Duncan's story came to an abrupt halt when Adam and Richie burst into the kitchen through the back door. Both Duncan and Connor jumped into action at Adam's instructions. "Mac, find some wet cloths."
Connor helped Adam lead Richie to a chair. "What happened?"
"He almost lost his head to a damn crow."
"Guys, this isn't such a big deal. I'm immortal, remember?"
"Yes, and how are you going to see, if we don't get the blood out of your superhuman eyes?" Adam was his usual sarcastically supportive self.
"Or what if someone comes in and sees you like this?" Connor asked.
"Are we expecting more company?" Duncan came back with the washcloths.
"Just the pizza guy." Richie reminded him, his voice beginning to shake. Now that he was sitting down the pain and the fear were catching up to him. He realized his heart had been racing a hundred miles an hour despite his efforts to act calm and unworried.
"You okay, Rich?" Duncan put a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah, it was just so crazy. They should make a horror movie like this. Birds taking over or something."
"B.A. update," Adam grinned. "They did, one of Hitchcock's best films."
"Who?" Richie couldn't understand why they all laughed at him.
"Don't worry about it. We'll have a classics film festival to bring you back up to speed." Connor encouraged.
"Lot's of popcorn." Duncan promised. "And pizza."
"And beer?" Adam asked hopefully as he calmly cleaned the wounds on Richie's eyelids preparing to rinse the blood away. If any mortal walked in right now they would never be able to explain what happened. Richie's face was a mass of cuts. His eyes appeared to be dripping with blood though the actual cornea hadn't been damaged very badly.
"Plenty of beer. But you don?t get any unless you do a good job on the patient here." Duncan insisted.
"Hey, I could have him stitched up in no time if he needed to be. From what I could tell when it first happened his eyes suffered very little. It's mostly blood from the wounds. Now, Richie, I need you to lean your head back as far as you can. Good job. Now, Mac, if you could hold his head up for him. With these towels wrapped around like so. That's to catch the water. Connor can you get some more warm water?"
"Sure. You might actually know what you're doing, huh?"
"Some things never change. And this is pretty simple stuff. Of course the patient being an immortal helps a lot too. I can make all kinds of mistakes and it won't matter." Adam grinned.
"Tell me he's kidding?" Richie clutched Duncan's arm. "Is he smiling, Mac?"
"Grinning like an idiot, Richie, don't worry. Besides this is pretty basic stuff. Your scratches are already healed. The cuts are beginning to. We just need to wash the blood from your eyes, okay?"
When Connor returned with the water Adam began gently dripping it in Richie's eyes, slowly trying to ease the eyelids open. Richie resisted at first, but Duncan held his head still until he got used to having his eyes open with almost constant water flowing in. Within several moments Adam declared the procedure a success.
"Now just relax for a few minutes and let the magic work." Connor encouraged. "You'll be seeing just fine in a few minutes."
"Thanks, guys. I feel so stupid. Next time I'll try your method, Adam."
"What was that?" Adam looked puzzled.
Connor and Duncan looked at each other curiously.
"Well you were staring it down. That's what you're supposed to do with wild animals, right?"
"It's a bit more effective than hitting them with a broom, yeah." Adam quickly picked up the towels and other items he had used. Is that what he was doing? Just staring it down? He couldn't remember very well. That's right. He'd been having the memory about his early days with Kronos. "So when does the pizza get here?" He tried to change the subject.
"About ten minutes."
"Then you'd better change shirts or you won't be very presentable. Are you going to introduce me?" Adam teased trying to get Richie's mind off of the bird.
"Not bloody likely." Richie laughed. "Thanks, though- for the eyes."
As it turned out when the pizza guy delivered the pizza Richie did introduce Adam. The pizza guy was actually a pretty young co-ed who would be attending the same college Richie was. Before their short interlude was over they had arranged to meet her and a friend of hers for dinner and a movie Saturday evening. Adam was reluctant at first, but Richie and Mattie finally talked him into it.
"Adam, you really should get out more. You haven't made it past one date with anybody since I've known you." Richie tried to encourage his friend once Mattie had left.
"I know." Adam practically sighed as they walked back up to the house with the pizza. "It's just so- I don't know- predictable."
"Predictable?" Richie raised his eyebrows and stopped to stare at Adam. "Well, maybe for you it is from a standpoint of 5,000 years- but for someone like me who can't even remember my twenty-first birthday let alone my first date- someone who has no frame of reference for this whole thing- predictable isn't exactly the word I'd use."
"No, I don't expect so," Adam smiled quietly and spoke softly. "I don't mean to be a- "
"Right- buzz kill, but it's always the same. You meet a girl, you fall in love, you get married, - if such an institution was in existence at the time. Then something terrible happens- or they suddenly look old enough to be your mother- which is okay cause you've loved them so long you don't care how they look- but the rest of society tends to frown on it. Which makes them feel terrible, or they die, or both. Or sometimes they die right away. It's always a heartache."
"So you were married a lot?"
"About once a century. Sometimes twice. Back in the early days- marriage wasn't what we think of today. There wasn't always a ceremony. Hell, there wasn't even dating or courting early on. Sometimes you were just promised to someone. Or sold to someone or something. Kronos never allowed you to be attached to anyone too long. He was usually the something terrible that happened."
"Wow, it totally amazes me that anyone could stay sane that long."
"Well, see I didn't. The first three thousand years were pretty weird."
"So how did that change? How did you suddenly realize- "
"That we were stark raving lunatics?" Adam shook his head. "I don't know. The ideas just started growing in my mind. One death too many- one love too many lost to that bastard. It wasn't clear to me then and I doubt it ever will be. It was like whoever I was before I met Kronos resurfaced. Only problem was I didn't know who I was by that time."
"Have you ever remembered?"
"Just a little lately. I was somebody's slave. Who, I don't know. Then I was his slave- or prize possession. I can't be sure but I think it took a couple hundred years before I went from slave to horseman. The memories are too scattered to figure it out."
"Do you think Dr. Alldredge can help us?"
"Well, you do what you want, but I'm not going to give her a chance. Take my advice and live in ignorant bliss. I only wish I could block out horseman to?"
"To a few years B.C.- to the best of my calculations. I know I was not with Kronos after the A.D. period."
"Hum, so you lived through B.A.1, B.C., and A.D."
"Something like that."
"Do you know what the sad part is?"
"It's too incredible to believe. I mean look at you. We're not that far apart in appearance of our ages, we're both going back to school, and you're at least five millennia older than I am. What does that give me to look forward to?"
Adam thought about it for a moment. "Saturday night."
Duncan chopped viciously at the salad he was making. Connor watched him for a moment before commenting. He knew Duncan was upset about the bird attacking Richie, but he hoped he wouldn't let anything come of it.
"Is the bird on the other end of the knife?"
"Yes. Why would it do that? Have you ever heard of that before? Besides in Alfred Hitchcock movies? What if Richie wasn't an immortal? He could be blind right now, not to mention hideously scarred."
"Well he is immortal so you don't have to worry."
"Well, the crow has to go. I can't have it attacking anyone who comes along."
"Good luck, but you heard what they said. It didn't attack Adam because he hadn't attacked it. Richie should have never went after it with a broom."
"He's not real fond of crows, right now anyway. When he was staked out as a sacrifice there was a large crow cawing around the whole time. For days afterward he would jump at the sight of a bird. Honestly, I'm surprised that he would attack first."
"So how did he get out of that situation?"
Duncan gave him an, oh please look. "Same as usual- just like old times."
"Okay, so how did you get him out of that situation? Which, by the way is your job as his teacher."
"I thought you were his teacher, and I was just the crazy father?"
"Well, I'm giving him back to you. You two are obviously getting along well and I can't be here much longer. You get Adam back also. Rachel's going to completely abandon the business if I don?t go back and help her soon."
"Has she said that?"
"No, but I know she would like to do some more traveling and spend some time with the old man."
"You've been pretty tied up with those two for awhile now."
"Yes, and she's very fond of them both, but I want her to have her life back."
"Is she okay? I mean physically?"
"Yes, of course. But since she's now in her sixties, I begin to worry, you know?"
"No. Not really. I never had the courage to marry like you did- let alone adopt children. Richie and Kelani are the only two who I would actually feel I could lay any claim to. If Kelani and Little Deer hadn't died we would have married. Tessa and I were planning to adopt Richie and that all fell apart."
"Why? Richie didn't die permanently."
"I know, but I was mixed up, and we've been down that road before. I don't have a problem with it now. It's really nice having him back in my life, Connor. I never knew my heart could break as painfully as it did that day- and for so long. It was a miracle when I found out he was alive. Then this summer when I almost lost him again so quickly- first with Michaelis and then that vicious bastard. I don't know how you do it, Connor. You're a stronger man than I'll ever be."
"What? You don't think it kills me just as much?" Connor was being intentionally difficult in an effort to lighten the mood.
"Well, no, that's not what I meant. It's just that you continue to take on new students- raise a child here and there. You get your heart trampled on and still go back for more. It amazes me how you do that time and again."
"Duncan there are immortals much older than me who've done it a hundred times and still survive. Think of Amanda."
"Amanda usually flies solo. She does take a student now and then, but she doesn't get as attached."
"Or at least not so that you would know it." Connor smiled. "And what about our deceivingly young medical student? I've never completely told him that I believe him, but I can't begin to imagine his life. It doesn't help that he won't confide in me."
"Why would he, if he believes that you think he's lying? He couldn't expect you to take him seriously."
"No, I think he likes that distance. I think he want's someone to deny his past. More importantly he want others to believe he's completely incapable of being who he was. That is my place. Your's is as his friend and confidant. He's told me a little. I pretend I'm taking it with a grain of salt, but I do listen. He's talked with Joe a bit, but not like he would probably talk to you."
"To me? I don't think so. What I know of his past he never would have told me willingly. I only found out because Kronos came back for him. Then Cassandra came for Kronos and then naturally for Methos. He's hinted at a few things, sure, but I assume most of what I believe to be true about him. I finally understood this summer that he truly could remember nothing but a violent lifestyle. It was the only life he could remember until he left Kronos."
"Joe believes he snapped because he felt the only way to keep the others from torturing their victims was to get to them first. When he killed someone he was protecting them somewhere in his subconscious. Then, of course, eventually he could not hold that concept and he just killed because that was just what he did. He may have never realized that himself."
Duncan had stopped cutting the vegetables and listened intently. "Where did he develop that idea?"
"Joe? From the little bit Adam told him he was able to come up with it."
"It would have to be some sort of coping mechanism wouldn't it? I wonder if Dr. Alldredge could help him look further into that?"
"I don't think you're going to get him to talk to her, and I don't think it would be a good idea to break his confidence- beyond our little group, anyway. I hinted at the idea of him seeing someone this summer and he nearly came unglued."
"Well he's standing on the edge right now, whether he wants to admit it or not. If he's been having these nightmares and memories it's time to face it."
"Well, I get the impression he's doing the opposite, Duncan. Every time I try to get him to talk- to convince me who he is- he backs down. I don't think he may be trying to remember as much as he's trying to forget."
Duncan remembered the day in the clearing when he asked Methos if he wanted to talk about his past. No, I want to forget, had been his only response. "You're right of course." Duncan chopped another carrot viciously. "He said something like that this summer, and what did he say today? There are some things, Adam doesn't need to remember."
"Do you think he has a split personality?" Connor looked doubtful even as he said it.
"No, I think he's completely aware that he is Adam and Methos. I think he just want's to bury Methos. He told me if I hadn't killed Kronos and Caspian, and he hadn't killed Silas that he would never be completely free of them. Then he said he only had himself to deal with."
"And his way of dealing with himself is to forget himself?"
"Why not? It worked when Kronos first killed him. When Cassandra first recognized him, his initial reaction was that he had no idea who she was or what her problem was. He was very convincing."
"Because he had convinced himself that he was a totally different person?"
"Exactly. But he knew better. It was just such a shock to him that she was there. She didn't fit in with the life he'd created and he hadn't seen her for thousands of years. He hadn't blocked it out like he did his pre-Kronos days. He'd just buried it. By the time I found him later that day he was quite ready to give me an earful of what he had been. Now all of that has resurfaced and he's trying to forget it again."
"Only the harder he tries to forget, the more he remembers."
"Well, I'm sure somewhere inside he must know he has to reconcile what he was, with what he is. The world has changed. The likely hood of him running into old friends and enemies is greater than even a century ago- thanks to technology."
"Of course, the older he gets the less likely they are still alive." Connor reminded Duncan.
"Here they come." Duncan and Connor felt the presence of the other two immortals growing stronger.
"We may not have our minds, but we've got Pizza and dates." Richie burst through the kitchen door.
"Dates, too?" Duncan smiled. "Not tonight, right?"
"No, she's working tonight and the rest of the week. But Saturday- her, a friend, me and the old-timer here are going into the big city and ditching this boring little college town."
"I knew I should have found a college not within driving distance of civilization." Connor shook his head. "Of course, I have a date myself."
"Saturday?" Duncan asked.
"No, tomorrow night- then who knows?" Connor laughed. "You may be sitting home alone on a Saturday night."
"Sitting? Not with all the painting this place needs." Duncan looked around the large old kitchen in dismay.
"Painting?" Adam smacked himself in the head. "I never put the paintbrushes to soak, what with all of the excitement."
"Do you want some help?" Richie offered.
"No, I'll get it."
"Put the saw inside too, will you?" Connor asked as Adam darted out the back door.
Adam felt a chill run down his spine as he pulled on the garden gate that led down the path to the caretaker's cottage. Why was he so nervous about going back to his new found home? The sun was just beginning to set, but he tried to concentrate on the improvements they had made to the cottage. He'd forgotten what an organizer Connor MacLeod could be. Between the three of them they had accomplished a lot. Okay, so why did he realize he was walking as timidly as possible to the cottage? He took his hands out of his pockets and tried to straighten up. After all he was 5,000 years old. He'd been in more spooky places than this in one year's time than most people had been in their entire lives. He'd been killed ten times in one week- and hundreds of times in one year. Hell, he'd killed more people in his first three millennia than the average man ever even met. But these were not the thoughts that reassurances were made of.
He'd walked through tombs in pyramids. He'd helped build the pyramids during one of his escapes from Kronos. After that he might have actually been glad he was found. He'd been in a church built of human bones, a macabre memorial to the victims of the black plague. He'd been trapped in collapsed mines. He'd survived through every major war on the planet for thousands of years. The reassurance thing was still not going very good, he reminded himself as he began to gather the paint brushes.
He felt the sensation of another immortal. Well, he should get used to that. He was going to be living on the same estate with two others for some time. Richie was probably coming to help him after all. It was probably a good thing considering his potentially traumatic situation in the cottage earlier. He should come straight back to the scene of the problem and deal with it.
Adam took the paintbrushes inside the cottage and dropped them in the can of turpentine. He stood up as the sensation suddenly grew stronger and definitely un- Richie-like. The air escaped his throat. His mouth dropped open. He could barely stand as the broad armored covered warrior stood in front of him.
"Trying your hand at carpentry, Brother?" Kronos smiled tilting his head to the side as he appraised his former student and offered a warm smile.
"Kronos?" Adam barely gasped.
"Methos." Kronos laughed lightly. "Or is it Adam- again?"
"No!" Adam shook his head. "No, no, no. This isn't happening." He backed out of the cottage as fast as he could. Outside he tripped over the saw Connor had asked him to put inside. When he got to his feet he picked up the saw and flung it in through the open front door. He didn't see Kronos again, but ran as fast as he could to the gate. He half expected the gate to freeze up on him, like it would in any good horror movie, but it opened smoothly. He ran all the way to the house, trying to escape what he assured himself was just an over active imagination.
"That was fast!" Connor remarked when Adam stepped through the kitchen door, face pale and somewhat shaken looking. "Did you remember the saw?"
"It's inside, yes." Adam tried to steady his breathing before anyone could catch on. "So is dinner ready? I'm starving." He smiled and made a few careful steps inside.
"Are you alright?" Connor studied Adam more closely.
"Fine. Just hungry."
"Was it the crow or a ghost?"
"Both actually." He smiled and quickly went to the table, grabbing up pizza to occupy his mouth as an excuse to prevent Connor from asking questions he'd have to respond to. He noticed Richie was too absorbed in his dinner to be paying anyone any attention, but Duncan and Connor kept exchanging funny looks. When he grew too uneasy with being the subject of their observation he decided to throw their concentration at his young friend. Sorry Richie.
"So Richie, you never finished telling me what happened this summer in Scotland."
Richie looked up with his mouth full of pizza. He cast a guilty glance at Connor. He hadn't particularly wanted his teacher to know it hadn't even taken him two weeks to get into trouble he couldn't get out of on his own.
"Yes," Connor joined in with an amused smile. "Duncan had just gotten to the part where you had left your sword and coat in the car and was tricked by a beautiful girl into getting your head bashed in and kidnapped by a satanic cult."
Richie rolled betrayed eyes at Duncan. Too bad he could only kill one of them before the quickening started. Who would it be? Adam for bringing it up, or Mac for having already told Connor about it? He swallowed his pizza down and sat up a bit straighter. Why did he feel like he was walking into a confessional?
"I wouldn't exactly call her beautiful." Richie took a drink of his beer.
"So what happened?" Adam encouraged him. He could use the diversion.
Four Weeks Earlier
It didn't take Richie too long to realize he was lying in the back floorboard of a moving van. His conscious was returning slowly, but the constant jostling and bumping along was a good clue of his whereabouts. When he opened his eyes he could see nothing but blackness. He must be blindfolded, but he couldn't feel anything tied around his face. He moved his head slightly and a hard knot caught at his throat. He was wearing a black hood that must be vented somewhere. He scrunched his head down just a little bit and got a glimpse of light. The hole in the hood must be somewhere near his mouth or nose. He felt so awkward.
Awkward? Hell, why was he worried about that? Why the hell was he even wearing a black hood, tied around his throat and bouncing along on the floor board of a van? Then he was just conscious enough to realize he had a terrible headache. Why did the pain have to return also? Where had it come from? The sharp feel of a blunt object to the back of his head penetrated his memories. A girl- standing next to a van. Smiling. Pretty blue eyes. Lovely blond hair. Sudden intense pain. Riding along on a bumpy road, lying blindfolded on the floor of a van. Now it all made perfect sense.
So, why would a beautiful blue-eyed, blond girl want to clock him in the back of the head with a blunt object, knocking him unconscious and rendering him nearly senseless? Furthermore, why would he now be lying blindfolded in the back of a van? Great! Just great. Why would anyone want to kidnap me? I don't even know who I am, let alone would anyone else. Had someone mistakenly believed he was actually Duncan MacLeod's son? Had he been kidnapped for money, assuming MacLeod had money? Mac certainly seemed to have lots of money.
Somehow he had enough senses about him to realize that he probably had better not ask the driver of the van what was going on. He would probably find out soon enough. Hey, maybe while they didn't know he was awake he could squirm his way out of the ropes. Mac had told him that he had once been pretty good with ropes and locks and things of that sort.
He felt the van slow a bit causing him to roll slightly over on his sides. That's when he realized just how numb his arms actually were. He groaned just slightly. The van turned slowly, making a drastic dip on its axles. As they continued along the even bumpier road, he could smell the unmistakable smell of dry dusty dirt. The van was apparently kicking it up as it lumbered along. He worked his wrists around and felt his skin burn against the friction of the rope. He had to stifle a scream as his numb arms reacted to the sudden movement, all at once the victims of sharp pins and needles. Biting his lip he continued to work his arms, strangling back the screams the rushing blood brought back to his nerves, flesh and muscles. He found it easier to roll over to his stomach where he could get better leverage to move his arms, but then his forehead slammed against the carpeted floor with every bump in the road. How had he every gotten into this situation?
It must have been another half an hour before the van had finally come to a jolting stop.
"How's the passenger?" He heard a male voice ask.
"As hard as you hit him, he's probably still out. If he hasn't died yet." Richie recognized the voice of the pretty girl he had been talking to when this nightmare began.
Richie jumped into action. His bloodied but free wrists stung as he opened the back door of the van and somersaulted out into the thick grass along side of the dirt road.
"Stop him!" The girl shouted.
Richie could hear the man taking chase, and the sounds of a dozen others shouting. Apparently they had reached their destination. How many people were involved in this? He caught just a glimpse of a barn and several people giving chase. The tangled brush of the woods he darted into made it difficult to maneuver quickly. He would have to forge the path ahead of him as he went. Wouldn't his sword come in handy now? He had a sudden image of himself swinging the sword like a machete, quickly followed by images of Connor and Duncan having strokes over the damage being done to the sword.
Richie continued to run as fast as possible but it soon became clear he was at a disadvantage. After all he was the one forging the trail and his pursuers were having an easier time following in his footsteps. He desperately needed to find a path, but wouldn't that be even more dangerous? Ahead of him a crow cawed from a tree branch. What a huge ugly bird. It seemed to beckon him in its direction. That couldn't be a good sign. Richie zigzagged off the opposite way, immediately realizing his mistake as the forest became even more tangled.
Suddenly a jarring burst of light exploded in his head, changing from white to orange and back again. Then total blackness.
Agonizing pain. When Richie awoke that's all he could feel. His skull felt as though it had been split open with a meat cleaver. His hands met with immediate resistance and he realized they were once again tied behind his back. His face was pressed against a wooden floor. When he opened his eyes he could see nothing but a blur. There was a sudden commotion nearby, harsh whispered voices, footsteps rushing, then silence.
"Leave us." He heard an English accent command. At first he thought he had only imagined the voice, but the other footsteps faded out of the room and he was alone with the stranger.
"I'd love to," Richie strangled out. His voice was dry and rough from lack of hydration.
"Sorry about the head wound, but it doesn't seem to have had a lasting effect on you." The voice was chilling, calculating.
Richie double-checked his senses. He felt no immortals nearby. "I don't understand."
"Really? You're not surprised you're alive? After all that was quite a nasty little blow you received."
"That would explain the pain then, huh?"
"Pain? I find that rather surprising considering the four inch gash in the back of your skull has all but healed."
Richie could see a blur of darkness against him. A boot brushed against his shoulder, jean material against his face. His head was roughly turned sideways by a strong hand. Fingers moved through dried blood to examine the wound that was no more. This man moved with the calculating presence of a leader not a follower. Richie quickly understood he'd been delivered into the hands of the- what? Cult leader? Reigning bizzaro maniac? Nut case on high?
"Not to sound cliché," Richie's dry voice managed sarcasm. "But, what is it that you want with me?"
"Me? Nothing." The man slapped him on the shoulder reassuringly, and leaned closer to his ear, speaking with quiet amusement. "My friend's followers, however, want to sacrifice you to their strange gods."
So, he'd guessed wrong. "So, you're not the leader I'm suppose to beg for my life, right?"
"Well, you can. I do so love begging, but I try not to get involved. I was willing to help you on the run, but you chose the wrong path. I'm afraid it's too late now."
"Help me? Too late for what? To escape? Why not help me now?"
"Because that wouldn't be very sporting now, would it? Here I used my special powers to bring you back to life after their little sacrifice got himself killed. Then I let him loose. Somehow, it just wouldn't do my credibility much good, now would it?" He gripped Richie's chin and rotated the boy's face to meet his own. Richie felt a sudden sense of fear as just enough vision to make out the other man's features returned. Short black hair, brilliant blue eyes, and the obligatory evil grin that surpassed any movie villain he'd ever seen. "Too bad we don't have more time. Why, in the old days, I would have had so much fun with a beautiful child like you. Hmm, I wonder? If I help them find another sacrifice, perhaps they'd let me have you. After all you and I are sort of connected. I did save your life and all."
"You had nothing to do with it, and you know it."
"Really? So you know what you are?"
"I would hope you hadn't forgotten that, too."
"What do you mean?"
"You're a watcher aren't you?"
The man gave a short highly amused laugh and patted Richie's cheek. "Actually, I've always preferred being a doer. But, watch? Longer than you can possibly imagine, child."
"You're not like me, are you?" Richie asked before he realized how stupid the question was.
"You can't even begin to imagine what I am." The man traced his hand along the side of Richie's face appraisingly. Richie tried to pull away, but found his cheeks caught in a vice like grip. "Don't," he commanded. "You are a defiant one, aren't you? That didn't get knocked out of you, did it? Trust me, I've trained a few more difficult than you."
"I have enough personal trainers now, thank you."
The man's amused features still blurred in Richie's vision, but the magnificent maniacal blue eyes chilled him to his marrow.
"Gods, I wish I had more time to spend with you. What to do? A rescue, that's what you need."
"No shit?" Richie scoffed. "Why don't you just loosen these ropes, and I'll take care of the rest?"
"Why don't you just stay here, be a good boy, and I'll see what can be arranged. Understand this, there will be a price for your freedom. You and I will meet again."
"Hey, I'm not selling my soul here."
The man laughed, raising his eyebrows. "I never pay for it."
Richie might have laughed had he not been tied up, bruised up and in total fear for his life. The man stood up as another man entered the room. The new man was wearing a long robe, medium length hair, and a short beard and mustache. The Englishman went to him and spoke quietly. The other man never spoke, but just stared at Richie. The would be benefactor turned back and gave him a warm smile. "I'll see you again, Richie."
Richie wondered how he knew his name. They must have planned to take him if they knew his name. Unless someone had looked at his wallet, which he could tell was still firmly in his back pocket, now that he'd been laying on it the worst part of the last few hours.
"Who is that guy?" Richie asked the new man.
The dark robed man looked around the room. "Are you talking about me?"
"No, the guy you were talking to."
"I'm the only one in here."
He seemed sincere for a lunatic, Richie thought. "Right. Why not?"
"Perhaps the blow to the head has confused you. I'm sorry about that, but you should have never tried running."
"Oh, I'm sorry, too. It's just I've got this instinct for survival that I just can't control sometimes."
"It'll be a shame to have to kill you. Your humor would be appreciated here."
"Yeah, this place is a barrel of laughs. Regular comedy club."
"But we have to have our sacrifice tonight." The man pulled him roughly to his feet.
"You know I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty sure the whole sacrificial virgin thing doesn't apply to me. I look younger, I've got amnesia, but I think its safe to say I'm not exactly inexperienced. If I can find my cell phone, I could phone a friend."
"That whole virgin thing is over-rated. The Gods don't care about that when you're in pieces." He pushed Richie through the door.
"Pieces? How many pieces?"
"Why the chop job? Can't you just stick a dagger through my heart or something?" Richie struggled wildly to break free.
"It's what the gods demand."
"Not my God." Richie began to kick even harder, trying to free himself. Several other robed men came over to assist their leader until for the third time that day, Richie Ryan was knocked unconscious.
When Richie awoke yet again, the sun was beginning to set. Okay, so now his head was really hurting. The cawing of some damn bird was really beginning to get irritating. He tried to open his eyes but the brightness of the setting sun to the west caused him to shut them immediately. He was outside. He felt the breeze of the warm summer evening on his face. Soft low murmuring voices danced around him. Pain. He was in so much pain. His head hurt like someone had split it open. His neck and back hurt. His shoulders, arms, and hands were numb and tingling. He tried to shift slightly to improve his position. When he realized he couldn't move his body in the slightest his eyes managed to open despite the opposing glare of the setting sun. He twisted his hands a bit, and felt the slightest friction from the rope that held them in place behind him. Why was he tied up? One glimpse of a dark robed being slithering nearby brought the memories rushing back.
The bastards were really going to kill him. And there was nothing he could do about it.
The bird flew closer sitting on top of the cross bar that held Richie's arms. He lifted his head just slightly and watched it cautiously. If this thing attacked him, it would do some serious damage. "Look, I may look like a scarecrow, but ? Oh, hell I'm talking to a damn bird! I'm about to be chopped into tiny little morsels for your dining pleasure, and I'm making conversation. Just shut up, Richie."
The crow cawed loudly next to him.
Adam reached for another beer and a slice of pizza. "So you're saying this was a crow also? What is it with you and crows? Do you have a Wizard of Oz fixation?"
Richie stared at him in confusion.
"It was a movie. One of the main characters was a scarecrow." When that only met with further staring from Richie, Duncan, and Connor, the ancient shrunk in his chair. "Sorry, I was only trying to lighten the mood. So then what happened?" He bit into another breadstick like a kid with licorice.
"Well, not a lot. I figured I was pretty much doomed. I really didn't expect to make it out of there without losing most of my body parts- including my head. I couldn't begin to imagine any kind of a rescue. Those freaks started chanting just as soon as the sun had set completely. After an hour or so of that they began dancing around in some crazy ritual. That went on for hours and this whole time the damn crow was practically sitting on my shoulder. It would have been funny if it wasn't so serious."
Connor sat up at full attention. "So, how the hell did you get out of this?"
"Ask him" Richie nodded at Duncan. "Next thing I know, he shows up, starts doing some major butt kicking, police are everywhere, I'm about dead from being strung up so long and the whole thing is over."
"Well?" Connor looked at Duncan who reacted a little uneasy with the seriousness Connor wore on his face. This had been over for a month. Richie was fine.
"Well, it was through no great detective work of my own. It was sheer coincidence- by the Grace of God- totally?"
"Duncan, I get the picture. What happened?"
"The police received an anonymous tip from a local farmer- they think- who noticed some odd behavior on an abandoned farm. That was all they needed to investigate after the brutal deaths of five young men- boys really. I was closer to the area when they called me on my cell phone. I got there a couple of minutes before they did."
"So did they catch them all? What about the mystery man in black?" Connor demanded. His intensity had them all curious.
"He was never found."
"Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?" Connor sat his beer down roughly. Couldn't he be the one who placed the call? Could he still expect to come back and collect his debt for getting you out of there?"
"Yeah, he could." Richie said quietly, sipped his beer and stared at the table.
"We thought about that, Connor." Duncan was obviously trying not to alarm Richie. "But it's been a month now. We traveled throughout Scotland incident free. We went to London, spent a couple of days in Rome. Came back here, bought a house, started a new career, all without a sign of the mystery guy. I would hope that he wouldn't wait this long to make his move."
"You of all people- an immortal- should know better than that." Connor was not pleased. Everyone remained quiet waiting for him to continue. "How many times have your old enemies come back to haunt you?"
"Too many, Connor." Duncan nodded his agreement quietly looking off to the side. "Too many."
Connor sat there shaking his head in disbelief. After a long painful moment of silence and frustration Adam jumped to his feet. "Okay, who want's more beer?"
"I do!" Bring me two will you?" Richie stretched his back uncomfortably. "Anybody up for a game or movie?"
"Sounds good to me." Adam called back as he went to the large walk-in pantry where there was an extra refrigerator used as a beer stash tonight. The light streaming in from the kitchen dimly illuminated the room. Adam reached into the refrigerator and loaded his arms with beer.
Behind him in the darkness the sound of a tab being pulled off a beer can was made. He raised his head up slowly and carefully turned around. Kronos was sitting on a row of cabinets, this time in black jeans, short bleached hair and the ever-present scar. He raised his beer to Methos and winked as he again smiled warmly.
"Yeah, right then." Adam shook his head and walked quickly into the kitchen, plopping all the beer down on the table. He took a deep breath then turned back around and stared at the door of the pantry. No maniacal mass murders appeared.
"You okay, Adam?" Connor asked.
"Huh? Yeah, fine. Oddly enough, I may have actually had too much beer." He shook his head again. "So let's go find a game, Richie."
"I'm there!" Any excuse to get out of the tension filled kitchen was good enough for Richie.
"How do they always stick me with KP duty?" Duncan laughed.
"Like this." Connor stood up, grabbed a slice of pizza and another beer and followed after the others.
Duncan stood there for a moment looking at clutter of pizza boxes and beer cans. "The hell with this," he decided and followed Connor's example.
To Part Three