This story was written for the MacBeta Watcher Wheel as a commentary on wonderful lyrics provided by Chuck. Will the real Mr. Destiny please stand up? (G) This is an alternate universe story, so all deviations from canon are intentional.
DISCLAIMERS: Joe Dawson, Amy Brennan-Thomas, James Horton, Don Salzer, Adam Pierson and Robert Tucker belong to DPP. If DPP decides to sue me they will discover that I can't afford an attorney. This should lead them to suspect that I'm not getting rich from fanfic. (BG) Send feedback to Shomeret@aol.com
KEYWORD: Alternate Universe
SUMMARY: In an alternate universe Joe Dawson details his most difficult experience as a Watcher in a letter to his daughter, Amy.
I'm glad that your mother finally let me into your life now that you're attending Watcher Academy. I think she expects me to talk you out of becoming a Watcher. If you inherited my stubborn streak, I doubt I'd make much headway even if I tried. It's your life, honey, and I haven't had any hand in the shaping of it up until now. So I'll just have to trust you to make the decision that's best for you.
You asked me to tell you about my most difficult decision as a Watcher. Discovering that James Horton was a renegade oathbreaker was pretty tough on me emotionally. James and I were pretty close once upon a time, but I did what I had to do. You'll find the bare bones of what happened in the Watcher Tribunal Archives, but there aren't too many people who know the full story. This letter is based on private journal entries which I've never shown another soul. You've probably heard all about James Horton in your Watcher Ethics class, but I'm hoping that unburdening myself to you this way will give you a better understanding of who I am.
We started thinking that James was up to something after the incident in Chaumont in the fall of '92. Methos researcher Don Salzer was following up a suspected Methos sighting there when he discovered James conducting what looked like unauthorized surveillance on the gypsy Immortals, Jacob and Irena Galati. He decided to contact the Galatis' Watcher, Maria Pezza, about the situation. Don found her dead with a broken neck not far from the Galatis' home which had been burned to the ground. He reported this to Headquarters along with the unexplained beheading of Irena Galati and the disappearance of her Immortal spouse, Jacob. When I asked James for an explanation of his presence in Chaumont, he told me that he'd been negotiating for the purchase of some rare books for his store in the States.
God knows I wanted to believe him. James had been romancing my sister Emily in Chicago before he left in '64 for a tour of duty in 'Nam. Emily was delighted to marry such a suave sophisticated Englishman after his return from the war. When Emily was diagnosed with terminal cancer in '75, I got a leave of absence from my assignment so I could be with my sister before she died. James was a rock to both me and my niece Lynn during Emily's final days. I thought of James a brother. I don't know what I would have done without him then.
I remember thinking that if what we suspected about James was true, Ian Bancroft would be spinning in his grave. He's probably dead by now. After recruiting both me and James in 'Nam, and providing us with contact info to join the Watchers, Bancroft just up and vanished. As Darius' Watcher, he'd been sending back regular reports about Darius' effort to aid Vietnamese Catholic and Buddhist clergy in an organized campaign to end the war. Then his reports suddenly stopped. Bancroft has been listed as Missing in Action since '68. Watchers were assigned to look for him, but after a year Headquarters decided to pull them out. We couldn't afford the manpower to continue the search any longer. If I had known at the time that Bancroft was missing, I swear I would have gone back to that Southeast Asian hellhole and questioned those Buddhist monks who were supposed to have been the last to see him. When Ian Bancroft told me about Immortals and Watchers he gave my life a real purpose. I would have done what I could for him, but by the time I found out the trail was as cold as an igloo and Headquarters was asking me if I wanted to replace Bancroft as Darius' Watcher.
I was told that it was a tremendous honor to be assigned to Darius so soon after my graduation from Watcher Academy, though I always wondered if Headquarters didn't decide to relegate me to an Immortal who stayed on holy ground because they didn't think I could keep up with an active player in the Game. I decided that a permanent posting to Paris had its attractions, and packed my bags for the City of Light.
It didn't take long to establish friendships with local Watchers Don Salzer and Adam Pierson. At the time, Adam was just another researcher on the Methos Project. He's the one who did a search of that Watcher database he'd designed, and found what he called a "data cluster" of unexplained beheadings beginning with Blake Wilmington in 1990. Wilmington had been James' last field assignment. Both Adam and Don were very suspicious of James at that point, but I begged them not to alert the Tribunal until they had solid proof. So Don sent some of his people out to shadow James, but he always managed to lose them. In 'Nam James had always been the advance scout because he was so good at evading enemy patrols. So we were never able to find any real evidence against James despite his problematic presence in the general area where several Immortals met mysterious ends. In all cases, their Watchers were conveniently absent.
Even without evidence the cumulative pattern was disturbing. If James really had been murdering Immortals for the past three years, he had to be stopped. I knew that. I figure that James might have had some kind of mental breakdown. It can't be easy to stand by and watch the horrors perpetrated by such Immortals as the Kurgan or Kage. If I had been assigned to such ruthless killers I could have become unhinged myself. I remember thanking my lucky stars that my Immortal was a lover of peace and a servant of humanity.
That's why I was reluctant to agree to Adam's plan. Adam had asked me to meet him in the basement of Shakespeare and Company saying that he had a proposal that he couldn't discuss over the phone. When I got there I told him that this had better be good because I hated hobbling down those old rickety basement stairs. I'm sure they'll give way one of these days. I was shocked when he said that he wanted me to entrap James by dangling Darius in front of him as bait.
"Don't ask me to do this, Adam," I told him. "I can't be the Judas who destroys James, and I won't risk Darius!"
"Joe, if Horton is innocent, you won't be risking Darius," Adam said in a reassuring tone.
"No one wants to believe that James is innocent more than I do, Adam. But what if he isn't?" I demanded harshly.
"Then he should be encouraged to take up some other less dangerous hobby like needlepoint," Adam quipped. Adam's a habitual smart mouth. There have been times when I've appreciated the wit in his snide comments. This wasn't one of them.
"Very funny, Adam," I responded sourly. "It's much more likely that the Tribunal will encourage him to be measured for a coffin."
"So you want to twiddle your thumbs while the perplexing cases of mysteriously shortened Immortals pile up, and hope that the problem just goes away of its own accord? That's a fine idea," Adam remarked with evident sarcasm. "I think I'll go twiddle my thumbs in Bora Bora. Methos is probably there right now soaking up some rays," he added heading for the door.
I told him that I would do it. I'd set up James and use Darius as bait. It was the only plan we had. But I couldn't let Adam go without cursing him as a cold hearted son of a snake. He only smirked. Now Amy, I want you to know that Adam's one of the best friends I've ever had, but he can also be annoying as hell.
When I got back to my apartment I phoned James and told him that I was going back to Chicago for a few days to spend some time with family, and did he have anything he wanted me to say to them? James told me to have a wonderful family get-together, and said I shouldn't worry about a thing. He'd cover for me with Darius. He sounded completely normal. Boy, did he have me fooled!
We knew that James wasn't stupid. He'd check passenger lists to make sure I was gone, so Don flew to Chicago that evening using my name and a forged version of my passport with Don's photo that Adam doctored up in a few hours.
I slept on Adam's couch that night. Then while it was still dark I slipped into Darius' church, entered the deserted side chapel and prayed more sincerely than I had in years.
When the church emptied after morning mass I knew it was only a matter of time before James put in an appearance. His voice rang out on cue, but I never expected to hear the words he spoke.
"That book in your hands is one of our chronicles!" James roared in outrage. "That's our symbol on the cover. You must have stolen it. Hand it over, Father Darius."
I suppressed a gasp of astonishment. Darius actually had a Watcher chronicle! I wondered how long he had known about us.
"You gentlemen must be Watchers. I did not steal your chronicle. It was given to me," Darius said with perfect calm as if he were confronted by Watchers about his reading habits every day of the week.
"Tell me who gave it to you," James said in a threatening tone.
"I can't tell you that. Not even at swordpoint," Darius responded fearlessly. "I thought you Watchers swore an oath never to interfere."
It was clear at that point that James did have a sword, and that he must have murdered all those Immortals. I emerged from the side chapel and hid behind a pillar. From that vantage point I had a great view of James holding a sword on Darius who was being forced to his knees within the sanctuary of his own church by two of James' cronies. It didn't seem like anything was sacred to these people. Even the worst Immortals respected holy ground.
"The Watcher oath will allow your kind to rule us," James snarled. "I can't let that happen! It is our destiny to rule this planet, not yours! I will make sure of that by taking your head, and Watcher Headquarters will never find out the truth. Never! You see, I happen to know that your Watcher left Paris last night. Human destiny will triumph!"
That did it, I thought grimly. I drew my gun and stepped out from behind the pillar.
"I'm standing right here, Mr. Destiny. Drop that sword, James," I called out.
"Oh Joseph! You disappoint me very much," James said in an aggrieved tone without lowering his sword. "How could you turn on family?"
The phrases of comfort he'd spoken on the night that Emily died whispered in my mind, but I shut my ears to the memory. I told myself that this was not the James that I had known. This man was an obsessed lunatic who I should gun down like a rabid dog.
"Drop the sword, or I will shoot!" I said with solid conviction. You can see that kind of determination in someone's eyes. This thing that looked like my brother in law was not going to end the existence of a true saint among Immortals. In his kneeling position, Darius' lips were moving in a silent prayer.
"Get Robert in here! Tell him to take care of Joseph!" James shouted to a follower near the door.
Hearing that name was yet another shock on a morning that had been nothing but a series of shocks. This had to be Robert Tucker. James' daughter Lynn was set to marry him. I'd always considered Robert a young man of integrity. I recruited him myself. He'd given his oath in my presence before he went off to the Academy. How could he betray everything that Watchers stand for? How could he betray me? Robert must have been assigned to guard the church door from the outside to make sure that no one interrupted James' murderous scheme. Now James must be planning to have Robert shoot me in the back!
"Not Robert," I whispered. James' treachery was bad enough, but if Robert could just kill me because James ordered it, then nothing made any sense. I stood there frozen. I freely admit to this. I froze at a key moment when I should have taken action. I could have been killed. I was a player in a game as dangerous as the one Immortals play. You only have to lose once.
"Save yourself," Darius said looking directly at me with pleading eyes. "I will not have the blood of a good man shed for my sake."
"Joe?!" said Robert's voice behind me in stunned confusion. He took in the scene before him with dawning horror--the kneeling priest being held down by two men and the sword poised to behead him. "No, this is wrong!" Robert said and tried to disarm James with a flying tackle, but the crony who stood near the door restrained him.
"Help me destroy this evil, Robert. This monster sacked Rome, and brought on the Dark Ages. Think of Lynn," James implored.
"I am thinking of Lynn. She'd never want this! You told me that you were holding a meeting in this church. You never told me that you were planning to behead a priest on holy ground! You're damning yourself!" Robert said looking at his future father in law as if he'd become possessed by a demon. Who knows? Maybe James was possessed. It's as good an explanation as any.
I think that Robert also realized in that moment that he'd thrown away his only chance to defuse the situation by choosing to disarm James instead of shooting him. He couldn't harm the father of the woman he loved. I know I realized pretty much the same thing. I'd let the initiative be stolen from me because I'd hesitated to shoot. No more! James couldn't be allowed to win this one.
My hands were like lightning then. Well, maybe not like lightning. That brings to mind a quickening, but I definitely moved quicker than thought. You can't stop to think in a life or death situation. Remember that, Amy. All I know is that one moment I was aiming the gun and in the next James was dead. I'd called him brother once, and I'd killed him. I wanted to weep. My gun slid out of my hands.
A police siren could be heard in the distance. Someone on the street must have heard the shot and reported it. The remaining renegade Watchers ran out the church door and scattered.
Darius gathered up the sword, the chronicle and my fallen gun handing them all to me.
"My thanks to you both, but you must go," he said to Robert and me. "Use the rear door, so you aren't seen."
"How will you explain the corpse, Father Darius?" I asked with concern.
"I will say that I shot him myself in self-defense."
"You? The Apostle of Peace?"
Darius had actually been given that title in the Parisian press.
"If you are my Watcher, you know that I wasn't always so peaceful," Darius responded drily. "The news that I am capable of violence will damage my reputation in the mortal world, but it will blow over in time. Of course no Immortal will ever believe that I killed on holy ground."
"I have a better idea. The dead man was defending you from intruders. He died a hero," I said with fierce emphasis. Let that stand as James Horton's public legacy. It was a fitting tribute to the man who had once been my friend. He truly had been a hero in 'Nam. "Robert, promise me that this is the story that Lynn hears. Her father sacrificed his life protecting a priest. I want her to be able to honor his memory."
"I promise, Joe," Robert said solemnly. "She'll never know the truth of what happened here."
"Good man, " I said then pumped a bullet into Darius' shoulder. "Sorry, padre. That's so the authorities will believe that intruders really did try to kill you," I added as Darius collapsed in pain.
"Ego te absolvo," he said in a whisper then crumpled to the floor. I was glad of Darius' forgiveness, and didn't regret for a single moment that I revealed myself to him in order to save his life. I had no other choice.
Amy, I've made a career of violating my oath. It isn't something that I'd recommend to most Watchers under normal circumstances. Let's just say that my circumstances have never been very normal. Maybe I'm just like every other father who tells his child to do as I say, not as I do.
I'm sure you know that being a Watcher isn't a sunday school picnic. Watchers in the field have to make all kinds of decisions that aren't easy. I've had to say c'mon and get me you twist of fate more than once. My decision to kill James still haunts me every time I look at Lynn knowing I'm the one who took her father's life. My action has had consequences that I couldn't possibly have predicted. I haven't always been wise, but I have always tried to do what seemed to be the right thing. I can't ask any more of myself than that. If you're going to learn from my example, then that's what I hope you learn. No one's perfect, but we can at least try to do the best we can with what we know at the time.
|The Book of Darius
(This page last updated 02/28/2002)