"Adam!" Darting across the street, avoiding numerous collisions with numerous cars only by the skin of her teeth, a small, blonde figure waved her hands energetically above her head, and skidded to a halt beside the subject of her abrupt interest. Passers-by stared at the pair, intrigued by the sudden appearance of the woman; and the tall young man that she had hailed so loudly smiled awkwardly at her.
"Amanda, do you have to be quite so... noticeable?"
"Yeah." She caught hold of his arm, pressing playfully close to him. "Lighten up, old man."
"Can I do something for you?" They fell into step together then, strolling along the street arm in arm. She smirked up at him.
"Duncan once told me that when you start trying to be helpful, it's time to start worrying."
"He was probably right." Adam Pierson - tall, apparently British, and anything but young - slowed to a halt. "Are you in trouble again?"
"What do you mean, 'again'? You're getting to sound like Duncan." Her smirk broadened, turning into a proper, apparently well-meant smile. "I saw you in the street, and I thought I'd say hi. What's so suspicious in that? Or actually I saw you come out of the police station... and you really can't blame a girl for being interested." Enthusiasm lit up her eyes. "So what is it, old man? Bank robbery? Million dollar jewel heist? Did you kill off your rich old mortal lover for her countless millions?"
"No." He sighed, beginning to look harassed. "Amanda, didn't anybody ever tell you to show your elders a little more respect?"
"Nope." She beamed cheerfully, clearly enjoying how her line of questioning was unsettling him. "Anyway, I don't have all that many. Elders, I mean." A frown found its way across her usually merry face. "This is a turn up, isn't it? You talking so openly, on a crowded street?"
"Yeah..." He shrugged. "Maybe I'm starting to wonder if there's any point in the secrets anymore." He closed his hand over hers, and pulled her into an alleyway. Almost immediately the sounds of the passers-by became muted and distant. He led her behind a large collection of rubbish bins, and looked about for any sign of potential listeners in.
"What's up, Methos?" The playfulness had gone from her voice, and she looked as concerned as she sounded. He shrugged, glancing about, evasiveness showing in his expressive features. Amanda smirked. The world's oldest man had a habit of looking strikingly young and vulnerable when there was something bothering him. "Methos?"
"Trouble." He sighed, folding his arms. "I'm rather glad I ran into you actually. I thought you were out of town."
"I was." She gazed steadily up at him. "You're evading the issue, Methos. Spit it out."
"Yeah." He shrugged. "I was arrested earlier today. You were right about that."
"Is that all?" It was her turn to shrug. "I spend half my life getting arrested. And from what I've heard, you're not so new to it yourself."
"This is different." He turned away, staring at a stray cat digging through a pile of rubbish near to where they stood. "Do you know a policeman called Forbes? He's a detective - a lieutenant."
"Lieutenant Forbes? Yeah, the name rings a bell. Why?"
"He knows about us. All of us, I mean. He's been giving me a hard time recently. I get pulled in to the station every chance he gets. He's virtually camped outside my place these days."
"Ah." She nodded. "You were right, that is trouble. So why don't you just kill him? I mean, problem solved, right? I don't think much of killing off mortals, but something like this could get out of hand."
"I can't kill him. I promised his daughter I wouldn't." He blushed slightly. "Don't ask. Thing is, he's tried to go public about this before, and I don't know where this is going. I was on my way over to speak to Mac. He knows Forbes."
"I'll come with you." She glanced about, as though expecting to see the policeman hiding behind a refuse sack. "Would it be too much to ask exactly how this guy knows about us?"
"Probably." He quickened his step, taking her by surprise and nearly leaving her behind. "Come on. There are probably one or two other things I ought to tell you about as well, on the way."
"I thought Frank Horton was dead?" Amanda sat down on the nearest chair, blinking up at Duncan MacLeod. "I mean, when you told me about him, you said he had fallen off a warehouse roof. That makes him pretty dead."
"Not as dead as I'd like." Duncan smiled. "Yeah, he's dead. Now. Forbes is a different kettle of fish, though." He looked towards Methos, who was standing by the window. "We're going to have to do something about him."
"Don't I know it." The oldest Immortal turned round, staring back at them both with steady, green eyes. "If he wants to blow the whistle on us, he can; any time. He's making sure I know it." He sighed. "It's been a month. I thought maybe we'd seen the last of him."
"Obviously not." MacLeod began to pace. "I knew we were heading for trouble with this one. Hortons always mean trouble."
"Even dead Hortons." Amanda shivered. "This drug. What did it feel like?"
"Mortal. Way too mortal." Wandering over, Methos slumped into a chair. "I wonder where it is now?"
"You think Forbes still has it?" Amanda's eyes widened. "I could steal it back, if he has."
"He hasn't. At least I don't think so." MacLeod frowned. "No, it's not his style. That was a Horton thing."
"Designed by a Forbes," Methos reminded him. He gave a heavy sigh. "I can't help thinking that this is all some kind of a sign. A preliminary event." He looked from one to the other of them, seeing the teasing glint in two pairs of eyes. "I am not being pessimistic. Well, not much."
"You think that Forbes giving you a hard time is some kind of portent that the Hortons are on their way back?" MacLeod grinned. "Yeah, well we're ready for them this time, right? Anyway, there's only Jennifer now. I think I can handle her." He flinched under the weight of Amanda's glare. "Or maybe somebody else could handle her, of course."
"I don't know what I mean." Methos stood up. "Look, I'm going over to Joe's. That's if I can make it that far without being arrested." He flashed them both a rueful smile. "Keep your eyes open, that's all. If he's after me, he can come after you too, MacLeod."
"Yeah, I know." Duncan followed him to the door with his eyes. "We'll be down at Joe's soon. Don't drink all the beer."
"I'll try not to." He vanished. Amanda looked up at Duncan, concern showing in her eyes.
"You're worried, aren't you," she observed. He hesitated for a moment, then nodded slowly.
"Forbes is a very determined man. I don't like to say it, but I think we're going to have to find some way of dealing with him."
"Meaning that we might have to kill him?" Amanda nodded her understanding. "We certainly can't have him running around the city with a vendetta against Immortals. There's no saying what kind of trouble it could cause."
"Precisely." Duncan wandered over to the window, watching as the slim form of Methos disappeared into the crowds of people moving along the street. He caught sight of a long, dark car gliding slowly along the road, suspiciously close to where the old man was walking, and a frown passed across his normally placid features. "We've got to do something, before this gets out of hand. I think Methos could be right. I think we could be heading for real trouble this time."
"Where are you? You're late." The woman's voice was irritable, but James Forbes merely smiled at the hands-free phone, as he guided his car through the traffic.
"What's the rush?"
"I don't like being behind schedule." There was a clear question in the woman's voice. "Where are you?"
"Following Pierson." Forbes glanced about, momentarily losing sight of his target. The tall figure reappeared again, close to the kerb, and he grinned. "He's starting to get edgy."
"Well don't push him too far. It's not going to help if he beheads you. I can't do this on my own."
"You're all heart, Jennifer." Forbes became serious again, speeding his car up a little, so that he could be sure of letting Pierson know he was being followed. "How are things your end?"
"I've had another nine thousand litres of the stuff made up." There was a pause. "I'm running out of places to put it, lieutenant."
"You'll think of something." Forbes reached for the disconnect button. "Speak to you later."
"But--" There was a silence as the telephone automatically hung up. Forbes guided his car over to the edge of the road, smiling through the open window at Methos as he came alongside.
"Hello Adam. Want a lift?"
"Get lost, lieutenant." Methos quickened his step, but Forbes easily kept pace in his car.
"Now, now. Don't be rude to the police, or I'll have to pull you in." He grinned. "Where you off to? The club?"
"Yeah." Methos slowed to a halt, staring into the detective's eyes. "What do you want, Forbes?"
Forbes smiled, a look of innocence filling his eyes.
"You know what I want, kid. And I'm going to get it. Soon."
"I'm very happy for you." The old Immortal turned away, walking off down the street. Forbes stared after him, his eyes narrowing into an oddly sinister glare; then he pulled the car back out into the traffic, and headed for Joe Dawson's club. It was a route he knew well.
"You want me to throw him out?" Stretching out his legs, Joe Dawson turned slightly on his bar stool, so that he could look at Lieutenant Forbes. The detective was sitting on a nearby table; too far away to hear what they were saying, but close enough to keep them in sight the whole time.
"No. He'd only come back. Probably arrest us for disturbing the peace. He could get this place closed down if he wanted to."
"I guess..." Joe took a long drink. "I wonder what's got him so excited recently. It's been a month since he last showed his face."
"Yeah, well he's making up for it now." Methos shook his head, drinking his beer slowly. He didn't seem to be enjoying it, which was clearly a cause for concern. "He hasn't left me alone in a week." He swirled his beer around in his glass. "Have you changed your suppliers, Dawson? This stuff tastes different."
"Tastes alright to me."
"You don't have as much tasting experience as I do." Methos reached for a bottle behind the bar, and glanced at it. "What is this? I don't recognise the label."
"New brewery. Don't worry about it, I'll change back if you really want me to." Joe sighed. Methos on edge was even more of a pain than the usual, deeply sarcastic version that he was used to. "Why don't you go home, Adam? Get some sleep?"
"I can't sleep. Something's coming, Joe, I can feel it. There's got to be a reason why Forbes is pulling out all the stops now. Why would he be so quiet for so long, and then suddenly get such a bee in his bonnet? He's planning something."
"You're paranoid, Adam."
"You think so?" Methos shook his head, taking another mouthful of beer and making a disapproving face at the taste. "Listen, when you've been around as long as I have--" He broke off, seeing the look that the barman gave him at that statement. Dawson laughed.
"Okay, Adam. Look, I'll keep my eyes open, okay? But in the meantime, please go and get some sleep. You're driving us all crazy."
"I don't want to sleep." Methos took his glass and wandered over to a table, sitting slumped in his chair. Forbes was watching him, a light smile on his face. Methos raised his glass in an ironic toast, and drank deeply. Forbes seemed to find the gesture oddly pleasing, and the old Immortal frowned. Something was going on. He just had to try and figure out what it was.
It was nearly light when Duncan and Amanda climbed the stairs leading to Adam Pierson's apartment. Duncan rapped on the door with his knuckles, surprised to receive no answer. He frowned. He could feel the other Immortal's presence, and it was faintly disturbing for the door not to be opened. Amanda, never one to stand on ceremony, banged harder on the door, then pushed it. It swung open and she glanced up at MacLeod, surprised.
"Hello?" Duncan walked into the apartment, glancing around. The lights were off, and the curtains were still drawn back, flooding the room with periodic flashes from the cars passing in the street below. Methos was sitting on the floor, a collection of empty beer cans lying on the floor at his feet. He stared up at his guests, a frown crinkling his forehead.
"How'd you get in?" His voice was slurred slightly, and Duncan and Amanda exchanged a knowing glance.
"We came in the door." MacLeod walked purposefully towards his friend, and nudged at the pile of beer cans with his foot. "You're drunk, Methos."
"Yep." There was an odd bitterness to the old man's tone. "I thought there was something wrong with this new beer of Joe's, so I figured I'd better test it." He raised a can into the air. "Cheers."
"Enough, Methos." Duncan took the can. "What's got into you? I've never known you to get drunk before."
"Maybe you've never known me, period." Methos climbed to his feet, swaying ever so slightly as he stared at the two other Immortals. "I just got home. Forbes pulled me in. Again. I don't even know what the charge was this time. It's getting so that even the other policemen are starting to notice that something is wrong." He frowned. "I am getting very, very sick of the inside of that place. I'm getting to be on a first names basis with the cockroaches."
"Then file a complaint." MacLeod turned the lights on and started drawing curtains. Methos laughed shortly.
"If I do that, he'll fight back, MacLeod. Come on; he's got me over a barrel here. He can blow the whistle on all of us."
"Not without proof." Amanda began collecting up the empty beer cans, dropping them one by one into the bin. "He'd be laughed out of the police force if he tried to do anything."
"For all I know he could have proof. I don't think it's worth taking the risk; do you?" The old Immortal slumped into a chair, looking thoroughly miserable. "I'm telling you; he's got something up his sleeve. He's planning something."
"Yeah, probably." Duncan was beginning to feel as miserable as Methos. The suspicion that something was about to happen had gripped him as much as it had his older confederate. "But what?"
"Who cares? We'll deal with it." Amanda picked up a new beer can, and opened it. "He's just one screwy policeman with a chip on his shoulder." She took a drink from the can and winced. "This stuff is revolting, Methos. It tastes... weird. Like... like the water at my place does at the moment. It's been tasting weird since I got back into town."
"Your water comes from the same place everybody else's does." Methos watched her as she crossed to the sink, looking for something to take the taste of the beer from her mouth.
"Obviously." She took a drink from the tap and made a face. "Whatever's in my water is in yours too. This is revolting. I'm going to have to call the water company."
"I haven't noticed anything." MacLeod sniffed at the beer can, trying to detect whatever might be in it. "Are you sure you're not just imagining it?"
"I'm not imagining it." She took another sip of water. "You can't tell me you two haven't noticed anything? I mean, come on. Maybe it's a new cleaning process. If they've brought it in gradually, you might not have tasted any difference. I've been away for some time."
"Possible." MacLeod was staring at the tap, a strange expression on his face. "They could have added something to the water... Been increasing the dosage very slightly for some time." His eyes met with those of Methos. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Yeah." The old Immortal grabbed a glass, filling it with water. He drank deeply, but could not pick up on the strange taste. It had been there clearly in the beer, but then he was not used to its presence there. If something had been added slowly to the water, he would not have noticed it at all. "I don't like this, MacLeod."
"What?" Amanda looked from one to the other of them, feeling left behind. "What's going on?"
"That drug." MacLeod slumped suddenly into a chair, pulling his penknife from his pocket as he did so. There was a test, but it wasn't one that he was particularly fond of. There was no other way to be sure. He opened the blade, aware both of Methos' cold stare and Amanda's puzzled frown. She still was not sure what was going on. She winced in sympathy as he cut into his skin with the blade of the penknife, watching with him as blood welled up on the palm of his hand.
"It hurts too much," he said, his voice flat. Slowly he raised his eyes from the cut, staring straight at Methos. "They're back."
"I know." The old Immortal nodded slowly. "Jennifer Horton must have got back in touch with Forbes. He's in on this."
"Wait a minute." Amanda took Duncan's hand, staring at the cut and seeing for herself that it was not healing the way that it should have done. "This doesn't make any sense. I mean, for starters you told me that this drug was tasteless. You never noticed it before."
"Smaller amounts. They've probably upped the dosage." Duncan wiped the blood from his hand and stood up. "We need to do something quickly. By now every Immortal in Seacouver is going to be affected by this. We're virtually helpless."
"Then we have to do something decisive." Methos lifted the receiver of his phone, and dialled a number. Almost immediately there was an answer, and he spoke quickly, leaving no pauses for the person at the other end to answer him. Gone was the slightly drunk and depressed individual which they had found on their arrival at the apartment.
"Hello, Joe? No, just listen. You've got to call a Watcher meeting. I'll be there. I'm going to be bringing something with me. I want you to get the Watchers to deliver sealed letters to their Immortals. No, Joe, not now; I'll talk to you later. Just make sure that you get the call out. Tell them not to let anybody see them deliver those letters. I'll see you first thing in the morning."
"You're going to tell everybody about Forbes and Jennifer? Are you crazy?" Duncan caught Methos by the arm. "You'll be signing their death warrants."
"No I won't, not necessarily. I've got this one figured out, MacLeod." Methos walked over to his computer and turned it on, jiggling impatiently as it ran through the memory tests, and started up Windows. "Come on..."
"What have you got planned, Methos?" Amanda watched over his shoulder as he opened up a Word Processing application and began to type. To Whom It May Concern. Mortal forces are working against us. I'm calling a truce amongst the Immortals of the city. Meet me at eleven o'clock tomorrow morning, at Saint Andrew's Church, west side of town. Signed - he paused in his typing, staring at the screen, then finally signed with his alias - Adam Pierson.
"You're crazy." MacLeod watched as the first copy of the letter began to print out.
"Why? They have a right to know, MacLeod. And we can't handle this alone, not anymore." Methos scowled at the printer, which seemed to be printing slower than usual on purpose. "These people aren't just after us. They want to get at every Immortal, right across the world. Now for the time being, it's probably restricted just to this city. I'd like to keep it that way."
"There's only two of them, Methos. We can handle it. They can't cause that much damage." Amanda was puzzled by his concern, and he swung around on his chair to stare up at her.
"There aren't just two of them. Jennifer Horton only had a small amount of that drug. If she's got enough now to fill the city's water supply, plus brewing up a special delivery of beer for Joe's club, she's got contacts and money. Probably lots of both. And it's not just Immortals. I know that she can't hurt all of us, no matter how determined she is; but she's after the Watchers too, remember? Think about it, Amanda. Many Immortals suspect something. If she's still planning to go public, half the world will write her off as a crank; but the Immortals will believe her. All those little suspicions you used to have; the feeling that you were being watched by someone. Remember? The Immortals won't like it when they find out what's been going on." He opened a drawer and pulled out a packet of envelopes, beginning to stuff his letters into them as they came out of the printer. "I have a duty to the Watchers, as well as to the Immortals. Don't forget that." He looked up at Duncan. "How many letters do you think we'll need?"
"There are never that many Immortals in the city at one time." Beginning to accept Methos' argument, MacLeod picked up one of the letters, reading it through again before he put it into an envelope. "Better do extra to make sure, but I shouldn't think you'll need any more than five or six of those things. The others come and go, like we do. Move around between cities. Countries even."
"You're really serious." Amanda sounded amazed. "You're honestly expecting to be able to get a gang of Immortals together to fight Jennifer Horton, without losing your own heads in the process?"
"It'll work." Methos stood, collecting the sealed envelopes together into a pile. "It has to. The Church of Saint Andrew's has been closed for years, but it's still Holy ground. They'll have to listen. Once they know the score, they're not going to do anything stupid. They'll have to work with us if they want to end this."
"I still think you're nuts." She sat down on the edge of his desk. "But what the hell. I'm with you."
"Good." He smiled. "We're going to need more of the antidote."
"How much have we got left?" MacLeod asked. The older Immortal shrugged.
"Not a lot. We needed it all last time, to counteract the stuff they dumped in the water supply before." He grinned. "You know, it's kind of worrying, the amount of junk everybody's been dumping in the water the last few months." He opened a drawer and pulled out a small bottle. "Enough for the three of us I'd say."
"I'll get in touch with Amy Forbes." MacLeod reached for the phone, but Methos stopped him.
"No, I'll do it. I know where she is." Duncan raised an eyebrow, and Methos shrugged. "I couldn't let her go without being able to check up on her, could I. I told the people at the clinic that I was her brother."
"If you'd prefer, I have a friend who could probably make what we need. He's a chemist; all he'd need would be a small sample to work from."
"It's okay, Mac." Methos shrugged. "Maybe I'd like to see her again."
"Fine." MacLeod fetched three glasses and shared the liquid from the bottle into them. "Here's to... to something."
"To us." Amanda clinked her glass with the other two and threw the liquid down her throat. "That tastes worse than the drug did."
"Come on." Leaving his glass on the desk, MacLeod began to lead Amanda from the room, sensing that Methos would like to be alone for the phone call that he was about to make. He pulled the door closed behind them and began to head away down the corridor.
"Hey, MacLeod. Where are we going?" Amanda asked, throwing a last look back at Methos' apartment before she followed her companion down the stairs.
"To an all-night store, to buy some bottled water." He smiled. "And maybe to look for a four leaf clover in the park. I think we're going to need it."
"You could be right." Outside in the street, the early morning was beginning to light up the roofs of the buildings. "I'm cold, Mac."
"Me too." He pulled her closer to him and they walked together to his car. "It'll be okay, Amanda."
"Sure it will. We've beaten the bad guys before." She shivered slightly. "It's just that it feels so different this time."
"Tell me about it." He started up the engine. "We're on to them. That gives us an edge they're not expecting."
"We hope." They stared at each other, their eyes showing their concerns; then they smiled and settled back into the car as it began to move off down the street.
The Church of Saint Andrew was an old building, little more than a ramshackle hut, which had long been abandoned for larger premises nearby. However old and disused it might be, it was still Holy ground; and it was there that the three Immortals went with Joe, to see how many of their confederates had answered the call to arms. There were six of them, sitting on what was left of the pews; a disparate bunch whose clothes suggested at a wide range of social habits and lifestyles. All carried drawn swords, and all looked up as the foursome entered the Church.
"Which of you is Adam Pierson?" One of the six stood, his sword pointed at the group. MacLeod pushed it aside.
"This is Holy ground," he said firmly. "We can forget about the swords."
"I know you." The Immortal narrowed his eyes. "You're Duncan MacLeod."
"Guilty." Duncan frowned. "Do I know you?"
"You killed a friend of mine," the man muttered, his voice filled with venom. Methos rolled his eyes.
"Join the club," he muttered under his breath. MacLeod glared at him and he backed off, raising his hands into the air. "I didn't say anything."
"I'm sorry." Spitting the words out between his teeth, MacLeod tried to keep the impatience from his voice. The Immortal shrugged.
"I'm not. I was going to kill him anyway. But I still want your head."
"Fine. Later, okay?" MacLeod indicated his friends. "This is Amanda, a friend; and this is Adam Pierson." He grinned. "A student of mine."
"New boy, huh." The belligerent Immortal, who seemed to have elected himself spokesperson for all the rest, nodded towards Joe. "How about him? He's a mortal."
"That's Joe Dawson. We need him here." MacLeod sighed, steeling himself for what was probably going to be a hard struggle. "Look, we called you here because we've got a problem."
"Your problems aren't our concern." Another of the Immortals stepped forward. "What makes you think we're interested?"
"You will be," Methos told him. The Immortal smirked.
"You think?" He nodded at Duncan. "Go on then. Enlighten us."
"There's this woman. Her name is Jennifer Horton. She's got something against Immortals, and she's after the lot of us. Every single one."
"If she comes after me, she's dead." The first Immortal smiled. "So what's the problem, MacLeod? You can't handle a little mortal woman?"
"The problem is, she's got a drug that turns Immortals into mortals, more or less. Once you're infected, you can't heal like usual. You're as vulnerable as any normal person."
"You're kidding?" Another of the Immortals stood up. "That's impossible."
"No it isn't." Methos held up a small bottle. "We've got some of the antidote here, but we don't have enough for all of you right now. We're getting some more made up, but my guess is we've all got enough of the drug pumping around inside of us to stop this antidote doing any real good unless we can get unlimited supplies of it. Horton's put her stuff in the water, and maybe in other places too. A lot of the local clubs and pubs have been sold some cut rate beer recently, and that's full of the stuff too."
"So tell us where to find this Horton woman, and we'll deal with her." The first Immortal held up his sword. "What did you call us together for?"
"Because we thought you deserved to know about it." MacLeod rolled his eyes, frustrated by the man's inability to see past his own sword. "We can't kill her, because we don't know how many people she has working with her on this. She's got at least one of the local cops on her side, and there might be more. You know how cops stick together. We can't kill all of them."
"Can't we?" The other Immortal laughed, and his fellows joined in. MacLeod turned away, all but ready to give up. Methos stepped forward, pushing the Immortal's sword away.
"Listen to me," he said, his voice pleasant and reasonable. "Jennifer Horton is insane. So's the cop she's got working for her. They hate Immortals, and they plan to reveal every detail they can about us to the world's press. Understand? Now we have to work together to stop this. None of us can handle it on their own. If we could, do you think we'd have called in jerks like you?"
There was a silence. The Immortal stared back into Methos' eyes, bothered by what he saw there. This man was supposed to be young - a new Immortal - and yet he had the sort of eyes which seemed to have seen everything. He stepped back, shrugging vaguely.
"Okay. We have to deal with this the hard way, we can. What do you have in mind?"
"We have to find her. Then we have to find out where she's getting this drug from. We have to destroy it, and the original formula, and then..." MacLeod trailed off, unsure what came after. He could think of little beyond killing Jennifer. What else was there that could be done? "Then I guess we worry about the rest later." He held out his hand. "So what do you say? Is this a truce?"
"Yeah, if you like." The Immortal stared at the outstretched hand, then took it, giving it the briefest of shakes before letting it go. His searching eyes travelled over Joe and Amanda, lingering on her for a second; then they drifted back to Duncan. "You got some place you want to start?"
"Yes." Duncan took a map from Methos and unfolded it. "Jennifer Horton owns a house up in the hills. Now she knows we know about it, so she's not going to go back there; but she's not going to want to be too far away from her place. I figure she's up there somewhere; probably renting somewhere near to her house. I figure my friends and I will go up there to look, and the rest of you stay here in town. You're looking for a cop called Lieutenant James Forbes. He's Horton's contact in the city. Following him might get us somewhere."
"Sounds okay; except for one thing." The Immortal folded his arms, his stance challenging. "Me and my friend Billy here," he indicated another Immortal, "will go up to the hills, with your friends. You and the others can take the cop. Deal?"
"Deal." Amanda said the word before Duncan could comment. He glared down at her and she shrugged.
"Okay." He sighed. "Get going as soon as possible. Adam and Amanda know how to contact me." He glanced back at Joe. "I could do with your help, Joe."
"Sure." Joe followed him back to the car, his nervous eyes returning frequently to the group back in the Church. Even though they were on Holy ground, he was worried.
"Well?" MacLeod asked, as soon as they were well out of earshot. Joe smiled uneasily.
"The guy doing all of the talking is Jake Gunner," he said, keeping his voice low just in case. "Born in 1576 from what I remember. He took his surname from the first mortal he killed. He's suspected of at least fifty killings in all, but they span a couple of centuries, so we can't get him for any of them. They guy he called Billy is William Raymond, a contract killer." He smiled. "Nice pair, huh. Raymond was born some time in the eighteenth century; I don't remember quite when. He's your typical bully boy. Probably used to pull the legs of spiders as a kid. Wouldn't be surprised if he still does. A real psychopath." He frowned. "I don't like to think of the pair of them going off with Methos."
"Yeah, well we don't have a lot of choice." Duncan looked drawn and tense. "They've probably been filling us with this drug for the best part of month, Joe. That means they're building up to something. I'm not going to leave it any longer before I find out what. And the four of us can't handle this alone."
"I know." Dawson sighed, shaking his head. "Doesn't mean I have to like it though." He shrugged. "Er... the others are an unremarkable bunch. You've got no especially old ones. All less than two hundred. All fairly ordinary. I guess two psychopaths are enough for any platoon, huh."
"Three; you're forgetting Methos." MacLeod smiled, then sighed. "Okay, we'd better get back to our squad." He rubbed his eyes. "I hate this, Joe."
"You think I don't?" Dawson leant on his cane for a long, hesitant moment. "I still can't believe that my sister married a member of that family."
"Yeah, well there's no accounting for taste." They began to walk back to the Church. "You think there are still Watchers who are loyal to the Hortons, Joe?"
"I don't know, Mac." The mortal shook his head, angry at his inability to do anything truly helpful for his friends. "I guess we're just going to have to wait and see."
"Six houses. How much more of this are we going to put up with?" Sounding as though he were reaching the end of his tether, Jake Gunner slumped into the car seat and reached out to throw an arm around Amanda. She slipped aside with a skill born of long practice, and slid into the front seat. "Come on. Why don't we start making a little noise. That's the way to get things done."
Methos rolled his eyes. He was beginning to come to the conclusion that Jake Gunner was a real jerk, and the knowledge that they were stuck with each other until this was over was not helping him to keep his patience. He could do little, since Gunner was convinced that he was a new Immortal little more than a child compared to Raymond and himself - and was therefore unlikely to take much notice of him. He could hardly tell the men the truth, however. Once people such as those two knew that he was the legendary Methos, he would very likely be a dead man.
"We can't do anything that will warn her off." He started up the car engine, almost wishing that he had been assigned to watch Forbes. It would have been an interesting assignment, given that Forbes would have been watching him at the same time. It had taken much of his skill to sneak off without the policeman coming after him as it was. "You know what's at stake, Gunner."
"Yeah, yeah." Gunner slid forward in his seat, gazing at the third figure in the front. "How about you, baby? You want to come and sit back here with me?"
"No." She sounded angry and faintly scared. Methos slammed on the brakes, sending everybody in the car sliding about on the leather seats.
"Leave her alone, Gunner." Menace dripped from his words. "You don't touch her, understand?"
"It's okay, Adam," the woman told him, her voice strained. He shook his head.
"It's not okay, Amy. You don't know what sort of a man he is. I don't want him near you."
"Hard luck, kid. We're all in this together." Gunner put a hand on Amy's shoulder. "Come on, sugar. Come and sit with me."
"I said leave her alone." Rising to his feet in the seat, Methos clenched his fists, although managing to keep from drawing his sword. Amanda reached up, snapping her hand around his wrist. She was surprisingly strong for so small a person, and he stared down at her, his eyes hot.
"Sit down, Adam. Like he said, we're all in this together." She cast a quick glance at Amy. "She can take care of herself."
"Maybe." Methos sat down again, his expression showing that he was on the verge of a sulk. Amanda was almost glad. At least when he was sulking, he couldn't be arguing. She had no idea what the history was between the old man and the young mortal woman, but the tension between the pair of them was enough to risk a mighty explosion as it was, without further tension between Methos and Gunner adding to the trouble. The car started off again.
"Where to now?" Raymond asked, his tone as calculatedly belligerent as Gunner's.
"To the next house." Methos glanced at the map, in its position propped on the dashboard. "It's got a long driveway, so we'd better park the car and go in on foot."
"Who are you giving orders to?" Gunner's tone of voice was not encouraging. "No new boy is going to push me around."
"Then I will." Amanda kept the irritation from her voice with a good deal of effort. "We have to work together on this. Can we all please remember that?" She glanced at Amy, sitting next to her. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." The mortal woman managed a smile. "I've just been wondering why I'm here, that's all."
"To get working on the antidote. Once we've found Jennifer's lab and equipment, I'm moving you in." Methos, his tone gentle, spoke to her with an odd look in his eyes. "We can get you whatever you need."
"Sure. So I can make you immortal again. Make it so you can't get ill or get hurt. I know." The odd look was mirrored in Amy's eyes, and Amanda frowned. Seated between them as she was, she felt rather as though she were caught in the middle of some kind of war. The pair seemed determined to hate each other, but there was clearly something else which rested beneath all of the tension.
"Forget it." Methos guided the car into a copse of trees off to the side of the road and stopped, climbing out immediately. "It's this way." He disappeared, and Amanda stared after him. Gunner and Raymond seemed content to follow on, but the other Immortal remained in the car for a moment, looking at Amy.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on, or are we all going to be fighting with each other for the rest of the job?" she asked. Amy was silent for a moment.
"He didn't tell you then?" She sounded surprised. "Did he tell you that my name is Forbes?"
"You're related to that cop in town who's been riding him so hard? You're kidding?"
"No." She smiled sadly. "My father heard about the Immortals, and he hated the whole idea of them, and decided that he wanted to help get rid of them. The Watchers too. They're all the same to him; part of some mad conspiracy idea that he's got stuck in his head. I wanted to help him, so I designed the drug. It inhibits Immortal healing powers. I was quite proud of it, until I met Adam and Duncan, and Joe Dawson. Then I gave them the antidote." She shrugged. "I was proud of that, too, until I realised it meant that Adam and I could never really be together..." She hesitated for a brief second, as if about to speak further, then seemed to change her mind. "Come on. There's no sense in being left behind."
"Wait." Amanda caught her by the arm. "This anti-Immortal drug. What sort of an effect does it have on mortals?"
"You mean what is it doing to the mortals in Seacouver, who are drinking it every day?" She shook her head. "I don't know. I never thought to test it. It wasn't going to be necessary. It was only later that I discovered it was going to be added to the water supply. It could destroy their immune systems; slow down their healing rates too. Or it could have a cumulative effect, and act as a sort of poison. I really don't know."
"But thousands of people have been ingesting huge amounts of the stuff. Doesn't your father care? He could be dying too."
"I don't think he does care, no." She was silent for a long time, almost as though she had ended the conversation. "He used to be a good man. A good policeman. He cared about people, but when he found out about the Immortals, something snapped inside him. He didn't care about anything anymore, except finding out why you people are so special, when the rest of us aren't. He couldn't stand the thought that he was going to lose me one day, unless they find a cure pretty soon; and yet you people will never get ill at all." She climbed out of the car suddenly, as if a switch had been pressed inside her, changing her thoughts instantly. "We have to hurry. I have to make lots of the antidote, quickly, before mortals start dying of an accelerated form of my own disease; and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
The house was quiet, almost as though it were empty. With his companions close behind him, Methos slipped up to the large French windows which looked out onto the spacious gardens. A swimming pool stretched out behind him, adding a touch of colour to the empty, green lawn, and white marble statues stood out at odd intervals. They were good for hiding behind, but he saw little to recommend them as works of art. They seemed to be of pseudo-historical figures; all with period errors which were blindingly obvious to him.
He could see no one behind the French windows, and taking it for granted that there was no one to see him, he inserted the tip of his sword blade into the runners, and carefully prised the sheet of glass from its frame. There was no alarm, which was a relief. He leant the glass against the wall of the house and led the way into the building. Gunner and Raymond began to look about as though sizing the place up for a robbery, and he found his eyes lingering on Amanda.
"Relax, Adam. I'm not going to steal anything." She grinned. "I didn't at the other houses, did I?"
"Only that paperweight." He smiled at her surprise. "I'm not blind, Amanda."
"Well it was nice. I liked it." She went over to a telephone book beside the phone, and began to check through it. "Will somebody check the rest of the house, please? I'd like to be sure that we're not about to be interrupted."
"Sure." Methos considered telling Gunner or Raymond to do the honours, but decided against it. He didn't want another lecture on ordering his elders around, and instead he headed off on his own. It was a large house, but the empty halls and corridors were like amplifiers, sending the slightest noises echoing about him. He was convinced that they were alone. Had there been anybody else in the house, he would have heard them; and they would have heard him. He ran up the broad, sweeping staircase, enjoying the whole sensation of being an intruder in an expensive house. It was a feeling which had once been known well to him; but he had missed it these last hundred years or so.
The bedrooms were empty, although one of them at least was evidently occupied most of the time. Several shirts hung on the back of a chair; women's shirts, expensive naturally, and coloured in varying shades of blue. Very tasteful. He lifted one up, recognising the feel of the material, although it had been a long time since he had worn it himself. Silk. He seemed to remember working for a silk merchant once. Eight hundred years ago? Possibly nine. A big man, who had smoked substances that would now be classed as very illegal. He had had a daughter. Three of them, to be accurate, although only one of them had interested the Immortal. Methos grinned. Now she had been worth remembering... He snapped his mind back to the present, trying to focus beyond memories of silk and soft moonlight. And those capable, massaging fingertips.
"Anything worth taking?" Appearing in the doorway, Gunner looked about. His eyes fell on the jewellery box on a dresser opposite the door, and he made a beeline straight for it. "Nice."
"What is?" Methos saw the jewellery in the box, and shrugged. "Less than a hundred for the lot. That's all costume stuff."
"Huh?" Gunner glanced over the glittering objects and shrugged. "Sure. I knew that." He looked around the rest of the room, and dismissed it. "There's nothing here. Amanda says we should move on to the next house."
"Sure." Methos wandered over to the window and gazed out onto the long drive. It was a restful scene, with the smooth lawns and lines of well ordered pine trees in the distance. A little too precise for him. The last time he had tried keeping a garden, it had become a hawthorn nightmare, and had finished up too thick with brambles for him to even think about going into it. For some reason he had been absurdly proud of it. He was so busy with his thoughts that he almost failed to notice the large blue car coming closer and closer up the drive.
"Dammit!" Seeing the car, Methos spun around. "They're back!"
"They?" Gunner gazed out of the window. "I can only see one person. And I definitely approve."
"Huh?" Methos stared out. A tall woman, brown haired and with an athletic build, was behind the wheel of the car. He recognised her immediately, and was surprised at the chill which her appearance sent up his spine. "Jennifer Horton."
"She's the one we've been looking for?" Forbes whistled appreciatively. "Nice." He grabbed at Methos' arm as the older Immortal headed for the door. "Where are you going?"
"To warn the others of course." Methos tried to pull free, but found it impossible. "Hey!"
"Don't be a fool, boy. She's too close. She'd see you as soon as she got her foot in through the door, and then you'd all be goners. She's sure to be armed." Gunner pulled him against the wall, where neither of them would be visible through the window. "Stick close to me."
"Are you kidding? She'll find them. Amy is just a mortal; she wouldn't have a chance."
"That's her lookout." Gunner's grip was tightening. "Stay here. I'm going to need you, with the others gone."
"Let me go!" He was risking a lot by raising his voice so much, but he could not remain silent whilst Jennifer Horton discovered Amanda and Amy. Gunner's friend Raymond he cared little for. The man was a known psychopath, whose idea of a good time probably involved chopping people into very small pieces. That thought brought back memories too, but he quashed them quickly.
"Keep quiet." Forbes was a lot stronger than Methos, but found that he needed all of his strength to keep the other Immortal still. He threw an arm around the older man's neck, holding him in a strangle hold which applied increasing pressure in proportion to his victim's struggling. Methos got the message, gradually relaxing. Helpless, he heard the sound of feet on the gravel path; heard the door downstairs unlocking; heard the sharp click of businesslike shoes on the polished wood of the floors downstairs. He heard a shout, both of surprise and rage, and heard a gun speaking once, then twice. There was the sound of raised voices.
"Let me go!" Renewing his efforts to break free, Methos struggled hard, desperate to throw off Gunner's stranglehold. All that he succeeded in doing was to tighten the grip around his neck. He felt his vision begin to blur.
"Hold still. You'll only hurt yourself." Gunner's voice came as a venomous hiss, but Methos ignored it, fighting harder still. He could barely breathe. It was only dimly that he heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and self-preservation made him work with Gunner to scramble quickly out of sight behind a dressing screen. They crouched together, silent and alert, watching as Jennifer Horton entered the room. She held Amy in a vicious looking grip, a gun pressed into the younger woman's back. Methos started forward, but Gunner grabbed at his arm again, shaking his head.
"Stay still," he mouthed. Methos forced himself to comply. He had no wish to die at Jennifer Horton's hands, whatever the cause. Instead he tensed his muscles, watching in amazement as the tall, strong woman pressed at the back of the dresser with an expert hand. A section of the wall slid away, revealing a dark passageway beyond. Two men stood there waiting.
"Downstairs," Jennifer told them both, in the sharp voice she preferred to use. It was so different to the sensuous, pleasing voice she had used when she had met Methos and Duncan for the first time. "Two Immortals. I recognised them from the files."
"There's no hurry. They'll be out for hours." One of the men was eyeing up Amy, and Methos felt his hackles rise.
"Do it anyway. We know they had an antidote before; they might still have it. They must suspect something, or they wouldn't be here. Right, Miss Forbes?" Jennifer jerked roughly at Amy's arm. "Do they have the antidote?"
"A little." Amy was evidently afraid of Jennifer, and Methos did not blame her. He would rather the young woman told everything, rather than risk injury or death. "They had some left from last time, but not enough. All it could have done would be to lessen the effects, not stop them; and there wasn't enough for all of them anyway."
"Really." Jennifer made a jerking motion with her head, indicating that the two men should go. They went quickly, hurrying from the room. Jennifer, meanwhile, was smiling at Amy in a predatory fashion.
"Where are MacLeod and Pierson?" she asked. Amy was silent for a second.
"Following my father," she said at last. Jennifer laughed.
"Good try. MacLeod might be, but the good Lieutenant Forbes says that he hasn't seen Pierson since he arrested him yesterday. He told me he thought he'd left town. So where is he?" She met with silence, and shrugged. "Never mind. If he shows up I'll kill him. It's not too difficult." She pushed the mortal woman away down the passage, vanishing from sight around a bend. Immediately Methos started forward.
"Hold on." There was a hard edge of command to Gunner's voice. "We're not going to do anything stupid here. These people have guns. They know how to kill us, right?"
"Right." Methos nodded. "But they don't want us dead, or she'd have sent those two downstairs with swords. Nothing is ever straightforward with the Hortons."
"I don't much care." Gunner sat down on the floor, with his back to the tunnel. "I wonder who those men were."
"Watchers." Methos also sat down. "Probably left over from James Horton's crusade."
"James Horton?" Gunner's eyebrows danced. "How long as this Horton thing been going on? How many of our kind have these people killed?"
"I don't know for sure." Methos had not been involved with the early struggles against James Horton, and had heard about it all only as reports from Joe Dawson, as Duncan MacLeod dealt with the problems themselves. Horton had been somebody he had worked with, largely unwillingly. "I know his people killed five or six of us... More perhaps."
"And you thought you'd keep it to yourselves?" Gunner bit back whatever he was about to say next as the two men returned, each dragging a slumped Immortal. The foursome vanished into the dark passageway, and seconds later the wall slid back into place.
"We had no choice but to keep it to ourselves. What did you want us to do? Cause a civil war? You know what many of our kind are like. They would have fought back; killed every mortal they could for revenge. The renegade Watchers would have stepped up their own operations; our population would have been decimated. The situation was handled in the best way possible."
"So you say." Gunner's eyes narrowed. "Just what are these Watchers?"
"Librarians. Researchers. That's all." Methos went to the dresser, and began to look for the secret switch. "They aren't a threat." He bit his lip, not liking the things that Gunner was hearing. A man such as him should not be allowed to know about the Watchers. He might just have to lose his head once all of this was over.
"Researchers, right." Gunner clearly did not think much of the explanation, but showed no sign of wanting to find out more. Instead he turned away. "I'll see you later, Pierson. I'm going to make a phone call."
"MacLeod?" Methos asked, surprised. Gunner smiled secretively.
"Not exactly. You worry about your friends, Pierson. I'll worry about mine." He headed for the door. Methos ran after him, catching him by the arm.
"What do you mean?" he asked. Gunner pushed him aside, his eyes narrowing.
"Keep your hands of me, boy. Nobody touches me, understand?" The venom faded from his face, to be replaced by a smile. "I'm going to call in some reinforcements, that's all."
"What reinforcements?" Methos persisted. Gunner pushed him away.
"Friends of mine. A few stray mortals who decided that it could be very profitable to throw in their lot with an Immortal or two."
"No. I won't let you turn this into a war zone." Methos stepped forward, his expression threatening, but the smile on Gunner's face did not waver. He pulled a gun from inside his shirt, and the old Immortal found himself looking down the extended length of a barrel equipped with a silencer. His breath caught in his chest.
"You could be useful," Gunner told him. "So do yourself a favour and behave. I'll see you later." He ran off. Methos stared after him, clenching and unclenching his fists in mute rage. He was beginning to regret his decision to bring other Immortals into this. They should have kept it to themselves. If they had wanted help, there was always someone. There were trustworthy Immortals which they all knew. MacLeod had friends; his kinsman Connor for one.
"You're a fool, Methos," the old Immortal whispered to himself, almost failing to care that somebody might hear him. Trying to forget about Gunner, he turned back to the dresser, probing with careful, searching fingers. Finally he heard a sharp click, and felt a small section of the wood give beneath his touch. There was a slight sound of scraping, and the wall slid away.
"Bingo!" He slipped into the passage, pondering over the sort of good sense which was leading him to try this, and peered ahead into the dark. If he had learnt anything over the last five thousand years, it was to avoid walking blindly into potentially lethal situations; but as seemed to be the case more often than not, his legs were a good deal braver than the rest of him. He allowed them to lead him on down the tunnel, listening hard for any indication that he might not be alone. He thought about Duncan MacLeod, and whether or not he should report in. MacLeod had a right to know about Amanda's capture, and also about Jennifer's stronghold. All the same, he was probably several hours drive away. There was no sense in involving him now.
He pressed on, squinting determinedly into the stubborn darkness. A cobweb brushed at his cheek, and he swatted at it, irritated by its intrusion. The passage smelt musty and damp, and loose stones scuffed at his feet as he walked past. He felt a cough coming, and grimaced at his own stupidity for having tried this.
"Where are we?" The voice was clearly Amanda's, and the closeness of it surprised him. He pressed on, looking about for any sign of his comrade. Amy's voice answered Amanda's, the quaver gone. She sounded as though she were more in control now than before.
"In some kind of secret annexe. Jennifer brought you here."
"I feel terrible." Amanda's voice again. "My chest is on fire."
"I'm sorry." The apology in Amy's tone struck at Methos' heart, and he found himself smiling for no particular reason. "I have to get you some of the antidote made up, or it's going to carry on hurting." There was a pause. "Your friend didn't take any at all, did he."
"He's not my friend." A slight pause. "We only had one small bottle. Duncan and Adam and I shared it between us. Yesterday I think it was. Late last night."
"Oh. You probably needed three or four times that amount." There was a scratching sound. "Can you move?"
"Not much." Amanda still sounded pained. "These ropes are too--" She broke off. "I can feel something."
"What?" Amy sounded excited. Methos pressed on, feeling Amanda's close presence at the same moment as her exclamation.
"Adam's nearby. At least I hope it's him." There was the sound of a faint whisper. "You there, Adam?"
"I'm here." He had found a door, and his eyes, now accustomed to the lack of light, made out a heavy bolt. He grabbed it, pulling hard. "Hang on. This bolt's stiff."
"Let me give you a hand." The voice was feminine, and Methos spun around immediately, unsurprised to find a gun barrel no more than a few inches from his head. He stared into Jennifer Horton's eyes, seeing everything which had once attracted him to her, and everything which had made her so irresistible to Duncan MacLeod.
"Poor Adam." She was smiling at him. "You Immortals don't like the way we can sneak up on you. You get used to being able to feel each other." Her smile became hard. "We do have one or two advantages, you see. Helps us to redress the balance."
"You're not going to get away with this," he told her. She laughed, showing distaste at a line which was as old as the oldest Immortal.
"Yes I am." She gestured at the door. "Open it."
Slowly he undid the bolt, then pushed open the door, looking into the patch of light beyond. An oil lamp burned in the centre of the room, standing on the floor, and his eyes were grateful for the assistance. He saw Billy Raymond, a neat red hole between his eyes, lying sprawled in an ungainly fashion near one wall, and Amanda and Amy nearby. Their hands were bound behind them, and he saw the long ropes which tied their wrists to the wall. They stared up at him, recognising the hopelessness of his situation even before he did. He flashed them both a winsome, characteristically Methosian grin, before Jennifer's gun slammed down on the back of his head, and the cell floor rushed up to meet him. His last thought before he hit the cold stone was that he really didn't like Jennifer Horton very much at all.
"That you, Jennifer?" James Forbes, speaking as before on his car phone, glanced into his rear view mirror. For the entire day he had been followed by a series of cars. They had swapped about, to try and make their presence less obvious, but he knew the tactic too well to have been fooled by it. MacLeod's T-Bird was just a little too flamboyant to make a successful pursuit vehicle.
"Of course it's me. Who else would be calling you at this hour?" Jennifer sounded harassed, and he grinned, glad that she could not see him. The fireworks would be visible over three counties.
"What's the problem?" He took a left turn and saw the white sedan vanish, to be replaced, predictably, by a red pickup truck.
"No problem. I just think we should speed things up a little. They're on to us."
"You do surprise me." He sighed. "What's happened?"
"I've got three Immortals here, plus your daughter." She heard his gasp of rage, and rolled her eyes. "I haven't hurt her, James, but I don't like it. The girl is a nuisance. She was never really on our side."
"She cares about people, Jennifer. She likes to see the best in them." Forbes saw a lot of himself in his daughter, and for a second he could almost have believed that he was the same man that he had been a year ago, before he had discovered that the Immortals existed. He quelled the thought. Those days were gone.
"Whatever." Jennifer kept the impatience from showing in her voice. "I've got Pierson here. Have you seen anything of MacLeod?"
"Yeah." Forbes smiled. "He's about as subtle as a steamroller. Been following me around since this morning. I didn't realise it was him at first, but he's been getting careless."
"Maybe he wants you to know he's there. Don't underestimate him." She sighed. "Come on in, James. There's no sense in spinning this out any longer. My people are itching to get underway. They don't like having Immortals in our midst."
"Then get rid of them," Forbes told her, surprised that they were still alive.
"No. They could be useful. I told you not to underestimate MacLeod. I want something to help change his mind in case he decides to come and join the party." She smiled. "Anyway, I thought you'd like me to save Pierson for you. You've been hoping he'd come after us. I thought you must have something planned."
"Maybe I do." He smiled into the twin pools of light cast by his headlamps. He had risked his career and his reputation by continually arresting Adam Pierson, in the hope that he could be goaded into action. She had better believe that it had been for a good reason. "I'll be with you as soon as I can."
"Good." There was a laugh in her voice which made his skin tingle. For a second he wondered how he had ever become involved with the Horton's; then he dismissed the thought, hardening his mind to the tasks ahead. He was not a policeman tonight, and soon he never would be one again. The thought bothered him, but he cast it aside. He had made promises to himself which he had every intention of keeping, and the Hortons had shown him how best to get things done. There was no room for doubt now.
"Are you okay, Adam? You've been awfully quiet." Amanda's voice called Methos back to the land of the living, and he glared at her.
"Sorry. Just checking." A smile decorated her lively features. "I don't think I've ever been locked up with you before. Have I?"
"If you can't remember, don't expect me to." He shifted his position, trying to find a way to sit where his arms weren't twisted painfully behind him. The ropes hurt, and so did his head.
"Well the prisons all tend to merge after a few hundred years." She grinned at him. "Amy and I have been playing I-Spy. Want a game?"
"No." His eyes lingered on Amy for a moment, but she seemed to be alright, and he forced his mind onto other things. "How's Raymond?"
"Mostly dead. He was awake for a bit, but I think he's dead again right now." She peered over at the slumped figure. "He's not breathing."
"Good. Keep an eye on him." He ceased his manoeuvring about, and stared from one to the other of them. "Gunner got away."
"Then he'll go to Duncan," Amanda said, her eyes showing that she did not really believe this. He smiled sardonically.
"Hardly. Friends of his; mortals I think. He's got something planned, and he's heading for it with all his guns blazing, and I don't think we can stop him." He looked strangely pale in the off-colour light cast by the lamp, and Amanda frowned, disturbed by the look in his eyes. "They're going to kill everybody they can lay their hands on. I don't know how many people are involved with this, but I get the impression it's more than we think. This whole operation smacks of long term organisation. Then there are the Watchers. I tried throwing him off the trail, but he's mad; really mad. He wants them, I could tell." His voice had become soft, almost inaudible, and his eyes were growing wider. Amanda felt a cold feeling growing within the pit of her stomach. If the old man was this worried, then whatever he could see coming was very bad indeed. "It's going to be a war, Amanda," he said softly. "Immortals against Watchers, Watchers against Immortals; and it won't stop there. There'll be Immortals fighting their own kind to stop it, and mortals killing each other too."
"Not necessarily." Amanda's voice was so uncertain that it scared her. She was usually cool and unafraid about all but the most serious of situations, and yet here and now, sitting in this dark room, she felt more helpless than she had ever known herself to be. "It doesn't have to go that far."
"Yes it does." There was cold certainty in his tone. "It will go that far. Amanda, I can see these things. I know the signs. Do you know how many massacres I've been a part of? How many wars I've seen? Do you know how many times I've seen it all beginning; how many times I've been the one who started it? I can see it all coming. You don't live for five thousand years without learning something."
"Five thousand years?" Amy's voice was small, and he turned to look at her, forcing his eyes to turn hard. She looked very young and afraid, but it was a look which could only get worse, if he was right about all of this.
"I am Methos," he told her, his voice as harsh as he could make it, when speaking to her. "I rode across Europe and Asia before mankind had ceased to live in caves in some parts of the world. I brought death and destruction with me wherever I went. Never forget that. And when your father comes here, go back to him. Stay with him."
Her eyes widened as she stared at him, and he let his soul burn free for one, brief instant. She saw it in his eyes; the clarity of the untameable madness which had once controlled him.
"Methos," she whispered, as though trying the name out. A frown flickered across her face, but she did not speak further. Instead she relaxed back against the wall, staring into the oil lamp. Amanda frowned at her, looking back at Methos. She saw pain in his eyes for a brief moment, and wondered just what it was that he was putting himself through. It was hurting him deeply, that much was sure, but he seemed to think it necessary. If he was trying to protect Amy, though, she could not see it working. The mortal woman was a lot tougher than she was letting on.
"Methos..." Whispering his name to recall his attention to her, Amanda wriggled about. "Do you think you can get free?"
"No." He stood up, feeling for the knots with his fingers, trying to free himself from the wall, but succeeded only in making his wrists bleed. He could not get hold of the rope enough to loosen the knots. "We're stuck here."
"But if what you say is true, the whole of Seacouver could be in ruins when we get back there. Maybe even further afield than that. I can't see it staying local."
"It won't." His voice was grim as he continued to struggle against the knots. "They don't want to kill just us. They want to kill every Immortal in the world, and every loyal Watcher. For all we know, there could be renegades loyal to the Hortons in every branch of the organisation across the world. He didn't just confine his work to France and the States. For all we know, at a signal from Jennifer, thousands of men and women might kill the Immortals they're assigned to watch. Right across the world. Gunner is going to start the backlash here, but how long do you think it will take before that spreads? How long before the life of every mortal across the world is at risk? They'll want to come after us. They'll want to join with the renegades, especially once the Immortals start killing innocent mortals along with the Watchers; and that will happen. The mortals will hunt us down. The renegades can tell them who we are. The Watcher files have photographs, even addresses. There'll be nowhere to run, for any of us, until the last of us is left. There's no telling what kind of madness could be unleashed, if the One chooses to look for revenge when he or she gets the Prize."
"I know." Amanda's voice was hushed. Methos was speaking to her of the end of the world, but she could not believe that he was just being paranoid. It seemed unlikely that one family's mad vendetta could spell the end of civilisation; and yet she knew that everything the old Immortal said had more than a ring of truth about it. She could see it all; it was coming. Everything could happen just as he was describing it. She began to tug on the ropes binding her to the wall. It was a slim chance, but as long as she believed that it was possible for her to break free, hope still existed. She had to get out of this room.
Joe Dawson stood up slowly, cursing his legs for making movement so awkward. He had got used to their shortcomings a long time ago, but he still felt the old frustrations at times. He was feeling them now, as he put the telephone receiver back into his cradle and ran over MacLeod's words inside his head. Forbes had received a call from Jennifer Horton, saying that she had both Amanda and Methos, as well as Amy and one of the other two Immortals accompanying them. Irrational fears ran through Dawson's head as he imagined the lonely end of the world's oldest Immortal, killed at the hands of a renegade Watcher and a bitter policeman. He crushed the thought, concentrating instead on his assigned task. The files were thick and seemingly endless, and he wished that Adam was here to help him sift through them all. The thought made him smile. It had been several years now since he had discovered the truth about the Watcher's identity, and yet at times he still thought of him as Adam; young and innocent, and charmingly British. Perhaps it was easier to think of him that way, rather than to remember that he was thousands of years older than a man who looked almost old enough to be his father; and that he belonged to a race which had very likely ceased to exist a millennium or more before Dawson's had even begun.
A telephone rang in an adjacent office, and Dawson closed his mind to it, sitting back down at his desk. He had been at it for hours, turning pages in the files with a mechanical regularity. Names and faces flowed before his eyes, some connecting, others not. Some he had never even heard of, let alone met, but he still had to find out all that he could about them. These people were Watchers; his people; but some of them had to be linked with the Hortons in one way or another. Some of these names and faces were renegades, prepared to do what was necessary in order to continue the work begun by James Horton.
"Yes, ma'am." He heard the voice of somebody speaking on the phone next door, but the sound was distant and he ignored it. It was several moments before he heard his own door opening, and he looked up. It was rare for him to be disturbed when he was working, and most of his people knew better than to come in without knocking. He looked up into the clear blue eyes of the man whose face was currently grinning up at him from the file on the desk.
"Gary." Dawson gave him a brisk nod before returning his attention to the files.
"Mr Dawson." Gary's voice was light and even. "I'm going to have to ask you to stand up, sir."
"Huh?" Dawson frowned at him. "Are you serious? I'm busy, Gary."
"And I have important things to do." Gary's voice had acquired an edge. "Stand up please, sir, and put your hands on the table."
Dawson looked up. Gary had produced a gun from somewhere; a small, snub-nosed automatic, which was pointed unwaveringly at the older Watcher's chest. Slowly Dawson got to his feet, staring first at the gun and then at Gary.
"So you're one of the Horton's lap dogs." He shook his head. "I thought you were more intelligent than that."
"What's intelligent about it all?" There was a large measure of bitterness behind the younger man's words. "I believed in all this at first, but Mr Horton showed me the way it really is. I'm sorry that you couldn't see things his way too."
"I'm not." Holding his hands where they would be easily visible, Dawson stepped away from his desk. "So what now? Are you going to shoot me?"
"My orders are to do what is necessary sir." Gary turned his head slightly to look at a second figure standing behind him. "We're to give Miss Horton two hours to get the ball rolling, then move to phase two. You'd better make sure that the other traitors are secure."
"Traitors?" Joe asked. Gary stared back at him, his eyes cold.
"Yes. People like you, who prefer immortal freaks to their own kind. People who wouldn't understand the way things have to be now. We have to move on."
"Naturally. Can I ask what phase two is? Or phase one?"
"Sure." Gary seemed happy to share his information. "Phase one is now. We move in, we take over, and we prepare. Miss Horton will be sending out her troops, to assassinate known Immortals within a fifty mile radius of Seacouver. We wait two hours for that plan to be fully implemented, and then we initiate phase two. We release our files to the press, and begin to move our operations further afield. Other cities, other states. Step by step."
"The press will never believe you." Joe could not keep the sarcasm from his voice. "Surely you don't believe that you can convince them of all of this? You're mad."
"Why would you say that? Why do people say that?" Anger flashed through Gary's eyes. "Television is one thing; live demonstrations are another. They'll have to believe, once it all gets started. Besides;" a smile lit up his face, "We only need the Immortals to believe our stories about you. We only need them to believe that they've been watched for thousands of years. Then they'll do our dirty work for us. How long do you think it will take them to figure out what that tattoo means? It's like a brand, singling you out." He held up his own wrist. "Mine's just a fake. I can take it off. I'll be safe. We've been planning this take over a long time, Dawson. We've thought of everything."
"Have you really." Joe shook his head wearily, genuinely sad that his colleague had been reduced to such bitter madness. "What did Horton feed you people? Or did he only ever employ the ones who failed the psych test?"
"You'll regret that." His voice like ice, Gary gestured with his gun for Dawson to precede him from the room. "Come this way."
"Whatever you say, Gary." Keeping is sarcasm in check, Joe did as he was told, his mind working over his current situation. Much though he believed that these people had to be insane to follow the plans of a man like James Horton, he found himself understanding their goal now. He had thought that they planned merely to expose the Immortals, which would do little save open themselves up to ridicule. He hadn't realised that their plans went much deeper. To expose the Watchers would lead to the destruction of the ancient organisation; for many of the Immortals would never take to the idea of their existence. Whilst the Immortals turned on the Watchers, the renegade Watchers would begin killing off the Immortals. It had every chance of succeeding, and Joe had to grudgingly admit this to himself. Perhaps they weren't all so mad, after all.
"Hello? I'm looking for a man named Joe Dawson?" The man standing in the doorway was a total stranger, and his voice suggested that he was not local. Startled from his thoughts, Joe looked up, staring straight at the man. He was looking at Joe, as though he somehow knew the face of the man he was looking for.
"Please come right on in." Stepping quickly to one side, and moving with the inspiration of sudden insight, Joe saw the stranger begin to move. A thousand thoughts rushed through Dawson's brain, but in the millisecond now available to him, he had time to process only one. He threw himself behind the nearest desk, just as the stranger drew a gun.
"Get down!" Joe heard himself shouting the warning at Gary, even before he had time to ask himself why he was warning an enemy. He heard a gunshot and saw Gary fall; heard a second shot coming from nearby. Appearing out of nowhere, three Watchers who could only have been renegades, were firing back at the stranger in the doorway. Dawson saw the man fall, and in the same instant he moved. He ran back into his office, pulling a gun from his desk drawer, and peered through his office door. He saw the outer door burst open, and saw six men run in, guns drawn. He stared at them, eyes opened wide with disbelief. A renegade shouted in pain, then collapsed on to the floor, and Joe ducked back under cover. Who were these people? If the battle was already beginning; if these people were Immortals already looking for the destruction of the Watchers, they were not ones that Joe recognised.
"Joe!" A fellow Watcher, appearing from an adjacent office, crawled across the floor to join his comrade. "What the hell's going on? One of our own people just pulled a gun on me, and then suddenly there's all this shooting going on, and--" A large splinter of wood burst out of the door above their heads, and both men ducked sharply. "Who are these people?"
"I don't know." Joe led him across the room, to a large window big enough to climb through. "We have to get out of here."
"You don't say." The other Watcher stood up. "There's more of them out here, Joe."
"Huh?" Joe peered over the sill, and saw three more men moving around the back of the building. They carried automatic rifles, and all wore black flak jackets. He recognised one, and found himself slumping back against the wall. "Gunner."
"Pardon?" His companion peered through the window, taking care to stay out of sight. "Don't I recognise that big ugly one?"
"Gunner," Joe repeated. "What the hell is he doing here? How did he-?" He shook his head. "Come on, Sam. We have to find a better place to hide up."
"What about the others?" Sam asked him. Dawson shook his head, feeling his own helplessness building up within him.
"I don't know," he said sadly, thinking of them all out there, trapped in other parts of the building. It was clear to him that Gunner would be after all of the Watchers, regardless of their loyalties. "They're just going to have to take their chances." Slowly and with increasing fear, he began to edge across the floor, beginning to prepare himself for a full-scale siege.
Lieutenant James Forbes waited patiently at the final crossroads before reaching Jennifer's house, watching as three large black Land Rovers sped past him. He grinned to himself. The Horton Hit Squad, as he liked to call it, finally getting its big chance. Three teams of three men, whose soul goal in life was to assassinate Immortals. It had amazed him at first, to think that there were so many people who were willing to work together despite the costs, just to annihilate this strange race of men and women; but he was finding all the time that he was far from alone in his hatred. Everybody, it seemed, had lost someone that they cared about; or had faced the threat of losing someone. Everybody carried some secret bitterness; an inability to accept their own mortality, or an unwillingness to accept somebody else's. All of those people could be exploited by people like the Hortons. He had seen Jennifer manipulate them. All that they needed was a little encouragement, and their secret fears and angers could be used to great advantage. Jealousy was a powerful tool. He watched the three cars vanish into the distance, and wondered whether he should be glad or sorry for the death they were to unleash. He was surprised to find that he wanted to feel sad. He had come a long way since the day when he had first discovered that there were people in the world who were immune to all diseases. He had changed so much. He no longer cared about the people of Seacouver that he had once been sworn to protect. All that he cared about was tied up with the plans of Jennifer Horton. He felt lost, but did not feel inclined to find himself. Pretty soon, none of it would matter anyway. There would be no going back.
He turned up the long drive and eventually brought the car to a standstill, going up the long, broad staircase to the door of the secret annexe. The long dark tunnel held no surprises for him anymore, and he hurried down it, soon arriving in the large room where they had set up headquarters. Jennifer was on the phone, but she hung up at his appearance, smiling in her usual, faintly seductive way.
"Lieutenant. Good of you to join me."
"How is it going?"
"Fine." She gestured at the piles of polystyrene boxes stacked neatly at the side of the room. "Our first overseas shipment of the wonder drug. It goes to Australia tonight."
"Good." He checked over the boxes, again feeling the odd sorrow in his heart. It was like a coldness; a gradual realisation that he was turning into another Horton. He was surprised to find that there was still enough of his old self left to care about who he was. "And after Australia?"
"Britain, Europe, Africa..." She shrugged. "Who cares? They'll all get their turn eventually."
"I'm impressed." He stared back at her. "And what happens to our guests?"
"Whatever you want." She smiled delightfully at him. "I give them to you. They're yours. You'd better get your daughter out of here too, before I get the wrong idea about why she was with them in the first place."
"You'll do nothing." He spun about, heading back down the corridor to the only room he knew of in the annexe which had a lock on the outside of the door. He pulled back the bolt, staring into the semi-darkness of the room.
"Dad." Amy stood up and he hurried to her, undoing her hands. She held back from him, as though disturbed by his presence, and yet anxious to be with him all the same.
"Amy." He tried to hug her, but she pulled away. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." She looked over at Methos and Amanda. "You have to get them out of here too, dad. Please? It's not too late yet."
"Too late for what?" He stared at her, and she saw an odd emptiness in his eyes, as though something was missing. He no longer looked like the man who had brought her up. "Too late to stop the water supply from being contaminated? Too late to stop Jennifer from sending out her minions to kill every Immortal they can lay their hands on? It's way too late for that." The water in Seacouver is so full of your drug that I wouldn't dare drink it, and I'm not even an Immortal. Jennifer is getting ready now to expose the Watchers, so that the Immortals will know all about them. You know what they'll do then." He smiled. "It'll all be over in a few months, and then we can go back to how we were before."
"No we can't." She pulled away from him, her expression much like one whose whole world had been crushed. "We can never be the same, not after this. Don't you see what you're doing? I'm the one who has this disease, dad; but you're the one who's sick." She turned away. "I've made my choice, and these are the people I want to be with. It's not their fault that I'm ill. Why should they have to suffer, just because you're jealous?"
"It's not as simple as that." He tried to think of some other reason why he had become involved in it all, but the arguments just would not come. "Amy, you don't--"
"Shut up." She turned away. "You're planning to kill thousands of innocent mortals as well as the Immortals. The mortals are our own kind, dad. They never did anything to you. You're helping Jennifer kill them because you think she's on your side. All she cares about is doing what her father wanted, and what his brother wanted. They're crazy. Why do you have to be a part of that?"
"She's right." Methos stood up, staring straight at Forbes. He could still see the man who had once tried to save his life, when he had believed that Adam Pierson was just a mortal man in danger from a serial killer. The detective had wanted to help then. "Believe me; if there was anything I could do to make Amy better, I would. If I thought your plans would help her to get better, I wouldn't stand in your way; but they won't. Nothing you can do is going to help her, except being here for her. Killing my people isn't going to do you any good." He sighed, trying to find the right words. "Four and a half thousand years ago, a man saw that I couldn't die, and he tried to use me as part of a ritual sacrifice, to stop his only son from dying of a wasting disease. That didn't help him, and what you're doing isn't going to help Amy."
"Maybe I don't care anymore." His voice suddenly loud, barely less than a bellow, Forbes rounded on Methos. "Do you know what it's like, watching somebody that you love dying, and not being able to do anything about it? Do you know what it's like, seeing their whole life destroyed? Every time she gets a cold, she has to wonder if this is it; if this is where being HIV positive ends, and where AIDs begins. Can you imagine what it's like to live like that?" He grabbed Methos by the shirt and slammed him up against the wall. "Of course you can't! You can't even get a cold! Why am I supposed to let you live, any of you? Huh?"
Methos stared back at him, his dark eyes brighter than any the policeman had ever seen. It was starting to sink in, what Pierson had just said; about remembering something that had happened four and a half thousand years ago. He saw lights burning in the depths of those dark, mysterious eyes, and he felt his arms go weak. Methos seemed oblivious of the turmoil boiling away inside the man; he was too busy fighting his own battles. He knew exactly how Forbes felt, and had been through it many more times than the mortal could possibly imagine. He had lost countless people; some that he had loved, and some who had just been friends. He forced it all to the back of his heart, determined to allow none of it to show in his face.
"I don't know, lieutenant," he said softly. Forbes pushed him away, stepping back, and at the same moment Billy Raymond, long forgotten on the floor, stood up, knocking Amy aside and grabbing for Forbes. He wrestled the mortal's gun away, bringing it to bear on the mortal woman standing near him. His eyes were wide with anger, and his breath came in short gasps. The ropes used to bind him lay on the floor, arranged in odd neatness where he had left them.
"You're all mad!" he shouted, his voice cracking from sheer rage. "You're all mad. You can't beat us. You can't kill us! We're immortal. You're nothing."
"No!" Leaping forward as far as his ropes would allow him, Methos knocked Amy to one side. At the same moment Raymond fired, and the bullet caught the older Immortal in the chest. Methos was flung backwards by the blast, slamming against the wall. Forbes spun about, seizing Raymond's arms and beginning to struggle with him. They fought, fighting against each other's anger, the gun firing at random, and sending bullets ricocheting about the room.
"You're a dead man!" Dragging the gun free, Forbes finally succeeded in throwing Raymond off. He fired three times, making the body of the Immortal jerk about under the force of the bullets. The sound of the gunfire had barely ceased before the policeman had dragged a short sword from under his coat.
"No!" Hating to see an Immortal killed by one who was not part of the Game, Amanda struggled to her feet, her eyes wide. Forbes ignored her, and with a sudden violent, downward stroke, he beheaded the fallen man.
"There." Staring at the decapitated head, Forbes fought to catch his breath, his eyes wide with angry exhaustion. "You see how easy it is, Amy? They're not so indestructible."
"What's happening?" Standing in the middle of the room, Amy took a step away from the body. There was a growing tension; a feeling that something was coming. It frightened her. A flicker of blue lightning arose from the body on the floor, and she gave a small scream. Gradually the tendrils of lightning grew, beginning to leap about inside the room.
"Get down!" Methos found the strength to shout the words, despite the pain from the bullet hole in his chest. He saw the Quickening build; saw it split between the two Immortals trapped with it in the small room. The lightning leapt from wall to wall, making the room shake, snapping the wooden door in half with an almighty, splintering crash. Forbes and Amy clung to each other, staring in disbelief as the two living Immortals were hit by the power of whatever force had been unleashed by Raymond's death. They jerked about, the ropes which bound them coming apart as the lightning flowed through them, building in rage and power until, finally, it burst free through the stone wall, showering the foursome with broken masonry. The oil lamp exploded, and the room was plunged into darkness.
"Are you okay, Amanda?" Methos asked, climbing to his feet to survey the damage.
"Fine." She rubbed at her chest which had still been sore, but now felt regenerated. "I feel like a new woman."
"Me too." He grinned at her, offering her a hand to get up. Forbes rose to his feet too, his sword still in his hand.
"Where are you going?" he asked. Methos brushed some crumbs of cement and brick from his clothes, his eyes dividing their time between the policeman and his daughter.
"We're going after Jennifer," he said simply. Forbes raised his sword.
"I can't let you do that," he said simply. Methos glanced over at Amanda, unsure what to do. Her expression offered him no inspiration.
"Hard luck." The voice was firm, and tinged with an edge of humour. There was the sound of a heavy blow, and the lieutenant pitched forwards onto the ground.
"Hi." Duncan MacLeod flashed a torch into the room. "Anybody want to get out of here?"
"Duncan!" Amanda seemed almost to bounce towards him, her energy and liveliness restored. Methos followed her, heartened by Amy's companionship. She glanced once at her father, then took the old Immortal by the hand to lead him down the short corridor, to the large room where Jennifer still waited. Their mortal enemy smiled at them all.
"I've been waiting for you," she said, grinning hugely. "You're all very welcome. I heard the Quickening. Poor Mr Raymond has departed?"
"Yeah. He sends his apologies." Duncan stepped towards her. "Give it up, Jennifer."
"What? And deny you the infinite pleasure of dying at the hands of my uncle's army?" She stepped to one side, revealing a small doorway, from which there came three men, all dressed in black, and carrying swords. "He trained them all himself, you know; and then my father took over when Uncle James became... indisposed. You're just a very, very small part of something much, much bigger. It'll be a relief to get you out of the way so that we can get on with something a little more important."
"Shucks, Jennifer. And I thought we had something special." Duncan drew his sword, preparing to meet the new arrivals head on. Methos and Amanda looked about for anything to use to defend themselves. They had no idea where their own weapons were.
"Prepare to die!" One of the men, leaping forward with a look of blissful insanity on his face, swung his sword in an arc. Methos managed to dodge aside, punching his attacker hard in the ribs. The man showed no sign of discomfort, wheeling about for a second attack, the flat of his sword catching the Immortal across the side of the head. He stumbled, seeing stars, and his assailant whirled about, sword held high.
"No!" Amy ran forward, reaching out her arms to push Methos aside. He saw her coming, seeing the sword descend at the same moment, and his eyes widened. The swordsman turned to face her, his expression showing no change at all as he met her head on, clearly deciding to get her out of the way before returning to his intended immortal victim.
"Amy!" Methos tried to move forwards, but the world was a blur, and she was moving too fast. He saw the sword fall, and saw her head as it fell from her shoulders. A cold shiver ran through him.
"You son of a--" His voice failing him, Methos threw himself at the mortal, his strong hands tearing the sword away. He saw a pair of cold eyes, lit with surprise, before he was pulling back with the sword in his hands. The mortal came at him, desperate to retrieve his weapon, but Methos was ready for him, and he swung the sword. It slashed across the mortal's body, cutting through his chest. The old Immortal saw the look of deepest amazement pass across the man's face, before he collapsed onto the floor. Methos did not wait to see him land. His eyes seeing nothing but anger, he ran forward, catching hold of the mortal currently battling with Amanda. He jerked the man back, dragging him onto the waiting sword blade, letting his own body weight impale him on the weapon.
"Methos?" Startled, Amanda stepped forward, but Methos ignored her, spinning about. He saw MacLeod hit his opponent full in the face with the hilt of his sword, dropping the man where he stood.
"Where's Jennifer?" Staring about, his eyes burning with fury, Methos remembered the small door through which their attackers had come. He made a beeline straight for it, but MacLeod caught hold of him.
"No," he said sharply, unsure that he liked the look on his friend's face. Methos tried to pull free, but Duncan was too strong.
"Let me go, MacLeod," he warned, his grip tightening on his sword. The Highlander ignored him, glancing instead towards the other door, where Forbes had just appeared. He saw the body of his daughter, and his eyes widened in disbelief.
"No..." he whispered. Methos felt his anger drain away. He lowered his sword and gestured at the small doorway.
"It was Jennifer," he said simply. "She went through there."
Forbes stared at him, emotions and thoughts passing across his eyes. Finally he grabbed at a gun lying on a shelf near the door, and ran off after Jennifer Horton. MacLeod hesitated, then slowly released Methos.
"Are you okay?" he asked. The old Immortal shrugged.
"Who gives a damn?" He followed Forbes, moving slowly and without great enthusiasm. The others went with him, tense and expecting an attack. They found themselves in a large underground chamber, the walls stacked with boxes like the ones in the room they had just left. Jennifer Horton stood at one end of the room, a gun in her hand. It was smoking gently, and Forbes lay dead on the ground at her feet. She glanced up at the three Immortals and giggled softly.
"Hi." She pointed her gun at them. "You're dead. All three of you."
"And you're finished." MacLeod stepped forward, holding out his hand. "Give me the gun, Jennifer."
She laughed, a halting, jerky laugh, then fired three times. MacLeod fell backwards, the bullets slamming into his arms and his chest. Jennifer giggled again, turning the gun to point at the remaining two.
"You next," she told them. "Then I can get back to the rest of the plan. You know... I really have been looking forward to this."
"Hard luck." Methos' voice was as cold and as dead as it could possibly have been. He weighed his sword in his hand. "Get it over with, Jennifer. Shoot us."
"Are you kidding? Without showing you all this?" She gestured at the boxes which surrounded them. "Gallons of the stuff. Thousands of gallons. Millions. In a few hours, this will be flowing through every drop of water in the whole of Australia. You see what's going to happen? It'll all be over soon, for all of you."
"Guess again." With the ghost of a cold smile on his face, Methos threw his sword. It struck the mortal woman in the chest, knocking her backwards and embedding itself in the wood of a door behind her. She stared at him, her eyes questioning and indignant; then her head drooped. Her body stood still, held up by the sword, unable to fall.
"There." He wiped his hands on his shirt, as if trying to clean them, then went to Duncan. The Highlander was already climbing to his feet, his wounds healed. He looked at Jennifer, and then turned his eyes to Methos.
"Nice shot," was all that he said. Methos shrugged.
"I couldn't think of any other way." He turned to leave the room, heading back to the place where Amy's body lay.
"Methos." Amanda spoke to him gently. "Here." He turned, to see that she was offering him his sword, taken from a shelf on the wall. Her own was there too. He stared at it for several moments, unsure whether he really wanted it.
"Come on, Methos." MacLeod spoke with surprising gentility, and Methos found himself reacting to the other man's voice. He reached out for the sword and took it, feeling its familiar weight.
"Now what?" he asked, trying to keep his eyes from going back to Amy's lifeless form.
"Now we destroy this place." MacLeod rubbed at his eyes, obviously exhausted. "I went to see a friend earlier. A chemist. He's working on some more of that antidote for us." He glanced down at his chest, where one of Jennifer's bullets had struck him. "I let him test it on me, so I guess we can say that it works."
"We have to get it in the water quickly. Amy thought--" Her name seemed to stick in Methos' throat, but he continued to force the words out. "Amy thought that the drug could affect mortals too. It could kill them."
"I know." Duncan pulled a book of matches from his pocket and began to start a fire in one corner of the room. They stood together as the blaze grew higher. "I heard it on the radio on my way up here. Sixteen people are dead. The doctors think it's some weird epidemic. They haven't traced it to the water."
"Then we have to move fast." Methos led the way from the annexe, hurrying down the stairs. Outside it was growing dark, and he frowned to see the encroaching night. Where had the day gone?
"This way." Duncan led them to his car, starting up the engine almost before they were all inside. The radio burst into life with the engine, and they heard the voice of a newscaster, speaking in the serious tones which signalled a major story.
"Police say that the siege in downtown Seacouver has now come to an end. Fifteen bodies are believed to have been recovered from the building where--"
"Joe." Without understanding quite how he knew that this news story concerned his friend, Duncan slammed off the radio and spun the car around. It shot down the road, still well above the speed limit as it reached the town. The Highlander forced himself to slow down as they approached Watcher Headquarters, unwilling to get himself arrested for speeding when his friend might need him.
The large building was surrounded by tape, with policemen and photographers milling around in ordered chaos. Duncan and his companions leapt from the car, heading for the ambulances which were gathered in groups near the main entrance. A policeman tried to divert the threesome, but they pushed past him, ignoring his order to stay away.
"Joe!" His voice cracked with concern, Methos ran towards the first ambulance, seeing three body bags lying on the ground. He forced himself to dismiss them, and ran on by. "Joe!"
"Adam!" Dawson's voice sounded relieved, and the ageing mortal stepped towards him, appearing out of the back of an ambulance. "You're okay."
"Of course I'm okay." He frowned. "What the hell happened here, Joe?"
"Gunner. He came after us." Dawson shrugged rather vaguely, showing that he had been somewhat confused by it all. He led the little group away from the onlookers, into the shade of the trees nearby. "The renegades had just started to take over, and all of a sudden there were all these others around, and everybody was shooting at each other." He shook his head. "It was like a war going on. I couldn't even tell who was who anymore."
"Where's Gunner now?" MacLeod asked. Joe shrugged.
"Somebody shot him. I saw the police carry his body out, but I don't know where he is now. With that drug pumping around inside him, it could be a long time before he wakes up."
"Long enough for them to get him full of formaldehyde. That'll put his recovery back even further." Methos smiled with malicious glee. "It'll do him good to do some hard time six feet under."
"If you say so." Dawson managed a wry smile. "Where have you lot come from?"
"Jennifer's place." MacLeod leaned against a convenient tree, feeling very tired. "She's dead; so's Forbes."
"We can relax. It's over," Amanda sounded surprised by this sudden observation.
"No it's not. What about the assassination squad?" Dawson remembered the words of Gary, the renegade Watcher. "They sent out men to kill you; all of you."
"Then we'll get the word out, and we'll warn everyone." Methos seemed oddly lacking in concern for his fellow Immortals, clearly having prior worries. "How many people did we lose, Joe?"
"We?" Dawson frowned, then realised that the old Immortal was referring to the Watchers. "I don't know. Nine I think. Three renegades, six of ours."
"Damn." Sighing deeply, Methos turned away, gazing at the mass of police cars and ambulances. Damn Gunner and his angry crusade. Damn the Hortons and their hatred of the Watchers. Between them they had come close to destroying the few people he had allowed himself to grow close to for almost a century. "I'm tired. I want to go home."
"We have to get that antidote moving first," MacLeod reminded him. The older Immortal nodded slowly.
"I know." He began to walk away, heading back to where Duncan had parked his car. "We'll get it sorted out. Somehow."
"Hey, Methos." Strolling up to the bar, Joe nodded a cheerful greeting to his friend, deciding not to ask how the old Immortal came to be in the club; Joe had only just unlocked the doors.
"Hey." Methos did not look up from his beer. He seemed more subdued than usual, which worried Dawson. They had dumped their antidote in the water, they had gone back to the house, to make sure that everything had been destroyed in the fire. They had spread the word about the assassination squads, passing it out along the grapevine as best they could. It had come too late for three Immortals, but that was just too bad, in Dawson's view. Perhaps it was the mortal death toll which was bothering the old man, or maybe it was the loss of Amy Forbes. He had no way of telling, and he knew that Methos would not enlighten him.
"Are you okay?" he asked. Methos smiled, a thin, weak imitation of the cheerful grins he was capable of.
"Yeah." He sounded distant. There was a long silence. "We came pretty close, didn't we Joe."
"Close?" Dawson sat down beside him. He didn't need to ask what the Immortal meant. The Watchers of Seacouver had faced extinction, and Gunner would not have been prepared to let it rest at that. The Immortals, too, had been on the brink of something catastrophic. They might still be, depending on just how many of the renegades there still were. "Yeah, we came pretty close. But it's over. We escaped."
"Yeah, I know we did. But thirty odd mortals... plus Forbes and Horton... Amy... four Immortals..." The smile fluttered back out. "I--" He broke off. "I was afraid, Joe. Like I haven't been in years. I really thought this could have been the end. I don't know why, but it just felt so... so bad."
"Yeah, Amanda said." Dawson shrugged. "Relax; it didn't happen. It wasn't likely to. That kind of destruction could only have come from mass chaos. It couldn't happen."
"Couldn't it?" The old man toyed with his beer. "Mob rule is a powerful thing, Joe. So is the pack instinct. I've seen it before. You can't underestimate it." He frowned, speaking slowly and clearly. "In 1952, I was in Berlin. I met this man. He was young - about your age, maybe even younger. He was an ordinary guy, just like you or me; had a wife and three kids. In the thirties, he had seen all of the violence that went on against the Jews, and he hated it. It made him sick. But he didn't do anything active to stop it, because he was afraid. Then, gradually, he saw his friends taking part. At first he didn't join in, but in the end he did. He found that he enjoyed it. He liked the power, and the adrenalin. He liked the feeling it all gave him, so he carried on. He let it get stronger than he was." There was a pause. "By the time I met him, he was so ashamed of what he'd done that he was on the brink of suicide. He told me..." The voice trailed off again. "He told me that it was all so easy to get lost in it all. That he wouldn't let the courts prosecute him for what he'd done, because they couldn't judge him. He said that if the same thing happened again, any one of us could have been him. We could all have done what he did." He sighed. "And he was right. I've seen it before, in a million different places. Times change, but the people don't. It would all have happened like I said."
"Then we'll have to make sure that it doesn't, won't we." Joe clapped him on the shoulder. "They're dead, Methos. The renegades are no good without a leader. From now on we're ready for them. You, me, MacLeod. We'll be okay."
"Yeah." Methos looked across at him, and managed a grin. "Thanks Joe."
"Huh? What for?"
"For still being alive." The old man smiled. "I nearly lost it several times during all of this."
"I can't say as I blame you." Dawson rose to his feet. "Come on, pal."
"Where are we going?" Finishing his beer, Methos stood up. Dawson grinned.
"We're going back to Paris, on the first plane that'll take us there. What do you say? A week? A month?"
"Yeah." Methos felt himself smiling again, and decided that he liked it. "Can we stop off in Britain on the way? I want to buy you an English pint."
"Sounds good to me." Dawson grinned, and slung an arm around his friend's shoulders. "Do we take MacLeod and Amanda?"
"No." Methos smiled happily. "We're going to be drinking to the Watchers. And to mortality."
"Not yours, Methos." They reached the street, where Joe's car stood in waiting. "You're going to live forever."
"Maybe." The old Immortal slid into the car, waiting as Dawson settled himself behind the wheel. He flashed the mortal a sudden grin, surprising him with the abruptness of his good humour. "So long as there's plenty of beer to drink."
"Amen." Joe started up the engine, driving the car out into the flow of traffic. It would be good to see Paris again.
"She's dead, isn't she." The dark suited figure, sitting behind his large desk, glanced up at the black clad man who stood before him, looking creased and crumpled from his long journey.
"Yes sir. Both her and Lieutenant Forbes. The drug was destroyed; we don't have any more of it. The operation was a failure, sir."
"Was it." Resting his chin on his hands, Frank Horton closed his eyes, thinking hard. So the Seacouver plan had failed; he had other ideas. He looked up. "Pierson?" he asked. "And MacLeod?"
"Alive sir. I have no idea where they are at present though sir. Word is they've both left the town. Separately I believe."
"Alive." Horton sighed, drawing himself up to his full height as he stood up. He pulled a long sword from his desk drawer and gazed at it, enjoying the thought of Duncan MacLeod and Adam Pierson meeting their ends beneath the blade. He thrust forward with the sword, impaling his unfortunate messenger. "Lucky them."
"Sir?" Gasping in pain, the messenger slid to the floor, confusion at the betrayal showing in his eyes. Horton smiled down at him.
"Never," he said slowly and deliberately, "never call my plans a failure." He wiped the sword clean on the carpet, then threw the weapon down on the floor and stalked out of the room. He had things to do. Left behind, the messenger tried to stand, his strength draining rapidly away. His legs twitched feebly, then were still. The last thought which passed through his mind was that his boss was insane, and that it was high time he began looking for another career.
Outside, as he walked along the edge of the road heading who knew where, Frank Horton began to laugh. It began as a mad giggle, but grew into a powerful laugh that came from somewhere dark within him. It wasn't over. Not yet. He was still laughing as he reached the centre of town, and headed for his favourite restaurant. The whole world thought that he was dead. Alone here in Paris, where nobody could possibly know him, he would start all over again.