by Maxine Mayer
I picked him up in a bar in Spanish Harlem, New York City, in the summer of '97. I'd gone there alone just to dance, sweat, drink and laugh - get away from it all. The MacLeod Syndrome - gloom and doom - had been getting me down for some time.
So I flew to New York and bought a new dress and new shoes - red satin - and took myself up to Spanish Harlem, a world away from the Central Park South suite I'd engaged when I'd arrived in the city.
He called himself "Antonio," but I didn't believe that was his name. He was one of our Kind - an Immortal - skimming, as I was, to pass the time and push the dark away. Such tactics don't last any of us very long, in the Game, but they help while they work.
We danced the rest of a set, then moved to the bar. He bought me a drink and I told him my name - Amanda. He squinted once, pursing his full red lips. Then he nodded twice.
"You are the famous Amanda, are you not?" he asked, in a voice full of music and danger. We both had to talk loudly and distinctly, to be heard over the music.
I lifted my shoulders, trying to appear casually disinterested. "I don't know about famous. I've been around a while." I looked away, at the dancers, then glanced at him again. "You've heard about me?"
"They say you are a bad girl. A thief. And a liar. That the men who love you get into trouble." When he spoke now, it was with humor. The dangerous sound had disappeared from his voice, as if it had never been there.
"No danger to you, then, am I, Antonio?" I replied. "You won't love me, will you, pretty boy?"
"No. I will not."
"Does my reputation put you off?" I asked, sipping my drink and licking the glass for coolness. Dancing Latin is very hot work.
"Mine is the same, they tell me," Antonio replied, a small smile in his eyes. "I am known as a thief, a liar, and a very bad boy."
"Oh, not a Boy, I think. Definitely older than a Boy." My mind woke up and I tumbled the thoughts that came to me around, like the combination of a lock, until they all clicked. "You're not - no - it's impossible. He's in Switzerland -"
"Who? Who is in Switzerland?" Antonio asked quickly.
"Just an Old One I've heard about, from a friend. But you can't be him. He doesn't go dancing in Spanish Harlem."
Antonio stuck out his lower lip. "Doesn't he? Why not? Is he not a Latino?"
"If you can call a man who's six thousand years old, a Latino, then I guess he is," I retorted, shrugging. "But his dancing days must surely be over." I squinted at my companion, raking my eyes down his body. He appeared about twenty-five. He wore a white linen suit and a black silk shirt, open at the collar. No jewelry. He was so gorgeous, jewels would have been a distraction. "It's amazing - you look like - another guy I know, who's supposed to resemble the Old One."
"I look like MacLeod, who resembles Lamartin? Is that what you mean?" he said. He had a way of uttering every syllable separately, sometimes accenting the wrong ones, yet connecting the words like a line of melody. There was a slight European roll to his consonants - indefinable, sexy. Definitely not a Brit or a Scot. "Who told you about me? What old friend?"
"I'm not at liberty to say," I replied, holding myself very straight on the bar stool, prim as a schoolmarm, my heart thumping. Lamartin! My God!
"Are you at liberty to 'date' such a man, should you meet him?" Antonio asked, throaty, almost hoarse. I strained to hear him over the noise and the music.
"I'm Immortal - I do what I like, and with whom I please." It was my standard reply, to questions about my love life. I rattled it out automatically. Then I shrugged delicately and smiled, flirting. "Actually, the way things are going, I think I'd better make some new friends fast. My old ones are dropping like flies - no pun intended."
"I would like you to do a job of work for me, Amanda. Can I interest you?"
I was instantly alert, but I joked. "Something illegal? Or simply immoral? I've sworn off thieving, for the moment."
"Well," he drawled, warmth and laughter in his voice, "it is not fattening. But if you are out of the thieving life, there are many other ways we can enjoy each other's company. I have a place not far from here, if you care to join me. It is really hot in here."
"I like it hot. But I think wherever you are heats up pretty quickly," I told him. "Sure, love to see your flat. I'll get my coat."
"You are not thinking of doing anything foolish - or dangerous - my dear Amanda?"
I laughed. "Never crossed my mind, Antonio. I intend to do the sensible, safe thing. Make love, not war." I stood and took my purse. I ran my nails down his jaw once, lightly, before heading for the cloak room. I looked over my shoulder and ordered, "Wait for me outside, pretty boy."
"I will be there."
He made love like a woman - very slowly. Totally absorbed in pleasing his partner. He stayed on top, was incredibly powerful, absolutely self-assured. Old fashioned, in a way, but nice. When I'd run my eyes over his stereo set-up and collection of CD's, tapes and records, I suggested music in the background. Antonio looked shocked at what I realized he considered a new-fangled notion. Two things at once - what a concept! As I say, he was old-fashioned.
Myself, I could simply watch, if I wished. He couldn't. He was vulnerable, with a vengeance. And so serious. Not a joke in his body.
"You are very lovely, Amanda," he said at last. "But you are some place else."
"I'm having a very good time, fella," I assured him. "I'm over a thousand years old. Don't expect a virgin mind." I smoothed my thumbs past his temples, ran my fingers through his dark hair, then down his broad back. "Amazing, you are. I didn't know innocence could last so long."
"It is my gift," he said, kissing my mouth, then rolling over onto his back, next to me, putting his arms behind his head. His body glistened with sweat. The hair under his arms was dark and damp, but he smelled good. "I am the envy of every Old Immortal I know."
I laughed. "I'll bet you are! I know one, at least, who'd give his soul for a minute's worth of your innocence!"
"No. He would not. Believe me."
I sat up and stared at Antonio. "You are Lamartin! You are!"
"I am Antonio, at the moment. Forget Lamartin. And Methos. And MacLeod. You are with me now. Try to enjoy yourself."
"Where's your friend - what's his name - Quentin? Doesn't he mind your tom-catting around?"
Antonio breathed deeply. He twisted his mouth. When he glanced at me his eyes were cold, wary - like he was a different man. "There is no such person. He is a myth, Quentin of York. A fairy tale invented by Old Immortals. There is no such person."
He was angry now. I watched him stand and walk towards the bathroom. His body was dark and heavily muscled. His skin looked as if a sculptor had chiseled him out of wood and then spent centuries oiling him. His hair reminded me of a stormy midnight in Toledo - Spain, not Ohio. Looking at him, I wished I could write poetry.
When he came back into the bedroom he'd got back control of his temper. He stopped by the stereo and flipped a switch. Vivaldi filled the room. He lowered the volume and smiled at me. I smiled back, suitably grateful. After all, he'd fulfilled my wish for music. Okay, a little late, and not my favorite kind, but I wasn't about to complain.
He'd draped a white towel around his hips, hiding the lower half of his body. But his arms and shoulders and chest were lovely - I got a good look. And his face was - amazing. His hands - well, his hands were like MacLeod's.
I teased him a bit, simply because it's not fair for a man to be so beautiful. "So. He doesn't exist, Quentin of York. You saying that my friend's been lying to me for centuries? Whenever he tells me he visits Quentin and Lamartin in Switzerland? Is that what you're telling me? When he says he's gotta do a job of work for them? It's all a lie?"
"Yes. It is a lie. There is only me." He knelt on the bed next to me, then eased back on his heels. Very seriously, humbly, he asked, "Would you consent to work for me, Amanda? I need something stolen. I need it very badly. They tell me you are the best." Tony being humble was absolutely not to be resisted!
"Who told you that? How'd you find me?" It was too much to believe he'd happened upon me by accident - at a dance club in Spanish Harlem - just the person he needed to steal something for him.
"I have been tracking you for many many days. Hoping I would find you when you were alone."
I'd been in Paris with MacLeod and Methos until quite recently, true enough. How it must have pissed Tony to wait! "So there was no urgency about this job. You could afford to hang around until the time was right to approach me?"
"That's right." His voice turned low and sensual. "I am glad I waited. You are a beautiful woman. If you turn me down, I will be happy simply to have known you. Loved you." He moved in for a kiss.
I stopped him with words. "If I turn you down, it won't come to swords between us?" I asked. "Hmm? Antonio? What do you say?"
"I am very old but I have not killed a woman - ever."
I raised an eyebrow. "Never?" That was hard to believe. Even MacLeod had killed a woman or two. And he was a Green Boy, especially compared to Antonio.
"It is the truth. Never with my own hands." He looked down at his hands, then. They were clasped in his lap, very dark against the white towel he wore. They told the whole story. They weren't the manicured lotioned polished hands of a young billionaire. They were the callused beat-up square hams of an old played-out boxer. Just looking at them roused me again.
"That's a comfort." I decided I wanted to know him better. Find out whether it was Methos who'd lied about Quentin, or whether Antonio was lying to me. I told him, "Okay. I'll do your job for you, on one condition."
"What is that, Amanda, my love?"
"That you take me home with you. To Switzerland. And show me where Quentin is not."
He looked into my eyes. His were very sad. He nodded. "All right. I will show you. I promise. It is where we must go, to do the job that must be done. We have a deal, then?"
"We have a deal!" I shook his hand. Then I grinned. "Now. Let's see what I can do about stealing your innocence. Time enough for work, tomorrow!"
The next day came too soon, for me. I'd enjoyed my night with Antonio - more than I had any right to, considering I was in love with somebody else. But MacLeod was so much trouble, and Antonio was no trouble at all. Sometimes, a girl likes things simple. Probably why I'd never slept with Methos, I thought. Over the long haul, that would have been more trouble than I've ever been up for.
Antonio took nothing with him, when we left his apartment to go to my suite at the hotel and get my things. He told me he had everything he needed in each place he owned. Me, I like to carry a few special things with me, always - my tools, certain books and trinkets, let's face it, my past - when I travel. You never know if you can go home again.
I hoped I could persuade my new lover to drop his pants one more time, at my place, but he was all business this morning.
"Amanda, we must go. There will be time for love later." Final - no room left for me to maneuver - but apologetic. Sweet.
"Okay, okay." I ruffled his hair, just to see whether he'd be put out. He simply smoothed it back, then took a clasp from his pocket and pulled his hair into a pony tail. I wondered if he thought he was travelling incognito. "I'll just be a minute," I told him, going to get my overnight case.
He spoke to me from the hallway. "You will tell nobody about us, Amanda. That is very very important."
"I haven't survived as long as I have by being a blabbermouth, Tony," I said. "You must know that."
"I do not know it. I - I did not ask about your discretion - only your skill."
I frowned. "That wasn't clever of you, now was it, pretty boy?" I told him, walking to where he waited for me by the door. "Maybe I should ask around, about your discretion?"
"I will never tell anyone about us, Amanda, I promise you." He was so serious, I nearly laughed.
"I don't give a damn who you tell. But only about our love. Not the work. Okay?"
"'Okay,'" he mimicked, placing his hand over his heart. "I promise."
He drove a rented Lincoln to JFK airport, very anonymous - a black clunker. And we took a commercial flight to Paris. I noticed his passport was in the name Antonio something, something with a "B" - I couldn't quite see the last name. I figured I'd been right - he did imagine he was incognito. As if anybody could forget him!
When we were seated in first class, drinks in hand, I asked, "Gonna tell me what the job is, Tony?"
He looked around to see whether a stewardess was nearby. There were no passengers in the seats behind us or in front, or across the aisle. I wondered whether he'd booked all the seats in first class, for privacy. The Lamartin I'd heard about from Methos would definitely have his own private jet, not use commercial liners. This guy couldn't be accustomed to traveling in a crowd, though he'd seemed pretty at home, even comfortable, when we were dancing in the club the night before.
"You know about the Watchers?" he asked quietly, almost whispering.
"Yeah." I was glad I did. Didn't like to appear ignorant before somebody so old.
He took a deep breath. "I need to - get something - from my Watcher, and from - another Watcher. At the same time. Precisely. So one cannot warn the other, and prevent the second theft."
"Ah, you want me to steal from Watcher A, while you're stealing from Watcher B?"
"Yes. That is the plan. I do not know if it is possible. I am not certain where the - things - are."
"What sort of things? Small, big, bulky, explosive? What?"
"No. Nothing dangerous to you. Papers. Documents."
I opened my eyes wide. "Chronicles? Recent, or old?"
"You are a very clever woman, Amanda," Antonio said with a broad smile. "I am pleased."
"That's ducky. But why? The Watcher Chronicles - they're nothing to us."
Danger flashed in his eyes and filled his voice. He was volatile, then, Lamartin. For the first time, I was a little scared. "They are everything to me."
"Why not destroy them, then? Why bother stealing them? You could take out both Watchers' homes, in one minute, with a bomb. Wait till your Watchers are away, then explode the entire cache. Both caches."
"No. They must not be harmed, in any way. Not themselves, not their property. My - friend - would not like that. It draws too much attention to our Kind, he thinks."
I snorted. "A theft draws more attention. They'll call the police, start looking for thieves. A bomb, on the other hand, points in an entirely wrong direction -"
"No! Our Watchers will not call the police about such a theft. But a bomb - they would have no choice."
"Ah. I see." I nodded twice. "I see. You're right, of course." Then I glanced at Antonio quickly. "This is not your plan, is it, Tony? Somebody else thought this up. Quentin, maybe?"
"There is no Quentin." He hesitated. I could see the millennia-old habit of secrecy warring in his mind with the drive toward openness which was so much a part of his temperament. Openness won. "Your - Methos - made the plan." Naturally - how could I have thought otherwise!
He smiled at me, and the warmth almost made me dizzy, in such close confines. "Methos said you are the best. Very helpful. Resourceful."
"I am the best. But he's good too. Why doesn't he help you himself?"
"He cannot leave Paris, at the moment. He is - busy."
"With MacLeod, of course." It still rankled, Methos taking up all Mac's time, all Mac's attention, whenever it struck Methos' fancy to reappear at the dojo, or on the barge. I didn't know how he did it - only that he did it easily. Almost as if Mac loved him. But that was impossible. I knew Duncan's tastes too well. That particular turn of phrase wasn't among them. "I see."
"You will help me? Take one set of papers while I take the other?" Maybe Tony had noticed my sudden shift of interest. He seemed anxious, now.
"A deal's a deal. Just don't forget your side of the bargain. I want to go home with you. I want you to prove to me that there is no Quentin of York."
Antonio looked away, out the plane window at the gray non-view. "I have not forgotten. I will prove it." I didn't like what I heard in his voice.
"You all right, Tony?"
"I am - fine. Do not worry, Amanda. I am fine."
His limousine was waiting for us when we got off the plane in Switzerland. He spoke a couple words to the driver, who disappeared. Antonio got into the driver's seat and I joined him on the passenger side, tossing my overnight case onto the back seat.
"Amanda, I will drive past the two homes we must enter. Both Watchers are out of town for two days but their homes are not empty. There are servants. I do not know when the moment will be right. We may need to wait for many days before everyone is away."
"I think we can find something to occupy us while we wait, Tony," I said with a smile. "Your Watcher friends - what sort of men are they?"
"My Watcher is a physician. Professor Lucien Braun. Lucien is about fifty now. He has not practiced medicine for many years. He is very wealthy." I'll bet he was, with Quentin and Lamartin to recommend investments to him!
When Tony didn't go on about the other Watcher, I prodded a bit. "What about the other guy? What's he do for a living?" Then, an innocuous question. "Are their houses far from each other?"
Antonio pursed his lips but still didn't answer. I couldn't figure what was holding him back - he'd spoken about his own Watcher freely enough.
"Who's the other Watcher, Tony? Come on, I'm gonna know sooner or later. Might as well tell me now."
He let out a sigh. I noticed that his hands trembled a bit on the steering wheel. He corrected that by gripping the wheel harder. "Vincenzo Sparto. That is the name of the other Watcher. He is younger. Much younger. But he has been a Watcher for several years."
I frowned. "What's the problem, Tony? What aren't you telling me?"
"Vincenzo is - an infiltrator - like your Methos. The Watchers selected him for the task because he looks so young. But they do not know - about him." Did he mean what he thought he meant - that this Vincenzo was an Immortal? Incredible!
I addressed first things first. "What task?" I asked. "Watching who? They wouldn't have set two guys on just you, Tony. You're out of the Game, for all practical purposes."
"All right. All right. I will tell you." He pulled the car over to the side of the road - we were out of the city, driving farther and higher into the mountains every minute. The pass was narrow. I hoped he'd tell me whatever was bugging him and get going again fast. If anybody tried to overtake us, they could push us off a cliff on this road.
"You do that. You tell me, Tony. Because there's no way I'm gonna work in the dark. Not with another Immortal around. That's what you're saying - right? That Vincenzo is an Immortal? I don't want some strange Immortal breathing down my neck!"
"No. Vincenzo will not be 'breathing' on you, Amanda. He is a friend. A good friend."
"Great! I guess I'll have to take your word for it. Now, talk!"
"Vincenzo is very young to look at. Like - Quentin - was. That is why the Watchers thought he would be a good choice. They believed Quen and Vincenzo might become friends, so Vincenzo could watch him better." Tony shrugged. "It is ridiculous - looking nearly as young as Quentin does would not be an advantage. The - disparity - in their ages exists in spite of appearances. But that is how the Watchers thought."
I was pretty surprised. "But Watchers aren't supposed to make friends with their Immortals. It's against their rules -"
"Yes. But they will bend their rules, when it suits their purposes. To observe an Old One such as Quentin, to come in close, they will break all their rules. Vincenzo achieved First Death when he was twenty. Many centuries ago. He is not an Old One, yet not a Green Boy, either. The Watcher superiors do not know he is Immortal, of course, but they recognized his - talents - when they gave him this assignment. And we gave the Watchers what they wanted. Quentin befriended Vincenzo."
"Where is Quentin, Tony?"
"I do not know," he said, his voice full of despair, his eyes filling with tears. "I do not know." He raised his hands from the steering wheel where he'd rested them after he'd stopped the car. "One day he was in our home, strong and beautiful and alive. The next day, I came back from a trip to Berne, to the bank, and he was gone."
"You think he was kidnapped? What does Vincenzo say?"
"He knows nothing. He arrived at the chateau, in his car, for a meeting with Quentin. That was about noon on the day Quentin disappeared. I came back from Berne shortly after. Quen was just - no longer home. The servants knew nothing. The chauffeurs knew nothing. All our cars were still in the garage. The butler's truck, the chef's Volkswagon - everything was as it was. Only Quentin was gone." He dropped his head into his hands.
"His clothes? Was anything missing?"
"Nothing. It is as if he - evaporated - that is how Methos spoke of it."
I sat quietly for a minute or two, thinking. "Why'd you bring me here, Antonio? There's nothing to steal. You can ask your doctor friend for a look at his Chronicles. And I'm sure you've already seen everything Vincenzo's written."
"No. I want the Chronicles. To keep. I do not want to leave them in the Watchers' hands. Lucien and Vincenzo would not give them to me. They are too honorable. They would not go so far." He glanced at me. "And it could be - dangerous - for them to betray their vows in such a way."
"But that isn't all, is it? What else do you need to happen?"
"Methos thought you might be able to help me think of where Quentin - where such a one as Quentin might be taken -"
"Methos said that?" I couldn't believe it. Why the hell wasn't Methos here himself, helping Lamartin? Methos knew something he wasn't telling Tony, that was clear. Because I'd be the last one who could figure out where somebody's take Quentin.
"Methos did say that." Tony looked at me then, his soulful eyes brimming with tears. "Will you help me, Amanda? I must find him - I cannot go on without him - we have been together for so long. I love him, I love him -" He couldn't talk any more, he was so unhappy.
"There there. Of course I'll help. I'll do whatever I can. But I've gotta ask you a couple questions, Antonio, and you might not like them."
"Anything. Please, Amanda. Ask me anything. I will answer you with all the truth I know."
"Okay. First question. How's it been between you and your friend lately? Getting along okay?"
He frowned. "Getting along? What do you mean?"
"I mean - have you two been getting along? Any fights? Quarrels? Spats? Jealous rages? Business disagreements? It's a simple question, Tony!"
He looked at me with amazement. "I think - I think you do not understand what it is, to be lovers for so many centuries, Amanda. We do not 'fight,' or become 'jealous' of one another. Quentin leads. I follow. Always. It is our way. We have not made love with each other in many centuries. Quentin is absolutely celibate. I am - less so. But almost always celibate, as well."
"And when you're - 'less celibate' - Quentin doesn't mind?" Nonsense, I thought.
Antonio shook his head. "I do not believe he minds. If he does, he keeps his secret well." Tony smiled. "If I were the one - if Quentin were the one - I would mind. Very much."
"But you think your friend doesn't? You're a fool, pretty boy! An absolute total idiot!"
"You think so?"
"I know so! Look at you! Who wouldn't mind!"
"Maybe you are right," he said quietly. "Maybe - what you are trying to tell me is true. Maybe Quentin - was not kidnapped."
"Hey, look! I'm not saying he ran away from home! I'm just trying to consider all the possibilities!"
"I know. And I am grateful, little one." Tony smiled, that sad sweet smile. Only now I understood why he was so sad. I was pretty sure he'd never sleep with me again. What a waste!
You had to see their "chateau" to believe it! It was a palace, not a chateau. The suite Tony brought me to, for my own use during my stay, was bigger than MacLeod's barge and his dojo put together. Fitted out in an incredible collection of antiques from every decade of the last five centuries. If I sold the furnishings, vases, clocks, oil paintings, I could live for a century on the proceeds. I'm not really into luxury, but opulence has its charms!
Nevertheless, I don't think Tony realized what he had, or cared. We had supper in the butler's pantry at a plain wooden table. Tony cooked. I felt as if I were having a deja vu experience whenever he turned his back. If I blinked, it looked like MacLeod was at the sink draining pasta, or at the oven, cooking. It was weird, to the max.
After dinner, instead of us "retiring" to a drawing room for coffee and brandy, which certainly would have made sense in this setting, Tony dragged out a couple bottles of some really dark German beer and presented me with one. I had to laugh.
"Beer? You expecting Methos? Is this the best you can do, Tony?" I teased.
"You would prefer champagne? Or brandy?" He made to get up.
"No - no! I'm joking. This is fine."
"Soon Lucien and Vincenzo will join us, if you do not mind. We will talk. Maybe we can think of an answer, a way to find Quentin -"
I looked at Tony really hard. Putting my hand over his I told him, "I think you're gonna need to face the fact that Quentin may be gone for good, Antonio. With his money, and his brains, and his experience - if he wants to get lost, you can't track him. I know I couldn't."
"You are convinced, Amanda, that he left of his own free will? That he wanted to leave me?"
"I know it's hard to accept. I don't know what kind of guy he is, to put you through this. He must have known it would drive you nuts."
"More than that, Amanda. My heart is broken."
"That, too. I understand. But look on the bright side. Maybe he went on his own, for what seemed good reasons to him, without meaning to hurt you."
"But why? What reasons? I would not hold him if he wished to leave me -"
"You think he'd know that?"
Tony hung his head. "Maybe not," he admitted.
"Right. But there are other things." I searched my mind wildly for other possibilities - anything I could think of to keep Tony from being so miserable. "Maybe he believes he's a danger to you. Or a drag on you. Maybe he thinks you're ready to begin a new life but you'd never do it while you and he are together. Your Quentin sounds like a man who thinks he knows better than anybody what's good for everybody."
Antonio replied earnestly, pure love shining in his eyes, "He does know better than anybody. Nobody is more clever, more knowledgeable than Quentin. Not even your Methos."
"Don't keep calling him 'my Methos!' He's not mine! He's a friend, that's all!"
"You do not love him?"
"Yes, I love him! But I'm not in love with him!" I retorted. "We're friends. He's a lot older than I am, and smarter. He wouldn't bother with me. Besides -" I almost told Lamartin the truth about Methos and MacLeod, but stopped myself in time. At least, I'd begun to suspect it was the truth. Who could know, with Methos?
Chimes rang out, startling me. "What's that?"
"The front door. I will see who it is."
He came back with a man around Dawson's age, who must have been the doctor, Lucien. The other guy, the Immortal Vincenzo, bowed low to me when he came into the pantry. With that one gesture he labeled himself as a man of a different century. Not much of an infiltrator, in my book. Couldn't hold a candle to Methos, whose cover never slipped!
"Amanda, this is Professor Lucien Braun."
"Please, call me Lucien." A Viennese accent - charming.
I smiled. "Amanda."
Then I turned to the Immortal. "Hi!"
"Vincenzo Sparto. I am very pleased to meet you, Amanda. I've heard much about you, over the years." He was cutting it fine, in front of the Mortal Watcher. Vincenzo looked twenty. How many 'years' could he have had, to hear about me, if he weren't Immortal, I thought.
"I've heard nothing about you, Vincenzo Sparto, nothing at all."
"Nothing to tell. I'm just a Watcher. Nothing more. And I've lost my assignment. I'm very worried about Quentin. He could be in a lot of trouble. Danger."
I didn't understand what the two of them - Lamartin and Vincenzo - thought they were doing. Weren't they going to tell the other Watcher that Vincenzo was an Immortal? How did they expect Lucien to help them if they didn't tell him the truth? I'd talk to Tony about it later.
I answered Vincenzo. "I'm not so sure Quentin's in danger. I've told Antonio that I think Quentin left on his own steam. He could afford to disappear without a trace and without taking anything with him. I'm sure he's got plenty stashed away in other places. I think that's what he did. If I'm right, you're gonna have a lot of trouble finding him."
Lucien asked, "Why would Quentin leave like that? He's got everything a man could want right here. His life is a dream anybody would long to live. His friendship with Lamartin has lasted centuries - millennia. Why would he want to give it all up?"
"For freedom? For his friend's sake? A whim? Who knows? What looks like a dream to you, might be a nightmare to him." I paused. "Or maybe he's just found himself a new lover."
The three of them looked at me like I'd grown two heads. Three men of the world, shocked to their bones. They were a joke. Even MacLeod was hipper then they were.
"What?" I asked. "You think it's impossible? Another lover? Why?"
All three of them replied simultaneously, "We would know."
I laughed. "Would you?" I turned to Lucien Braun. "When your assignment leaves the house, do you stay with him, or do you remain behind, keeping an eye on Quentin?"
"I go with Lamartin, of course," Lucien replied.
"Sure you do." Then I asked Vincenzo, "And you. You're Quentin's Watcher, so you follow him wherever he goes, right?"
"Quentin rarely leaves the chateau. He's a recluse. I think that's the word."
"Rarely. But not - never?" I asked.
"He flew to Berlin in May, to visit a library there, consult some archives. He told me it was the first trip he'd taken in decades. He spent a month in Germany, doing research for a project he's working on."
"Really? All the way to Berlin. Imagine! A recluse who travels to Berlin." I turned to Antonio. "You went with him, Tony, of course. When he was in the library, studying the archives, you were with him, right?"
"No. I was not with him."
"But you, Vincenzo, you're his Watcher. You were with him?"
"We travelled together to Berlin, of course. But I didn't spend my days in the library. I visited with friends in the city. Went to the theater. Out to dinner. Not with Quentin, not every single day and night, no."
"So. In May - what's that, three months ago? - your friend, the recluse, was on his own in a strange city, doing God knows what, for a month. I'd bet my last franc he didn't spend all his time in the archives. Or if he was in the archives, he wasn't alone. Lots of very attractive people in Berlin, don't you find?"
Vincenzo lifted his hands in the air, indicating that he despaired of my sanity. "This is ridiculous! You don't know Quentin! What you're saying is impossible! I was with him - not every minute - but for dinner, nearly every night. In the mornings, we ate breakfast together, every day. Besides - it's not possible, for other reasons!" He shook his head. Then he looked at Lucien. They both glanced at Lamartin.
These guys were truly unimpressive. Lamartin's blindness was understandable - Quentin was his lover, after all. But Vincenzo! Vincenzo was about the worst specimen of a Watcher I could imagine - he underestimated his own assignment! Really! I was embarrassed to acknowledge him as an Immortal!
"Tell me something - what does Quentin look like?"
Lucien answered calmly. "Like a seventeen year old boy. A beautiful blonde boy. But he's not a boy, Amanda. He's six thousand years old! He can't just - pick somebody up - in a library! He's not a teenager!"
"No. But don't you guys try to tell me that a six thousand year old hunk can't fall in love, like anybody else. Or attract potential lovers, of all stripes. The way you describe him, sounds to me like he'd need to beat 'em off with a stick, once they got a look at him! That is, if he wanted to! And I assume his equipment still works, whether or not he's been using it lately!"
Again, the three of them looked at me like I was crazy. And again, it was Vincenzo who spoke for all of them. "Quentin adores Lamartin. There's nobody else for him." Vincenzo was clearly a fool.
I nodded. "If you say so."
But nobody said so, not a second time.
We'd ended the evening with a plan. Not much of a plan, I grant you, but something.
Lucien would go to European Watcher Headquarters, currently housed in a mansion in France, and do what he could to track other Immortals worldwide. His objective was to find out if their Watchers had reported sightings of anybody matching Quentin's description. This was the hardest and cruelest task. Such a sighting would probably mean that somebody'd taken Quentin's head. If Lucien discovered that was so, he'd be the one to tell Lamartin, not a pleasant prospect.
Vincenzo would stay at the chateau sifting through the labyrinth of Quentin's business files, personal papers, and anything stored on computer, looking for clues to explain the Old Immortal's disappearance. Tony told me that Vincenzo was still hoping this would all blow over and he could return to being a Watcher without Lucien finding out that he was an Immortal. They preferred not to put Lucien into the position of having to keep that particular secret from the Watcher Society, if they could. To me, it seemed a stupid and inefficient bit of foolishness, but men will be men. They always look for problems, never keep things simple. If you don't believe me, check out MacLeod!
Lamartin and I would be going to Berlin, of course. To the library and archives Quentin had visited in May. It was the only clue we had to go on, for what it was worth.
When we were alone I asked Tony straight out whether he really wanted to know if Quentin had a new lover.
"I do. I want to face him and ask him why he did not tell me. Why he is putting me through this torture, when he could easily ask his friend to join us here."
"Things aren't always so simple, Tony," I said. "Maybe this new lover has a life he doesn't want to leave behind. Maybe Quentin hasn't told this new lover who and what he is. Can't tell him. Or her," I added, wondering whether that was the secret, after all. That Quentin was with a woman rather than another man. And didn't want Lamartin to know. Somehow, from what Tony said, that might be a worse betrayal than if Quentin was with another man. The whole thing was beyond me. I'd have asked Methos to explain, but he was still too busy to join us. I knew, because Tony called him again. Methos couldn't come. He was still helping MacLeod in Paris. Something about a Demon, Tony said.... Boys will be boys.
The chief librarian at the Berlin library and archives - the place Quentin had visited in May - remembered the Old Immortal well, when I'd described Quentin. "Such a lovely boy," she told us. "So serious, for someone so young." The woman was a chatterbox, which was lucky for us.
"What was he studying? We think maybe he's gone someplace else to do more research but he didn't tell us where. Frankly, his uncle and I, we're a little worried about him. He didn't have much cash with him."
"Children! So thoughtless! He was preparing a paper on The Bronze Age, something about horses - the use of horses, how widespread it was in those times. That sort of thing. It seemed a very abstruse subject but he insisted that his teacher had given him the assignment."
I couldn't help smiling. His teacher, indeed! What an imagination Quentin must have! And how bored he must be, to research Methos' history! Methos had been his teacher, millennia ago. Methos, the Horseman! I was beginning to think I'd like Quentin, if I ever got a chance to meet him! Obviously, the guy had a sense of humor! Besides, any friend of Methos was a friend of mine.
Speaking of friends, I asked, "Was our nephew with a friend when he came here? Someone studious, like him?"
"Oh, there cannot be another boy as studious as that young man," the librarian said with a laugh. "But he did seem to hit it off with another student from the University. A bit older than your nephew - isn't everyone? But a serious person."
"A young man?" I asked. I could feel Antonio tensing up at my side. He hadn't been able to say anything, ask a question, from the moment we got to the library.
"Yes. An American. A redheaded boy. He came in one morning, about a week after your nephew first started working in the archives. The new boy seemed struck by him. He immediately joined him at a table. They talked for a while. It wasn't even close to noon, but they left together right away, saying they'd be back after lunch."
"Did they come back?" Tony asked, finally managing to speak.
"Yes. But not until the next day. They worked together for hours, talking and laughing. I had to shush them several times," the librarian said with a smile. "The redheaded boy was also interested in The Bronze Age. It was such a lucky coincidence, I thought. They came in a few more times. Oh, for about a week or so. Then they didn't return. I assumed they'd finished their research."
I nodded. "Thank you very much. You've been really kind to help us like this. And you're very observant. Did you happen to hear the name of the redheaded boy? Or where he was staying in Berlin?"
"His name? Let me think. I know he'd taken a room in a small pension not far from here. But where exactly, I cannot tell you. He had a motorcycle. A beautiful machine. He kept it so clean, it shone! I used to watch from the window, when they rode off - that way, to the right - the redhaired boy in front, your nephew riding in back. They were so refreshing - not like other boys their age. Not rude or tough or vulgar. Respectful and friendly and kind."
"But you don't remember the redhaired boy's name?" I repeated, reminding the librarian of my question.
"His name - let me try to think. Something with an 'R' - I think. Wait - how stupid of me! I've got it written down. When he requested books, he wrote his name on the slips. Let me check back."
I tapped my foot impatiently. I really didn't need to wait to find out the boy's name. It was only a formality. Of course, Lamartin wouldn't recognize him from the description, but I sure had.
"Richard! Richard Redstone! That was his name! A lovely boy! I hope you find him and your nephew! They were both such nice children! Unusual, each in his own way!"
Yeah, they sure were - unusual, each in his own way! No doubt about that!
Antonio rushed down the street, moving with the speed of a madman, and I tried to catch up with him.
"Antonio!" I cried. "Tony! Tony!"
He didn't stop, so I moved faster, until I was abreast of him and could grab hold of his arm. It was like trying to stop a runaway truck. I was pretty well dragged down the street.
I shouted at him as loudly as I could, trying to break through whatever thought he was fixed on. I was oblivious to the passersby whose attention we'd snagged and held. So was Tony.
"Lamartin!" I finally shouted, hoping that using his true name would make a dent in the solid mass of unreasoning fury he'd become. I was lucky. It did.
"What do you want?" He asked, stopping abruptly and turning on me. "We have found out enough! I do not want to learn anything more!"
I stood in front of him, hands on both his arms, and tried to appeal to his reason. "Tony, whatever you're thinking, your Quentin and Richie aren't lovers! No way, no how! I swear it to you!"
"No? No?" He laughed an angry, hollow laugh. "You don't think so! How would you know?"
"Because I know Richie Ryan - Richard Redstone! I know him! He's MacLeod's old student! Believe me - anybody else, maybe! Richie, never!"
Tony was breathing hard, his eyes fixed on my face, my eyes, looking for the truth. He wanted to believe what I said, badly. I nodded my head twice, three times. He looked around wildly, but didn't run again. He begged me, "Amanda, you are certain?"
"I'm as sure as I am of anything in this world, Tony, I swear it! Maybe they're together - I'm not saying they're not! Maybe Quentin ran off with Richie. But whatever it was for, it wasn't for that, not for love. I swear it!"
He expelled a big breath. I felt so sorry for him. I pulled him to me, embracing him fiercely.
"Oh, Amanda, why?" He whispered into my hair. "Why would Quentin leave like that, without telling me, without a word?"
"I don't know." I held onto Antonio, thinking fast. "Maybe Richie came for him on his motorcycle - to the chateau. Asked for his help. And they just didn't have time to talk to you, call you. I don't know. Maybe Quentin did run away from home. To travel with Richie. For the freedom. Or to be Richie's teacher. Or friend. But not for the other thing. I know that."
Slowly Antonio quieted in my arms, on that street in Berlin. I'll never forget the small shop opposite. It's burned into my memory. A pastry and coffee place, with lettering in gold leaf on the plate glass window. Cafe Berlin, it read. Cafe Berlin. I'll remember that shop forever, because I stared at it for what seemed like an eternity, holding Tony tightly, praying that I'd gotten through to him, that he believed me.
Finally, Tony was calm. He took my hands away from around his body. Gently. The old Tony. He kissed my mouth, my eyes. Wiped away my tears with a white handkerchief, then wiped his own eyes.
"Amanda, we will go home now. Forget about all this. I want to make love with you."
"Home? But -" I looked about wildly, "- but we don't know for sure, that they're all right. That Quentin's all right. It's only speculation, that he left with Richie -"
"Amanda, there is no evidence, nothing to make me think that Quentin is hurt, or in trouble. He is gone. There is no more Quentin. That is all. I believe he left because he wanted to leave. Some day, I will find out the truth. Why he left me. Where he went. If he is alone or with a friend. Some day. Not today. If I must wait, I can wait."
"I will not hunt him, Amanda. Quentin is not an animal. I am not an animal. He is a free Immortal, and now, so am I."
His eyes and mouth were terrible to look at, when he said those words. I wasn't gonna have any of that, not me. No more crazy guys, not for me.
"Okay," I said, pulling away from his tenderness. "Fine. You don't want to look for him, make certain he's okay, that's terrific. I'd like to get my stuff now. Take me back to your chateau."
"Amanda, I am grateful for your help. Without you, I would never have understood, or found out what I know."
"Look, Tony, you don't know anything, not for sure. But if you want to blow my speculations out of proportion, if you want to decide they're the truth, and stop looking - hey, don't let me stop you! But I'm outta here. I want my things, and then I want to leave. Things to do, places to go," I muttered, walking away from Tony down the street towards the limousine. "Things to do, places to go."
"As you desire, my dearest Amanda." The warmth of his voice hit me like a blast from an oven. He was so grateful, I probably could have got him to marry me, at this point. "We will go home now. As you desire."
"Yeah. That's what I want. To get my stuff and get out of your life."
"Then that is what you will have, my sweet. Exactly what you wish. But first - you will help me steal the Chronicles, please."
Antonio wasn't exactly the sort of man a girl could say no to. I helped him steal the Chronicles - the ones about Quentin and the ones about Lamartin - without difficulty and without getting caught.
I don't know how long it'd been since he'd last pulled a job, but once upon a time Lamartin of Bordeaux had been a pro, no doubt about that. He dressed appropriately, in black. He listened to my instructions and understood everything first time around. He didn't ask any questions. He didn't hesitate. He wasn't frightened, though his aura quivered a bit with excitement.
When we met back at the chateau, he took my package of Watcher Chronicles, thanked me quietly, and placed it in his safe along with the ones he'd stolen. He didn't ask for praise or expect me to be pleased with him. It was routine for him, I could see. Clearly, he'd needed me for just the reason he'd said - to perform a second theft at the exact same moment as the first. Nothing more, just that.
He sure turned out to be a better thief than Methos! But myself - I'll take humor over perfection, every time!
However smoothly our operation had gone, there was an adrenalin rush. That went along with any job. I made love with Tony again - driven by that rush - despite my better judgment. The more often we screwed, the better I liked him. His charm was addictive. Not to speak of his looks.
But when we were finished I still wanted to get out of there. Tony'd lost Quentin, so Tony was a mess - inside. I didn't like the idea of nursemaiding him. One crazy Immortal - MacLeod - is more than enough for me.
I dressed and packed my overnight bag, making a quick check of the rooms I'd used in my suite, to be sure I didn't leave anything behind. Then I joined Tony in the butler's pantry for breakfast. What he did with his butler and his other servants I had no idea, but they sure disappeared when their master was around.
"Antonio! Thanks for everything! I really got a kick out of meeting you!"
"Amanda. Thank you. For everything." He bowed, a fully-realized old-world bow. I was enchanted.
"You'll be all right?" I asked. Then I bit my tongue. Damn. I hadn't intended to ask that. I knew the answer - he wouldn't be all right, not for a long time, not without Quentin. Well, I wasn't staying, that was that. I was not staying!
"I am fine," he told me. "I am an old man, Amanda. This is not the first time I have lost a lover. It will not be the last. I will be fine."
"Really?" I was curious. "Somebody left you before?"
"Oh yes. Your Methos. And see - I am fine!" he told me, holding one arm out, the better to exhibit his perfections for me to inspect. They were considerable.
"Methos walked out on you? Wow!" I was impressed. Methos had an eye for beauty, and a really steadfast heart. That he'd leave this guy was incredible to me. "Why?"
"It was over between Methos and me," Tony replied simply. "Quentin and I - had begun. It was time."
"Yeah, right. You gave up Methos for Quentin."
"I did. I never regretted it."
"Until now?" I goaded.
"I will never regret my time with Quentin. But it is over." He took both my hands across the table. "Do not worry, Amanda. I will be fine. I am stronger than you think."
I smiled. "Then you're really strong! I think you're terrific, Tony, really I do. But I belong with MacLeod. He needs me. Besides, I met him first," I said, joking.
Antonio didn't answer with the smile I expected. Instead he told me, "Methos phoned this morning, while you were still sleeping. I do not think you should join MacLeod now."
"No? Why not?" I was pissed. Methos giving me orders at one remove? That wasn't part of our pact. I wasn't about to obey him, without any explanation. No way.
"He says that MacLeod is - very sick. He has been seeing a Demon. He thinks he must defeat that Demon to save the world."
"You're joking!" But I knew he wasn't.
"Methos believes that everyone who cares for Duncan MacLeod is in danger now."
"You telling me that Methos is gonna leave Duncan, because he's worried about danger?"
"No. Because he cannot help him. And he must get the Watcher, Joe Dawson, to safety."
"What about Richie? Richie might go to Paris to meet up with Duncan."
"Not if he is with Quentin. Quentin will stay away from the Game, as best he can. That means, he will stay away from Duncan MacLeod. If your young friend Richard Redstone is with Quentin, he will not be going to Paris."
"I suppose you're right." I sat there for a while, silent, sipping my coffee. Thinking about it.
"What is troubling you, Amanda?" Antonio asked.
"I - I don't feel right, letting Mac face whatever's bothering him, on his own."
"You cannot help him. Not if Methos cannot."
"Yeah. I guess." I didn't agree. Methos was - Methos. I was me. Our skills were different. Complementary, but different. Maybe I could help Mac, where Methos couldn't.
"You will go to him, will you not, Amanda?" Tony asked. I nodded. I would go. I couldn't not go. Not if Duncan was in real trouble. He'd come through for me too often. I couldn't just let him struggle and not try to help. "Then, I will accompany you."
I looked up. "Lamartin, you should stay out of this," I said seriously. "Duncan can be - very dangerous. Methos told me about you and Quentin. You've been out of the Game for a very long time -"
"I am fit," he insisted.
"Not like Mac!" I straightened up in my chair then, alert and anxious. "Not like Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod! You don't know what he's like! He's a demon himself, with a sword! He's - unbeatable!"
"I do not intend to challenge him. I only want to help you. Help him."
"You don't owe me anything, Tony! I'm a happy camper! I got to meet Lamartin of Bordeaux, one of the great Old Immortals! I got to stay in your house, make love to you! That's plenty return for the job I did for you! Stay away from Duncan, Tony - he's bad news for Old Immortals, believe me!"
"So am I."
"Not like him! He killed Haresh Clay, Damon Case, Xavier St. Cloud, Kalas, Gracen - even Kronos, for God's sake! You want him to kill you, too? He's crazy - that's what Methos is telling me! He's lost it! He won't even know whether you're a good Immortal or a bad one - he'll just take you out!"
"And you, Amanda? You are Old, too. More than a thousand years, you have lived. Survived. Yet you will risk your life to try to help him, when Methos will not. That is not clever."
"I never claimed to be clever, Tony! I love Duncan. If I can help him, I will. I'm sure Methos tried, in his own way. Now it's my turn! Duncan - Duncan deserves whatever I can do for him. Price is no object."
Antonio smiled. "Exactly, Amanda. Price is no object. So - I will come with you, to Paris, to help your friend Duncan MacLeod. He is worth any cost. He is too important to lose."
When we got to Paris, to Mac's barge, I called out, "Duncan? Are you home?" There was the faintest trace of an Immortal aura - but not the vital exciting buzz Duncan ordinarily emitted. I was puzzled. "Duncan?"
"Come in, Amanda," he called out. "Bring your friend."
I frowned. "Well," I muttered, "at least he can still tell two buzzes from one." I turned to Lamartin, putting my hand on his arm. "Look, Antonio, he seems rational. But Methos knows best. If Methos thinks Mac's dangerous - why don't you wait up here, on deck, until I call for you?"
Tony's answer was to open the barge door and gesture me inside. I gave up trying to convince him to stay out of it. That was a hopeless cause. I went inside - to check out my next hopeless cause - and he followed.
Duncan was sitting on the couch, wearing his winter overcoat, with a drink in one hand and his sword in the other, its point making a hole in his carpet. He smiled wryly. "News travels fast, Amanda. Get yourself a drink. Who's your friend?"
"I am Lamartin of Bordeaux, Methos' friend."
"I've heard of you. Methos send you two?" Duncan asked. Nasty.
I got myself a brandy and fixed one for Tony. I let them talk while I assessed Mac's state of mind. He seemed okay, except for his weak aura. Tired, sure. Drained. Old. But okay.
"I come with Amanda, to help you."
"You her latest fling?" Duncan asked. Nasty again. He'd grinned but it hadn't reached his eyes. I hated it when MacLeod was nasty. It took the heart right out of me.
"We are business associates. But I have great respect for Amanda," Tony warned, "so I wish to help."
"There's nothing to be done here," Duncan replied, quickly dropping the nastiness in the face of Tony's earnest demeanor. "Methos and Joe are gone, Amanda," he reported, turning to me. "They agree that I've lost it. I'm pretty sure they're right. But - I see a Demon, and a lot of old enemies that I killed long ago." He shrugged. "I'm okay for now, but I lose it pretty fast, go in and out of 'madness,' without warning. Methos thinks it's too dangerous for Dawson to be near me. Didn't he warn you?"
I brought Duncan a refill for his drink and took his empty glass to the sink. "Yeah, Methos warned me. I don't always listen to him."
"You never listen to anybody, Amanda. But this would have been a good time to start." Now his tone was bleak, hopeless. Frightening.
I tried to hold myself together. Called upon every resource I had inside me. I'd made a small plan, to turn Mac around. At the moment he seemed together enough to hear it and respond to it. I decided to try. "I came for your help, Duncan. Not to give it. To get it."
"Trouble again, Amanda? I should have known." He smiled. Colder than winter, that smile.
"Lamartin's friend Quentin is missing. We think he's with Richie, but we're not sure. He may have been kidnapped - both of them, even. We thought, with what you know about Richie - his hangouts, his friends, his habits - you could help us find them," I said earnestly.
"Richie's missing?" Duncan was instantly alert and concerned. I'd got his attention. "Since when?"
"About two weeks now," Tony replied, glancing at me. He'd caught on pretty fast, for a bimbo. I was pleased. "Quentin - Quentin would never leave me without telling me where he was going. We found out he met your friend Richie in Berlin. We think they were together when they were taken. I am - very worried about Quentin."
"Tell me about it. Methos speaks of you two, often." Duncan was all business now. He stood. "Where were they last seen?"
I improvised, made up something fast, changing some of the details, the time frame, but not the substance. "In Berlin. Quentin was there about a month back, and we know he met Richie in the Berlin library, in the archives. We got his name from the head librarian. They became friendly -"
"Richie Ryan and Quentin of York became friendly? Quentin's older than Methos!" Duncan was astounded, as I'd been.
"Yes. I don't know why - maybe Richie was star-struck, maybe Quentin was flattered. Or bored. Anyway, the last they were seen, they were riding off together on Richie's motorcycle."
"What about their Watchers? Where were they?"
"Quentin's Watcher lost them. Richie's Watcher - we don't even know who he is, or she."
Duncan was at his desk, working at his computer, before I'd finished my sentence. "I'm gonna get in touch with Dawson. He'll know. Or find out. He'll want to help."
"MacLeod," Tony said, "we only want to know if Quentin and your friend are safe. We do not want them to be aware we are looking for them."
"I get it - give the kids some space - sure. But - we've gotta know they're safe, first. Okay?" Mac looked up. "I've posted to Dawson. He checks his email often. He should be getting into Seacouver with Methos about now. He'll go to the bar when he arrives and check then. We'll hear from him soon."
"I cannot thank you enough, Duncan MacLeod, for what you are trying to do for me. Quentin - is my life. If he is in danger, I must find him. But if he is happy -"
"If he's found somebody new? Is that what you're thinking?" Duncan smiled. It was the first genuine expression I'd seen on his face since we'd come, that wasn't a weary look of despair. "You can pack that idea in right now, Lamartin! Don't trouble your head about it! There's no way Richie would take a man for a lover - no way, no how! Trust me."
I smiled. "You see, Tony? Exactly what I said."
I repeated, "'No way, no how.' If Quentin and Richie are together, Tony - and we don't even know that for sure - it's not for love. So you can stop agonizing!" Then I gave him a hug.
He nodded. "It is almost worse, if Quentin left me for no reason at all, because he is bored -"
"It's not worse!" I interrupted fiercely, staring Tony down. "Bored, we can fix! In love with another person, we can't!"
"Listen to Amanda, Lamartin," Duncan said. "She's the greatest little fixer in captivity."
"I am not in captivity, Duncan MacLeod!" I replied indignantly. "I'm free!"
"Sure you are, Amanda! That's why you're here, helping him, helping me! Because you're free!"
Duncan had a point. I was such a besotted female, even Methos was freer than me!
"It's for you, Amanda," Duncan said, handing me the cell phone, after talking intensely with somebody for a minute or two.
"Amanda here," I said.
It was Methos. "Why what?" I replied.
"Why are you there? I thought I made it clear to Lamartin, MacLeod's dangerous. To everybody he cares about. That puts you at the top of the list, cherry blossom!"
"At least, among the top contenders," I retorted. "I can't believe you walked out on him, Methos," I whispered, walking to the other end of the barge for privacy while I talked. "Joe's old enough to fly to Seacouver without a companion!"
"I can't help, Amanda! I was only making it worse! Both Joe and me. Our - atheism, for lack of a better word - was making Mac dig in his heels to defend his faith! I had to get right away! Joe, too!"
"Well, maybe that tale works for you, old friend, but it doesn't work for me! If I lose my head over this - or Lamartin loses his - I'll haunt you, you bastard, I swear!"
"You don't understand, Amanda! I can't help MacLeod! I'm - I was making things worse, being there!"
"So you say!" I tossed my head, though of course Methos couldn't see me. "Nevermind. We'll do it alone. I don't need your help, coward. Stay right where you are, and survive!"
"You bastard!" I sputtered, losing my cool. "You didn't even try! I know you! It looked like things were getting dangerous, and you chickened out! Any excuse, to avoid a fight! Damn you, Methos Valerius, I can't believe you'd do this! He loves you, you idiot!"
"And I love him! What's that got to do with the price of tea in China? I can't help, Amanda!"
"I want you back here, Methos, on the first flight out of Seacouver! You get your skinny ass back here, or I swear, when this is over, I'll take your head myself!"
There was silence on the other end of the line, for a long time. I breathed deeply. My scheme to distract Duncan was a stop-gap measure at best. Now that he'd contacted Dawson and could find out Richie's Watcher's name and whereabouts for Tony and me, Duncan was back to square one. I needed Methos! He was the only brain in the bunch, besides Duncan! And Duncan was useless, at the moment! Methos just couldn't chicken out on me and MacLeod - not now!
Finally, Methos spoke. He sounded like death. "Okay. I'll come. But what happens to MacLeod will be on your head, Amanda."
"Fine. I'll take my chances. Put a move on. There's only so long I can keep my finger in the dike, before the waters rush over me!"
"I'm on my way."
I flipped the phone shut. "He's on his way," I muttered, to nobody in particular. "Thank the gods, he's on his way!" Then I rejoined MacLeod and Tony at the other end of the barge.
"Richie and Quentin were sighted in Jerusalem," Duncan told us. "Dawson says Richie's Watcher has them both under surveillance, and Quentin's Watcher - Vincenzo something or other - has been notified where he is. They're fine. Sightseeing, far as anybody can tell."
"They are - sightseeing?" Tony asked, bewildered. "Why? Why did Quentin not contact me?"
"That doesn't matter," I said. "He's safe. They're both safe. That's what you wanted to know, Antonio. Now, you know."
Tony went on as if he hadn't heard me, his voice full of pain. "Quentin lived in Jerusalem for many years, long ago. He does not need to - be a tourist - in Palestine."
"Maybe he wanted to see how things have changed, Lamartin," Duncan said. "I like to visit places I lived long ago, just to see the way they've changed, evolved. And how much they've stayed the same."
"I would have gone with him," Tony said, with tears in his eyes, "anywhere he wanted to go. We could have gone together -"
Gently, I told him, "It's not the same, Tony. Not like showing a Green Boy the sights. Not like seeing Jerusalem through a child's eyes."
Duncan touched my arm, drawing me away from Tony, who'd sat himself down in an easy chair, his head in his hands, inconsolable.
I followed Duncan to the other end of the barge. "Amanda, what's going on here? What's happening? Lamartin - why are you calling him Tony? What's he to you? Why did Quentin leave him? They've been together for two thousand years, Amanda!"
"I don't know, Duncan. Maybe Quentin was bored!" Then I thought hard, and again the pieces tumbled into place for me, like the combination of a lock. "Maybe Quentin's protecting Richie!" I said, wide-eyed with wonder.
"From what?" Duncan asked. "He can't fight Richie's battles for him!"
"From you." I'd finally got it. Quentin hadn't simply left Lamartin without a word, for no reason at all. No, Methos must have asked Quentin to lure Richie away from Paris. From Duncan, who was crazy, and dangerous, to everybody he cared about.
"From me?" MacLeod repeated, dumbfounded. "I'm no danger to Richie -" Then he stopped, realizing what I meant, how he was, when the Demon appeared to him. Then the wheels turned for Duncan too. "Methos did this, right?"
"I think so. I don't know for sure. But his friendship with Quentin is strong. They go way back - millennia. It's the kind of favor Methos can ask, and get, from Quentin or Lamartin. Turning their lives upside down, maybe destroying their love forever. Methos wouldn't think twice about asking - for your sake - or Richie's, looks like." But I knew it was for Duncan. Just a precaution - to save Mac the anguish of hurting Richie, even by mistake or accident, or out of craziness. The stunt had Methos' name written all over it. "Apparently, Quentin didn't think twice about doing the favor. He certainly succeeded in getting Richie out of harm's way!"
Duncan grinned. "Methos - that wily fox!" He was proud of Methos! Incredible!
I raised an eyebrow and said mildly, "You think so? Myself, I think of him as a lion in fox's clothing."
Duncan still didn't know who Methos really was. Maybe he never would, no matter how many of Methos' secrets came to light. Or how many of Methos' pasts Mac found out about. The facts, yes. The meaning, no. They were just too different.
"Amanda, I agree with Methos. Richie's safer anywhere but here. Anywhere but near me. You and Lamartin - you're not safe with me either. Nobody is. Right now, I'm fine. But when the Demon appears to me - I'm dangerous. Please go."
"Can't." I shook my head. "Can't go. Not now."
"I've invited company. Gotta be here when he arrives."
"Amanda! It was all I could do to get rid of him and Dawson! Now, he's coming back because you asked him to?"
"I must say, Duncan, you haven't lost any of your powers of reasoning, even if they do tell me you've lost your reason." I kissed him quickly. "You're a sweetheart, Duncan. We're gonna save you. Just lay back and enjoy it!"
We dozed off in chairs, and on the sofa, Lamartin, Duncan and I, finally, about four in the morning. I couldn't keep my eyes open for another minute. Tony was completely wiped out. He believed Quentin left him for love of another man, and nothing Duncan or I'd told him could convince him otherwise. His heart was broken.
But he was awake and alert, with his sword at the ready, when Duncan woke suddenly, apparently seeing the "Demon" we'd all heard about. I saw nothing, of course, except Duncan MacLeod doing very graceful sword kata with a desperation that was frightening in its intensity. Kata inside the barge proper was not an easy thing to do - so much furniture, so little room - but he managed. Tony and I followed Mac up on deck - where the Demon clearly was leading him - and we watched open-mouthed as MacLeod faced one imaginary opponent after another, until I thought I'd drop, just looking at him!
It was a nightmare! I grabbed Tony's arm for comfort, and almost got my head lopped off! To say that Tony was jumpy would be one heck of an understatement.
"Lamartin - it's me! Knock it off!" I shouted. Then I pointed at MacLeod. "This is what it's like, I guess. What Methos says he couldn't help. Mac's not just doing oriental exercises - he really sees a Demon - several, from the look of it!"
"I do not understand, Amanda! He was so reasonable, so helpful and resourceful, earlier. Your MacLeod - maybe it is true! Maybe there is a Demon he must fight, to save the world. What other explanation can there be, for this madness?"
I smacked Tony's face, then, and put my hands on my hips. "Hey! Wake up! There's no Demon! He's lost it! Just because Mac looks like he's sane, doesn't mean he is sane! Look at the man! I don't know if we can help, but falling for the same line he's fallen for sure isn't the way!"
Antonio looked around wildly, grasping at straws. "Methos - Methos is coming? He must come! He must help! I cannot do anything! I do not understand this!"
"Methos is coming - but we've gotta hold the fort till he gets here, Tony! We mustn't let Duncan leave, under any circumstances. Even if we've gotta engage him ourselves, to keep him here!"
"I cannot challenge him! He is Methos' beloved! Methos would take my head, if I harmed Duncan MacLeod!"
I was shocked by what Tony'd said, but I kept my cool and answered calmly. "You don't need to kill him, just hold him off! Keep him here!" I narrowed my eyes at Lamartin. "You owe me, Tony. You owe me big time. Now's your chance to repay."
Lamartin stared at me, a stricken look in his eyes, his love for Methos warring with his debt to me, with his fantasies about the weakness of women thrown in. He may have been a terrific lover - fact is, he was a terrific lover - but he didn't know women for shit!
"Very well, Amanda, I will try. If MacLeod attempts to leave the barge before Methos arrives, I will stop him, somehow. I promise you that."
"Well, at least you don't have any doubts about your abilities as a swordsman, do you?" I quipped, smiling in relief. "Between us, we can keep him here. That's all I ask. Until Methos comes."
"Methos told me he cannot help MacLeod. That is why he left."
"Methos is a liar. He's the only one who can help. You'll see. Trust me. This will be over before you know it, once Methos really puts his mind to it. And then you'll get your Quentin back, too, safe and sound."
"Quentin. Yes. Quentin. Perhaps he will want to return to the chateau, when Richard Redstone is safe from MacLeod. But I will not be there."
"Tony -" Now I was really exasperated.
"I will not be there. In two thousand years, I too have been bored. I too have wondered what it would be like to travel the world alone again, meeting new friends. Engaging with someone new, someone else. I have dreamed." He was bitter, my poor Tony. "But I did not leave. I did not seek to make my dreams real. I remained with Quentin, because he loved me. Needed me. But now. Now I am free." He nodded, looking out at the water, then back at MacLeod, always alert to Mac's moves. "Now, I am free."
There's no fury like a lover scorned, I knew. I'd made myself hoarse trying to get Antonio to understand Methos' strategy about Quentin and Richie. Finally, I'd given up. Now I was frightened that Tony was so upset he wouldn't be fit to battle MacLeod, when the time came. Or that he'd be too wild to keep from taking Mac's head, if he could.
And the time did come. MacLeod appeared to be driven back by the invisible Demon, down towards the walkway, which would take him off the barge. I looked at Tony, beseeching, but I needn't have worried. He was ready.
Tony practically flew at MacLeod, blocking Mac's exit down the walkway. He engaged him without any preliminary verbal challenge. Suddenly, the silent kata was very loud sword fighting, and I was tense with fear for both of them.
MacLeod looked a bit startled by the noise - the clanking of his sword against the sword of a real opponent, not an imaginary Demon. But he continued fighting, though I could see he was exhausted. Tony held his own - I grant that - but without the kind of brutality MacLeod always brings to a tough fight, and without the trickiness at which Methos is expert. Just plain old-fashioned swordsmanship, that was Tony's style. Just like his lovemaking - old-fashioned but unparalled in its efficiency and passion.
They fought for a while - maybe two minutes - and I watched with my heart in my mouth. Then something happened I wouldn't have believed possible. Tony drew blood - a staggering amount of blood - from MacLeod! He'd wounded Mac in the ribcage, below the heart! I clasped my hands together on the hilt of my sword, willing myself to stay back! I mustn't interfere, I mustn't interfere, I repeated to myself, muttering aloud in my distress.
The wound drew Mac's attention, and he stopped cold. Tony paused in a movement, a thrust aimed directly at MacLeod's heart. I couldn't believe it - the volatile, emotional, wild Lamartin could be so calculating, so in control, when he fought! I couldn't believe it! He was worse than Methos - who wouldn't stop, ever, or so I believed! I'd forgotten how long Lamartin had survived.
"Who - who are you?" MacLeod asked, a frown creasing his forehead, as he sank to his knees, his left hand going up to his ribcage, coming away again, bloody. He'd dropped his sword arm, his katana held loosely in his right hand. "What's happening?"
"Your Demon appeared to you," Tony replied. "I intervened, to prevent you from leaving your barge."
"Come on, Duncan," I said, dragging him up to his feet. "Let's go below, clean you up." I darted a quick thank you look at Tony. "Wanna help me with him?" I asked.
"Of course." Cool as a cucumber, incredible.
We got MacLeod back down inside the barge, his wound already healing, but the blood on his clothes still wet and messy. I stripped off his coat and his shirt and he got himself out of his trousers. I got another set of clothes for him from his closet and he put them on quickly.
"He is gone, for now, your Demon, is he not?" Tony asked.
"For now. I remember you, Lamartin. Forgive me if I challenged you."
"You did not challenge me. I attacked you."
"Well, whatever you did, it was the right thing. Thank you," Duncan told the older Immortal.
"My God, Tony - that was incredible! You're 'fit' all right!"
He bowed his head. "I am fit enough to wound Duncan MacLeod when he is exhausted, and crazy. Under other circumstances, I would not be standing here alive to accept your gratitude, Amanda. But I am happy I could be of service."
"Thanks, Lamartin," Duncan repeated. "I don't know what's going on - why you don't want me to leave the barge. But anything that wakes me from that nightmare - even a bloody wound - is good."
"Absolutely," I agreed. "No question."
They were listening to opera, my two Boys, in companionable silence. How could two men who looked so much alike be so different, I wondered. I'd ask Methos, if I ever spoke to him again, after this mess was over. I didn't doubt it would end. Just considered, idly, how. Because I'd seen Duncan in action, now, when the Demon was upon him, and it didn't look too good. Duncan was well and truly crazy, just the way Methos claimed. I didn't know if even Methos could help. Maybe he'd been right to leave. Who'd willingly stay to watch somebody they loved disintegrate this way?
I would. And did.
I'd be damned if Methos got away scot free, if I had to be here and watch.
Where was the old bastard, anyway, I asked myself. He'd better show, damn him!
"Amanda, you awake?" That was Duncan. He was getting good, in his old age, noticing my aura rise when I woke up.
"Yeah. What do you want?" I was in a foul mood.
"When did Methos say he was coming?"
"What do you care? I thought you got him to go away on purpose."
"Just curious." Sure. "He's had plenty of time to fly in. You really think he's coming back?"
"Oh, he's coming, all right -" Then I stopped talking. The three of us froze as we sensed the approach of another Immortal. The barge door opened and Methos popped his head in.
"Candygram! Safe to enter? Everybody dressed, sane, so forth? Demons gone, for the nonce?"
"Come in, idiot!" I shouted, relieved beyond imagining by Methos' arrival. Like an elephant had been lifted off my chest. I hadn't enjoyed being in charge of saving Duncan's life and ordering the two Macho Men about. Thank God Methos was here! He could be Queen for a Day, now!
He came in, nodded to Lamartin and Duncan, dropped his knapsack in a corner, took a beer can out of the fridge, and flopped onto the sofa, all in one economical motion. I'd always loved to watch Methos move - he was so graceful. Now I was so glad to see him, it was better than ever. "Well, I hate to break the news to you guys," he exclaimed, "but flying from Paris to Seacouver and back again in one fell swoop isn't all it's cracked up to be! I can think of better ways to spend my summer vacation!" Then he flipped the lid on his beer and took a sip. "Amanda, I'll get you for this!"
"Not if I get you first!" I said, laughing with relief. There's nobody quite like Methos to make a girl feel free!
"I hate to break up this little party," Duncan interjected, "but what exactly are we doing? I haven't a clue."
"We're waiting, MacLeod," Methos replied in his lazy way. "A good game of hearts might help pass the time."
"Waiting for what, Methos?" Duncan asked, irritated, as usual, by Methos' laid-back manner.
"For the Demon to show his pretty head, of course!"
"You heard me. I can't do anything for you, while you're rational, Mac. That's not when you need help. It's when you're crazy that you need help. So - we wait."
"Now you think you can help? You certainly didn't think so before. What are you planning to do?" Duncan asked, sarcastically. "Challenge the Demon yourself?"
"I'll do what I didn't do before," was Methos' cryptic reply.
"And what exactly was that?" Duncan nearly barked the question out.
"Well, now, if I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?" Methos answered with a grin.
"I don't like surprises," Duncan finished lamely.
"Then don't hand them out! Next time, think twice before you surprise your friends with a Demon, and you won't get any surprises in return!"
Watching them was a revelation, now that my suspicions were aroused. It was true, what Lamartin described. Duncan was Methos' beloved. And Mac loved Methos. I couldn't believe it, and I couldn't not believe it. I felt sick. I'd lost the two of them - my best friend and my best lover - in the space of a heartbeat, as we Immortals count time! Damn them both!
I was so mad I could spit. Only curiosity kept me from leaving then and there, and taking Antonio with me! I simply had to see what Methos' surprise was. It had better be good. I didn't enjoy humiliation, so this had better be worth the experience. Even if nobody realized I was humiliated, I didn't like it. But of course, Methos realized. Methos knew everything.
Suddenly, MacLeod tensed. I felt his aura spike, heard his swift intake of breath. In an instant he was up out of his chair, doing kata again. Only - not kata. Really fighting against an invisible enemy or enemies. Again! It was awful!
Tony got out of his chair and backed off to the side of the barge, near the spot where I'd gone to be out of Mac's way. But Methos - Methos still lounged on the couch, beer in hand.
"Methos!" I shouted. "Do something!"
"I will. Give me a second." He put down his beer and stood, finally, and fished in the folds of his coat for his sword. He took so long getting it out, I began to believe he'd forgotten to bring it with him! He'd been known to knock around without his sword, sometimes, especially when he was with MacLeod. Even I'd never been quite that stupid!
I was upset. Was that all he'd do - the same as Lamartin'd done? Wait until Duncan was worn out with fighting imaginary enemies and then nick him to get his attention? What use was that?
Methos entered the kata just as MacLeod turned to meet his next imaginary foe, who apparently was right behind him. Duncan looked startled by the sound of real swords striking, but continued fighting with the same horrible desperation and exhausted lagging-behind he'd demonstrated with Lamartin earlier. He was definitely fighting the Demon, in his mind, only now it simply wore Methos' face, I supposed.
Methos maneuvered Duncan out of the barge and up on deck, and Tony and I followed them up.
Suddenly, Methos stopped fighting. I got scared, but then I realized that Duncan's sword wasn't in his hand any longer. In a blink, Methos had disarmed him. The katana was several feet from Mac's hand - on the moon, for all the good it would do him where it lay.
"It's your call, MacLeod," Methos said quietly.
Duncan was still dazed, I think. He didn't know yet that he wasn't fighting a Demon, that he was fighting Methos. He rolled away from Methos and grabbed his sword again.
Two more series of moves, and Methos tripped, slipping on the deck. Duncan smashed both the broadsword and the shortsword out of Methos' hands in two quick efficient motions. I was really scared now. Methos was on his hands and knees, panting slightly, totally defenseless, absolutely vulnerable.
"It's your call, MacLeod," he repeated. "Go on. Kill the Demon. Go on."
Suddenly, for the third time in a week, my thoughts tumbled into place like the combination of a lock, and I knew what Methos was doing. He was forcing MacLeod to choose! If Mac persisted in seeing a Demon, he'd take Methos' head. If Mac woke up, recognized Methos for who he was, he'd be cured. A wild throw of the dice, even for Methos! No wonder he'd left without taking it! Nobody'd want to gamble on love like that! And I'd forced him to come back, to take the risk! Damn me and my big mouth!
But it was no risk, no gamble. Methos must have known that.
MacLeod woke - not dazed and confused as he'd been when Tony wounded him - but to full consciousness. He knew there was no Demon. He knew who he was, who Methos was. And he kept his sword at Methos' throat.
"Why did you come back, Methos?" Duncan asked hoarsely. "This isn't something I wanted to know."
"Well, we're none of us perfect, MacLeod. You gonna take that sword away from my neck? If you're not, better use it - fast."
Duncan breathed in and out deeply. Then he lowered his sword. "Damn you, Methos. I want you to live."
"More than you want to kill the Demon and save the world, MacLeod?" Methos asked, still on his knees.
"Yes." Short and sweet. A dreadful admission, for Mac. Poor guy.
"You sure? I don't want to repeat this, even once."
"I'm sure." MacLeod helped Methos up.
They stared at each other for a long time. And I stared at them. I couldn't believe it. If not for the evidence of my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it. But unfortunately, I had no choice.
I looked at Tony, willing him with my eyes to tell me I was imagining it. But he just smiled at me. Didn't say, I told you so. But didn't refute the evidence, either.
Damn them both. Damn them all.
Methos phoned Dawson in Seacouver, to let him know Duncan was sane again. To arrange for Quentin and Richie's Watchers to call off the dogs, I guess. Quentin could go home again. Richie could visit Paris again. Everybody could be happy again. MacLeod was sane.
How could a girl be anything but overjoyed at such marvelous happenings?
Mac broke out a bottle of champagne from his precious store of liquor, for the occasion. Last time we'd all drunk champagne was the night Kalas died. Boy, had things changed!
Duncan and Methos didn't take their eyes off each other. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Was it love or was it fear, with the two of them? A little of both, I supposed. Mac was probably scared silly, at any rate. And Methos - who could ever really know what Methos was thinking?
Antonio - he was easier. He'd already made his move by the time we'd raised our first toast to absent friends. He'd asked me to join him on his island in the Mediterranean. I didn't have the heart to say no, but I certainly didn't plan to stay with Tony for long. Nursing him back to health after Quentin broke his heart - not for me, not for long. I countered his plan with one of my own and he agreed to go back to New York with me, to dance some more in Spanish Harlem. I was sure the music would do him good. It might even do me good.
"Good night, Amanda," Duncan said with a smile and a kiss, when Tony and I were leaving. It was disconcerting for me, being the one to leave, while Methos remained, but I kept my cool and returned Duncan's kiss.
"Good night, Amanda," Methos said, then whispered something more in my ear. "Serves you right, cherry blossom," he told me, gripping my wrists tightly, to show me how angry he was. "But it was your call. I warned you. You wanted me back here. Your call."
I kissed him quickly, and he relaxed his grip on my wrists. I threw my arms around his neck and whispered in his ear. "Maybe you've got him - for now. I doubt you'll keep him, old friend."
He whispered back. "Think not?"
"You lost Lamartin, once upon a time. They're cut from the same cloth - all passion, no objectivity. You won't keep Duncan, either."
Methos' aura spiked so hard, I knew I'd hit him where it hurt. It must still rankle, then, that he'd lost Lamartin to Quentin. Even after all these centuries. I smiled to myself, well satisfied I'd inflicted a wound in return for my bleeding heart.
Gently, Methos removed my arms from around his neck and clasped my hands tightly in a farewell grip. He grinned and parried my thrust. "Ah, but I've got him now, Amanda. I've got him now!"
When Tony and I were on the plane to New York I had time to think about everything more objectively. It's not only physical wounds that heal fast for Immortals, you know. I wasn't one to nurse a bleeding heart very long, either.
But I did need to admit the truth about Methos to myself. When he's right, he's right. He had Duncan now, no question about it. I'd live with it. It wasn't so bad.
Of course, the other truth - the one Methos hadn't guessed, never would - I hugged to myself like a Green Girl, pleased as punch.
Yes, I'd lost them both in the space of a heartbeat - true enough. But the thing that had happened to me overshadowed that shock by a mile.
I found out I longed after Methos, not Duncan. I found out I loved Methos, not Mac. I missed the old bastard! Incredible! I missed the old lion! What a rush!