Click Here For Part Two

It had been rather nice to finally get the chance to relax in his new apartment, and Methos had thoroughly enjoyed the last six weeks of lying on a big new settee having nothing to do. After buying the place, and deciding that it was undoubtedly the very residence he had been looking for all his life - well, the last few years of it, at any rate - it seemed that he had promptly been thrown into the midst of a series of adventures fiendishly designed to take him as far away as possible from his nice big new apartment. That was all behind him now, though, and there was definitely nothing more important, or life-threatening, for him to do than to lie on this over-sized sofa, gaze up at a ceiling still bright from its recent coat of paint, and wish that he had a voice-operated fridge that would obey a 'come here' command. He scowled. Whose stupid idea had it been to put the fridge in the kitchen, anyway? Surely right by the settee, at a height accessible to somebody sprawled on their back in joyous comfort, would have been a much more sensible plan? He sighed. At least he had nothing more precarious to worry about than the trip into the kitchen. That at least was reason to celebrate.

He made it to the fridge without incident, which was entirely to be expected but pleasant nonetheless. It was a particularly large appliance, easily the biggest available on the domestic market, and was currently filled with almost nothing but beer. He enjoyed the familiar sensation of pleasure that he always experienced when pulling wide the door and gazing upon his neatly ranked collection of cans. They filled the top two shelves; all of the middle shelf save for a space from which he had already taken two of them to drink during his perusal of the morning mail; and all of the bottom two shelves. The only other item in the fridge, neatly tucked away in one of the compartments in the door - between two bottles of beer, which he had added to break up the monotony - was a small jar of olives. He didn't remember buying it, and he certainly didn't remember opening it and putting it in the fridge, but he left it there because it looked nice. He liked the picture on the label, and it added a certain aesthetically pleasing symmetry to the positioning of the two bottles of beer.

"Choices, choices, choices." He settled in the end for a can bearing a selection of blue stripes, with its name emblazoned in red up one side. He didn't recognise the brand, but so long as it tasted of beer, he didn't see any cause for concern. MacLeod would tell him that beer is beer is beer, and that no brand ever really made a difference, but then MacLeod liked to drink shandy, and would occasionally choose to drink herbal tea instead, so his opinion definitely didn't count. Methos could remember drinking herbal tea back in the days before it was fashionable - when it had been all that there was to drink, and he had had to pick and produce the stuff before drinking it - and he could say, quite categorically, that it was definitely no substitute for beer. Whatever the brand.

He wandered back to his settee with a jaunty stride, and vaulted over the back in a rare display of athleticism. It wasn't that Methos was unfit exactly, but since successfully turning laziness into an art form some three and a half thousand years previously, he had become rather fond of avoiding strenuous activity. Vaulting over the back of the settee made him feel that he had earned the right to be lazy for a while, so he popped open the can, put his bare feet up on the arm of the settee, sprawled out to the greatest extent at which drinking was still possible, and jammed a finger at random onto the television remote control. A music channel burst into life, and Roger Daltrey began to gyrate across the screen to the accompaniment of The Who's You Better You Bet. It was post-Keith Moon, but Methos didn't mind that too much. He settled himself down, raised his can to his lips, and began to sing along inside his head. The phone started to ring, but he ignored it. Damn thing always came to life just when he least wanted it to, and if it was that bloody life insurance salesman again, Methos definitely didn't want to answer the call. What did it take to convince the man that life insurance was not one of his highest priorities? Perhaps he should go round to the company's head office, and stab himself on the front steps? At least then they'd realise that he wasn't exactly an ideal customer. He smiled sardonically. In the eyes of the world's insurance companies he would probably be exactly that - the most ideal customer ever. Five thousand years without a claim.

"Methos?" The voice outside the apartment gave Methos such a jolt that he sat up with a start. Roger Daltrey and life insurance gone from his mind, he came to his feet so quickly that he almost spilled his beer, and clicking off the television he hurried to the door. He hadn't felt an Immortal, but it hadn't been Joe Dawson's voice. What other mortals were there who knew his real identity? He peered out through the viewing hole, staring into the corridor beyond his refuge. He could see nobody. The lift stood open almost opposite him, and he could see that it was empty. He let one hand trail down to the door chain, and with slow, silent movements, he slipped it into place. The tiny sound of metal scraping against metal was no louder than the sound of his own breathing, but even so it seemed frightening loud in the silence. He took a step away from the door, missed colliding with a low table by no more than a millimetre, and turned to reach out for his sword. Behind him the telephone burst into song, and he jumped violently. The sword flew off the table, bounced twice on the floor, and clattered heavily against the table leg. Methos, in the act of turning between telephone and sword, desperate to silence at least one of them, caught his shin an agonising blow on the table edge, and stifled a gasp only just in the nick of time. There seemed little point in this minor attempt at secrecy, since the sword on its own had already made enough noise to rival a herd of elephants, but somehow it had still seemed like the thing to do. Outside the apartment somebody began to bang on the door, the noise crashing heavily in time to the phone's persistent ringing. Methos grabbed up the telephone receiver. Maybe he could persuade the insurance salesman to make an emergency call to Duncan MacLeod.

"Hello?" He kept his voice low, just in case his unknown guest hadn't heard him yet. From the other end of the line came something that sounded oddly like a sigh of relief.

"Methos!" It was Duncan. Methos was delighted.

"MacLeod. Good timing, I've got a--"

"Not now old man. Can you get down to Joe's bar?"

"MacLeod, I--"

"Have you seen Amy? We sent her to pick you up."

"Amy? Amy who? MacLeod I--" He frowned. "Amy as in Joe's Amy?"

"Do we know any others?"

"And you sent her here?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, old man, it's been a long time since you had any kind of transport of your own. Whether or not that's because you don't trust anything that isn't horse-drawn, I don't know, but I thought it might be quicker to get you a lift. Why? Hasn't she arrived yet?"

"I... think I hear her now actually. Hang on." He crossed the floor, feeling somewhat sheepish, and glanced out through the peephole once again. This time he could clearly see somebody in the corridor, and he recognised her immediately. He slipped off the chain and opened the door.

"Methos!" Amy Thomas, Joe Dawson's recently reacquired daughter, looked remarkably pleased to see him. Methos raised an eyebrow.

"Aren't you supposed to stay out of sight?"

"Only when I'm Watching you professionally." She slipped past him into the apartment, looking perfectly at home before she had even crossed the threshold. "And you don't know about that, anyway."

"Oh no. What do I know about the Watchers?" He headed back to the telephone and snatched up the receiver once again.

"We're on our way, MacLeod." He knew that he sounded reproachful, and certainly not in the slightest bit enthusiastic, but he really didn't care much about that. Amy smiled at him.

"What's the matter? Did we interrupt something important?" She bent to pick up his sword, and was therefore unable to see his sour reaction.

"Nothing too trivial, certainly." He looked towards his still half-full can of beer, and wondered if it would still be drinkable when he returned. Chances were that it would be flat. He consoled himself with thoughts about the fine supplies of beer at Joe's club, and tried to summon a smile. Amy was pleasant company at least, even if he did barely know her; and she was definitely prettier than MacLeod. If he had to spend some time with his fellow Immortal, having Joe's daughter present was a highly applaudable improvement on the usual state of affairs. Almost worth a trip across town.

"I wouldn't have interrupted your..." her eyes travelled from the beer can to the television and back again... "important activities, if it hadn't been necessary. I certainly wouldn't have broken my cover in order to make contact if there hadn't been a certain amount of urgency involved."

"Amy..." He took his sword from her, and after stuffing his feet into a rather battered-looking pair of shoes, picked up his jacket on the way to the door. "I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but you're possibly the least effective Watcher in the history of Watching. I know that you're out there. You've got no cover to break."

"You don't know that." She scowled, trying to look rather more offended than she really was. "You think it, but it's not necessarily true."

"No, I suppose not." He didn't bother telling her just how easy it was for him to spot her when she was tailing him; just how very distinctly she stuck out, no matter how hard she tried. It wasn't that she was untalented; simply that he was five thousand years-old, and had more experience that she - or any other mortal - could ever hope to equal. Spotting a tail had become second nature to him, just as the various other little habits he had picked up over the years had also become part of his regular practice; a part of staying alive, protecting himself, and defending his hard-won privacy. He might have come from an age when even a simple abacus had seemed like a technological miracle, but he had easily schooled himself in the ways and workings of computers; and the passwords and tricks employed by the Watchers were child's play to him, even after one too many beers. Thanks to the trapdoors and secret passages he himself had built into the secret society's computer system, he had access to all the Watcher files, and had been reading - and deleting - every one of the reports that his extended team of personal Watchers had ever prepared. They all remained convinced that they were doing a good job, but he dodged them at will, and could easily lose them when required. Now if only he could learn to recognise them by the sound of their voices, as well as by their looks...

"Why didn't you answer the door?" Preceding him out into the corridor, Amy hung about as he locked up. She seemed perfectly at ease with him, despite the fact that they had not met very many times, and had never been alone together. Presumably she knew as much about his past as did any of the Watchers, and yet there was no sign of the usual responses - awe, fear, awkwardness. She seemed just as though she was in the company of an old friend, which was something that she didn't even manage with her father. He raised an eyebrow, glancing back at her as he locked the door and shrugged into his jacket.

"I didn't know who you were. When strange people start shouting my name, I usually go into self-preservation mode. And with good reason." He stowed his sword away inside his jacket, and she frowned, clearly trying to work out where exactly he had just put it. He smirked, not at all inclined to answer her unspoken question. "Next time, just try knocking. And don't disappear when I look through the peep hole."

"I was tying my shoe lace." She looked faintly defensive. "You really are touchy, aren't you. MacLeod warned me not to wake you up before noon unless I went bearing gifts, but I thought he was only joking."

"He was." Methos didn't smile. "Probably."

"Oh." Her own smile came back out for an encore. "Well, never mind. It's all part of getting to know you, isn't it. All this time as your Watcher, and I've not really had much opportunity to get close to the real Methos. Not like I'd hoped."

"You follow me to my job at your dad's bar every night. It's hardly a revealing relationship." They reached the lift, and Methos pressed the call button. The doors slid open almost immediately, and the pair stepped inside. Amy sighed.

"Yes, but it's not as simple as that. I mean, I know all about you. Your past. The things you've done. But I don't know you at all."

"You do not know all the things I've done. Even I don't know that much about me." He thought about his journals, with their unparalleled record of so many events in his life; both those that he remembered, and those that he had no recollection of whatsoever. Not something that he had any intention of letting the Watchers get a look at - whether or not they would be capable of reading it. "Now how about filling me in on why we're going to meet with MacLeod. Has something happened?"

She shrugged. "I don't really know to be honest. When Duncan called he said that it was urgent, but he didn't explain why."

"Has there been a message from your-- from Joe?"

"No." She scowled. "And you can refer to him as my father, you know. I'm not exactly touchy on the subject."

"Sorry." He wasn't, and she knew it. She scowled again.

"You know, I didn't have to do this. It's actually my day off today. I'm supposed to be meeting friends on a boat for champagne and dancing. It's not the kind of invitation that I get very often."

"Don't let me stop you." He leant against the wall of the lift, crossing his arms and wondering if they were ever going to reach ground level. The journey didn't usually seem this long.

"You're not stopping me. I'm here because MacLeod called. He'd been trying to phone you earlier, but he kept getting the engaged tone. With Joe and Amanda both out of town, I think he was starting to get a little desperate."

"Really?" Methos didn't like to think about what kind of thing might make Duncan MacLeod desperate. Whatever it was, it was probably something that he should seriously consider being a long way away from. "And he wanted me to help out? How very thoughtful of him."

"He said that you'd want to help." Amy was moving towards the lift doors almost before they opened, leading the way across the small, functional lobby and out into the street. A small party of yuppie types were milling around, clearly looking over some of the other apartments in the building, and Methos offered them all a welcoming glare. He liked the building the way it was now, with none of the apartments inhabited save his own. In his experience, as soon as one acquired neighbours, one acquired complaints. There were very few neighbours who were sympathetic when it came to fencing bouts in the corridors, or fist fights on the stairs, or any number of other inconveniences that tended to follow one around just as soon as one became involved with Duncan MacLeod. Methos had become rather sensitive to the issue of awkward neighbours, after being thrown out of his old apartment following a minor altercation involving a decidedly violent kidnap. The fact that it had been his own hadn't cut any ice with his neighbours, who far from offering their support, and being friendly and understanding after his varied ordeals, had gone straight to the building manager and demanded an immediate eviction. He couldn't help thinking that it would be the same all over again with this latest bunch of potential residents.

"MacLeod always thinks that I want to help." Finally pulling his mind away from a hundred-and-one ways to discourage likely neighbours, Methos once again awarded Amy his full attention. "It's all part of his Boy Scout complex. He loves to help others, and so he naturally assumes that everybody else does too. He genuinely doesn't understand that the majority of the population doesn't wish to risk violent death just for the sake of aiding total strangers." He opened the huge, glass front door, holding it that way in a rare fit of genuine courtesy. "I think it's his age. The first few hundred years are often the most awkward."

"I really wouldn't know." Shaking her head, Amy hurried down the few steps that led to the sidewalk, and gestured towards her red sports car parked at the kerb. "Aren't you just the littlest bit curious as to why MacLeod wants to speak with you? Why he thought that it was so important to get in touch with you that he sent your own Watcher to make contact?"

"He thinks of you as a friend, Amy. Not a Watcher. For all I know it's nothing more important than a shortage of beer kegs in the cellar." Methos climbed into the passenger side of the car. "Did he actually tell you that it was serious?"

"You mean apart from the obvious urgency in his voice? The guy sounded desperate. He said he'd been calling your house all morning--"

"I had a problem with a persistent salesman. He wouldn't take no for an answer." Methos shrugged. "Still, telephones are hardly the only methods of communication these days. There are plenty of other ways to get in touch."

"Maybe he wanted to speak to you personally."

"Huh. More likely that he just can't cope with the latest technology." As if to prove that he didn't suffer such shortcomings himself, he reached out for the car radio, tuning it with expert speed to a station playing rock music. Amy winced.

"You work at a jazz club. Shouldn't you be listening to jazz?"

"I work at a jazz club under protest. That doesn't make me a fan." He turned the volume up a little, and tried to pretend that he was still relaxing back at his apartment, with the television blaring and cool beer by his side. Nearby somebody honked a car horn, and the forlorn dream faded. Perhaps the holiday really had been too good to last.

"MacLeod listens to opera and classical music." Amy sounded faintly admiring, as though touched by a sizeable measure of hero worship. "He says it's the music of his youth, stirring him onwards with his life in the present."

"Huh." Methos stretched out his long legs, for a moment considering resting them on the dashboard. Amy's glare dissuaded him, and he folded his arms instead, looking resentful. "He just thinks it makes him sound intelligent. If he really listened to the music of his youth it'd be all bagpipes, and banging on home-made drums. From what I remember of small Highland villages back in those days, the bagpipe-playing was all done by people who inherited the job, but not necessarily the talent. The noise was usually pretty appalling. There certainly wasn't much opera, or many classical symphonies being played on quadraphonic hi-fi systems."

"Well there can't have been much rock music back in your youth. Where'd you acquire the taste for The Who?" He glanced at her, his eyes questioning, and she smiled. "I could hear it when I was outside your apartment. You were playing it loud enough to wake the dead."

"That's the way it's supposed to be played." He scowled, aware that he was once again sounding like the young man he appeared to be - and which, looks aside, was really not supposed to be the way he operated. Joe always referred to such slips as 'Mortal Moments', although for the most part only because he liked to make the old man glare. "I've always liked music. Back in the sixties I spent some time in Britain. London, Liverpool, wherever. There were bands starting up all over the place. I remember the first time that the Stones played a proper gig. The Kinks too, and a few others that never made it so big. I liked it." This time he did put his feet up on the dashboard. "You should know all that. Surely it's in my files?"

"I suppose so. I have an idea that you know better than anyone else what's in those files, though." She pushed his feet off the dash, then guided the car to the side of the road and brought it to a standstill. The radio snapped into silence with the engine. "But maybe this time I'll get to add a new incident through real first hand experience. I'll actually know as much about what I'm writing as you do."

"Only if we let you stay." He jumped out of the car, ignoring her indignant expression. "You're not allowed to get involved, remember?"

"Oh, 'cause you say that to Joe all the time." She pursued him, raising her voice. "Damn it Methos, you can't just--"

"Shut up and get inside." He pushed her through the door which, rather unusually for so early in the day, was unlocked. "And stay out of the way."

"But I--"

"I need to know what's going on before I can make any decisions about letting you stay." He stepped past her, into the darkened interior of the building. "So for now just stay quiet. I have to find MacLeod."


Joe's bar was in its typical pre-opening state; which is to say that it was messy, and showed no signs of being otherwise. Methos scowled at the litter-strewn floor and the tables that needing wiping, and felt the usual lack of enthusiasm for his uninspiring job. Oh how he loved to clean the place up before opening; how he so adored sweeping the floor and polishing the bar, and dusting off the musical instruments. Actually that was the one part of the task that he didn't mind, for he had a genuine fondness for most things musical. Polishing the body of the piano brought back pleasant memories of the past - recent to him, probably not so for the mortals involved - when he had played such an instrument for a living, back across the sea in London. He frowned at the way that he had so nearly thought of it as 'back home' in London, and wondered at that for a moment; then dismissed the thought. It wasn't home, whichever way he looked at it, so he could think of it how he liked.

"MacLeod?" He looked about, unable to see - or feel - any sign of his sometime comrade in arms. The Highlander was probably out back, or had had to go dashing off to the assistance of some helpless looking mortal, or something similar. Maybe things weren't as urgent as Amy had thought.

"Odd. I thought he'd be here." Amy was looking about, eyeing the bar that was so strangely familiar to her. She spent so little time in it, and yet, because it belonged to her father, she felt closer to it than she might have wished. It was the sort of place that she felt at home in, probably because her tastes were so oddly similar to his; and yet she wasn't at home in it, spent very little time in it, and still wasn't altogether sure whether or not she wanted that to change. She scowled, lifted a chair off the nearest table, and sat down. "Can you feel him?" Methos raised an eyebrow.

"I can't detect his presence, no." He frowned at her moodily casual attitude, and wondered why she wasn't looking fraught. Mortals usually looked fraught by now, at least in his experience. He went over to the bar and rang the bell. Nobody answered.

"Must be out back..." She folded her arms. "Either that or it was a false alarm. Great. I blew my cover for a false alarm."

He shrugged. "Looks like it. Beer?" It was one of his favourite solutions to any problem, and apparently it looked like a favourable one to her too. She sighed.

"Don't mind if I do. Who's paying?"

"Paying?" He frowned at her. "Daddy dearest, I suppose. Actually I don't usually think about that kind of thing." He went around behind the bar, collected a pair of bottles from the fridge and opened them, then strolled back towards her and handed her one. The neck was cold, and condensation ran down the outside of the bottle.

"No glasses?" She sipped from the bottle as though trying to be delicate, then gave up the ploy. "I feel like a student again."

"Yeah?" There was still no sign of MacLeod, and no matter how hard he tried - not that he was trying particularly hard - he couldn't seem to feel worried enough to attempt a search. "What did you study?"

"History." She shrugged. "It's always been an interest of mine, even before I found out about the Watchers. One of the reasons I liked the idea of joining was the idea that I might be watching real history in motion... if you see what I mean."

"If you're expecting great things to happen, don't. I try not to get mixed up in major political affairs." He drank some beer, and smiled into the bottle neck. "Or at least I haven't for a while, anyway."

"I don't mean that I expect to see history being made - just that I'm watching somebody who's... who's walked through it all. Like it or not, you are history. In a manner of speaking, anyway. You're so old." She frowned. "Oh. I mean... well you don't look it, necessarily... and I didn't mean that as an insult... I just--"

"I know what you meant." He shrugged, then took down a second chair and sat down on it. It was dark in the bar, but light enough to give him a good view around, so that he would be able to see if anybody came into the room. "I am old, although I don't tend to think of myself that way. And I suppose I did see history being made - or lived, at any rate." He let false modesty fill him as he relaxed in his seat. "I've known one or two key figures, of course. Here and there I tended to run into important people. Just not the ones that most people want to know about. I can't claim to have been in that stable back in 5BC, or whenever it was; and I didn't see Columbus sailing the ocean blue, or Jensen injecting small children with his smallpox vaccine. It doesn't work that way."

"All the same..." She shrugged. "You must know so much."

"A fair bit. Rather depends on the subject." He finished his beer. "Perhaps I'll tell you about it some time. Provided it doesn't cause a conflict of interest or something. I should hate to cross the barrier between Watcher and Immortal."

"My father has practically annihilated that barrier. I see no reason why I shouldn't follow suit." She smiled, not entirely humorously. "He'd probably be pleased if I showed signs of taking after him. It might make him feel a little less awkward when I'm around."

"He's not awkward. He loves being with you." Methos rose to his feet, crossing to the front door to peer out into the street. "He just doesn't believe that you feel the same way. It's complicated."

"I wouldn't have thought that you'd understand." She frowned, trying to work out just why she felt so comfortable talking about the situation with somebody that - when all was said and done - she barely knew. Perhaps it was because he was so old, making it much like talking to a grandparent... but that didn't work, because he looked only a few years older than she did. Maybe he just acted old... but then she had to conclude that that wasn't true either. He acted just like the guys she had known at college, with their easy, carefree attitudes, and youthful outlook. Except that he wasn't youthful, and didn't act it... except that he did... She scowled and finished her beer - a large amount of it, all in a rush, and then wondered if she should have checked the alcohol percentage before drinking it so quickly. She didn't drink very much, as a rule, and it probably wouldn't take too much of something strong before she began to feel a little light-headed. Just trying to figure Methos out made her light-headed enough, without her body chemistry joining in the assault.

"Why wouldn't I understand? Because I don't have children?" He shrugged. "Maybe. I know Joe though, probably better than I've known any mortal for more than a hundred years. If he's awkward around you, it's only because he thinks you're awkward with him. He wants to be your father, but he doesn't know how to start."

"Yeah, well." She began to get embarrassed, and turned away slightly. "Perhaps. So, er, what do you think is up with MacLeod?"

"I haven't a clue." He took the hint for a change of subject. "Just what exactly did he say to you?"

"That something had come up, that he had to get in touch with you but couldn't get you on the phone... that it was important, and that somebody needed your help. He said that you'd want to be involved, or that he needed you to be involved, or something along those lines. I told you all that."

"And did he give you any names?"

"No." She looked distinctly apologetic. "Should I have asked?"

"Not necessarily." He scowled. "Damn it. I hate it when he does this to me. Now I'll have to go and look for him, or I'll wind up feeling guilty."

"Then you're worried?" She looked alarmed. "There's no sign of a struggle here, and I can't see any blood."

"Might be, out back." She looked afraid and excited, and not a little impressed by his off-hand attitude; and he found that he appreciated that greatly. He decided to play up to the situation, and with that in mind ran a studiously casual hand through his hair. "I should go to check, I suppose. You'd best stay here."

"You don't think he's dead, do you?"

"Dead?" That possibility had not actually entered Methos' mind, and the sudden thought of it worried him greatly. He dismissed it immediately, for it simply could not be the case. Of course MacLeod wasn't dead. How could he be? He drew his sword, hefting it in one hand, thinking about what might be waiting in the little yard behind the club; and then abruptly felt the hot-cold burning rush of an Immortal presence. His breath caught.

"Methos?" Amy was rising to her feet, coming towards him, but he held up a hand for silence and pulled her away from the door. There were footsteps now; hard, sharp noises on the tarmac outside; more than one set, confident and firm, and without a hint of secrecy or stealth. The sensation of approaching Immortality grew, and Methos felt his knuckles whiten against the hilt of his sword. For a moment - a very brief, rather confused moment - he contemplated pushing Amy behind him, to offer her some protection from whoever was coming, but he dismissed the thought straight away. Heroics were all very well, but they were best displayed when the danger was not real, and when one could look good without there being any actual risk. She didn't look like she wanted to be protected anyway, and instead took a step towards the door.

"Can you tell how many of them are coming?" Her eyes were wide, for she had seen that he had sensed something. Perhaps it was an inherited Watcher's instinct that made her move closer to the door, for all the world as though she was eager to see who was about to enter. Methos wondered if she was hoping for extra credit from the Council if she found them a new Immortal to Watch.

"Get back." He heard the footsteps halt; heard the door handle creak slightly. A faint voice outside, largely hidden by the noise of the traffic, called out his name. He frowned. It seemed like everybody in Seacouver had a strange desire to throw caution to the winds and yell his name aloud today. What the hell had happened to secrecy and anonymity? He thought about making a run for the back door; melting away into the shadows; at least until he knew who was coming. It was safest, sometimes, to play the part of the coward. After all, what was a charge of cowardice except a prejudice against the sensible?

"That you Methos?" He thought that he knew the voice, and frowned. Not MacLeod. Certainly not Amanda, or Connor MacLeod, or any of the other Immortals that his immediate consciousness named as friends. British sounding, but too deep for Reece; too loud for Kronos. It was a youngish voice, and it reminded him, oddly, of a smile. Memories resolutely failed to tell him anything. Amy grabbed a chair and held it above her head; so determined, so fierce looking, that Methos almost wanted to laugh. He watched the door handle turn, and wondered who the voice belonged to. How could it be so familiar if he didn't know it? A chink of daylight showed as the door began to open, and he saw, very briefly, a gleaming black boot glittering in the rays of the sun. There was silver patterning on the bright leather; intricate lines and swirls that glittered and shone. He smiled. So that was why the voice was so bloody familiar. He lowered his sword and moved forward, ready to welcome his unexpected guest.

"Hello?" The door opened all the way, filling the gloomy room with the light of the outside world. A black-clad figure loomed in the doorway, framed by the light, backed by a blur of moving cars. Amy drew in a sharp breath, brandishing her chair with bridling fury.

"Get back." She didn't sound at all afraid, and Methos couldn't help being impressed. He grabbed at her, missing her arm and causing the chair to topple.

"It's okay, Amy. He's a friend." He steadied the chair, lowering it to the ground. "Shade?"

"Methos!" The bright, cheery voice of Kyle Shade was not dampened in the slightest by the sight of a furious mortal woman brandishing furniture. He strode into the room, his highly-polished boots clicking rhythmically on the hard floor. "It's good to see you again."

"You know him?" Her hand still gripping the back of the chair, ready to lift it again at a moment's notice, Amy darted her eyes from Methos to the new arrival and back again. "I don't recognise him."

"You wouldn't." Frowning slightly, his own expression not nearly as friendly as his guest's, Methos gestured towards the black-clad figure. "Amy Thomas, Kyle Shade. He thinks he's a friend of mine, but then he's presumptuous that way..."

"I'm... pleased to meet you." Very slowly Amy lowered the chair. Kyle laughed.

"You don't look too pleased. Was that chair meant for me?"

"Er... yes." She blushed slightly, then immediately reached for the makeshift weapon once again as the door began to move.

"It's okay." Shade put out a hand to still her expected attack, before reaching out and pulling the door open wide. Duncan MacLeod stood on the threshold, looking faintly surprised.

"Hello." He smiled warmly when he saw Amy. "Oh, hello. I wasn't expecting you to be here."

"You mean you hoped that I wouldn't be." She scowled at him. "You're as bad as Joe. One minute it's all co-operation, and the next you're determined not to break the rules. I'm here with Methos."

"Really?" Lifting an eyebrow in amused inquiry, MacLeod offered his fellow Immortal a wry smile. Methos glared at him.

"Apparently so. I didn't have any choice in the matter, though, so don't blame me." He looked about. "If the weird one's here, he's not alone. Where's Reece?"

"Closing up the car." MacLeod sauntered into the bar, looking about with an air of casual interest. "Everything alright in here?"

"Fine, so far as I can see. Now just what is all this about, MacLeod? I was busy, you know. I get called down here in a rush, only to find nobody in sight, the place left unlocked... and no sign of you anywhere."

"Don't tell me you were worried."

"Not especially, no. Just somewhat annoyed." The sound of wheels scraping on tarmac made him glance towards the door. "Better warn Reece to watch out for flying furniture."

"I'm not going to hit anyone with the chair." Faintly embarrassed, Amy took her hands away from her intended weapon, beside which she was still lingering. An amused voice, filtered against the sounds of the city beyond the door, came to them all.

"I'm glad to hear it. I'm not all that good at hand to hand combat." There was a louder scrape as the nimble-wheeled form of Reece Walton negotiated the slight step of the doorway. "Although I do have a slight edge where chairs are concerned." He eyed Amy's unorthodox club, still noticeably within her reach. "You have interesting friends, old man."

"She has a right to be suspicious." Methos smiled despite himself, and crossed to give his friend's hand a warm shake. "What brings you to this side of the Atlantic?"

"Trouble. We were hoping for some help." Wheeling himself further into the room, Reece offered his hand to Amy. "He's obviously not going to introduce us, although I can't say as I blame him for wanting to keep you to himself. I'm Reece."

"Yes, I know." He raised an eyebrow, and she smiled. "I've heard of you, sort of. There aren't many Immortals who have wheels instead of swords."

"Probably for the best. It's not easy to behead your enemies with a pair of slightly sloping wheels with psychedelic spokes." They shook hands, and Amy smiled back at him.

"I have to say that I prefer wheels. They're less frightening when somebody points them at you. I'm Amy Thomas. I've been hanging out with Methos quite a lot lately."

"That's one way of putting it." Planting himself firmly into a chair, Methos folded his arms. "Now much as I enjoy all these pleasantries, I'd appreciate an explanation much more. Just where the hell have you people been?"

"He was worried about us," MacLeod told Reece. Reece grinned. Methos glared.

"I have to open up in an hour. If you're not going to tell me anything, I have a whole string of more exciting things I could be doing. The piano needs tuning for one, and there are half a dozen barrels of some new Irish bitter we're supposed to be offering on tap as of tonight. I haven't tested it yet."

"Relax." MacLeod sat down opposite him. "We went out to check up on something. Somebody delivered some flowers to the club, and we thought we'd better do a check round all the local florists - see if they knew who had placed the order."

"Flowers." Methos frowned. "They must have been something pretty special for this kind of a reaction. What were they? Blue roses?"

"White orchids." Reece reached back to the bag hanging behind his chair, eventually producing a long white box. "Here."

"And they were delivered to the club?" Taking the box, Methos opened it to reveal the flowers within. There were six of them, quite exquisite, their petals as yet unblemished by the several hours of their lingering death. "Who by?"

"Just a delivery man, from a local florist. He said that a woman ordered them." Shade plucked a simple white card from inside the box. "They were addressed to me, which I'm afraid is more than enough to raise certain rather unpleasant suspicions."

"Such as?"

"Such as why the flowers were sent." He turned the card over in his hands, reading aloud the message written upon it, without needing to look at the words. "To Kyle, in memory of Oslo. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ The ancient pleasure dome decree/ Where Alph the sacred river ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea." He tossed the card onto the nearest table. "Rather sweet in its innocence, isn't it."

"If you say so." Methos turned the orchids over in his hands. "I assume this is something to do with why you came out here? Only, maybe I'm wrong, but it seems a little odd to come halfway across the world just because some woman has taken to sending you flowers." He grinned. "Surely it would have been easier just to tell her you weren't interested?"

"Unsurprisingly, it's not as simple as that." Shade took the flowers, staring at them in silence for several moments. "It's not what they are, or even why they were sent, necessarily. It's who sent them that's important."

"An admirer? I thought you liked to consider yourself something of a ladies' man?"

"Well it's certainly nice to be appreciated." Kyle put the flowers down on the counter, his movements very precise, taking a definite care not to damage the blooms. "White orchids are like a badge; a sign used by a particular person from my past, who... isn't really somebody that I want to renew my acquaintance with. She's trouble, to put it mildly, and she takes a special delight in trying to hurt the people I know. I came here because I was sent a bunch just like this, but with a different verse attached, at the last place Reece and I were staying at in over in Europe. I - we - were sort of hoping that you'd be able to help. You and Duncan. I thought maybe you could suggest something - anything - so that I wouldn't have to take the chance of trying to fight her. It'd be just her style to challenge Reece, just to get at me."

"Everybody seems determined to protect me." Reece smiled at Amy, his expression suggesting that it was a terrible bore having friends who cared for him so much. She smiled back, surprised to find herself wondering idly, and not a little regretfully, just what Shade's reasons were for wanting to protect Reece - and whether or not there was any point in wondering about her own chances with either of them.

"Who is this woman?" Methos' voice dragged her mind back to the present, and she glanced up rather sharply.

"Good point. If she's somebody that we have on file, I might be able to work out some likely haunts, or even get in touch with her--" She broke off, suddenly realising that she had no idea whether Kyle and Reece knew about the Watchers. "Well we might be able to track down some of her old friends," she finished, rather lamely.

"Nobody knows her better than I do. I can tell you her 'likely haunts' better than any of her old friends could." Kyle sighed, toying in obvious agitation with the braided cuff of one shirt sleeve. "Her name is Josephina, or possibly Maria. In Oslo she was calling herself Anna Lang. She has several doctorates, mostly in English literature, poetry, that sort of thing. She once claimed to have been the inspiration for Beatrice, in Much Ado About Nothing. Claimed that she met Shakespeare in a tavern in Stratford, and argued with him all night."

"Great. A centuries old English professor." MacLeod picked up the card, reading it through. There was something distinctly funereal about the style of the font used, and about the simple black border that surrounded the text.

"Just so long as she isn't planning to set us extra homework." Reece glanced back towards Shade, who was hovering uncertainly near the bar. "Look, Methos. We wouldn't have come here if it was just about some woman sending flowers. This one is a little bit different."


"She was my wife." Shade glanced up, staring accusingly at the faint scuff marks that were spoiling the perfection of his elaborate boots. "We met in 1801, in Russia. We were there for the ceremonies, although personally I didn't think much of the fellow getting the crown. Completely bonkers, just like his dad. Anyway, I was there as just another tourist; not that we called ourselves 'tourists' back then of course. Much more illustrious terminology in those days. She was working with some university, on a project about... well, about something or other. She was disguised as a man of course, or she'd never have got the job. Anyway, long before I found out that she wasn't really Thomas Harding, English scholar, we got very drunk together in some sleazy little establishment on the darker side of St Petersburg, and the next thing I remember is waking up on a ship bound for Egypt. We spent six months wandering around the north coast of Africa; me doing street theatre with a bunch of spaced out Bedouins we picked up in the desert, and her spouting Mediaeval love poetry to any crowd of people who happened to stand still long enough to qualify as an audience. I learnt some great tricks, she learnt how to run away from bored locals very fast. We wound up getting married on a boat heading up the Nile, and spent what I suppose you'd call a honeymoon getting very stoned in some little town I never did find out the name of. There was some festival going on, and lots of people dancing in weird black costumes with these horrific masks that'd make the Evil Dead look like the sweet little old lady next door."

"Sounds like the perfect romance." MacLeod was still looking at the card, although he glanced up for long enough to shoot Kyle a friendly smile. "Go on."

"When I woke up properly, several days later, I realised that I was married to this weird woman. I'd been with her for months, but I barely knew her. She was just this... oddity I'd picked up somewhere along the line, the way you can often pick up strange people when you're travelling the world on your own. I left her a letter... some rubbish about not knowing if we were really right for each other... and I got on the next boat heading north. I ended up back in Egypt about four days later, and reached Italy a couple of days after that. Two days later I was in a tavern in Venice getting very drunk, and I suddenly felt an Immortal. She was standing at the bar, watching me. Some mortal guy... poor by the look of him. Very young... all curls and big wide eyes. He gave her a bunch of white orchids, and they left the place together. When I got back to the room I'd rented, this poor kid was lying on my bed, all covered with orchids. There was blood everywhere, and flower petals stuck in all this gore... There was a piece of paper too. A small sheet, very stiff. Expensive stuff. The message was all Iambic verse, in black ink. Block capitals, with flowers drawn all round the edges. I don't remember the words."

"Have you met her often since then?" Her Watcher instincts well and truly sparked, Amy sat down in the chair she had so nearly broken over Kyle's head, and tried to quell the desire to whip out her notebook. He stared at her for a moment, perhaps disturbed by the intense interest of a relatively unknown mortal, before giving a rather vague shrug that returned him to his tale.

"We met again a few years later, in London. She spun some strange tale, claiming that she hadn't had anything to do with the murder of the man in Venice. I agreed to give our marriage another try, but she was getting more and more strange every day. She was obviously unhinged, which is why I tried to make things work out between us. I was a little scared about the consequences if I tried to leave her again. It was insane though. There was nothing between us, and there never could have been. I don't even want to think about what she must have drugged me with to make me marry her in the first place... In the end I told her that it just wasn't going to work, and the very next day she vanished. She left a bunch of white orchids behind her. Goodness knows the lengths she must have gone to to get them. They were never easy to come by in nineteenth century London, and certainly not at that time of the year."

"Did she kill again?" MacLeod spoke in an easy, unhurried tone, intended to keep things calm. Shade nodded.

"Yeah, you could say that. Paris, California, Dublin, Manchester... Every time I thought that maybe I'd seen the last of her, suddenly she'd turn up again, with her white orchids and a pile of bodies in tow. Every time I'd try to stop her... try to catch her out, or put the authorities on to her; but she always moved so much faster than I did. I suppose once every twenty, twenty-five years, there she is again. The last time was in 1970, in Oslo." He wandered over to a chair close to Reece, and sat down very slowly. "I was doing a magic act near the university, and one day I saw her in the audience. She was talking to these three students I'd got to know quite well. I tried to warn them, but they wouldn't listen. I followed them about for the next couple of days, hoping to stop her from doing anything to them; but then one morning I turned up at the theatre and they were already there. All three of them, cut to ribbons. White orchids in neat displays in a dozen glass vases. She'd left a different poem by each vase. Shakespeare, Shelley, Coleridge. All written on little cards like the one that came with these flowers. Weird stuff, but... beautiful I guess. In a strange sort of way."

"Sounds like a fascinating lady, doesn't she." MacLeod raised an eyebrow at Methos, who made an unimpressed face in return. "Aren't you glad now that we sent Amy to fetch you?"

"If there's a serial killer going around, be she mortal or immortal, you can pretty much guarantee that I'm not happy about being involved." He scowled at the dimly lit bar for a while, then glanced up once again. "How do we know it's her though? I mean the flowers might just be a coincidence."

"One bunch possibly. But two?" Shade shook his head, his strange, glittering eyes unusually sober. "Besides, who else is there? The message is one hundred percent Maria, plus there's the thing about Oslo."

"True, the letter sounds like the style of the woman you talked about - but it's a very famous poem. People are always quoting old poems, especially when they send flowers. It sort of goes with the territory." Amy's comment came as something of a surprise, and everybody turned to look at her. She blushed. "I mean--"

"No, it's okay. You've got a point." Duncan smiled at her. "It's not an especially damning message, at least at first appearances, and the author certainly doesn't identify him or herself in any way. But if the flowers were meant in friendship, why all the secrecy? Why weren't we able to find out who brought the second bunch here, or where they were bought from?"

"Somebody might know about your past, Shade." Methos was looking thoughtful, his deep eyes fixed on some invisible point in space or time. "Some other enemy might be using the flowers, knowing what sort of an effect they would have on you."

"I don't have any other enemies." The younger Immortal spread his arms in a wide shrug. "I've kept myself to myself for so long now that I'm beginning to forget what a Quickening feels like. I've not got on the wrong side of anybody since the last war, and then it was mostly mortals. Nothing that would provoke a desire for revenge."

"You're sure about that?" Duncan's own eyes were piercing, with none of the brooding reflection in which Methos was so thoroughly immersed. Shade nodded.

"Very sure. The only Immortal I've had close dealings with in the whole of the past century is Reece - not counting Maria herself of course, or you two. Reece himself doesn't have any enemies, so this can't be some weird way of getting at him through me."

"I jolly well do have enemies." Reece sounded almost insulted by this suggestion that he was universally liked. "There's Joshua Kenton." He shrugged. "Although this is hardly his style."

"Hmm?" Kyle's query was more polite than intrigued, for his friend's words had caught him in mid-concentration, and he had not really been listening. Reece made a vague gesture in the air, easily making his old enemy appear to be little more than a passing concern.

"Joshua Kenton. Immortal fellow who's been trying to kill me since... well pretty much since I was born actually. Even I'm allowed one enemy, you know."

"And you've waited until now to tell me this because...?" Shade's tone was filled with amazement, but Reece did not seem aware of either his surprise or his indignation. Instead he gave another shrug.

"Not important. Certainly not relevant right now. Kenton wouldn't send us flowers, believe me."

"Mostly because he's dead." Moving with a slow gait that suggested deep thoughtfulness, Duncan went to the bar to fetch some beer. He realised only when he got there that he was all but mirroring the habitual actions of Methos, and he glared at the rows of neat bottles as though charging them with his own misdemeanour. A scowl passed momentarily across his face, but he fetched the bottles anyway. He could always blame Methos when Joe returned, and get his mortal friend to extract payment from the old Immortal's salary. "Amanda killed him, remember?"

"Did she? I don't remember her saying." Reece frowned. "He was going to kill me, she turned up and flirted with him for a bit, and then they both went off somewhere. Whatever she did after that I can't comment on, but when I last saw them they looked like they were heading off for the nearest hotel. I decided that I could live without knowing what happened after that." He took the beer that MacLeod was holding out. "You haven't been assuming all this time that he's dead, have you?"

"As you damn well knew we would." Methos looked angry, although a glare from MacLeod cooled his temper somewhat. "Don't put on that innocent expression, Reece. You learnt it from me, so it's not going to work."

"Oh come on Methos." His younger friend looked exasperated. "If you'd known that Kenton was still alive you'd have been fussing all round me like a mother hen. You'd never have let me leave that damned retreat; you'd have tried to stop me going off with Kyle... And anyway, I didn't lie. I said that I owed Amanda my life, and you just assumed that she'd killed Kenton for me. You should have known better. I mean, she could hardly have killed him then, could she? It would have been a breach of the Rules." He folded his arms, looking resolute. "Now could we please get back to the subject at hand? I'd like to know what these orchids are all about."

"Yeah, yeah." Methos looked as though he was rapidly sinking into a sulk. "You're not the only one that that nutcase wants to kill, you know." He snatched a proffered beer bottle away from the towering Highlander, and took the lid off with a neat little tool that had apparently been secreted away inside one of his pockets. A hovering scowl deepened its lines across his expressive features for a few moments, before finally he shook his head in weary acceptance. "Okay, fine. I should have known better, and we do have more pressing matters to attend to. But when Kenton creeps up on you and Orchid Boy over there, next time he finds himself with nothing better to do, just don't come crying to me when he beheads you both."

"Methos..." Exasperated, Reece sighed, rolling his eyes in fond impatience. "Honestly, you worry far too much."

"That's why I'm currently embarking on my sixth millennium. Your problem is that you don't worry nearly enough." For a moment it looked as though he was about to sink back into his previous dark mood, but with the aid of his beer he seemed to shake it off. MacLeod dropped a hand onto his shoulder, in the vaguely paternal manner he had that so annoyed the world's oldest man.

"Unwelcome revelations aside, old man, we really do have other problems right now - and yet another lurking shadow from your ever-increasing litany of old enemies isn't top of my list of priorities. I'll admit that you know Kenton better than I do, but he didn't strike me as the kind of guy who'd send flowers; and certainly not poetic messages through Kyle here."

"Well I don't know him at all, so I really can't comment - but my money is still on Maria." Shade was holding his beer without drinking it, and had as yet not even bothered to remove the lid. "I just wish that I knew what she wanted."

"To kill somebody, presumably." MacLeod sat back down, stretching his long legs out before him, and toying with the cold neck of his bottle of beer. Drops of condensation ran down his fingers, and he watched one of them splash to the floor. "If that's what she's always done in the past..."

"That's about the size of it. Of course she doesn't usually send the flowers to me, but then I assume she's showing off about how easily she followed me here. That would be just like her. If I could only understand what this little delivery is supposed to mean, then maybe I could do something."

"Maybe it doesn't mean anything specific in itself." Once again all eyes turned to point at Amy, and once again the young Watcher blushed. "Well your friend, Maria or whatever she calls herself these days. She obviously enjoys killing people, and making sure that you know all about it. It looks to me as though she's just rubbing it in - telling you that she's going to be doing more of the same here. Nice woman, clearly."

"It's possible I suppose." Kyle shrugged. "She always was... flighty. As though killing people was all just so much fun. She'd throw me all kinds of clues just because it amused her to do it, and she wouldn't even be remotely bothered that I might use those clues to outsmart her, and bring her down."

"She probably didn't think that you'd be able to do anything. It's not rare for deluded people to be utterly convinced of their own invincibility. They'll commit crimes and leave all sorts of clues in the process, and never even consider that what they're doing is risky." MacLeod, as usual, sounded as though he knew what he was talking about. "People like that will leave all kinds of hints and clues quite openly, often on purpose, like in a game."

"Clues huh." Reece flicked in disgust at the card that had been delivered with the flowers. "Well just as long as we aren't supposed to figure anything out from this piece of nonsense. It's about as lucid as Kyle here after one chocolate milkshake too many."

"It's Kubla Khan," MacLeod told him, deadpan. "Two hundred years of scholarly study hasn't brought the world any closer to understanding what that poem is about."

"Or even to figuring out if it means anything at all. He wrote it in a dream brought on by excessive opium didn't he?" Amy's eyes sought out Methos, as though somehow he should know all about it. "It could mean nothing more than... than him maybe eating cheese before he went to sleep. That's supposed to cause weird dreams."

"But doesn't." Methos stared at his bottle of beer, apparently challenging it, by deep telepathic contact, to give him all the answers he required. "Back in the early part of the nineteenth century I spent a fair bit of my time surrounded by some fairly heavily drugged poets indulging in some very peculiar dreams. I can't lay claim to ever having met Coleridge, but I do know that that sort of behaviour tends to lead to some fairly intense introspection. It was one of the reasons I started to avoid the opium. I wouldn't like to analyse a dream like that, and I certainly wouldn't try to figure out what Kubla Khan is all about." He drank some beer, and frowned very deeply. "Byron had one or two interesting theories, but I never put much store in them." His frown flickered, his forehead smoothing and crinkling as his thoughts chased around inside his brain, mingling with a smile that he did not seem able to control. "I remember one time... although on reflection that story should probably wait for another day."

"You're missing the point." Kyle seemed rather more agitated than they were used to seeing him, and the new lines on his face did not suit him at all. "It's not supposed to make any sense. It's not supposed to mean anything, or carry any double meanings. It's just a piece of poetry. It's her trademark. Now look, it's getting late. I don't want to stay here talking any longer. We really ought to be... doing something. Something positive. All this talk is getting us nowhere."

"What can we do?" MacLeod seemed unable to suggest a suitable course of action, which did nothing for the obvious strain in Kyle's eyes. "Until we can track her down, or find some way to pre-empt her, we're just treading water."

"And besides which, we have other things to worry about right now." Sounding rather as though he were anxious to change the subject, Methos stood up very suddenly, and tossed his empty beer bottle over the bar. There was a sharp clink as it landed in the unseen recycling bin, but if this feat gave him any pleasure he chose not to display it. "I have some new band arriving here any minute, expecting the place at least looking ready for business, with the piano nicely tuned and waiting to be played. Psychotic old girlfriends are going to have to wait."

"But this is much more interesting!" Amy sounded indignant, annoyed that her first shot at real involvement in Immortal affairs was being taken away from her. MacLeod followed Methos to his feet.

"No, he's right. We have to open up as normal. If nothing else it's only fair to Joe. Anyway, the last thing we want is for this woman to see that she's got anybody wound up. If she's planning to get under Kyle's skin, then we shouldn't let her see that she's winning." He began lifting chairs down from tables. "Make yourself useful Amy. This is your father's place, after all."

"Now I know why it is that most mortals avoid your lot. You have a remarkable way of making me feel like a child." Although her word were sulky, her tone was light-hearted. MacLeod raised an eyebrow.

"Do you know how old I am?"

"More or less."

"Well then. When you see another couple of centuries pass you by, then you can complain about feeling childish." He smiled good-naturedly. "Now start lifting down chairs, and see about getting some of these tables cleaned up. Like Methos says, the band is sure to be arriving in a few minutes."

"Maybe they can figure out what the note means." Scowling, Kyle slipped the piece of white card into his pockets, then set about helping MacLeod. Despite the load on his mind he worked with a fast and even pace, and by the time that Methos had returned from working his magic upon the musical instruments, the flamboyant Immortal had begun to polish the tabletops into a brilliant shine. The smell of wood polish lingered in the air, mingling with the stronger scent of floor cleaner. Reece was pushing around a broom, and MacLeod was cleaning away the more stubborn stains with the aid of a brightly coloured mop.

"I should have you lot here to help every evening." Pushing up the blinds that covered the windows and the doors, Methos gave the place a final glance over. "Not bad."

"Not bad? It's better than it ever looks when you're running the place on your own." MacLeod threw the door keys at him. "Now get the place open. Circulate. Have fun. Maybe it'll help us to think."

"Think? In a jazz club?" Methos looked faintly hurt. "Nobody can think in the middle of that kind of racket."

"Just open the doors, old man." MacLeod sat down in the nearest chair, and tried to look as though he was already enjoying himself. If it was supposed to inspire the others to relax it did not succeed.

"What do we do if she comes in here tonight?" Amy tried not to sound too excited, but did not do too good a job. "I mean, if she knew to deliver the flowers here, she might decide to do a house call. She might even be planning on taking her next victims from the clientele."

"Nobody murder's Joe regulars and gets away with it." MacLeod turned to watch Methos as he unlocked the doors and pushed them open. A solitary figure strolled in, looking faintly cold. He glanced around at the assembled group, all of whom were staring back at him, and promptly looked extremely embarrassed.

"Um... Am I early or something?" He glanced at his watch, but MacLeod shook his head, leaping to his feet.

"No. Not at all, no. I'm sorry." He waved the man over to the bar, taking up a position behind it. "What can I get you?"

"Er... beer. Thanks." He watched nervously as the Highlander served him, then paid with the exact change, as though he had got it ready before leaving the house. There was something very nervous about him; the clear signs of somebody faintly awkward in company, and who probably did not get out very much at all. MacLeod found himself wondering if that was the sort of character that Kyle's ex-wife preyed upon, and then forced himself to drop the thought. The last thing that he wanted to have to explain when Joe returned from his trip was that the bar had been closed down by the police, pending a murder investigation. Given some of the things that had happened to Dawson in recent years, that really would be the icing on the cake. The poor guy would probably sell up and go to live in a religious retreat.

"So, er... I hear there's a live band in tonight." The lost looking man by the bar was trying to stumble his way through an awkward conversation, and Duncan took pity on him. He smiled in as friendly a fashion as he could manage, given his preoccupied mind.

"Yeah. Live band. They're good." He had no idea who was playing, but he assumed that they were good; at least they would be if Joe had booked them. If Methos was responsible there was no telling what they would sound like. The scrawny little fellow began to fumble with a cigarette, then changed his mind and made a grab for a nearby bowl of peanuts instead.

"This your place?"

"No." MacLeod glanced over to the door, where a few more people had just entered. None of them were female, and none of them were Immortals. "It belongs to a friend of mine."

"Lucky guy."

"Yeah." Trying not to let the fizzled-out conversation head into awkward territory, MacLeod offered the man a brief smile. "Excuse me. I have to serve these people." The man nodded quickly, in fast, sudden bursts of a ferocious energy, then turned around and scuttled away to one of the tables near to the waiting instruments.

"Beers. Three." The new arrivals were very different to the first man; all well-dressed, all self-confident, all clearly at ease. MacLeod served them, accepting the twenty dollar bill that came in payment, and nodding a faintly uncomfortable thanks when he was told to keep the change. These three people made no attempt to include him in their conversation, and they wandered away together to sit in a quiet corner booth. Were they the kind of people that a mad Immortal woman might choose as her victims? It was a weird feeling, to coldly consider a group of people as potential victims, without any thought for the lives behind the unfamiliar faces. It made his stomach churn.

"Band's late." Rolling up with a falsely casual air, Reece joined Methos by the door. The older Immortal glanced down at him, his eyes unconcerned.

"They'll turn up. It's their first time here. Maybe they're having a hard time finding the place."

"Are they good?"

"I don't know." He managed to dredge up a smile. "Does it matter?"

"Maybe. If some poor mortal is going to breathe their last here tonight, I'd like to think that they're listening to something worthwhile." He frowned. "You... you don't mind us coming here, do you? Only, when this all came up I thought... well I thought it seemed like the likely place. There was nothing to tie Kyle to Seacouver; no reason to think that we'd be followed here. I didn't think that we might be putting your customers in danger."

"I don't mind." Methos was still staring out through the open door, but he seemed to snap back to full awareness after a moment. "Although that's not to say that I'm glad I've suddenly got a psychopath to worry about again. Funnily enough I've been trying to avoid them of late. But I don't think that you've put anybody in danger. If this woman is determined to kill, she's going to kill." He smiled rather weakly. "Just let this be a lesson to you, if you ever decide to tie the knot."

"Right." Reece nodded very seriously. "Make sure my fiancée isn't a psychopath. I'll remember that one."

"Good." For a moment it didn't look as though the old Immortal had been joking - then he broke into a broad smile. "I remember my own... third wife. Maybe the fourth. Or possibly... Well, whatever. She might well have had psychopathic leanings."


"No. Opera fan. Amounts to the same thing." They shared a smile, before Methos turned away slightly, and gestured towards Shade. "He's letting this thing get to him too much."

"His ex-wife is murdering innocent people. That sort of thing is likely to get to anybody."

"Not to me, Reece. Not to me. Now get over there and cheer him up before he starts turning the beer and the spirits sour. People are starting to look nervous around him, and this place is supposed to have a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere. Joe Dawson won't thank any of us if we've turned his club into a social leper colony by the time he gets back. He was nervous enough about leaving it in my hands as it is."

"Point taken." Reece swivelled, spinning neatly on his back wheels. "I'll try my old talent show routine on him. I used to do a little George Formby thing when I was about six. If that doesn't make him smile..."

"Does George Formby make anybody smile?"

"I'm not listening, old man." Reece was heading away across the floor, oblivious to the older man's smirk. He didn't see the smirk stiffen and fade; didn't see the sudden tensing of the muscles in the old Immortal's jaw. All that he was aware of, a second later, was his own reaction to the sudden approach of another Immortal. Shade stood up. Behind the bar MacLeod had frozen, albeit for only a second. He resumed his work, serving the growing crowd, somehow managing to look as relaxed as though he carried not a single concern. Reece turned around, very slowly.

At the door, Methos was greeting the members of the band. They had arrived together; four men dressed in black suits, so far as Reece could see. None of them seemed to be the source of the Immortal presence. They were all of medium height; all of a similar build. Two were white and two were black, and they all had the air of faintly sophisticated types. One was holding a great sheaf of musical notation; sheets of white paper dotted with black marks, and streaks of red ink. He was at the front of the group, chatting to Methos with cheerful excitability, such as any musician might display when playing a new venue for the first time. If he was disturbed by his host's obvious distraction, he gave no sign of it.

"I thought there were five of you?" Interrupting a largely uninteresting soliloquy about what the band was intending to play, Methos finally glanced away from the door. The musician looked a little taken aback.

"Our singer stayed back to pay the cab driver. She'll be along in a second."

"She?" Methos let his eyes stray back to the door, and felt his instincts stir within him. What was the likelihood of the singer being the source of the Immortal presence? He had to stop being so jumpy. One little story about an Immortal woman with a thirst for blood, and he was jumping at the first presence he detected. He felt a little embarrassed, until the dimming light from the doorway was cut suddenly short by the figure that stepped in off the street. The blaze of nearby Immortality flared up sharply, and Methos felt every muscle in his body react to the sudden increase in tension. He blinked.

"Hello." The woman was about his own height, athletic in build in the way that so many Immortals were, due to their necessary fencing skills. She had raven-black hair that fell in faint curls to her shoulders, and her eyes - a blue that was strikingly dark - flashed with a remarkable mix of flirtation and very direct challenges. In her black suit, tailored to match those of the rest of the band, she looked like a high-powered executive; save that in place of a briefcase she carried a long, thin box. Undoubtedly most people knew it only as the container for a personally-favoured microphone; but Methos had no doubt what else was secreted inside.

"Hello." He stared hard at her, searching perhaps for an indication that this was the woman once married to Kyle; although there was no reason at all why that should be the case. There were any number of Immortals in Seacouver, and just because one had turned up at the bar tonight did not meant that she was the same one he and his friends had just been discussing. Despite his suspicions, however, he found himself unable to take his eyes off her for long enough to search out Shade for identification. He asked the obvious question anyway, using the most recent of the aliases Kyle had mentioned. "Er... Anna Lang?"

"Anna?" She laughed then; a rich, warm sound that carried as much of an underlying challenge as did her eyes. "Whatever gave you that idea?" Her accent was unplaceable; distinctive and mixed. Not British, not American, not French; not a mix of all three like Connor MacLeod, or a harsher amalgam that might have suggested Eastern European influences. He decided in the end that she must have spent a good deal of time in Spain or Portugal, or perhaps in Latin America. "My name is Danielle Armstrong. Like Louis, but without the wrinkles."

"Um... We're late." Apparently a little uncomfortable at the depth of the subtext between his singer and his host, the man with the musical notation turned towards the dais where the instruments were waiting. "Should we start straight away?"

"Er... yeah. Yes." Methos nodded, finally dragging his eyes away from the Immortal woman. "Please do. Everything should be ready, so er... go right ahead."

"Thankyou." The woman - Danielle - smiled at him, before tossing her head and turning towards the stage. He was still reeling from the mixture of warmth and ice in the smile when it struck him that her hair, freely dancing about across her shoulders as she tossed her head, had lost something that had been pinned within it. With an effort he turned his eyes, watching the little piece of ornamentation as it fluttered down to the ground. He was only mildly surprised to see that it was a white orchid, the petals breaking away from the main bloom as it fell, spinning outward in a broad sweep of delicate colour. His head snapped up. Kyle was watching, transfixed, eyes focussed upon Danielle as though nothing else existed in the world. The face that was usually smiling was now hardened almost beyond recognition.

"I think we can assume this is her." Amy's voice came from so close beside Methos that he might have jumped - had not his heightened senses warned him of her approach several moments before. He nodded, eyes never leaving the strangely hypnotic figure now approaching the stage. "Weird set up for a serial killer."

"How do you mean?" He glanced at her, surprised to see real fear echoing in her eyes. Somehow he had expected her to be excited rather than afraid - but clearly Amy Thomas, for all her enthusiasm, was just an ordinary person at heart. He was glad to see such a sign of restraint, for he liked her too much to want to think her a danger, either to herself or to others.

"Well you know. Serial killer? Generally considered to be a lawbreaker, at least by most societies? I was thinking of a slightly more subtle approach than walking in through the front door, and taking up a job as a jazz singer. It's just a little bit exposed, isn't it?"

"Maybe she likes to take risks." He flicked his gaze towards MacLeod, asking for advice and getting a frown that clearly said Wait. "Anyway, even serial killers need to earn a living." He eyed the door. "Say Amy, whilst you're here, there happens to be this great little restaurant that I know of. Live music, plenty of food, great value for money. I don't suppose you'd like to join me in a meal somewhere well out of the firing line?"

"You wouldn't honestly walk out of here, and let your friends deal with this alone?" She sounded shocked, but somehow didn't look it. Presumably Joe had told her what to expect, when dealing with the world's oldest man.

"Honestly?" He raised an eyebrow, smiling in an easy and entirely unconcerned way. "I'd leave like a shot, and not give it a moment's thought. It's called survival. But if you're not feeling hungry..."

"Shouldn't you be introducing the band?" Her change of subject was so fluent and fluid that he had to give her credit. He shrugged.

"House rule. I'm not allowed to introduce a fellow Immortal. If she wants a big build up, she's going to have to introduce herself."

"What as? Four Fall Guys And The Orchid Killer?" Amy suppressed a shiver. "This place has got a really unfriendly atmosphere all of a sudden."

"Well just as long as the customers don't pick up on it. They can drink, they can fight, and they can get dismembered by Shade's ex-wife, but they're not leaving here until closing time. I promised Joe that the books would be looking good when he came home."

"You're a thoughtful guy."

"That's not something that gets said very often." He let his hand fall towards his sword, wishing that his neck would stop tingling. "I think the band's about to start singing."

"Just so long as that's all they're going to do." She swallowed. "I'm going to go and get a drink. Preferably several pints of vodka, if you think there's enough of it behind the bar. Then I'm going to go and shiver in a corner, and hope that nobody notices I'm there. Are you going to join me?"

"Very likely." He paused, listening to Danielle as she gave her band a brief introduction. She had the most glorious speaking voice, and there did not seem to be a single person in the place who was not listening intently, hanging on to her every word. Even Kyle seemed enraptured, although there were many reasons why that might have been the case.

"Good. Just don't stray too far, alright? I may still take you up on that restaurant offer. Is it a long way from here?"

"How's China sound? The place I was thinking of is in the Shandong province, in Qingdao. I think you'd like it."

"It sounds just the thing." They shared a brief smile, before Amy glanced back to the bar. "I'm going to speak to Duncan. I'll see you in a few minutes."

"Yeah." He watched her as she moved quietly across the room, weaving her way neatly between batches of customers as though she had been doing it all of her life, or perhaps had experience as a waitress. Methos was surprised to find himself wondering about it, and let his mind guide itself back to more immediate concerns. Up on the stage the band was beginning to play; easy, gentle notes with a mellow sound. Danielle was swaying, her whole body hypnotic; restful; serene; bringing the music to life with each gentle undulation of her remarkable, impressive form. Everybody was watching her; every eye in the place fixed on her rhythmic, swaying body; the hypnosis given greater force by the deceptive serenity of the low, bluesy tune. The old Immortal wanted to shake his head to destroy the creeping magic, but instead he thought again about that pleasant little restaurant in Qingdao. Now was definitely just the time to pop out for a quick visit. And to think that Amy had thought he was joking...

"Methos?" Reece's wheels were hardly silent as they moved across the floor, but still he managed to catch his fellow Immortal unawares. Methos blinked, startled that his friend had managed to sneak up on him when the relatively silent Amy had been unable to do the same thing. Obviously he had been giving a little too much of his attention to that bewitching figure upon the stage. She was moving closer to her microphone now, staring at it as though it were her oldest love, smiling as if every inch of the cable was a target for her devoted flirtation. Most of the customers seemed on the verge of dribbling.

"Kyle's pretty edgy." Keeping his voice so low that Methos could barely hear him, his old friend tried to look as though he was simply enjoying the music. The old man nodded his understanding.

"Make sure he doesn't do anything."

"Like what? He's not fool enough to jump up on stage and cut her head off. I just don't know what he's feeling, and it's got me worried. I've never seen him so tense."

"Maybe you've never seen him with an ex-wife before. Divorce can be a pretty unpleasant experience." Methos stole a glance at the black-clad Immortal, silent and still as a mannequin; or rather as a mannequin's shadow, cast sharp and dark on a marble wall. He had only met Shade once before, but on that occasion had seen him to be a born joker, unable to keep serious for longer than a few minutes at a time, carefree and warm-spirited, without a bad word for anyone. Now he seemed like a different person entirely, and it definitely wasn't an improvement.

"If this is an example of an ex-wife, I'm very glad I've never met one of them before. In fact I really, really hope that she's the only one. Of his, anyway." The smile in Reece's eyes faded. "What are we going to do, Methos? Try to keep her here when everybody else is gone?"

"Something tells me that that won't be easy. Besides, it might be that the rest of the band is involved somehow. They might know something, or she might have told them just about anything. We don't know how innocent they are."

"And that doesn't do much for the odds. Four of us, four of them." He frowned. "And I'm not really a whole lot of use."

"As pacifists go, you're very useful when you want to be." Methos smiled. "You can talk them to death, MacLeod can fight them, Shade can tell them some of his jokes... we should win hands down."

"What'll you be doing? Hiding?"

"Actually there's this restaurant I keep meaning to slip off to." Methos managed an innocently wounded expression. "Every time I decide to make a break for it, somebody comes over to chat."

"Sorry." Reece spun on his back wheels, turning a neat one hundred and eighty degrees. "I'm going back to spray a little iced water on the embers. Do you have any ideas in the mean time?"

"Yeah." Methos sank his hands into his pockets, and tried to look reasonably decisive. "Listen to the music. Have a beer. The best thing we can do right now is wait and see if she makes any kind of a move. We certainly can't do anything with the place full of mortals."

"You could close early."

"No. That might pressure her, and I don't want to risk anything." Methos gestured towards Kyle, growing more rigid every second, if that were possible, staring with a curious lack of hatred at the woman who had killed just to torment him. She was staring back at him, finally breaking into song just as the growing, swelling music around her reached its introductory crescendo. Her voice, perhaps predictably after such a build up, was astounding. Clear and strong, it wrapped the melody in its honeyed embrace, turning the already smooth sound into something sultry and deep. Reece's hand hesitated on the rims of his wheels.

"She's good." He was staring towards her with obvious respect, and Methos gave his chair a meaningful push.

"She's way out of your league. Just stay back, and keep Shade out of the way. Keep an eye on Amy."

"Will do." He grinned over his shoulder. "Seems a hell of a shame to cut that head off though..."

"Yeah." Methos watched him return to his friend, staring into the half-darkness of the moodily lit club as the two friends conversed in gentle whispers. He couldn't make out the words, and the light was not good enough to lip read, but he saw enough of Kyle's expression to guess at what was being said. Reece was worried for his friend, and Shade himself was far out of his depth. He had no idea how to handle the situation, and was very obviously afraid. Perhaps he was worried that Reece might be at risk from the woman he had once known, or perhaps he was just afraid for the mortals that she might be planning to kill. Whatever the cause of his fears, he was several shades paler than was normal for his skin tone, and his usually bright eyes were narrowed with unfamiliar strain. Reece put a hand on his arm, but got little by way of a response. The old Immortal let his eyes linger on them for a while, imagining the worries and fears of them both; knowing just how knotted and tense the muscles of Shade's arm, beneath Reece's gentle hand, would be. He turned away, back to the stage, exchanging a brief nod with MacLeod as their eyes met across the room. He saw the warm good humour in the Highlander's dark eyes; the thoughts and the plans and the faint hint of familiar reassurance. There were no answers in the face of the younger man, though. Duncan was just as much at a loss as everyone else - which certainly didn't bode well. Leaning back against the wall, Methos folded his arms and tried to convince himself that he wanted to stay. On the stage Danielle's voice grew louder, as she moved seamlessly into the next song. A flutter of applause broke up the notes, and she acknowledged it with a smile that chilled the old man's heart. He smiled back all the same, meeting her warm gaze, unable to avoid the searching eye contact, wondering just how long her performance was going to last. The way things were going, this was likely to be a long night.


It was in the early hours of the morning that Danielle Armstrong finally ceased to sing. The last notes of her concluding song hung heavily in the air for several seconds, drifting away into the darkened room like the drifting wisps of cigarette smoke blown by a scattering of customers. It took a moment before the hushed audience realised that their entertainment was over, and only then did they break into applause. Danielle acknowledged the praise as though touched by it, her eyes glowing with modesty and restraint. Behind her the band bowed unevenly, the cymbals on the drum kit rattling every time the drummer moved about. Quick as a flash Duncan MacLeod was on the stage, a gleaming tray in his hands.

"Can I offer you gentlemen - and lady - a drink? On the house of course." He offered the tray around, the five glasses balanced upon it glinting in the lights around the stage. They were large glasses, filled with a strong red wine, and the four male members of the band fell on it as though it were all that stood between them and imminent death. Only Danielle hesitated, her compelling eyes drifting up and down MacLeod's tall frame.

"Are you trying to get me drunk?" It might have been a joking question, and certainly the rest of the band laughed. So did those members of the audience who were close enough to hear the apparently off-hand comment. MacLeod smiled.

"I doubt one drink will have any unpleasant side effects." He pushed the tray towards her, and with a gentle incline of the head, she accepted the glass.

"Thankyou." She frowned as she looked him up and down one more time. "Do I know you?"

"Maybe. I hear you've been around." His lips twitched in a tight little smile, filled with his usual geniality. "So have I."

"Really." She nodded slowly. "There seem to be quite a few of us here tonight. Those of us who... have been around, I mean." She sipped her wine, managing to make the simple action look decidedly seductive. "Perhaps we could all have a little chat later on?"

"I was rather hoping you'd say that." He held the tray out for the others to return their empty glasses. "Perhaps we could discuss horticulture? I'm told that you're interested in orchids."

"Amongst other things." She flashed him the sweetest smile that he had seen in a long time, then drank the rest of her wine, and gently placed her glass back on the tray. "I'll see you at the bar in a few minutes. Tell your friends to join us."

"I'll do that." He eyed her with a cold stare, that might have imparted many things, then turned about and headed away back to the bar. Methos, eyes as alive and aware as any wild beast, followed him. His footfalls were light and soundless on the floor of the club, and Duncan almost jumped to hear his voice so close behind him.

"Trouble?" It was a predictable question from somebody who spent his life trying to avoid such things. Duncan grunted.

"Isn't it always? And what else do you expect from this woman? She wants to talk."

"To us?"

"To all of us." He put the tray down, heading around behind the bar to serve a pair of loitering mortals. "We ought to hear what she has to say."

"Just in case Shade is lying?"

"Why would he? No, I believe his story. I just want to hear her out. Maybe talk to her."

"Use the famous MacLeod charm to turn her back to the straight and narrow? Your virtuosity shames us all." The faint sarcasm brought a crinkle to MacLeod's brow, but he made no similar response.

"Just get the others."

"Your wish is my command." Methos inclined his head in an extremely mocking bow, then turned about to gather his companions about him. They came from their booth, movements slow and suspicious, eyes almost as wary as his own. Danielle and her band were coming as well, homing in on the bar like sharks closing in on a bleeding seal. Reece raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question. Methos shrugged an equally wordless answer.

"We have an audience," Duncan informed them, his own eyes fixed firmly upon the approaching quintet. "Play it cool."

"No chance of that." Kyle looked cold and uncertain, but he showed no sign of causing trouble. Instead he leant back against the bar, near to where Reece was sitting, and transferred his piercing gaze to the bottles of wines and spirits. His dark head, bowed and silent, shouted subtext that must have been obvious even to the many unsuspecting mortals, but nobody seemed moved by the tense atmosphere. Danielle was all smiles, her band apparently innocent and welcoming. Nobody seemed particularly inclined to cause trouble, and MacLeod, as ever, was smooth and charming in his rôle as the perfect host.

They talked together for what remained of the evening; a curious group, gathered around the bar, their conversation interrupted only when MacLeod went to serve one of the lingering customers. There were many mortals left in the bar - some thirty-seven including the members of Danielle's startlingly talented jazz band. Like an honour guard they sat around her now - the band gathered beside her, separating her from her fellow Immortals whilst the customers hovered in their attempts to get closer; wanting to buy drinks for the extraordinary singer; wanting to ask her questions; wanting some of her aura of greatness to rub off on them. She sent them away with a royal wave every time one of them loomed in her senses, smiling all the while like some sweetly patronising princess acknowledging the well-wishes of her subjects. Groups of them chattered nearby, talking about music, about their lives, about their husbands, wives and children. Duncan found himself wanting to listen to them, even though his business with Danielle was decidedly more pressing. Maybe he was still worried about her likely plans to kill some of these people; certainly that fear still edged in on the borders of his mind. These people; these gentle, ordinary souls; came to this bar as a matter of routine. Some of them wore faces that he knew fairly well, even if he didn't know their names. He knew that the slightly over-weight man in the grey suit had two daughters, the youngest eight; that the very athletic fellow in his sixties, his iron-grey hair still streaked with black, was a flautist of remarkable finesse, despite his huge frame and clumsy looking fingers. The woman in the corner booth - fifty years-old at a guess - who always wore blue, and always wore her faded red hair in a bun - she had lost a son to friendly fire in the Gulf, and spent her weekends working for Greenpeace. He picked up snatches of their lives when he visited Joe here on occasional nights. Joe himself of course probably knew them all by name - could probably tell him exactly when Grey Suit's daughter had turned eight, and what the name had been of the blue-clad woman's late lamented son. Letting any of them die would be letting Joe down, and damaging the life his friend had chosen for himself in this meeting place for innocent mortals.

"What do you want?" He recognised Reece's voice, once again asking the question that had already been asked, by all of them save Methos, at least twice since they had met in their awkward huddle. Danielle smiled at him, her beautiful face lit by glorious lights.

"You're Stephen's friend, aren't you. Except that he doesn't call himself Stephen anymore."

"You're hardly one to talk about names." Shade sounded deeply resentful, his voice brimming with undercurrents of the purest dislike. She turned her smile onto him, eyelashes fluttering in continuous flirtation.

"We all change our names every so often. It's necessary." She moved a little closer to him, reaching out one hand to try to brush against his. "It's just that I liked Stephen, that's all. It suited you."

"Not any more it doesn't." He backed out of her reach, moving his hand away from her, and letting it fall onto the back of Reece's chair. There was certainty in the feel of those familiar handles, and in the warmth of the back rest. Beside Reece, seated on one of the low chairs from a nearby table, Methos moved slightly. His dark eyes slid uneasily over the assembled group, but he didn't speak. Nobody seemed to notice that he was even there.

"You didn't answer the question." Amy was standing behind Methos' chair, tense with uncertainty and excitement; wishing that she was somewhere else and yet greatly pleased that she wasn't. Danielle looked up at her, eyes slightly mocking.

"Now you're a surprise I must say. Which one do you belong to?"

"I beg your pardon?" Blinking uncertainly, Amy tried not to look intimidated by the coolly appraising eyes focussed upon her. The condescending smile twitched the perfect lips, emphasising the air of superior disdain.

"I mean, which of these men let you be here, with us? You must be a... consort, shall we say. They wouldn't let you come here as a casual bystander, surely?"

"I--" Amy looked down at Methos, the action automatic, as though she expected him to come to her aid. He didn't. "I'm a-- that is I know Me-- Adam. Adam's my friend."

"Adam?" The cool eyes flicked from Duncan to Methos and back again. "I'm assuming that means the quiet one. The tall one behind the bar doesn't look like an Adam."

"I'm Duncan MacLeod." He said it in his deep voice; the one he used when identifying himself to an opponent, just prior to issuing the challenge. "Of the Clan MacLeod."

"Really." She couldn't have been less interested, and Duncan's pride was badly stung. She ignored him, and looked back towards Methos. "And what about Adam? Are you also with this 'Clan MacLeod'?"

"No." He stared at her, his own eyes easily matching hers for coolness and detachment. "I'm just Adam."

"Which undoubtedly means that you're something very much more." She glanced back at her band, all arranged like soldiers guarding a treasure. "Like my little entourage here. Just a band? Or something else?"

"What do you want here?" This time it was Methos who asked the question, in a voice that strongly suggesting unwinding patience. She shrugged, her fingers playing with the long stem of her wine glass, the pink liquid inside moving in swirls and circles.

"What I've always wanted. My husband. The life I was promised in a place of worship, in the eyes of the God I was raised to fear. 'Till death us do part', is what he said." Her eyes snapped up to glare at Kyle. "And how long did I get? A day? Two days? And then he was running back home like a startled rabbit, with all of his promises forgotten in the space that it took for the sun to rise. Not good enough."

"So you've been killing people all these years just because he left you?" Amy had spoken a little too loudly, but fortunately no one was paying them any undue attention. She lowered her voice. "Isn't that just a little bit obsessive?"

"I was in love." She shrugged, eyes dancing over Amy's tense form. "You'd know all about that I suppose."

"Leave her alone." MacLeod stood up straight, hands automatically moving to fill the two beer glasses thrust at him by a pair of passing customers. Rules about hygiene, and never re-using dirty glasses, danced like sentinels through his head, but he ignored them. The customers didn't object, especially when he failed to charge them. They wandered away, speaking through foam, mumbling something about a recent release at the cinema.

"If I want to mock the mortal, that's up to me." Danielle eyed him as though he were a badly turned out footman at a state banquet. "I don't really think that you're in any position to stop me, do you? Even if you can fight your way past my companions here, I'd be gone before any of you could stop me. Then where would you be? In no better a position than you were before I turned up here tonight. Waiting for the bodies to mount up; looking for the next interesting little quote, attached to a bunch of my favourite flowers."

"They know?" Kyle's eyes snapped to the rest of the band, seeing them now in a new light. Danielle nodded.

"Certainly they know. I never did believe in secrets. I told them as soon as I met them; when I first chose them to come with me. They have nothing to lose, you see. They were happy to come with me on this little quest."

"If it's a quest to make your husband come back, then it's over." Pushing himself away from Reece's chair, standing up to the fullness of his not unimpressive height, Kyle folded his arms across his black-clad chest, and wished that he didn't feel quite so much like a condemned man preparing to mount the steps up to the gallows. It should have been an heroic moment, but instead he felt heavy-limbed and confused. "I'll come with you. Wherever you want to go, whatever you want to do... I'll even take the vows again, just like I offered to in Oslo. If you want to take my head, then take it. I don't want to find any more mortal bodies slashed into pieces. I'm sick of your games, Maria."

"Danielle." Her eyes were like shards of glass, sharp and hard and dangerously bright. "It's a nice offer... Kyle. But I'm just not interested in these things any more. Besides, I rather think that your heart has moved on."

"But you said--"

"I know what I said." She shrugged - careless, casual. "You've been a clown too long, Kyle. Remember the days before the entertaining? Before you started looking for a joke for every occasion? Before you thought that smiles were what made the world go round? Perhaps you can't remember back that far... Perhaps there was never anything more to you than the jokes and the smiling. But if you could see back to a darker time, you might remember what it's like to torment a man. To see the pain in his eyes... to watch his hopelessness and his helplessness, when he knows that there's nothing that he can do to stop you. You care about people, Kyle. It's one of the things that first attracted me to you, and it's the reason why it's been so easy to hurt you all these years. Watching you discover the bodies... seeing the look in your eyes when you realise that I've done it all over again... when you're wondering just how many more there are that I've killed, that you haven't found... Torment, Kyle. It's a very special thing. A very personal thing. My greatest gift, to the man I was supposed to love."

"How very eloquent." Duncan's voice was cold. "But you'll notice that we're all looking decidedly unimpressed. I think it's time that you dropped out of the vengeance game, Miss Armstrong."

"And you're going to stop me?" She laughed. "My dear Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, you really couldn't stop me even if I wanted you to. My men are all around us, and each one of them has a gun trained on a different member of your charming clientele. One wrong move from any of you, and this place is turned into a shooting gallery. I even have one or two appropriate phrases neatly written on slips of paper. I might leave them floating artistically about the room as I make my escape."

"So you hold all the cards." Reece sounded as soft and as amiable as ever, despite the myriad thoughts that were running though his mind. "Where does that leave us?"

"Playing my game." She pushed away from the bar, tossing a crisp, new fifty dollar bill onto the polished surface right beside Duncan. "For the drinks."

"Don't expect any change." He left the note where it was, and followed her with his eyes. "What now?"

"Oh, I'll be in touch." She smiled at Kyle. "You'll know how, if you've thought about it hard enough."

"Danielle, wait." He moved forward, galvanised into action by her sudden planned departure. "Please, let's talk about this. You came here, to me. You as good as said that you wanted us to get back together again. That's got to meant something...?"

"Oh it does." She ran a gentle hand along his cheek, stroking his faintly curling hair. "It means that I'm still enjoying my little games, and that I have no plans to let them cease. That's all."


"Goodbye Kyle." She nodded around at the others. "Goodbye everybody. Oh, and don't try to follow me." She gestured at the members of her band. "You'll notice that they're not accompanying me to the exit."

"Danielle!" There was a harder edge to Kyle's voice now. Most of the customers looked up, but he gave no sign of having noticed. "Don't start this all over again. Please!"

"You should have thought about that all those years ago. You certainly should have thought about it before you decided to end the soltitude you used to enjoy so much. I wasn't good enough for you, Kyle. I wasn't the one you wanted to spend the rest of your life with - but these people are? Who are they Kyle? What are they? Are they worth more than I am?"

"Much, much more." It was a foolish thing to say, and he knew it. There was no point in holding back though - not anymore. "I was never able to stop you, Danielle. Never able to second guess you, or move quickly enough to put you out of action. These people will."

"You really think so?" She shook her head. "No, I doubt it. You won't be able to get near me, even if you do manage to work out my next move. Still, if you really want to try, I'm not going to stand in your way." She smiled, one hand on the door. "Wait for my next message, Kyle. It'll be along soon."

"I'll be waiting." He felt sick, but was determined not to let it show. She waggled her fingers, opening the door, passing out through it, vanishing into the street. The customers, still looking up, bemused by the exchange in that innocent way that he could only envy, chattered amongst themselves. He heard them commenting on the conversation, and its possible meanings. One or two people seemed to think that it was some variation on street theatre - a continuation of Danielle's stunning performance perhaps. He ignored their comments; their questions, their hails; their thin applause. Reece joined him.

"It's okay, Kyle." As always he sounded young; trusting and innocent and filled with a youthful sense of optimism. Usually the sound of his friend's voice made Shade smile, for it reminded him of just how wrong appearances could be, and especially how misleading it was to judge a person by the sound of their voice.

"Is it?" He glanced down at the ridiculously immature face, with its frame of dark blond curls, and had to smile. What it must be, to be stuck for the rest of eternity with a face that looked so young.

"Yeah. It is." For a moment there was steel in the warm eyes; a hardness and a steadfastness in the youthful face that reminded him of the truth behind the mask; the immortality behind the deceptively young face. He nodded.

"Then I guess it is." He glanced back at the bar. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Yeah. I'd like that." His friend reached out a hand, touching him briefly on the arm. "We'll figure it out. We will stop her."

"No you won't." It was one of the band members who spoke, his eyes cold and empty, his pale face looking ghostly and hard. He had his hand in his pocket, suggesting that it was clamped around the butt of a gun, and there were determined lines etched across his face. Kyle and Reece exchanged a look.

"Get back over to the others." There was nothing in the man's voice; no emotion, no life - no hint of the warmth and depth of feeling that had been so obviously on display in his music earlier in the evening. Reece raised an eyebrow.

"You do realise that guns don't have much effect on us?" He had leaned close to the mortal to deliver this revelation, his voice hushed to a conspiratorial level. Kyle fought a strange urge to laugh.

"I know." The musician, his talented hands buried in the deep pockets of his coat, gave Reece a look so cold that it almost stung. "But you can't say the same of the rest of the people in this room; so get back over to the others."

"We're going." Kyle fell in behind Reece, pushing his chair unnecessarily. Amy offered them both a conciliatory smile, but neither seemed much in the mood to return it.

"How about another drink?" One of the musicians, taller than the others and with rather greyer hair, was slumped against the bar with as much lazy grace as that so often displayed by Methos. MacLeod raised an eyebrow.

"I don't think so."

"Suit yourself." Throwing himself down into an empty chair, the man rested his feet on the nearest table, and leant back into a convenient position from which to eye Amy. She shifted aside, but didn't seem able to avoid his offensive stare. "But it's going to be a very long night."

"It already has been." MacLeod poured himself a whisky, throwing it back in one shot, wishing that he was not in this noisy, stuffy bar. He wanted to be back in his apartment, with one of his favourite operas playing on the expensive stereo system. Here it was too hard to talk; too hard to relax and think things through. "Question is, how much longer is it going to last?"

"We keep you here till closing." Another of the band members, an athletic, almost snake-like fellow who had played the saxophone with great aplomb, sat down on a highly polished table top and crossed his legs. "After that you can go where you want, one by one. No tailing, no tricks, no stupid moves."

"Got you well trained, hasn't she." Kyle's voice was bitter, which didn't suit him at all. The snaky saxophonist raised large, young-looking eyes to look up at him, then shrugged his thin shoulders.

"She pays well, in the right kind of currency." He grinned, although there was not much humour in his smile. He pulled a long cigar from a pocket of his suit, putting it into his mouth without bothering to light it, or even to clip the end. "Now get comfortable."

"Yeah." The drummer sat down beside him, resting on the edge of the table. "Maybe if you behave yourself, somebody'll play some music. Help the time pass a little quicker."

"Funny man." Tipping himself back in his chair, Methos folded his arms over his chest, watching the assorted group of musicians through half-closed lids. Faced with such sarcasm and sullenness, he felt an unexpected urge to whip out his sword, and indulge himself in a few bloodthirsty flashbacks. He remained still though, lapsing into silence, relaxing his body to an almost unnerving degree. Amy sat down beside him.

"So is this a regular night at my dad's place?" She spoke quietly, trying to sound jaunty but failing by quite a margin. Methos didn't look at her.

"Actually you caught us on a slow night." Wondering how long it was going to be before the customers began to notice that something was amiss, MacLeod wandered around to join the others. Amy smiled up at him, grateful for his nonchalant manner. She could see that he was worried, but he managed to keep it in check - without being as disturbingly casual about it as Methos.

"I don't think I want to hang out here all that often, in that case." She wished that Methos would talk to her, instead of acting as though she didn't even exist. She had come here in his company, hoping to help, and he had hardly spoken to her since. He had been friendly for a while; even chatty. Now he was just being annoying.

"You'll be home before you know it." Reece sounded bright and blasé; as though he was always being held hostage in night-clubs, by bands of marauding jazz musicians. For all she knew, he was. He did look faintly odd, as though unusual things had a habit of happening to him; and his companion, with his black and silver get-up and his outlandish boots, only served to emphasise the aura of weirdness. She wished that she had never answered Duncan MacLeod's phone call - that she had spent the day on that boat with her friends after all. Maybe even that she had just stayed at home, watching brainless shows on primetime television and eating too many salted peanuts. From beneath his half-closed lids, Methos watched her with amusement.

"Relax." He smiled to himself, oblivious to the hostile musicians, the glowering Kyle, the confused customers and the irritable Highlander. "There's a serial killer on the loose, we don't know where she is, and she's probably planning to kill us as well as half the mortals in Seacouver. But other than that everything's fine. Reece's right, and you'll be home before you know it." He relaxed still further, although until then Amy wouldn't have thought that possible. Without quite knowing why, she began to smile.

"I'm definitely in the wrong business." She thought about all of the other careers she might have chosen, had she not wanted to follow her then unconfirmed father into his own weird world. MacLeod made a gruff sound of agreement. There was definitely something to be said for a lifestyle that didn't involve sitting around in a bar, waiting for a very strange killer to massacre a large section of the population. As it was, however, that was precisely the lifestyle he was stuck with. He glanced back towards the bar, and thought about the myriad bottles behind it. There was, at the very least, one sure way in which to pass the rest of the night; and Methos, in that faintly irritating way that he had, was apparently reading his mind, for he glanced up as if MacLeod's thoughts had caused the many bottles and glasses to rattle and catch his attention. He grinned, somehow managing to look attentive and hopeful without losing a bit of his luxuriously relaxed pose.

"Good idea MacLeod." Clearly he expected the Highlander to do the honours, despite the fact that it was most definitely not Duncan MacLeod who had been left in charge of the bar. "A beer'd be great."


Methos awoke wondering why his bedroom wasn't where it was supposed to be, and how his bed had managed to shrink during the night. He groaned and rolled over, encountering nothing but cool empty air that yawned beneath him - before the floor leapt up and slammed hard into his back. He sat up. Where had the bedroom carpet gone?

"Ow." Sense returned to him just in time for the pain of falling to become nastily apparent. He wasn't in his bedroom of course - and he certainly wasn't in his bed. For some reason that had nothing to do with chivalry, and everything to do with stupidity, he had let Reece have his bed last night, and had himself taken one of the sofas in the giant lounge. It had taken quite some time to eventually fade off into sleep, bothered by the continual presence of other Immortal auras, and when he had finally lost himself to slumber it had been the deep kind; the kind that came from long hours of tension and worry; which by morning left him feeling as though he hadn't really slept at all. He stood up, cold in his thin white boxer shorts, and wondered quite why it had seemed such a good idea to leave the floorboards bare. It might look nice, but it definitely wasn't pleasant to walk on first thing in the morning.

The bathroom was annoyingly bright and cheerful, with was yet another reason to feel cross with the world. He had known when he had painted it that the cheerful fish motif on the walls was bound to annoy him sooner or later - he just hadn't expected it to be quite so soon. Tension-fraught mornings were hardly the best of times to enjoy bright and cheery decor, though, and he decided not to blame it on the fish themselves. Not just yet anyway. If they kept grinning at him from amid the blue-washed walls, though, they were swimming into dangerous waters indeed. He'd paint the whole bloody lot black. The thought cheered him up somewhat, and splashing some cold water on his face - meant to be hot, but the taps here were the wrong way round (in his opinion at least) and he kept using the wrong one - he glanced critically at his reflection in the mirror. It blinked back at him, looking a whole lot dopier and a great deal more haggard than he was sure he really looked himself. That was what came of buying expensive mirrors of course. They really couldn't be trusted. He ran his hands through his hair, watching his reflection do the same, wondered briefly why his untidy mirror image never bothered to use a comb, and then wandered back into the living room. He pulled on his jeans, tripping over them several times in the process, and then decided that the morning could go and be damned. It really wasn't being especially friendly.

The banging on the door came to him almost at the exact moment that the forceful glaring in his mind told him he had an Immortal guest. He growled an archaic obscenity in ancient Sumerian, lifted up his sword from where he had left it by the settee during the night, and padded softly over to the door. The peephole revealed a darkly looming presence, staring back at him even as he was trying to stare at it. He sighed. Duncan MacLeod of course. Who else?

"Morning!" Breezing past him with the air of the terminally cheerful, the Highlander strolled on into the flat. "You just got up?"

"No." Methos began to close the door, frowned as it encountered an unexpected obstacle, and then stepped back again to admit Amy Thomas. She glared at him, then smiled when she noticed his unruly hair and general state of undress.

"I thought you people were always supposed to be awake and alert? We could have been coming for your head."

"Yeah?" He brandished his sword at her, in a very half-hearted manner. "The way my head feels this morning, you'd be welcome to it." He headed back over the settee, tossing the sword on a nearby chair, and hunted around for the clean shirt he had purposefully ferreted out the night before. He found it eventually, lost behind the television, and vaguely remembered throwing it in that general direction the night before, when he had been infuriated by some annoying commentator who had insisted on talking all the way through the first half of the Bruce Springsteen/E-Street Band New York City concert. He shrugged it on, and decided that he couldn't be bothered to find out where his shoes had ended up.

"Here you are. This ought to do the trick." Breezing back into the gathering with his usual smooth grace and speed, MacLeod handed him a mug of coffee and then sat down in the nearest chair. One thing that was definitely to be chalked up in the old man's favour, the Highlander thought, was the fact that he could always be guaranteed to buy the most comfortable furniture going. He needed it apparently, as an important part of his congenital laziness. Methos stared down at the coffee, innocently steaming in its chunky, cream-coloured mug.

"I slept badly MacLeod. I don't have a hangover." He drank some of the coffee anyway, wincing at its temperature and strength. "What were you wanting, anyway?"

"I thought we should have a council of war." Stretching his long legs, MacLeod leaned back into the soft embrace of the remarkable chair. "In case you hadn't noticed, we have a situation that needs resolving."

"Danielle Armstrong." Methos' mind drifted back to the previous evening, changed now by the passage of his few sleep-cosseted hours, into a vaguely dream-like time that did not really seem to have happened. He remembered her extraordinary voice, backed by the outstanding talents of her band, and the way that it had all come to a head during their talk at the bar. The band with their guns - mortals serving a ruthless immortal master; Danielle's strange words, and her apparent determination to kill as many people as she could; the inability of her fellow Immortals to talk her around, or to prevent her from escaping their clutches. He drank some more coffee, and wondered if she had killed anybody last night.

"What about her." The door to the bedroom had opened soundlessly, and Kyle Shade strode out into the larger room. The sullenness of the previous evening seemed to have been washed away from him by sleep, and he looked almost his old self again. His boots shone brightly in the morning light, and his clothing was perfectly creased and pressed. His hair was immaculate too, his eyes sharp and alert beneath the faint fringe of neat black almost-curls. His boots clicked on the hard floor as he came over to join the others, and even though his step was precise and businesslike, he managed to produce a startlingly broad, warm grin for the benefit of Amy. She returned it, drawn to this complicated man with his almost faultlessly friendly demeanour.

"Nothing yet." Methos handed him his mug of coffee as though it were a chalice to be passed around amongst the group. Shade took a gulp, and winced in his turn at the strength of the flavour. "Although I haven't heard the news this morning."

"There was nothing on the early bulletins. I know that doesn't necessarily mean that she didn't do anything last night, but it means there's no particular need to panic, at least." MacLeod glanced back towards the bedroom door, from where the sounds of Reece's wheels indicated that the last member of their little group was now up and about. Shade offered him the mug of coffee as well, but Reece shook his head, looking as though he had had prior experience of coffee a la MacLeod. Shade handed the mug to Amy instead.

"So what's the plan?" Looking at Methos as he asked the question, for all the world as though he expected the old Immortal to be the one to come up with an answer, Reece manoeuvred his chair close to MacLeod's, ready to take part in the meeting. Duncan sighed, answering the question in the full knowledge that Methos definitely wouldn't.

"I have absolutely no idea. When I left my place this morning there was a man watching from across the street. He didn't seem to be following me, but I saw another one when I got here. They were both members of Danielle's jazz band."

"Multi-talented musicians." Amy made as though to take a sip of the coffee in her hand, then changed her mind and looked for somewhere to put the mug down. There didn't seem to be anywhere near by. "They're determined that we're not going to find their boss."

"I only wish we knew why." Reece glanced at each of his fellow Immortals in turn, deferring to their greater experience. "Is it normal for mortals to work for Immortals? Knowingly I mean. She made it pretty clear that they know all about her, and what she's up to."

"It did look that way, didn't it." MacLeod stared at the floor, the new position of his head causing rays of sunlight to bounce off the shining silver hair slide that fixed his ponytail in place. "I certainly haven't known it to happen often. Immortals will sometimes hire mortal stooges, but they don't tend to confide in them. As a rule Immortals don't like involving themselves with mortals. Too many of us are conceited about our greater life experiences, and have a tendency to look down on mortalkind."

"Then why has she hired four of them?" Amy turned an inquiring gaze on Kyle, assuming that he was the best one to ask. He shrugged.

"I don't know. She's had mortal help before now and again. As servants, or muscle, or any number of other things. I don't think they play any part in the actual murders, and I can't honestly say how many of them have known who and what she is. They're just assistants, and dogs-bodies, spies and the like. Why they agree to work for her is anybody's guess. She's often employed beggars and street kids, but this lot are talented musicians. Surely there has to be a better way to earn a living than helping a mad Immortal kill innocent people?"

"The music business is hard to break into. It's not the best way to make money." Methos shrugged his thin shoulders. "Maybe she bribed them with offers of fame and fortune. Maybe they just enjoy the killing. Either way, the only way to Danielle is past her band."

"I don't like the idea of taking them out. It couldn't be all at once, and there's no telling what Danielle will do if her people start disappearing, or turning up dead." MacLeod shook his head. "There has to be a better way."

"With all due respect, Duncan, I don't think that there is." Kyle's quiet voice added extra gravity to his words, and his bright eyes seemed to sharpen the clarity of his speech. "She's going to kill people whatever we do - it's why she's here. If getting rid of her men causes her to kill a few more in revenge... well that may be a necessary price. I don't see what alternative we have. It's happened this way every time she's come into my life in the past; she's murdered people and then vanished, before I could do anything about it. I don't plan to let it happen again."

"I can understand that." MacLeod's own voice showed that he did indeed understand. "I know how it can feel, to be unable to help people; to be helpless to prevent something terrible from happening. I'm just not sure that it's a good idea to risk causing further trouble. What if killing or capturing her men only causes her to run? We might never track her down. And I don't intend to allow her to escape. She's got the better of you in the past, Kyle; but there was just the one of you then. In this room there are five of us, all equally determined to stop her. Around six thousand years worth of experience. Maybe we don't need to force our way through her jazz band honour guard."

"I hope so." Kyle sat down, his movements sudden in demonstration of the tension that he felt. "I've been trying to stop her for two hundred years now. Every time I think I've seen the last of her, she appears again. If you've got a plan that'll get rid of her once and for all, I'll do whatever you ask." He looked tired and oddly young, despite the power of age that was usually present in his eyes. Reece reached out and put a hand on his arm, but it was a gesture that didn't seem to have been noticed. MacLeod gave a thoughtful frown.

"She certainly seems to have started all of this to get at you. That's why it's all so strange. Why murder people just because you know that it hurts somebody, especially when that person is someone you claim to love? She said that she was doing it because you had left her, but when you offered to go back to her last night, she refused."

"She's nuts." Methos sounded as though it was obvious, delivering the judgement in his usual careless manner. MacLeod glared at him.

"Obviously she's unhinged, yes. But that doesn't necessarily help us, does it. I want to know if there's a real reason behind what she does. If there is, we might be able to stop her without any need for bloodshed. Kyle hasn't taken a head in years. Reece has never taken one, you've been avoiding battles for years, and to be honest I think I've done more than my share of fighting with evil members of our kind. I'd like to see if she can be stopped rather than killed."

"Because she needs our help, or because she's a woman?" Methos' voice retained its casual edge; its gentle hint of amused detachment. He was far too familiar with the way that MacLeod worked, with how he changed his own standards far too often whenever the foe turned out to be a female. "Chivalry, my young friend, is just another word for stupidity, as I've told you often enough in the past." MacLeod rolled his eyes.

"I'm not trying to help her because she's a woman - or because she happens to be beautiful. I want to help her because I've had enough of the alternative. Summary trials and executions are not pleasant, even if they seem to be the only option."

"But she's a murderer." Amy was watching the group in confusion, listening to their conversation without really understanding what was going on. "She's killed people - we don't know how many. She does it all just because she was spited by her husband. How can you talk about wanting to help her? Wanting to avoid hurting her and her friends? I think we need to get to her as soon as possible - and stop her as soon as possible. Your way could take too long. By the time you've found her she might have killed again. She might have gone on somewhere else, to some other town. Anything might happen."

"Do you have any better ideas?" There was no irritation in MacLeod's voice - no anger at her interruptions, no matter how inexperienced she was compared to him and his associates. MacLeod never seemed to lose his temper, and she was learning that as she came to know him better. She was grateful for it now, for she was certain that most Immortals wouldn't be so tolerant given the circumstances. She flushed, painfully aware that her own idea was probably extremely daft.

"Well... can't we tell the police? I mean, if anybody turns up dead, and it looks as though she's responsible, we can give her description to whoever's in charge of the case, and then at least she wouldn't be able to kill anybody else. We'd know where she is then."

"It wouldn't work, Amy." He smiled at her, without a trace of the patronisation or condescension that she had feared. "Even if they believed us - and we wouldn't have any proof remember, because we could hardly cite hundred year-old murders to back up the charges - what would happen then? They might even find the evidence to convict her, and it still wouldn't do any good. Prison, death sentences - nothing like that would stop her, and eventually we'd just be back where we'd started. Plus in the meantime there's no telling what her friends would have done, for revenge. They were willing to kill the mortals in the bar last night, and I don't think they'd stop there."

"That's crazy." Reece sounded more as though he wanted to believe his words rather than as if he genuinely did believe that Danielle's band could never do such a thing. "It's not them that Kyle walked out on. Not them that he was married to. Why would they want any part of this?"

"Because I really don't think that it's got anything to do with who betrayed who, or who walked out on who. Not anymore." MacLeod felt himself in sore need of something cold to drink, and wondered if Methos had anything in the house other than the predictable supply of canned beer. Somehow he doubted it. "She was hurt when somebody that she loved ran out on her, and she tried to hurt him in the most obvious way she could think of. Anybody who knows Kyle, and the reason for his First Death, knows how he hates injustice, and particularly unjust death. Since then there's no telling how her motives have changed. No sane person can maintain a desire for revenge over two centuries."

"But if she's not just doing it for revenge now, that's going to make it impossible to work out where she'll strike, surely. How do we know where to look, or who to protect?" Reece still seemed to be directing his questions at Methos, but the old Immortal, head tipped back, was sprawled languorously in one of his favourite chairs, and did not appear to be paying much attention to anything. MacLeod answered for him, just as before, but this time with a question of his own.

"Think hard Kyle. Is there any kind of pattern to her killing; anything at all that might help us to pre-empt whatever she's planning?"

"I don't know, MacLeod. I really don't." Some of the tension seemed to be leaving Shade, and MacLeod's businesslike manner was clearly rubbing off on him. "There's never really seemed to be any kind of pattern in the past. People I knew, people I'd hardly even spoken to; people I didn't really know at all, but who just happened to have been invited to the same parties, or to have frequented the same places about town. There are connections, sure, but there's no way of knowing exactly who she'll go after. I imagine that she makes sure of that. She wouldn't appreciate being denied a victim once she'd got the poor sod in her sights."

"Which all helps prove she's unhinged. She has to be." Amy shook her head. "Which means we do what? Take her to a psychiatrist?"

"The quick and easy way would be to kill her." Methos' voice still retained its air of gentle detachment, and for a moment it quite chilled his young Watcher. Perhaps life meant little when you had been alive for five thousand years; but it still surprised her to hear him say such a thing with so little feeling. She understood his sentiment though, and couldn't help wondering if he wasn't perhaps right. MacLeod looked faintly uncomfortable, as though a part of him also shared this less than forgiving view. It was Shade who put an end to the speculation, looking up with a razor-sharp gleam in his clear, bright eyes.

"I've lived with this for a long time now. I've had to wonder, for a lot of years, if it was me leaving her that pushed her over the edge, and turned her into what she is now. I've always wondered if I'm just as much to blame for these deaths as she is." Reece seemed about to protest, but he held up his hand for silence, so that he could be allowed to continue. "If I thought that there was any chance of curing her, I'd be the first to suggest it. If there seemed to be any chance of helping her to get over this... this psychosis, or whatever it is..." His eyes turned to Methos. "But is there? Really?"

"Immortals don't tend to respond well to psychiatric treatment." Methos spoke the words in a tone of voice that seemed the personification of a verbal shrug. "Even if they did it probably wouldn't work - not most of the time. You have to have complete trust between a psychiatrist and his patient. No secrets, or you won't get anywhere. The only real answer to that is an immortal psychiatrist, and they're a very rare breed. They don't tend to deal with our kind anyway. Too great a risk."

"You can't suggest any?" MacLeod was racking his own brains, unable to suggest anyone who seemed a likelihood. There had been Darius of course. He would have taken in anybody, and helped them and tried to heal them. But he was long gone now. Even longer than Tessa.

"There was Cord. Francis Cord. He was killed by Kallas, I believe... but he was said to have disciples." The old man shrugged. "But it's all very vague... Nobody really knows anything about them, and they're supposed to find you, not vice versa. If she is nuts..." He caught a glimpse of sensitivity marked upon Shade's face, and tried to back-pedal. "If she's... unbalanced... then she's on her own. Has to be. There are too many others at stake. And besides, we've got no proof that she is. The modern world is too ready to write off evil as madness. They're not the same thing. Never were. Some people are just bad, Shade, pure and simple."

"So I have to kill her." He didn't look happy with that, and MacLeod remembered that the older man had not killed anybody in a long time now. He had fallen out of the Game himself once or twice in the past, and remembered all too well how hard it had been to return to it, after years of relative peace and calm. Killing was never an easy thing to return to.

"We don't know what we're going to do next." He tried to smile reassuringly at Shade, but the other man had wandered away, over to a window that seemed to absorb his attention completely. "We don't know how this is going to play out. It certainly doesn't need to be your responsibility."

"No, maybe not." All of the joy and the sparkle had gone from Shade's voice, and what was left didn't sound like him at all. "But either way it's not going to have a happy ending. Is it."