Vi Moreau

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DISCLAIMER: Highlander the Series is a property of Rysher Entertainment. Characters are used without permission. The characters and stories created by the author are copyright by Vivian Moreau, 1996.

WARNINGS: This story contains scenes that are both VIOLENT and SEXUALLY GRAPHIC. Also, there is a liberal use of the name of God by one of the main characters. For those who might be offended, please realize that this fictional character is South American and very Roman Catholic, and God was an important part of the daily lives of 17th century Catholics. She is not being blasphemous.


San Francisco, 1995

Elena wiped the blade on a kitchen towel and turned to the dead man, doing a last check to make sure everything was in order. It was a distasteful business, and she hated having to use a knife, but this man had been particularly stubborn (or loyal, depending on your point of view). She always knocked them unconscious first, tying their hands behind them (those plastic handcuffs used by police were quite effective) and gagging them. Then, when they came back awake, the first thing she did was hurt them from behind, usually by breaking one or two fingers. This set the stage, and everytime they refused to answer or lied she walked around behind them again. The suspense of waiting for the pain, unable to see when it was coming or what it would be, made it that much worse. But she was honest--she always told them at the beginning that she would kill them in the end, but if they cooperated their deaths would be easier. And then, if necessary, she showed them how difficult and painful dying could really be, and how expert she was at making it so. Some held out hope, sometimes until the last moment when she gagged them again and pulled out her sword for the coup de grace. Many of them pleaded for their lives, or tried to trick her or make a deal, or just lied, although she told them it would all be a waste of time, and eventually they believed her. Then they told her everything she wanted to know.

At one point in the middle she always asked about Maria.

"What do you know about Maria Isabel Alonso? Listen to me, Alonso, Maria Alonso, do you know the name? Have you heard the name?" They always said no, they didn't know her. "Tell me about her. Tell me anything about her and I'll stop, the pain will end," she would whisper anxiously in an ear.

They would say, "[Si, por favor, por el amor de Dios, si], I'm sure I know her, tell me what you want me to say, anything you want! [la conozco, lo que Ud. quiera,] I swear to God, please don't do this anymore, [no me haga eso mas, por favor, Senorita, por favor,] please, please please stop..."

But they never knew Maria. Still, Elena held out hope that someday she would run across one of Maria's killers or someone who knew about her or had even heard Maria's name. She also always asked about Maria Elena Conchita Duran y Agramonte, and found some Watchers who knew her name, but none who knew about trying to kill her. And at a certain point, to make the pain stop, they would have admitted to trying to kill their own children.

Elena kept telling herself this wasn't just about Maria, or Darius, or Gordon, or even revenge. It was about justice. It was about self defense, about survival! They were the ones hunting down the Immortals, killing without mercy. What she was doing to these people was necessary to enable her to find others. After all, she was willing to hunt down and kill other Immortals to survive. But these Watchers, or Hunters as they sometimes called themselves, said they had no reason to kill Immortals, they just observed. This was the party line, and the one thing she refused to believe. Not after the chase in Buenos Aires. Not after Maria's death.

A very few had admitted to killing Immortals because they were afraid of the power of the Gathering, or because Immortals were unnatural creatures who didn't deserve to live. One Watcher told her that he knew about the Hunters, but that he wasn't one of them. "They're a fanatical group," he gasped. "They're not part of us! They want to kill you because they're afraid, because you're different. They think you're too powerful to be allowed to live. Or maybe they think you're not human, I don't know! All I know is that I'm not one of them, I swear, I swear on my mother's grave....please, we don't want to hurt you, we just want to know about you...please...stop..." The party line.

They all kept files. Some were plain notebooks in recesses of old desks. Some were documents in bank vaults--those she couldn't get to. But more and more they were files on computers, and sometimes all she needed was the password. She even paused long enough to take computer courses to make her search easier. One Watcher offered to give her lessons, and actually taught her quite a bit in two days of questioning. None of their files was complete. They seemed to work in groups, at least within countries, and she had been unable to find any sort of central structure, only cells like the French Resistance in WWII Europe. This made it harder for the enemy (and Elena was certainly the enemy) to get the whole picture. But she was patient. She had time. She had a mission. She would find them all.

Like the others, the man this night finally broke--she saw it in his eyes the moment it happened--and told her everything he knew. And then he gave her the most important thing of all--a new name. Joseph Dawson.

She left the body deep in the woods and found her way back to her car. She wanted to get to the nearest town and find a bar. More and more, she wanted to find a bar afterwards, because she would not carry liquor with her. She was afraid to start drinking at the wrong time and she needed a clear head for the job. But afterwards, she would find a bar, but not to get drunk. Just two drinks or three.

For a while after she had arrived on the West coast of the United States, following a tip from one of her unwilling 'informants,' she had regularly closed bars and staggered out to a motel bed, and, inevitably, to [la pesadilla,] the nightmare. But one time she practically walked into the waiting sword of an Immortal--and she hadn't even felt his presence! For the first time in her life, she ran from a fight, and that shame kept her relatively sober from then on.

She spotted a still lit sign through the rain on a side street in a not-too dangerous looking section of town and parked on the curb. The car she had bought for cash was nondescript and wouldn't attract too much attention, even from thieves. But before she could get inside, she saw that she would have to run a gauntlet. Three dirty-looking teenage hoodlums dressed in, what else, this was America, black leather jackets and jeans, lounged by the entrance, giving a couple who was just coming out a hard time, following the woman, making loud kissing noises and laughing. Elena knew from experience that she couldn't just bypass them, so she walked up and stopped, waiting.

"Well, well, well," one of them grinned at her. "Wanna party, baby?"

[!Valgame Dios!] Do they all use the same line? she thought, walking closer, not to the one who spoke, but to the one beside him, the one she judged to be the leader who stood back and let the others begin. He had long dirty blond hair and a dark struggling mustache. As she stepped even closer, well inside his personal space, she smelled cigarettes, beer and sweat. She noted with satisfaction that she was about three centimeters taller. "Do I look like a whore to you?"

The teenager was not obviously intimidated, but he looked on either side of him at the others, for assurance or support. His smile was big. All their smiles were big. "I don't know," he answered, exagerating her Spanish accent. "I bet you know what a whore looks like." The man on his right giggled.

Elena moved to within *kissing* distance, their faces only centimeters apart. "Like you," she whispered, smiling also.

Silence. She felt her heartbeat slowly quickening. It was clearly visible at the base of her throat, and she made no attempt to appear calmer; she even started panting slightly. Others in the past had mistaken this sign for fear or lust, when actually it was anticipation. This is the moment, she thought. It was all part of the Game--intimidation, challenge, psychological warfare. The man in front of her was familiar with the Game, but he didn't have her centuries of practice. If he decided to fight, she was ready to get physical. She liked getting physical because she was so good at it. An Immortal just didn't survive for almost 400 years without being good in a fight.

The moment passed and she saw the change in his eyes. She wondered briefly what he had seen in hers. She lifted her right hand to his chest to sweep him aside, her left still free if needed. He resisted physically, briefly, He could still attack me right now! she thought; then he stepped back to let her pass. Elena walked past, still smiling, but she didn't gloat. It was a luxury she could not afford.

Once she had openly, loudly laughed at a man who came back at her later with several large friends. They overpowered her, raped her and shot her. It was an expensive mistake which she never made again. She was listening closely, but they made no moves behind her. Still, she would remember to watch for these three when she came back out, just in case.

The inside of the bar was made even darker by the smoke. The noise level was high, even without the blaring jukebox. Her eyes stung, and she was so tired, but she wouldn't stay very long. Just a few drinks. Two. Then a motel room. Bed. A little sleep, and [la pesadilla.]

She sat at a table near a corner. The bar itself always made her nervous--it just left her back too exposed. No one obviously looked up when she came in, but she felt eyes on her nonetheless. The majority of the people there were singles, with two or three pairs of women and one rather large group of men at a table. A tired looking waitress in a short black skirt put her wet tray down on Elena's table, but Elena's eyes were by now drawn to the only couple in the room, who had turned to look openly at her. They reminded her of...the Johnsons, or the Johnstons?

San Diego, 1995, 2:00 a.m.

She is in the Johnson house, a couple who are both Watchers. The children in the front bedroom are all under ten, and she doesn't want to leave them orphans (God knows she knows what being an orphan is like!), so she takes the man and drops him carefully feet first out the second story window but leaves the woman unconscious on their bed. Then she jumps down out the same window, levers him into her trunk and drives to a deserted spot.

The fall had broken his leg, and she taps it with the flat of her sword. He screams into the gag. When she eventually removes it, he begs her to spare his wife and children, and Elena kneels in front of him, looks into his face, and carefully explains that his family is completely safe from her no matter what he says or does. He sobs, shuddering, looking at her for a very long time. Then he tells her everything he knows.

San Francisco, 1995

"Honey, you wanna drink or what?" The tired waitress lost her impatience when Elena looked right at her. "Did you want something, ma'am, I mean miss, or maybe I should come back? OK?"

Elena wondered exactly what the waitress, her name tag said DeeDee, had seen on her face. "DeeDee, bring me the best scotch you have, neat, and keep the change." She put down a twenty dollar bill, and DeeDee picked it up with a practiced sweep, smiling tentatively.

"Sure thing, honey, uh, miss. Thanks a lot, OK?" She was back in two minutes with the drink.

"DeeDee, do you know who those people are?" Elena asked, pointing with her drink at the couple before the waitress could flit away.

"No, no I don't, I don't remember them anyway. Look," she added nervously, "I got other customers, OK?"

"Can you recommend a clean motel in town?"

"Not in this part of town, honey. I gotta go, OK?"

Elena nodded and finished her drink. She wanted a second, maybe a third, but instead went to the table where the couple still seemed to be looking at her.

She sat down, turning first to the man. "Do you know me from somewhere?"

"Well, I guess not, now that you're up close. You just.....Frankie, she really does look like Mary Ann, doesn't she? But no, I guess not. Look, I'm sorry, we.... You just really look like her."

"Yeah, you do," agreed the woman.

Elena wondered if this was as innocent as it looked. "Would you mind giving me your hand?" she asked Frankie.


"Your hand," she repeated, and took Frankie's hand, raising the sleeve, looking for a tatoo. Nothing. She took the other hand.

"Hey, what's going on?" the man asked. "What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for a tattoo," answered Elena. "Do you have one?"

"A tattoo?"

"Let me see your wrists, please," Elena turned to him.

"Why? Why should I?"

"Because I said please." Elena took his hand, turned it and slammed it down onto the table.

"Owww! Hey wait, wait a minute!" As he stood up, Elena let go. She had already seen his other wrist.

"My apologies," she smiled, standing with him. "I have a fear of tattoos. I am sorry."

"Fear! You almost broke my knuckles!" he yelled, holding his hand stiffly by the wrist.

"Let me buy you a drink, please." Elena called the waitress over and handed her another bill. "Anything they want, on me. Once again, my apologies." She smiled and left. Outside, she paused to look for the three men, but they were gone. A bit paranoid, aren't we, Elena? She shook her head. She had been eager to fight them before, but the encounters in the bar had left her depressed again.

DeeDee had been genuinely frightened, and that poor couple who just mistook her for someone else! She had overreacted. What was she doing, seeing enemies everywhere? Hurting and frightening innocent people? Getting out of control!

Elena sighed. Where had she read, 'You're not paranoid if they're really out to get you.' But not everyone, not all the time. She really could use another drink, and almost went back inside. Instead, she found a motel, a too-soft bed, and very unpleasant dreams.

Translations: (Span.)

si, por favor --- yes, please

por el amor de Dios --- for the love of God

la conozco --- I know her

lo que Ud. quiera --- whatever you want

no me haga eso mas --- don't do that to me again

Seacouver, 1995

Duncan MacLeod stood stiffly by the gravesite, hands clasped in front of him, paying very little attention to what Richie was saying. He had been pleasantly surprised by Richie's maturity and poise, and by his agreeing to speak at Charlie's funeral. Duncan himself had declined--he just didn't trust that he could get any words out safely, and besides, he was a low-profile type anyway. He was standing as far away as possible from Dawson and had refused to speak to him. He still blamed both Dawson and himself for Charlie's unnecessary death, and wished for the thousandth time that he had confided in Charlie earlier. Maybe it would have saved him.

He had stood by so many graves in his life, starting all the way back in the Highlands...

Scotland, 1613

Duncan looks up at the sad faces around him while the priest drones on in the background. Even though Malcolm had died well in battle, and all are proud of him, grief is the strongest emotion here--he feels it like a blanket covering them all. Malcolm's mother is openly weeping; his young brother, fingering the knife Malcolm had bequeathed him on his deathbed, is fighting a losing battle with tears himself. But the worst is Malcolm's young wife Anne. She hasn't said a word since her husband's death, and now she stands, ever quiet, staring into space with a dull, empty look. This is the worst tragedy for Duncan, because the bright vivacious girl was never to recover, never to speak or be a part of anything again. Even her children had to be taken from her and raised by others, because she couldn't take care of them or herself.

Duncan looks down at the tartan on Malcolm's shoulder and wonders, for the first time but not the last, if it was all worthwhile.

Seacouver, 1995

The idea of the MacLeod tartan lingered in his head. It was as if his own life had begun as a piece of brightly colored checked cloth, only by now it was torn and dirtied. Tessa's death had recently removed a large portion of it, leaving jagged, bloody edges. And at the death of every friend, Mortal or Immortal, he could feel a strand or several strands unraveling. There wasn't much cloth left, he thought, and wondered what he would do when it was all just strings of wool on the ground.

He heard Richie falter in his speech at the same time he felt the buzz, and turned to his right. Standing about fifty meters away was a tall woman in black. There was nothing mysterious about this---it was a cemetery. She was looking in their direction, also easily explained, since she was an Immortal, but was making no move to approach. Richie had started speaking again, and Duncan, sighing, walked toward her. He had hoped for a few moments' respite from the Game so he could grieve by Charlie's grave, but apparently he was not going to get it right away.

She was only slightly shorter than he, even without heels. The impression she gave was of passive strength. Dressed all in black, with shiny dark curls, as dark as his own hair, flowing down past her shoulders, she reminded Duncan of a mustang he had admired during his time with the Sioux, proud, self-confident, and dangerous. Her complexion was dark, both from the sun and, as he suspected from her high cheekbones, from Indian blood she might have. She stood her ground as he came up to her.

"I'm Duncan Mac..." he paused. Her presence was palpable. She had taken off her dark glasses, and he was now close enough to look at her eyes.

They were a smoky gray color he had never seen and they were shining with excitement. He noticed the pulse at the base of her neck slowly increasing as they stood staring at one another, and her lips parted every so slightly as her breathing also increased. He had seen this reaction before, and knew that he had had an immediate and similar effect in the past on women when they first saw him. What surprised him was the strength of his own sexual response, and he even felt slightly embarrassed. He hadn't felt like this since... What am I thinking?! First things first! Getting distracted like this could be dangerous to your health! he chided himself.

"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he stated firmly, in what was almost a boast.

She didn't reply.

"Who are you, and why are you here?" he asked.

Elena had felt the presence of an Immortal when she was within one hundred meters of the group. From her experience, this intense a buzz meant either a very strong or old (or both) Immortal, or more than one. But what would an Immortal be doing in the company of a Watcher? Did they know who each other were? Surely the Watcher knew. Maybe Dawson was setting up another Immortal for a kill. She looked nervously at the stand of trees beyond them, the only place around that could hide a group of men. Were there Watchers there even now, with rifles, or even machine guns, waiting to shoot down the whole party (who were certainly not all Immortals)? Elena knew that would not make much difference to their enemies.

She stopped when she noticed two members of the graveside party looking in her direction. The first was a redheaded man who was speaking, and she recognized him from not too long ago.

Mexico City, September, 1993

Sitting next to her, Maria nervously scans the crowds on all sides. She's still looking for him, thinks Elena, and although she knows Antonio will not be after them today, she is extremely empathetic as her friend repeatedly glances all around. Maria had left Elena nearly a year before, saying she was simply too frightened of the swordplay and the constant threat of danger and the severed heads and the long hours of agonized waiting for a loved one to return---or not.

Elena was heartbroken. She and Maria had been together for four years and was one of the few mortals she had ever confided her secret to. But she would not try to force her to stay.

Now Maria is back, very pregnant and even more scared. Ironically, the man she had met, the father of her child, believes he has a God-given right to control the life, by violence if necessary, of everyone around him. Especially a mere woman. He had already put Maria in the hospital once, and he was not about to let her go. So when he found them in Buenos Aires and tried to attack them, Elena had to show him her version of the modern emancipated woman. Even though Elena explained that knees smashed with a sledgehammer take a very long time to heal, and in fact will never really heal fully, Maria is still nervous, and Elena is still empathetic.

The warm-up band has not yet come to the stage when Elena senses the buzz. She puts on her glasses---her far vision has never been very good, even before her first death---and scans in the right direction. Finally, across the corner of the central stage, she sees a redheaded man who was apparently about to sit down but has paused and is looking toward her. Their eyes meet. He looks vaguely Irish, in good physical condition, and very young, but appearances can be deceiving. Elena shakes her head slightly at him. He nods at her in agreement, smiling a rather pleasant smile. Then he sits down.

Unfortunately, the exchange is not lost on the very observant Maria, and they wind up leaving soon after, before the concert even begins.

Seacouver, 1995

As the second man turned and walked toward her, Elena realized that he, too, was an Immortal. What was this, a convention? She wondered briefly if the person in the coffin had been buried with or without her head, then turned to the matter at hand.

He had long hair, as black as hers, drawn back at the nape of his neck, and walked with the assured ease that only dancers (and swordsmen) seemed to have. He was quite large, and looked strong. And exactly what was he doing here? As he closed the gap she removed her dark glasses---there was nothing wrong with her near vision---and noticed that he had the most beautiful dark eyes she had ever seen in her life; very dark and very sad. Maybe he was burying a friend, she thought, and felt a twinge of guilt at interrupting. But her strongest emotion was something else.

He started to introduce himself formally, then stopped, and they stared at each other. There was such an animal sensuality about him that she felt her breath catch. She could see that he was attracted to her. His eyes became much too bright, and he even seemed to blush a little under her gaze.

"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he started firmly, in what was almost a boast.

She didn't reply.

"Who are you and what do you want?" he asked.

Elena knew that what she was about to say was the wrong thing, but she felt a compulsion too strong to ignore. Besides, her instincts usually served her well, eventually, and keeping him surprised and off-balance seemed like a good idea. "You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen in my life!" she exclaimed.

She was rewarded with a very obvious blush. He even drew back slightly from her.

Seizing the advantage, she leaned toward him. "But I am not for you, [escoces.]"

Duncan was confused, and pleased, and embarrassed, all at the same time. For a brief moment, he tried to think of what to say, and then he thought, Richie! Duncan did not lie to himself, and what he felt was an unexpected pang of what he knew in his heart was jealousy! Jealousy?! he thought frantically. He pointed behind him, not wanting to take his eyes off her, not even on Holy Ground. "Is it him?" he asked.

She looked beyond him. The other Immortal had stopped speaking and was definitely looking at them. "No, I am not for him either." Her eyes drifted down to the tombstone beside her. It had the name Herrera, how convenient!

Duncan glanced down, saw the Spanish name, and reached the conclusion Elena wanted him to reach. He thought of Charlie. "I guess we all have friends we have to bury," he murmured.

Elena closed her eyes, almost reeling back. It was too much, remembering about Maria's death, and now his words brought that moment back with as much pain as if he had slashed her with a sword. How could it still hurt so much, after so many months? As she turned away from him, she noticed that the redhead was now walking towards them. Her heart felt constricted---at the moment, fighting was the last thing on her mind. She had to get away from both of them.

Duncan immediately saw the effect his words had and regretted them.

She turned, apparently to leave, but he wanted desperately to keep her there.

"Wait!" He reached for her arm, then decided against grabbing her. "Tell me your name!"

Elena looked back at him. "Another time, [escoces.]" Then she quickly walked away.

Duncan turned his head to make sure it was Richie and not someone else coming up behind him. By then she was moving and he called out after her. "Will I see you again?" He felt like a damn schoolboy with a crush on a pretty girl.

She continued on her way.

"Who was she?" asked Richie.

"She didn't say."

"Did she want one of us?"

"She said not," he replied, still staring after her.

"Well, this is holy ground. Maybe she expects to meet us later," Richie shrugged. "Maybe she lied."

"I don't think so." Duncan was sure she hadn't come to fight either of them, but he wasn't so sure about the wanting part. "Do you believe in coincidences, Richie?"

"Nope, especially since I've met her before."

Duncan turned to him, greatly interested. "Tell me everything," he whispered.

Elena had hurried away, wondering if there was going to be an attack by the Watchers, and if she should have warned the Immortals. She changed her plans to relax for the afternoon and found the nearest stable and a suitable horse. Riding, especially galloping, had always been a great stress reliever for her, as well as giving her time to think.

She didn't spend much time in preparation for meeting Dawson tonight---that unpleasantness would soon be over---and she would certainly ask him what his connection was with the two Immortals. It was not inconceivable, of course, that they were working with Dawson to hunt down other Immortals, although it was ultimately a self-defeating act. But she decided that the redhead was not the type. It was his friendly smile at the concert in Mexico City that decided her. It was not the arrogant predatory smile with which she was so familiar. No, going with her instincts, the redhead was not working with the Watchers.

That left, of course, [el escoces.] It was engraved in her mind, the picture of him gliding up and proudly stating, "I'm Duncan MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod," and that was pride, not arrogance. There was a difference, and she felt that anyone who was so proud of his heritage would not easily betray his own kind. Besides, she knew warrior clans lived by a strict code of honor which he had apparently not abandoned. And, ultimately, she just didn't want him to be a stooge for the Watchers. Elena had learned long ago, if she couldn't be honest with anyone else, to at least be honest with herself, and she knew that she was definitely wildly attracted to MacLeod. Even thinking about him...

She cooled down the gelding, grooming him afterward, the long brush strokes stretching her tired muscles. She was rewarded by a friendly nuzzle and, after a shower and dinner, was ready for her night's work. She called to make sure Dawson was at Joe's and that no mass shooting had occurred at the cemetery that afternoon, then decided to give them a warning call after all.

Duncan was tossing a salad and listening to music. Richie had told him everything he knew about the dark haired woman, and it wasn't much. His feelings were quite clear---he absolutely wanted to see her again. Finding her would be a problem, but not an unsurmountable one, provided he hadn't spooked her into running. Somehow, she didn't seem to be the running type.

He sensed the buzz and looked toward his katana for reassurance. It was probably Richie, but with an unknown Immortal in town, one couldn't be too careful. And he had given her his name. He found himself fantasizing that it was her and was almost disappointed when Richie walked out of the elevator.

"Hi," said the younger man. "What's cookin'?"

"If you mean that literally, it's spaghetti marinara."

"Actually, I meant about this girl. You know, I haven't been able to get my mind off her. There's just something about her....."

"I know what you mean," Duncan said noncommitally. There was no reason Richie couldn't be attracted to her too. "But offhand, I'd say she's not your type."

"Me? No. She's a little too.....intense for me, I think. But now, you, Mac....."

Duncan stopped to stare when Richie didn't continue. "What?"

"Well, Mac, come on, when I came up on the two of you.....I mean, I was afraid if I walked between you I'd catch fire!"

"You're exaggerating, Richie. Sure, she's very....." he searched for a word, "attractive....."

"Attractive! Mac, she's a knockout! All that black hair! Damn! And let's face it---in the immortal words of the Mask, the two of you were 'smokin'!" Richie smiled at the memory.

"Well," Duncan tossed the lettuce with some agitation. "It's none of your business, anyway," he glared at Richie.

"So sue me!!" Richie held up his hands in mock surrender. "I'm just really curious about what she wanted."

"Yeah, me too. Maybe we'll find out."

"You going hunting?"


"But, not for fighting, right? I mean, you're not going to challenge her or anything, right?"

"Richie!" Duncan growled.

"I know, I know, it's none of my business." He picked up a breadstick and crunched on it. "How are you going to find her, Mac?"

"I don't know, Richie. But I always seem to find the Immortals I'm looking for, don't I?"

Richie opened his mouth to reply just as the phone rang. Since he was closer, he picked up the receiver. "Dojo." There was a pause while he listened. "Yeah, the name's Richie Ryan, and hey, it was nice seeing you again ........ Well, you're kind of unforgettable ........It was meant as a compliment. Listen, I know it's too late, but I'm sorry if I scared your friend there at the concert. She knows about us, doesn't she?"

Duncan realized who Richie was talking to and barely kept himself from tearing the telephone out of Richie's hand. But the younger man seemed to be settling into a nice conversation. "So, was it a boy or a girl?"

Duncan couldn't see Richie's face, but he noticed how Richie suddenly stiffened, and his voice changed. "Hey, I'm sorry. That's really a bummer. But listen, you.....didn't call to talk to me." There was a reply, and Richie handed the phone to Duncan. "A nice lady with a Spanish accent wants to talk to [el escoces.] I guess that's you."

"Duncan MacLeod here." He gripped the receiver.

Her voice was low and unanimated. "Do you know who the Hunters are?"

Duncan shifted the weight on his feet, slightly alarmed. This woman seemed to always come up with a surprise. "Yes, but I don't know who you are."

Elena sighed. "They may be closer than you think."

"Why are you telling me this?" "Because you and I, we are warriors, and we deserve to die fighting another Immortal with a sword in our hands, not shot in the back by some fanatic bastard pack of hounds who believe they are ridding the world of vermin." She didn't bother to hide the bitterness in her voice. In fact, she hoped he would take her seriously.

He did. "I agree. But I think we should discuss this further. Can we meet just to talk?"

"No. I'm busy. Just warn Richie as well."

"At least tell me your name."

Elena thought it over. With her name, it would be easier for him to find her. "Maria Elena Conchita Duran y Agramonte," she said with as much pride as he had, and hung up.

Duncan looked at the receiver for a moment before hanging up. Now that he had her name.....

"Well?" asked Richie. "What did she say?"

"She said to be careful of Hunters."

"Hunters?! Dammit, I thought those guys were gone!"

"And she also gave me her name."

"She did? Well, what is it? Maybe Dawson knows something about her."

Ducan was thinking the same thing, but he simply would not call Dawson. He went back to the salad. "I wouldn't know, and I won't ask him."

"Why not, Mac? You two have been friends for years! You've helped each other in the past! What happened between you two?" Richie moved closer to Duncan, pressing for an answer.

"Charlie happened. Charlie. And I don't want to discuss it." Duncan said this with finality, hoping Richie would drop the subject.

He did.

"Alright. Let's try some of that spaghetti."

They were subdued during the meal, each consumed by his own thoughts, until dessert.

"So, what is her name?"

"Maria Elena Conchita Duran y Agramonte." It was a name Duncan was not likely to forget. Assuming she was from out of town, he was already planning calls to local hotels.

Richie seemed to file it away. "Right."


escoces (Span.) --- Scotsman

Elena leaned back against her chair and closed her eyes. He was singing what the Americans call 'the blues,' and making his guitar wail. The mood Dawson was setting on the stage filled the bar with a melancholy so clear she almost wanted to cry. A beautiful voice.....

The song ended and the silence was broken by heartfelt applause. Apparently she hadn't been the only one affected by Dawson's music, and for a moment she regretted her plans to kill him. The man had heart. Well, no one said beauty and evil were incompatible. It was almost two o'clock, and she could already see signs that they were closing up. As Dawson carefully made his way to the bar, she rose and moved toward him. "That was lovely," she murmured, almost in his ear. She wasn't exactly trying to seduce him, but a little flattery from a beautiful woman put most men at ease. Plus, she really meant it, and truth always sounded sincere.

Dawson's look of surprise turned to a kind of introverted smile. "Thanks."

"Perhaps you are sad about your friend's funeral." Elena assumed Dawson had noticed her at the cemetery.

He had. "Did you know Charlie?" he asked.

"Actually, I have business to discuss with you." She had never lost the Argentinian lilt in her speech, and it made any language she spoke sound musical. "After the bar closes, maybe we can speak privately. And it is just business, I assure you."

"What kind of business would that be?" He didn't seem suspicious, just naturally cautious. An intelligent face.

"Watcher business." She was looking for a reaction, saw none. He was good.

"I'm not sure what you mean, but.....it wouldn't hurt to talk."

"Shall I just wait?" Elena smiled.

"Sure." By this point, Mike was quietly but efficiently emptying out the bar. "Would you like a drink?"

"I have one, thank you," she replied, raising her glass.

After everyone left, only Mike was left behind the bar. Elena nodded toward him. "I did say privately."

Dawson said, "We can go in the back, if you like. Mike won't bother us."

She shook her head. Maybe this Mike was a Watcher too. If so, she'd deal with him later. But one at a time was better. "Perhaps another day." She picked up her bag and started toward the door, bluffing.

"Wait," said Dawson. He nodded toward Mike, who took off his apron and put on a coat.

"Goodnight, Joe."

"Goodnight." There was a pause while Mike locked all the doors and finally exited. "Well, we have the place all to ourselves. What can I do for you, Miss..?"

Elena smiled. She felt too exposed in such an open room. "Shall we go in the back, as you suggested? This won't take long."

"Alright." Dawson laboriously made his way to the small back room where he kept a desk, a PC, a couple of chairs and a sofa. He gallantly stepped aside to let her go in first. As he closed the door behind him and moved toward the desk, Elena deftly pulled the crutch out of his hand and pushed him face down. He fell heavily.

Elena knocked him out with the crutch, then lifted him into a chair, gagging him and tying his hands behind him. She sat behind the desk, looked through the drawers, and found several notepads which detailed the activities of an Immortal, 'M'. MacLeod? she wondered. It made sense that he would be MacLeod's Watcher. Elena was glad that she had warned [el escoces.] She also found a gun and removed the clip. Then she started looking through his disks. She had already burgled his house and brought both disks she found there, carefully hidden. Between them all, she was sure she would find the information she wanted.

After twenty fruitless minutes, she felt his eyes on her, looked across the desk, and smiled. "Joe, do you know who I am?"

Dawson nodded behind his gag.

"Yes, I am the Immortal who has been hunting Watchers. You are a Watcher, and I intend to kill you. I say this in all fairness, so you harbor no illusions about escaping, making any deals, pleading for your life. What I want from you is information about other Watchers. If I get it, I will kill you quickly. I know you have sworn a sacred oath to die before betraying them, but there are many ways to die, Joe. We have three hours before dawn. They can be the most unpleasant three hours of your life. After that, I will take you elsewhere, but I'd rather get our business done here. So, I will remove the gag, and you will give me the key."

She came around, leaning over him. "I know you are a brave man, but bravery will not help you. You are dedicated to your work, but dedication will not help you. The only thing that will help you now is telling me what I want to know. I am not a sadist. I do not want to hurt you. But I will hurt you, Joe." she paused. "Do you believe this?"

Dawson nodded again.

"Good," she nodded. "I will now remove the gag, and you will give me the key to your files."

The first thing Dawson said was, "I am not your enemy. I'm just a Watcher, that's all."

"Of course. A scholar of the human condition. A dedicated historian. You only observe and record, never interfere." The sarcasm was heavy. "But there are some in your organization who have turned evil. They are called Hunters, and their aim in life is to kill all Immortals. Funny," she leaned back, "no one I have spoken to has ever admitted to being one of the 'bad guy' Watchers. They are all, like yourself, one of the 'good guy' Watchers. At least, that's what they all say...in the beginning."

"But you don't believe there's a distinction."

"Perhaps there is. Perhaps you are a nice guy. And perhaps," she leaned into him again, "I simply don't care. I will ask you one more time how to get into your files."

He appeared outwardly calm, but Elena had been through this before, too many times, she wished they would just talk to her. The truth was that she was not a sadist. She hated hurting anyone, hated herself for doing so. And she allowed this to show on her face. She wanted them to see the regret for what she was doing, but the determination to do it anyway. This made her much more convincing. It made them more likely to give up. She saw the fear in his eyes as he realized his true position. The intelligent ones were the quickest to do so. And yet, he couldn't just fold easily. There was a certain amount of pride and ego involved, and until the pain or fear of more pain overcame these, he would resist.

"I can't," he whispered.

She changed tactics. "Tell me about Duncan MacLeod, then. Does he know what you are?" She waited nervously for an answer.

"MacLeod?" Dawson seemed confused. "He's...a friend." This was not good news. If he was a friend of MacLeod's, then her opinion of one of them was wrong. And she didn't want to be wrong about the Scotsman. Unless, of course, Dawson lied. She would ask him again later.

She walked around behind him, and he stiffened in his chair. She paused briefly, then reached down and quickly broke two of the fingers in his hand. Dawson gasped, rising slightly in the chair, then collapsed back down. She whispered in his ear, "I'm a bone breaker," and pressed the two fingers together. Dawson moaned. "There are many more bones I can break. Give me the code, Joe."

He breathed hard between clenched teeth, "No!" but Elena was no longer listening. She heard a motorcycle engine rev down, then straightened up as a familiar feeling overcame her. An Immortal! She looked toward the back door, and quickly stuffed the gag back into Dawson's mouth. Someone knocked on the door. She instinctively reached for her sword, holding her breath, hoping. Could it be him?

"Dawson? Hey Joe, you in there? Is Mac there with you?"

Richie Ryan! So he and MacLeod were friends of Dawson.

"Dawson, are you alright? Who's in there with you?"

Elena quickly considered her options. Her session with Joe Dawson was over, at least for now. She realized the two Immortals knew about Dawson, but didn't consider him a threat. If they were friends, they might even defend him against her. "[!Maldita sea!]" she murmured under her breath. She didn't want to fight Richie now, but her only other choice was to leave.

She sighed. She'd been interrupted once before with a Watcher, one who had spit in her face and called her an abomination under God, and before she left she had put her sword into his heart. But she hesitated now to kill Dawson, and the reason was obvious. If MacLeod was his friend...

"Hey, Dawson!" Richie banged on the door, then threw his weight against it. "Whoever is in there, come and face me! I challenge you!"

Elena smiled at Dawson. "You are lucky, for now." She threw the bunch of disks into her tote, picked up her cloak and the gun and left by the front door. She regretted missing the notebooks about 'M.' Behind her, she heard a crash and, as she drove away, Richie ran out. She threw him a kiss.

"Wait!" she heard him yell. "Come back here!"

Elena headed towards the dojo, assuming it would be the place to take Dawson for protection if they really wanted to. Even if they didn't go there, she was planning to go have a conversation with MacLeod anyway. She needed to know what his connection was with the Watchers, and where he stood. She also needed, needed to explain to someone what she was doing and why. She felt he would be willing to at least listen to her. He had said he wanted to talk, hadn't he? He had kind eyes. But he was also a warrior, and she hoped he would understand the war she was waging, because his opinion had somehow become very important to her.

After Maria's death, when she caught up to the first Watcher and realized the depth of the conspiracy against the Immortals, she ran to Acapulco to talk to Gordon. She found that he had been shot down in the street and taken away in a car. His body was never found. In shock with grief, Elena made a few phone calls to friends, warning them. But none of them seemed to know what to do.

Her next trip had been to Paris.

Paris, 1994

As she walks up to the little chapel in a corner of Paris, she is surprised not to feel Darius' presence. She knows he never leaves holy ground, and, as she walks into his office, she becomes alarmed. A strange priest greets her.

"[Bonjour, ma fille.]"

"[Mon pere, je veux parler avec Darius, s'il vous plait.]"

"[Ah, ma fille, c'est une grande tragedie.]" The priest shakes his head, taking her hand in his. "[Mais le bon Dieu...]"

She stands by his marker, desolate. The tears don't come. They didn't come when Maria died, they didn't come when she found out about Gordon, and they don't come now. She feels completely alone, but with a new purpose. These mad killers must not be allowed to continue on their rampage. She will stop them. She promises Darius, and Maria, and Gordon, and any others they have murdered.

Seacouver, 1995

She got her streets mixed up, and when she reached the dojo Dawson's car was already there. Richie had most likely driven him, and was probably inside. But it was MacLeod she was determined to deal with.


maldita sea' (Span.) --- damn it

bonjour, ma fille' (Fr.) --- good day, my child

mon pere, je veux parler avec Darius, s'il vous plait (Fr.) ---

father, I wish to speak to Darius, please c'est une grande tragedie (Fr.) --- it's a great tragedy

mais le bon Dieu (Fr.) --- but God is good

Duncan had called several local hotels, looking for Elena, without success. Eventually he gave up, but couldn't sleep, so about four in the morning the presence of an Immortal took him to his feet at once. He quickly pulled on some pants and caught his hair back in a ponytail. Richie would call first except in a dire emergency, and he found himself wishing it were her. He had seen how miserable she was, and felt she could use someone to talk to. He very much wanted to be that someone. But even if it was her, she might be more interested in fighting than talking. Of course, it could be any of a dozen people who really wanted his head. He picked up his katana, feeling its reassuring weight in his hand.

There was a banging on the door. "Mac, let us in! Mac!"

It was Richie, but what did he mean by 'us'? He opened the door, and Richie rushed inside, partly dragging Dawson with him. Dawson was holding his arm across the front of his body, in obvious pain.

"Mac, Dawson is in big trouble! An Immortal is after him. She really wants his ass!"

"I told him not to bring me here, MacLeod, but he wouldn't listen. I'm sorry."

Duncan sighed, and deliberately turned to Richie. "What happened?"

"You know that Elena Duran? She tried to kill Dawson. Mac, she broke two of his fingers, and would have done more if I hadn't come along! Like tortured him! Go on, Dawson, tell him." He prodded Dawson, who had taken a few steps inside and now turned back to the door.

"Nah, I better go. I need to get this seen anyway."

"We can splint your hand or something. Just tell Mac what you told me, come on!"

Duncan turned to the window. He didn't want to talk to Dawson, wanted no part of this.

"I told you he's not interested, Richie. Let's just go, OK? Or I'll go by myself."

"Don't be stupid, Dawson. You go out there alone and she'll nail you for sure!"

Dawson started moving stiffly toward the door.

"Mac, come on. For God's sake, she'll kill him. Look, all you have to let him stay here for a few hours, just until I find her. You don't have to do anything else."

Duncan turned back to Dawson and was surprised to see fear. "Let me see your hand."

"No, don't bother yourself, MacLeod."

He put the katana down. "Come on." While he looked at the broken, swollen fingers, he asked, "What's this about torture?"

Dawson shook his head, but Richie was clearly exasperated. "Tell him, Dawson!"

"It's Watcher business." He sighed, obviously still reluctant. He winced when Duncan touched his hand. Finally, shaking his head, he said, "Somebody's been going around killing Watchers, lots of them. Thirteen in the last sixteen months. They were all ultimately killed with a sword, but some of them had other serious injuries---broken bones, knife wounds. We figure they were being 'questioned' to lead the killer to other Watchers. But we didn't have a clue until tonight. Richie....well, he saved me from more than just getting killed."

"And Elena Duran is doing this?" Duncan felt hurt, surprised, almost betrayed. There had to be some explanation.

"Yeah," Dawson nodded.

"I know you like her, Mac, but I saw her myself. It's her alright."

"Why?" asked Duncan.

"I don't know for what reason, but she wants to destroy the Watchers. I tried to tell her about the Hunters, I think that's who she's really after, but she'd heard it all before and wasn't interested. She took all my disks, even some I'd hidden at home. All she needs is the key, and eventually, believe me, I would have given her anything she wanted. She meant business." Dawson was breathing heavily.

"I can splint that for you, but you really need a doctor to set them." He went to the kitchen for supplies. "Maybe she has a reason."

"Mac, sure she has a reason, but how can you justify killing and torturing people?" Richie headed for the door. "I'm going out and find her."

Duncan and Richie sensed the buzz simultaneously, coming from directly underneath them. "No need," said Duncan.

Richie went to the elevator. "I got her!"

Duncan was worried. "Wait---I need to talk to her, Richie." There was a warning tone in his voice that Richie either didn't hear or ignored.

"No way, Mac. Look, no offense, but I don't think you're thinking with your head here, alright? Besides, I challenged her, and she's mine!" He was angry. "I let her off once, and maybe I shouldn't have. Now I can fix my mistake."

Duncan intercepted Richie. "I said, leave her to me!" He was furious that Richie didn't seem to understand.....But this was unfair. "Richie, this is very important to me," he added in a softer tone. "I can't....I won't let you fight her. Just leave her to me." He paused. "Please." Duncan looked at his friend.

Richie shook his head. "Mac, she's a killer."

"I know. I'll take care of it."

Richie thought it over, finally softened, nodding. "Alright, but watch yourself."

Elena pushed open the dojo doors, sword in hand. She saw him standing in the shadows at the other end of the large, dark room. He was backlit by an elevator, and she could clearly see the outline of his sword---it was slightly curved. A katana! He moved to his left into the darkness, and she was suddenly nervous. Would she have to fight him in the dark, in this strange room? Wouldn't she get to talk to him, to see his face?

She opened her mouth to call out, and the lights came on. Duncan MacLeod stood across the room. The first thing she noticed was the katana in his hand. The second was the fact that he looked like he had just gotten out of bed---his hair was tousled and he was wearing nothing but sweatpants. Her lungs felt too small. His eyes were shiny but seemed colder than she remembered.

"What do you want?" he asked. Her sword was a magnificent Toledo broadsword, and she held it with practiced ease. Her black hair was caught back, stray curls framing her face. She was dressed in a navy catsuit and he could clearly see the lean muscle in her arms and legs, the swell of her breasts. She was excited, breathing hard. Her body was breathtaking.

"I want to talk. I thought that's what you wanted." Elena looked toward the ceiling for a moment. She thought she could still feel another Immortal above her---Richie? then dismissed it. She had enough to worry about right here. Duncan MacLeod took up her whole field of vision. She approached him, started to speak, but didn't quite know what to say. "I think.....I...." She swallowed heavily. "I think you're the one I came to see."

Duncan felt almost in a daze. He nodded, never taking his eyes off her face. She looked to be on the verge of screaming or crying or fighting; he couldn't tell which. He really, really didn't want to fight her, but he had to know the truth. "Richie and Dawson say you're a cold blooded killer."

It was more of a statement than a question. There was a long silence. "They are right, [escoces.] I am a killer. We are all of us killers. But we kill to survive. These Watchers, they hunt us like animals and shoot us down like rabid dogs, and for what? Because they think we are subhuman."

"Not all of them, Elena. They don't all think that!"

"Why not? Because they say so, to save their miserable lives?"

He moved closer, aware of the blade in her hand. "You know if you hurt someone enough they'll tell you the truth. You of all people can tell when they're telling the truth and when they're lying. You're just not hearing it! You're just torturing and then killing them!" He took a deep breath, trying to regain control. Why was she affecting him so much?

Elena shuddered. "I don't hurt anyone for pleasure! I need information that they won't give me. And yes, I will continue to kill them all! They killed Maria, they killed Gordon, Darius..."

"I know about Darius. He was a friend of mine, too. How can you carry on this vendetta in his name? He would never, ever have agreed with what you're doing! Never!"

"This is not about revenge!" She thought of Maria, calling to her, dying, "[!Elena! !Ayudame! !Por el amor de Dios!]" She closed her eyes. In a more normal voice, she said, "It is not just about revenge. I want to stop them, and this is the only way I can. Instead of opposing me, you can join me in getting rid of them."

Duncan wanted to be on her side, but she was wrong! "No, I couldn't. It would be killing innocent people along with the Hunters." He tried again. "Think of what you're doing, Elena. I'm not the greatest fan of Watchers, but surely they don't deserve to die for what they're doing."

He was unyielding, and Elena gave up any hope of convincing him. Dawson was his friend, and he just didn't understand.

She sighed, defeated. "Will you give me the Watcher?"

Duncan shook his head. The last thing in the world he wanted to do was to kill her. He was remembering Nefertiri, and felt sick. No, not again!

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, I will take your head, and then I will finish what I started." She brought the hilt of the sword up to her lips and kissed the cross there, whispering, "[!Ayudame, Dios mio.]"

"Elena, please, listen to reason." These were the same words he had used on the Egyptian, and he vividly remembered the outcome. Maybe this time he could say or do something else.....But she stepped forward, her sword ready.

"We don't have to do this," he whispered.

She took one long look around the room, noting the obstacles in the way. Then she attacked. He pressed her hard from the beginning---no feinting or testing. If he had seemed reluctant to fight, she sure couldn't tell that now.

After the first rush, Duncan could see he would not easily wear her out or disarm her. Her whole being was focused on the fighting, and she knew what she was doing. The fact that she was left-handed made it even harder for him. For her part, Elena realized after he had drawn blood twice that he was faster and more skilfull than she thought. He also had a longer reach, but she was lighter and just as fast, maybe faster. If she could keep him moving, she might have a chance. They were both too busy concentrating to even speak.

Blood splattered onto the wooden floor, and Duncan, barefoot, slipped and lost his balance. Immediately the point of her sword was coming toward the base of his throat, and there was no avoiding it! But it shifted at the last minute and went into his shoulder instead, deeper, deeper...Duncan cried out in pain, retreating rapidly and windmilling his katana in front of him.

Elena moved forward slightly. She couldn't get past that sweeping blade, and she needed to catch her breath. What happened? She had him! But her sword seemed to move to the right by itself. No! That wasn't it. She simply didn't want to kill him, she wouldn't kill him. This revelation dazed her slightly, and cost her.

Recovering, Duncan got past her guard and slashed at her chest. He felt the blade cutting through cloth and skin. He then withdrew slightly to try talking to her once more. "Elena, listen to me!" he panted. "We can..."

She moaned audibly, moving her hand up to stem the blood flow. Her breast was in agony, but she saw her chance as he hesitated. However, she misjudged her lunge and he deflected her sword, leaving her whole front exposed. She saw rather than felt the katana slide into her left side. Without even thinking, she stepped forward, impaling herself further, and straight armed him. The katana rose slightly but caught against her lower rib and he lost his grip on it as he fell back. Just as she brought her sword around and into his chest, she felt the jolt of pain and screamed. She lost her sword, her vision went gray, she sank to her knees. With one corner of her mind she heard him grunt and crash to the ground. Her whole world was agonizing pain. She had no idea where he was or where her sword was, but she knew where his sword was. If she could only get it out, pull it out of her body. She clawed at it frantically, desperately, not even thinking about what he was doing, trying to concentrate through the pain. She pulled at it and screamed again. The second jerk pulled the katana free, and she fell down heavily, face first, on top of it.

The dojo was silent. Duncan lay on his back, her sword in his heart.

He died instantly.

Elena took a few minutes longer to bleed to death.


ayudame, por el amor de Dios (Span.) --- help me, for the love of God

ayudame, Dios mio (Span.) --- help me, God

Duncan opened his eyes with a start to a familiar terrible feeling. He looked down to see Elena's sword in his chest. He moaned, grabbed the hilt with both hands, and smoothly slid it out. His body arched up with the effort and he almost blacked out. Recovering, he immediately started to look for Elena---he knew there had been no quickening. He turned his head to the right---that was all the strength he had for the moment---and saw the top of her head right beside him. She was lying on her stomach, not breathing, and resting under her cheek he could see the hilt of his katana.

Slowly he sat up, his head hanging down. The pain was starting to recede and his strength was starting to return. He knew the fight was not over yet, so he used her sword for support to lever himself to his knees. The effort left him dizzy, but he still managed to notice when she started to move. He had to hurry now. He knew some Immortals 'revived' faster than others, and he wasn't one of them. He had no intention of just taking her head while she was still unconscious, but he did want to be able to make her an offer she couldn't refuse. Maybe with his blade at her neck he could force her to listen to him.

Elena shook once, twice, with the violent spasms that always accompanied her 'coming back to life.' Something cut into her abdomen, and she gasped. She could also feel her nose and cheek lying on something rough, and she opened one eye and slowly brought it into focus---it was the hilt of his katana! She was lying on his sword! She grabbed the hilt with her right hand, took a deep breath, and started to roll onto her back. As she did so she saw MacLeod kneeling right next to her, reaching over her! She tried to swing the blade out towards him, but he put his hand over hers on the hilt and twisted viciously.

Something gave in her wrist, and pain shot down her hand and up her arm. Most of the strength left her hand, but she gritted her teeth and tried to tighten her grip. Her left arm was under her, and as she struggled to push up he swung his leg over her. He was sitting on her, pushing the katana down towards her. "!No!" she cried. He tried to wrest the sword out of her hand, and she concentrated all her strength on her grip. She knew if she let go she was dead. Her wrist was screaming, her chest was being crushed, and she was having trouble breathing.

She pulled up her knees and put her feet flat on the floor, arching up and trying to buck him off, trying to wriggle her left arm free, but he was bearing down, he was too heavy. Then she pushed with what was left of her strength against his arm and felt him give, leaning backwards. With his free hand, he grabbed a handful of her hair and slammed her head twice, hard, against the dojo floor.

Duncan felt her body go limp. He took the katana, pulled her head back by her hair and put his sword to her neck. Her right arm lay out to her side, the wrist at an unnatural angle. A simple draw cut would have finished her, but instead he waited, panting.

Elena's blacked out briefly. When she regained consciousness she felt his blade at her throat. For a moment, she kept her eyes closed, despairing. She had lost, and not just her head. She also lost the chance to avenge those she loved and to destroy these murdering Hunters. And the worst part was that she was being stopped by another Immortal! She felt nothing but rage. She looked up at MacLeod, full of hate and disgust. How could she have cared anything about him! She had been so wrong about him! He was a worse monster than the Mortals he was protecting!

"[!Asesino!] Go ahead and kill me! I hope they shoot you down next, that you die like a hunted beast instead of like a man! They are murdering us all, and you are helping them! Traitor! [!Bastardo!] Go and take my head to your masters!" she screamed. She tried to raise her head up to spit in his face and his sword cut deeply into her neck. Only his hold of her hair kept him from halfway decapitating her.

She was screaming at him, completely out of control, and he despaired of being able to reason with her. She almost cut off her own head! "Elena, listen to me!" he tried to reach her, "Listen to me! That's not the way it is! I'm not trying to help anyone but you! Please, Elena, I don't want to kill you!"

She slowly calmed down and stopped fighting him, but he was still suspicious and stayed tense, waiting. "Elena...." He said, in a soft voice.

Elena felt the sword cut into her neck; the pain was the worst she had ever felt. She gasped, feeling nauseous. She found it hard to think straight, but through a mist of pain and hate and fear she heard his words, "Please, Elena, I don't want to kill you!"

Blowing out through grinding teeth, she relaxed, bit by bit, until she felt like a rag doll. She looked into his eyes. He was telling the truth---maybe he wasn't working for the Hunters, maybe he wasn't going to take her head, maybe....His eyes were kind. His voice was kind. Kindness. No one had been kind to her in over a year, not since Maria died. Elena closed her eyes, and suddenly she was there, right there, that terrible night when they came for her.

Elena's [estancia] outside Buenos Aires, Argentina,

November 1993, 1:00 am

They break down all three doors at once, machine guns blasting, but they don't know about the secret entrance. Even before the guns stop firing, Elena is on her feet, sword in hand. She does not feel an Immortal. Maria wakes up with a scream, and Elena pulls her up bodily. "{!Vamos, nina!] We have to get out of here, now!"

They go into the closet and out the hidden door into a natural cave. Elena is nearly in a panic, dragging the younger woman along. There is more gunfire from the house, and Elena covers Maria's mouth. She hesitates. They will be found here, and surely they have disabled her car by now. She wonders who they are, although it really doesn't seem to matter. There are horses in the stable, but Maria couldn't ride, and can't run. But they have no choice but to try to make it to the river and the canoe there. Maybe they can lose them in the trees.

She is naked, and Maria has only a nightgown, but neither one feels the slight chill in the air. Elena hears them between her and the stable, so they are forced to make a straight run for it on foot. There is no way they can track them in the dark, unless they have dogs. She knows this area, and they start toward the river. If they can just lose them long enough.....

Then she hears a voice calling out, closer than she thought it would be, "!Duran!" in clear Spanish. "You have no chance to escape. Give yourself up and we'll spare the bitch with you!"

Calling Maria a bitch is not reassuring of their good intentions, so Elena says nothing, but she wonders, Who are they? What do they want? although she knows the answer to the second question.

"We'll just take your head and be on our way! You know you don't deserve to live! You are an unnatural creature, cursed by God, that should have died centuries ago! You're not even human! Your time is up, Duran!"

Unnatural creature! Who the hell are they? Elena is bewildered to find that any Mortal even knows about her. They run for a few more minutes, but Maria is tiring fast. "I can't go on, Elena. Leave me! You get away! They are after you, you can draw them away, and they said they wouldn't hurt me! Please, just leave me! [!Dejame!]"

"No, I won't leave you! How can you trust them? They came in with [metralletas.] They'll kill you too!" But even as she speaks, Elena knows they have no chance at all. Maybe she can at least save Maria. She sighs. "Stay here, [querida,]" she whispers. "Stay hidden. Stay safe. It will be alright. I'll lead them away from you. I'm the one they want. [Os quiero mucho.]" She kisses Maria and moves off into the darkness.

From a distance, she calls out, "I'm here, senores! Come and get me!" and immediately hears the search head in her direction. But they also find Maria.

"!No! Don't kill me!" she hears Maria scream. "[!Elena, ayudame, por el amor de Dios!]" Automatic gunfire follows. Elena is momentarily frozen with grief and terror. They killed her anyway! [!No, Dios mio, no!] I should never have left her! I should have stayed with her! But they're getting closer, coming for her. Then she's being shot at, and the paralysis is broken. Elena rushes effortlessly towards the water, bullets spitting at her heels. She dives into the canoe and paddles out onto the black water.

Seacouver, 1995

Elena looked into Duncan MacLeod's beautiful, kind brown eyes. Her own eyes filled. No, she thought, I can't be weak now, not in front of him. But the tears came, in a headlong irresistible flood, tears for her beloved Maria. For a moment the pain was so great she couldn't even speak. "[!Me la mataron!]" she croaked in a raspy voice. [!Me la ametrallaron! !Nisiquiera era immortal! Ellos lo sabian... !nisiquiera era immortal! !Y yo la deje, la deje sola para que me siguieran a mi! !La deje sola y me la mataron! !No era immortal!"]

Duncan had enough Spanish. "They killed her, they machine gunned her, and she wasn't even immortal! I left her alone so they would follow me, but they killed her anyway; they knew she wasn't immortal!" she was sobbing.

He removed his sword, leaning down into her face. "They didn't care whether she was immortal or not, Elena! They didn't even know! And you're doing the same thing! Can't you see that? You're just like them!"

"[!NO! !Ellos lo sabian, sabian que no era immortal! !Estaba encinta! !La ametrallaron y estaba encinta! !Ellos lo sabian! !Estaba encinta y me la mataron!]"

[Encinta.] Pregnant. She was pregnant. Duncan leaned back, horrified. He moved to kneel next to her, watching her weep from the bottom of her soul.

She cried for Maria and for Don Alvaro, and for Darius and for Pepe, and for Gordon and for her own mother, and for Estelle, and for all the friends and lovers she had buried over the centuries. She cried for the Immortals whose heads she had taken, friends and foes. She cried for the mortals she had killed. She cried for the men and women she had hurt and executed in quiet rooms. She cried for herself, and for what she had become. She couldn't stop, and had no strength left to try. The sobs come from the core of her body, making her shudder violently, and she cried and cried until she had no tears, then continued, dry, racking coughs into her hands, her body curled into a fetal position.

For a long moment Duncan knelt beside her, watching. Her misery was so strong he felt he could actually touch it. Finally he put down his sword and pulled her up into his arms, rocking her until she was spent, shuddering. There was a long silence. He stood up with her and she looked around, looking completely lost, sagging as he tried to walk her to the elevator. He picked her up in his arms and she lay limply, head hanging back, eyes half-closed, completely exhausted body and soul. She was not light, and he signaled Richie, standing in a corner with Dawson, to help him with the elevator. Richie gave him a long, questioning look, opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again. Before Richie closed the elevator door, Elena lifted her head and murmured, "[Mi espada.]"

"I got it," said Richie. He brought her sword up in the elevator and placed it on the table while Duncan worked his way to the bed and lay her down on it. She sat up carefully, shaking her head.

"A bath," she rasped. "Please." Her throat still hurt very badly, although most of the other pain was gone. She was so tired.....When he left her, she put her hand to her neck and was surprised to feel raw tissue, just barely starting to heal. It hurt.

Duncan came back while the tub was filling and found that Richie had gone. Elena was carefully touching her neck. There may be a scar there, he thought, remembering Kalas. "Are you alright?" She didn't answer. "Can you walk?" he asked.

She nodded, but got very dizzy when she stood up. Duncan steadied her and helped her to the bath. "Thank you," she said, dismissing him. Elena stripped off her bloodied clothes. The hot water felt so relaxing! She sank down into the soapy water, and winced when it touched the wound at her neck. It was still surprisingly painful. Then she put her head back against the edge, soaked, and eventually dozed. She hadn't felt so drained in years.

Duncan went downstairs to find Richie cleaning up the dojo floor. Richie smiled, wisecracking, "Gotta get these bloodstains out right away." Then he got serious. "So, Mac, I guess I'll take Dawson over to the emergency room, to get his hand fixed up right."

Duncan nodded. He just wanted them to leave, but Richie still had more to say. "What are you going to do about her?"

"I don't know. I guess it's up to her."

"I don't have to tell you how dangerous she is. I mean, you already know that, am I right?"


"So....all that Spanish, I didn't catch all of it. Sounded pretty awful, though. Somebody who wasn't an Immortal was shot by what....Hunters? A friend of hers, right?"

"She was pregnant." "That little pregnant girl who was with her? She looked like a doll, Mac. She was so delicate looking. Man, she looked so pregnant....that couldn't have been a mistake. They did it on purpose. So that's why Duran went ballistic, huh?"

"I'd say so." Duncan was still thinking of her curled up on the floor, sobbing.

"I can understand now, almost. Still, that doesn't excuse.....I mean, what she's done....."

"No. But I thought you had to go, Richie."

"Yeah. We'll talk.....again. About this."

Dawson spoke up. "MacLeod, she still has something that belongs to me. To the Watchers."

"I'll talk to her." He turned to go back upstairs and heard them leave.

When he went to look in on her he found her sitting in the tub, head back, apparently asleep. Her sword lay across the tub rim. He could only see her head and shoulders and the swell of her breasts in the water. His heart rate quickened.

Elena had brought her sword back with her before rinsing the blood off her body and out of her hair, being very careful with her still painful neck. She wasn't completely asleep, and she certainly felt him coming. Slowly she raised her head and opened her eyes. He was standing in the bathroom door, staring at her with intensity. There was still caked blood on his chest and he looked a mess. [Dios mio,] but he is beautiful! she thought. She felt a familiar hot longing deep in her body. He was breathing hard. Slowly she sat up, picked up her sword, and, leaning over, put it on the floor, sliding it partly under the tub's claw feet. Then she leaned back and held trembling arms out to him.

Duncan came to kneel beside her. He could see the pulse racing at the base of her neck, right under the cut. He kissed her left hand, then kissed up her arm and up to her mouth. She made a soft sound, and he got into the tub with her, their mouths ever connected. Water spilled, and after a moment they both got out and he laid her down on the bathroom floor. Once again he was on her, and this time he paused, questioning, but she pulled him down into her.

Later, on the bed, she on top this time, her large firm breasts moving back and forth in the eternal dance, their bodies covered with water, soap, and sweat. They tasted it all. Then they slept.

Once in the night Elena had her inevitable [pesadilla,] her nightmare. It involved falling off a horse, being raped and left for dead by Eugenio, being cared for by Don Alvaro, feeling safe for a while---then they break down all three doors at once, running through the trees, machine guns blasting---then she looks down at the head that is rolling towards her. She's afraid it's Maria's, but when she sees that it's her own head, she shrieks. But this time, instead of sitting up, bathed in sweat and fear, with her knees curled up in her arms, alone, there were strong arms wrapping her up and a kind voice murmuring in her ear.

Translations: (all Spanish)

asesino --- assasin

bastardo --- bastard

vamos, nina --- come on, girl

dejame --- leave me

metralletas --- machine guns

querida --- beloved

os quiero mucho --- love you very much

me la mataron --- they killed her

estaba encinta --- she was pregnant

ellos lo sabian --- they knew it

mi espada --- my sword

Duncan and Elena spent two wonderful quiet days without even leaving his rooms above the dojo, the rest of the world completely shut out. They ate, slept and made love---made love on the bed, on the sofa, on the floor. They couldn't get enough of each other. But more than anything else, they talked. Duncan told Elena about the Highlands, about Connor MacLeod, about Darius and Kalas and Kern, and a lot about Richie, and about Tessa.

Elena told Duncan about her dim memories of her Indian mother, and her supposed Spanish father, who kept her as a drudge in his big house and literally sold her to Don Alvaro Duran y Agramonte when she was in her teens. Don Alvaro was a wonderful man who adopted her, baptized her Maria Elena Conchita, and raised her like a true Spanish senorita, even in the wilds of colonial Argentina, except for one point: his stubborn insistence that she learn to fence. He was a harsh taskmaster who pushed her to the point of physical and mental exhaustion daily, but she didn't get the point until the day of her fatal riding accident. After she fell from Demonio and hit her head, Eugenio, her supposed bodyguard, raped her and abandoned her on the [pampa] to die.

Surprisingly, she woke up in her own bed with the strangest, strongest, dizzying feeling of connection to someone closeby. It was Don Alvaro, and that day he made her solemnly promise to do one thing for him---to obey one special order he gave her. When the day came that a better [espadachin,] a master swordsman, challenged Don Alvaro, he ordered her to run. It was the hardest thing she had ever done---that, and leaving Maria.

She told him about Maria, and the baby, and the hopes they had for the future, and the night the Hunters came. "I keep thinking I should never have left her. But it was the only chance she had. If they had just come after me and let her live....." As always, when this subject came up her throat felt tight, and she found it difficult to speak.

Duncan squeezed her hand. He knew how difficult this was for her, and how she blamed herself. He now believed she was a decent woman who had just been pushed into madness by pain and grief. At least he really wanted to believe it. If he could only help bring her back. "You did what you thought was best for her. It wasn't your fault, Elena."

"I know that in my head, but not in my heart." She took a deep breath and went on in a more even tone. "I also know that no matter what we do, they die anyway. I have come to accept this. But she died so uselessly, so young, and with that child inside her. It was the worst act of brutality I have ever encountered, and I have seen things.....I think that night something inside me was shattered beyond repair." Elena shook her head and wiped her eyes. She was sure making up for not being able to cry for the last year and a half.

Duncan smiled at her. They were sitting in front of the fire, drinking his last bottle of wine. "You know the old saying: 'Time heals all wounds.' With us it's even more true. We have to live on, Elena. If you can't put the pain and the rage behind you, it will destroy you too. And that's not what Maria would have wanted. Or what Don Alvaro would have wanted. Or Darius," he added.

"Darius was.....a wonder. And Don Alvaro was a true Spanish [caballero.] They would never have approved of what I've done."

Duncan didn't approve either, but he understood her madness, having been there himself, in Scotland. He took her face in his hands. He noted with satisfaction that the scar on her neck was faint, her voice not quite back to normal. "What's done is done. Now we have to move on."

"Tell me, do you always know the right thing to say?" she asked.

Duncan nodded, satisfied for now.

Elena smiled, closed her eyes and snuggled into his shoulder. After a long silence, she sighed. "And now, we need to discuss Dawson and his.....companions."

"Yes." He had been dreading this, not knowing which way she would go, knowing the stand he would have to take. Please, God, I don't want to have to kill her, please.....He practically held his breath.

Their discussion did not go well. Elena hoped he would join her in her crusade, but Duncan had enough killing Immortals and was not going out looking for more targets, not unless they attacked him or Richie, or her. This last surprised her a little.

It surprised him, too. He also made her acknowledge that there was a difference between the Watchers and the Hunters. In the end she agreed not to harm Dawson at least until they all had a chance to talk. Duncan MacLeod, she found, believed talking could accomplish as much if not more than fighting. Maybe in this case he was right.

Just before dawn she was rummaging through his drawers and came up with a t-shirt and drawstring pants she could cinch up and roll up to more or less fit. She was only about seven centimeters shorter, but he was so much broader that the shirt hung on her. Duncan was still asleep, so she went down to work the punching bag, hard, kicking it, taking out her frustrations, when she sensed the buzz. She turned, and Richie walked into the dojo, followed by Joe Dawson.

At the sight of Dawson she felt something break inside her head. She picked up her sword from a bench and strode towards him. Richie intercepted her, drawing his own sword. "I can't let you take him, Duran."

She wouldn't get past Richie easily. Did this boy think he could keep her from Dawson? Her voice trembled slightly, but not with fear. "You are in harm's way, Richie Ryan."

"So sue me." Distantly, she heard Dawson say, "I thought we came here to talk!" At the same time she felt an Immortal behind her.

"Don't do this, Elena !"

She spoke over her shoulder through clenched teeth. "Nothing that happened between us gives you the right to tell me what to do, [escoces!]"

"You gave me your word! [Palabra de honor,] remember? Or isn't your word any good?" He was angry and frightened both.

Elena sighed and put down the tip of her sword. Richie didn't. Never taking her eyes off Richie's, she said, "You are right. I have given my word. My apologies, Richie. My Latin temper got the better of me." She was furious with everyone in the room, especially with herself.

For a moment she clearly saw the conflict on his face. Then he, too, got control. He saluted with his sword, a sarcastic flourish. "Apology accepted."

She turned to Duncan, saw the katana held easily across his body. "I am going to my hotel room to clean up and get some of my things. I will return in an hour."

"I asked Dawson here so we could talk!"

"I am not in any mood to talk now. Please give me this time." She approached him, even trying a small smile. "I will come back a new woman, I promise."

"Alright. One hour." He knew he wouldn't give anyone else such a break. And now he'd have to deal with Dawson. And Richie.

Elena swept on her cloak and adjusted her sword under it. As she got to the door, Richie intercepted her again. She could tell he was still angry. "How about our date, Duran?"

She knew how much Duncan loved Richie. She'd have to find a way to avoid fighting him. Damn her fool temper! It would cost her. For now, all she could say was, "Later."

He nodded once and let her pass, and she walked out. She slipped around behind the dumpster where she had left her bag, took out Dawson's disks, wrapped them up and put them back in their hiding place. She then put the clip into Dawson's gun and went to her car. It had been ransacked, no doubt by Dawson's goons.

She got in and started to drive away when she realized she just couldn't leave Duncan MacLeod the way matters stood between them. She had to go back and talk to him, right now.

When Elena walked back into the dojo, Duncan was alone, as though he had been expecting her. Actually he had sent the other two upstairs to wait. He was particularly worried about Richie. He was itching to fight her, and she certainly had made matters worse between the two of them. He didn't know if he could stop them, and he knew Richie was not match for her. Plus, he didn't want her to go away angry like that, not even for a little while. Aware that she was still nearby, and that he needed to make some things clear to her, he had started to go after her when he felt her approach. "I'm glad you came back."

She faced him across the dojo floor, as she had the night they had fought. Her stomach fluttered. "There is something I have to say to you, Duncan MacLeod."

He nodded.

"First, I am sorry about Richie. I promise I will not try to take his head. I will work it out with him somehow. Second, I need to tell you what I really want."

"What do you want, Elena?" He waited in agony.

"I want to stay with you, Duncan, to share your life and your love and your bed, until one of us...until you tell me to go. That is what I really want. But," she smiled without humor, "as the song says, 'You can't always get what you want.'"

"Why not? It's what I want too." He hadn't realized it, fully, until she said it. He went to her, to hold her close, but she held up her hand, and he stopped dead in his tracks.

"We have some matters to resolve first. I will be back, and I will talk to Dawson, and I will talk to Richie, and then, maybe.....we will see." "We can work this out, Elena. If we all try."

"I hope so." She hoped so more than she had hoped for anything in a long time. Then she left.

She asked for her room key at the hotel desk and said she'd be checking out. She intended to bring all her things to Duncan's. If things went well, she wouldn't have to make another trip. If not.....well, he could dispose of her few belongings. As she stepped into the elevator, a man who had been standing nearby joined her. She was immediately suspicious; or was it just paranoia? Since Dawson had obviously warned the Watchers about her, they could have tracked her down. She was standing behind the man.

She rummaged through her bag loudly, surreptitiously slipping the gun into one of her cloak's many pockets. Keeping her right hand in that pocket, she stepped out of the elevator in front of him. She heard a movement behind her, and swiftly pulled out her sword and stabbed the man as he pulled a gun out of his pocket. She stepped back into the elevator as footsteps pounded down the corridor. Elena pressed the 'door close' button, but as the doors were sliding shut a man and a woman were right there. She shot the man point blank, but the woman ran into him and pushed him forward. The body blocked the doors and the Hunter fired over it. The force of the bullet drove Elena against the back wall of the elevator with a cry.

Then both women fired again, and the Hunter fell back. Elena, shot twice, used her sword for support to move forward and push the dead body out of the way with her foot. She heard yet another bullet thud against the closing doors. She knew she was dying. If she pushed the lobby button.....but she couldn't think clearly anymore. What she needed and didn't have was time. With the last of her strength, she pushed the emergency stop button, then slid down the elevator wall, dead before she reached the floor.

When Elena opened her eyes, convulsing violently, she found herself lying on top of a man. It all came back to her suddenly, and she couldn't believe her good luck. She was still in the elevator---they hadn't gotten to her yet---and could hear a tinny voice from the elevator speaker. ".....know you're stuck. We're working on getting you out. Please let us know if you're alright! Hello!!" She staggered up, fighting through the haze of pain and disorientation. Her throat burned with thirst---she must have lost a lot of blood this time. Precious moments were passing. She had to get out before they rescued her. After all, there was a dead man with her.

She used her sword to push open the trap door in the elevator ceiling and jumped up, catching the edges and pulling herself up. Suddenly the elevator gave a lurch and started moving downward. Great! She wondered wryly, not for the first time, at her *luck* in being an Immortal. True, she healed more quickly from wounds than Mortals, but she was also wounded more often, and the amount of pain sure wasn't any less. At times like this, whimpering, her torso, arms and shoulder one big agony, it seemed to her that she was in pain almost constantly.

She caught her breath and leaped for the access stairs in the elevator shaft, then climbed three steps to the nearest floor, stood on the sill, and tried to pull the doors open by sheer strength. She felt like Hercules from one of those late-night movies, and almost started giggling hysterically. If there was an enemy at each floor, she was dead, but she didn't even know if she could open the doors anyway. After a lifetime of effort she felt the doors give as the elevator pinged somewhere under her. She levered her arm in, then her shoulder, and slipped out into a blessedly empty corridor as the elevator doors closed again, trapping the edge of her cloak. She used her sword to cut herself free and walked toward the stairwell.

As she opened the door she saw a large number five---the hotel had about a dozen floors, she thought. She heard voices and footsteps pounding up towards her and decided to go up herself. As she climbed up, quietly but quickly, she checked the gun. There were two rounds left in the clip. Hey, she was alive, she had her sword, a gun, a throwing knife, and her strength was coming back. She felt pumped, and only slightly out of breath. Almost four centuries of constant physical training had certainly paid off today. Things could be worse, like a locked door at the roof level---but no, not with the fire code.

As she pushed open the door onto the roof she heard a bullet thud into it, just missing her head. The sound reverberated in the stairwell and in her ears, and she felt momentarily dizzy. Taking a deep breath, she ran across the roof and behind the nearest protection. When she turned back to look there was a man on the roof with an ax in his hand, and another one in the doorway with a gun. She shot the axman but missed the gunman, who ducked back at the last minute. She dropped the gun and ran to the edge of the roof. The nearest rooftop was about fifteen meters down and too far to reach anyway. But three meters directly below her was a beautiful small balcony. She felt outraged. There weren't any balconies on her side of the building!

She heard footsteps and whispered comments. She immediately swung over the side, landing hard on the balcony and twisting her ankle on a metal chair. The sliding glass door was locked. Who on earth locked the door to their hotel room balcony twelve stories up? Cursing in fluent Spanish, she used the chair to smash through the glass and followed it into the room, limping. A couple sat up in bed with a start. The woman screamed, and the man put a protective arm around her. "What the hell.....what do you want? My wallet's on the dresser. Please just take it and go! Please!"

Elena said, "Sorry," and smiled her sweetest smile. Sensing movement behind her, she turned to see herself in the dresser mirror. Her whole front was covered in blood, even her face. No wonder they were terrified. She used her stained cloak to quickly wipe her face, then quickly pulled it back, freeing her arms.

At the sight of her sword, their eyes got even bigger, and the woman screamed again. "Please, don't!" the man cried out.

She pulled on the man's overcoat, adjusted the sword, opened the door, and looked out. Her bloodhounds could have easily come down the stairs again and be waiting in the hall, but again it was empty. "[!Gracias a Dios!]" she murmured, heading towards the bank of elevators---she might as well try that again. She heard a movement behind her and quickly turned the corner, barely getting a glimpse of the man who shot her three times. [!Maldita sea! All that effort for nothing!] she thought, as the world turned black.

Translations: (all Spanish)

pampa --- Argentine plains

espadachin --- master swordsman/woman

caballero --- gentleman or knight

palabra de honor --- word of honor

Elena came 'back to life' for the second time that day, her body arching in convulsions. She sobbed. The pain was unending---a small part of her wished they had just taken her head and be done with it, but instead she found herself shackled hand and foot to two wooden pillars about four meters apart. The chains were holding her upright. She pulled herself to her feet to take some of the dead weight off her arms and shoulders. She was naked, blood still caked on her torso. She knew this was a psychological ploy designed to make her feel exposed and vulnerable, and it was working very well. She had considered using this same technique against her victims, but in the end decided it was too demeaning to them and to herself. At least they weren't obviously going to rape her; otherwise she figured she'd be spread eagled on the floor or chained to a bed or something.

She heard a male voice say, "Amazing how they do it! It's revolting!" and looked directly in front of her. Five men were sitting on folding chairs, watching her. Talk about feeling exposed and vulnerable! she thought. They seemed to be drinking wine (boy, she would love some wine or anything else to drink right about now), and the speaker now raised his glass. "A toast, gentlemen. To victory! And the death of another unnatural monster. A particular murderous one." Monster!? It was obviously for her benefit, but she was still alive, so they wanted something.

He came up to her. "Where are the disks?" He had an accent, maybe eastern European? but other things were more important at the moment.


"Wrong answer." He nodded to one of the other men, who came to stand in front of her.

She could feel his hatred. Damn it, they were going to really hurt her! He hit her once in the solar plexus, paralyzing it. For almost a full minute Elena couldn't breathe. During that minute she realized her death was going to be hard, and she prayed for the inevitable swordstroke to come soon. But maybe it was what she deserved. 'He who lives by the sword.....' She finally took a long gasping breath, gagging and coughing. He waited until he had her full attention.

"You will answer my questions precisely, or you will be hurt. Understand?"

Elena nodded.

"Good. Now, let's start again. Where are the disks?"

He seemed a man of infinite patience, which was bad for her. Also bad was the fact that he didn't consider her a human being. No chance to 'bond with your captors' in this situation.

"Did Dawson put you up to this?" She wanted to verify this.

"Well, he certainly warned all his Watcher friends about you. You've created quite a stir. You've killed quite a few of my friends!" Even saying this he seemed remote, uncaring.

The fact that even on bare feet she could look down on him was the only small satisfaction she had. "You've killed quite a few of my friends, too. Even mortal ones!"

"Ah, yes, the pregnant girl. She paid the price of being with you. You were the cause of her death."

Elena closed her eyes. Don't let him get to you! "You were there?" she whispered.

The bastard was actually smiling. "No, that would be too.....ironic. It was done by one of my friends. One you didn't kill. But enough! Where are the disks? And let me warn you about my colleague here," pointing back at the man who had punched her. "One of the Watchers you tortured to death was his brother. He would love for you to lie and resist us."

"I won't lie or resist you. I gave the disks to Duncan MacLeod."


"I hid them in the dojo the night I.....spoke to Dawson."

"You're lying." He motioned to the other man.

"Why would I? Duncan MacLeod is my lover. He's the perfect person to trust." She spoke quickly, wishing that she had trusted him, now. The other man punched her in the stomach. She doubled over, feeling nauseous, but he pulled her up by the hair to face her questioner again.

"If he is your lover, why would you betray him?"

Elena spoke through clenched teeth. "To get your colleague to stop punching me! Call MacLeod. If he denies it, you can hit me again and I'll make up something you want to hear."

"Very well. We will call him. But, if you're lying....." The other Hunter produced a knife from somewhere and cut a thin line across her neck.

Elena held her breath. Finally, he released her hair, and she sagged again. This time she had more trouble standing back up. When she did she saw him approach with a sledge hammer. Another one of the men held her leg from behind while the leader dialed a number. [!Dios mio!] she thought, remembering Antonio's shattered knees.

There was an answer from the other end of the line, and the Hunter only said, "Listen to this, MacLeod," and held the phone toward her. The sledge came down on her right foot.

Elena knew they expected her to scream for MacLeod's benefit. She didn't disappoint.


Duncan, Dawson and Richie had had a relatively unhappy conversation which left everyone unsatisfied, but at least he'd gotten this much---Richie wouldn't attack her on sight.

Dawson had decided to wait for Elena to return. He was obviously very worried about his disks, and probably doubted whether she'd come back.

But Duncan was sure. "She'll be back," he stated with such finality that the others were halfway convinced. When the phone rang, it had been almost two hours. Duncan hoped it would be Elena with some very good explanation.

The voice said, "Listen to this, MacLeod," and the scream that followed was loud enough to make Dawson and Richie both start.

"What the hell was that??!!" he heard Richie say, but Duncan knew what it was.

"Elena!" he cried out. He broke out in a sweat.

"Right the first time, Highlander. Now, do you have the disks?"

"Whoever you are....." he began, furiously.

"Please, no threats, no theatrics. Unless you want this bitch to do a lot more screaming, you will do exactly as I say.....understood?"

Duncan could feel the blood pounding in his head, but he forced himself to be calm. "I understand. Now let me talk to her."

"No. Now you listen to me....."

"How do I know that wasn't a tape and she's already dead? Put her on the phone."

The Hunter put the phone up to Elena's ear. When she tried to talk, a sob came out instead. She heard him say her name. "Duncan....." She closed her eyes, wishing she didn't sound so much like a lady in distress, which she was.

"I'm going to get you out of there. Elena? Can you hear me?"

"Convinced?" said the Hunter.

"You want the disks in exchange for the girl."

"Right again."

"The deal is she lives, or you can forget the disks, and I'll take over where she left off. If you think she was relentless, you have no idea what I'm like. I promise you'll learn a new meaning for the word hunter. And I'll never stop, never." Duncan MacLeod had been making threats for almost four hundred years, and he was very good at it, especially since he always meant what he said.

There was a pause, and some whispering in the background. "We will call back with instructions in one hour."

When Duncan hung up the telephone he wanted to cry. Instead, he took a deep breath. "They've got Elena, and they want the disks. Tell me you don't know anything about this, Dawson."

"Absolutely not! What do you think I am, MacLeod?"

"How did they find her?"

"Look, I spread the word about the lady, sure. She was killing us, remember? But the Watchers wouldn't have gone after her! We'd just avoid her, that's all!"

"Like your whole organization didn't go after Kalas? I was there when you were hunting him, remember?" Duncan was breathing in Dawson's face.

"Kalas was different. He had that disk....."

"So does she!"

"But the information she's got is protected. She can't access it. As a matter of fact, only a few people even know that material exists, and I only told....."

"WHO?!" Duncan grabbed Dawson by his lapels.

"There were only two people who knew it was stolen. And I trust them with my life!"

"I swear I'll kill you right now, Dawson." Duncan spoke very quietly.

"MacLeod.....Look, you gotta promise me you won't just go barging in swinging your sword. Even if one of these guys is a Hunter, the other one probably isn't."

"I'll make sure to ask first. Names. Now."


The Hunters held a conference, the short version being that as soon as they spotted MacLeod, they would send the word down to behead her, then shoot him, take the disks, and take his head as well.

After they left (without hurting her again, [!gracias a Dios!'],) Elena quickly considered her options while her shattered foot repaired itself. There were handcuffs at the ends of the chains. That was better than ropes or plastic, which could only be cut. Although they had taken all her clothes, they hadn't taken apart her hairstyle, which contained bobbypins and one or two carefully concealed tiny picks. But in order to pick the lock, she first had to get one hand free, and the only way to do that was to pull it out of the handcuff. She had done this once before---it was similar to trapped animals chewing off their own feet, except instead it involved breaking enough bones in her hand to make it small enough to pull free. She steeled herself. Her foot was still hurting terribly, but she didn't have the luxury of waiting. What was that American movie she'd seen where the hero dislocated his own shoulder to escape from a straight jacket? I bet that didn't hurt as much as what she was going to do.

It didn't take long before her hand was free, but she had to wait for those bones to knit before she could use it.

Pain, pain. Just couldn't get away from it. Working feverishly with the pick---if they came in now they'd kill her for sure---Elena got her right hand free, then, agonizingly slowly, her feet. She was incredibly stiff, so she shook her muscles loose and tried the only door, which was of course locked.

It was a warehouse size room, empty except for the chairs, which made bad weapons but good stepstools. And there was a set of windows near the ceiling. The ground wasn't very far down, but she sure was cold once she was outside. She intended to come back to get her sword, and to find out about the Hunter who killed Maria. But first, how to get back to the dojo in the middle of the day with no clothes and no money? She could smell the ocean air. All she had to do was find some friendly dock workers with a phone!

The first worker who saw her literally dropped the box he was carrying, then called to his friends. She appealed to their good samaritanship. "Please help me. I've been kidnapped." They couldn't resist some comments and whistles, but finally one kind man gave her his sweaty t-shirt, and she used their office phone.

The cellular rung in Duncan's car as he was headed with Richie toward the docks. He'd been surprised when Richie volunteered to come, but, as the younger man put it, "Just because I want her head doesn't mean I'm going to let those bastards take her down."

"Yes," Duncan answered the telephone.

"I am in the office of Pietro and Sons, on the South Wharf. Can you come pick me up?"

"Are you alright?" He felt a weight lift off his chest.

"Of course; but," she turned and whispered into the receiver, "everyone I meet insists on killing me and destroying my clothes."

"I'll be there in five minutes." He hung up. "She got away from them," he said to Richie.

"Far out! So much for our great rescue, huh?"

Duncan couldn't remember being so happy in a long time. When he drove up, Elena was waiting outside with a rather large and idle crowd of dock workers. She was wearing a too-large t-shirt and a bikers' jacket hanging down past her knees. She turned to give a shirtless man a chaste kiss on the cheek and called out, "!Adios, amigos! I'll return your jacket, Mark, thanks!" and waved. In return, she got some catcalls, whistles, and loud good-byes. Duncan ran out of the Thunderbird, hugged her and kissed her passionately. There were more cries, whistles, and applause; thumbs up and high fives; then Mark tapped Duncan on the shoulder, and he turned. Mark was a head taller and was built like a refrigerator. "Hey, Mister, we all love a happy ending, but you and your lady was lucky, you know what I mean?"

Duncan nodded, his eyes going back to Elena. He still couldn't quite believe she was alive and well. "Yeah, I know, thanks." His voice was hoarse.

"I was you, I'd take much better care of this lady, otherwise someone might just take her away from you, you get my drift?"

"You're right," Duncan nodded, smiling at him. " I will. Thanks, guys."

"Hey, you know, we offered to go back with Elena and kick some butt, you know what I mean? She said no, but, hey, the offer still stands." There was general agreement among the crowd.

Duncan looked around. Some men brandished crowbars or lead pipes. He couldn't help smiling. "Thanks, but, I think I better get her back home."

"Right, well, you know where we are, ok?

" "Thanks again."

Mark thumped him on the back, nearly knocking him over. "Anytime!" There were more calls and good-byes.

Elena waved.

Richie was frankly staring, but finally he slipped into the back seat and she sat in front. "The seat is cold," she shuddered. "Hello, Richie," she smiled at him. "Did you come to rescue me too? How nice!"

"I.....I guess so."

"Tell me what happened," said Duncan, intently.

"First, some clothes. Then, some black, strong coffee. And do you have an extra sword? I seem to have misplaced mine, and I need to kill someone."

As Elena described her experience, Duncan was filled with a mixture of admiration and rage. It was all he could do to keep from turning back toward the docks, but first he had to figure out a way to keep her out of it. It wouldn't be easy. And before that, he had to figure out a way---again---to keep her from killing Dawson.

When they got back to the dojo, Elena spotted Dawson's car. She ran out of the T-bird before Duncan had fully stopped. "Elena, wait!"

He and Richie just barely caught up to her in the elevator.

Fortunately she didn't have the key. "Just wait a minute," Duncan panted. "I know what you're thinking."

"That Dawson is a dead man? Then you do know."

"Look, he didn't set you up."

"Is that what he told you?"

"Yes, and I believe him. He gave us the name of the man he thought had done it, and we were already headed towards the warehouse when you called."

She shook her head. "Look, it goes like this. I try to kill Dawson and fail. He tries to kill me and fails. Now it's my turn again."

Richie opened the elevator doors.

Elena tried to rush out, but Duncan pinned her by the shoulders against the back wall. "Are we going to go through this again? I'm telling you he didn't have you kidnapped. It was the Hunters, and we know who they are now, and we're going to go kill them now."

"Yes, by all means, let's go kill them now. Starting with Dawson." She pushed against him; Duncan held her back with an effort.

"No, Elena." It was all or nothing with this woman. Either they were making sweet love or talking quietly together or they were trying to kill each other. There was no middle ground.....He was used to people around him who trusted his judgment, relied on him, or feared him.

She trusted only her own judgment, relied on herself, and feared no one. b "Elena, you didn't trust me with the disks. Please trust me on this."

Her conscience was pricked. It had been so long since she had trusted anyone. "You are asking for a lot, [escoces.]"

"I'm giving a lot in return."

"You are sure about Dawson."

"Look, he will face you and shoot you straight out. But this, kidnapping, beatings.....it's just not his style. Talk to him. I still have your word, remember?"

Elena wanted to believe him, wanted to trust him so badly her head ached with the effort. She relaxed. "I will talk to him," she agreed.

Duncan sighed too, visibly relieved. They walked into the apartment just in time to hear Richie saying to Dawson, ".....so, she gets out of the handcuffs by jerking against the metal and breaking the bones in her hand. Ouch! We're talking major balls, here, oops, sorry, Duran." His tone was so frankly admiring that Elena couldn't help smiling at him. It looked like she might be able to keep from fighting him.

"In Spanish we call them [cojones,] and yes, in the past I have been accused of having them. But I don't---ask him," she added, pointing at Duncan.

Duncan had the grace to blush, but tensed again when Dawson came up to Elena. "I'm sorry about what happened."

"Are you really?" Her voice was cold.

"Yes. I am not your enemy and the Watchers are not your enemies. We've been around for centuries, as long as the Immortals have been around. Except for some rare instances, very rare, we don't interfere in your affairs. And we don't go around murdering Immortals or their friends. I wish I could make you believe that."

"And the Hunters? Aren't they Watchers, too?"

"They're renegades, fanatics. We want them stopped just as badly as you do. Maybe more so. Anything I can do to help, just name it."

"How generous." Sarcasm.

Dawson sighed and shook his head. At least she wasn't trying to kill him outright anymore. And although the timing may be bad, he had to ask. "About those disks....I gotta have them back."

Without answering, Elena got yet another set of Duncan's sweats to put on in the bathroom. Would she ever wear her clothes again? When she came out, Duncan had some coffee and rolls. She ate and drank greedily, then drank some orange juice while Duncan made her a sandwich and gave her some fruit, which she also consumed. Finally she sat back, satisfied. "[Barriga llena, corazon contento,]" she sighed.

Duncan smiled. "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach?"

She nodded. "Or a woman's heart. I feel so much better."

Duncan and Richie both smiled. Dawson had been waiting all this time, nervous but patient, giving her all the time she needed. Finally she turned to him. "We need to talk about those disks. Leave us. We'll call you." The tone of dismissal was rude and unmistakable.

Dawson looked at Duncan, who shrugged and repeated, "We'll call you." Dawson had no choice but to leave.

After Dawson left, Richie went down to retrieve the disks from their hiding place behind the dumpster.

Duncan saw something in Elena's face that told him she needed it, so he hugged her. The truth was that by now Elena was starting to feel a little shaky. They had briefly discussed going back to the warehouse, although Duncan doubted anyone would still be there, but the thought of going there again scared her a little.

She didn't even want to go back to her hotel room anymore. She wanted the whole thing to stop, now.

Duncan pulled her away from him and looked at her face again. "Are you alright?"

"The truth between us, Duncan?"


"I.....felt so helpless; so.....afraid. I am afraid, and I'm usually not afraid, and I hate them for making me feel this way!"

Duncan sighed. "Being afraid is part of the Game."

"And now you're going to think I'm just a weak helpless woman who has to stay behind while you brave men go and do all the fighting. Is that what you're going to ask me to do? Stay behind and wait and worry?"

Duncan had been thinking exactly that--how to get her to stay safely out of harm's way. But there really was no safe place for her to be. And now that he could clearly see her fear and self-doubt and shame for both, he knew that asking her to would be the worst thing he could do. It would be an attack on her greatest strength---her confidence in herself---and he wouldn't do it, not even if it meant losing her. "I'm afraid too, Elena. For you, for Richie, for myself. But we can't let fear conquer us. You know the drill."

She closed her eyes. This moment of weakness, in a way, was worse for her than everything else that had happened today.

They both felt Richie coming up in the elevator, and she fled to the bathroom.

Richie walked in, smiling. "Got them!" he announced. He looked around, puzzled. "Where's our lady?"

"Nerves. She's had a hell of a time all around."

"She going to be alright?"

"I hope so, Richie." He wanted to go to her, hold her, soothe her, tell her it would all be alright. But if she needed to be alone, he had to respect that. She was so different from most women he had known. Her strength, like Tessa's, he reflected wryly, came from within, not from him or anyone else, and she just needed a chance to draw upon it by herself. There was nothing he could do except be there.

"So, do we return these to Dawson, or what?"

Duncan pulled his thoughts away from Elena as an idea struck him. "Maybe we can use this data for our own good."


"What happens when you have something everybody wants?"

"You write your own ticket?" Richie smiled. "Yeah."

Meanwhile, Elena looked at her pale face in the mirror, seeing the fear that MacLeod had seen. What she really wanted to do was to find a deep, dark, safe hole to hide in for fifty years or so. Her hands trembled. It had been such a long, hard road. Could she go on, or had she completely lost her courage? Is this how she had looked to Darius all those years ago?

Paris, 1659

She is sitting in a straight chair in his office, drinking a tea so vile that even in her agitated state she can taste its bitterness. She had arrived in Paris early and spent all morning with Darius, crying, he making the appropriate noises, holding her hand, hugging her, not saying very much. A week before, an Immortal, a Moor, had come to challenge Don Alvaro, and he had ordered her, ordered her to run. She ran straight to Darius.

"I should have stayed with him," she says in an exhausted voice. "I should never have deserted him."

Darius' Spanish is excellent. "Had Don Alvaro ever asked you for anything before?"

"No, never, but....."

"Since he already knew he would die at the hands of St. Cloud, do you believe knowing you also would die would have made his death any better?"

"No," she sobs. "Then you did the right thing, child. I'm sorry, I still think of you as a child."

"Maybe because I'm acting like a child."

"Not at all." He smiles. "Would you like some more tea?"

"No, I....." She thought for a moment. Don Alvaro's face still haunts her.

"What do you do when you're afraid, Darius?"

"Are you afraid?"

"Not now. But Don Alvaro was afraid. I'd never seen him afraid before."

"He was probably afraid for you."

There is a pause. Elena absentmindedly sips some tea and immediately regrets it.

"And you, my dear, what is it that you fear, exactly?"

"Exactly? I don't know."

"And he never discussed this with you?"

"No. I think fear made him uncomfortable," she thinks back. "Especially talking about it to a woman."

Darius smiles and nods. He knows Don Alvaro well. "You want to face your fear, and overcome it, correct?" he asks.

She nods. "But how can you overcome your fear if you don't know what makes you afraid?"

She thinks it over, for long minutes.

"First find out exactly what you are afraid of. Then you can deal with it, not before," are his last words on the subject.

Seacouver, 1995

So what was she afraid of, exactly? Why wasn't she afraid last week, or last month? What did she have to lose? What did she have now that she didn't have before?

The answer was simple and obvious. Duncan MacLeod was what she had to lose, the same way she had lost Maria and Gordon and Darius. Looking back, and she knew this from before, the one thing that consistently scared her was losing those she loved, and she had to face this once more. Nothing else, not fear of her own death, pain, anything, came close. If she had died, she would have lost him, and she could still lose him to the Hunters. "[!Madre de Dios!]" she whispered.

The one thing that brought her the greatest joy and peace was what brought her the greatest fear and pain. Duncan MacLeod---at the same time she regretted having met him, she realized she didn't want to live without him. Plus, at the same time she was afraid that he felt the same way towards her, she was also afraid he didn't. So why not hop on the next plane to a faraway tropical island and bask in the sun and make love for the next hundred years? Why not, Elena? Because he could never agree, and neither could she. So she'd just have to make sure she didn't lose him.

She splashed water on her face and walked outside.

Duncan and Richie both rose to meet her---Duncan seemed very concerned. "We have to finish this," she said simply.

He took her hands in his. "Are you going to be alright?"

She smiled at him, then kissed him softly on the lips. He was so beautiful, those eyes! "Yes. I can handle it."

Duncan had to be completely convinced. "Are you sure? Do you want to talk about it?"

"I already talked about it, to Darius."

"Uh, excuse me, but, Darius is, deceased, right?" Richie made a cutting gesture in front of his neck.

Elena laughed softly and went over to kiss Richie on the cheek. He seemed surprised and pleased. "Tell me, Richie, do you still want my head? Yes or no?"

"I guess not, provided you leave Dawson alone."

"I think we can work something out. Unless he turns out to be a Hunter. If he does," she leaned toward him, "I will kill him and anyone who tries to stop me. Anyone, Richie. I hope you understand that."

Richie looked at her closely. "I understand, Duran. But Dawson is not a Hunter, trust me."

"I hope not. Now I was thinking that we can use these disks as leverage to get the Watchers to clean up their own organization---by having them get rid of the Hunters themselves. Why should we do all the work?"

Duncan agreed, "We were thinking along the same lines." She seemed to be back to her normal confident self, and he understood how she could have *talked* to Darius.

They decided to hide the disks again, in a safer place inside the bulding, and make their demands to Dawson in the morning. They also decided to go back to the warehouse after dark, in case anyone was there. If not, they had the name and address of Evan Kaminsky, the Hunter who had captured Elena. There was a possibility that he would run, and Elena was particularly interested in asking him about his Spanish-speaking friend.

Before they left, however, Elena called her hotel to get her belonging delivered to the dojo. She found out from the manager that there had been some trouble at the hotel and that her room had been ransacked. The police were looking to question her. Elena, all innocence, promised to contact the police herself and hung up with a curse. "[!Mierda!] At this rate, I'll never get my clothes back! Now the police want to see me!"

"That's understandable. You killed four people at the hotel. Even if they took some of the bodies with them, I'm sure they found the one in the elevator. The Hunters did a good job getting your 'dead body' out, didn't they?" Duncan thought furiously. "Well, we can't avoid the police forever, but we can avoid them until tonight or tomorrow. We have other things to do right now."

"Like paying a visit to Kaminsky," announced Richie.

"Are we all together on this? Richie?" asked Duncan. He wanted to Richie, too, to be safe, but could do nothing about it. It galled him that he couldn't protect the people he loved the most.

"It is my fight, but I welcome any assistance. I'm not proud," was Elena's comment.

"Let's go." Richie went to the elevator.

As Duncan followed, Elena caught hold of his sleeve and pulled him back. "Wait."

Richie smiled back at them. "Don't you guys take too long."

They kissed intensely. Elena felt the familiar stirring of passion and the less familiar one of fear. "Listen, Duncan, if one of us is killed...."

His smile was intoxicating. This was one of the first times she'd called him by his Christian name, deliberately, and not in a moment of weakness, and he was thrilled.

"Well, I didn't want to get too close. People who are close to Immortals tend to die, or haven't you noticed?"

"I have, but I'm an Immortal too. And I have no intention of dying, or of having you die. Understood?"

"I love you, [querido.]" There---she'd finally said it. Now she was truly committed! Duncan smiled again, knowing what was in his heart. "I love you too, sweetheart." Suddenly he remembered the last time he had this same conversation, the night he asked Tessa to marry him, the night before she was shot to death. He felt a pain deep in his chest, like a stabbing wound.

Elena immediately asked, "What's wrong? Do you regret what you said?"

He still missed Tessa, but she had been only one of the loves of his life. Now he was with Elena, and now she was the love of his life. He looked into her face. "No, never! No, nothing's wrong. Just.....memories. You just watch your head."

She smiled nervously. There was so much about him she didn't know, and she had just left herself completely open to him. "We'd better go," she whispered, and then, more pragmatically, "Do you have a gun?"

He went over to his desk and handed her an automatic and a clip. She loaded it.

"Thank you."

As predicted, the warehouse was cleared out of anything useful to them, so they went on to Evan Kaminsky's address. It was a drab little house in a not-too-good neighborhood.

"I guess being a Watcher doesn't pay a whole hell of a lot," murmured Richie.

The other two smiled. This was one of the things Duncan loved most about Richie---the fact that Richie could always make him smile.

There was no car in the driveway, but there was one in the closed garage.

Duncan and Elena went to the door, while Richie covered the back. Elena shook her shoulders, shifting the blade she had borrowed from Duncan inside the trenchcoat she had borrowed from Duncan. It was a broadsword like hers, and of very good quality---one of the ones he had acquired after a Quickening---but the weight, the balance, the feel were all different, and it just didn't hang right.

"Let me do the talking," she whispered to Duncan as the door was opened. They could just barely see the nose and mouth of a small woman in the crack of the door, through the chain.

"Yes? Can I help you?" Her accent sounded just like Elena's tormentor's had.

"Mrs. Kaminsky? My name is Elena Duran. This is my friend Duncan MacLeod."

Elena braced herself to slam through the chained door if necessary, but the woman didn't give the slightest hint of recognition, so Elena continued. "We're busine

ss associates of your husband, and we're trying to locate him."

"Locate him?"

"Yes. May we come in, please?" At this point, Elena lifted her right arm and put it on the half-open door, letting her coat sleeve fall down slightly to reveal the tattoo she had carefully drawn on her wrist. She quickly covered it, but not before it had the desired effect.

Mrs. Kaminsky's face brightened instantly, and Duncan couldn't help smiling to himself. "Oh, of course, please come in!"

They stepped into a dark hall which led to a tiny living room. Can't say much for his taste, either, thought Duncan.

The woman asked them to sit and offered them refreshment, which they declined. "Mrs. Kaminsky, we really urgently need to find your husband. I assume he isn't here?"

"Oh, no, he left for the airport about an hour ago."

"Where did he go?" asked Duncan.

"I guess you must belong to the same society as he does." Mrs. Kaminsky's tone was low and conspiratorial.

Elena lowered her voice to match. "Yes, and we're looking for the same thing."

"You know, when I first met my husband and found out he was a computer salesman, I thought, 'How boring!' But when I asked about the tattoo I found out about his secret passion."

Elena and Duncan waited, afraid to say anything, and sure enough the woman continued. "Swords!" Her eyes gleamed. "It's so.....romantic, don't you think?"

"Of course," Elena breathed a sigh of relief. For a brief moment she had been afraid Mrs. Kaminsky knew about what her husband really did, and she really didn't want to hurt Mrs. Kaminsky, and she had noticed a child's bicycle in the garage, and she began to hope they could bluff their way through this without any mortals being hurt. She didn't know if she had to, had no choice, if she would be able to get information out of Mrs. Kaminsky in any way necessary, and she also knew that Duncan MacLeod would never consent. "We share the same passion. I wonder, Mrs. Kaminsky..... Evan doesn't keep his collection.....here, does he?"

Mrs. Kaminsky smiled. "In this neighborhood? Who would suspect such a thing? Come!" They followed her upstairs to their master bedroom and to a hidden access ladder which led to the attic. The attic door had a padlock, but they weren't prepared for what they saw when the lights came on. It was a small, spare room, climate controlled, with a small table in one corner and one simple comfortable chair in the center. Track lighting highlighted the objects displayed on two of the walls---four swords in immaculate condition. Elena's eyes immediately went to her own broadsword, hung on two pegs beside a rapier. There were also a scimitar a saber.

Duncan was initially astonished at the 'collection,' but, why not, after all, they were beautiful, valuable pieces and the spoils of victory. These four swords represented the deaths of four Immortals---three, he amended with a smile, as he recognized Elena's sword. There was a perverse sense in a Hunter being a sword collector.

He saw Elena draw the sword out of her coat with a flourish and immediately tensed up, wondering what she was going to do.

With the sword drawn, the room felt smaller still. Mrs. Kaminsky instinctively fell back a step against the table in the corner. Elena smiled. "This, Mrs. Kaminsky, is one of the reasons we wanted to see him. This," she held out the sword horizontally in front of her, one hand under the hilt and the fingers of the other hand lightly splayed, supporting the flat of the blade, "is a fine example of Toledo steel. But Evan told me he had another broadsword he was willing to trade for it. That one," she nodded her head at her own sword on the wall. "Well, I don't know.....I don't know that much about swords, you understand....."

"Of course," Duncan offered, pulling a cellular phone out of his pocket. "But your husband does. Why don't you give him a call right now?"

"But he's leaving the country!" she protested.

"Maybe he hasn't left yet. Try him."

"Alright." Mrs. Kaminsky dialed a number. "Evan!" she exclaimed. There followed a spate of Polish of which Duncan and Elena picked up only a few words each, but they both heard the name Duran and MacLeod. The conversation got a bit more animated and lasted for a few minutes.

Finally she handed the cellular to Elena. "He wants to talk to you."

Elena placed the sword on the table. "Evan, how nice to talk to you again so soon." She paused while he spoke. "Yes, I was sure you would agree to have me trade swords. I'm so glad you told her it was alright." Another pause. "Well, actually I'm not so interested in where you are, Evan. I feel very strongly that we will meet again at some point. But I don't want you to worry about that. For now, I am most interested in the name and address of our mutual Spanish friend. He had an excellent [Madrileno] accent, didn't he?"

In the small room, Duncan could hear Kaminsky's agitated voice but could not make out the words. "You know, Evan, your wife has been so charming, and I understand you have a daughter as well---we saw a girl's bicycle in your garage. It must be wonderful to have such a family to love."

Duncan didn't like the way this conversation was heading--he had no intention of harming either the innocent, romantic Mrs. Kaminsky or any child whatsoever, and hoped, prayed that Elena was bluffing. She had to be.

"Fernando Rios? And where can I find Senor Rios these days?" Elena smiled. "Paris! One of my favorite cities. And the address?" There was another pause. "Now, Evan, you really don't want to call him and tell him I'm coming. I want to surprise him. And as charming as your family is, I don't want to have to come back and bother them again, or send someone. Don't you agree?" More loud talk from the other end. "I thought you would! Uh.....did you want to say anything else to your wife? No? Fine. Have a nice trip, Evan!"

Elena handed the cellular back to Duncan. Mrs. Kaminsky reached for the broadsword on the wall, but Duncan intercepted her. "Here, let me handle that, it's quite sharp, you know. You don't want to get hurt." He handed the sword to Elena, who put it back in her coat. Then he hung up the second sword in its place and they left the room.

Elena didn't know what Kaminsky had said to his wife, and wanted to be sure she wouldn't be calling the police on them or something. She examined the woman's face closely as they said their good-byes, but there was not the slightest trace of nervousness or fear. Either she felt safe or she was a consummate actress. "By the way, Mrs. Kaminsky," she said on the way out the door, "you know those weapons are very valuable, don't you?" The woman nodded. "Has Evan ever talked to you about selling any of them?"

"Oh, no, he would never sell his collection!"

"Well, you know, you have to think of yourself and your daughter. With all the traveling he does, if anything should ever happen to him, God forbid, at least you have a nice source of income in your attic. Think about it." At this point Duncan and Elena saw a teenaged girl wearing headphones come down the stairs and head towards the kitchen. If she noticed them, she gave no sign. Elena looked at Duncan, smiled once more at their hostess, and they left.

They sat in the Thunderbird in front of the house for a moment, and Duncan finally turned to her. "Were the Kaminskys in danger, Elena?"

"Why are you asking me this? Why torture yourself with something that didn't happen?"

"Because it could have happened, Elena! You could have killed them both, or worse!"

"I would never hurt a child, never! And what gives you the right to judge me?!!" She was angry now.

Duncan took a deep breath and chose his words carefully. "I've told you I loved you. But if our relationship is going to last, I need to know what kind of a person you are. I need to know if you were just bluffing Kaminsky or if you would really have hurt that woman or that child. I need to know, Elena!"

"You're asking for an answer I don't have myself! You're asking for a lot, [escoces!]"

"I'm giving a lot in return." Were they doomed to repeat the same conversation over and over? Duncan knew what he could and could not live with. What about her? Was there no real hope for them?

"I just don't know, Duncan. A week ago, I think maybe I would have. But now.....I don't know. If that is not good enough for you, so be it." She turned to stare straight ahead. Did they really have any kind of a chance together? "Unless Kaminsky lied to me, which I sincerely doubt, the Hunter Rios, who killed Maria, is in Paris. I'm going after him. Only then, after he is dead, can I answer these questions once and for all. But I have to finish what I started, and I hope, [si Dios quiere,] that his death will be the end."

The question was, should she ask him to come to Paris? He could certainly help her find and kill Rios, but did she really want him there, judging her? What if Rios' death didn't end anything? What if her blood lust continued? Would she have to fight him again? Or would he just leave her, [!Dios mio!] that was even worse! And did he even want to come with her in the first place? She'd just have to ask him.

Duncan dared to hope too. Maybe Rios' death would be the end, maybe then she could start over, maybe she could stop killing. If he went to Paris he could help her, and he would be there to see what happened. But what if she couldn't or wouldn't stop? Did he really want to be there for that? He knew she had to go, but should he go with her, or let her finish this on her own? He didn't really know what she wanted. He opened his mouth to ask when both Immortals sat straight up in their seats and looked around. A moment later, Richie knocked on Elena's window.

"Hey, guys, if you're all done in there, how about a lift home?"

Translations: (all Spanish)

mierda --- shit

Madrileno --- from Madrid, Spain

si Dios quiere --- God willing


Elena's interview with the police was harrowing. They were particularly miffed because they had five separate pools of blood from five separate badly injured and/or dead individuals (including one on the roof)---but only ONE body. They were particularly suspicious of Elena because her hotel room had been the only one searched. Duncan had never seen Elena so restrained and respectful; she used the word 'sir' liberally, and was very cooperative, repeating her story over and over again, until they suggested she give them a blood sample for comparison. At this her eyes got big, and her hand actually trembled as she brought it to her neck. "No, no, no! Not a needle! I....I am terrified of any sharp objects near my body.....I cannot, Duncan, please don't let them!" she appealed to him. Looking into her face, even he was convinced she was terrified. In the end they were mollified when she agreed to a strip search by a female detective who verified that Elena had sustained no wounds that same morning.

When they finally returned to the dojo it was after seven, and Elena was so exhausted she just fell into a deep sleep. Duncan puttered around quietly, eating some cold pasta and drinking a last cup of tea. He had just picked up a book and had settled down when he noticed her quietly thrashing on the bed again, in the throes of her nightly [pesadilla.]

If Elena hoped her exhaustion would keep her from her usual nightmare, she was wrong. Once again she was falling from her horse, 'dying', running from the Hunters' machine guns until she saw the severed head rolling toward her. This time she was sure it would be Duncan's head, but it wasn't---it was her own head, again. Her shriek of despair was muffled by Duncan's shoulder as he held her tightly and with difficulty, rocking her and making soothing noises.

She awoke trembling. In spite of the terror, she was never able to cry, just sit and shudder until her heartbeat returned to normal. Holding her, sweaty, panting, Duncan felt a surge of both lust and protectiveness sweep over him. He pulled back away from her and looked at her face. She was just calming down. He put a hand around the nape of her neck and they kissed passionately, repeatedly. He started to gently push her down onto the bed, but she pulled away and said, "Wait."

Duncan thought she was just too exhausted, Damn! but she glided out of bed and took a deep breath. Standing before him, she crossed her arms in front, grabbed the hem of her shirt and slowly pulled it up over her head. Duncan leaned back on the bed, watching in excited appreciation. She often didn't bother with underthings, but when going into a fight she needed all the support she could get. She undid her bra with one hand and let it fall on top of the shirt. In the dim light of the moon, he could see her nipples, hard and brown against her breasts. Slowly she tugged at the drawstring cinched around her waist, pulling the pants open. They fell in a pool at her feet, and she slipped her panties down to join them.

Duncan took a deep shuddering breath and got up to go to her, but she put a hand on his chest to stop him. "Your turn, [escoces,]" she said, and she sat down on the bed to watch him.

Once again she had surprised him. In almost four centuries of living and loving Duncan MacLeod had never deliberately disrobed sensually for the visual pleasure of a woman, although it had been done for him plenty of times, case in point. He was both delighted and determined to give her a good show. In spite of his eagerness, he undid each button of his shirt slowly, one at a time, and took it off theatrically. He was rewarded as she took in a harsh breath. A breeze from the open window played against his bare chest. He opened the belt, undid his pants, and let them fall down to his ankles. Then slowly, as she had, he slipped his briefs down to join them.

Elena watched, her eyes shining and her breath coming in long gasps. There was a familiar heat deep inside her, and her nipples tingled. She didn't know whether to keep looking at him or run into his arms. He was the standard of male beauty, tall, dark and handsome. But there was more about him, a grace of form, an elegance---even completely naked he looked classy. Also, she had learned in these last few days that he was a good, decent, and honorable man, a man she could be both happy and proud to love. She briefly wished he could feel the same about her, but now was not the moment for self-defeating thoughts.

Duncan wasn't thinking in such detail. They were both so ready that he practically leaped across the room, landing on her in the bed. There was a wild confusion of arms and legs, and giggles, and sighs, and sounds deep in their throats, and calling out each other's names, and lots of heavy breathing. They made love quickly, heatedly, then made love again slowly. They were happy and in love: they knew what the other liked, they were willing to try new things, and besides, they had all the time in the world.


Part 3: "Elena in Paris"