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Disclaimer: Highlander belongs to Panzer/Davis, I'm just playing with their toys


Hamlet's Ghost

Chapters 10- 14


Chapter Ten

It was nearing midnight before they were all gathered in the living room, back from burying their shares of the crystal.

"So, do you need a getaway driver?" asked Joe after Methos explained the plan.

"It might be better if you stayed here, Joe," replied Methos, tilting his head towards Amy.

"This is becoming very old, very quickly," muttered Amy as she caught the gesture.

"Don't fret about it, dear," advised Amanda. "You'll be up and around on your feet any day now."

"If I live that long," she replied cynically.

"Don't talk like that, kid," her father admonished. "We'll figure out how to stop these guys, don't you worry."

Amy slumped back on the couch in answer.

"Tell you what," Methos suggested. "I came across some journal entries in the laptop. I couldn't make much sense of them but seeing as you've got time on your hands, maybe you could have a look at them and see what you make of it."

A glimmer of interest sparked in Amy's eyes. "Sounds interesting, I'll have a go."

"Right then," Methos said as he rose to go. "Joe will bring it into you."

Taking that as their cue, the other immortals got ready to leave. Soon they were in the van and on their way.

"Turn left here," Amanda directed, peering at the map on her lap.

"How much further is it?" Duncan asked from the back.

"It's three streets over," Amanda replied absently, taking another look at the map.

"Maybe we should park here and walk the rest of the way, then," Duncan suggested. "We wouldn't want them to have a good look at our brand new vehicle."

"You have a point," Methos said, looking around for a parking spot. "I'll pull in here." He pulled into the kerb and they all spilled out onto the pavement.

"Right, then," Duncan said grimly. "I suggest we split up and hit the building from both the front and back."

"We haven't had much luck with the two pronged attack of late, Duncan," Amanda pointed out. "Maybe we should stick together."

"No, Duncan is right," interrupted Methos. "We don't want to come at them in one group. It would make it too easy for them to turn the tables if they're expecting us."

"I suppose so," conceded Amanda. "Okay, here's what I suggest. You two go in through the front and kick the door down, make a lot of threatening noises and so on. Meanwhile, I'll creep around the back and let myself in quietly. That way, if they have something planned, I'll be able to catch them off guard and hit them from behind."

"Or, we could just use these," Methos said smugly, producing a couple of knockout gas canisters from his pocket.

"Well, you could have mentioned those before," Amanda said exasperatedly.

"But you were having so much fun," protested Methos with a smirk.

"Oh, you're so witty," grumbled Amanda, pulling her woollen cap on and tucking her hair in. "So, what do we do? Take a canister each and lob them through the windows? Not very neat, if you don't mind me saying so."

"Actually, I was thinking about being a little bit more discreet this time," commented Methos. "Which is why I was glad that you decided to come along, Amanda. I was hoping that you could quietly slip in the back and drop the canisters then let us in through the front."

"Hmm, I could live with that," Amanda agreed, holding her hands out for the canisters.

"Great, here's a gas mask as well," Methos replied as he handed them over and rooted around in his backpack for the other masks. "Here's one for you too, Duncan."

Once they were all suitably armed, they made their way to the house, Amanda slinking off down the back lane behind the street row. Methos and Duncan were within a hundred yards of the house before the felt the presence of another immortal.

"It could be Amanda around the back," Duncan suggested uncertainly, pausing mid-step.

"If it isn't, here's hoping that she manages to put him under before he raises the alarm," Methos muttered as he quickened his step.

They had just stepped in the front gate when they heard the sounds of a struggle inside. The two immortals ran up the garden path, only to come to a halt again when they reached the front door - the house had once again fallen silent.

"What do you think?" Duncan asked, looking sideways at Methos as his hand hovered on the doorknob.

"Don't look at me," hissed Methos as he strained to listen to what was going on inside. Suddenly, the door opened with a soft click, causing the two immortals to jump back in alarm.

"Hi, guys," Amanda said as she poked her head out through the door. "Sorry I took so long, I had an unexpected complication: our friend from the hotel the other night was in residence."

"You don't say," Methos said dryly, putting on his mask as he stepped up.

"He's having a nap in the hall as we speak," she replied, holding the door open for them.

The three immortals stood over the unconscious body. "Aw, how cute," Methos sneered. "Lets tie him up and bring him with us."

Duncan grinned. " Turnabout is fair play, I suppose," he said as he looked around for something with which to bind his hands.

"Here, use these," suggested Amanda, handing him a pair of handcuffs.

Duncan looked at her, eyebrows raised.

"Well, a lady has to be prepared," she replied primly to his silent question.

Methos sniggered. "Whatever you say, Amanda."

Duncan rolled the body over and relieved it of his weapons before handcuffing his wrists. Methos rooted around in his pockets and produced the van keys, throwing them to the highlander. "I'll leave it up to you to get him safely stashed away in the van," he said. "I'm going to have a quick look around. Coming, Amanda?"

With a nod, Amanda followed him up the stairs. Luckily, all the watchers had been downstairs when Amanda had broken in, probably because their mysterious immortal had informed them that they were about to get a visitor.

"What exactly are you hoping to find, Methos?" asked Amanda as they reached the landing.

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "But I think that we should at least see if our new 'guest' has left any personal effects around. We might turn up something useful."

"We better work quickly, then," observed Amanda. "We only have another quarter an hour or so before those watchers wake up."

Methos nodded in agreement. "You take the room on the right and I'll check out the one on the left. Hopefully, we'll stumble across something interesting before they start to awaken."

The first pair of rooms didn't have anything helpful for them, but the next room Amanda entered showed a little more promise.

"Methos," she called out. "I may have found what you were hoping for, get your ass in here."

Amanda was already dislodging a painting from the wall when Methos entered. "I don't think we have time to do a reprise of your earlier exploits as an art thief, Amanda."

"Oh, you're so funny, not," snorted Amanda. "It seems that our resident immortal is a classicist, he still hides his safe behind a painting.

"Very obliging of him, I'm sure," Methos said absently, running his finger along the book titles on the mantelpiece behind the desk.

"Though I'll have to admit," she said as she put her ear to the safe. "It's a very nice portrait of our captive - a Gainsborough, too. It would pick up a pretty penny at Sotheby's."

"I think we've picked up enough baggage on this trip, Amanda," Methos answered as he sat down at the desk and began to rifle through it.

"It was just a thought," she replied with a smirk, her nimble fingers fiddling with the safe's dial as she strove to crack the code. Eventually, she made a small sound of satisfaction. "Got it."

"Throw it all into your backpack, we'll have a closer look at it later." Standing to go, Methos took a last look at the desk. His eyes rested on a blank envelope that lay propped against the reading lamp. Picking it up, he felt its weight in his hand. Ripping the envelope, he shook its contents onto his hand.

"What have you got there?" Amanda asked curiously.

"A safety deposit key," said Methos, pocketing it as he left the room. They made it out of the building with time to spare, quickly piling into the van that Duncan had brought around the back. Stepping into the back, Methos noticed the accusing eyes of their captive.

"Well, well, well, we're awake, are we?" Methos said grimly. The immortal did not answer - though that may have had something to do with the electrical tape that now covered his mouth.

"He was creating a racket," explained Duncan from behind the wheel.

"No need to explain," replied Methos with a shrug. "Lets get out of here."

Quickly, they drove through the deserted streets of Sofia; the city had long shut down for the night. Soon, they had made it out to the suburbs and pulled into the driveway of the villa. The veranda light came on as they slid the van door open and manhandled their captive towards the house.

"I see you've brought us a present," Joe said sarcastically as he opened the door. "What are you... oh..."

Duncan watched as Joe stopped mid-sentence, and stared at their captive with a flabbergasted look on his face. "You recognise him, Joe?"

"That's Alain Tribeau," Joe informed them as he stared at the gagged man.

Methos started laughing. "You really should be more careful about who you enlist into the watchers, Joe," he said. "Or soon you won't be able to move for all the immortals!"

"You're kidding me, right?" asked Joe with a groan.

"I'm afraid not, Joe," Amanda told him. "He's one of us."

"Oh, for crying out loud!" Joe grumbled, retreating back into the house as they bundled their prisoner inside.

"So, where do we put him?" Duncan asked, looking around for a likely place.

"The wine cellar?" suggested Amanda.

"Perfect," Methos said, giving Tribeau a push in the cellar's direction and earning himself yet another glare from their captive. "Amanda, could you get the door for me?" Amanda obliged and Methos pushed him down the stairs. "Don't trip on your way down," he muttered to himself as he kicked the door closed.

Duncan glared accusing at him. "Was that really necessary? You've probably broken his neck."

"What? He'll live," Methos protested. "He'll be right as rain in half an hour, which is more than I can say about Amy." Grumbling under his breath, Methos made his way into the kitchen.

"The horseman rides again," Duncan said sarcastically.

"Relax, honey, I don't think he's going to go looking for his saddle just yet!" Amanda reassured him. "Come on, let's go join him."

Methos was already in the process of raiding the fridge when they entered.

"Hey," he mumbled as pulled out a beer. "Let's have a look at the contents of the safe."

Amanda emptied the contents of the safe on the table and they all gathered around to have a look. "This is the deed to the house," she said, giving a sheaf of papers a cursory look.

"And this is a receipt for a security box at a bank," Duncan said, reading the sheet in his hand.

Methos's ears pricked up. "Here, let me have a look at that." The other two immortals waited patiently as Methos read the document through.

"Well, what do you think?" Amanda asked.

"I think that it's more than just a coincidence that Tribeau rented out a security box the very same day he kidnapped you," Methos replied. "What do you think are the odds that this is where your piece of the stone is kept, Amanda?"

Amanda's eyes glowed in response. "Ooh, a bank heist, I always liked bank heists!"

"I think we can skip 'The Italian Job' this time, Amanda," Methos said dryly. "You know I found the box's key while we were in Tribeau's office and now we know which bank it's in."

"You're no fun," Amanda pouted.

Duncan rested his hand on her arm. "I'll go and empty the box in the morning."

"But we could go and get it now, though," protested Amanda.

Methos and Duncan turned, as one, to look at her.

"It was just a thought," she muttered under her breath.

"Chill, Amanda, its still going to be there in the morning," Methos told her with a grin.

"I know, I know, it's just that I feel naked without it," Amanda explained. "It's been my touchstone for over a thousand years and now that Rebecca's gone... well... let's say that I like to carry around a piece of her with me."

Methos and Duncan nodded in understanding. Duncan especially remembered the pain of loosing one's teacher; Conor's death was still very fresh in his mind. Footsteps alerted them that someone was entering the room and they all looked up to see Joe enter the room.

"Our 'guest' is kicking up quite a fuss in the cellar," he said, parking himself at the table.

"Up and about so soon," mused Methos. "He's not a young one, then. Pity, that would have been so much easier."

"Well," said Duncan. "Shall we get on with it, then."

As one, the three immortals stood. "So, who gets to play 'bad' cop?" Amanda asked jokingly.

"I think I've already auditioned for that part," Methos said.

"Does that mean I get to be 'good' cop?" Amanda asked brightly. "Oh, go on, let me!"

Duncan sniggered. "Okay, just this once, then. I'll play the part of the 'mysterious observer' hovering at the edges."

"I don't think I've ever come across that part before," Joe said with a laugh. "What exactly does your part entail?"

"Oh, you know," he said with a shrug. "Lean against the wall, looking on ominously as the others interrogate him."

"Now that's all settled, let's get on with the opening act," said Methos, making his way to the cellar door. The threesome descended and observed the scowling immortal who had managed to prop himself up in the corner.

Casually, Methos strolled up to him and ripped the tape off his face. Tribeau gave a hiss of pain but otherwise was silent. Hunkering down, Methos looked Tribeau in the eye and smiled unpleasantly.

"Hello there. I can't tell you how much we've been looking forward to introducing ourselves properly - seeing as our last meeting was cut off so suddenly."

"Now, now, Adam," Amanda purred. "Why don't you step back and give the poor man some air?"

With a shrug and a grin, Methos got his feet again and rejoined the others. "I was only being... polite."

"You can do what you like with me, nothing will make me talk," Tribeau said hoarsely.

"Ooh, a challenge, I like a challenge," Methos pronounced cheerfully. "How about you, Amanda?"

"They have their attractions," she admitted. "But there is no reason that we can't settle this civilly."

"I believe, however, that Mr. Tribeau is not a very civil gentleman," Methos said coolly as he produced his dagger and tested its point carefully. "Mr. Tribeau strikes me as the kind of man who likes to terrorize old women by shooting up their homes."

"Oh dear, I think you may be right, Adam," Amanda replied, shaking her head sorrowfully. "I suppose we may have to be a bit more forceful."

"What exactly are you going to do to me?" Tribeau sneered. "Talk me to death?"

"He has a point," said Methos.

"He does at that," agreed Amanda.

"Well then, let's get down to business," Methos said briskly, lifting Tribeau onto his feet. Turning to the others, he raised his eyebrows enquiringly. "Which hand first - left or right?"

"I'm not sure, which one is his sword hand?" Amanda asked.

"Good idea, right hand it is," declared Methos as he turned Tribeau around and pushed him into the wall. "Now, hold still, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me."

Duncan rolled his eyes and shook his head in disbelief; sometimes the old man could be so damned camp.

A gasp of pain came from Tribeau's lips as Methos wrenched his shoulders back, raising his arms by his handcuffed wrists. Gritting his teeth, Tribeau tried to shift position to ease the pressure.

"Now, now, none of that," Methos warned, jerking the arms higher. A loud snap filled the room as one shoulder gave way. "Oops," said Methos softly. "I was hoping to leave the arm breaking until later.

"Well, you still have one arm left," Amanda chipped in.

Tribeau tried to buck against Methos's hold, but only managed to worsen the damage to his arm, instead.

"Why did you have to do that?" asked Methos reproachfully. "Now you've sprayed blood all over my shirt." Slamming Tribeau back into the wall, Methos craned his head to have a good look at Tribeau's face. "Oh dear, it seems that I've broken your jaw as well..."

"Okay, okay, I'll talk. What do you want to know?" Tribeau mumbled, wincing from the effort of speaking through his mangled mouth.

"Which one of you dreamed up this plan, you or Valmont?" Methos asked.

"Valmont?" Tribeau said. "Don't make me laugh, Valmont was only along for the ride."

"Why?" asked Amanda. "I mean, Valmont struck me as the quiet type. Why would he get mixed up with a crazy like you?"

"Everyone has their price, didn't you know that?" Tribeau said nastily. "Valmont's price was the life of his little stepdaughter. Leukaemia is a hard disease to cure and his little girl is losing her battle. When I approached him about the stone, he thought I was a godsend."


Amanda looked at Methos worriedly as he backed off Tribeau as if he'd been stung. "So, Valmont didn't know about your plan to use the 'pool of life'?" she probed, watching Methos's reaction to this new turn of events.

"Not 'til right at the end, no," Tribeau admitted. "And by then, well, his daughter was already in intensive care. He was too desperate to back out."

"I've had enough of this fool," burst out Duncan.

"He speaks," Tribeau muttered caustically.

"Enough!" Amanda said sharply. "Lets just stay on topic here, I want to know how long you've been planning this little operation of yours."

"What does it matter?" said Tribeau with a shrug. "The only thing that matters is that I've got the upper hand."

"Oh, and do tell us how you came to that startling conclusion," Amanda snorted. "I was under the impression that it was you who was in a bind here."

"What? You think that just because you've captured me that all your problems are over?" Tribeau said with a smirk. "Think again, little girl. Too many people have too much time invested in this. You kill me and another will rise to replace me."

"Well, aren't you the walking cliché," said Methos darkly as he slowly approached Tribeau once again. "Tell me, is this the point when you tell us we are all going to die horribly?" Pulling Tribeau's head back by the hair, Methos looked him in the eye. "Tell me about Jackson."

"Oooh, you liked the little present I left you, did you, Pierson?" Tribeau sneered. "Or didn't you appreciate the way I disposed of your informant?"

"Informant?"

"Aw, don't be coy. I was having him followed; I suspected that his heart wasn't with us for weeks. When I found out that his old mentor was that idiot Philip Turner, I followed the breadcrumbs to you. How do you think I found out about your little rendezvous in the woods?" he said snidely.

Methos let his words sink in for a few moments before he asked his final question. "Why didn't you take my head?"

"I had more important things to do," Tribeau said tightly.

Methos's eyes narrowed at the obvious lie, turning the question over his head, the answer came to him in a flash. "You weren't alone." Tribeau flinched and Methos knew that he had stumbled along the truth. "They don't know you're immortal, do they? That's why you couldn't take my head, it would have given the game away."

Tribeau's silence answered his question. Letting go of his hair, Methos pushed him back into the corner. "You've told us all we need to know." Gesturing at Amanda and Duncan to follow him, he climbed the stairs and stalked into the living room. Joe and Amy were still up, waiting for them.

"Well, what did he say?" asked Joe. Methos shrugged his shoulders as he slumped into an armchair. Joe raised an eyebrow at his silent demeanour. "What exactly happened down there?"

"He filled in a few blanks," Duncan said. "Mostly about Valmont." Quickly, he filled Amy and Joe in on what Tribeau had told them.

"This guy sounds like a real piece of work," observed Amy.

"And then some," agreed Amanda.

Joe slumped back into his seat. "So, what are we going to do with him?"

"Don't ask questions when you already know the answer, Joe," Methos replied ominously. "He's going to die, of course."

"That's a little cold blooded, isn't it?" said Amy unsurely.

Methos raised his head and looked at her levelly. "What would be the alternative, Amy? Give him a slap on the back of the hand, perhaps? Maybe we should give him a rousing speech about how he should mend his ways; do you think that would work?"

"We could do with less of the sarcasm, Methos," Joe interceded.

"And I could do with less of the moralizing jingoisms," retorted Methos. "This guy is a psychopath, you said so yourself, remember? We have two choices; we either lock him up for life or take his head. Even you, I'm sure, can see how there might be a few logistical problems with the first option."

"So, are you going to kill him execution style or are you going to hand him a weapon and challenge him?" asked Amy.

"That depends on how 'helpful' he is the next time I talk to him," Methos admitted. "They are still a few things that I want to know."

"Like what, exactly," enquired Amanda.

"Like if they're any other immortals involved in this scheme or are all of them mortal, like how far up the watcher echelons does this little conspiracy go, like is there any way we can walk away from this mess with our heads still attached?" he said impatiently. "Don't forget what is at stake here, Amanda."

"I haven't, Methos," Amanda replied softly. "Not for a second."

"This isn't going to end pretty, no matter what way you look at it," Joe added glumly. "I took a long look at that list of renegade watchers while you were gone. There are over two hundred names on it and I don't relish the outcome of having to deal with the consequences of all those tribunals. The best and the brightest of our research departments are on that list, it's going to take decades for the ranks of the watchers to recover."

"That is the least of our problems, Joe," said Methos dryly. "Though, if you're going to contact the watchers council about this, I would like you to enquire about Philip Turner's whereabouts. I'm a bit concerned about his welfare."

"Turner? Isn't he the guy who sent you that video tape?" asked Joe.

Methos nodded. "Tribeau mentioned his name downstairs, which means the renegades probably know that he tipped me off. That means that his life is in danger."

"I'll look into it first thing in the morning," promised Joe.

"You know... there might be a third option for dealing with Tribeau," Amy said thoughtfully. "We could incarcerate him in the sanctuary."

"There is still a sanctuary?" asked Duncan. "I thought that it had been shut down after that attempt to put me in it."

"No," Joe admitted. "It's up and running again. Though this time it's being run along the original guide lines, volunteers only."

"Well, that rules out Tribeau, then," pointed out Methos. "Somehow I don't think he's the volunteering type."

"He might be if he knew that the only alternative was decapitation," said Amy hopefully.

Methos looked at Amy with something akin to pity. "Amy, honey, he has to die. He's too dangerous to be left alive, to all of us." Amy didn't reply but Methos could see the resigned look in her eyes.

"Listen," said Amanda. "We're all tired, how about we catch some sleep. The de Valicourts are arriving in the morning; we'll all work out a game plan then. Okay?"

Everyone nodded in agreement and they all stood to go to bed, Duncan and Methos helping Amy to her room.

"I still think there must be a different way of containing Tribeau," Amy said quietly as they tucked her in. Methos's lips thinned, but he said nothing as he left the room.

Duncan sat down beside her on the bed. "Amy, both Methos and I have been in this situation before. When you come across an immortal like Tribeau, this is the only thing you can do. The mortal justice system isn't equipped to deal with him; he'd be out again within the week. Even the Sanctuary isn't a sure bet; that mess with Kane a few years back should have taught you that."

Amy smiled at him, but Duncan could still see the troubled look in her eyes. With a sigh, he decided to drop the subject. "Good night, Amy."

"Goodnight," she mumbled as he turned off the light.



Chapter Eleven

It was the combination of a car door slamming, with the introduction of two extra quickenings impinging on his senses, which wakened Methos the next morning. The sound of Gina's pretty, French, accent caught his ear and he relaxed back into the bed. The de Valicourts had arrived. With a smirk, he remembered the first time he'd met the intrepid duo. Hopefully, they weren't having any marital difficulties at the moment; he really didn't relish the idea of having Gina after his head again. That was definitely one of Duncan's more hair brained ideas!

The events of the previous day came rushing back as he closed his eyes; the truth about Valmont and Jackson still preyed on his mind and the revelation that he was supposed to have known Jackson had thrown him yesterday. He had been trying so hard the last couple of days to ignore his memory loss; he had even begun to convince himself that it didn't matter. What other surprises were out there? Methos winced as the image of Jackson's head passed through his mind; he had been so young.

Deciding that going back to sleep wasn't an option anymore, Methos threw back his covers and leapt out of bed. He knew that he'd cut short his interrogation of Tribeau before he had all the information they needed, maybe now would the right time to rectify that...or maybe not. Suddenly, it occurred to him, that maybe he was coming at this problem from the wrong angle. He should be considering the solution, not the problem. Filled with a new sense of purpose; he quickly showered and threw on some clothes.

Everyone had already congregated in the living room when he joined them. The conversation was loud and animated, with Amanda and Gina doing most of the talking. Methos caught Robert's eye and the French aristocrat smiled bashfully as he raised his hand in greeting.

"Hello there, Adam," he said. "How are things?"

"Oh, just fine," Methos drawled. "So, how is wedded bliss?"

Giving Gina a sideways glance, Robert smirked. "Well, let's just say that I think my head's safe for a while yet."

"Just as long as that means my head is safe, too," Methos said, grinning as he stretched out in an armchair.

"You're never going to let me forget that, are you?" replied Robert wryly.

"Any reason that I should? That little episode is good for at least a couple of centuries of mileage," Methos told him gleefully.

"Now, now, Adam. Leave my poor husband alone," said Gina with a twinkle in her eye. "It's not as if you didn't agree to Duncan's little plan. You got what you deserved, as far as I'm concerned."

"And I thought you liked me," teased Methos. "Does this mean I'm not invited to the next wedding?"

Amanda rolled her eyes. "Me...Adam, stop being so infantile."

Methos inwardly winced at Amanda's little slip. Looking at Gina from the corner of his eye, he saw the thoughtful ex-pression that flitted across her face. Methos had to admit to himself that he might have to tell them his true name before this escapade was over. At least Robert would have to stop referring to him as the 'kid'. Looking over at Amanda, he noted that she at least had the grace to look embarrassed. He had evil, evil, things planned for her future.

"So, Duncan tells us that you've got a prisoner in the cellar." Gina asked as she studied Adam's face.

"Yes, he goes by the name of Tribeau but I doubt that is his true name. He strikes me as one of the older ones," said Methos with a shrug.

"What makes you think that?" asked an amused Robert.

"Just call it a hunch," Methos said dryly.

"Or an educated guess," Gina said with a questioning tilt of the head.

Busted! Gina was always the brighter one of the two; hopefully she wouldn't push the subject too much.

"Well, he's not on the watcher database," said Joe.

"We can't be sure of that," disagreed Methos. "It could be a just a question of not knowing where to look, especially if the chronicles have no picture ID of him."

"That doesn't really help us, you know," commented Amy. "They're hundreds of entries in the database that don't have a picture or a decent description."

"But they're still might be a way of tracking his true name down," said Amanda thoughtfully. "We just have to approach it from the right angle."

"You have an idea," stated Duncan.

"Well, I was thinking that he had rather a beautiful Gainsborough in his study," said Amanda. "A magnificent portrait like that must have documentation. The British Museum of Art probably has it listed."

"It still mightn't be his true name," pointed out Methos. "Besides, that seems an awful lot of work when we've got him stashed in the cellar. It might be a lot easier just to 'convince' him to tell us."

"Tell me, 'Adam', would you give your true name up if you were in the same position?" asked Gina slyly.

"He's not me," answered Methos, ignoring the undertones in Gina's question. "Tribeau is an egomaniac, sooner or later he'll tell us everything, he won't be able to help himself."

"I still think I should check it out," said Amanda. "Just let me make a few phone calls. Even if it doesn't turn up his true name, it might give us some insight into his past."

"If it makes you happy, then, by all means, go ahead," Methos reluctantly said. "Just be circumspect about it, we don't want to bring attention to ourselves."

"That reminds me," Joe said. "I checked on that Turner guy, nobody seems to know his whereabouts. Apparently, he disappeared from his home last week and nobody has seen him since. No body has turned up either, so he mightn't have been caught, just in hiding."

"It mightn't be such a good idea to investigate his whereabouts further, then," Duncan said. "We don't want to lead anybody to his door by accident."

Joe nodded his head in agreement. "I was thinking the same thing, actually."

"Well, I should be on my way," Duncan said. "I have a bank to visit."

"And an SUV to pick up from a car dealership," added Methos, grinning as he handed Duncan the receipt. "The address is on the top."

"I'll come with you, then. You'll need a second person to drive it home," said Amanda, fleeing the room before Methos could object. "Just give me a moment to get my coat."

A few minutes later, Amanda and Duncan were on their way and Joe decided to help Amy into the kitchen, so that they could rustle up something to eat. Methos noted happily that she was able to get to her feet without too much trouble. Turning his gaze back to the couch, it suddenly dawned on Methos that he had been left alone in the room with the de Valicourts - and by the glint in Gina's eye, he could tell she wasn't going to let this opportunity go by."

"So, Adam, is there anything you wish to tell us," she asked. "Normally I wouldn't pry but considering the situation, I think it might be better to share. I don't want any unpleasant surprises along the way, do we?"

"What is it that you want to know, exactly?" Methos asked cautiously.

"Well, your real name would make a good start," Gina said, a touch of steel colouring her voice.

"Umm, yes, well...that has a rather long story attached to it," hedged Methos.

"You don't say," Robert retorted.

"Why don't you start at the beginning," urged Gina. "That wouldn't be so difficult, would it?"

Methos couldn't help himself, he started laughing. "I don't know how to put this, Gina, except to say that I hope you'll settle for the cliff notes version."

"How come?" asked Robert, his curiosity clearly peaked by the way this conversation was going.

Methos took a deep breath and bit the bullet. "Maybe I should start with my true name - How do you do, my name is Methos."

Methos watched as, lost for words, they slumped back into their seats. He couldn't be sure, but he thought that Robert might have gone into shock. Gina was only in a slightly better state, she had opened and closed her mouth at least four times in the last minute, but no sound was coming out. "So, I'm guessing that you're familiar with the name, then," he said dryly, breaking the silence.

At last, Robert regained her voice. "But that's impossible...you're just a kid! Duncan told me so himself."

"I think that if you rewind that little conversation in your head, you'll find that he said no such thing," replied an amused Methos. "I've a funny feeling that it went more along the lines of you assuming I was a kid and he not contradicting you!"

"Sacre bleu," gasped Gina. "Ce n'est pas possible...it can't be true! That would mean that you're over five thousand years old, you're supposed to be a myth." Gina paused, her eyes narrowing as she pinned him with a glare. "This isn't a hoax, is it? You're not trying to wriggle out of telling us your true name by giving us a tall tale."

Methos smirked. "I'm afraid not, Gina. Its true, Duncan will verify it when he gets back, if you wish."

"No. That's okay," she sighed. "I believe you. Its just that you're not what I was expecting, I always thought that Methos would be more...well, more."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you but what you see is what you get," Methos said good-humouredly, he was used to this reaction.

"Oh, I didn't mean it like that," said a flustered Gina.

"Its alright, Gina, I know what you meant," Methos assured her. "Lets just drop the subject, shall we."

The de Valicourts nodded in response and Methos sighed a breath of relief. He knew it wouldn't last long, of course. Soon, they would come to terms with what he had told them and then the questions would start - they always did.

"Well, then, I'll just go and check on breakfast," he said, leaping out of his chair. "You're welcome to join us?"

"Yes...I think I'd like that," responded Gina. "By the way, who else here knows?"

"Everyone," Methos admitted. "I'm the worst kept secret in immortal history!"

"How about that guy...what's his name...Tribeau?" asked Robert.

"No, he just knows me as Pierson," he told them. "Only a select few among the watchers know my true name and none of those are on the list of renegade watchers."

"Well, that's something, I suppose," mused Gina, following him into the kitchen.

The smell of fresh coffee and croissants filled the kitchen and Methos's stomach growled in response.

"Watch out, here comes the human dustbin," Amy said with a smile as she watched him grab two croissants from the basket.

Methos stuck his tongue out in response.

"Are you sure you're five thousand years old?" asked Robert as he caught this display.

"And counting," Methos replied through a full mouth.

Amy rolled her eyes in response. "If you think that is bad, you should see him at a buffet - he has the worst table manners I've ever come across."

"My table manners are more than adequate, thank you very much," sniffed Methos putting three sugars into his coffee before he dipped his croissant into it. Okay, he admits it; he was hamming it up a bit. But it was worth it just to see the look on Amy's face. He had noticed how she hadn't even flinched when Robert called him by his true name, which meant that she and Joe had left him to the de Valicourt's mercies in the full knowledge of what was going to happen.

"Adequate? Maybe in ancient Rome they were, but they've invented these little things called forks and knives since," retorted Amy.

"Hey! I'm not that bad!" protested Methos. "I do know how to cut my own food, I'll have you know!"

"Just about," teased Amy.

"So, known each other long?" Gina asked, sitting down to the table.

"Amy is my watcher," explained Methos. "Which means she has the dubious honour of figuring out what I get up to, on any given day..."

All three immortals suddenly went rigid as they sensed the approach of another immortal. "I suppose its Amanda and Duncan," Robert said unsurely as he glanced out into the hall. The sound of a key entering the lock reached their ears and they relaxed.

"Hi Guys, we're back," cooed Amanda as she entered the hall. "You were right, my crystal was in the security box." Amanda's face was glowing with happiness as she entered the kitchen, her hand fingering the chain around her neck from which her crystal now dangled.

It might be a good idea to tuck that inside your blouse, Amanda," Methos pointedly told her. "You never know who you might bump into."

"I know, I know," sighed Amanda. "Just let me admire it for a while first."

Methos shrugged as he helped himself to a second cup of coffee and stood up from the table. "I'm just going to pop into the study and check my e-mail, I'll be back in a couple of minutes."

"What about Tribeau?" asked Duncan.

Methos hesitated before answering. "Tribeau can wait," he eventually said, retreating out of the room before anybody could question him on the subject.

"He's up to something," declared Amy.

"Yeah, I think you're right," Duncan replied. "Give him a little time before you call him on it though, its always easier if you let him tell you what's on his mind rather than trying to pry it out of him."

There was a murmur of agreement at the table.

Meanwhile, Methos was hastily plugging online in the study. It had just occurred to him, as he was sitting at the kitchen table, that he may be able to get them all out of this mess alive. If the only reason that they were targets was because they had possession of the stone, all they had to do was convince the renegades that they don't have it anymore. Of course, they would have to do it in such a way that the renegades don't go looking elsewhere for it. Destroy it, perhaps? Preferably in a spectacular and public manner - make a big show out of it so that they couldn't possibly think that they could get it back. A small smile curved his lips as he typed into the search engine. Moments later, the results popped up on the screen - 'active volcanoes worldwide'. Oh yes, he was beginning to like this plan.

Scrolling down the screen, he found an ideal spot for his plan, the Karymsky volcano on the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia. It was active, had a lava flow at the top, and was relatively young - which meant it was short enough to be a manageable climb, even for the most unfit renegade watcher. It wouldn't be much of a show if the audience couldn't make it.

Quickly, he made reservations for a flight the next day to Petropavlovsk and went off-line. It was time to rejoin the others and let them in on his plan - well, most of it, anyway. The others were just finishing up their morning meal when he rejoined them in the kitchen.

"So, any interesting e-mails?" asked Amanda in a neutral voice.

"Not as such, no," admitted Methos. "But I may have come up with a feasible plan. Lets go into the living room and I'll explain."

Once they were all comfortable in the other room, Methos began to explain his plan. "I think we are all well aware, at this stage, that we have got ourselves into a situation that could turn very nasty. Although we have a list of the conspirators, we can't be sure that the list is complete; this makes it hard to eradicate them as a threat because we can't be sure what will come out of the woodwork. So, what we need to do instead, is eradicate their reason for coming after us - the Methuselah stone." Methos paused, waiting for what he said to sink in.

"You want to destroy the stone," Amanda said slowly.

Methos nodded in reply. "And I want to do it in the most public, dramatic and final way possible," he replied.

"What exactly do you have in mind," Duncan asked cautiously.

"I want to drop it into the lava flow of an active volcano, "he told them. "Its my belief that merely smashing it further wouldn't do the trick, as long as those waters in France exist, it could be put back together. We need to not only break it down into its most basic components, we have to contaminate it to such a degree that it is impossible to reconstitute it, even if they did manage to find a way to retrieve it all from the volcano."

"It all seems pretty final," observed Amy.

"It has to be," Methos explained. "For this to work, we have to convince them that there is no way on earth that they can get it back."

"I don't know how I feel about this," said an unsure Amanda. "Somehow, it feels like I'd be betraying Rebecca's memory if I agreed to this."

Methos leaned forward in his chair. "I understand your reservations, Amanda. Nevertheless, I believe that if Rebecca realised the true extent of the stone's power and what lengths these guys were prepared to go to in order to get their hands on it, she'd be the first to agree to this plan."

"He's right, Amanda," said Duncan. "There is no way on earth that Rebecca would want the stone to fall into the wrong hands, she'd rather destroy it first."

"I suppose you're right," admitted Amanda. "Okay then, how do we go about this?"

We stage the whole thing for effect," said Methos. "We let them find us, drop some breadcrumbs that they can follow, but we won't make it too easy for them. We don't want them to catch up with us until they're too late to stop us. We'll lead them unto the top of the volcano and then, when we're sure they've figured out exactly what we're up to, we drop it in."

"No more stone, no more key," Joe concluded.

Methos leaned back into his chair again. "That's the idea, yes."

"And where exactly do you wish to hold this little performance?" asked Gina.

"I was thinking Russia," supplied Methos. "There is a volcano there that is active as we speak."

"When do we leave?" asked Duncan.

"I've got flights booked for this evening," Methos told him. "We've got until then to drop enough clues for them to figure out where we're going."

"And how do you plan to do that," asked Amy.

"I not going to," said Methos with a grin. "You are."

"Huh, what are you talking about?" huffed Amy.

"You're going to file a report, Amy, a very long and detailed report. Full of all sorts of exciting titbits and information, including our destination," replied Methos.

For a few moments, Amy just stared at him. "You do know you're crazy, don't you?" she eventually said. "That has to be the most half baked idea I've come across in a long time."

"Have you got a better idea?" he asked.

"Well...no, but that's beside the point!" Amy protested. "Once I file a report at headquarters, we'll have every Tom, Dick and Harry on our tail. Not exactly a controllable situation."

"That's why you're going to fudge a few of the facts, slow them down a bit. Tell them we're going to Russia, but don't tell them why. By the same token, I'd also suggest that you'd be vague about our mode of transport."

"What ever way you cut this, Methos, it's going to be risky," pointed out Gina.

"Not half as risky as the alternative," disagreed Methos. "I've thought long and hard about this and this is the only feasible option we have - the only one that has reasonable chance of us getting out of this alive, anyway."

"Russia it is, then," Robert said as he rose from his chair.

"But what about Tribeau?" asked Amy from her perch on the couch.

Methos gave her an inscrutable look. "What about him?"

"Oh don't give me that, you know exactly what I mean," retorted an exasperated Amy.

"We'll let him live for the time being, I think," said Methos, watching Amy's reaction carefully. "He might make a good bargaining chip if our renegade watchers get a little frisky."

"Right, then, lets start packing," Amanda interrupted. "The sooner we get this over with, the better."

"I'll start writing up my 'report'" said Amy. "Complete with fudging."

Breathing a sigh of relief that Amy wasn't going to push the subject of Tribeau's fate, Methos rose from his seat. "We'll dig up our respective pieces of the stone on our way to the airport," he suggested to the room. "Its probably better not to have them about our person until the last moment."

With that, the group split up to get ready for their flight and Methos took the opportunity to retreat into his room. He really didn't have much packing to do as he'd never really unpacked in the first place, but it did give him some space to think. Truth be told, he was as wary as the rest of them about what they were about to do. Timing was everything, especially as he had an extra few twists to the plan in mind.

Zipping up his carryall, Methos made his way into the front hall once more, bumping into Duncan as he emerged from the cellar. "Just supplying him with some food and water," explained Duncan as he noticed Methos's raised eyebrow.

"You didn't, by any chance, give him a last cigarette while you were at it?" Methos asked sarcastically.

Duncan shrugged embarrassedly. "It just didn't seem right to leave him down there without supplies. I don't know about you, but starving to death was never one of my favourite ways to go," he explained.

"Fair enough," sighed Methos. "I'll see you at the airport, then."

"Are Amy and Joe going with you?" asked Duncan.

"I assume so," said Methos with a shrug.

"You assume right," cried out Amy from the kitchen. "Just hold your horses, we'll be there in a moment."

"I suppose that's the answer to your question," snorted Methos before shouting back to Amy. "I'll wait for you in the car." Giving Duncan a wry nod, he made his way out to the SUV.

It didn't take long for Amy and Joe to make their way to the car. Methos noted, with amusement, that somewhere along the way Amy had acquired a cane. With some effort, she managed to climb into the car. "How are your stitches holding up, by the way," he asked of her as she made herself comfortable in the passenger seat.

"Fine, I think," Amy replied, pulling her safety belt across. "They haven't torn or anything, if that's what you're asking."

"More or less," admitted Methos as he started the engine and pulled out of the drive. After a short detour to collect Methos's part of the Methuselah stone from where he buried it, they drove on to the Airport. Soon, they were in the air and on their way to Petropavlovsk.

A thick drift of snow covered the city that stretched out before them, and they reluctantly left the warmth of the airport lobby behind. "Great," muttered Joe. "If the weather is this bad here, what is it going to be like once we've gained the top of that darned volcano."

"Look on the bright side, Joe," Methos joked as he tried in vain to hail a cab. "Maybe the volcano will erupt and warm you up."

"Lame as your attempts are at humour, old man," said Joe, smirking. "There is one thing that you are even worse at."

"And what is that, pray tell?" asked Methos distractedly, waving his hand at yet another cab that whizzed by.

"Hitching a ride," said the smug watcher, putting his thumb out. Sure enough, a cab slowed to halt in front of him.

"Not a word, Joe," warned Methos as he helped Amy into the passenger seat.

"Yes, Joe," sniggered Duncan. "Not a word."

"Duncan, stop gloating and get in the cab, there's a dear," called Amanda, hopping into the one she had hailed.

"Oh yes, Duncan, run along dear," mimicked Methos.

"You're still not funny, you know," Duncan shouted over his shoulder as he got into his taxi.

Rolling his eyes, Methos got in beside Joe and gave the driver their hotel's name. "Something tells me that it's going to be a long few days," he muttered to himself.



Chapter Twelve

"Maybe it's a case of too many immortals in the one room," Methos mused inwardly, trying to tune out the raised voices that were coming from the other side of the room. The arguments had started at the breakfast table; at first they had been good-natured enough. A polite disagreement had broken out about what kind of tactics they would use to keep their pursuers at arms length while they reached the volcano's summit. By the time they had reached Duncan's suite, however, all attempts at civility had gone out the window. Methos winced as Duncan's voice rose a few decibels when Robert suggested they make a clean sweep of things and take 'care' of the watcher problem once and for all by taking out their motherhouses.

Methos decided that enough was enough; leaping off the couch, he roared, "For crying out loud, would you please BE QUIET!" Like a flick of a switch, the room suddenly fell silent as they all turned to look at Methos in amazement. "That's better," Methos continued, his voice returning to normal as he sat back down.

A sulky frown spread across Robert’s face as he threw himself into an armchair. “I still say that my idea is a good one," he protested sullenly, crossing his arms and pouting.

Methos rolled his eyes. "Robert, do you have any idea of how many motherhouses they are?" Silently, Robert shook his head. Turning his gaze to Amy, Methos raised an eyebrow." Amy, could you tell him?"

"Twenty-three," Amy replied softly.

"Thank you, Amy," Methos said dryly before returning his attention to Robert. "And how many watchers reside in those motherhouses, do you think, Robert?"

"How the heck should I know?" Robert complained grumpily.

"Joe, would you care to fill him in?" asked Methos acidly.

"About six hundred," replied the watcher promptly.

"Six hundred," Methos repeated slowly as he pinned Robert with a glare. "So how do you propose we go about it, Robert? A few well-placed explosives, perhaps, or maybe you prefer a more personal approach? How about a gun to the head...?"

"Okay, okay, I get the picture," interrupted Robert. "Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all."

With a sigh, Methos promptly changed the subject; he didn't see any point in belabouring the point. "Lets stick to the plan at hand, shall we?" he asked rhetorically as he spread out a map on the coffee table. "This is way we're approaching the volcano," he explained, pointing at the location on the map. "As you can see, it is in a relatively unpopulated area so we're going to have stock up before we leave. I inquired at the desk and apparently, there is a store that specialises in camping and climbing gear not so far from here. I suggest that you do the shopping for this, Duncan, as you're probably the one best able to gauge what we'll need."

Duncan looked up at Methos and gave a nod. "We're going to need quite a lot of equipment," he said aloud. "This climb mightn't be that steep but there has been heavy snowfall in that region for the last few days; that's going to cause a few problems."

A chorus of groans filled the room. "Sounds like a real pleasure trip," commented Amanda with a wry twist to her mouth. "Why couldn't there have been an active volcano on Bora Bora?"

"Oh yes, I can see it now - sun, sand, sea...lava beds," replied Methos with a smirk. "Which reminds me, I need to pick up some new toys to blow up watchers with, want to come along and watch my back?"

"But of course, darling," Amanda drawled.

Robert leaned forward in his chair. "What about Gina and I?"

"I want you two to arrange transport. We'll need two vehicles, four wheel drive if you can get it...and snow chains too."

"That leaves the food supplies for Amy and I," added Joe. "Any requests?"

"Anything but baked beans," Gina piped up. "I can't stand them."

"Consider it done," Joe said as he levered himself out of his chair and donned his coat. Amy followed suit and accompanied Joe as he left the room.

"Robert and I should be making a move too," said Gina, glancing at her husband as she spoke. "Is there any time you want us back by?"

"Well, I'd like us to be on our way before dark, so let's arrange to meet here at about two," said Methos after a few moments of consideration. "That way we should make it to the foot of the volcano before it gets too dark to set up camp. I'd like to start out on our climb at first light."

"See you at two, then," said Robert as he shrugged on his coat and helped Gina into hers.

"'Til then," Methos replied as he watched them depart.

"You may have been a bit harsh with him, earlier on," observed Duncan when the De Valimonts had left."

"Perhaps," Methos answered with a shrug. "But it seemed the easiest way, at the time, to nip his plan in the bud."

"Oh, well, what's done is done," said Amanda as she rose from her seat and picked up her coat. "You can't take it back, can you?"

The other two immortals threw on their coats silently and followed Amanda to the reception area.

"Well, off I go," said Duncan after he got directions to the store from the reception desk. "You two be careful, the arms dealers around theses parts don't play nice."

Methos and Amanda glanced at each other and smirked. "Yes, mother dear," replied Methos with a snigger.

Rolling his eyes, Duncan left them at the reception desk.

"When do we meet them?" asked Amanda as they watched him leave.

"Midday," Methos answered shortly.

"Cutting it a bit fine aren't we?" she asked as she turned to look at her companion.

"I'm still trying to figure out how to lose that guy sitting in the foyer and trying to be discreet as he spies on us from behind his newspaper," muttered Methos.

"You spotted him too, eh?" answered Amanda nonchalantly. "I wouldn't worry, he looks like a watcher, I thought that the whole idea was that they would be following us..."

"Sssh!"

"What?" asked Amanda.

"He's coming this way. Quick, let's get out of here, I don't want another shoot-out on my hands, I have an appointment to keep."

Running out onto the street, they hailed a cab and jumped in, glancing out the rear window at the watcher who had run out after them, but couldn’t find a cab to hail.

"Seems that Amy's 'report' worked" said Amanda as she settled back into her seat.

"Mmm, there is a slight hitch, though," commented Methos.

Amanda turned to look at him "And what's that?"

"Amy hasn't sent her report off yet."

"Oh...that could be a problem."

"You're telling me," muttered Methos worriedly. "Obviously, we haven't been careful enough."

"I'd better warn the others," said Amanda as she pulled her mobile out of her bag and began to dial. "We mightn't have been the only one's they've tried to tail today.”

"Good idea," replied Methos distantly, his mind already mentally reviewing their plan. After a few minutes’ introspection, he came to the conclusion that they didn't need to change their original idea; they just needed to be a bit more wary.

They cab slowed and Methos looked out the car window. "Why do these guys always want to meet in a warehouse, for crying out loud?" he grumbled under his breath, paying off the driver and jumping out of the cab after Amanda.

Amanda looked up from her phone and shrugged. "One of the mysteries of the world, I suppose," she supplied after she finished off her brief conversation with Duncan and tucked her phone away. "Which warehouse are we supposed to meet them in?"

"That one over there," Methos told her, pointing to a dilapidated blue building across the street.

"I see," said Amanda as she eyed the warehouse with a frown. "So, how trustworthy are these arms dealers, exactly?"

"About as trustworthy as you'd expect, given their profession," Methos admitted. "I'd advise you to keep your back to the wall."

"You really know how to wine and dine a lady, Methos," Amanda said sarcastically as she followed him across the street. "You bring them to all the right places..."

"Ha, ha...and Joe complains about my sense of humour," muttered Methos as he pulled his gun out of his leg holster and put it in his pocket.

"Stop complaining, dear, and knock on the door," replied Amanda smugly as she did a quick check on her own weapons. "We wouldn't want to be late."

Throwing Amanda a dirty look, Methos knocked at the door. A split second later, a slot in the door slid open and a pair of suspicious eyes glared out.

"Good day," said Methos as he stepped back from the door and flashed an urbane smile. "My name is Mr Rogers; I've an appointment with Mr Milkavich."

With a snap, the slot closed and Amanda sniggered. "Mr Rogers? Your first name wouldn't be Buck, would it?"

"It was the first name that came to mind," Methos muttered lowly as, with a creak, the door opened.

Smothering a grin, Amanda composed her face as the guard's head poked out of the doorway and, after a quick glance down the street, ushered them into the warehouse.

"Ah, Mr Rogers, so glad you could join us." A tall, slender man stepped out of a shadowy corner and crossed the empty warehouse to greet them. Grasping Methos's hand in a firm handshake, he nodded towards the back of the storage area. "Your goods are awaiting your inspection. If you will step this way?"

Following their 'host', they approached the table set up at the other side of the hollow warehouse. Eyeing the weaponry laid out in a line on the counter, Amanda began to have a few misgivings; Methos had skipped the basics and had moved straight onto the high-tech stuff.

Seeing the look on Amanda's face, he gave her a small smile. "Later," he mouthed before turning to address the dealer.

"We'll take it," he pronounced.

"Very well, to where do you wish it delivered?"

"Wrap it up, we'll take them with us," Methos informed him as he picked up one of the timer charges and examined it.

With a small frown, the dealer played with the cuffs on his shirt. "This is most unorthodox..."

Returning the timer to the table, Methos gave the dealer his full attention. "It won't be a problem, will it?" he asked rhetorically. "We're in a bit of a hurry, you see."

"Of course, I understand," the dealer said hurriedly, as if afraid Methos was about to tell him why he was in a hurry.

Amanda gave a derisive snort; she’d got the impression that the dealer was a bit squeamish about hearing what happened to his ‘merchandise’ after they left his hands.

Snapping his fingers, the dealer glared at the guard and nodded at the table. Reluctantly, the dour guard retrieved a box and began to pack the weaponry gently inside it.

"And now there is the matter of payment," the dealer informed them in his oily voice. "I believe we discussed the means of the money transfer earlier..."

Taking the dealers cue, Methos produced a small slip of paper from his inside pocket. "Here is the account number, I'm sure you'll find it all in order."

"Yes, indeed," the dealer said absently as he pulled a laptop out of his brief case and propped it up on the edge of the table.

"Obviously, nobody has ever mentioned to this guy that he's supposed to wait until we're gone to count the money," Amanda whispered into Methos's ear as the dealer eagerly went online and checked the account.

"Just as long as we get what we need," Methos whispered back as he eyed the guard packing his new purchases.

With a soft snap, the dealer closed his laptop and graced them with a beaming smile. "All seems to be in order...and, as you can see, your merchandise is now ready to go," he told them as he gestured at the box which the guard was now taping up. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you."

"Indeed," murmured Methos as he picked up the box and headed for the door without a backward glance. Giving the dealer an ironic little wave, Amanda followed him out.

"Well, I'm glad that's over," Amanda pronounced as the door slammed behind them. "That guy gave me the creeps."

"This comes from the woman who has spent the best part of her life consorting with the shadier side of life," Methos observed.

"That's different," Amanda insisted. "At least they didn't pretend to be something other than they were. Mr 'Armani' in there acted like he was selling us Tupperware and, well, that's just plain sleazy. I still have a bad taste in my mouth..."

The gun shot took them both by surprise; with a look of astonishment on her face, Amanda looked down at her bloodied chest and slipped to the ground.

Throwing himself onto the ground beside her, Methos searched the empty street with his eyes as his hand checked Amanda's wrist for her pulse. There was none.

"Oh great," he muttered as he reached for his gun and waited for the next shot. He wasn't long waiting: with a yelp of surprise, he felt the sting of a bullet in his leg. Rolling over onto his back, he peered at the rooftops across the street and eventually spotted what he was looking for: the glint of a telescopic lens from the roof of the warehouse across the street.

"This week just gets better and better," he complained under his breath as he took aim and fired, ducking his head reflexively as the shooter returned fire and hit the pavement a scant few inches from his face. A gasp came from beside him as Amanda came back to life. "Glad to see you're back with us," Methos told her. "I wasn't relishing dragging your dead corpse to shelter."

"Gee, thanks, Methos," she retorted as she fumbled in her coat for her gun.

"You're welcome. Grab the box, we're going to make for that building there," Methos explained as he gestured at the warehouse from which the gunfire was coming for. "I'll cover you."

Snatching up the box, Amanda sprinted across the road, spreading herself flat against the wall when her hand touched the building. With a curse, Methos tried to dodge the spray of gunfire as he chased after her, wincing as another bullet hit him - this time in his shoulder. Thankfully, the wound in his leg had already healed and he managed to reach the wall before being hit again. "This is becoming very old, very quickly," he grunted as he checked his shoulder; his quickening was already flashing around the wound’s edges as it closed.

"You really do heal very quickly, don't you?" observed Amanda.

"One of the advantages of my advanced age," Methos answered glibly as he shrugged his coat back into place. "You ready?"

"For what?" Amanda asked distractedly.

"I feel the need to pay our shooter a visit," Methos replied grimly, filling the empty chamber in his gun as he inched closer to the door.

"Do you think he's a watcher?"

"That, or our dealer friend wanted to have his cake and eat it," surmised Methos. "Either way, I'm going to have a little chat with him." Leaning forward, he tried the handle of the door and, finding it unlocked, glanced back at Amanda. With a nod, she slipped to the other side of the door and pulled out her gun as she rested the box on the ground.

Pushing the door ajar with his foot, he poked his head in quickly before dodging back.

"Well?" Amanda hissed.

Shrugging in answer, Methos stepped into the warehouse. "Still here," he called out. "Come on in, the waters fine." Snorting, Amanda slipped in behind him. "He's probably still on the roof," she said as she pointed to the ladder rungs attached the back of the warehouse which rose to a hatch in the ceiling.

"Figures," Methos muttered. "Why couldn't there have been a nice, comfortable, flight of stairs. I hate this...we're going to be easy pickings on those rungs."

"Tell you what," Amanda proposed slyly. "How about you climb up and I'll cover you."

Methos glared at her evilly. "Why thank you, Amanda," he drawled. "For your generous offer."

"You're welcome," she replied with aplomb. "Now...up you go."

Grimacing, he tackled the ladder. "Just remember, keep your gun trained on the hatch," he warned her as he clambered up.

"Trust me, I'm all over it," Amanda reassured him from below.

"That's what I'm afraid of," he grumbled.

"What's that?"

"Nothing, nothing..." Putting his hand on the hatch's lid, he looked down. "Want to lay odds on whether or not I'm going to get my head blown off when I open this?"

"Nah, that would be unsporting," she replied with a grin. "Now, quit putting off the inevitable and push it up.”

Gingerly, he tilted up the door a couple of inches and waited for a reaction, nothing happened. Methos frowned worriedly, could there have been a back way off the roof? Cursing that he hadn't checked for a fire escape before he entered the building, he shoved the door open and raised his head above it.

It was the whir of a blade slicing through air that alerted him a moment before the sword hit his neck. Ducking, he cursed as he lost his footing and found himself dangling off the ladder from one arm...it was then that Amanda decided to open fire.

He moved onto the Latin expletives when the guy from above started firing back, bullets ricocheted around him as he grabbed the rung with his other hand and regained his footing. "That's it," he shouted over the din. "From now on, I'm going to leave this good guy bullshit to that bloody Highlander... its bad for my health.”

"Oh quit complaining and get your ass back down here," Amanda shouted back. "I'm not made of bullets, you know!"

"You're not supposed to broadcast that fact, Amanda," he roared back angrily.

"Well, it's true," she insisted as she took another pot shot at the hatch.

"Then maybe you shouldn't be wasting them on an empty doorway...aw hell..." With a grimace, Methos glanced down at the now gaping hole in his chest. "Definitely not my week," he murmured weakly as he felt the world fade around him.

The dull roar of blood flooded his ears as he lost consciousness and let the rungs slipped from his fingers. Amanda dodged his body as he plummeted to the ground and grimly took aim at the watcher grinning through the hatchway.

"Say bye-bye, sweetheart," she said softly as she shot him in the chest.


*****************



Two minutes later, Methos awoke with a start and rolled to his feet with a shudder. Disorientated, he crouched as he glared around the warehouse, his unease only abating when his eyes found Amanda hunching over a body.

“Glad to see you’re back,” she said, rifling through the dead man’s pockets as she spoke. “That was quite a fall you took, I think you may have managed to break all your major bones on impact.

“You think?” Methos asked sarcastically, wincing as he felt his still mending bones. “Did you find anything interesting?”

Amanda raised the dead man’s left arm and displayed the corpse’s wrist. “Watcher tattoo,” she elaborated. “Other than that, nothing much. I was going to have a look up on the roof and see if he left anything there.”

“You go ahead and do that, then,” Methos said tiredly. “I’ll just sit here and…wait,”

Giving Methos a sympathetic glance, she climbed the rungs and slipped through the hatch as Methos eased himself onto the floor. A few moments later, she descended them once more.

“Nada,” she said as she joined him on the floor. “Just the sword and his sniper rifle,” she added as she placed the offending weapons on the floor. “Do you think you’re ready to make a move now?”

With a nod, Methos got to his feet and tried to put his clothes in order. Ruefully, he realised that neither he, nor Amanda, looked very presentable. “There is no way in Hades that any taxi will stop for us,” he said as his eyes took in the bullet holes and blood on their clothing.

“It’s better than being headless,” Amanda pointed out, taking his arm as they stepped out into the daylight

“You have a point,” Methos admitted with a small grin.

"Of course I do,” she said softly as he patted his arm. “Now where did I leave that box…ah, there it is!” Bending down, she picked it up and handed it to Methos to hold. “Here, hold the box to your chest, it should hide most of the damage,” she explained as she closed her coat over her own bloodied top.

Strolling slowly until the made it out of the warehouse district, they stopped at the first main street they came across.

“You’d better do the hailing,” Methos joked. “I have it on good authority that I’m useless at hitching a ride!”

Grinning, Amanda obligingly held out her thumb. Sure enough, a cab slid smoothly to the kerb.

They made it back to the hotel without incident and traipsed into the Hotel a little before two. Looking around the lobby, Methos’s eyes grew round with outrage as he spotted the watcher they had evaded earlier.

“I don’t believe him,” Methos muttered, stalking up to him before Amanda could stop him. Grabbing the watcher roughly by the arm, he hissed into his ear, “Come along quietly or you won’t live to regret it.”

Fearfully, the watcher trotted along beside him as they headed to the elevator with Amanda following closely on their heels. The elevator ride seemed to take an age but they eventually arrived at their floor. Goose-stepping their captive to his room, Methos flung open his door and pushed the watcher through it.

“Who the heck are you and how the hell did you find us?” he ground out as he advanced on him. Stumbling back, the watcher fell onto the bed.

“I traced Joe Dawson’s e-mails,” he stuttered. “It wasn’t so hard, really…”

“So, you’re the one that’s responsible for our little welcoming party in the warehouse district, then,” Methos interrupted.

“Who me? No!” the Watcher said, aghast. “Why would I do that?”

“I think you’re supposed to be the one to tell me that,” Methos replied sarcastically. “Seeing as you’re in league with them.”

“No, I’m not!” the watcher declared with an affronted ex-pression on his face. “I’m the one who warned you about them in the first place.”

Pausing, Methos stared at the watcher’s face, understanding dawning. “You’re Philip Turner?”

“At your service!” Turner replied with a relieved grin.


Chapter Thirteen

Amanda yawned. Methos had been quizzing Turner for a full hour, and he still wasn’t satisfied. Lazing back onto the bed, Amanda studied Methos’ ex-pression and came to the conclusion that watching Methos was akin to having double vision. On the one hand, you saw Adam Pierson, mild mannered…whatever; then you blink and Methos is standing there - or, as in this case - glowering there.

What was making her uneasy, however, was the ex-pression on his face. It was one with which she was familiar but hadn’t seen in a very long time, over a millennia to be exact.

It was funny, really. Methos was still under the impression that the first time they’d met had been through Rebecca while Amanda had yet been her student. He still teased her about her initial intense dislike of him. Of course, Amanda knew that it hadn’t been their first meeting; that had been a couple of decades earlier, on the streets of London, although he could be forgiven for not recognising her - she had been only eight at the time.

The world into which she had been born had been a very harsh place, and dubbed with good reason “The Dark Ages”. Poverty and plague had been rampant in the London of her youth and the memory still left her with a bittersweet aftertaste. On the streets by the age of four, a thief at five years and a budding con artist by six, Amanda’s childhood had definitely been spent at the school of hard knocks.

Methos’ and Amanda’s first meeting had been ignominious to say the least; he had caught her with her hand on his purse! At the time she had been astounded - she had always prided herself on being one of the best purse-snatchers in the city. What she hadn’t realised then was, thanks to her pre–immortal hum, Methos had sensed her presence the moment she had stepped onto the street behind him.

He had seemed like the perfect target, appearing both harried and hurried. Methos had looked preoccupied, as if his mind was somewhere else. It had been, of course - he’d been concentrating on the immortal presence that had been dogging him all morning. With Amanda’s presence added to the mix, his sense of self-preservation had kicked into overdrive.

“What do we have here?” he asked with a smirk as his hand snaked out and grabbed her by the shoulder and holding her at arm’s length as he looked her over.

“Lemme go!” Wriggling in his iron grip, Amanda shied away from the ‘mark’s’ strangely intense scrutiny. She had heard stories about men who took too much of an interest in the younger street kids.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Methos had drawled, keeping his grip firm as he pulled her into an alleyway. “You and I are going to have a little talk about your misspent ways!” Redoubling her struggles, Amanda kicked him the shin. “Easy, child,” he winced. “I just have a little proposition for you.”

“What!” she squeaked. “Lemme go – or I’ll scream!”

For a moment, Methos stared at her blankly before his eyes widened in understanding. “Not that kind of proposition, girl,” he said exasperatedly. “I just want you to run a little errand for me.”

Dumbfounded, Amanda stared at him. Having been caught red-handed stealing his purse, the best she had hoped for was a severe hiding. Glaring at him suspiciously, she stopped struggling. “What kind of errand?” she eventually asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

Glancing out onto the street, as if looking for someone, Methos eventually pointed out a man that had just turned down the street. “See that gentleman?” Amanda nodded silently. “I want you to tail him,” he told her. “Nothing fancy, I just want you to keep him within your sights and, whatever you do, don’t let him get within arms reach of you. Do you understand?”

Amanda studied carefully the man pointed out to her. Richly dressed and of middling years, he looked like a rich merchant, or maybe a noble of low peerage. Normally when she saw such a person on the streets, she would make a beeline for his purse, but there was something about him that made Amanda nervous. Perhaps it was the scar that marred one of his eyes and ran down his cheek… she dithered, afraid this was some sort of trap but then again, she hadn’t eaten yet that day. She had hoped that Methos’s purse would rectify that, but that was not to be, it seemed. She came to a decision. “What’s in it for me?” she asked shrewdly.

Jangling his purse, Methos pressed his lips together as if deciding what would be a good price. “I’ll give you five shillings for your troubles.”

Five shillings! Amanda could scarcely believe it. That amount of money would feed her for weeks! For a split second, Amanda felt a pang of remorse that she hadn’t managed to steal his purse, if he was willing to pay her that to follow this man. Lord knew what fortune he kept in that seductively jangling bag. “I’ll do it,” she declared, holding out her hand.

Giving his new employee a wry smile, he pulled five shillings out of his purse and pressed them into her palm. “Do you know the tavern on Canterbury Street? It’s called the ‘Kings Arms’.” Amanda nodded. “I want you to meet me there tonight and report where he went.”

By then, the man had neared the alley in which they lurked; the stranger’s steps faltered, as if he had heard something. Cursing under his breath, Methos drew them further back into the alley’s shadows. A few heartbeats later, the stranger continued down the street. “Off you go,” Methos had whispered into her ear as he pushed her towards her new quarry.

Stumbling forward, Amanda glanced back at her unlikely benefactor’s face before she slipped into the crowd after the man, whom she had already dubbed in her mind as ‘Scarface’. She had no intention of following him all afternoon, of course. As soon as she was out of spying distance of the alley she was going peel off and get something to eat. She couldn’t believe the man had been so stupid as to pay her beforehand. There’s a fool born every minute, she concluded gleefully.

Scarface was very peculiar, she soon discovered. Every few moments he would glare around him, slowing down whenever anybody stepped too near, and once he stopped dead in the street and cocked his head, as if listening to a conversation that only he could hear. Yes, he really was most peculiar.

Impatiently, Amanda looked up the street ahead of him; at this rate he’d never turn the corner, she thought sourly. Once again he stopped and, ducking into the doorway of a bakery, her stomach rumbled hungrily as she eyed the breads in their baskets.

At last, Scarface turned the corner and Amanda skipped after him. Any minute now, she would be free to desert him and eat her fill. Slinking around the corner, she came to a halt at the realization that her mark had disappeared. Turning around on her bare heels, she scanned the street.

“Looking for me, little girl?” a silky voice said from behind her. Turning around, she took a step back as Scarface emerged from a darkened doorway. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get within arms reach of him…with a sharp intake of breath, she ran for it.

His steps rung loudly on the cobblestone street as he chased after her. She was only a hair’s breath beyond his reach as they turned around the next corner. Desperately, her eyes darted around her, looking for a way to escape, but saw none. A whimper escaped her lips as she tried to stay ahead of him, her little frame dodging around the other pedestrians. How had he known she was there?

It was then that she noticed the boarded-up house ahead. There were a lot of those in London that summer; the plague had taken a heavy toll amongst the population and many houses stood empty as entire families died off in one go. With a gasp of relief she noticed that one of the boards sealing off the doorway had been pried off, leaving a gap that was big enough for her slight body to slip through, but too small for him to follow. In a last mad dash, she headed for the opening and slid through it just as his hand reached out to grab her.

“Come out, little girl!” Pressing his face up to the gap, Scarface smiled nastily at her as he stretched his hand through the gap. Backing away instinctively, Amanda tumbled over a coal bucket and landed on her bum on the flagstone floor. Scrambling to her feet, she peered into the murky surroundings as Scarface rattled at the boarded-up door. “I’m coming to get you, child,” he hissed through the gap while he pulled on the next plank. “My brother has done you a disservice.”

Tears of fear and panic ran down her face as she looked for a way out. The house was a humble affair, one big room with a small loft at the far end for sleeping. Her eyes roved higher as she searched the roof for a way out, but there was none. In desperation, she sprang over to the fireplace, hoping to find a poker, anything, to defend herself with.

Stepping into the large, open, fire pit, she pulled a heavy iron ladle off the cooking bar, pausing as she felt the breeze. Looking up, her eyes took in the dim light at the top of the chimney and her quick mind worked overtime. Why not? she reasoned. Chimney sweeps did it all the time.

Hoisting herself up, she placed an arm and a leg on either side of the chimney and inched her way up. It was slow going; she was tired and hungry and, for all her experience, still a child. Eventually, though, she broke free of the flue. Crying with relief as she clambered out, she tested her footing on the roof and found it was sound. Without so much as a backward glance, she trotted as quickly as she could along the apex of the roof with her arms flung out to balance herself. Years later, looking back on it, she would joke to herself that it had been her first taste of the high wire.

With little effort, she jumped onto the roof of the next house and kept going, continuing on until she came to an adjoining wall that she could jump down to. With a snort of disgust, she broke her fall from the wall with a well-stocked midden. Wrinkling her nose, she examined her clothes, though not the sweetest scented child in the world, she did try to make an effort to keep herself relatively clean. One does not make a very good living at being a pick pocket if they can smell you coming!

Now that the first flush of fear was over, anger began to set in. Scarface’s words came back to her as she stalked down the back alley; the man had set her up. With a determined look on her face, she made her way to Canterbury Street and the tavern. She had a few choice words to share with her ‘benefactor’.

He wasn’t there, of course, though it had taken a while for her to make sure of this. The inn keeper hadn’t taken too well to her new ‘perfume’ and had ousted her almost immediately when she had entered. When she had protested that she was supposed to meet a ‘gentleman’ there, the inn keeper had not been impressed, especially as she did not know her ‘benefactor’s’ name.

After lurking across the street for the bulk of the evening, the young Amanda had come to the grim conclusion that he had no more intention of meeting her here that night than she had of following Scarface all afternoon.

Time went by and Amanda’s first death came and went. She had already been Rebecca’s student for a number of years when Methos decided to pay his old friend a visit.

“Amanda, you’re back, darling,” called out Rebecca when she spied Amanda cantering into the courtyard from her morning ride. “Come and meet a very old friend of mine!”

Knowing what Rebecca’s definition of an old friend was, Amanda cautiously followed Rebecca to her library, her senses picking up the foreign quickening before she entered the room.

Methos had played every inch the gentleman when Rebecca introduced him as ‘her old friend, Guy De Courtenay’, his smile only faltering a little when he saw the ex-pression on her face. More importantly, though, was the fact that she didn’t see even a glimmer of recognition. For a moment, she entertained the idea of telling Rebecca of her previous encounter with her friend but hesitated when she noticed the pleased ex-pression on her face. In the end, she never did tell Rebecca. After a while, it just didn’t seem to be important anymore.

Over the years, her mistrust and dislike of Methos faded, so much so that they became lovers for a brief time during the Renaissance. It didn’t last long, but the affair cemented their friendship and it was during that time that Methos told her his true name.

But it was funny how old wounds never truly healed. Upon Rebecca’s death, when everybody and their uncle seemed to be hunting for the Methuselah stone, something inside Amanda snapped when she learned that Methos also sought it. All those old memories came rushing back with a sharpness that was nearly frightening, and an unreasoning fear of what Methos might be capable of, came to the fore.

Looking back on it, Amanda couldn’t believe that she’d allowed herself to believe that Methos could have had anything to do with Rebecca’s death, but grief sometimes could work like that, distorting everything around you until you couldn’t see straight.

What you had to remember about Methos was that, in many ways, he saw the world as simplistically as Duncan. The difference was that while Duncan divided the world up into ‘good’ and ‘evil’, Methos divided it up into ‘him and his’ and ‘everybody else’. The moment Rebecca introduced them in that draughty library all those centuries ago, Amanda had leapt from the latter category into the former.

Which brought her back to the problem at hand: the ex-pression on Methos’s face, the one that said Turner had been relegated to the category of ‘everybody else’.

Stretching as she yawned once more, she let her hand rest on the phone beside the bed. Lifting it onto her lap, she dialled the desk and asked to be put through to her room.

“Duncan MacLeod,” said the softly burred voice on the phone.

Amanda smiled into the receiver. “Glad to see you’re back, darling,” she purred. “I’m in… Adam’s room, we have a visitor. Why don’t you come and meet him – and bring everybody with you.” With that, she rung off and turned her attention to the heated discussion between Turner and Methos.

Turner had just finished explaining how he’d gotten the tape that originally raised his suspicions anonymously through the mail. Unsure about what to do because he didn’t know how pervasive the conspiracy was within the watchers, he had turned to Methos because he remembered Don talking so glowingly about his new assistant, and also remembered his surprise when he learned that Methos was an immortal not long after Don’s death. Methos seemed to be a little mollified by Turner’s explanation because, for the first time since he entered the room, he sat down.

A wash of quickenings flowed over them and the two immortals turned to look at the door. On cue, there was a small, sharp knock at the door.

“Enter,” called out Methos as he gestured for Turner to sit. The room filled and everyone was brimming with questions about the new addition. Methos briefly introduced them before he retreated into the bathroom to clean up.

“I’m glad to see you’re alive,” observed Joe as he shook Turner’s hand. “When we couldn’t track you down, we got a bit worried.”

“It was touch-and-go there, for a while,” Turner admitted. “But I eventually managed to give them the slip.”

Everybody seemed to take Turner’s appearance at face value and Amanda let out her bated breath, if the gang accepted him, Methos would be more reluctant to use him as bait. Congratulating herself on a job well done, Amanda rose from the bed; she was in desperate need of a shower and a change of clothes.

As she reached the door, a clean Methos wandered out of the bathroom, still towelling his damp hair. “You’re off?” he asked.

“You’re not the only bullet-ridden one here,” she pointed out amiably. “I need a shower.”

Methos nodded before he smirked at her knowingly. “Are you sure? You could wait a little longer and really make sure they all become best pals. Throw a party, perhaps,” he teased her in a low voice.

Deciding to brazen it out, Amanda raised her chin as she looked him imperiously. “Whatever do you mean, Adam?” she asked archly as she opened the door.

In answer, Methos raised an eyebrow and nodded towards Turner. “Despite what you may believe, I wasn’t about to throw him into the lion’s den.”

Amanda studied his face, then smiled. “I just wanted to make sure,” she told him softly.

Methos looked at her intently before he turned away. “I can live with that.”

He had been hurt, to tell the truth, but he really couldn’t call her on it because, to a certain extent, she was right. For a split moment, while he stood there listening to Turner explain how he got his hands on the tape, he did consider using his presence in the city as a decoy while they got a head start on the watchers that he was sure were, right now, camped on their doorstep. The moment, however, had been fleeting and he had already decided against it long before the others had turned up.

Sighing, he decided to let it go as he turned to the rest of the room, disconcerted for a moment as he caught Amy watching him closely. Wondering how much of that brief exchange of words with Amanda she had heard, he gave her a small mile before raising his voice to address the room.

“People, we have things to do,” he reminded them. “I’d like to be on the road in the next hour, so get your bags packed and ready to go. If you want something to eat before you go, do it now – order room service,” he added.

“What about me?” piped up Turner.

“Are you checked in here?” asked Methos. Turner nodded. “Then pack your bags, you’re coming with us. With a grin, Turner stood and left for his room. “Meet us down in reception in one hour,” he called out after him.

“Sure thing,” Turner answered from down the hall.

Within moments, the room was deserted and Methos was left alone with his packing. Calling down to the restaurant for some room service, he busied himself as he waited for the light meal he had ordered. Everything was neatly stowed away by the time the waiter knocked on the door.

An hour later, he stood waiting for the others to arrive in the lobby. In dribs and drabs they joined him, Amanda hurriedly bringing up the rear.

Luckily, they made it out of the city before the evening rush and, after a few hours driving through breathtaking scenery on heart-stopping roads that bent on the turn of a dime, they made it to the volcano just in time to see the sun set behind it.

“It’s beautiful!” Amy exclaimed, hopping out of the SUV, her breath clouding the air as she spoke.

“Its cold!” remarked Amanda as she shivered in her sheepskin coat.

“We’ll set up camp soon,” Methos told her as he shouldered some of the climbing gear. “We just have to gain some altitude first.”

“We’re going to start climbing now?” asked Turner nervously.

“Everybody but Amy and Joe, who are going to camp further down the road. They’re not coming with us to the summit. We’re going to need them to keep an eye on our transport in case those watchers stumble upon the vehicles and decide to take them on a joy ride. We need to make a move, I want to ensure that we have the advantage of higher ground if we have any surprise visitors during the night,” Methos explained.

A look of resignation spread over Turner’s face as he bent to pick up some of the camping gear that Duncan was busy offloading from the cars. As soon as they had distributed the supplies among themselves, Amy and Joe fired up their respective engines and meandered back down the road.

“How do they know when to come back for us?” Turner asked worriedly.

“Well, you see, there is this nifty new invention called the mobile phone…” an amused Methos replied as he set the pace for the climb.

“Oh…yes…how silly of me,” the watcher said, laughing nervously while he fell in behind him.

The short climb wasn’t that steep, as they were still only on the foothills of the volcano and the really difficult terrain would be kept for first light. Nevertheless, it was no picnic; the entire volcano was thickly covered in snow, the only exception being the summit looming ominously above them. Presumably, the heat at the top was enough to melt whatever snow that fell, and it gave the volcano a strangely upside-down effect as one usually expected snow at the top, not the bottom. More so, the snow hadn’t settled yet and was still powdery and difficult to walk in. Duncan cursed softly, berating himself for not thinking to buy snow shoes.

“Forget about it, Duncan,” Richard told him as he apologised for the third time. “What’s done is done.”

At last, they reached an altitude that Methos was happy with and, after a little fumbling and much blowing on hands, they eventually managed to make camp. Duncan decided to make up for his gaffe with the snowshoes by starting a small cooking fire and throwing together, from the rations, a meal fit for a king.

“Definitely better than baked beans,” Gina pronounced as she finished off her plate of winter stew. “My compliments to the chef.”

A chorus of agreement went around the circle as they sat back and enjoyed the afterglow around the fire. Duncan began to reminisce about the last time he had camped in such weather and regaled the group with an amusing anecdote involving Conor, a mule, and the Rocky Mountains. Once the laughter died down, it was deemed time to turn in. A short but ridiculous game of rock-paper-scissors ensued as they decided who was to take first watch. Amanda lost.

“The game was rigged, I tell you,” she grumbled only half-jokingly as the others made for their tents.

“But, of course,” Methos told her mockingly. “Didn’t you know? I had a third hand tucked up my sleeve all the time.”

Sticking her tongue out in an unladylike fashion, Amanda made herself comfortable on her perch, which consisted of her rucksack. “You’d better toddle off, Methos,” she whispered lowly so that Turner couldn’t overhear. “You’re on the next watch, remember?”

Giving her a mocking salute, Methos retreated into his tent.

“Do you want me to keep you company?” asked the ever-solicitous Highlander, wrapping his arms around her in a hug.

Amanda’s eyes softened in response. “Get your sleep, Duncan,” she told him gently as she pushed him towards his tent. “We all need to be rested tomorrow.”

Soon, Amanda was alone with the stars. “It is pretty,” she admitted to herself. “For a place with no shops.”



Chapter Fourteen

Dawn broke coldly across the landscape and Robert De Valicourt rubbed his hands together in a vain attempt to warm his fingers. Cursing under his breath about having pulled the coldest watch of the night, he decided it was time to for everybody to join him in his misery.

“Rise and shine!” he roared, clattering two of the cook pots together as circuited the camp. “We’ve got a volcano to climb and all that jazz.”

Methos poked his head out of his tent, sporting a singularly unattractive example of bed-head. “Enough, already,” he growled. “Why don’t you make better use of those pots you’re banging together and brew up some coffee – strong coffee,” he added before retreating back into the tent.

“Yes, mein capitant,” Robert grumbled, stalking over to the dying embers of the campfire. “It’s not my fault that you’re not a morning person…no need to bite my head off…”

“He’s like that with everybody in the morning,” said a laughing voice and Robert looked up to see Duncan emerge from his tent. “It kind of goes with the Methos package, here, let me stir up the fire while you unpack the coffee.”

Nodding gratefully, Robert unearthed the coffee and began to spoon it into a pot he had filled with water as Duncan cajoled a small flame from the embers before adding some of their precious fuel. The coffee was brewing merrily by the time everyone had roused and joined them around the fire.

“Ooh, you’re a lifesaver, Robert,” Amanda sighed, sipping appreciatively from her mug.

“I second that,” Methos told him with a small smile. “It almost makes up for the rude awakening.”

“Glad to hear it,” Robert responded easily. He had already come to the wry conclusion that Methos’ should be taken with a pinch of salt – unless he spoke with the point of his sword, of course.

The smell of scrambled eggs filled the air as Duncan rustled up some breakfast and they all eagerly toasted bread on the end of their forks to go with it. Once everybody had eaten their fill, the more serious business of the climb became their conversation point. “We should begin our climb as soon as possible,” Duncan surmised. “The watchers have had a full night to prepare; we need as much of a head start as we can possibly manage.”

“I agree,” said Methos with a sigh. “We should pull up camp as quick as possible.”

Without protest, they quickly dissembled the camp and repacked their rucksacks. It was still early morning when they began their climb.

“At least it’s not snowing,” Gina gasped out as she stumbled through another drift of snow. A collective groan rose from the group. “What! What did I say?” she asked confusedly.

“You do realise that you’ve just jinxed us, don’t you dear?” her husband explained dolefully.

“Oh please!” Gina protested. “You can’t possibly believe that just because I mentioned snow that…” Gina’s voice faded mid-sentence as a small snowflake drifted onto her nose. “Oh no,” she uttered disbelievingly as the others turned to look at her accusingly. “There is no way in hell I’m going to take the fall for this blasted weather!” With that, she stomped on ahead.

“You better go after her and smooth things over, darling,” Amanda muttered into Robert’s ear as he stood there gaping after his wife’s disappearing back.

“I think you may be right,” he said before chasing after his spouse.

“Try to keep together, folks,” Duncan called out after them. “We don’t want to lose anybody in this snowfall.”

“There is also another problem to consider,” Methos said lowly as he stepped in beside Duncan. “With this low visibility, we’re not going to be able to see the Watchers coming if they manage to catch up with us.”

With a groan, Duncan realised he was right. “Well, they will be in the same boat,” he said in a hopeful voice. “That should even the odds a little.”

“That’s the point,” Methos complained. “I didn’t want to even the odds; I wanted a clear and overwhelming advantage!”

Duncan tried in vain to smother a grin. “Ah well, you know what they say, best laid plans and all that.” As if mocking them, the snowfall grew thicker. “Hold up everyone,” Duncan called out as he unravelled the rope he had draped across his shoulders. “We need to tie ourselves together before this storm gets out of hand.”

Once Duncan was satisfied that they were all securely attached to his security line, they resumed their climb. It was midday when Duncan indicated that they should stop again. Unscrewing one of the flasks of hot soup he had prepared, he passed it around. “The climb is going to get a lot more difficult from now on,” he explained as they huddled around in a circle, straining to hear him above the howling storm.

“You mean it hasn’t been difficult up ‘til now?” asked Turner, his tone half-surprised, half-sarcastic.

“Not compared to what lays ahead of us, no,” Duncan shouted above the storm. The climb gets a lot steeper from now on, it’s not bad enough to need serious climbing tackle but we will have to watch our step – especially with this poor visibility.”

“Let’s get cracking, then,” Robert said. “I want this over and done with.”

There was a murmur of agreement as the shrugged on their rucksacks once more and resumed their climb. The hours went by slowly as they trudged upwards, their backs hunched over against the storm. Eventually though, Methos called them to a halt. “Maybe we should make camp here, we wouldn’t want set up base too near the danger zone now, would we?” Raising his hand in acknowledgement, Duncan circled back.

Setting up camp amidst a blizzard was a back breaking business. Luckily, Duncan had thought to bring a peg-punch to drill holes with or they would have never managed to erect the tents.

A campfire was out of the question, so Duncan produced a small methane cooking ring and set it up within his tent. In unspoken agreement, everybody piled into his tent after him and Duncan uncomplainingly made room for them. He was well aware that even the warmth from a cooker ring was a welcome change from the bruising cold outside.

Small talk broke out over the hot stew that he prepared, everybody studiously avoiding the subject of what was to come until the end of the meal. Eventually, however, the settled down to discuss the matter at hand while the supped at their coffee.

“We can’t be sure how far they are behind us,” Methos told the assembled group, resting his cup beside him as he leaned forward. “Therefore, I think that it may be prudent to set up a perimeter as soon as possible.”

“You want to use the charges, then,” Amanda guessed.

“Methos nodded in reply. I know it may seem a little over the top but we’re stumbling around in a blizzard up here and I’ve a funny feeling that the watchers are going to outnumber us significantly,” he explained. “We’re going to need every advantage we can muster and its not as if they’re going to be innocents – it was they who came after our heads, after all, not the other way around.

Grimly, the others voiced their assent and Amanda pulled her rucksack in front of her. Unearthing a carefully insulated package from within it, she unwrapped its contents and placed them on her lap. “The timers are going to be of little use to us,” she concluded after a moments thought. “And the sensor triggers are too volatile to be trusted in his blizzard. We’re going to have to detonate them by remote – which means we’re going to need a lookout.”

“I’ll take first shift,” Duncan volunteered. Taking their cue, the others organised who would take which shift. After a little tinkering, Amanda pronounced she was satisfied with the explosives and produced a remote control from the side pocket of her pack. After a little tweaking, she handed it over to Duncan.

“They’re four triggers,” she explained as he studied the controls. “Attached to each trigger are three explosives, I’m going to allot each grouping to a compass direction – north, south, east, west,” she continued, indicating with her finger which trigger went with which direction as she spoke. “Try not to press any of the triggers in the next ten minutes; however…most of them will still be in my pocket!” With that, she rose and hurried outside.

“Well, from now on it’s a case of hurry up and wait, I suppose,” observed Gina.

“It would seem so,” Methos replied tiredly. “The rest of us should get some rest; we want to be on top of our game when our visitors arrive.” Grabbing his mug, he slipped out of the tent.

Robert eyed the space that Methos had just vacated worriedly. “Is it just me or is Methos a bit grumpier than usual today…oh, I say Turner, are you okay?” Patting the back of the spluttering watcher, he gently took the cup out of his hands.

“M…M…Methos?” Turner eventually gasped out as he stared at Robert with round eyes.

“Why yes,” replied a puzzled Robert. “Who else would I be…oh!” Too late, Robert noticed his gaffe.

“Yes Robert – oh!” Duncan repeated dryly.

“I suppose that’s torn it,” Robert muttered apologetically as he threw Turner a surreptitious glance.

“You think?” growled Duncan sarcastically.

“M…Methos?” stuttered Turner again, as if unsure of what he’d heard.

“I don’t have to tell you that you’re not to breathe a word about it, do I?” Duncan asked him pointedly

“I’m not?” he asked back before recollecting himself. “Oh…yes…of course…I suppose he wouldn’t like that.” Staring at his hands, Turner studiously avoided their eyes.

Duncan glanced at the watcher suspiciously. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Who…me? No, of course not. No problem here.” The words tumbled out of Turner’s mouth in a rush as he stood up abruptly, hitting his head off the canvas of the low tent. “If you’ll excuse me.” Stumbling out of the tent, Turner left two bemused and uncomfortable immortals behind him.

“Methinks I see trouble ahead,” commented Robert.

“And I think that it’ll be your task to warn Methos about it,” Duncan informed him. “He’s not going to be happy.”

For a moment, Robert looked like he was going to object, but one look at Duncan’s face changed his mind. “I’d better do that now, then,” he said, heading for the tent flap as he spoke.

“Yes, you’d better,” Duncan echoed softly as he watched him go.

~~*~~

Robert bounced on his feet outside Methos’s tent, trying to fend off the cold, while he rehearsed what he was going to say. “I say, old chap, you’ll never guess what happened…no…that won’t do…Hey Methos, I’ve got something to tell you…damn!” Cursing furiously under his breath, he squared his shoulders as he faced Methos’s tent. “Time to get this over with, Robert,” he told himself. “His disposition isn’t about to get any sweeter, after all.”

A head poked out of the tent. “Are you just going to stand there all day muttering to yourself?” began Methos. “Or are you going to come in here and tell me what’s happened.

With a tremulous smile, Robert ducked into his tent. “Um…hi…” he said, crouching down beside Methos’s bedroll. “I may have caused a bit of a problem.”

“Well, spit it out,” Methos irritably asked him, jumping into his sleeping bag once more and burrowing into it.

“Turner knows your name,” Robert told him abruptly. “Duncan and I don’t think he took the revelation too well.”

“I see,” the elder immortal bit out. “And how, exactly, did he stumble along this revelation.”

“Well…I may have let something slip,” Robert admitted bashfully.

Silently, Methos looked outside, his eyes searching for Turner. “I don’t see him,” he observed, pulling his head back in. “Did he go back to his tent?”

“I don’t know,” Robert said. “I presume so – I mean, there isn’t exactly anywhere else to go, is there?”

“Nowhere but down,” Methos grunted under his breath, pulling on his boots and hunting for his gloves. “Lets go have a look, shall we?”

Grateful that he’d gotten off so lightly, he nodded eagerly. “Listen, I’m sorry about this,” he offered cautiously.

“Forget it,” replied Methos dismissively. “No good crying over spilled milk – besides, Gina would kill me if I took your head!” he added with a sly grin.

Squinting through the heavy snowfall, Methos tried to pick out where the errant watcher was. “Now, where could that idiot have wandered off to,” he muttered frowningly as he pulled the collar of his anorak up against the cold.

“His tent, perhaps?” suggested Robert. His tent was empty, however.

“Bloody hell,” muttered Methos. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

A small shudder ran down Robert’s back at those words and he eyed his companion warily. “A bad feeling, did you say?”

Methos didn’t answer, too involved in his inner worries about the whereabouts of Turner. The approach of another immortal caught his attention, however.

“What in lord’s name are you two doing, wandering around in the snow?” asked Amanda as she trudged up to them.

“Looking for your best buddy, Turner,” replied Methos, sarcasm evident in his voice.

“What’s happened?” she asked anxiously, stepping in beside them. In terse tones, Methos filled her in. “I see,” she eventually answered. “Well, there’s still no need to believe the worst, he may just need to clear his head.”

Methos looked at her disbelievingly. “In the middle of a blizzard, Amanda? I don’t think so.”

“I’m just saying, that’s all,” she protested.

“Well, don’t - don’t say one word more, Amanda,” Methos growled. “Just help us find him.” Their search was cut short, however, by Turners reappearance from beyond the tents. “Where the hell have you been,” yelled Methos.

“Um, taking a leak?” the watcher piped up him nervously.

“In this blizzard?” asked an incredulous Methos. “Are you mad? It’s a bloody miracle that your private parts didn’t freeze to your zipper!”

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Turner protested.

“You could have done what any guy with half a brain would do, in this weather –use a bottle,” roared Methos.

“Oh… I see…well, I’ll keep that in mind for the next time,” the watcher offered in answer as he stepped in the direction of his tent. “I better be off to my tent, now. To get some rest, that is.”

Methos watched Turners retreating back suspiciously. “It’s official,” he said, turning to Amanda and Robert. “My funny feeling has just turned into a full-blown premonition - we’ve definitely got trouble.”

“I hate to say it, but I think you may be right,” Amanda said grimly. “I distinctly remember Duncan explaining to him this morning about the dangers of this freezing climate. He was quite graphic about it, too; he’d have to be an idiot to forget.”

“Well, maybe he is,” Robert suggested. “An idiot, that is.”

“The only idiots around here are us,” said Methos sourly. “We’re going to need to keep an eye on him. Damn it! As if we didn’t have enough problems worrying about the enemy without, now it looks like we have to deal with the enemy within as well.”

“I wish this blizzard would clear up,” Amanda muttered. “I’d feel a lot better if I could shake the feeling that we’re being watched. I keep getting funny images in my mind of homicidal watchers lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce when we least expect it.”

“Where’s Mac?” Methos asked abruptly.

“Still in the tent, I presume,” Robert said. “Waiting for Amanda to come back and give him the all clear about the explosives.”

“Let’s go then, I think its time we had a little war council,” Methos told them, heading for the tent.

Throwing back the flap of the tent, Methos looked at the grim face of the Highlander. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Duncan asked rhetorically, making way for them as they crowded into the tent.

“We’ve got a mole,” confirmed Methos as he helped himself to a cup of coffee from the pot.

“But how can you be so sure, chérie?” asked Gina. “After all, is this not the gentleman that told you about the conspiracy in the first place?”

“That Turner was the one who told me is not to be disputed,” Methos said heavily. “Whether or not the man in that tent is actually Turner is another matter.”

“You think he’s a fake,” surmised Amanda.

“I think that the real Turner is most probably at the bottom of some river, yes,” Methos replied. “Probably after being tortured and interrogated by Tribeau and his cronies.”

“That would explain how he knew so much about why Turner helped you,” Duncan said dryly.

“Yes…it would,” Methos replied softly.

“You don’t think he was out there reporting to somebody, do you,” asked a worried Robert. “Because that would mean that they were right on top of us – he couldn’t have gone far in this weather.”

“I think the answer is a bit more prosaic,” Methos wryly answered him. “As I told him the other day, technology is a wonderful thing!”

“Of course, he has a phone,” groaned Gina.

“He mightn’t have got a dialling tone,” said Robert hopefully. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, after all. Sometimes those phones can’t get reception in these areas.”

“No such luck, I’m afraid,” Methos glumly told him. “There’s a tower on the top of the next mountain - for the old military base. It was one of the reasons I picked this place, I wanted to make sure I could keep in contact with Joe and Amy at all times.”

“So what do we do now?” asked Gina. “Not only do they know exactly where we are and what we’re up to, they now also know about our defence perimeter.”

“And they also know where Joe and Amy are camped,” realised Methos, pulling out his own phone hastily. The others looked on worriedly as he punched in Joe’s phone number, only breathing a sigh of relief as they saw from the ex-pression on his face that the old watcher had answered. “Hey Joe, it’s me,” Methos said with a smile. “No, we’re not finished yet…listen; you may have to move camp…it’s a long story but we think that the watchers may be onto your location…okay…talk to you later.” Ringing off, he turned his attention to the others once more. “That just leaves us,” he said.

“And the Turner impostor,” Duncan reminded him. “What the hell are we going to do with him?”

“Let’s throw him into the volcano,” suggested Robert. “I don’t know about you, but I could do it cheerfully.”

Cocking his head as if considering it, Methos eventually shook it. “I’ve got a better idea,” he said. “How about a little misdirection?”

“Like what the British did during World War two,” Duncan said, nodding his head in understanding. “We feed the enemy false information.”

“Even better,” Robert said with a grin. “We can always throw him into the volcano afterwards…” This earned him an appreciative laugh from his companions.

“Oh my!” exclaimed Gina, sitting up bolt right as she stared at Methos worriedly. “He knows your name.”

“Please, don’t remind me,” groaned Methos. “Let’s just stick to our immediate problem, shall we?”

“Okay then, misdirection…” prompted Amanda. “How can we use this mole to our advantage?”

“Well, in a way, we already have,” Methos joked. “Somehow I don’t think that we’re going to have any surprise visits, now that they know about our ‘explosive’ welcome mat! “

“I think that’s a given,” replied Duncan with a small smile. “The question is, what information can we pass on that will give us an advantage.

“Well I was thinking of dragging Turner in here for a little parley about our ‘plans’ and filling him with a load of baloney about waiting until dawn to make our move, maybe we’ll be able to retain some of the element of surprise that way.”

“So we’re moving tonight, then?” asked Robert.

“Looks like it, yes,” Methos told him with a sigh.

“Well then, I’ll go and get him shall I?” said Amanda, rising to her feet.

“Be on your guard,” Methos warned her.

“I always am,” was her brief rejoinder as she left the tent.

The group shuffled uneasily within the tent when she left. Nobody wanted ‘Turner’ to suspect that they were onto them so they tried to act as if this was a normal group meeting. Duncan put on a fresh pot of coffee while they waited. It was almost with relief that they sensed the returning presence of Amanda.

“About bloody time,” muttered Robert, plastering a smile on his face as the tent flap was thrown up.

“Hi guys, we’re back,” Amanda announced cheerfully as she made way for Turner to enter the tent.

“So, there’s a new plan?” Turner asked, hunching down in the tent. “How come?”

“The blizzard is lasting longer than we’d hoped,” Methos told him. “It looks like we’re going to have to wait ‘til morning in order to get some visibility.”

“I see,” Turner replied, a thoughtful look on his face. “But what if get they’re waiting for us at the top and see us coming?”

Methos smiled stiffly, realising that Turner had inadvertently given them the watcher’s location. “I think we may have to risk that, Turner, it’s too late to back out now.”

Helping himself to the coffee mug that Duncan held out to him, Turner nodded. “I suppose it’s all or nothing,” he agreed. “After all, we can’t let these guys get away with what they’re planning, can we?”

“Oh, I think we’re all in agreement on that,” Methos replied dryly, a spark of humour in his eyes. “These ‘guys’ definitely need to be stopped.”

“Well then,” Turner said, finishing off his coffee. “I’d better get some shuteye; I want to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the morning.”

Sounds like a good idea,” agreed Methos. “I intend to do the same. We’ll see you at first light.”

Nodding seriously, ‘Turner’ got to his feet and ducked out of the tent. A few moments later, Duncan raised an eyebrow meaningfully as he looked over at Methos. “I’ll go and see what he’s up to, shall I?” he said, slipping through the flap after ‘Turner’.

“Well, I’m glad that’s over and done with,” Robert commented as they waited for Duncan’s return. “It was all I could do not to throttle him.”

“I know how you feel,” admitted Amanda. “My advice is to think of something else – something that involves a lot of sunny weather,” she added with a small shiver.

“I wish Duncan would hurry up and come back,” mumbled Gina. “I’m feeling a tad anxious about him.”

“Don’t worry, m’dear,” her husband consoled her. “Duncan can look after himself.”

Shortly afterwards, they felt Duncan’s return and a flurry of snow entered the tent as he ducked inside. “He went for another stroll,” he told them, plopping down on his bedroll. “He stopped about 40 yards beyond the perimeter and pulled out a phone. I couldn’t make out what he said but I’m sure we can all guess. I came back as soon as he popped inside his tent again.”

“Right!” Robert declared, purposefully rising to his feet. “Let’s go get him!”

“After you,” Methos said with a smirk, sketching a bow from where he sat.

“My pleasure, old chap.” The group trailed after him as Robert pushed his way out of the tent and strode towards ‘Turner’s’.

“Have you got the rope?” Methos muttered into Duncan’s ear when they came to a stop outside the other tent.

“I picked it up on my way out,” Duncan replied, pulling the said rope out of his jacket while he watched Robert tear the tent’s flap open and step inside. The tent wobbled as a struggle ensued within.

“Maybe I should go and help him,” Gina piped up nervously, watching with trepidation as the tent tilted precariously to one side.

“Oh…I think he can manage,” drawled Methos, turning his head to one side as the tent righted itself before it veered in the other direction. Sure enough, a triumphant Robert emerged, holding a squealing ‘Turner’ by the ear.

“What is the meaning of this?” ‘Turner’ blustered. “I demand an explanation, damn it.”

In answer, Methos stepped forward and rooted around in his coat pocket until he found the phone. “I wonder whom I’d find on the other end if I pressed the redial button, Turner,” Methos asked, turning the phone around in his hand. “Your mother, perhaps?” The impostor glared at him sullenly, clamping shut his mouth as he realised which way the conversation was heading. “I see,” Methos said, his eyes narrowing as he studied the watcher’s face. “Tie him up, Duncan,”

Duncan needed no more encouragement and made short work of binding the impostor. “You’d better gag him as well,” suggested Amanda, holding up a handkerchief. “We wouldn’t want him calling out for help while we’re gone, would we?”

Grinning, Duncan obliged and then stood back to admire his handiwork. “A very professional job, even if I say so myself,” he pronounced.

“I couldn’t have done better myself,” Methos agreed. “But let’s his boots off for good measure – just in case he manages to wriggle out of that multitude of knots.” Shoving ‘Turner’ back into his tent, Methos ignored the muffled cry of protest as the watcher landed on his back inside. Leaning down, he quickly pulled off the watcher’s boots and retreated outside. “There, - that should keep him safely under wraps until we get back,” he declared, the boots dangling from his hand. “Let’s move.”

Scrambling for their respective tents, the group gathered their weaponry together. “It’s now or never, I suppose,” said Amanda with a sigh, peering upward through. “Up we go.”

Trudging slowly through the snow, the immortal’s stopped as they hit ice. “What’s this?” asked a puzzled Amanda, her feet sliding over the glassy surface.

“Don’t worry,” Methos reassured her. “It’s normal, we’ve just reached the ice ring, it happens when the heat of the volcano melts the snow on top - the water runs down and freezes into ice once the ground temperature lowers.”

“And there ends our lesson in vulcanology,” joked Duncan as his feet slid on the ice.

“Don’t worry, the ring is not broad,” Methos said. Sure enough, they crossed it quickly. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the group continued their ascent on the now snow-free surface. Their relief was short lived, however, as they noticed the steam rising from the ground below their feet.

“Maybe we should slow down,” Amanda suggested uneasily. “I wouldn’t want to topple into the lava bowl by accident.”

“There’s no chance of that,” Methos told her with a grin. “By the time you’d neared the rim, your eyebrows would’ve already warned you - they’d be singed!”

“Now you tell me!” Amanda grumbled. “Maybe you should have warned me before you convinced me to climb this godforsaken thing.”

“Now, where would the fun be in that,” he answered, hopping back before she could hit him.

“Jumped up, senile old goat…” Amanda muttered sourly to herself as she tried to peer through the falling snow. “How much further is it to the top?” she asked in a louder voice.

“About another hundred and fifty yards, give or take an inch,” Methos answered back. “It might be better to…” his voice trailed off as he felt the creeping presence of another immortal, looking around, he saw his companions stiffen as the new quickening impinged on their senses. “Oh, for crying out loud…there goes the element of surprise,” he muttered, pulling out his sword as he eyed the blurry landscape warily. The others followed suit and, wordlessly, they formed a loose circle, their swords pointed outward.

A muffled laugh came from their left and Methos squinted as he saw an outline through the falling snow. “Glad to see you that you and your little friends could join us Mr Pierson…or should I call you Methos?” a familiar voice called out.

Methos bristled as he recognised the voice. “I knew I should have killed you,” he snarled as Tribeau stepped closer, gun in hand.

“Yes, you should have,” agreed Tribeau, pointing the gun at his head as his henchmen materialised beside him. “But look on the bright side; it’s a mistake you’re never going to repeat.”


Chapter Fifteen

Methos’s mind worked furiously as he scanned the watchers that encircled them. There were at least thirty, all armed, although mostly with pistols, he saw with relief. Sensing Duncan tense beside him, he knew that the Highlander was about to make his move. The scrape of a boot from his left caught his attention and, glancing sideways, he acknowledged Amanda’s questioning glance with a shrug. Things went downhill from there.

With a yell, Duncan leapt forward and knocked the gun out of Tribeau’s hand with the hilt of his sword. Taking this as his cue, Methos dropped to the ground as the bullets started flying, ignoring the pain in his shoulder as a bullet hit home. Glancing up, he saw Gina and Robert join Duncan in the fray and observed with amusement the watcher’s dismay as they realised that they couldn’t use their guns in the scuffle for fear of killing one of their own.

“But they can shoot you, old man, if you don’t get off the ground and out of the open…”
With that thought, Methos rolled to one side – and came face to face with Amanda.

“So, what’s next, oh fearless leader?” she asked, somewhat sarcastically. “A re-enactment of Custer’s last stand, perhaps?”

“Sorry, no can do…I forgot to bring the arrows,” he retorted. “Have you, perhaps, a better suggestion?”

Eyeing the morass around them, Amanda shrugged her shoulders. “Well, you know what I always say, if in doubt…”

“…Decapitate?” Methos asked helpfully.

“No! Well…yes…that too, but in this case I was thinking more along the lines of ‘run away’…”

Methos smirked. “Sounds like a plan to me,” he told her, pulling out his pistol. “Just give me a moment to set up a distraction.” Peering through the snow, he eventually spotted Duncan, who was still wrestling with Tribeau. In typical Highlander fashion, Duncan had sheathed his sword when Tribeau refused to produce his – the result was a rather messy display of fisticuffs.

“Sometimes I really wished that idiot would stow his ridiculous sense of honour for half an hour,” he muttered. “It’s such a pain in the ass.” Taking aim, he looked for his opening; he wasn’t long waiting. “At last,” he grumbled, firing a bullet into Tribeau’s chest as Duncan moved out of the way.

The immortal dropped like a stone and, for a moment, the watchers froze as they saw their ringleader die.

“Now!” Methos cried, dashing uphill in a furious spurt of energy. For a moment, the watchers hesitated, unsure what to do. Eventually, though, the group split, one half following him while the other half milled about.

Looking back, Methos smiled grimly as he realised that Tribeau’s followers were going to get the surprise of their lives when he came back from the dead, he wondered if their loyalty would survive the shock.

“Hopefully, they’ll chop his head off on the spot!”

Redoubling his efforts as he neared the rim, he tried to ignore the pursuing watcher’s calls as they chased him. Luckily, it took all four limbs to scramble up the volcano at this speed, or he’d have to contend with gunfire as well. The sounds of the skirmish below faded away as he gained the top, the heat nearly unbearable as he stepped up to the caldera’s edge.

Glancing back, Methos spotted the nearest watcher stumble in his tracks as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a clear plastic bag. “Do you know what I have in my hand?”

They watcher pulled out his gun but hesitated as his eyes rested on the bag.

“Do you know that we’ve got you completely surrounded, you bastard!” Another watcher came to a stop to his left, brandishing his gun threateningly. “

“Be quiet, Hawkins!” the first watcher snarled, his eyes never leaving the bag as he spoke.

“He killed Tribeau, Peterson,” Hawkins ground out. “Shot him right through the chest...”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Tribeau,” drawled Methos. “It’s not as if it’s permanent, he should be waking up any minute now…”

Peterson smiled grimly. “Don’t listen to him,” he called out the others that just caught up to him. “He’s just trying to distract us, spread out and surround him.”

“Suit yourself,” Methos told him as he swung his hand out over the sweltering heat of the lava. “It’s of no great consequence to me, after all. I just thought you should know who you’re really working for.”

Some of the watchers began to mutter among themselves, eyeing the bag in Methos’ hand warily. “That’s right, gentleman,” Methos called out cheerfully, rustling the bag in his hand. “The Methuselah stone – doesn’t look like much, does it? Just a few useless lumps of crystal, its amazing what a man will kill for, really. ”

“Shoot him!” Hawkins ordered.

“No, don’t!” Peterson interjected. “If we shoot him, he might go over the edge and take the stone with him. Hawkins muttered hostilely but lowered his gun.

Methos looked uneasily about him, they were at a stand off; the watchers wouldn’t shoot as long as he held the stone over the lava and Methos couldn’t drop it without dying in the process. More had joined the watchers that surrounded him; he could count at least ten in the ruddy light given off by the volcano. Where the hell was Amanda, he wondered, he had thought she would have been right behind him as he ran, but she was nowhere to be seen.

The crunch of gravel caught his attention; Methos’s head snapped to his left and caught yet another watcher trying to sneak up on him. “Now, now, none of that,” he warned. “Back away or I’ll drop the stone. “

Peterson took a step forward. “No you won’t,” he said confidently. “You know as well as I that the moment you drop it, you’re a dead man – and I mean that in the permanent sense,” he added, making a slashing motion to his neck as he spoke.

Methos turned to glare at Peterson, his mouth already open to make a smart retort. He hesitated, however, when a small fleeting movement caught his eye. Was it his imagination or was somebody sneaking up behind Peterson and Hawkins?

“What, cat got your, Pierson, or whatever the hell your name really is?”

Methos gave him a sparse smile, his eyes narrowing coldly as he studied the watcher’s face. “I’m just wondering what the hell you think you’re going to get out of this?”

“He’s got a point,” one of the watchers muttered. “Tribeau is dead. Without him, we don’t know how to use the stone.”

“We’ve still got his notes, you fool,” Hawkins spat out. “It may take a little longer than we thought, but we’ll still get our immortality.”

Methos’ eyes widened as he realised that none of the watchers before him knew of Tribeau’s true intentions. “So Tribeau didn’t trust his little helpers with the truth,” he muttered to himself.

“What was that you said?” Hawkins demanded suspiciously. “Speak up.”

“Oh, nothing,” Methos replied laconically as he felt the presence of another immortal wash over him. “I’m just contemplating your unbelievable idiocy.”

“Why you…” Hawkins’s sentence was left unfinished as he suddenly stiffened, a look of terror flashing through his eyes as he slowly raised his hands.

“Hello gentlemen, mind if I join the party?” Amanda stepped out from behind him, her gun still pressed to Hawkin’s head.

“So glad you that could join us, Amanda,” Methos said, the relief obvious in his voice.

I’ve also brought company,” she purred. “Gentleman, I want you to give a warm welcome to Madame De Valicourt, who has also so graciously consented to join us this evening!” On cue, Gina stepped from the shadows and raised a gun to Peterson’s head, obviously they’d both been watching the proceedings long enough to figure out which ones were the ringleaders. “Now that we’re all here,” Amanda continued. “I think its time we got on with the main attraction of the evening – the fatal demise of the Methuselah stone.” Amanda’s lips were curved in a smile, but there was a sadness in her eyes as she looked up at Methos; she gave him a nod of encouragement, but it was so slight he almost missed it.

With a sigh, he tore open the bag and upended its contents into the volcano.

“No!” cried out Peterson. “Dear God, I don’t believe you just did that... why?” The watcher was on his knees, disbelief and shock evident on his face.

For a moment, Methos hesitated, should he tell the watcher the truth about Tribeau’s plans? No, he decided, it was better to let that secret die in peace. “Lets just say that…the alternative was unthinkable,” he told the watcher, unconsciously echoing the words he had spoken to Duncan so many years ago, when he’d first met Alexa.

Looking around, he noticed that the other watchers had melted away, leaving only the three immortals, with Hawkins and Peterson, on the volcano top. The volcano rumbled beneath his feet, reminding him that an active volcano was not a place one should linger on. “Let’s go,” he said as he stepped away from the rim. “I’ve had enough of this gods forsaken place. “

”What about us?” piped up Hawkins.

Methos paused, gracing the two watchers with a cold look that was disturbingly reminiscent of his days as a horseman. “What indeed,” he mused, his voice deceptively calm. Looking up, he caught Amanda’s eye. “What do you think?”

Amanda, hesitated, she knew what Methos was asking. “He’s a watcher,” she eventually said. “Let Joe take care of it.”

“Yes, that’s probably for the best,” muttered Methos, turning his gaze to the two watchers once more, he glared at them. “You heard the woman, get out of here!”

“You…you’re just going to let us go?” Peterson asked uncertainly, getting to his feet.

“It would seem so,” Methos told him grimly. “But I wouldn’t count your blessings just yet; I’ve a funny feeling that the watcher’s tribunal won’t be so forgiving. If my memory serves me correctly, they’re rather fond of the executions – you’d better start running now.”

The two watchers needed no further encouragement. Hastily, they stumbled away and disappeared into the night. Gina sighed into the silence they had left behind. “Well, at least the blizzard has died down,” she said.

Methos looked up at the sky in surprise. “So it has, fancy that, I never even noticed.”

“Yes, well, I’ve heard that teetering on the edge of a volcano will do that to you,” Amanda joked, her heart wasn’t in it, however, and Methos glanced over at her, his face a picture of wary commiseration.

“It had to be done, you know,” he told her gently.

“I know,” she sighed. “It doesn’t make me feel any better about it, though,” she added softly.

Methos put his arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go see what that Highlander of yours has been up to,” he suggested, steering her away from the rim.

“Not to mention that husband of mine,” interjected Gina as she followed them downwards.

Before long, they felt the quickening of another immortal approaching. Robert and Duncan stepped out of the darkness, their clothes were a little bloodied, but they looked otherwise unharmed - despite the annoyed looks on their faces.

“Did you destroy the stone?” Duncan asked urgently.

“Yes,” answered Methos briefly. “Why…what’s up?”

“Tribeau got away,” Robert informed them disgustedly. “When Tribeau was killed, the other watchers lost it and one of them shot Duncan. Luckily, Tribeau came to before they could get a clear shot at me.”

“How did his little watcher buddies take the news that he was immortal,” asked an amused Methos.

“Not too well,” admitted Robert with a smile. “The last we saw of them, they were chasing Tribeau down the volcano.”

“Here’s hoping that they catch him,” pronounced Methos, a small grin lurking on his lips.

Duncan gave him a wry look. “And if they don’t?” he asked pointedly. “What then?”

“No Methuselah stone – no problem,” Methos told him with a shrug of his shoulders. “Now he’s just another psychotic killer immortal on the loose; nothing more, nothing less.”

“Pardon me, if I don’t find that thought very comforting,” Gina said. “I’d feel a whole lot better if he was dead.”

“So would I,” Methos replied. “But at least now we don’t have to worry about a ticking time bomb under our feet. If one of us comes across him again, we’ll naturally take his head, if not…well…his type never stay hidden for long, it’s not in their nature.” Reluctantly, the others agreed with him.

Their progress downhill was slow, each immortal lost in their own thoughts as they descended. Eventually, however, they made it back to the camp. “Turner is gone,” Robert announced to the others after he pulled his head out of their former captive’s tent.

“Surprise, surprise,” muttered Methos, finishing off his phone call with Joe before he gave his full attention to Robert. “I should be annoyed, but I can’t seem to stir up enough energy to care.” With a snort, Robert rolled his eyes before he wandered off to help Gina pack their tent.

By dawn they were making their way down the slope, the return trip was a lot more pleasant because of the lack of snowfall, nobody commented on it, however. In unspoken agreement, they decided it was better not to tempt the gods a second time.

They reached the vehicles by late afternoon and were treated to an enthusiastic welcome by Joe and Amy. “Any sign of the watchers?” Methos asked as he threw his equipment into the back of the SUV.

“Not a glimmer,” Joe informed him. “They must have cleared out before we arrived. Don’t worry, though, I’ve already contacted the watcher’s tribunal in Paris, they’re being hunted down as we speak.”

“So…it’s over?” Robert asked uncertainly.

“It would seem so, yes,” Duncan said. “Its time to go home.”

“Home,” sighed Amy. “Music to my ears, lets get going, then. I can hear my bath calling to me as we speak!”

They set off into the night.






EPILOGUE

Methos peered into the murky waters that flowed inside the pool before him. He knew that he shouldn’t have come here, but the temptation proved too great. It hadn’t been the first time he had come to these waters looking for answers but he had always pulled back before he took the final step. And this time, he realised, was no exception. As tempting as he sometimes found the idea, he knew he wasn’t going to step into the waters this time, either.

Why, he didn’t know. According to Darius, these waters had the power to heal his memory problem and Tribeau’s research seemed to back that theory up. All he had to do was step into it. Perhaps he had gotten used to the gaps in his memory, he had suffered from the problem for so long it was now as much a part of him as his name. If it was his name, he reminded himself, he sometimes had the vague sense that he’d been born with another one. A not so surprising concept, considering that his name, Methos, was a Greek one and that he’d been born well before the dawn of such a language.

Grimacing, he pulled his mind away from that thought and tugged a small, velvet bag out of his pocket. Dumping the contents onto his lap, he studied the glittering crystals carefully; his nose twitching as he caught the faint odour of bleach that still clung to them. “I wonder if you were worth all that trouble,” he muttered out loud as he picked up one of the pieces and studied it. With a sigh, he dropped the piece back into the velvet bag before scooping up the rest of the pieces and dropping them inside also.

It had been a week since they’d climbed off that volcano and Methos had spent most of that time worrying about what he would do with contents of this bag. Originally, he had truly meant to destroy the stone but some inkling of caution held him back. If the stone was truly as powerful as Tribeau had thought, what would have happened if he had really thrown it into the volcano’s caldera? Methos had decided he’d rather not find out.

So now he found himself lurking around the edges of a dank pool in France, holding the means to end the world within his hand. Methos paused to give up a brief prayer of thanks to the God’s for the fact that Kronos was dead, at least he didn’t have to worry about his departed his brother popping up and getting his hands on it – but there was still Tribeau, Methos mused.

And there was the crux of his dilemma, Methos realised. He had lied to the others when he had said that Tribeau was no longer a problem. With a soft groan, he got to his feet and pocketed the stone once more. He had originally planned to give Amanda her piece of the stone back, along with an explanation, once things had died down…perhaps in forty or fifty years time, when he knew that all the mortals involved in this escapade were dead. But Tribeau had escaped and now he found himself lumbered with a secret that he couldn’t share; it was simply too dangerous. Reluctantly, he came to the conclusion that he may have to hunt down Tribeau.

Muttering under his breath, he stepped out of the cave and away from the temptations of the water. Deep in his thoughts, he hadn’t realised that he was being followed until he heard the breaking of a twig behind him. Straightening his shoulders, he raised his voice so that she could hear him. “You can come out now, Amy.”

Sheepishly, Amy stepped out from behind a hedge and joined him. “Hi there.”

“Hi yourself,” he grumbled as he eyed her suspiciously. “So…how much did you see?”

“Enough,” she admitted. “But don’t worry; there is no way in hell that I’m going to put it in my report.”

Methos folded his arms, shaking his head in defeat. “You can’t tell anybody, Amy, not even your father,” he warned her.

“Scouts honour,” she told him, a small smile hovering on her lips. “Dib, dib.”

“Amy, you were never in the Boy Scouts,” he reminded her.

“Yeah, well…Brownie’s honour, then,” she said with a shrug. “Same difference.”

Methos studied her silently for a moment. “Do you understand why I did it?”

“Oh, I understand it, alright – I just don’t agree with it,” she said wryly. “You should have told them.

“Too many know of its existence and what it could do, Amy,” he told her. “I had to make everybody believe that I’d destroyed it. As for you lot, well, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

“But now I do know,” Amy reminded him.

“And it’s a secret that you’re going to have to carry to your grave,” he insisted. “I’m not kidding here, Amy, nobody is to know that it still exists…nobody.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” she protested. “Never shall I speak of it as long as I live – I’ll just make a short note of it in my will…”

“Amy!”

“Just kidding.” Giving Methos a cheeky grin, she backed away. “I parked about a half mile down the road,” she informed him. “I didn’t want you to catch me following you.”

“You succeeded,” Methos said dryly. “A little too well, as a matter of fact.”

“It’s from all that practice you give me – keeping me on my toes, I believe you called it.”

“Amanda has a big mouth,” muttered Methos as he watched Amy disappear down the road. Getting into his car, he fired up the engine and pulled out into the road. It was a good hundred miles to Paris and he wished to get there before the evening traffic…he felt a sudden urge to have a beer at Joe’s.

~~FINIS~~


Note:

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a sequel to this story (Second Thoughts - still a WIP). There is also a companion piece centring around Methos and Amanda and their brief affair (and break-up) in Italy during the renaissance. It's called 'A Wing's Shadow'

To all those who wondered, yes, Amanda did learn of the horsemen, but it was Duncan who told her, not Methos – and no, she hasn’t made the connection between ‘Scarface’ and Kronos.

Mount Karymsky, on the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, does really exist and it has been active since September of last year.





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