THE OVER-THE-HILL GANG - ADVENTURES & REVELATIONS
by Maxine Mayer, 7/23/97
Lamartin of Bordeaux arranged his tie and smoothed back his dark hair carefully as his train pulled into the Paris station. He'd traveled for several days and all night and was tired despite having nodded off for a few minutes at a time. But he was alert and very tense, knowing that this was the moment of danger - disembarking. Now someone could be watching for him, might pick up his trail and follow him to his destination. His every move until now had been calculated to avoid that, so he didn't want to slip up when he was so close, so very close....
He stood in the train compartment and took his long black raincoat from its hook, careful not to turn it in a way that might dislodge the sword hidden within its folds. He put the coat on and tied the belt loosely. Then he searched his pocket for a small clasp with which to hold back his hair in a short ponytail. When his hair was free, falling in gentle waves around his face, his beauty was eye-catching and unforgettable. Therefore, he secured his hair, then put on sunglasses and sat again. This disguise, such as it was, was the best he could do. An ordinary business suit, a plain black raincoat, sunglasses, a ponytail - the casual attire of a Mortal male drug dealer, in the movies. Nothing to look twice at. The best he could do.
Lamartin knew well that no disguise could mask the aura of an Immortal from another of his kind. He was an unfortunate choice for the job of disappearing into the woodwork. Six thousand years old, he appeared twenty-five, which was the age at which he'd made First Death. A Latino with the fabulous looks of Antonio Banderas, great charm, animal magnetism and natural authority, any efforts he made to look ordinary were virtually wasted. Wherever he went he attracted the attention of both men and women. People didn't forget him, when once they'd seen him. If anything newsworthy occurred near him, he was the first person remembered, and sought after, to "help the police with their inquiries."
Of course, it was worse for his friend, his beloved, Quentin of York, who'd sent him on this mission. Quentin, an Immortal even older than he, older than six thousand, had been no more than seventeen when he'd achieved First Death. While Lamartin acknowledged that - at least in the Latin countries - he himself could pass for an average man, there was nowhere Quentin could hide. Drop-dead gorgeous, a blonde, blue-eyed angel who resembled Leonardo DiCaprio closely, Quentin carried his true age without shame, with authority, though he looked like a teenage boy. He was an anachronism in any country, in any century. Which was why Quentin rarely left their chateau in Switzerland. Which was why he'd sent Lamartin on this mission, instead of going himself.
Which was why Lamartin found himself looking over his shoulder for Watchers as he made his way to the barge where the Highlander, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod lived, with his companion and lover, Methos Valerius, who at five thousand years old, was thought to be the Oldest Living Immortal. Certainly, this mistake on the part of the cognoscenti was understandable, but it galled Lamartin, nevertheless.
It also galled Lamartin when, as he approached the barge, he was hailed by a passerby.
"Duncan, mon ami, how are you? I haven't seen you for ages." This greeting from a Frenchman, a short, scruffy Mortal male, about fifty years old, who walked over to him. "When are you and your friends coming to the bar again, to hear the music?"
"Pardon, monsieur," Lamartin replied in French, "My name is not Duncan. You are mistaken."
"Oh, mon Dieu, forgive me, monsieur, I can see now you are not my friend Duncan MacLeod! And your accent - you are Castilian, n'est-ce pas?" But the man continued to talk without waiting for Lamartin to reply. "You resemble him so much - you are the same height, the same build, the same coloring! It is formidable! Forgive me!" Then the man rummaged in his pocket until he'd found and produced a creased business card. "Here - my card, for my restaurant and jazz club. I am Maurice. Please, come and visit my club some night. Just ask for me - I will remember you, monsieur!"
"Merci," Lamartin replied, taking the card. "I will come and bring my friends."
He nodded to Maurice and started toward the barge, then took another turn so that the man would not know where he was heading. Maurice was probably still looking at him - noting his resemblance to MacLeod. But their walks were different. Soon, the man would turn away and forget him, he hoped. Until then, he'd simply wait before going to Duncan's barge.
At last Lamartin felt it was safe to turn around. Sure enough, the man Maurice was out of sight. Now, he could make his way to his friends' home.
He knocked boldly on the barge door, announcing himself. "Hallo! It is I, Lamartin! Are you there?"
He knew they were there, of course. Immortal buzzes of the vibrancy and age of the two men he sought were rare and unmistakable.
"Come on in!" Duncan's voice.
Lamartin opened the door and poked his head in. "It is I, Lamartin!"
"We heard you the first time," Methos replied. "As if there was any question who you are!"
"Drink?" Duncan asked.
"Please, brandy. I am tired and so very cold. I only wish I had not needed to travel by train - incognito."
Methos' lips twitched. "Incognito? I'd recognize you anywhere."
"Mi figlio, I was mistaken for another, not ten minutes ago!"
"Were you? For whom?" Duncan asked, handing a drink to Lamartin.
"For you! An old reprobate named Maurice hailed me in the street and called me by your name! Imagine!"
"Insulted, were you, old sod?" Methos asked.
"Well, I ask you," Lamartin replied in all earnestness, gesturing widely. "How could anybody take me for this creature, this drab person?" He pulled himself up to his full height. "I am gorgeous, compared to him!"
"Actually," Methos said, "you're much of a sameness - dark hair, dark eyes, same height, same build -"
"Please!" Lamartin objected, pained.
"Come on, Methos, don't insult the Old Man! He's right. We're nothing alike - he's so old and I'm so young!" Duncan could hardly control his laughter.
"If I were not sent by Quentin, I would challenge you, my young friend!" Lamartin retorted, incensed.
"And why did Quentin send you?" Methos inquired.
Instantly serious, Lamartin replied, "He is planning a coup. He requires your assistance - in secret." Lamartin put his finger to his lips, to indicate the totality of silence he meant. "No one must know of this, neither the Immortals nor the Watcher Band. I swear you to secrecy, mes amis!" he finished dramatically.
"What sort of coup? Where?" Duncan asked, curious.
"We have many holdings in Veneptia, in the Caribbean. It is a small island," he said, dismissively. "The president of the island has seized our men, those who manage our corporations there. He has attempted to force them to reveal the passwords to certain bank accounts."
"Forced?" Duncan asked.
"Forced - by torture. He has killed several of our people. Kidnapped family members. Senor Jacinto Rivera Y Benvenuto is beneath contempt, my friends. But I think he does this with another person, not alone. This is not his way, to alienate such a great businessman as Quentin of York! Someone else is behind this terrible betrayal."
"You know who it is?"
"Not yet, Duncan, not yet. But it is not important, who. Quentin has decided. We shall overturn Jacinto's regime, invest someone else with his power, someone friendly to us. We will finance a military coup. Quentin has selected the man on whom he will bestow his blessings, his friendship, and his financial support."
"You would do this to protect your money, Lamartin? How many will die in this coup?" Methos finally spoke. "Mortals, every one of them. You cannot do this."
"We will do this, Methos Valerius. And we enlist your help. That is why Quentin dispatched me to Paris, by train, in secret, in disguise!"
"I understand, you must free your people, and the hostages this Jacinto has taken. But more than that is unnecessary. Transfer your holdings out of the disputed accounts and have done with it, Lamartin! You draw attention to our kind with such activity. If for no other reason, this is impossible. The times are different now. You must return to Quentin and tell him I said so."
"Methos, it is decided. A coup. We cannot allow these children to terrorize us. They must learn once and for all who is in control of the island, and all other places we set up our outposts of empire. Otherwise, we are lost, and all our holdings are hostage to terrorists. We are hostages to terrorists! Quentin will never accept that. It is not sufficient merely to transfer our money to other accounts. We must subdue and instruct. You know I am right, my friends."
"Do whatever you need to do, Lamartin," Duncan replied. "But we can't join you in this."
Lamartin ignored Duncan and turned to the older Immortal. "Methos, I beg of you, do not make me remind you of your vow!"
"What vow, what's he talking about, Methos?" Duncan asked.
"Nothing. It's nothing. Forget it." Methos stood and ran his fingers through his short hair. Then he walked away from Lamartin and Duncan toward the other end of the barge and stood with his back to them.
"Methos! Talk to me! What vow?" Duncan repeated.
"Tell him, mon ami. He will find out in the end. Tell him now."
Methos didn't speak for a few moments. At last he turned around and faced Duncan. "We - our holdings are joined. We vowed to defend one another from business disasters. To the death, should it be necessary," he told Duncan seriously.
MacLeod frowned. "Your holdings are joined? What does that mean?"
"It means everything I have - every penny - is invested with Quentin and Lamartin! If they lose, I lose. Simple as that."
"This vow. When did you make it?"
"A long time ago."
"If you must know, over two thousand years ago."
"Methos - you've honored the vow that long?"
"Of course. Not that it's been necessary to do it every day. Not even every decade. But at least two or three times a century, we've found it practical to join together and plan a bit of action to protect our net worth. Nothing fancy. Just - something practical."
"I don't believe this! You walk around with a duffel bag full of dirty shirts and socks! Your net worth is tied up in old manuscripts! What the hell are you talking about!"
"I'm talking about millions upon millions of dollars worth of stocks and bonds and diamonds and emeralds and gold and silver and railroads and airlines and real estate and God only knows what else - I don't bother to keep up! Quentin handles the investments. Lamartin handles sales. I handle - strategic planning, in emergencies!"
"You're putting me on!"
"What, MacLeod, you don't have a 'rainy day stash,' as Amanda would call it?"
"Sure - I've got a few bucks put away. I sell antiques. Make a good living at it. Covers my losses in the dojo. I invest. Gives me enough to underwrite a few worthwhile causes. Something extra to help out youngsters who need advantages their families can't afford. I've got enough. Food on the table. Clothes. Spending money. Travel. I don't need to work anymore -"
"So - you understand. You'd protect that investment, wouldn't you?" Methos asked.
Lamartin added, "You wish to do good for others, mon ami, isn't that so? But you cannot help people without resources, that is clear. So, if someone threatened your investments, you would fight them. That is also clear."
"But - millions upon millions?" Duncan was clearly shocked at Methos' revelation.
"We've been around a long time, Mac. After a while, it begins to add up."
"The way you live -"
"I can afford to live as I like. I like the way I live. What's your problem, MacLeod?"
"You live like a pauper."
"That's absurd. I live like a philosopher. I don't need much." Methos shrugged. "I've got what I need."
"Last year, you couldn't afford a hotel suite -"
"Correction. Adam Pierson couldn't afford a hotel suite. I can afford to buy a hotel. Chains of hotels, if I wish."
Lamartin stood. "So, it is settled. Methos, you and your friend will assist us. We will eject that upstart Jacinto, and his backer, and protect our investments in Veneptia. Our coup will succeed, and a friend to our interests will be the new president of the little island. Let us drink to that!"
"Duncan? Shall we drink to it?" Methos asked. "Or am I going it alone?"
MacLeod sat heavily in his favorite chair and looked up at Methos. "It never changes, does it? One day we're happy. We're good friends. I cook the pasta and buy the beer. You eat and drink with me. And I think I know who you are. Then, something - erupts - out of nowhere, out of your past, and you're a stranger again. A man I don't know, never knew, not my friend at all. And again I'm the fool who 'should have known.' Who's been naive and stupid, thinking you're my friend at all. It never changes."
"What's the problem, MacLeod? You prefer to imagine me penniless, and you as my benefactor? Is that it? This doesn't undercut your manhood, that I've got a couple shekels to rub together. You're still the boss," Methos declared sarcastically.
Duncan stood. "It doesn't matter?" he said furiously. "That you've made a vow which I've gotta honor, or our friendship is ripped apart? It doesn't matter? That you've made a vow which will put you into danger, involve you in a civil war, thousands of miles from Paris? And I've gotta go with you, or let you face the danger alone? Nothing matters to you, does it, Methos? You wake up in the morning and Lamartin comes through the door with a proposition you never expected to hear that day, and it doesn't matter. Off you go, into the fray, without a thought about anyone who cares for you, who worries about you. Who's gonna need to die for you, probably, before the week's out. But no, it doesn't matter, to you!"
"One day at a time, Mac, one day at a time. Quentin and Lamartin haven't asked me to take up an uzi and shoot anyone. They asked for my expertise. Planning. I don't think it's a big deal, and I'm not turning down their request. I honor my vow, for my own sake, and for friendship's sake. I'd do the same for you."
"I'd never ask you to!" Duncan shouted.
"That's your problem, not mine!" Methos retorted, glaring.
"Right. My problem, not yours. We're separate already - see what I mean!"
"If that's your call, MacLeod -"
"No, goddamn it, that's not my call! I'm in. Damn you! I'm in!"
Off in a corner of the barge, Lamartin of Bordeaux whispered urgently into his cell phone to his friend in Switzerland, Quentin of York.
"You cannot know, Quentin, mon amour! They fight like cats and dogs! They agree on nothing, nothing at all! I do not understand why they are together - how Methos can endure this Green Boy! They are impossible together! I tell you, Quentin, this Duncan MacLeod will destroy our plans! Ruin our coup! But Methos will never leave him behind, since he is willing to come!"
His friend replied, "That is love, mon cher! New love! Methos worships MacLeod - how could you imagine he'd willingly leave him behind? Duncan adores Methos - he hangs on his words, follows him with his eyes like a mongrel pup studies his master! Their love is new. In time, the sands of the centuries will grind away the imperfections and reveal the heart of the stone! Until then, they will fight, they will part, they will come together again! In short, Lamartin, they will love!"
"Ah, Quentin, you are always so wise, always. How I miss you, mon amour! To be here, in Paris, without you - it is tragic!"
"Not tragic, just practical. As I am, I cannot join you. It is my fate, to carry this body, this face, and my mind. But later I will be with you, I promise, beloved - in Veneptia."
"It is too dangerous, Quentin. You will be so visible, so different from all the others on the island. No, you must not attempt it. I must suffer, endure, without you, for this short while, until we succeed in our coup and I may return to you in triumph!"
"Mon amour, I will join you in Veneptia. Do not question my decisions. Now, allow me to speak to Methos, please. We have much to discuss."
"Au revoir, Quentin. Take care. Be well."
"And you, mon ami, my brave soldier - en garde."
Lamartin walked over to Methos and handed him the cell phone. "Quentin wishes to speak with you."
"Sure. I'll just be a minute," Methos said to MacLeod.
"Right. Get your marching orders from the boss."
"Temper, temper, Mac. This is business. Simply - business."
"From which 'Godfather' movie did you steal that line, Methos?" Duncan replied sarcastically.
Methos rolled his eyes. "Lamartin, see he gets something to eat. When he's off his feed, he's impossible."
"Don't talk about me as if I'm not here, Methos! I may be young, but I can still whip your ass in a fair fight!"
"Ah, but I don't fight fair, as well you know, Duncan. So - eat something!"
While Lamartin slept on the couch, Duncan and Methos shared the large bed, as they'd done for some time.
"Stop squirming, MacLeod!" Methos whispered fiercely. "You're gonna push me out of bed!"
"I can't sleep! Live with it!"
"What's the matter? You've made your bed, now lie in it. Or do you plan to fuss through the entire operation!"
"Methos, please. It's not too late to back out! We don't have to go to their island. You made a plan for them. You told Quentin about it. You've done your share. Let's not go, it's not right."
"Duncan, I'm going. Somebody's got to be on the spot to improvise in the heat of things. You know that. It's what I do. How I contribute -"
"Contribute?" Duncan interrupted, turning onto his elbow so he could see Methos better in the dim light from the porthole.
"Of course. I do nothing more than that, to earn my keep, so to speak."
"What do you mean?"
"Most of the time, Quentin's up to whatever the traffic calls for. But a couple times a century, the Boys get into trouble. Big trouble. That's when they need something more than business acumen and brawn. They need - me. They pay very well for my services. I wasn't joking about the diamonds. And you know as well as I do, Duncan, diamonds are forever. It's the currency Immortals crave, to make our transitions, from life to life. I need it, you need it. They've got it. Now, I've got it. I can't turn them down. It's not - possible."
"They're blackmailing you!" Duncan said, eyes round with shock.
"Of course not! They're paying me for my services. They won't pay, if I don't serve. We call it a vow, but it's just necessity. Mine and theirs. Please understand, MacLeod. Calm down. Go to sleep. I'm exhausted."
Duncan put his arms around Methos and whispered seductively. "I've got more than enough for the both of us. You can pull out of your bargain with Quentin and Lamartin. You can join me in my investments. You'll never need to make another plan as long as you live!"
"You've gotta be joking!"
"I'm not joking, Methos. We're friends. Lovers. Why can't we share this too?"
"I'm not about to put my pile onto your scrap heap, MacLeod!"
"What, I'm not rich enough for you?"
"Actually, no. Which doesn't mean I don't adore you. I just don't believe in joint bank accounts. I'm not the marrying kind."
"You told me you've had sixty-eight wives - or was it sixty-nine!" Duncan pressed.
"An exaggeration. Not the number, merely the relationship. They weren't wives. They were - women. Lovers. Some, long term. We didn't throw our funds into a cookie jar. I never have, with anyone. I don't intend to start with you."
"Methos, you said your investments are joined with Quentin's and Lamartin's -"
"That's different. It's business. Not personal." Methos kissed Duncan on the forehead. "Don't trouble yourself about it. We'll do this one job for the Boys. I'm sure they won't need me again for decades. Don't fret, beloved."
"If we each lost every penny we have, I'd take care of you -"
"I don't need you to take care of me, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! Haven't you understood that yet? If we lost every penny we have, we'd get some more, in time. I'd take care of myself, and you'd take care of yourself. We'd never even know it happened to the other."
Duncan turned away from Methos, put his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. "No, I suppose we wouldn't know, would we? Lovers, not friends. Adam Pierson was my friend - at least I thought so. Methos Valerius is my lover, not my friend. Not my partner. So I'd never know, if you lost every penny you had."
"This is idle speculation, Duncan, calculated to keep us up all night! I'm not about to lose every penny, and neither are you. I've got nothing to worry about, and neither do you. Now sleep, for cripes' sake! And let me think!"
"Fine. Think! Don't let me disturb you!"
"Thank God! And by the way - you don't buy the beer all the time. Sometimes I do!"
"Methos? Are you asleep?"
"No, I'm not. What is it now?"
"First of all, does Joe know?"
"Does he know what? That I'm rich?" Methos asked.
"No. He's not my Watcher, remember. I'm my Watcher. He's yours. How much does he know of your business dealings?"
"I dunno. Enough. Maybe, too much. Those computers -"
"I know what you mean," Methos said, grinning. "What are the other two things."
"Well, get up and eat something! You're the cook! And don't worry about Lamartin. He'd sleep through Armageddon - snore, even!"
"You know him pretty well, don't you?"
"Duncan - you starting in? I told you. We were - together - for a long time, all three of us. That was nearly two thousand years ago. It's over. You've arrived at the party a little late to be jealous."
"I'm not jealous, just envious. I wish I'd known you back then -" Duncan said wistfully, half turning toward Methos again.
"No, you don't. I wasn't Clark Kent back then. I was Superman. With a vengeance. You wouldn't have liked me at all."
"I'd have loved you, Methos, in any time, any place, in any one of your incarnations! I'd have worshipped you, and you know it."
"Sweet. Sweet of you to say so, MacLeod." Methos grinned. "So, what's the third thing?"
"The third thing is - I'm horny as hell!"
"Well, I won't cook, but I can certainly do 'horny!' Absolutely!"
Dressed in faded military fatigues and caps, sleeves rolled up to reveal muscled arms and broad hands, very much of the same coloring and build, from the rear MacLeod and Lamartin could have been twins. Methos grinned to himself, knowing well the enchanting differences between his old lover, Lamartin - a sensualist without conscience - and his new lover, MacLeod - a sensualist whose conscience overwhelmed him more often than not. They'd arrived from Paris by plane and helicopter on an island in the Caribbean near Veneptia, and met up with a group of mercenaries hired for the duration.
"Duncan, stay out of the heat of it - these men are being paid well to do the dirty work," Methos ordered.
"I said I was in, and I meant it. The minute Lamartin told us he thought somebody was backing this Jacinto guy, I knew this wasn't a straightforward bid for power."
"You think an Immortal is behind it?"
MacLeod shrugged. "From what Lamartin said, President Jacinto was happy with his arrangement with Quentin. Getting more than enough skim to make his life worth living. The attack against your holdings must've originated with somebody else - somebody who wants more than money. I think they're after our kind of power. I think this was a ploy to drag Quentin and Lamartin into the open, so they can be challenged."
"Well, they've succeeded. In spades." Methos pointed up. "That's Quentin now. I recognize his buzz."
"In the helicopter? My God, Methos, he's insane to come along! Lamartin and me - even you - can pass for Latinos, fit in on the island. But Quentin! He's the original Viking Lad! He'll be shot on sight!"
"Quentin won't allow Lamartin to take risks he wouldn't take himself. And you forgot someone, when you spoke about Immortal challenges. Somebody else who's out in the open now. You."
"With the three of you around, nobody's gonna look at a Green Boy!"
"Never stopped them before, MacLeod - the old ones. They sought you out and went after you - must be a reason -"
"Sure there's a reason! I'm on display, while you and Quentin and Lamartin are nobody-knows-where! They take what they can get! Even Kalas didn't hunt you until he'd unmasked a Watcher and discovered you were around. Until then, he didn't imagine he could find out where you old ones were hiding yourselves!"
"Well, they've found us now. Four of us. Greetings, Quentin!" Methos said, walking over to the old Immortal who'd gotten out of the helicopter and was embracing Lamartin.
"Thank you for coming, Methos, MacLeod. Hated to interrupt your idyll, but business is business. Everyone here?"
"We are ready, mon amour, for your orders," Lamartin replied. "Methos says, from this distance, we are near enough to the president's palace to come in by helicopter under cover of night, storm the building, and take Jacinto prisoner."
Methos went on. "Yes, once we've got Jacinto, he'll reveal the whereabouts of his prisoners - your business associates - and their families. Then, you can send your own man in Veneptia in, with his army, to rescue them and take over the reigns of government. Seems straightforward enough."
"Nothing's straightforward, Methos," Duncan interjected. "Nothing ever happens on one bounce, you know that. It's why you're here - to improvise!"
"Indeed," Quentin said. "And why are you here, my young friend? Surely you trust these others," he gestured to the mercenaries, "to effect this coup?"
"You know why I'm here, Quentin. Who's behind this? Who's waiting to take our heads at the other end of this?"
"I do not know, MacLeod," Quentin replied simply. "But you're correct. Jacinto would never think of breaking our bargain - so lucrative for him - on his own."
"You've no idea at all, Quen?" Methos asked.
"There are several possibilities. I've tracked three Immortals to the general vicinity. One's a woman. I don't think she's part of this. The other two - well, I'm not sure. Antonio Sanchez is very old, but honorable. Unless he's changed enormously since last we met, this isn't his style - to subvert, to do things by stealth. But he is in the Caribbean."
"And the third Immortal? Who's that?" Duncan asked.
"Fellow named Rutger Klause - formerly, Roland. Not the oldest Immortal by far - maybe two thousand years old. But he's a Warrior Prince, always has been. Never changed. He's fought on one side or another in every European war since he was a boy. Fought the Nazi's, though. He was in on the plot to kill Hitler."
"So you don't believe it's him, either?" Methos remarked. "That leaves us where we started, with no suspects."
"Does it matter?" Duncan queried.
"Of course it matters, Duncan! Know your enemy - the first rule of warfare. I wish we could be certain who's behind this."
"Well, mon ami, we are not certain, and cannot be, until he shows himself," Lamartin declared. "So, we will fight this fight as though it were a Mortal skirmish, and when it is over, we will know our enemy, and defeat him."
"Yes indeed," Quentin agreed. "He has no hope. Pity. I do so love a challenge where the opponent has hope."
"You would!" Methos grinned. "How long's it been since anybody had a chance of taking your head, Quentin?"
"Too long, mon ami, too long."
Night fell and the assault on the president's palace in Veneptia began. Alone together in a helicopter, with Methos piloting, Duncan and his friend were tense.
"I've never fought in a modern war, Methos," MacLeod mused. "After I met Darius, I participated only as a non-combatant."
"Good experience for you, then. You should always be up on the latest advances."
"Oh, I've used the weaponry, unfortunately. But I prefer hand-to-hand. I like to look my opponent in the eye, know who I'm killing, and why."
"You sound like Silas, MacLeod! Killing is killing. Murder is murder. And war is war. Up close and personal, or bombs dropped from the sky - no real justification for it, ever. Merely, rationalizations. No forgetting what you've done, either, my love."
"But you'd do it to protect an investment? I don't understand."
"When will you learn not to believe everything I say, Duncan? I'm protecting Quentin and Lamartin - I don't give a damn about my money. Besides, I've got lots, other places." Methos grinned.
Duncan turned to his lover. "I suppose I've gotta believe this story now? Why? How do I know it's the truth?"
"The truth is what makes sense, MacLeod. You know me, even if you don't know all the details of my sordid life. Well enough, at least, to doubt I'd lift a finger, much less risk your life, to protect my 'holdings,' such as they are."
"You love them that much? Quentin and Lamartin? To pay this price to protect them?"
"Many times over, Duncan. Their age alone endears them to me. That experience is worth preserving. Besides, Quentin was my student, Lamartin, my lover." Methos glanced at MacLeod. "Why should I need more justification than you do, to commit foolish dangerous deeds?"
"Because you're practical, not chivalrous! Because you're devious, not simple! Because you're Methos, not me!"
Methos smiled. "Oh, we old ones have our loyalties, too, MacLeod. Think back over the years you've known me. Not to what I've said about survival, but to what I've done. Once upon a time, you had my number -"
"When Kristin came, when we were painting the porch at Anne's house -"
"Bright boy! Actions speak louder than words, Duncan, never forget that!"
"You're not desperate now. Nobody's after you, not the way Kalas and Kronos were. They're not after me. You're really doing this for the Boys? I don't believe you."
"Believe, MacLeod. Believe. When Quentin and Lamartin are gone - which God forbid - my world will be dark indeed. There'll be nobody left who knows me. Nobody. I don't anticipate that moment with relish."
"I'll know you."
"You've known me for a couple years, MacLeod. I can talk till I'm blue in the face, tell you everything I've ever done, describe every lover, every fight, every village I've lived in, and you still won't know me. Not like Quentin and Lamartin. Not as Kronos did, or Silas and Caspian. And before them, the lost ones -" Methos broke off. "Cripes, MacLeod, now you've got me spouting cheap sentiment! On the eve of battle! How have you survived this long?"
"Okay. You win. I'll stop." Duncan pointed. "Over there - the lights. That's the president's palace, I think."
"Showtime!" Methos banked the helicopter into the wind, bearing hard towards Veneptia's main drag.
The mercenaries in Quentin's employ brought President Jacinto Rivera Y Benvenuto to their employer who was waiting for him in a small villa on the outskirts of the island. Veneptia's president was alive, unharmed, and frightened to death. The first phase of the plan to protect Quentin's holdings was accomplished.
"What have you done, Jacinto?" Quentin asked. "You've ruined everything for yourself, your family, your descendents. Such a foolish little man you are, old friend."
"Forgive me, Senor Quentin! I had no choice! He came, he took my wife, my daughter! Then he told me what he wanted me to do! I had no choice!"
"Who came? Who is this creature who stole your honor, Jacinto?"
"He calls himself Klause - and you cannot stand against him, Senor! No matter how brave your friends are," he added, glancing at Lamartin, MacLeod, and Methos, who listened closely.
"Has he stolen your wits as well as your honor? Where is he?"
"Here I am, Quentin of York! And I challenge you to Ritual Combat, to the death!"
Disheveled, bloody but certainly ready for anything, the Immortal Rutger Klause barreled through the door - sword in hand - having vanquished the guards on the villa's perimeter. He'd arrived so swiftly in the midst of four strong buzzes, that none of the other Immortals had felt him coming.
"I am Quentin of York. We will fight soon enough. But our battle is not for Mortal eyes to behold!"
"Very well. I await your pleasure on the field behind this villa."
"I will attend you soon."
Klause left the room, and the others waited, intensely alert, to feel his individual aura depart and be sure he was gone.
"Does that - person - imagine he'd survive your death, my beloved?" Lamartin asked.
Quentin shrugged. "I must finish with Jacinto and signal my friend in the capital. The coup must go forward. Then I'll deal with Klause."
"I shall take his head, if he succeeds in defeating you, Quentin," Lamartin promised.
"You'll wait until he's revived, Lamartin," Quentin warned. "Or you'll answer to me in heaven!"
"Finish up your business, Quentin. This man's heard enough." Duncan indicated Jacinto.
"You're right, MacLeod. But it won't matter." Quentin turned to the president of Veneptia. "Jacinto, where are my men being kept prisoner? And their families? Tell me now, and when I discover the whereabouts of your wife and daughter, I will spare their lives."
"No, I cannot, Senor Quentin! This man, this Klause - he'll murder me, murder my family! I cannot tell you anything, Senor!"
"Jacinto," Quentin said patiently, "Klause is a dead man. You see me, my friends? He cannot defeat us all. Assist us, and your betrayal of loyalty will be forgiven. I will spare your family. But not you."
"Senor Quentin, they are at the old fort, near the Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Forgive me."
"I forgive you. And I will rescue your family. And care for them. They will live. But you must die." Quentin shot Jacinto without a moment's hesitation, through the heart.
"Quentin!" Methos shouted. "No!"
"You would have me risk his treachery again, Methos? Nevermind, it is done. Lamartin, go to the mercenaries. Instruct them to attack the fort near the Church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, get our people back, and try to find out where Jacinto's family was taken hostage. I'll do the same - try to discover where Klause is holding Jacinto's daughter and wife. Before I take his head."
"I will not leave you to fight Klause alone!"
"Lamartin, do as I say. You cannot fight my battles for me. I will be here when you return. Alive and well. Trust me, my heart."
"I cannot -"
"You must! Go!"
"He'll be fine, Lamartin. Just fine. You know Quentin - always a winner!" Methos said, shepherding the Latino Immortal to the door. "Do as he says - he never steered you wrong yet, did he?"
Tears streamed down Lamartin's face. He choked. "No. Never. He is the truest, the best, so good to me, always, always so good -"
"Go then, and do as he asks," Methos murmured gently. "Trust us, Lamartin of Bordeaux, we won't fail you."
Lamartin looked into Methos' eyes. "You will - you will fight Klause? In his place?"
"Klause is a dead man, Lamartin. Now, go!"
Quentin, Methos and MacLeod left the villa and tracked Klause's aura to where he was waiting behind the house.
"Methos, you and Duncan dispose of Jacinto's body. I'll do this alone."
"You won't do it at all, Quentin. This is my job."
Duncan startled. "What do you mean, Methos? The man challenged Quentin!"
"Quentin understands." He turned to Quentin. "I promised Lamartin," Methos said simply, and the blonde Immortal nodded.
MacLeod cried, "How could you do this? Promise to fight in Quentin's place?"
"It's what I do, Duncan."
"What's that mean?"
"It's my job. Why I'm here. I improvise."
"Improvise? I thought you were talking about changing plans of battle! Not taking Immortals' heads!" Duncan shouted.
"Simply put, MacLeod, I do wetwork, when it's needed. Particularly in this kind of operation. Mortal, Immortal - doesn't matter. It's my job."
"That's what they pay you for," Duncan said sarcastically, "not your plans? You're a hired gun?"
"Don't sound so surprised, MacLeod. I've survived five thousand years - it wasn't by doing 'cute!'"
"They've survived too, Methos. Let Quentin take the challenge. He must be good enough to defeat this guy."
Methos shook his head. "No, Mac. That's what I do. Defend them. Have, ever since we were Boys together. Not often. But always. Let me pass."
"No! Please! Methos - I can't - I can't go on without you!"
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod - why would you think you'd need to go on without me?" He grinned. "Quentin, tell him."
"He's the best, MacLeod. Of all of us. I wouldn't dream of permitting him to do battle in my stead, were he not. Have a little faith, Green Boy!"
Duncan stood there silently.
"That's it, MacLeod? No more talk?" Duncan didn't reply. "Well, that's a blessing! It's showtime, my friends! Drinks on me, later on!"
"MacLeod," Quentin said.
"What do you want?" Duncan responded angrily. "Won't you even let me wait in peace? Or don't you believe I love him?"
"Oh, I believe, MacLeod. I believe absolutely. You love Methos with all your heart. But you don't know the man at all."
"I know what he tells me. What I see. What I feel." MacLeod shrugged. "He keeps his secrets like a priest keeps the seal of the confessional. If you want me to know something, you're gonna have to speak up, Quentin. I'm not psychic."
"Methos is not simply our Scribe, Duncan. The Scribe of the Glass Bead Society. He's more, much more."
"He's our Assassin."
"You're putting me on! Man didn't face anybody for two hundred years before I met him."
"That's true. Nobody worth facing, during that time. But he is our Assassin. Now, yours as well. Insofar as you accept what you've learned about the Glass Bead Society, and your role as Adjunct, Squire to Methos. We rejoiced that he had no one to face for so long. As you know, Dark Quickenings aren't pleasant. He was long overdue. Fortunately, he mellowed out, during those hidden years. Before Kalas."
"But when Methos faced Kalas, he told me he couldn't do it, couldn't defeat the man."
"Methos' imagination is strong. Sometimes it leads him astray. He certainly could have defeated Kalas. But when Methos warned me about that threat, I was happy to recommend he permit you to accept the challenge. I didn't want to take any chances with Methos' - mental health, shall I call it?"
"I see." Duncan paused. "An assassin. Why is it, I'm not surprised?"
"You've had time to know him well enough. You've seen what he can do, when roused." Quentin lifted a hand and pointed towards the sky where Quickening light flashed abundantly. "There you are. It's over. He'll be back with you soon, MacLeod."
"He better be back, Quentin, or you'll answer to me," Duncan warned.
"Of course. I'm resigned to the fact that I'll be answering to you about Methos for a long long time."
Methos sauntered down the hill towards Duncan and Quentin. He was grinning.
"Told you so, MacLeod!" he said, greeting his lover with an embrace. "Gotta have faith!"
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseem. On that basis, I guess I'd need a lot of faith to come up with an idea about who and what you are, Methos."
"Quentin telling tales out of school again, Duncan? What's he done now? Turned you against me?"
"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Now I find that my lover is Assassin to the Glass Bead Society! How am I supposed to feel? What do you expect me to think?"
"Back to square one, MacLeod? Deja vu all over again?"
"You mean, like with the Horsemen? No. I won't ask you whether what Quentin said is true. I know it is."
"And the other part - the part where you walk off into the sunset alone. The part where we're through. What about that?"
"Good question. We'll talk about it back in Paris, on the barge. In private." Duncan glanced at Quentin. "I suppose you won't be needing him any more today? We can go?"
"You can go. With my blessing. Thank you, Methos. Good work. Lamartin and I can take it from here."
"Goodbye, Quentin," Methos replied, accepting an embrace from his old friend. "I hope the next time I hear from you and the Peacock, it'll be an invitation to a party. A little of this other business goes a long way."
"I know, mon ami. And I'm sorry. But it couldn't be helped."
"Right. We're off. Let's go, MacLeod."
Then all three Immortals stiffened, alert to the approach of another of their kind.
"Who is it?" Duncan asked.
"Lamartin," Quentin and Methos answered simultaneously.
The Latino stumbled to where they were standing and collapsed.
"What's happened, my love?" Quentin asked, cradling his lover in his arms.
"I was shot." Lamartin gasped. "When I was on my way back here. Somebody came out of the shadows and shot me."
"An Immortal?" Methos asked.
"No. Not an Immortal. A woman. Mortal."
"Who? Why? You've had nothing to do with a woman for decades," Quentin exclaimed.
"Not me. Him." He pointed to MacLeod. "She shot him. Only it was me. She thought I was Duncan." Lamartin laughed weakly. "She thought Lamartin of Bordeaux was a Green Boy, a drab! She thought I was Duncan MacLeod!"
The girl was very young - perhaps twenty-two. Beautiful. And extremely angry. Her gun was pointed at the two Immortals who were standing. Quentin still crouched on the ground, holding Lamartin's lifeless body, waiting for him to revive from False Death.
"I thought I'd found you alone, finally! Without your sidekick! I thought I had a chance!" Her voice shook with fury as she faced Duncan. "But it wasn't you! When he dropped, I saw - it wasn't you!"
"Who are you?" MacLeod asked. "Why do you want to kill me?"
"You killed Richie Ryan! You murdering bastard! And you had the nerve to attend his funeral, like a friend!" She began to cry but kept her gun pointed steadily at the Immortals.
"What's your name?" Methos asked pleasantly. "Richie told me he was seeing somebody new. But he never said how beautiful you were."
"I'm Lily Carter. You must be Adam Pierson. He described you. A tall drink of water, he said."
"That's me - the original Thin Man," Methos joked. "This is my friend, Duncan MacLeod. Richie's friend, too."
"I know who he is!" Lily spat out. "He murdered Richie, in cold blood. That's what Joe told me."
Duncan frowned. "Joe said that? He sent you here, after me?"
"No. I tracked you from Paris myself. But Joe told me how you killed Richie when he was only trying to help you. It was covered up - everything! No police, no trial, no verdict. Just a funeral for Richie. Now I'm going to kill you, the same way. No police, no trial, no verdict. Simply - justice!"
"You should speak more carefully, Lily," Methos said. "The word you're looking for is vengeance, not justice." He shook his head. "The schools these days - don't they teach kids anything?"
"Don't you make fun of me, Adam Pierson, or you'll die with him!"
"You cannot do this, Lily. Kill a man in cold blood. No woman Richie Ryan loved could. So put the gun away and go home. Richie's death has been avenged, believe me. Duncan MacLeod didn't get away with murder. Nobody does."
"He's standing here, alive! How can you say Richie's death has been avenged?"
"It's true. There are worse things than a bullet through the heart. Worse things than death. There are higher courts than yours, Lily Carter. Higher powers than you. Richie Ryan's death was avenged. You can rest easy about that, trust that it's so. Go home now. Be at peace."
The woman stared at Methos. He nodded. She glanced at Duncan who stood silently before her. "You loved him -"
"I loved him. He was - my only son. I didn't get away with anything."
Lily lowered the gun. "I loved him so much!" She started to cry. "Now he's gone! I've got nothing left of him, nothing!"
Duncan took her in his arms. "He told me about you, before he died. He talked about you often, Lily. You have what we all have, when someone we care for is taken from us. You have memories. There is nothing but that, our memories of the ones we loved."
"I've killed a man. The wrong man."
"No, he's alive. Lamartin! Tell the girl!" Methos shouted.
"I am alive, ma petite." Lamartin smiled up at Lily. "Do not worry. I will be well."
"I didn't hurt you? But I saw you drop -"
"A shoulder wound, that's all," Methos said. "Now, go home, Lily. Before you do something you'll regret. You've got good memories. Keep it that way."
Lily pulled away from Duncan's embrace. "Okay. You're right. I've got my memories of Richie. And you've got yours. Live with them, Duncan MacLeod! I hope you choke on them!" She ran then, back to her car.
"Well, that went smoothly, MacLeod, don't you think?"
"Yeah, very smoothly. Silver-tongued bastard. The girl was hurting, Methos, and you spouted platitudes about Higher Courts and Higher Powers at her."
"It worked, didn't it? I use whatever works, Duncan. Just so we survive, both of us. Whatever works."
"She couldn't have killed one of us with that gun."
"That's a good thing - if she'd really killed Lamartin, you'd have had to face Quentin!"
"Don't change the subject, Methos. She couldn't really kill me - you should have let her shoot me."
"I didn't think you'd want her to live with that, MacLeod. Lousy memory. Screw up her life. No, I did the right thing by talking her out of it."
"The right thing. When did you begin doing the right thing, Methos?"
"You know the answer to that one, my love. Don't rub it in."
Back on the barge in Paris, finally alone after days with Quentin and Lamartin, Methos and Duncan drank beer without speaking, sitting on opposite sides of the desk, in their favorite chairs. Finally, Duncan laughed. "The expression on Lamartin's face, when he told us Maurice had mistaken him for me! And then, how he looked, when he described being shot by somebody who thought he was me! Like he couldn't believe it! That look was priceless!"
"Yeah, priceless. He's a peacock, always has been," Methos replied, distracted.
"What is it, Methos? What's bothering you?"
"God, I thought we'd finished just about everything! I was kinda looking forward to a little peace and quiet. To being alone with you, for a change."
"You said, we'd talk about it on the barge."
"Talk about what?"
"Whether this new revelation about me would affect what we are to each other."
"What new revelation?" Duncan asked, frowning.
"How quickly they forget!" Methos quipped. "What Quentin told you. About me."
"You mean the business about you being the Assassin for the Glass Bead Society? That revelation? You want to talk about it?"
"You're awfully casual, this time around, Duncan."
"There are only so many times a man can be shocked to his core before he begins to feel numb."
"So that's it. You don't want to talk about it? You're numb?"
"That's right. I don't want to talk about it."
"Duncan, when the numbness wears off, I'll pack. Until then, I'll stay close. Enjoy the view. Take away some memories - something to remember you by."
"You think sooner or later I'll say we're through?"
"Face it, MacLeod. An assassin for a lover? Not your style."
"Oh, and a man for a lover - that's my style?"
"It's not the same. When you've thought about it, you'll want out. It's your nature."
"On the contrary. I've thought about it. Plenty. I think I understand what Quentin said. Let's see. A couple times a century, you kill somebody well worth killing. Have I got it straight? Doesn't sound so bad. But not very lucrative. If I were you, I wouldn't quit my day job."
"Which is what, do you think, MacLeod? What do you think of as my day job?"
Duncan grinned. "Loving me, Methos. Pay's good. The hours are great. And look who you've got for a boss!"
Methos stared. "You mean that, Mac? This doesn't bother you? What I am?"
"Lamartin and I - we're black and white, Methos. You and Quentin - you're shades of grey. That's just the way it is. What do you want me to do about that? I couldn't go on without you. Haven't been able to get you out of my mind since the moment we met. I love you. I'll always love you. Whoever you are. I'll live with it. Gladly."
"I didn't think - I never expected -"
"Spit it out, Methos!"
"I never thought I'd live to hear those words from you, Duncan."
"Well, I never thought I'd say them, and mean them. But I do. It's over. Bordeaux is finished. We're together. As far as I'm concerned, if you forgive me, I'm a happy man."
"Forgive you?" Methos sounded bewildered.
"For what I did, how I acted, after Bordeaux."
"What did you do? How did you act?"
"You don't even remember, do you?" MacLeod asked curiously.
"Nevermind. Thanks. I needed that."
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