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SECOND THOUGHTS


Chapter Seven





Author's Note: Warning! Strange convoluted theories, which pretend to explain the origins of immortality, appear in this chapter. These theories are just the strange delusions of my own mind and are not, in any conceivable way, backed up by canon – so if you vehemently disagree with my theories, you can comfort yourself with this fact!

Duncan:

Duncan stirred his coffee absently as he leaned back in his seat, keeping one ear on the news broadcasting on the radio. The café was already abuzz with the news of his 'daring' escape. It was a good thing the café owner didn't have a television in the corner, the verbal description given was too vague for immediate recognition. Ruefully, he realised the news made no mention of Newcastle's presence; or of Duncan's hand in rescuing the policemen from the wreckage.

The café door swung open and Duncan looked up, smiling as Amanda walked in. "Did you have any trouble getting here?" he asked as she sat down beside him.

"A blissfully trouble free trip, thankfully," Amanda murmured. "How are you?" she added, gently placing her hand over his.

"I'm fine, Amanda," he answered softly, taking her hand in his as he saw the concern in her eyes, "How about the others?"

"They should be at the De Valicourts by now," she said, catching the waitress's eye.

"And Methos?"

"Still no word, I'm afraid."

"Duncan sighed. "You know…Amy might be right," he muttered. "As you said, it would be the smart thing to do."

"No, I think there's more to it than that," Amanda said mysteriously.

"What do you mean?" Duncan asked, surprised. "Is there something you haven't told me?"

"Just a hunch," she murmured with a shrug. "Ah, here comes the waitress."

Silently, Duncan studied Amanda's face as she ordered her coffee. He had always wondered about Amanda's relationship with Methos, an unlikely mixture of friendship and distrust. He had long ago figured out they had known each other long before he had introduced them, though they had both remained uncharacteristically silent about the matter…well, it was uncharacteristic for Amanda. Prying information out of Methos was like getting blood from a stone.

For a while he had thought it was because they might have been lovers at some point, but he then dismissed that. Not the possibility they had been lovers, but the possibility it was the reason for their reticence; Amanda and he had always been very open about such things.

Well, he supposed she would tell him when she was ready to…

"A penny for you thoughts," Amanda said as the waitress drifted onto the next table.

"Oh, there not worth that much," he said with a small smile, "A farthing, at the most."

"I see," Amanda drawled.

Duncan decided to change the subject. "You realise we're not too far away from the address Tribeau gave us for Wren?" he asked.

"It has occurred to me," Amanda admitted, smiling at the waitress as she laid her coffee on the table. "I also realised that the address wasn't too far away from Tribeau's apartment. Rather strange, don't you think? I mean, there is Tribeau, supposedly running for his life, deciding to take up residence a mere two streets away from Wren's house. I don't know about you, but I smell a rat."

Duncan groaned. "I don't believe I didn't spot that," he muttered. "Do you think he's trying to double cross us?"

"I don't know," Amanda admitted with a sigh. "But something tells me we aren't in possession of the full facts."

Duncan nodded in agreement. "You know that means it could be a trap?"

"It isn't a trap if we already suspect it is," Amanda replied with a knowing grin.

"No, I suppose not," Duncan answered with a small grin of his own. "So, how about it; Do you want to take a small detour on the way to the De Valicourts?"

"I don't see why not," Amanda murmured conspiratorially. "I mean, what's the worse thing that could happen?"

Duncan winced. "I wish you hadn't said that," he said, "It never turns out well."

"Oh, don't be such a pessimist," Amanda teased. "I hear enough of that from Methos."

"Raising an eyebrow in reply, Duncan took out his wallet and threw a few euros on the table. "Let's go," he muttered. "Before I come to my senses and change my mind!"

It didn't take them long to find the house, a surprisingly discreet affair considering the little he knew about Wren. He had expected something more ostentatious. Cautiously, they approached the front door, on the alert for the presence of another immortal. The house seemed to be deserted, however. Silently, Amanda produced her lock picks, and Duncan stood guard as she went to work. It was a matter of moments before she made a little sound of triumph. Taking a few moments more to check if the door was rigged to any form of security system, she eventually pronounced it was safe to enter.

"How shall we do this?" Amanda asked as they entered the hallway.

"I'll take the ground floor, you take upstairs," he murmured. "If they are any hidey holes, they're probably up there, and you were always better at finding them."

"Kind of you to say so," she said as she trotted upstairs, leaving Duncan to search the ground floor.

Shaking his head in amusement, Duncan tried the door to the left and found the study. With mixed feelings, he noted the laptop on the desk. On the one hand, it was a brilliant stroke of luck; if Wren kept any records of his activities, it was the likeliest place to find them. On the other hand, however; a laptop was a funny thing to leave behind in a house one was supposed to have abandoned. Wren was probably still in residence.

Quickly, he sat at the desk and booted the laptop up. It was password protected. Cursing under his breath, he shut it down and unplugged it. He didn't have time to try his hand at hacking. If Wren still lived here, he could come home any moment and, from what he knew of him, he mightn't be alone. Hurriedly, he searched the desktop but only found an opened statement from his telephone company. The postmark on the envelope confirmed his suspicions, however; it had been mailed on Monday.

Next, he checked the drawers, and came up trumps when he found a small address book. Shrugging his shoulders, he pocketed it. As he was already giving away their presence by taking the laptop, he didn't see the harm in it. Moving onto the bookshelves, he looked for any likely hidden compartments but nothing caught his attention. Grabbing the laptop, he left the study and climbed the stairs. "Amanda?" he called out softly.

"I'm in here," was the muffled reply, "Second door to your right." Duncan entered the room and found Amanda with her ear to a safe on the wall. "You know," Amanda said conversationally as she fiddled with the combination lock, "They really make this too easy, even a five year old child knows that a thief always checks behind the painting first."

Smiling, Duncan glanced at the painting leaning against the bed. It was a rather bad copy of a Renoir. "Tribeau has better taste," he observed.

"Are you kidding? Methos has better taste – and that's saying something," Amanda grumbled as the safe door clicked open.

Duncan grinned, remembering the time he'd gone through the old man's music collection. "Oh, I don't know about that…what have you found?"

"Trouble," Amanda said grimly as she carefully took an old leather-bound book out of the safe.

"Is that what I think it is?" Duncan asked, quickly crossing the room.

"Yes," Amanda said abruptly. Mutely they looked at the name printed on the old, worn cover of the chronicle; it was Rebecca's. "The bastard," Amanda said hoarsely, "The unconscionable bastard."

Duncan glanced at the rest of the contents of the sake and groaned. Chronicle upon chronicle were stacked inside. Gently, he took another one out. It was Ramirez's; he had never met Conor's teacher, he had died before was born, but Conor had plied him many stories over the years. One by one, he took the chronicles out of the safe. It was quite a collection; a mixture of immortals both alive and dead, along with some he didn't recognise.

"Darius, Constantine, Kronos, Cassandra, Althea, Amanda, Lee, Borus, Methos...me."

With a grunt of disgust, Duncan gave up reading the names and emptied the safe. "We're taking them with us," he said coldly.

"I saw a suitcase in the other room, I'll go get it," Amanda said, carefully placing Rebecca's chronicle on the bed. Quickly, she flitted out of the room, returning a few moments later. "I wish I knew why," she murmured softly as she unzipped the suitcase. "I mean, I know what Tribeau said, but it doesn't explain this…this invasion of privacy. I feel like we've been caught up in some sick game - and I don't know the rules."

"I know how you feel," Duncan admitted with a sigh as he filled the suitcase. "Don't worry, we'll figure it out."

"I hope so," Amanda sighed. "Sometimes I feel so tired…"

Seeing the distraught look on her face, Duncan gently pulled her into a hug. "It's going to be okay, Amanda," he murmured into her hair. "We'll get through this…we always do."

With a soft laugh, Amanda looked up into his face and gave him a tremulous smile. "I want to believe that, Duncan, I really do; but I've a bad feeling about this."

Duncan gave her a wry smile as he closed over the suitcase and zipped it. "Maybe these will give us some answers," he suggested.

"Perhaps," Amanda sighed as she picked up the laptop Duncan had on the bed. "You found this downstairs?

"U-huh," Duncan said, heaving the suitcase off the bed. "It was open on the desk in his study. The blasted thing is password protected, though; so I thought I should bring it along."

"Do you get the feeling Tribeau has been a little economical with the truth?" Amanda asked rhetorically.

"The thought has occurred to me," Duncan muttered. "He and I are going to have a long chat when we get to the De Valicourts."

They had just made it onto the landing when Duncan felt the other immortal's presence hit him. "We've got company," he said grimly, dropping the suitcase as he felt for his sword. It wasn't there.

"A lot of company," Amanda amended as another immortal's presence made itself known, "Here have mine, I still have my gun." Unsheathing her sword, she handed it to Duncan. Its weight was lighter than he was used to but it would have to do. He cautiously descended the stairs, just reaching the bottom step when he felt a third immortal. "Duncan," Amanda hissed as she followed him downstairs with the suitcase. "They're too many, we might be able to manage two, but three…"

Duncan nodded grimly. "Out the back?" he suggested. Amanda nodded in agreement. Quickly, they ran to the back door, coming to an abrupt halt when they heard the sound of a key in the door's lock. Wordlessly, Duncan pulled Amanda through the nearest hall door and found himself in the kitchen. Quietly, they listened as the immortal opened the door.

"Wren?" a voice called out. "Are you in the study?"

Duncan tensed as he recognised the voice. It was that idiot, Newcastle. "I don't believe this," he muttered under his breath." Amanda threw him a puzzled glance.

You know him?" she whispered.

"Newcastle," he said softly as he put his ear to the door and listened. Hearing Newcastle's footsteps move towards the study, he gently opened the door and looked out. Seeing the hallway was now empty, he came to quick decision. "Stay here," he muttered over his shoulder to Amanda, "I'm going to finish this!"

"Duncan, no; remember, they are two other…"

Duncan closed the door gently after him, cutting Amanda off mid-sentence, and crept down the hallway. The study door jerked open and Newcastle's eyes widened with surprise as they caught Duncan's. "You!" he snarled, swiftly drawing his sword from his coat, "I knew we'd meet again, but I didn't think it would be so soon."

With a clash of steel, the fight began…

Amy:

Amy stood on the pavement and worriedly looked up at the imposing façade of the building which housed the Parisian motherhouse. The destruction of Joe's bar this morning would have left the council with a lot of questions…questions which she wasn't sure it was safe to answer if the watchers still had a traitor among their midst. "Are we sure we should do this, Dad," she asked her father softly. "I mean, what if the council demands to speak with you immediately?"

"The only member of the council who's in Paris at the moment is Byatt," Joe told her calmly. "And that old codger is probably already in his study at home, indulging in a liquid supper. It's after six, Amy; the motherhouse is going to be deserted; it's the perfect time to pay a visit.

Amy had to reluctantly agree, the motherhouse ran on a skeletal staff after normal business hours.

"What the heck is taking Lee so long," Joe grumbled as he searched the street for the immortal.

"The parking around here is abysmal, Dad," Amy said with a sigh, "He probably had to drive around to find a space. Don't worry, he'll be here soon." Her words proved prophetic as Lee suddenly came into view at the end of the street.

"About time," Joe muttered, tapping his cane against the pavement impatiently as he hitched his rucksack further up his shoulder.

Amy snapped her mouth shut, biting back the retort on her lips. She had gotten to know her father well over the last few years and she knew the signs of worry when she saw them. With Methos missing in action, and Duncan running from the police, he must be at his wits end. And Joe was never one to sit back and let events play out, he needed to do something. Wryly, Amy realised they were much alike in that respect.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Lee said as he joined them.

"Yeah, well, you're here now," Joe grumbled as he started up the steps, "Let's get going."

Lee raised an eyebrow and looked at Amy enquiringly. She shrugged, "Dad's a little impatient today," she said under her voice, "Keep your eyes open and your mouth closed and you should be able to avoid the worst of his tongue." With a silent nod, Lee followed her into the building.

A solitary figure was standing behind the reception desk. Racking her mind for a name to go with the face, Amy came up empty. She had seen him at a few of the general meetings but she'd never had a conversation with him. Apart from a few academic scholars, field agents didn't usually socialise with the motherhouse staff.

Luckily, because of his high position in the watcher society, the same couldn't be said for her father. "Hi Sam, how's the night shift?" he asked amiably, stopping in front of the desk.

"Same old, same old, Joe," Sam said as he placed the registration book in front of him and handed him a pen, "How about you? There is a rumour going around that your bar got hit by an immortal…"

"One of the hazards of the job," Her father said with a shrug as he signed the book, "You know how it is."

Sam laughed uneasily as he handed the pen to Amy. "Whatever you say, Joe; I'll just take your word on it. All I can say is; I'm glad I only work on the desk; I don't think I could handle working in the field. No…this is the spot for me; nice and quiet. Chances are I'll never meet one; Immortals don't exactly stroll into the motherhouse and sign in."

Amy muffled a snort as Sam handed the pen to Tsi Tsung. Keeping an admirably straight face, the immortal leaned down and signed the book. Sam glanced at the signature. "So, Mr Lee, I don't think I've seen you around before. Have you just transferred?"

"Mr Lee is from the Hong Kong house, Sam," Joe interjected smoothly, "He's here as a special favour to me. I'm doing some research on Duncan's time in China and I need a little help translating a journal. Unfortunately, although Mr Lee speaks excellent Mandarin, Cantonese and French; his English is a bit shaky."

Lee smiled blandly and bowed his head, "How do you do," he muttered in a strong Cantonese accent. "My name is Tsi Tsung Lee. It is a pleasure to be here." Amy covered her mouth and coughed as she tried in vain to smother a smile.

"And it's a pleasure to have you here, Mr Lee," said Sam, pitching his voice a few decibels higher. "Enjoy your stay!"

Amy didn't know if she could take much more of this. "Well," she said cheerfully, "Maybe we should make our way to the library."

"Aha!" Sam said excitedly, his eyes brightening, "This has something to do with the immortal who attacked your place this morning, doesn't it? That's why you're in such a hurry to get the library - so there's a 'China' connection, is there?"

Joe tapped the side of his nose. "Keep it to yourself, Sam," he muttered conspiratorially. "I don't want it spread around until we have all the facts…"

A serious expression spread across Sam's face. "Right you are, Joe," he muttered back, "My lips are sealed."

"Thanks Sam," Joe said, "Tell you what, you'll be the first to know once we've figured it out."

"I'll keep you to that, Joe," Sam said with a grin, "See you around…"

"Oh my god," Amy gasped as they stepped into the elevator, "That was just too funny!"

"Yeah, well, you have to watch yourself with Sam," Joe said with a sly grin, "He's a bit of a gossip. Luckily, he only got transferred to Paris, from London, about three months ago and his French is as shaky as Lee's English is supposed to be. Otherwise, Lee might have got the third degree!" The door opened onto the second floor and the three stepped out onto the landing. The doors to the motherhouse library lay straight ahead. "Let me do the talking if anyone approaches us," Joe murmured under his breath as he pushed open the doors.

The library was almost deserted; they were two stressed looking young watchers poured over a few chronicles at a far desk. Probably students from the academy doing some last moment swotting, Amy surmised. A sound from behind a row of bookshelves indicated there was a third watcher perusing the chronicles and Amy craned her neck to see who it was. "Take a seat; I'll go and check the indexes and see where Turner's works are shelved," her father said into her ear.

Nodding absently, Amy wandered over to the nearest table and sat, Lee following her example. The two students glanced up from their work and Amy raised her hand in acknowledgement. Apparently satisfied, they bowed their heads over their books once more. Quietly, Amy examined her hands as she waited. Despite her father's reassurances, she was still a bit wary of being in the motherhouse; who knew who the traitor was?

The tapping of Joe's cane heralded his return. "We're in luck," he murmured, "Apparently, we have full copies of Turner's papers in-house…the chief archivist is a fan of his work and requested them when he died. They're kept in the 'Immortal Artefacts' section; Stay put, I'll be back in a moment."

Amy wriggled in her chair but gave her father a small smile, "You'd better be," she joked. Her father's eyes crinkled and he squeezed her shoulder reassuringly before he headed off to the bookshelves.

"What exactly are we hoping to find here," Lee asked in a low voice.

"I think, at this point, Dad is hoping for anything which could explain this mess," Amy sighed, "But what he'd really like is a look at the Alexandrian files. They're probably long gone, of course; but hopefully some of Turner's writings will give us a clue as to what they contained."

"That should prove interesting," Lee said

"Wouldn't it," Amy sighed.

"You don't sound very enthusiastic about the prospect," Lee observed.

"It's just everything seems to be falling apart," Amy admitted reluctantly, "First, Methos goes missing, then Duncan is arrested and is now on the run from the law – and we haven't heard from Amanda since we've left the barge...and even if we find some answers, what will we do then?"

"Well…if you put it like that…" Lee joked, "Listen, I won't pretend I understand everything that's going on here but, from the little I've seen over the last two days, I don't think your friends are the type to give up easily. I'll lay odds we'll find Amanda and Duncan safely at the De Valicourts when we get there and Methos…"

A sharp crash echoed through the room and Amy jumped to her feet with a start as a tall figure ran out of the bookshelves and through the doors.

"Amy – stop him!"

Hearing her father's command, she sped through the doors and scanned the hall. The man was nowhere to be seen. Quickly, she trotted over to the lift, but the light indicated the carriage was on the ground floor.

"Well, I suppose that only leaves the stairs…"

Cursing under her breath, Amy sprinted for the stairs and sped down the steps as she heard the door on the ground floor slam shut. Barrelling through the doors, she slowed her step as she turned the corner into the foyer. "Hey Sam," she said as she hurried past the reception desk, "I'm just stepping out for some air. I'll be back in a moment." Not waiting for an answer, she pushed through the main doors and ran down the steps, groaning as he saw her target jump into a car across the street. With a screech, the car pulled out onto the street and whizzed past as she stepped off the pavement. Shading her eyes, she squinted at the license plate and grinned triumphantly.

"Gotcha!"

Pulling her notebook out of her pocket, she hurriedly scribbled down the number.

Amanda:

Taking the safety catch off her gun, Amanda carefully cracked the door open and looked out, grimacing as she heard the sound of crossed swords. Silently, she crept into the hallway and inched towards the study, screeching to a halt as she saw the front door open slightly. Acting on impulse, she ducked under the stairs and sighted her gun on the doorway.

Fingers curled around the edge of the door and Amanda's mouth went dry as she recognised the armed figure that slipped into the hallway from his watcher file – Wren. Aiming, Amanda waited to see what he would do as he inched towards the study. As Wren aimed his gun to fire into the room, Amanda didn't hesitate; she shot him squarely in the chest. Soundlessly, Wren slumped to the floor. The study fell momentarily silent, and then the sounds of battle redoubled. Hearing a cry of pain, she ran to the study, jumping over Wren's corpse as she forgot all caution.

One glance told her all she needed to know; Duncan was loosing. "Duncan!" she gasped, raising her gun.

"Amanda, get out of here," roared a bloodied Duncan. "This is my fight!"

With a sob, Amanda backed away from the door, tripping over Wren's body as she did so. Seeing his fingers twitch, she aimed her gun again, only to have her legs kicked from beneath her. Stumbling against the front door, she kept her grip on her gun and swung it at the now moving Wren. Cursing, Wren sprinted down the hallway, crying out as Amanda's bullet caught his shoulder. Amanda fired again, catching the immortal as he barrelled through the back door.

Jumping to her feet, Amanda gave chase and shot him again as he leapt over the back gate, this time grazing his leg. Remembering there was a third immortal in the vicinity; Amanda halted and weighed her options. Without her sword, she wasn't in a position to finish Wren off and bullets would only buy her time…and who knows where the third immortal is lurking…

Looking about, she came to decision. Turning on her heels, she ran back into the house, her gun raised before her as she made her way down the hallway; as no one was out the back, the third immortal must be out front. Closing her ears against the noise, she passed the study, cautiously approached the front door, and slowly poked her head out. The street was empty of people.

Grimacing, Amanda realised the gun fire had not gone unnoticed; it was only a matter of minutes before the police were on the scene. Keeping her finger on the trigger, she hid the gun under her coat and stepped outside. Noticing an empty car that hadn't been there when they'd arrived; she casually strolled over to it and made a note of the license plate before peeking inside to make sure nobody was hiding on the backseat; no luck.

Puzzled, Amanda checked the street for signs of movement; was it possible the third immortal had fled?

Thud!

Startled, Amanda spun on her heels and glared at the car.

Thud, thud!

Amanda's eyes narrowed as she circled around the car, stopping at the boot.

Thud!

Frowning, Amanda debated her options. If this was the third immortal, he might strike first and ask questions later. On the other hand, if Wren had locked him in his boot, chances were they weren't best friends – and the enemy of your enemy was your friend… Abruptly, Amanda pulled out her lock picks and went to work. Hearing the lock click open, she jumped back as the boot popped up and pulled out her gun – only to lower it with a laugh as she recognized the gagged immortal in the boot. "Well hello, Methos," she drawled, grinning evilly, "Long time, no see; did you enjoy your trip?" Bound and gagged, Methos glared at her as she started to laugh. "Relax, old man," she said as she pulled the gag off his mouth, "Consider yourself rescued!"

"Where's Wren?" he spluttered as she started to pick at the handcuffs on his wrists.

"Licking his wounds somewhere," Amanda murmured as the lock gave way, "I put a few bullets in him."

Methos groaned. "He got away, then?" he asked rhetorically as he rubbed his wrists, "Where's Mac…" With a loud boom, the windows of Wren's house exploded outwards, covering them in glass. As one, they threw themselves to the ground as the house lit up with the powerful onslaught of a quickening. "Never mind, I think I already know the answer." Methos muttered.

Joe:

Gathering himself together, Joe held onto a bookshelf as he leaned down to retrieve his cane. Straightening up, he saw Lee homing in on him and raised his hand in acknowledgement.

"What happened?" Lee asked worriedly.

"I got jumped," Joe said shortly, "It was Halifax."

"Halifax? Isn't he the guy who…"

"Yeah, Naomi Johnson's needle loving sidekick," Joe said irritably. "What I'd love to know is how he managed to get in here."

"Well, it wasn't very difficult for me," Lee pointed out.

"Only because I vouched for you," Joe countered.

"Maybe somebody did the same for Halifax," Lee suggested.

"That's an idea," Joe mused aloud, "I wonder if I can convince Sam to let me have a look at the register?"

"I say, Mr Dawson, are you okay?"

Glancing over Lee's shoulder, Joe spotted the worried face of one of the watchers who had been studying at the desks. "I'm fine," he called out, "Just got caught by surprise - did you see that man come in?"

"Um, yes," the watcher said haltingly, "Who was he?"

"Someone who shouldn't have been here," Joe said grimly, "You new here, kid?"

"Yeah," the watcher muttered embarrassedly, "I'm graduating from the academy this year. My tutor got me a pass for the library so I could do some research for my thesis."

"I see," Joe said with a nod, "What's your name, watcher?"

"Mark Ballard, sir," the young watcher said nervously, "Am I in trouble, Mr Dawson?"

"No, kid, I just wanted to know who I was talking to," Joe said with a sigh, "Tell me; was he alone when he entered the Library?"

"Well, no sir," Ballard said, "Old Byatt was with him when he came in - but he left almost immediately."

"Byatt?"Joe said incredulously, "Are you sure?"

"Yes sir, I'd recognise him anywhere…I attended his linguistics class last year."

Stunned, Joe went over the implications. Byatt may be an old coot, but he was still a member of the council and his word carried a lot of power. But why on earth would Byatt to turn traitor; it didn't make sense.

"Who is this Byatt?" asked Lee, puzzled.

"A watcher," Joe said shortly, before turning to Ballard. "It's okay, kid; you can go back to your chronicles. We'll take care of this."

"Whatever you say, sir," said Ballard, relief showing on his face as he made a hasty retreat.

"Good thing he's still a student," Joe muttered, "If he'd been a fully fledged watcher he would have asked a hell of a lot more questions. Let me check and see if Halifax got what he came for."

"You think he was after Turner's papers?" asked Lee curiously as he followed Joe down the aisle.

"It's a fair bet," Joe said as he halted in front of a shelf and ran his finger along the bindings. "Naomi Johnson seemed very keen to get her hands on them; after all…I don't believe it!"

"What?" asked Lee.

"For once, we've actually struck it lucky," Joe said with a grin as he pulled a number of books off the shelves and put them into his rucksack. "Now all we've got to do is go up to the office floor."

"Huh?" Lee muttered, "Why would we do that?"

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'd like to check out Byatt's office. Who knows, our luck might hold out and he might still be there," Joe said happily as hitched the rucksack onto his shoulder and headed for the doors.

"What about Amy?" Lee asked.

"What about me?"

Joe looked up to see his daughter standing in the doorway. "You lost him, then?" he asked.

"Afraid so," she sighed, "But I did get his license plate number – who was he?"

"Halifax."

"Isn't he…"

"Yeah," Joe muttered grimly, "That was him…and it gets worse."

Amy groaned. "What now?"

"Apparently he had a personal escort into the building; you'll never guess who…John Byatt."

Amy's eyes went round as Joe's words sank in. "But he's been a watcher for years; he's on the council, for crying out loud."

"Which makes his defection all the more serious," Joe said coldly, "I want to check out his office and see if we can find out anything."

Amy nodded in agreement and held the door open for him, following behind as they walked down the hall. Silently, they trooped into the elevator and Joe aggressively stabbed the button.

"What will we do if he's in the office," Amy asked quietly.

"Then he and I are going to have a very serious conversation," Joe said shortly, looking up as the elevator doors opened. "And then he's going to find out what it's like to be dragged up in front of a tribunal; and, from personal experience, I can tell you its not very nice."

Stepping out onto the landing, Joe turned to his daughter. "Are you armed?"

"Yes," Amy murmured, patting her coat.

"Good," Joe muttered. "Johnson and Halifax took my piece. Be ready, there might be trouble." Amy pulled out her gun in answer and Lee reached into his coat and produced a weapon of his own.

"I didn't know you carried a gun," Joe observed.

"Not my favourite weapon," Lee admitted, "But I find it pays to carry one…just in case."

Joe led the way down the hall and stopped in front of Byatt's office, putting his fingers to his lips as he heard movement inside. Gently, he tested the door handle and gave the nod to Amy and Lee as he pushed the door open, the door slammed into the wall with a crash. Glaring into the room, Joe saw the watcher, Byatt, drop the papers in his hand with a start. "Going somewhere," he enquired sarcastically as he noted the open filing cabinets and Byatt's briefcase, stuffed with papers, on the table.

"Joe!" the elderly watcher stuttered as he bent to pick up the papers he had dropped, "What are you doing here?"

"You can drop the act, John," Joe snarled as he stormed into the room and knocked the papers out of Byatt's hand with his cane. "We know what you've been up to."

Byatt's shoulders drooped as he stood up, leaving the papers on the ground. "I see," he murmured sadly. "So, what happens to me now?"

"Damn it, John!" Joe roared. "That's all you can say? Why, man? You've been a watcher for over fifty years."

"What do you expect me to say, Joe - that I'm sorry, I won't do it again? Byatt said sadly. "I'm sorry, Joe; I can't do that."

"I don't understand," Joe sighed, frustration showing in his voice. "Johnson is an immortal, John. I know she was once a watcher but let's face it; she wasn't a very good one. Why would you let her lackey into the library? God only knows what he would have done if I hadn't caught him in the act."

"Because she came to me and asked for my help, Joe; and I couldn't refuse her, no matter what's she's done or what she has become. How could I? She's my granddaughter…"

"Oh shit, John," Joe said, his anger dissipating, "I didn't know."

"No reason you should have," said Byatt softly, "She's my daughter's child, the one who married Fred Johnson…"

"The archivist in the Istanbul motherhouse," Joe said, nodding.

"Yeah, that's him," Byatt muttered as he slumped into a seat, "Not much of a husband, but he made my daughter happy and Naomi…she's adopted, of course, but she's still my grandchild…they named her after my late wife, you know."

"You can't protect her anymore, John," Joe murmured tiredly, "She's part of the game, now; what you've been doing, it's got to stop."

"I don't have any choice, do I?" Byatt said in defeat.

"No, you don't," Joe said as he pulled up a chair and sat. "You're going to have to tell me everything, John; you might as well start at the beginning…"

Methos:

Methos watched ruefully as the last of the quickening died away, rolling to his feet he held out his hand to Amanda, who took it and pulled herself up. "Who was it?" he asked.

"A guy called Newcastle," murmured Amanda as she took a step towards the building.

"Hold it, Amanda," Methos muttered, grabbing her arm, "Give him a moment."

"You don't understand, Methos," Amanda said worriedly, "Last I saw, Duncan was losing; I have to know."

Methos let her go and watched her run into the house, turning his attention to the street. A few curtains twitched but all the doors were still firmly shut. He knew that would change as soon as the gendarmes arrived, however. No doubt there would be many neighbours happily pointing fingers. Sighing, he decided to follow Amanda into the house. "Amanda?" he called out, poking his head in through the door.

Amanda's voice floated out into the hall through an open door to his left. "In here, Methos."

Stepping through the debris, Methos followed her voice and found himself in the ruined remains of a study. "I like what you've done with the place," he said lightly as he spotted Duncan bent over in a chair, Amanda leaning over him, "Bad quickening?"

"Unpleasant," Duncan said hoarsely, "And not my first today. Are the cops here yet?"

"No, and I don't intend to hang around and wait for them," Methos muttered. "Is there a way out through the back?"

"Yes," Amanda piped up, "I chased Wren into the garden; there is a gate which leads into a back lane."

"Right, let's go," Methos said impatiently, "We have plans to make…"

"And a few questions to answer," retorted Amanda as she helped Duncan to his feet, the more serious of his wounds still hadn't closed over.

"One is connected with the other, believe me," said Methos, glancing at Duncan's clothing and then at his own. "Bugger, we're not going to get far dressed like this. Wait for me in the garden; I'll see if I can find a few things to cover this up."

Sprinting up the stairs, Methos tried the first room with an open door and made a beeline for the wardrobe. Finding both an overcoat and a jacket, he threw the anorak on and ran down the steps. He found Amanda and Duncan in the garden, Amanda clutching a suitcase and laptop. "What are those?"

"Spoils," Amanda said simply, "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours!"

Rolling his eyes, Methos smirked as he shook his head. "You can't help yourself, can you," he asked rhetorically.

"It's a gift," Amanda said with aplomb, "Now, if you don't mind, I think we should try and make our getaway now…"

Cocking his head, Methos heard the distant sound of sirens. That might be a good idea," he muttered as he handed the overcoat to Duncan, who wordlessly put it on. At a half run, they burst through the back gate and found themselves on a small, narrow laneway.

"Left or right?" asked Amanda urgently.

"Right," Methos said grimly, "The further we get from the sound of sirens, the better." The lane opened up onto a leafy suburban street and the three came to halt. "We need transport," Methos muttered, "How good are your car-jacking skills, Amanda."

"At a guess, better than yours," Amanda retorted, pulling out her lock pins and heading for the nearest car, a modest looking ford fiesta.

"The sirens have stopped," Duncan observed. "It won't be long before they spread out to search the area."

"I'm going as fast as I can," Amanda said, "Give me a moment, I nearly have it," With a snick, the door opened and Amanda's hand snaked in to push up the back door's lock. "Get in."

Silently, Duncan jumped into the back seat, pulling the suitcase and laptop in with him, Methos squeezed in beside him. Impatiently, he watched Amanda pull the wires out from under the wheel, "Amanda…"

"I know, I know," she said. "I'm nearly there…" The car revved into life and Amanda sat back into the driver's seat with a grin. "Where to, gentlemen?" she asked flippantly.

"Just get us out of here, Amanda," Duncan murmured, fatigue showing in his voice.

"Right then, Gina's it is," she said, pulling the car out onto the street. The car fell silent as Amanda drove through the streets, Methos keeping a wary eye out the back. Eventually, they reached the outskirts of the city and Methos found himself relaxing. "So…are you at least going to tell us how you ended up in Wren's boot?" Amanda asked, looking at him through the rear view mirror.

"He waylaid me near the barge," Methos sighed, "I didn't realise he had backup; Newcastle, I suppose."

"I doubt it," Duncan muttered, "He's been too busy trying to kill me today."

"Ah," Methos said, realisation dawning, "He was the immortal who ran the police car off the road?"

"I see you got my messages," Amanda interjected dryly, "Where the hell were you, Methos?"

"I had a little unfinished business I had to take care of," Methos prevaricated, unsure as to how to broach the subject. "I paid a little visit to Darius's springs…"

"Did you do what I think you did," Duncan asked quietly.

"Yes; worked like a charm, too," Methos admitted.

"How does it feel?" Duncan asked.

"Different," Methos said, shrugging his shoulders to convey the words he couldn't find.

Duncan's eyes glinted with understanding, "Been there, done that," he said with a small smile. "But why now, Methos, why after all this time? You must have realised the waters would heal you a long time ago."

"Because, in the last few days, I couldn't shake off the sensation I was missing something. With every piece of new information, I kept on getting the feeling we weren't seeing the whole picture; and when Joe mentioned the Alexandrian files…well…lets just say all the alarm bells started ringing. Not surprising, really, seeing as Joe was right after all. I do have the file, though Turner wasn't chasing after me to find them. He was the one who sent them to me in the first place…"

"What do they say?" interrupted Amanda. "Do they really explain the origin's of the game?"

"Tribeau tell you that?" Methos asked dryly.

"He may have mentioned it."

Methos sighed, how the hell would explain this mess? "He's right, they do," he said softly, inwardly wincing as he saw Mac tense in the seat beside him.

"Let's hear it," the Highlander said, straightening up in his seat.

"Well…do you remember the Sumerian text we found at the Istanbul motherhouse last year?" Methos enquired.

"The one which explained the origins of the Methuselah stone," Amanda volunteered.

"That's the one," Methos confirmed, "Well…do you remember how it described how An and Enlil granted Ziusudra immortality through the stone, and how Ziusudra gave the stone to his son who then did a runner?"

"We're not going to like this, are we," Amanda asked quietly.

"No, but then you never expected to, did you?" Methos countered. "Anyway, Ziusudra's son, Kathul I believe his name was, managed to evade An and Enlil by leaving the garden of Dilmun and fleeing to the 'mortal coil'. Unfortunately, the arrival of Kathul and the Methuselah in the outside world had a few repercussions."

"The game?" asked Duncan, puzzled.

"No, not the game, immortals," Methos said. "The arrival of Kathul and the stone made it possible for immortals to exist - we were an accident, the result of one man's foolish mistake."

"But it's all just a myth, right?" Duncan protested.

"Buggered if I know," Methos said with a sigh. "If you asked a physicist, I'm sure he'd give you a very logical and scientific explanation; probably involving alternate dimensions and rifts or some such nonsense."

"Does that mean we're from another dimension?" asked Amanda incredulously.

Methos laughed. "No. we're from terra firma," he said. "It's the Methuselah stone, you see. Where it comes from, or why it does it does what it does, I don't have the foggiest; hell, for all I know, it could originate from right here, created by some long lost civilisation. But, whatever it is, it serves it purpose well, it grants immortality…At first, Kathul didn't realise what was happening. He just happily wandered the land, moving from one town to another, while the stone did what it was designed to do. It did show some discernment, though; it only targeted infants and, for some strange reason, only infants who were abandoned to their own devices."

Amanda's head spun around. "You mean…"

"Yeah, we are not foundlings because we are immortal, but immortal because we are foundlings," Methos sighed.

"And you read all this in the Alexandrian papers?" asked Duncan.

"Well, not exactly," Methos answered cagily. "The Alexandrian papers were a lot sketchier. "I'm filling in the gaps from what my teacher told me."

"Your teacher?"

"What can I say," Methos said with a shrug, "My little dip in the pool was a real eye opener."

"And the game?" Amanda prompted.

"Ah yes, the game," Methos muttered. "Well, to explain that I have to back to Kathul. He figured out what was happening, you see, and he panicked. He may have carried the stone, but he had absolutely no control over it. At first he kept away from all the settlements. Avoiding all contact with people in the hope it would prevent more immortals being created. But, from all accounts, the poor bastard was miserable; he obviously didn't have it in him to be a hermit. So eventually he decided to go back wherever he came from…except he couldn't.

"Why not?" asked Amanda, turning in her seat once more.

"Keep an eye on the road, would you, Amanda?" Methos complained. "You're making me nervous."

"Stop trying to change the subject, old man," Amanda said as she returned her eyes to the road.

"I'm not trying to change the subject," Methos protested. "I'm just…tired. Listen, can this wait until we reach Gina's? I don't feel like telling this story all over again when we get there."

Reluctantly, Amanda nodded and Duncan grunted in assent. Relieved, Methos sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. He had a few minutes respite before the shit really hit the fan…

T.B.C…




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