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runebar


The Perception of Shadows

Part 4-6

by tirnanog


runebar



Work of the eyes is done,
begin heartwork now
on those images in you, those captive ones;
for you conquered them: but you don't know them.

Rainer Maria Rilke, "Turning"

Part 4

Inspired perhaps by their earlier conversation, Diana surprised Darius that evening by asking if she could draw him. At first he was a little taken aback by the request. He had never particularly enjoyed having his likeness taken. In truth, it had always made him feel a bit uncomfortable to be the subject of such close scrutiny. But he knew from personal experience that any sort of work is a salve for grief, and did not begrudge the small sacrifice if it would help to take Diana's mind from her loss for a while.

He was rather amused at how particular she was about the light. After placing him in a chair, she collected a number of lamps from all over the rectory and spent a good half-hour arranging them to her satisfaction, so that the light that fell on his face was soft and even. "I like diffused light for portraits," she explained. "Strong directional light creates deep shadows, and that can be very dramatic, but it also conceals some things. I want to be able to see the shadows created by the forms themselves, so the face is revealed completely."

"I hope you are not too disappointed," Darius joked. "After you have drawn someone as good-looking as James, all other models must pale in comparison. And people have told me that I am a difficult subject."

"I don't think that at all," Diana objected, as she sat down with sketchpad in hand, and fixed him with an intense look. "Actually, your face is much more interesting to someone who really likes to draw. All those angles and planes, the cheekbones, the shape of your skull, and those large ears… Uh, Darius, would you mind moving your hand away from your ear, please?"

"Sorry," he apologized. "No one ever told me they were large. I just wanted to see…"

"Your ears are proportional. Trust me. They balance your nose perfectly."

"My nose?" Darius began, but she stopped him with a wave of her pencil.

"Your nose is fine, too. Would you like a mirror? Just to be sure?"

"I warned you I was a difficult subject," he said innocently.

"So you did. And when I first met James I thought he was the vainest man I had ever met. Little did I know."

"It must have been an interesting meeting," the priest commented.

He watched, fascinated, as her eyes moved up and down, first looking at him, and then down at the paper as she drew.

"Oh, it was. We met in a drawing class, oddly enough. James had this ambition to illustrate his next book of poetry with his own drawings, so he enrolled in a night class at the Arts Center. I happened to be in the same class, which was mostly composed of women. Naturally James immediately became the center of attention, and he all too obviously enjoyed it. During the breaks he was like a rock star surrounded by groupies. I considered him good-looking, too, but I thought he was just a little bit too full of himself, so I kept my distance.

"I think maybe the fact that I wasn't part of his admiration society might have gotten his attention, but the real showdown came one night when the life model didn't show up. The instructor divided us up into pairs to draw caricatures of each other, and to my surprise, I ended up with James as my partner. I went first, and on a wild impulse, I decided to draw him as a monk--yes, really!--because it was the last thing I could imagine him being since he was such a ladies man. To be mean, I gave him a really severe tonsure, and only drew the barest fringe of hair around his head, because I know a lot of men get insecure at the very thought of baldness.

"When I showed him the drawing, his eyes got really wide, but he never said a word. I thought maybe I had gone too far, and really offended him. I dreaded what was coming next, expecting that he'd draw me as a monster or something even worse.

"Having James draw me was an extremely tense experience, I can tell you, sitting there under the scrutiny of those brilliant blue eyes. His expression was dead serious, and he took a very long time. Then it was my turn to be surprised. He had done this incredible picture of an elfin creature with an otherworldly look, wearing a pair of gossamer wings, and peering out from beneath a leaf. I didn't know what to say--I felt so ashamed that I had been mean to him.

"After class, I wanted to sneak off unnoticed, but he waited for me in the hall. I thought he was going to tell me off, but instead he asked me to go out with him for coffee, and I was so shocked I actually agreed. We went to an all-night coffeehouse, and after a few minutes of meaningless small talk, I asked him, 'OK, where did that fairy image come from?'

"He just laughed and said. 'Oh, I figured you must be one of the Sidhe, because you have the Sight. How else could you have known that I was once a monk?'

"I tried to explain that it had all been a joke, but he was having none of it, and insisted that he knew, by virtue of being Irish, that I was a woman of the Sidhe sent to bewitch and entrap him. Now I knew he was playing with me, but for some reason, I wasn't put off. We spent the entire night talking together and getting to know each other. I discovered that there was a lot more to him than a pretty face, and he made me feel like I was special, someone out of the ordinary. The rest, as they say, was history." Diana smiled at the memory, but it was a smile tinged with sadness.

"I didn't know James had become an artist as well as a poet," Darius mused, "but I'm not surprised. He always appreciated beauty."

"He was actually quite gifted, and when the book of poems he illustrated comes out next summer, I think you'll agree. He had a way with a line, both artistically and and poetically speaking. We saw things quite differently—I always thought his Immortality was the reason. I see the temporal aspect of things, because I am mortal, and my life is finite. I touch a face with my eyes, and translate the landscape of it with my hands into an arrangement of light and shadow, a passing moment stolen from time. But in his work, James saw through to what was eternal and unchanging, and the images he made approach the timeless."

Diana looked down at her work, and drew in silence for awhile. Darius, a man quite accustomed to silence, felt no need to interrupt her concentration. He found himself watching her, and thinking, among other things, that she saw more than she realized. Finally she looked up. "It's finished," she announced quietly. "Do you want to see?" She brought the sketchpad over to him.

The drawing was almost, but not quite, a full front view, head and shoulders, done in graphite on the same paper as Diana had used for James' portrait. The eyes gazed straight into his own, giving him the feeling that he was looking into a mirror. They were thoughtful, those eyes, and also a bit sad, as if they had seen one sorrow too many. Looking into them, he felt a little shiver run up his spine. The drawing resembled him, no doubt of that, but there was something more. He had the oddest sensation that he was standing outside his body and seeing himself with a stranger's eyes. It was a shock of recognition mingled with alienation.

"You don't like it," she said, watching his face.

"No, I do. I think it really looks like me. You've done a wonderful job. It's just…I can't really explain."

"It's OK." She took the drawing and tucked it away carefully into the sketchpad. "Maybe we can try this again sometime. I don't always expect to get it right the first time." She began turning off the lamps and returning them to their places, setting the room back in order just as she had found it, just as if this had never happened.

Darius somehow felt that he had said the wrong thing, or not said the right one, but didn't know how to fix it. "I'm going over to the church," he said, a bit awkwardly. "I have a few things to do there. It may take a while. Don't feel that you have to wait up for me."

"Sure, that's fine. I think I'll make some tea, maybe listen to some music, and then go to bed."

"Good night, then."

When he had gone, Diana took the drawing out again and looked at it. She wasn't upset, but a little puzzled. I wonder what it was about the drawing that bothered him? she thought. It's a decent likeness, really. Oh, well. She shrugged, and went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. While she waited for the water to boil, she put on her headphones and listened to a tape of Gregorian chants she had found in the study. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine Darius and James singing these same chants at the Abbaye de Saint-Pierre ten centuries ago. It was a mind-boggling thought, to say the least, that anyone had actually experienced so much history firsthand. She wondered if she'd ever get used to the idea. Her revery ended when the kettle started to wail. Making the tea, she wondered if Darius would want some, so she filled a cup for him and took it to the church.

The sanctuary was silent and dark, but some light from the street filtered in through the windows, and after a few seconds, she could see quite well enough to find her way without bumping into things. She spoke Darius' name, but no one answered, and she heard no one moving. Quietly she made the rounds of the place. The apse behind the screen, the two chapels, and the aisles were all empty. So was the sacristy, although it looked like Darius had been there, because a lamp was on inside and the door to it stood slightly ajar. She stood still, as terrible possibilities presented themselves to her mind. Had something happened to him?

Just then one of the west doors swung open, and someone entered the church. Diana ducked behind the nearest column, and cautiously peered around it. "Darius! Are you all right?" She ran over to him, flinging the cup aside in her haste. One look at his stricken face told her that something was terribly wrong. "Sit down," she said, dragging up the nearest chair, and pushing him into it. He did not resist. "I came over to bring you some tea and you were gone. What happened?"

"Grayson just killed one of my mortal students out there in the street. A dagger in the back. He was coming to me for protection, but I could not protect him." His voice shook a little.

"Darius, I'm sorry. Are you sure it was Grayson? Did you see him?"

"I saw him and spoke to him. He followed Jean Pierre here, and repeated his threat in person. He is determined to destroy me, and he is prepared to destroy everyone I love first, if necessary."

"Did he say anything about…"

"About you, no, and I did not remind him. But don't think for a second that he has forgotten. You could still share Jean Pierre's fate."

"Don't worry about me. I can change my name, I can disappear. So can your students. Have you told them?"

"I have told as many as I could, and I will continue trying to warn the rest. But Grayson goes on killing."

"What about the police? If you saw Grayson kill him, he can be charged and put in prison for murder."

Darius spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "On what evidence? The body will be gone before the police arrive. Grayson is very efficient, and very clever. You have seen how he works firsthand. He will not have left a scrap of evidence behind to implicate him, and I am sure the police would not be able to locate him for questioning."

Diana frowned. "I can see where you're headed, Darius. Don't go there. Giving in to him is NOT an option."

But Darius had become distant and withdrawn. "I appreciate your concern, Diana, but you cannot make my choices for me. I need to be alone for awhile, to think and to pray. Please leave me now." He stood up, and walked away from her.

Diana reluctantly did as he asked. She recognized this distance—she had seen it before with James. There had been many times when the difference of age, experience, and Immortality had put a gulf between them. She knew it could be bridged, but only by time and patience, not by forcing the issue. As she left the sanctuary, she heard a match being struck. She looked back to see that Darius had lit a single candle at the altar in the Chapel of St. Joseph. Well, at least he hadn't gone out to find Grayson--yet. She forced herself to leave, but she did not go to bed, deciding instead to curl up on the sofa in the sitting room, where she could hear him if he came in.


Revery is a solitude in which
We compose these propositions, torn by dreams,
By the terrible incantations of defeat,
And by the fear that defeats and dreams are one.

Wallace Stevens, "Men Made Out of Words"

Part 5

Darius knelt in St. Joseph's Chapel and tried to pray for guidance, but he kept seeing Jean Pierre's terrified face in the instant after the knife found him. He should have tried harder to dissuade the man from his quest to put Grayson behind bars. But he knew Jean Pierre would have gone ahead with or without his help, because of his family--the wife and child who had died in an airport bombing Grayson was responsible for planning. Now he was dead, too, and all Darius could do for him was pray for his soul. In a rage born of despair, Darius brought his fist crashing down on the railing of the altar, glad of the physical pain to distract him from his inner agony. He still had many moments when he wished he could do more than watch, wait, and pray, nights when he woke up suddenly, having dreamt of feeling the hilt of a sword in his hand. Recently, he had begun to have even more disturbing dreams…

I'm not getting anywhere with this. He stood up and began to wander around the small sanctuary. A man who had spent a good deal of his early life in the open spaces of the steppes, he often found that movement helped him focus his thoughts. But tonight, his mind went wandering, too, back through the past of this place. He remembered the day he had first set eyes on the tiny oratory and hostel that made up the original St. Julien le Pauvre. The current building was not begun until the 12th century. He looked up at the sturdy round columns of the nave and remembered when they had been put into place, and the clerestory set atop them. The Middle Ages were St. Julien's golden days, when the priory had been the home of more than a hundred monks, and the church was a center of activity in the Latin Quarter, the headquarters of several prosperous guilds, and the official seat of the newly established University of Paris. How beautiful it had been in those days, when the students sat in the open air on bundles of straw to hear the lectures of the great dialectitians, and Dante sometimes stopped in to say his prayers and show Darius his latest attempts at verse. Later centuries had not been so kind. The priory fell on hard times, and the church was allowed to decay. He recalled the dark days after the Revolution, when the church was actually closed to worship. It had even been used as a warehouse, and was at one point slated for demolition, but was saved at the last moment. St. Julien, like a warrior, bore many old wounds and scars, yet even in its old age and poverty it retained a certain long-suffering beauty. And the stillness and peace contained within these walls were still able to soothe and comfort him, even in his darkest hours.

The night was almost gone, and he was no closer to a solution to his dilemma, but his mind was calmer. Tomorrow Methos might have new information. He would wait a little longer, and see what the morning would bring. He was on his way back to the rectory when he saw a shadowy figure enter the church. He froze, then silently withdrew behind one of the columns and watched the intruder move stealthily through the sanctuary. Even in the dim light, he could see this person was armed with a sword.

As the figure passed St. Joseph's Chapel the glow of the candle Darius had lit there earlier revealed who it was. With a shock, the priest recognized Diana. She held James' sword in a two-handed grip, and moved as though she were stalking something or someone, like the mythical Huntress she was named for. Her face wore a look of grim determination.

Darius remembered what Methos had said this morning. Perhaps he shouldn't have dismissed the warning so lightly. Automatically his mind began to calculate how long it would take Diana to reach him, and what his chances would be going up against her unarmed. She held the weapon as if she knew how to use it—perhaps James had taught her. But although he had given up fighting long ago, the priest still remembered a trick or two. And he held the advantage of surprise and superior strength.

She had come into the nave now, and soon would turn towards the south aisle where he was hiding. Cautiously, Darius began to circle around the column to stay out of her line of vision. When she entered the south aisle and reached his position he would jump out and surprise her, using a chair to block her attack. With luck he could trap the blade and disarm her.

Then he heard her soft footsteps cease. She was in the center of the nave, facing the entrance doors. Suddenly her voice rang out a challenge that echoed through the empty church. "I see you now! What are you waiting for? You're afraid, aren't you? Don't know how to use that ugly blade of yours? Come on! I'll give you a lesson you won't forget."

Darius listened in amazement. Who on earth was she shouting at? He didn't believe she had detected his presence, and in any case, he didn't have a sword, ugly or otherwise. Had she gone mad?

When the challenge went unanswered, Diana backed up almost to the altar. "Coward!" she jeered. "I can wait. Whenever you're ready, I'll be here!" She sat down crosslegged in front of the altar, and laid the sword on the floor beside her, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on the entrance doors.

Darius watched her for a moment, wondering how to interpret this strange behavior. When he found her in the church this morning she had behaved a bit oddly at first, and he recalled that she had the sword with her then, too. Could she perhaps be walking about in a dream state? Although he knew he was taking a chance by approaching her, he had to find out. He stepped from behind the column, and waited to see if she spotted him. When she did not react, he began to move towards her very slowly, expecting any second that she would see him and go on the attack. But she never moved, and her eyes never left the doors. He managed to slip behind her unnoticed, until he was close enough to touch her. The he spoke her name, quietly, almost in her ear.

She started, gave a cry, and immediately leaped to her feet. Before she could reach for the sword, Darius set his foot down on the blade. She looked at him in surprise. "Darius! You just about scared the life out of me!"

"What are you doing here, Diana?" he demanded sternly.

"I was... there was... there was someone else here, an intruder," she said, gesturing toward the nave.

"Is that why you came here with a sword in your hand?" He reached down and picked up the blade, holding it up in front of her. "Who were you hunting, Diana? Who did you really expect to find here?"

She stared at him, a look of horror in her eyes. "My God!" she whispered. "You think I was coming for you! Didn't you see him? He was right there a minute ago."

"I have been here all night, and neither saw nor heard anyone until you appeared, carrying a drawn sword. What was I supposed to think?"

"I don't believe it! You think I'm an assassin!" She appeared to be genuinely hurt.

Darius did not respond to this, but his expression was grave. "Let's talk about this rationally, shall we?" He took her by the arm and led her to the front row of chairs. "Sit down." His voice was calm and even, and his eyes held her in their steady gaze. "I think you were having a nightmare, Diana, and walking in your sleep. I believe that is what happened last night, too, and that is why I found you in the sanctuary this morning. Tell me everything that you remember."

She took a deep breath. "I guess I fell asleep on the sofa waiting for you to get back. Then I woke up, or thought I did, and somehow I had a feeling there was somebody over in the church, someone who was a threat. I got the sword and came here, and all of a sudden I saw him standing at the doors back there. He was there for just a few seconds, and then he was gone, but I didn't see where he went."

"This is important. Was it Grayson?"

"No, not Grayson. I don't know who he was, but he had a sword, and I knew he was coming to take your head. He had light-colored hair, and pale eyes. I remember that very well."

"Grayson has blond hair and blue eyes." Darius reminded her. "So did James. Dreams are strange things. They are seldom logical. Could you have been dreaming about either of them?"

"This man seemed smaller than James or Grayson. I don't know him. He looked like a banker, a 'suit'. The sword seemed out of place in his hand. He obviously didn't know how to fight. And he was a mortal," Diana added, with absolute assurance.

Darius' eyes narrowed. "How do you know?"

"I don't know, but I just know. Is this place haunted, Darius? Has anyone ever died here? Have you?"

Darius gave her a strange look. "Yes, once, a long time ago. A mortal came here to loot the church, and when he found out there was nothing worth taking, he stabbed me in the heart with his sword. But he didn't take my head, and so I revived. I don't recall what he looked like. And of course others have died here in the past —this place has had a very long history, and not always a happy one. But in all the many years I have been here I have never seen a real ghost."

"OK, I don't really believe in ghosts either. But there is something else bothering me. You just said you died here once by violence. This is Holy Ground. Isn't there a Rule about not killing on Holy Ground? The Law of Asylum or something? Does it only apply to Immortals?"

"One of the Rules we live by is that Immortals may not take another Immortal's head on Holy Ground. To my knowledge, no Immortal, however evil, has ever broken that Rule, because we fear the consequences would be disastrous. We can only speculate as to what the consequences might be, because as far as anyone knows, this has never happened, and I hope it never will."

"So an Immortal can't kill on Holy Ground, but mortals can. That means you're not safe here from mortals, Darius."

"Most mortals honor Holy Ground as a sanctuary also. It is a tradition that dates back to antiquity, and the Catholic Church acknowledges it as a right to this day. There will always be someone who holds nothing sacred, but remember, most mortals don't know anything about us, or what it takes to really kill one of us."

Diana frowned. "Well, I know what it takes, and there must be others who do, too. Maybe the man I saw is one who knows."

The words sent a chill through him, but he strove to conceal it. "Diana," he said patiently, "Whatever you believe you saw here tonight, don't you think it's more likely that the trauma of seeing Grayson kill James is causing you to have nightmares? You have been under a great deal of stress lately."

"I suppose so," she admitted grudgingly.

Darius put an arm around her shoulders. "I know someone with expertise in these matters. His name is Sean Burns, and he was a good friend of James'. Why don't I give him a call? I'm sure he'd be happy to see you, and perhaps talking to him would help."

Her expression became wary. "I know who he is. He's a psychoanalyst. We had planned to visit him at his chateau near Le Havre. So you still think I've gone over the edge? That I'm a nutcase?"

"No," he said gently, "I don't think that. It was just a suggestion." Realizing that now was perhaps not the best time to pursue this, he let it drop. "It will be morning soon. Shall we go and try to get a couple of hours of sleep?" He helped her up, but did not give back the sword. "If you don't mind, I think I'll keep this for now. I'll put it in a safe place."

She glanced back over her shoulder at him as they walked through the passageway, and said, quite seriously, "It was your head he was after, Darius, not mine. I would be happier if you kept the sword close by you."

He did not reply. But as he shepherded her back to the rectory, he silently resolved, I must send her away, and soon… She must not be here if this thing comes to pass.


The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding", IV

Part 6

Methos met Darius in the confessional again early the next morning.

"Here's the list of addresses you wanted, all the ones I could find who are still alive anyway. And Diana's story checked out, despite my suspicions to the contrary. Connolly's Watcher saw the whole thing. She went for Grayson, all right—came damned close to getting him, too. She seems to be on the level, much as I hate to admit it."

"I'm glad you see it that way now," Darius said. Then, after a pause, "Methos, Jean Pierre is dead. Grayson killed him in front of the church last night."

"I'm sorry…" Methos began, but Darius continued as if he hadn't heard.

"I spoke with Grayson, Methos. He is quite adamant in his demands."

"You can't be thinking of…No, Darius!" Methos protested.

"He is killing people, and not just Immortals now, Methos. Have you a better idea?"

"He has been killing mortals and Immortals for eighteen hundred years. He's a killer—that's what he does for a living, as if you didn't know. Do you actually think he'd stop after he killed you?"

"I stopped after I killed the Holy Man."

"Oh, so that's what this is about—you think that if he kills you, he'll become like you. Another Light Quickening? Rather egotistical of you, don't you think?" Methos snorted.

"Well, it happened once…" Darius defended himself.

"That was different. Different time, different people. Quickenings are not exactly predictable things, you know--there's no scientific formula, no way of knowing what will happen. Grayson was never anything like you—he never had your leadership abilities or your potential for greatness, and he never will. He's a vicious, vindictive criminal. Who you are, the power you carry within you, would be wasted on him."

"You don't know that, Methos. You just admitted you have no idea what would happen," Darius countered.

What I know, Darius, is that alive you are worth a thousand of him, and it's not worth the risk! I'd finish him off for you if it weren't for…well, you know why. Look, why don't you ask MacLeod? I know he'd deal with Grayson for you," Methos suggested.

"I'm not about to start using my friends as assassins to protect myself, Methos," Darius replied almost angrily. "You know how much I value Duncan, and what I believe him to be. It's bad enough that he may become a target because he was one of my students. I don't want to put him even more at risk by deliberately sending him after Grayson. We can't risk losing him."

"Well, look at it this way, Darius," Methos drawled. "If you let Grayson kill you, MacLeod will go after him anyway. And Grayson will have your power. If perchance your Quickening doesn't transform him into a good little boy, who do you think will win that encounter?"

Darius was silent.

"Besides, MacLeod is good. Really good. I keep abreast of all Dawson's reports on him. He can take Grayson, no problem."

"You're not just saying that, are you, Methos?"

"Bring on the stack of Bibles and I'll swear, if that's what it takes to convince you. And as it so happens, Grayson is on his way to the States even as we speak. From the gossip I heard this morning, it appears he is stalking Victor Paulus."

"Victor! I knew it. Another mortal, Methos. First Jean Pierre, now Victor…"

"So, if you want to let Grayson take your head to save Paulus, you'll have to fly to the New World. That should be something of an adventure! Or you'll get in touch with MacLeod NOW. Paulus has several speaking engagements in Seacouver later this week, assuming he gets there in one piece. Have you contacted Paulus yet?"

"Of course, but he is very independent and stubborn. He refuses to allow one terroristic threat stop him from doing his work. He knows nothing about Immortals, and he doesn't understand the threat Grayson poses."

"Well, you know what I think. At this point, MacLeod is your best and only solution. And with Grayson on his way to MacLeod's territory, a meeting between them is all but inevitable."

"I'll have to think about it." Darius said reluctantly.

"Don't think too long." The door of the confessional banged as Methos did his usual vanishing act.

Darius remained seated in the confessional for some time after the elder Immortal had gone, thinking about what he had just heard. As little as he cared for the idea of involving MacLeod further, he knew Methos was probably right about the fact that Duncan would end up facing Grayson, one way or another. Yet when he went to the study to make the call, something stopped him.

On impulse, he went to his secret hiding place and took out a leather bag which he had had since the days when he had led an army of barbarians across Europe. Darius had followed the precepts of the Roman Church for many centuries, but in his long life he had come into contact with many religions, and had seen enough to know that the Divine spoke to mankind in many ways. The runes were a method he had learned among the Germanic tribes. Closing his eyes, and whispering something under his breath, he plunged his hand inside the bag. His fingers found what they sought, one small, flat piece of bone among many, and drew it forth. He took a deep breath. He had drawn Nauthiz, the Rune of Necessity and Constraint. Just now, he was experiencing both. The need to act in this matter was driving him towards an action he would rather not take.

This rune could mean a number of things. The challenge lay in interpreting the message correctly. In addition to its other meanings, Nauthiz was also a rune of change and transformation. An act of faith, a blind leap into the void was what it required of him. He drew out two more runes to complete the spread of three. Teiwaz and Algiz, the runes of the Warrior and of Protection. The message was becoming clearer now.

Darius reached once more into the bag and pulled out a handful of runes. He spread them out face-up on the desktop to study the symbols, then he selected twelve, and returned these to the leather bag. He dug a piece of bubblewrap out of a drawer and wrapped it carefully around the bag. Then he placed the bag into an envelope and addressed it to Duncan. Long ago, he had taught his student the secret language of the runes. Now he would put his faith in Duncan, allowing him to choose how to interpret this message, allowing him to act according to his own judgement and free will. Resolutely, Darius picked up the phone and dialed an express delivery service to request a pickup.



This story is Copyright ©1998 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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