars were clearly visible, when the darkness was complete. They talked mainly of the gang which was after the jewels, discussing the likelihood of them following the three couriers, the possibility of them discovering that the jewels were no longer in the Contessa's possession.

Martin leaned back against a tree, swatting ineffectually at the mosquitoes. "Of course, they haven't got a chance of getting away with it," he said finally.

"What do you mean?" Methos asked, his frown hidden in shadow.

"This gang. They won't succeed - in stealing the jewels I mean. Crime never pays off, not in the end."

"You think so?" Methos did not smile.

"Of course. Thieves are scum, aren't they. They rob people because they couldn't be bothered to work for a living. Things are changing in Britain, but at one time the English courts knew how to deal with jewel thieves. Like highwaymen."

"Hanging you mean." Methos leant back, to ensure that his face was not visible to Newcombe.

"Of course. They don't reoffend that way, do they. It removes the problem quickly and easily. Not that there would be a problem in the first place if these people would learn a little self respect."

"Have you ever been hanged?" Kronos spoke from out of the darkness, where only his teeth were visible, and the occasional flash of his eyes in the firelight.

"What kind of question is that?!" Newcombe glanced in his direction. "Of course I haven't."

"Well then don't speak of things you know nothing about." Methos could not see Kronos - could only hear his voice, soft and steady - but he knew that his old friend was rubbing his neck. He could sympathise. There was nothing quick and easy about hanging.

"All I mean is that I don't like thieves. There's nothing wrong with saying that is there?" Newcombe glanced towards Methos, but could not see enough of him to gain any reassurance or support. "Thieves take what belongs to other people. They deserve some kind of punishment, and I happen to think that it should fit the crime. There is no honour in theft."

In the darkness, Methos smiled, imagining what Martin's reaction would be if he discovered that he was travelling in the company of two of the most successful thieves in existence. The young man's outrage was the product, no doubt, of a sheltered life, and a childhood spent listening to the moralistic teachings of his elders. One thing that Methos had learned from his great life was that the teachings of his elders had not been worth much. The only way to learn about life was to live it. Martin Newcombe would find that out if he lived long enough. On the other hand, if he did not learn something quickly, Methos was not likely to let him live long enough.

Newcombe rambled on about honour and the code of morals, talking of thieves and robbers and their generally unsavoury natures. He might not be a very good rider, Methos thought to himself, but he had certainly set himself firmly onto his moral high horse. The old man closed his eyes, and with Martin's judgements echoing in his ears, he drifted off to sleep. His face was a picture of relaxed somnambulance, but a part of him remained alert, listening for the slightest sound. No matter where he went in life, and no matter what he became, one small part of Methos would always be somewhere in the East, battling against the odds in the wild and dangerous world that no longer existed. It was that part of him that never rested; that never truly closed its eyes. That was the part of him that had kept him alive for five thousand years, and intended to keep him that way for a good deal longer. Even though his body was still, something inside of him stirred restlessly.


They rode on. The days came and went, and Methos became immune to the thoughtless comments of the Honourable Martin Newcombe. The mortal did not mean any harm, after all, and one did not reach such a great age without learning some patience; unless one was Kronos of course. Gradually even Kronos himself seemed to become less hostile, although Newcombe had never noticed his hostility anyway.

The border came quickly, and the inn where their change of horses waited was easily discernible. It was the only building for miles, old and deserted. The three men dropped down from their mounts and approached it. Everything seemed quiet, and Methos frowned at the stillness.

"Odd," he said, slowing his pace.

"So it's quiet." Martin shrugged. "Perhaps it's abandoned. The Contessa didn't say it was a working inn."

"We should be able to hear the horses," Methos told him. "Even if there are no people living here, we ought to be able to hear the horses waiting for us."

"You want me to check it out?" Kronos headed towards the door, his face set hard. Methos caught up.

"No. Not unless we both go in together." He glanced back. "Are you with us Martin?"

"Oh. Yes, of course." He hurried up, and Methos reached for the door. He flung it wide, and they went quickly into the inn. Inside it seemed old and dilapidated. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, and the tables were beginning to look rickety and worn. Three men sat in a corner, and as the new arrivals walked in, they stood up, an unspoken challenge clear on their faces. Methos smiled cheerfully at them.

"I think we can take it that you're after the jewels?" he commented brightly.

"You said it." One of the men, who seemed to be a leader, stepped forward. Kronos grinned, and drew his sword, his expression suggesting that he was looking forward to using it. The three gang members looked at each other in faint amusement, and as one they drew pistols. Kronos looked almost laughably hurt, and Methos felt a sudden, irrational urge to giggle.

"Swordsmen?" The lead crook shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me if you want to die." He laid the gun down and drew his own sword. His two friends followed suit, and Methos and Martin also drew their swords. Slowly they converged on one another.

From the first clash it was clear that the three crooks were experts. They handled their swords like professionals, and even Kronos was not able to disarm his opponent easily. The six of them battled furiously, the room filled with the sound of crashing blades, and the whirling steel sung loudly. Methos worked his opponent across the length of the room, struggling to knock him off balance, and aware that Martin had been backed into a corner. The minutes passed, and the air in the room became heavy from the heat of the fight. Eventually, with a self satisfied flourish, Kronos knocked the sword from his combatant's hand, and finished him off with a quick thrust. The man crumpled to the floor, lying still. Kronos pulled his sword free and turned to Methos, offering his assistance with a smile.

"Don't worry about me." Dodging a well aimed blow, Methos darted a quick look over at his old friend. "Help Newcombe."

"Newcombe?" Kronos glanced back towards the Honourable mortal, who was fighting a losing battle for his life at the other side of the room. The old Immortal grinned mischievously, clearly contemplating the benefits of leaving Newcombe to his fate, and then sighed. Crossing the room, he spun the second crook about, steering him forcefully into the waiting sword blade. The hapless individual collapsed, and seconds later, with a last, exhausted thrust from Methos, the third man followed. The old Immortal sat down, wiping the sweat from his face, and trying to catch his breath.

"So much for not killing anybody," he said. "But they were good."

"True." Kronos used his sword blade to flick his first opponent's sword into the air, and caught it with his free hand. Wordlessly he dropped it onto the dead man's chest - a last tribute from one master to another. Methos stood up, and glanced towards Martin.

"Are you alright?" he asked. The mortal nodded uncertainly.

"Oh yes. Fine." He sheathed his sword, watching the two Immortals clean theirs. "We'd better be on our way I suppose."

"Absolutely." Methos led the way to the door, and they strolled outside. "I suppose the question now is; were those three men the last members of the gang?"

"And the answer is; no they weren't." The voice came from behind them, and the three men turned. "Quite the opposite in fact." Five men stood in a line, muskets raised. They did not seem to have any intention of abandoning their firepower in favour of a sword fight.

"Put your hands in the air," one of the men ordered. Methos sighed. Such inconveniences he could well do without, and it was not always easy to pretend to be afraid of such a largely ineffective weapon as a gun.

"Why?" Kronos asked, his tone belligerent. Inwardly Methos groaned.

"Because I'll shoot you if you don't," one of their gun-wielding hosts offered, in helpful reply.


"Jack... not now." Methos kept his tone low. Dying was just another inconvenience, but right now it was one that he wanted to avoid. There were too many witnesses. Kronos caught the message in his partner's eyes, and with the barest glimmer of a scowl he raised his hands. Three of the men came forward to relieve them of their swords, and to check them for other weaponry. Martin had a small pistol hidden inside his coat, but the Immortals only had their swords. One of the men turned the shining blades in his hands, examining them with a semi-professional air.

"These are old..." he said. "Must be worth a fair bit."

"Good. They can pay for the trip." One of the other men took the two swords and put them up onto the saddle of Methos' horse. "You don't mind if we take your horses?" he asked, with false concern.

"Well since you ask..." Methos shifted his position slightly, his arms starting to ache. "How about if you take ours and leave yours?"

"Somehow I don't think so." With an unnecessary show of strength, one of the men snapped Martin's sword in half, and then glanced towards one of the two men who were still levelling their muskets at the prisoners. "What do we do with them now Adam?"

"Tie them up." The man nodded at the inn. "There's some rope in there."

The sword snapping crook disappeared into the inn, and reappeared a few seconds later with a coil of rope. As he set about tying the three couriers up, Methos raised his eyebrows.

"Do you mean you're not going to kill us? How very civilised."

"We're not stupid," Adam told him. "I'm not prepared to take the risk. Around here, murderers go to the guillotine. It's not like England, where anyone who speaks well can avoid the death penalty."

"Jolly good." Methos winced slightly. They were sailors, as well as thieves, judging from their skill with knots.

"You won't get away with this," Martin announced, a touch too arrogantly. Methos groaned.

"What did you say?" Finishing with Methos, the man with the rope turned to Newcombe.

"I said you're not going to get away with this. Crime doesn't pay. Somebody will catch you in the end."

"Really." Adam looked faintly amused. "We've done pretty well so far you know."

"Your time will come." Martin sounded dismissive. "It's just a question of time."

"Martin," Kronos said, his voice quiet but meaningful. "They may not be prepared to kill you, but I am. Okay?" Adam laughed. He lowered his musket as his comrade finished tying up Martin, and approached the three to check on their bindings.

"Nice work," he said. "Take them into the inn, and make sure they can't get away. We'll send somebody back to let them go in a day or two." His eyes travelled to Martin. "Or three or four. Or even five."

"Thanks," Methos said dryly, as they were led inside the inn. Taken to the back wall, they were forced to sit, and their legs were tied together. Finally they were secured to a railing, which suggested that the old building had been a stable before it had become an inn.

"That should hold you." The burly man smirked. "I do hope you'll enjoy the pleasure of each other's company for a while." He left, glancing back to savour the scene before he vanished through the door. Methos stared after him glumly, listening as the hooves of their rivals' horses faded into the distance.

"Just perfect," he said, his tone bitter. "It couldn't possibly have gone more wrong, could it."

"They won't get far," Kronos muttered, already struggling against the ropes.

"Of course they won't," Martin answered. "The authorities will catch up with them eventually."

"I wasn't thinking about the authorities." Kronos fought harder, and the railing behind them creaked loudly. Methos felt it move. Adding his own strength to that of his fellow Immortal, he heard the creaking of the railing getting worse. With a final, almighty wrench, they succeeded in tugging it from the wall. It crashed down, sending clouds of dust into the air, which enveloped them.

"Very good," Martin said. "Now what exactly did that achieve? We're still tied to the blasted thing."

"It made us feel better." Methos tried shifting about, but it was clear that they would not be able to slide their ropes from the railing.

"We're not going to get far, hopping down the road with a wooden pole tied to our backs," Martin told him. It was the first time that they had heard him being sarcastic, and was the first time that he succeeded in raising a genuine smile from Methos. The old man nearly laughed.

"You're not going to get anywhere struggling like that, either," Martin told Kronos.

"Oh yeah," was the curt reply.

"The knots that they used are the sort that tighten under strain," Newcombe told him. "The harder you fight to get free, the tighter they'll get. If you keep fighting, eventually you'll just cut your hands off."

"So? I'll be free won't I?" Despite his careless tone, even Kronos was prepared to admit that losing his hands was probably going a bit too far, especially given that they were unlikely to grow back.

"So what do we do?" Methos asked.

"Nothing," Martin answered.

"And let them get away with the jewels? Not likely." Methos sounded almost outraged, the picture of a courier anxious to complete his mission. He was, of course, considerably more interested in getting the jewels back for himself than for the Contessa.

"I don't mean that we don't try to escape, I mean that you don't try too hard." Martin took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes, relaxing slowly. "Theoretically it should work. I have an uncle who is an escapologist, although naturally that's not the sort of thing one would admit to ordinarily."

"Naturally." Somewhat dubious, Methos watched Martin as he breathed deeply, seeming not to move any muscles save those in his chest. The minutes passed, and Kronos began to struggle again, rapidly losing patience. The flicker of a frown moved across Martin's face at this distraction, then suddenly he moved his arms experimentally, and smiled. Although he was still tied to the railing, his wrists were no longer bound together. As quickly as possible he tugged himself free, and then untied his ankles. It took several minutes to free Methos and Kronos as well, and he winced when he saw their wrists. They had both struggled hard enough to cause the ropes to cut through their skin. Methos saw the mortal's face, and pulled his sleeves down slightly. It wouldn't do for Martin to notice his wrists a few minutes later, and see that the wounds had vanished.

"Now what do we do?" Martin asked.

"We go after the thieves. What else can we do?" Methos led the way outside. The tracks made by the horses were clear, for some way at least. "We should be able to follow them for a while."

"They won't be in too much of a hurry," Kronos added. Methos nodded thoughtfully.

"We'd better get going." He looked into the distance, staring along the rough trail. "This has not been a good day."

"It's going to get worse." Martin looked morose. "They're on horseback. How are we going to catch up?"

"Dogged determination." With a heavy sigh, Methos started off at a run. Kronos followed, and after a few moments so did Martin. The sun was high in the sky, and it was already fiercely hot, but there was no sense in remaining behind at the inn.


They ran on. Mile after mile passed by, and the sun sank lower, mercifully taking the heat away, and replacing it with a cool breeze. Martin dropped back to an exhausted walk, his shoulders slumped.

"This is crazy," he gasped, his voice hoarse. "We can't possibly catch them up."

""Yes we can. They'll be putting in somewhere for the night." Stopping for a minute, Methos looked back at him. "We'll have caught up by the morning if we keep up a reasonable pace."

"You've got to be kidding. Run all night?" Martin shook his head. "I'll never make it."

"Of course you will. Come on." Methos turned to run on. "You don't have to keep up this speed all night; just so long as you can run some of the way."

Martin groaned, and began to walk after them. "I'll catch you up," he muttered. Methos did not waste vital breath in a reply. He had faced harder tasks than this of course. In another lifetime, in another millennium, the level of your physical fitness was proportional to your chances of survival. Even an Immortal had needed to be in perfect shape in order to eke out some semblance of a decent lifestyle. He was stubborn enough not to let exhaustion stop him.

The night stretched on. Martin dropped back out of night, but the two Immortals kept on. There were few greater incentives than the promise of half a million pounds worth of some of the most attractive jewels in existence. With Martin out of the way they had more chance of getting the Contessa's jewels for themselves.

It was summer, and dawn broke early, the first signs of its approach heralded by the faint sound of bird song. The Immortals slowed to a halt, as if by some prior arrangement. They were on top of a hill, and a view of the surrounding countryside presented itself with timely generosity. A farm lay below them, oddly still in the breaking dawn. Under normal circumstances a farm was one of the first things to awaken.

"What do you think?" Methos stared down at the farm.

"It's the best bet we've got." Looking back down the other side of the hill, Kronos caught a glimpse of Martin, struggling gamely onwards. "The Honourable Escapologist is catching up."

"Now now." Methos suppressed a grin. "We would still be in the inn if it hadn't been for him."

"Don't remind me." They started down the hill, keeping to the shade of the trees in an attempt to remain unseen.

"These jewels better be worth it," Methos said, as they jogged onwards.

"Of course they are."

"Huh. This was one of my favourite shirts you know." Methos tugged at the ruined silk. Both Immortals had abandoned their coats in the heat of the previous day, and their expensive clothing was reduced to faded tatters. Kronos grinned at his partner's reaction to the ruins of his attire.

"It suits you more this way," he offered.

"Huh. Three thousand years ago maybe." Methos smiled. "We'll just have to make our friends pay for it." He had a gleam in his eyes which appealed to Kronos; it suggested violence.

"Hey, I'm not arguing." They had reached the foot of the hill. "You had remembered that we're not armed, I take it?"

"That's never stopped you before."

"That was before everybody started getting hold of muskets and pistols." Kronos made a face. "It's getting harder for a swordsman to have an honest fight."

"The odds are supposed to be stacked against us; we're Immortals." Methos frowned thoughtfully. "See that window over there? We ought to be able to get in through that."

"I'm on it brother." Running low, Kronos reached the window in a few seconds, and looked through it, before gesturing for Methos to join him. Together they prised the window open, and Kronos climbed through, glancing about on the other side. The building sounded empty, but he was well aware that appearances could be deceiving. As Methos joined him, they moved for the door, looking out into an empty corridor. Not willing to risk anything by speaking, Methos pointed to the right, and Kronos nodded. He moved in that direction, glancing through the doors he encountered on the way. One door revealed a darkened room in which sat a row of people. They looked terrified, and were bound and gagged. Kronos grinned. That was a good sign. Ignoring the prisoners, he moved on down the corridor. Methos ignored them too as he passed. He felt a little more guilty about doing so than Kronos was likely to have done, but there was no way that these people could be trusted to remain silent, and out of the way. Up ahead, Kronos gestured to him, pointing through another door. Methos moved up next to him, keeping flat against the wall, and peered round the door frame. Five men lay asleep, a few scattered bottles lying around on the floor. Methos grinned, and gestured at the three leather bags clearly visible on a table, and at the two swords lying next to them. Nodding in reply, Kronos went into the room. He moved silently, his eyes fixed on the swords. He reached out for his own, which was closer, and as he did so he heard the unmistakable click of a gun being primed. He glanced towards the sound. Almost without moving, one of the men had brought his gun around to point at the Immortal, managing even to avoid catching Methos' eye as he did so. The older Immortal could have kicked himself, disgusted by his failure to notice the man.

"Move away from those swords," the man ordered, and his words sounded surprisingly loud in the silence. The other men were roused by the noise. Kronos glanced back at Methos and grinned, and with sudden speed he made a grab for his sword. The man fired his gun, and in the same instance, Kronos spun, hurling the sword. As the ball from the pistol caught him in the shoulder, knocking him backwards across the table, so his sword caught the gunmen square in the chest, impaling him, and pinning him to his chair.

"What the-?" The other men were on their feet in an instant, and Methos threw himself a two of them, instantly turning the room into a wild, free for all brawl. There was no opportunity for firing pistols in the close quarters of a hand-to-hand fight, but even so it was not an easy battle. The odds were two to one against the Immortals, and Kronos was wounded. Methos knew from experience that his friend would put that behind him, but their assailants were powerfully built, and neither he nor Kronos was exactly large. They fought hard, back to back, the furniture breaking into match wood as it was indiscriminately utilised in the fight. A chair crashed into a nearby window, sending shards of glass flying out into the daylight beyond. For the briefest of seconds, Methos saw the sunlight changed into rainbows as it met with the broken glass, then somebody spun him around, and a fist collided with his head. He was distantly aware of it hurting a lot. The fist raised again, and he realised, in a vaguely detached way, that there was no chance of ducking before it descended once more, and he found himself calculating the most likely point of contact. A hand closed around the fist, jerking its owner off balance, and Methos frowned through a haze of confusion. The hand shouldn't be there. It didn't appear to belong to anybody.

He shook his head to clear it, taking advantage of his sudden deliverance in order to gather his wits. Martin had come from nowhere, and had joined in the fight. The odds suddenly seemed to have improved. Nearby, Kronos had discovered his second wind, and with a sudden flourish he pulled his sword from its grisly resting place, and spun it about. With a wild sweeping motion, the blade caught one of the thieves across the chest, slashing through the bone, and killing him instantly. Methos, fully recovered, turned to the nearest man, and hit him with a punch that seemed to come from the depths of the Earth, delivering more power than he had thought he contained within him. His fist collided with the unfortunate man's jaw, a satisfying crunch accompanying the blow, and the man's eyes glazed over. He fell to the floor. Methos had probably shattered his jaw, but he had also almost certainly saved his life, for Kronos, with a black look on his face, had just decapitated another of the gang. That left just one, and Martin, battering him constantly with a deluge of sharp jabs, finally delivered the punch that ended it all. The fifth man slid to the ground and lay still.

"Where did you come from?" Methos asked breathlessly, realising, as his adrenalin levels began to go back to normal, that his lip hurt, and that a couple of teeth seemed to be loose.

"I came in the door." Martin looked about the room. "I found the farmer and his family in the next room, and it wasn't too hard to find you. You were making plenty of noise."

"Well... thanks." Methos sounded awkward. This was the second time in as many days that he found himself owing a victory to Martin, and it was not nice to have to admit that the irritating mortal was proving to be a useful man to have around.

"Oh, that's quite alright. I'm only trying to be of some assistance." Martin picked up the three leather bags, and headed for the door, unaware of the way in which two immortal pairs of eyes had followed his movements. Yet again the chance to take the jewels had been spoilt by Martin Newcombe. It was getting to be an unpleasant habit. "I told the farmer to go for the authorities, so we don't need to worry about this mess. I rather think we've wasted enough time, don't you?"


They rode onwards. The days seemed to pass more slowly now that the danger had almost certainly gone, and they no longer needed to worry about anyone trying to take the jewels. Time was passing, however, and with each step that the horses took, the chances of getting away with the jewels themselves receded. Methos and Kronos rode along, letting Martin lead, and both began to despair. Methos was not prepared to kill Martin, particularly since he had helped them. Furthermore, the way that they worked relied on the fact that nobody knew who they were. There had never been any descriptions circulated of them. Nobody had ever suspected that they might be involved in the criminal underworld. If they were to kill Martin, or to attack him, that would change. Somebody would put two and two together, and their playboy lifestyle would be over. They would have to start to be careful about where they went, and to worry about the authorities. Gone would be the days of carefree adventure. Neither was willing to look for a new source of income just yet. Life was just fine as it was.

Consequently they rode on, leaving the jewels where they were, and listening to Martin's excited chatter. It was evening when they rode into Vienna, and was long past dark as they drew up outside the city stables to leave their horses there. The Contessa could collect them easily that way. Martin led the way to his house, an attractive place just outside of town, where a flustered maid let them in, and muttered that the mistress of the house was on her way to bed. There followed a rather hurried introduction to Mary Newcombe, Martin's wife, before finally the three men retired to a sitting room, looking for something to eat and drink now that they were once more firmly in the grip of civilisation. Their long journey over, sleep seemed to be the most attractive proposition.

Methos was tired, and he slept until the morning's light had flooded through the window. He yawned, and stretched. Despite his exhaustion over the previous days, Martin seemed to have found his second wind upon reaching home, and he had talked until late into the night. It had been past midnight before Methos had finally made his excuses, unable to keep his eyes open any longer. He had fallen into bed, almost missing the feel of the grass beneath him, and the view of the stars above his head. Sleep had come quickly.

He got up and dressed, whistling softly. Someone had washed his clothes overnight, and put them by the fire to dry. Despite the patches and the newly cleaned fabric, he still felt more like Robinson Crusoe than Paul Foster, but that was something that he would have to live with for the time being.

Kronos was already up, and Methos found him in the kitchen, showing off by slicing a loaf of bread with his sword. As Methos came in, the younger Immortal spiked the sliced loaf onto the weapon, and offered it in its entirety to Methos. The cook pulled the slices off the sword.

"Put that thing away," she said. "You could kill somebody with it."

"That's what it's there for," the Immortal protested, for once not taking offence, but he shrugged and slid it into its sheath. Methos sat down at the table and looked around.

"Where's Martin?" he asked.

"No idea." Kronos grinned at a serving girl who had been eyeing him with interest for some time, and sat down next to her, reaching over to pour her a glass of milk from a large jug. "I haven't seen him. His wife is in the front room being waited on hand and foot, so I came to find some real people."

"Mr Newcombe went out early this morning," the cook said, pouring some coffee and handing a mug of it to Methos. It was dark and very strong, and there was an unmistakable flavour of brandy lurking somewhere within it. He grinned his appreciation, and was draining the mug when the door opened, and Martin strode in.

"There you are!" he said brightly. "I was wondering where you'd got to. What are you doing in here?"

"Having breakfast." Kronos did not look up, being otherwise engaged in conversation with the serving girl.

"Well come into the front. Mary hasn't had a chance to meet you properly yet." He picked up a mug of coffee, and sipped at it as he headed across the room, to leave by another door. "This way."

The two Immortals stood, and followed their host. He led the way down a corridor and into a parlour, where Mary Newcombe was sitting in an armchair by the window. She smiled at the three men, and stood up to shake hands with Methos and Kronos.

"Good morning, Mr Foster, Mr Henderson," she said. "It's a pleasure to meet you properly. I'm afraid that you got here so late last night, and there wasn't time to get to know each other properly."

"No, there wasn't." Methos put on his best polite smile, and tried not to sound too urgent as he turned to Martin. "Where are the jewels? I trust that they're safe?"

"Ah!" Martin looked very pleased with himself. "It was bothering me all of last night, having them here, so first thing this morning I went to deliver them."

"Deliver them?" Methos needed all of his self control to keep the dismay from his voice. "Where?"

"I went to the Hotel Metternich. It seemed the most likely place. The Contessa's men checked in a few days ago, and they took the jewels. She's staying with her brother at the moment, apparently, at his castle."

"You're sure they were really her men?" There was a hopeful sound to Kronos' voice, suggesting that he liked the idea of having to chase off after another group of thieves.

"I'm sure. They had a letter from her, and they knew all about the three of us. Anyway, they were very grateful on her behalf. Apparently the Contessa is heading for St Petersburg next, so goodness knows what sort of opportunities there will be for thieves there; but at least we've saved them for the time being." He frowned suddenly. "You don't mind me taking them? It's just that you seemed so tired, and I didn't want to disturb you."

"No, we don't mind." Methos suddenly wanted to be alone. Half a million pounds worth of jewels. To think that they had been in his possession for so long, only to slip from his fingers now. It really did not seem fair. "Why should we mind?"

"No reason..." Martin looked at the ground for a moment. "It's just that I met somebody on the way back from the hotel. He asked me to give you a message."

"Me?" Methos frowned. "I didn't think I knew anybody in Austria. Are you sure he didn't have the wrong man?"

"Oh, I'm sure." Martin looked Methos straight in the eye. "He described you perfectly, right down to the sword. He even knew that you'd be travelling with another man, slightly smaller. A man who calls you 'brother'."

"What did this man want?" Methos spoke guardedly. It was quite possible that somebody in Austria knew him, but they would certainly not know him as Paul Foster.

"He said that he saw us arriving yesterday, with the bags, and he wondered if that meant you were wanting to sell something. He told me that you were his best customer. The thing is, though, that he seemed to think your name was Simon Taylor."

"I see." Methos looked at the ground. "And?"

"His inference was clear." Martin's face hardened. "Just what was your interest in the Contessa's jewels, Mr Foster? And what is your real name?"

"What do you think my interests were?" Methos smiled. "And my name is hardly important right now. You're welcome to call me what you like."

"I can think of a few things I'd like to call you." Newcombe narrowed his eyes, and nodded over at Kronos, standing quietly by the window. "What about him? Is he mixed up in all this?"

"Jack? Hardly." Methos lied glibly, hoping that he could count on Kronos to leave things to him for the time being. "He doesn't know anything about it; about the temptations, and about how difficult it's been for me."

"Difficult?" Martin frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Being a thief, trying to go straight." He shook his head sadly, and stared out of the window. "All those things that you were saying that first night; they really struck a chord you know. Made me realise that I have to get my life in order. I've tried to get out of the game several times, but a man is weak, and the temptations are strong. I sought spiritual guidance, but I'm afraid that my constitution was just too feeble to resist the pressure from my friends." His eyes filled with regret, and Mary stood up, taking her husband's arm.

"Martin, we can help him, can't we?" she asked, her voice filled with sympathy and philanthropic concern. "I mean, whatever his intentions might have been originally, he didn't steal the jewels, and there must have been plenty of opportunity."

"I suppose..." Martin looked strict and determined. "But this is a very serious matter, Mary. Whatever our personal feelings, Paul here has committed a crime. Goodness knows how many people he must have robbed."

"More than my conscience would like," Methos said sorrowfully. "I've tried so hard to make amends."

"Well it's not that easy, is it." Martin stiffened his back and frowned thoughtfully. "I'll contact the local authorities; I think that's the best thing. They'll take you into custody, and you can make a full confession. Perhaps that way you can come to terms with the full significance of what you have done. Then you can repay your debt to society in some way." He looked stern, revelling in the chance to make such a profound moral statement. "Of course, although you can atone for your crimes through a prison sentence of some kind, it will be considerably harder to make your peace with yourself. You'll have to live with your conscience for a good many years to come."

Methos lowered his eyes. "I know. And I'm sorry. You don't know how ashamed I am, of all that I've done. The robberies; all of that stuff. All that I can say to you - to all of you - is that I'm deeply, deeply sorry. I want to make up for it in some way."

"It's alright Paul. We'll find some way to get you through this." Touched by the sorrow that was clear in his guest's eyes, Martin was moved to attempt some kind of reassurance.

"No. It's not alright." He sighed deeply, all the misery and remorse of the world seeming to some from within his soul. "I want to make you believe that I'll never do this again. I want to reform. I'm never going to commit a jewel robbery again." He lifted his head slowly, and looked Martin straight in the eye. "And there's only one way to do that, isn't there. There's only one way to make amends, and to restore my honour."

"What do you mean?" Taken aback, Martin looked confused. As if in answer, Methos drew his sword, and turned it so that the blade pointed to his own chest. He offered Martin an apologetic smile.

"I am truly sorry for everything that I've done," he said gravely.

"No!" Mary took a step forward, shocked, and desperate to save the life of this unfortunate soul. Methos seemed not even to have noticed her, and with a quick, sharp thrust, he drove the sword into his heart. Almost in slow motion his body crumpled onto the ground and lay still. Mary let out a little scream, and covered her face with her hands, stifling a sob. Martin looked down at the body and shook his head sadly. He glanced towards Kronos, who had been standing in stunned silence for some time.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I know he was a good friend of yours."

"Er - yes, he was." Kronos did his best to look sorrowful, and hoped it was convincing. "I, er - I guess the guilt was too much for him to live with." He looked down at the body, which was beginning to make a fine mess of a large, expensive looking hearth rug. Kronos suspected that Methos had done his best to aim for it as he fell. He bent to pull free his friend's sword, and stuck it into his belt. "Look, would you mind if I took the body away? Like you say, he was a good friend of mine, and I know how he'd like things to be handled now."

"Of course. Yes, of course." Martin nodded hard. "Would you like me to get somebody to help you to carry him?"

"No, I can manage." Kronos tried out a benevolent smile, and swung Methos' limp form onto his shoulder. He was not very heavy. "I'll, er - be seeing you around maybe."

"Yes, of course." Still somewhat stunned, Martin followed Kronos to the door, and watched as the strange man walked out of sight, his grim burden slung over his shoulder.

Kronos had been walking in silence for nearly half an hour before he felt Methos stirring, and heard the first, unmistakable sounds of a muffled giggle. Immediately he stopped, and dropped the 'body' onto the grass verge beside the road. Methos grunted at the suddenness of his landing, and then doubled up, laughing hard, and trying to ignore the pain in his chest.

"Your faces!" He gasped finally. "Oh hell, I'm sorry brother, but that was so funny."

"Huh." Kronos threw himself down beside his old friend. "You've blown our aliases, in case it had escaped your notice. We're stuck in the middle of Austria with nothing except what we're wearing, and, we're both covered in your blood."

"So? You can steal us something; it's your job. We can break into somewhere round here." Methos began to laugh again, trying to catch his breath between fits of giggles. He was fast losing control. "Anyway," he choked. "It was worth it. That self righteous twit had it coming."

There was no immediate response from Kronos. He regarded Methos thoughtfully for a few moments, then nudged his shoulder in an attempt to sober him up a little.


"What?" Finally getting his mirth under control, Methos sat up, wiping at his eyes with a bloodied shirt tail.

"You didn't mean all that did you? About never committing another jewel robbery?"

"Are you kidding?" Methos shook his head emphatically. "I wasn't lying completely of course; Paul Foster is through with the business."

"But you're not?"

"Of course I'm not." Methos laughed again. "What else am I going to do? I'm a jewel thief, it's what I do best."

Kronos looked relieved. "Good. You had me worried for a while there brother. I thought I was going to have to go it alone."

"No, not yet." Methos stood up, and glanced down at Kronos. "Now are you going to sit there all day? We have places to go."

"Where?" Kronos stood up, and they began to walk on down the road.

"Well I do believe I heard somebody say that the Contessa was heading for St Petersburg next. It's been a long time since I saw Russia in the summer."

"You mean we're going after her jewels again?" Kronos sounded surprised, and highly pleased.

"Of course. I don't give up that easily." Methos dropped his arm around his old friend's shoulders. "When I set something in my sights, brother, I get it. Come what may."

"I'd noticed."

Methos laughed. "So will the Contessa, before very much longer." He reached over to pull his sword from Kronos' belt, where it still hung covered in his own blood, and slid it into its sheath. "We're going to get those jewels no matter how long it takes." He grinned happily. "After all, it's not as if we're in any real hurry. We have all the Time in the world."


This story is set some time in the early 19th century, probably around 1825. The railway industry was just starting to take off in Britain, but it took the rest of the world a little while to catch up. Passenger trains began in 1829 with the launch of Stephenson's Rocket.