Night's Voice

Celedon

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One

I am he who walks in the shadows
And the light who keeps you warm in the sunshine.
I am he who holds darkness at bay
I am he...
I am he who lives forever,
Made of steel, air and the wisps of fantasy which crowd your brain
I am...but your dream, upon the dark midnight hours.

The blinking red light that indicated that a recording was in progress stopped as a dark finger depressed a glowing green button on the soundboard, while another dark hand shifted upwards a large toggle bar. Silence seemed to fall heavily upon the room before being broken by an infectious chuckle accompanied by applause. “Outta sight, MacLeod! You’ve got it!” A bright flash of teeth in a dark face looked over at the one who had just finished recording. With deep admiration, he shook his head. "Not bad for a Scot!"

The other man called MacLeod leaned back and smiled mockingly at his friend. "We’re all poets in our hearts in one way or another, Sunda." He eyed his dark-skinned friend thoroughly noting the brightly colored apparel his was wearing which contrasted with the wide head of tight curls, which bobbed and shook with every gesture. "And what are you doing in that outfit anyway?"

Sunda glanced down at his outfit then held out his arms. With great dignity, he replied, "Honoring my ancestors, my friend."

The other man snorted before retorting, "You are your ancestors!" His eyes crinkled at the corners as a broad smile slipped into place upon his face. Hollow laughter seemed to echo in the room. “So, why did you want me to come to San Francisco, anyway?”

A bright smile glistened in the darkness of skin. "Thought you needed a vacation--I heard that things were getting a little hot back East.” He glanced at the door then clapped his hands together. “Hey, we got some time, man! Let's say we go out for a little boom-boom..."

MacLeod widened his eyes in mock horror. "Oh no!" A sly grin crept across his face. "Let's go see how many flowers can be fit into those tight little curls you have. Surely you want to show me the sights!" He paused before continuing. "Or are you afraid that I'll show you up again, old man?"

Kastigar motioned to the door, smiling all the while. "Lead on, oh master." As Connor walked past him out the door, he muttered, "Only this time, you get to be the slave!"

Later, while eating a late night repast at Fisherman’s Wharf, the two harassed one another as they reminisced about old times together, each one constantly trying to outdo the other in telling the other some of the stories. They sat in a private booth, well away from the other customers, so that no unwanted ears could eavesdrop. Behind them, in glorious display, lay the Bay, with the bridge lit up like a Christmas tree. Both of them were more than slightly inebriated.

“Do you recall how we met?” Connor asked as he leaned in closer to his friend so that only he could hear him. His words were slurred and the once blurry accent was now more defined.

“I remember. I was going to eat your sorry white ass.” Sunda began giggling hysterically until he almost fell out of his chair. One arm flailed about until its hand grabbed the table and uprighted himself. He then looked about, with his eyes blinking owlishly, wondering why the world had tilted on its edge for a few split seconds.

A waiter nervously watched his last two customers, and then glanced at his watch. It was closing time—and he wanted to get home. He had had enough of the obnoxious guests and with that resolve in mind, he marched over to inform them that they had to leave. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I’m afraid that you will have to leave. We’re closed.”

The merry banter of the two men ceased immediately and two pair of bleary eyes peered at him. “You throwin’ us out?” asked the black man. He shifted position and glanced at his white friend. “I believe we’re not wanted, ol’ man.”

The waiter swallowed but held his ground. “You must leave.” He paused then said more firmly, “Now.”

The white man turned his eyes on him as one finger raised in mid-air, where it remained although it wove and bobbed about unsteadily. “Can you tell me one thing?” he asked the waiter.

“Of course!” The waiter was willing to answer anything if it got his unwanted guests out of there.

“Are th’ local whorehouses anywhere near where they used to be, ‘bout say, a hunnerd years ago?” The white man hiccuped loudly, then grinned widely. "I could use a good fucking!"

Shocked, the waiter stared at him then watched as the black man grabbed his friend’s arm and hauled him upright. “C’mon, MacLeod. Let’s go find out.” He dug through his friend’s pockets until he located a wad of bills, then stuffed them in the waiter’s own shirt pocket. “Keep th’ change.”

With that, the two of them lurched and wove their way out the door, once they found it after several futile wrong turns that led them in any direction but the door.

Two

Before long, the night air took its toll on the two immortals causing both to become quite sober again. They walked amicably along the wharf, watching the sea traffic as it entered and left the bay. Each of them made small talk as they caught up on all the news that hadn’t been said yet. It had been almost a hundred years since they had seen one another and there was much to be said between them. Both knew that time might be on their side as far as a long life, but both were realists. Tomorrow might be their last day on earth, especially if another of their kind caught up with them and took their heads.

“So why are you here, in America, Sunda? Last time we saw one another, you had swore that you would never set foot here again,” Connor prompted as he adjusted his long coat in order to conceal better what lay under it. He draped a casual arm across his friend's shoulder as they continued walking.

Sunda shrugged and shook his head. “You know, I was in the homeland, working with my people against the British rule, before I came here. But playing politics has never been my forte and it started getting a little too warm politically to suit me.” His eyes took on a distant look as he gazed out over the water for a long moment without saying anything. Finally, after a few minutes, he continued. “Insomnia, MacLeod. That’s why.”

Connor looked askance at his friend with both eyebrows lifting in unspoken question. He waited patiently for an answer, knowing that one would come.

In an odd tone, Sunda stopped and turned to look at one of his dearest friends. “Have you been feeling kind of funny lately, Connor? With a kind of a sensation that is there but it isn’t?” His usually gleeful face was solemn. His dark eyes searched blue ones. “Have you?”

Connor held the other’s eyes steadily before replying, “Maybe.” He glanced back over to where Sunda’s car was parked a short distance away. “But that doesn’t explain why you're here.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Sunda answered. “Best I can do, MacLeod. I don’t know why I’m here myself—I just am. And I’m trying to make the most of it under the circumstances.” His eyes followed Connor’s and nodded. “My thoughts exactly. You must need to get unpacked and all from your trip—c’mon, let’s go home to my place.”

Connor silently nodded as both headed back to the car then on to relative safety. Finally at the car, he paused with one hand on the door and frowned. “Tell me, Kastigir. Just why did you save me from the rest of your kinsmen?”

Dark eyes glittered with unbridled mirth and good will while the broad, white smile shone within the dark face. “Because, my good fellow, there’s nothing worse than sitting down to a fine evening’s meal then have it revive as you are trying to eat it! Not a pretty sight, I can assure you!”

Both men stared at one another for a very long minute before bursting out in laughter at the imagery that it brought to mind.

As they manuevered their way back to Kastigir's flat, Connor stared out the car window at all the young people who seemed to be everywhere at once as they drove deeper into the Haight-Asbury district of town. Black and white patrol cars seemed to be everywhere; over on that corner, someone was straddled up against the wall, as a pair of cops frisked him while others looked on. Surrounding the cops were a small band of onlookers, yelling taunts and making threats against what they called, "the establishment pigs". The attention and the yelling, seemed to attract more onlookers. It looked like something might explode if the situation wasn’t handled fast and handled well. Not that it wasn’t being handled, Connor silently noted as they drove past, but it certainly wasn’t being handled well.

Sunda peered over at the crowd, and nodded solemnly. “Another one.” He looked sideways at his friend then slyly smiled. “Isn’t this place great? This is where the action is—we are going to make the scene tonight!”

MacLeod pursed his lips at the sound of it as he looked skeptically at the driver of the car. “I don’t know, Kastigir. I’m not sure if I really want to ‘make the scene’.”

“You’ve grown into an old man, afraid to try new things!" The African slapped his passenger's knee. "I don’t believe it!” Kastigir replied in a mocking tone of voice.

Defensively, Connor answered, “I have; and am not!”

Kastigir swung the wheel hard to the right to avoid hitting some pedestrians who were jaywalking across the street. Swinging it back into a hard left, he pulled into an older looking parking garage. He shut the engine off after finding a good spot to park then looked at the other man. “You have.” A moment passed then he said. “Get out, we’re here!” With that and a swift flourish on the horn of the car that seemed to announce their arrival, he got out, heading to the back of the car to get Connor’s suitcase.

Slower and with more caution, Connor eased out of the car, glancing about him as he did so, on the alert for anything out of the ordinary.

“You worry too much—-you need to learn to relax!” chided his friend. “C’mon, we’re safe here.” He motioned to Connor then both went upstairs to get some rest.

______________________________________________

Sunda Kastigir had, at one time in his life, been a corsair along the infamous Barbery Coast of Africa. His apartment reflected that lifetime as well as reflecting his African heritage in various displays which hung from the walls. Each lifestyle was intertwined with the other, but neither kind of artifact, spoke of great wealth or riches. They were of more modest items along with far more personal things than most might have imagined the black man might have kept over the centuries.

Connor slipped from one display to another, asking small questions of his host before finally coming to a pair of statues of both a male and female. Both were exquisitely carved, with the female being excessively pregnant and the male sporting an enormous, fully erect phallus. The smile on the male statue’s face, said it all. His eyes opened wide at the sight of the pair—-he had seen others like it before, but most people who had such an item, kept them hidden away, out of sight.

Kastigir joined him at his side as he handed the shot of Scotch to his guest. He sipped at his own drink as he contemplated the figures in front of him before saying, “Fertility gods.”

Connor frowned, and replied, “I know.” He bent over to peer closer at the pair, then looked back over at his shoulder. “You don’t need them, Sunda. They won’t do you any good.”

A deep chuckle rumbled from Sunda’s chest. “One doesn’t have to be fertile to plow the fields, MacLeod.” He winked, leering at his guest. “You should try it sometime, my good man.”

Connor smiled then good-naturedly answered in Afrikaans, “”Sit jou kop in die koei se kont en wag tot die bul jou kom holnaai.” He smiled broader as he watched Kastigir begin to slowly translate the phrase. “Let me help you translate it: ‘Go put your head in a cow's vagina and wait until a bull penetrates your anus.’ ”

Kastigir’s face turned dark in anger as the smile slipped from his face after hearing the translation. In a matter of moments, the smile returned as he gleefully answered the Scot in his own native Gaelic tongue, “Pòg mo thòin!” With a wicked gleam in his eye, he translated the phrase into English, “Kiss my arse.”

“Kiss my arse, eh?” Connor shot back before breaking out in gales of laughter. God, he had missed Sunda! It had been too long—far too long!

Three

Morning came, and Connor woke early as was his usual routine, only to find that most of his clothes he had brought had disappeared. When Sunda finally appeared, he questioned him closely, well aware of past times the old pirate had slipped off with something that didn’t belong to him. With Sunda, old habits sometimes died hard and Connor knew it.

“Where’s my clothes, you old Arab seadog?” Connor asked as he strode fiercely about the small living room, throwing things aside as he went. “What did you do with them?” He shot a hard glance at his host, who leaned nonchalantly upon the door frame, watching his every move with bemusement.

“Good morning to you too, Miss Mary Sunshine! I see you slept your usual way—late to bed and early to rise.” A crooked half grin covered Kastigir’s face before he languidly yawned and stretched his muscles out like a cat. “You won’t find them.”

Connor stopped dead and turned to stare at his host. Icily, he asked, “Where are they?”

“Not here. Want some coffee?” Kastigir casually walked past Connor as if he didn’t exist, totally oblivious to Connor’s anger. He was going to make sure that the Scot was going to do what every good immortal needed to do if they were to have any chance of survival: blend in with the people around them. For that reason, Kastigir had gotten up very early, gone through Connor’s suitcase and gathered up everything that spoke of what some around the neighborhood called, “the Establishment.” Once he had everything but a single pair of Levi’s that showed some sign of wear, he went out for a walk, passing the clothes to some of the winos and addicts who were the only ones up at that early hour.

He whistled a bright tune as he had returned home, stopping every so often to check out store displays of clothing, pricing the items that were so proudly displayed in the storefront windows. But the whistling ceased before he was home; he had entered his home cautiously, not sure if a cold blade of steel would be waiting for him as he opened the door. But all was quiet, much to his relief. MacLeod trusted him enough to not take his head in his own place, thank Allah, and trusted him enough to sleep undisturbed the entire night.

“If you want to get some more, I know just the place to go. Reasonable prices, too, and not too far from here. In fact, we can walk there if you want to get a little exercise for those brittle bones of yours.”

MacLeod rolled his eyes in resignation yet still silently contemplating the best way to throttle his friend. He knew that Sunda wouldn’t tell him anything more, nor would he get anything he had brought from New York, back. “Is there anything left for me to wear at all?”

Kastigir nodded and pointed to the kitchen table.

Connor’s lone pair of jeans lay in a semi-crumpled heap upon it; with a angry jerk and a string of curses in several languages, the Scot grabbed them and proceeded to get dressed.

__________________________

“May I help you, sir?” the young saleslady asked the two gentlemen as they looked around, one more uneasily than the other. The pair instantly made her nervous, although for the life of her, the clerk couldn’t say why they did.

The black man spoke up as he pointed to his scantily clad companion. “We’re looking for some new threads for my friend here. Something with—“

Connor turned his attention from the mannequins brightly festooned in day-glo colors of yellows, screaming pinks, outlandish fuschias, lime greens and light up the night turquoises to the clerk. He shot a small grin at her, almost as if he were apologizing for needing new clothes. If the truth were told, he was sorry that he needed new clothes, especially if the clothes the mannequins were wearing were any indication of the lines of clothes he could expect to get from this place. One arm swung out and clamped a hand over the black man's mouth. “—Class. Something comfortable, with some normal colors, you remember- blacks, blues, reds, the usual ones,” Connor asked as he broke into Kastigir’s spiel. He was not a praying man, for the most part, but this shop was enough to want to make him take it up again.

Kastigir threw off the Scot's hand, grabbed him by the arm and drew him aside, throwing an “Excuse us,” back over his shoulder at the clerk. She looked at the two of them with an slight expression of confusion.

“What is the first rule of immortality, MacLeod?” Sunda hissed at him.

“Stay away from any crazy African immortals?” Connor replied with an empahtic,more than heartfelt expression in his whispered voice.

Grinning as if he was tsk-ing at the answer, Sunda informed him, “You need clothes, old man, and you need to blend in. Fact one: is that we are in a clothes store. Fact two: is that we aren’t leaving until you are dressed for the world outside this store.”

“You forgot fact three, “ Connor replied as he too smiled with icy malice at his friend.

“And that is?”

Fuck you.” Connor glanced back over at the girl, who was waiting until they were done talking. His mouth thinned. “I keep these jeans—got it?”

A triumphant chuckle bubbled up from Kastigir’s chest and burst from his mouth. “OK, you can keep the jeans. But everything else goes.”

“Not everything. I’m keeping the shoes too. They’re brand new!”

Kastigir knew better than to push the other man too far and held his hands up in acceptance.” “Deal.”

“Anything else, you old pirate?” Connor growled at the black man, feeling like he had just been taken.

Still chuckling, Sunda told him, “We’ll see, MacLeod. We’ll see…”

_______________________

An hour later, both men came out of the small shop blinking at the bright California sunshine. They looked about and headed away from both the shop and Kastigir’s home. Connor fished out the small pair of octagon shaped granny glasses from his pocket, sighing as he did so, then put them on.

“You look nice in that outfit,” Sunda remarked as he took in the Mexican inspired peasant shirt that Connor wore. It was loose fitting, flowing around his friend’s lean body as he walked, with long, bell shaped sleeves. The neck was open, and underneath it shone the new pair of love beads, he had been sweet-talked into getting by the sales clerk.

“Hmph,” answered the other man. “Not practical enough for fighting in.” They trudged up the hill a bit further on foot, taking in the sights and sounds of the summer.

Kastigir played tour guide as they walked. “Around here, war is a dirty word. Make Love, Not War, is what they say.”

Connor paused and glanced between a couple of buildings where a young couple was doing just that. “I see they take it literally here too.” He watched a moment more, fascinated at their audacity, yet thrilled at it too. “It’s not the same in New York.

The African was watching the couple too. “They’re trying to hide their pain—many of those here are lost to their families—runaways, those who believe that VietNam is a dirty war, one that this nation shouldn’t be in. They come with grand hopes of changing the world, of making a difference, of being able have their generation be heard.”

“War never changes. Only the people and the locations do. What this generation wants to achieve—it won’t make a difference ultimately. Things will still remain the same, no matter what.” Both men glanced at one another then as one, they moved on.

______________________________

Everywhere they went, they were greeted with gentle good wishes, with an openness about the belief that they were everyone’s equals. By evening, Connor had been both greeted and told goodbye so many times, by those doing the telling with the word, “Peace.” So much so that he told his friend in a very determined and serious tone of voice that if one more person said that word to him, he was going to kill them for it.

But Kastigir had laughed at him and headed him off to one of the numerous parties they had been invited to. Upon their arrival, they were encircled as loud, pulsating music filled the room and wild strobe lights flashed about. In one part of the semi-darkened interior, black lights were set up against the florescent posters that lined the walls, making it eerily look out of this world.

Clumps of people gathered here and there, some in bean-bag chairs, others dancing some wildly gyrating dance which Connor watched from his position against one of the walls. He had taken up the position as Kastigir made his way around the various groups, stopping to chat with some, offering hugs of affection while offering up animated conversation. He was a determined non-participant in this venture—-his habit of watching the world go by was far too firmly entrenched to have him change now. However, Kastigir had insisted that he come and meet some of the people he knew from around the area.

“Brownie?” a young voice asked him, making him startle at the sound of it. He turned about swiftly, one hand automatically reaching to his left for a weapon that wasn’t there currently. When he saw the young girl in pigtails holding a platter of brownies, he lowered it, grinning a bit shyly. “Sorry. Old habit.” He glanced at the platter of enticing looking brownies. “You make these yourself?”

The girl blushed as she raised the plate in offering again. “Yeah--my mom's recipe. But I put in a secret ingredient--" she winked at him. "—-something that was passed on to me—-try it!” She glanced around at the others in the apartment, then back to the man with the strange looking eyes and funny voice.

Connor reached out and grabbed a couple, taking a bite as he did so.

Just then Kastigir, ran up to him and grabbed another two brownies, popping each into his mouth, one by one. He shook his head, closing his eyes as he savored the flavor. “MMMMM-mmmmm!” He glanced at Connor. “Eat up—they’re great!”

Connor finished off the last of the brownie and ate another. He about choked on it though when he overheard someone say that one should never trust anyone over 30. He caught his breath and looked over at the person who said it. Much to his alarm, the person speaking, had two heads! He rubbed his eyes and looked again but the apparition was still there! In fact, the enire room seemed to be throbbing and undulating in beat to the loud music.

Kastigir ran up from what seemed to be nowhere, grabbed him by his shirt’s front and shook him hard. “Do you hear them?

Connor turned his attention back to his friend, but it seemed as if his head floated off his shoulders and lagged behind the rest of his body. He had to concentrate really hard to get the words out, he wanted to say, “Hear...what?” It seemed as if he were talking through water too—nothing sounded right either.

By this time, Kastigir’s eyes were wide, and sweat was pouring off of him. He grabbed Connor again and pointed out the door. “The drums! The drums!” He let go with a blood-curdling scream and ran out the door, with MacLeod stumbling close behind him.

Pausing, he called after his friend, who was, much to his surprise was stripping as he ran, leaving a trail of clothing in his wake. “Wait-where are you going?” he finally managed to call out to his friend.

Two words bounced off the walls of the buildings in Sunda’s wake.

“Lion-hunting!”

Four

The call, when it got through to San Francisco’s Police Department dispatchers began with a stream of fluent Cantonese. The sounds of drums beating in the background could also be heard in between the gasps for breath, every now and then before the singsong sounding Chinese began anew.

The dispatcher rolled her eyes at the board in front of her and plugged her wires into the right socket so she could be heard. “Please sir, can you speak English?”

More Chinese followed.

“Sir, “ the dispatcher began to say but was once again cut off. More firmly, she repeated the word, “sir.”

A pause finally was heard then, in broken English, came the voice of an older man. “Come quickly. Naked man beating on my drums.”

Silently murmuring, “Why me?” the dispatcher asked, “What is your location, sir?” She dutifully wrote down the address, carefully noting that it was right in the heart of Chinatown. She continued with her questions as she was trained to do. “Can you describe the man, sir?”

“Man is black. Jumping up and down now much to my wife’s happiness.”

“Excuse me? Your wife’s happiness?” The dispatcher listened intently to the background noises on the other end of the line. She could have sworn that it sounded like something straight out of a Tarzan movie.

Suddenly, the drums stopped, making the dispatcher strain to hear anything. Anything, anything at all for that matter. Alarmed at the silence, she said, “Sir? Sir, are you all right?”

After a moment more, the man replied, “Man all gone now. Wife sad. Goodbye.” With a click, the line went dead.

She pulled the plug then looked at her notepad at the address she had scrawled upon it. Shaking her head, she glanced over at the woman next to her. “Hey, Irene?”

Irene, the other dispatcher on the night shift, glanced over at her as she removed her headset. “Yeah?”

“I just got a call about some naked man beating on someone’s drums! Then, POOF! He disappears just as quickly as he appeared!”

Irene took a drag on her cigarette and chuckled in a low voice. “That’s nothing, honey! I just got a call about some man in an open top VW Beetle, screaming that the British weren’t going to win this time! Then he took off after some guy on foot!”

“The British weren’t going to win? Win what?”

“I don’t know. I only answer and dispatch the calls!” Irene sat up as a flashing light on her console indicated that another call was waiting to be picked up.

The other woman thought a moment then asked, “Where was that, anyway?”

“Chinatown. Where else?”

_________________________________________

Connor couldn’t remember ever experiencing such large swells in a storm. They kept going higher and higher until he swore his ship would touch the sky once he reached the top of them. Then after he teetered on the top for a moment, his ship would plunge downward at such a high speed that even he couldn’t determine how many knots he was traveling at. What surprised him most was that the swells were of such hardness that it seemed to support entire buildings, despite Connor knowing that it was a mirage. He must have been far too long at sea, indeed!

He glanced behind him and cursed as he heard the British firing their cannon at him again. It was the most irritating sound -– a wail that seemed to indicate that he had to stop, but he was bound and determined to find Sunda before he could get to Africa. Providing Sunda was going to Africa--but lions were there, weren't they? After all, he could drown in this sea—drown and be forever lost at sea!

He shifted gears again, scanning the horizon, in search of safe harbor, where the British couldn’t find him easily. Connor couldn’t remember how he came across his ship, only that it was there when he needed to sail away in search of his friend. The fact, that it didn’t have any sails didn’t deter him one bit. He was a good sailor and had sailed the Sargasso Seas before so he knew he had to wait for a prevailing wind to arrive to move him onwards.

After his fingers had fumbled about for a few moments, they found the key in the ignition. It seemed to turn on almost by itself; instinctively the car began to move as gears were shifted in the right pattern. The rear tires began to smoke as Connor revved up the engine just before he completely let up on the clutch, then squealed in anticipated release as the car took off down the street.

The owner of the car came running out along with everyone else to see the vehicle careen precariously around the corner and out of sight. Screaming in indignation, the boy pointed at the rapidly receding car. “He took my car! That dude took my car!”

One of the girls in the crowd grinned lopsidedly and nodded. “Cool! That was far out, man! I’ve never seen that before!” Others agreed with her that it was very cool, and way out.

The car’s owner listened to everyone then nodded in agreement. “Yeah, it was far out, wasn’t it?”

_______________________________________________

Up ahead, Sunda paused for breath, and wondered where in the world he was. The plains of Africa had never looked like what surrounded him. But...if he wasn’t on the plains of Africa, just where was he? In Algiers, waiting on the Sultan to provide him his money? His eyes narrowed as he looked at the buildings—there was no mosque in sight and judging from the sun’s position, it was time for prayers. Just as he was about to do so, a voice he seemed to know called to him.

“Kastigir!” Connor brought his ship to a screeching halt at dockside, so he thought, then turned about to check how close to him the British fleet was. He motioned to his friend, “Hurry—the British are coming!”

With the sound of the word, “British”, Kastigir’s entire demeanor changed from that of a hunter to that of a swaggering, self-assured, totally unafraid of anything or anyone pirate. He swaggered over to Connor, and salaamed. “Good evening, captain. Nice evening for a killing, isn’t it?” He grinned in anticipation of the confrontation that he anticipated would come.

“Get in, already! They are almost here!” Connor heard the sound of the cannon again, closer this time. “C’mon!”

The black man hopped in without benefit of opening the door and once again the car took off like a rocket, heading straight for the bay.

Over the din of the police cars, Kastigir yelled, “Where are we going?”

One glance at one another and both knew the answer: “Africa!”

With that, both burst out in uncontrollable laughter.

Five

The VW Beetle screeched to a halt, as both men looked upward at the hill that faced them. Their necks kept craning further and further back, as they strained to see the crest of it; it was difficult at best to see where it was in the dimly lit streets of Chinatown. In unison, awed at the sight of it, they said, “Damn!”

Behind them, the British lay in wait, slowly but surely surrounding them, as more and more of the fleet joined up with the main group. Ahead of them, was the largest wave any man surely had experienced since mankind had taken to the seas centuries ago. Connor eyed it as he revved the engine up until it began to whine then glanced back over his shoulder for any sign of the British fleet.

Thankfully, they had temporarily lost them for the moment.

With the screech of burning rubber and an accompanying tick-tick-tick-tick of both valves and rings in the engine, they took as if hell were right behind them. Connor floored the pedal and shifted, grinding gears as he did so. The car lurched forward as it continued to gather speed, with the entire front end vibrating so badly that both men’s teeth chattered in their heads. Faster and faster they went, up, up, up until—

Until the car’s engine coughed and wheezed, shuddering as it did so right as they hit the crest of the hill where they balanced as if on a tightrope for a moment. Connor cranked at the key as the car swayed indecisively as to which way it would travel—back down the way they just came or straight down towards the bay. “C’mon!” he cried out in anger and frustration. Slamming a fist down on the dash, he screamed at the car, "C'mon!"

Sunda leaned forwards up on the dash so he could get a good look at what lie ahead of them. His movement made the car’s decision as to which way it would travel—-straight down, towards the bay. He screamed as it began to plunge downwards, “Hard rudder, Captain! Hard rudder!” A bump in the road jolted him out of his seat causing him to land half in and half out of the car. He clung on for a moment for dear life before finally managing to climb back into the vehicle.

Connor’s eyes grew wide as he watched things begin to fly by him at breakneck speed. No matter how hard he tried to get the car to start, it would not. He then noticed the gas gauge read, ‘E’. “Everything?” he asked no one in particular, as he tried to get his foggy brain to register just what that letter meant.

Another bone-shaking jolt caused the wheel to leap out of his hands, as it swerved to the left after hitting a pothole. A clang was heard, along with a clattering of metal. One of the hubcaps came flying off the front tire, bouncing then hurtling backwards straight at the occupants of the car.

Sunda had calmed down long enough to grin as the round hubcap flew by, within inches of his head. “Oh look!” he said to no one in particular as it whizzed past him. “A Frisbee!” He tapped Connor on the shoulder. “Someone wants to play Frisbee with us—did you see that throw? Outta sight!”

Connor put his foot on the brake and clutch, in the hopes that they would slow; the brake pedal slid easily to the floor, with no resistance to it at all. He then grabbed at the emergency brake and pulled with all his strength; it came off in his hand. “We are going to die!” he finally screamed to his companion, as it became apparent that such an event was inevitable.

Sunda grinned for a moment then began to scream as what Connor had said sunk into the crevices of his brain. “I can’t look! Tell me when it is over!” he screeched as he covered his eyes. He began to shake in fright at the very thought of dying in such an undignified manner. As they flew down the hill, he blurted out, "I can't swim!"

The front tires flew off as the front end of the car gave out. Sparks flew backwards as the tires and wheels collapsed under it with the remains of the front end grating on the street's asphalt pavement. The car look as if a space capsule had just hit re-entry with friction-induced sparks glowing red gold in long trails from the front of the car back towards both driver and passenger.

A shabbily dressed wino staggered around a corner then stopped dead at the sight of the car plunging towards him on the road. It careened from one side of the street to the other as it came straight at him. Breaking into applause at the sight of the car surrounded by a shower of sparks, he began to shout, “God Bless America! God Bless America! We beat them commies, we did!” He watched the fireworks display with his hand over his heart, saying all the while, “Never did think I’d see a shootin’ star come down to earth! WOO-WHEEE!” He continued to shout and dance a small jig as it hurtled past him.

Inside the car, Jim Morrison and The Doors, were crooning on the radio, “’C’mon baby, light my fire. C’mon on baby, light my fire, Trying to set the night on fire—YEAH!’” As the song continued, the front of the car burst into flames. As the flames began to lick at both driver and passenger, Connor reached over, doubling up his fist as he did so then let go with a sucker punch straight into Kastigir’s jaw. Shouting so he could be heard over everything, he remarked to the other man, “I’m going to kill you when we get out of this! I’m going to kill you!”

Kastigir rubbed at his jaw where the punch had landed then swung back at the other man, landing a blow squarely onto Connor’s jaw.

The fight had begun.

As the car swerved precariously from one side of the street to the other, blows and accusations reigned supreme in the car between the two combatants. In between blows, screams were heard as each caught fire. But catching fire wasn't what was uppermost on thier minds. Neither was paying any attention to the road ahead of them—-they were too busy trying to kill one another. Because of this, neither saw two men carrying several long cases of fireworks between the two of them, across the street.

However, the men carrying them saw the remains of the burning VW racing towards them and stopped dead, too frightened to continue and too frightened to retreat back to safety. Screaming in sheer terror with bodies quivering, they ran as fast as their legs could take them after the car smashed through the cases, igniting the fireworks within them as it continued to make its’ way towards the bay.

Both the car’s occupants ducked when they hit the fireworks. Connor whimpered as the bay loomed near, “This is going to hurt!” As the fireworks began to go off with even more showers of sparks and ear-splitting booms than what the vestiges of the VW was emitting, it lit up the night sky with an array of various hues and a wide range of fireworks. Just as the car almost reached the bay, it hit something solid on the street, sending it sailing high over the remaining ground before plunging into the water, sending up plumes of smoke as it hit. A moment later it resurfaced, bobbing and dipping in the waves, with both immortals dead but surprisingly still intact inside of it.

_________________________

When the Coast Guard received a message from the San Francisco Police Department to aid in a search and rescue mission in the bay, they sent one of their best cutters to help out in whatever means that would be of most assistance. The cutter’s captain, Captain Chet Lewis, was a career man; he had seen many things in his lifetime and in his career. Nothing surprised him—-he was well known to be a tough talking sailor, a true Bible believing and bearing Baptist who was not given to immoral ways and thoughts. He went to great lengths to see to it that his crew were all straight arrows, from America’s finest, all brave and true patriots, who believed as he did that America could do no wrong. He had little regards for any of the so called “flower children” and draft dodgers—-he thought they should all be strung up and hung for treason for protesting against this great country, and for avoiding an honored duty to one’s country.

Captain Lewis held the binoculars up to his eyes as he and others of his crew scanned the waters for any signs of life from the car that had been reported as sinking into the bay after an accident. He pulled them away and tried to scan the waters by eyesight alone, but it was too dark to see anything that way. Pointing to a likely area, he ordered that the ship’s beacons be directed that way so they could see if his hunch was true.

Immediately, the searchlights were redirected and began the slow, steady scanning of the water in search of survivors. It was a lengthy process in terms of time, but an effective one. And right now, time was of the essence, if there were indeed survivors...

_______________

Both immortals revived at about the same time, and knew in a matter of moments, that the car would sink completely. It was taking on water from all sides and as the seconds ticked by, it continued to sink ever deeper in the water. They had to get back to shore—if they could remember in what direction the shore lay.

Connor looked blankly at the area then began hunting for a flashlight in the glove compartment so he could see it better. He glanced at his friend, who was shivering in the chill of the night air and the coolness of the water. “Your clothes are in the back seat, if you can find them. If they survived. Better get dressed.” The effects of the hallucinogen were beginning to slowly wear off, making him feel very nauseous and very odd.

Kastigir stood up on the seat and gave him a salute before bending down to grab his clothes. “Going down with the ship, Captain?”

Connor chuckled. “Always.”

Captain Lewis gulped, gripping the binoculars tightly as he peered at the remains of the car. Barking out, “Steady!” when the searchlight’s beam wavered off of it, he continued to watch the two survivors clamber to stand upon the seats of the car, unmindful that help was within a short distance away. One man, the driver, he assumed, saluted the other and held it. The other man, who was nude, however turned around and bent down and held that position. “My God!” the captain quietly remarked. “I’ve been mooned!” With that, he ordered the ship away back towards its home dock, Coast Guard be damned.

Six

Coughing up and gagging on seawater, both immortals slowly staggered upward on the beach then collapsed upon it. They hadn’t been so far out that they had to swim for shore for any length of time thankfully but the normally warm Pacific was ice cold at night. More than once, both men felt something brush past them in the water—-something big and more than likely looking for an easy meal. It was enough to urge them onward to the shore and to safety. The sea had never been very discriminating between a mortal and immortal; both could share equally in death once they were at the ocean’s mercy.

Sunda was the first to speak after retching what seemed to be a gallon of seawater. “I know what a sea turtle feels like now, MacLeod.”

Heavy coughing from the other man, followed by silence answered him. As MacLeod righted himself on his elbows, his whole frame violently shook as a spasm of vomiting overtook him. He continued to vomit, gasping for breath in between spasms until the vomiting stopped as suddenly as it began. One arm dragged across his mouth to wipe away any trace of spittle and vomit, while his hooded eyes slid over to his friend. “Mother of God, but I have a headache!”

Sunda picked himself up gingerly, lifting his the charred remains of his clothes to sniff at them only to make a face at the stench on them. His eyes flicked over the landscape along the shore then down at the other man. “Connor, do you recognize this area?” Reaching down, he helped the Scot to his feet, and pointed to the blazing lights further inland. “Where are we?”

Connor rubbed at his temples, wincing as he did so. His whole head throbbed and his eyes felt like they were going to burst from their sockets from all the pressure behind them. Cracking one eye open, he surveyed the lights then shook his head. “Lot of things change since the last time I sailed these waters.” He glanced down at his wet clothes and at Sunda’s. “How did we get here and why are we wet?” Glancing over his shoulder at the bay he whispered, “I wonder?” as he thought about images that fled through his mind but never stayed long enough to grasp.

“MacLeod?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s go find out where we are and get some dry clothes, shall we? Once we do that we can find our way back to my place.” Sunda’s teeth began to chatter as he began to shiver from the night air and the coldness of his clothes.

Nodding at the suggestion, Connor led the way up the beach towards the city once more. He paused for only a moment as a thought occurred to him. "Maybe we're in San Francisco..."

__________________________________________________

A hot pink neon sign announced “PAWN” in the store window. The light seemed to glisten for a moment over both men who entered the door beside it before they stepped out of its glow. Each man took a different direction in which to browse with small puddles and drip marks following them wherever they went.

Eyeing the two men with caution, the owner reached down under the cabinet and patted the hidden gun he had there, just to reassure himself that it was indeed handy if it became necessary to use it. “Can I help you?” he inquired of his customers.

The black man glanced in his direction then shook his head no and went back to look at the glass cabinets full of merchandise that spoke of lost hopes and broken hearts. The other man frowned at the interruption before speaking up. “Got any clothes?” He indicated himself with one hand. “Something in my size?”

The pawnbroker eyed him carefully as he twirled a finger around in mid-air. “Maybe. Turn around, let’s have a look at you.” When Connor complied, he mused out loud, “Eh, 34 or 36, huh? Maybe a medium—you’re not real broad in the shoulders and chest, are you?”

The black man spoke up. “You haven’t seen the part of him that is broad!” He shuddered as if he couldn’t bear to think of it before winking at his companion. A gay smile flew across his face as he saw the warning look from MacLeod that came shooting through the air directly at him.

Connor scowled and then directed his gaze upon the pawnbroker. “Do you have anything or not?” he asked impatiently. He delicately fingered a set of tools as he waited for an answer.

The pawnbroker nodded then held up a pudgy hand. “Wait here. I think I do—I have to go get it from in back.”

Sunda called out to him as he went through a curtained door, “See if you have anything for me too!”

Finally alone, both men looked at one another. “You have any money?” Connor asked. When Sunda patted himself down then held up his hands, Connor knew the answer and frowned. “Check again.”

Sunda complied and came up again with nothing to show for his efforts. Suddenly his face brightened as he grabbed a small pouch that hung on a thin leather cord around his neck. He opened it, then waved a wad of greenbacks at Connor. “I’m buying—it’s the very least I can do.” For some unknown reason, it hadn't burnt in the car fire.

Just then, the pawnbroker came from the back holding up a couple hangers. On one hanger hung a black leather jacket that looked as if it had escaped from a motorcycle gang, with both zippers and chrome studs sprayed across the front. On the other hanger was a matching pair of leather pants, with studs running down the outer seams. “Here, try these!” Pointing to a small alcove, he told MacLeod, “You can try them on in there.” He then peered over the top of his glasses at Kastigir. “I found something for you, too.” Turning about, he went back through the curtain and disappeared.

In a few moments, both he and Connor reappeared. Connor carefully examined the leather and the cut of the clothes and nodded. They fit him like a glove—tight in all the right places with the pants showing the barest hint of a bell bottom flare around the hem of each leg. Pleased, he glanced up and gave the owner a rare smile. “I’ll take it. Do you have a shirt or something to go under it?” When the owner said no, he walked up and drew out his wallet then threw down a platinum BankAmerica card. “Ring it up.”

The owner nodded then directed his attention to the other man as he held up another set of ruby red hued clothes. Sunda frowned then begin to laugh as he held them up to himself. “Perfect!” he cried with glee. Grabbing MacLeod’s credit card, he proceeded to hand it to him with an elegant bow. “My treat, I said.” With authority ringing in his voice, he told the owner to ring it up, which the owner did. Slowly counting the cash he held, he made sure that the amount was correct before handing over his money.

With the sales rung up, Sunda retired to the same alcove Connor had gone to and promptly changed in to his new attire. When he reappeared, Connor look one look at him and announced, “You look like a pimp!”

Sunda calmly held open the door and quietly remarked as the Scot exited the store, “Thanks for the compliment!” then followed close behind him.

They walked further up the street, noticing the different stores announcing an assortment of massage parlors and bath houses, in between a mixture of retail stores that featured erotic items that either man could have only dreamt of. Bars dotted the streets every so often, with clusters of men gathered around each doorway. A fog had crept into the area and contributed to the overall atmosphere of exotic secrets that lay within the establishments along the streets.

Sunda licked his lips and sighed. “I need a drink.”

Sliding a glance towards his accomplice for the night’s events, Connor said, “I thought you were a practicing Muslim!”

“I am!”

“But I thought that Muslims can’t have alcohol of any sort.”

Sunda shrugged. “I never said that I practiced all of it. Besides,” he chucked, “after all this time, maybe Allah has forgotten all about that part when it concerns me.”

Connor softly laughed as both of them entered one of the bars advertised as being the “Moby Dick”.

Once inside the dimly lit interior, they headed straight for the bar. The rock and roll on the stereo system blared so loudly that it was hard to be heard over the music. Connor pointed to a likely spot to perch themselves down and the black man nodded in agreement. Both sat at the stools and ordered their drinks then took a look around at the crowd.

Those who populated the bar were all men, both immortals noted. It was hard to make out just what was happening on the dance floor; it was lit by black lights with an occasional strobe light that flashed quickly during some of the slower dance tunes. The light made Connor’s head ache even more.

“Hi there, you’re new, aren’t you?” said a man’s voice on Connor’s right.

Connor froze for a brief moment before turning to face the voice and looked at the man who sat beside him suspiciously, saying nothing.

One hand was waved before his face. “Hello?” A giggle escaped the man’s throat. “Hello? Can I buy you a drink?” He leaned in towards Connor so he could be heard better and smiled.

“Scotch, on the rocks. No water,” Connor finally replied, guardily.

The man smiled, obviously delighted at the answer. He motioned to the barkeep. “Basil, one scotch and rocks, no water.” He lifted his brows in question at the Scot who nodded in silent answer that the order for him was right. “And make a Bloody Mary for me.”

Sunda watched the two men sitting beside him for a few moments then glanced around the bar at the patrons. In one corner, he saw what he thought were two men heavily pawing at one another. The sight made him blink and rub his eyes before staring at the two men a second time. He was right—they were pawing at one another! Jabbing the Scot in the ribs, he hissed at him. “MacLeod!”

Connor ignored him. He was trying to catch what the man who had bought him a drink was saying but with all the noise in the bar, it was difficult at best to catch every single word spoken.

“My name is Louis,” the man continued. “First time in San Francisco? I can show you around, if it is. I know of all the best places to go!”

Connor shook his head “no”. “I’ve been here before, several times.” Cautiously, he watched the man, very aware that something wasn’t all that it seemed about him.

“MacLeod!” Sunda hissed again at him then jabbed him harder in the ribs. “We have to go!”

Louis kept at Connor, smiling benignly at him. “You have the most beautiful eyes—has anyone told you that?” He placed a hand on Connor’s thigh. “And,” he said as his eyes roamed over the other man’s trim body, “--the body men like us, dream of having.”

Connor jumped up at that remark, jerking Louis upright in one fluid motion. “Men like us? Tell me,” he hissed the man’s name, ”Louis.” He pulled him closer until he was eye to eye with him. “Do you sing and believe in God?”

Louis was breathing heavily and swallowed hard without answering. When Connor grabbed his testicles, squeezing hard as he did so, he let loose with a small scream of pain. He tried to pull the hand away but the grip was iron. “Yes,” he gasped out, half crying from the pain as he spoke. “ I do!”

“Good,” Connor said as he glanced at Sunda. “Let me tell you a true story. When I was a boy, those who were the best singers were taken away to be trained to sing for the Catholic Church in the choirs. When it came time for the boys to reach puberty, those with the purest voices were isolated from the rest of the other boys. They became il castratos. Do you know what that means, Louis?”

Louis shook his head, then turned to see if anyone was watching what was happening to him. But no one was--they were blatantly ignoring the entire incident as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“It means, the castrated. The boys were taken out and castrated without benefit of anesthesia or any painkillers, often in an unsanitary room, with the monks having dirty hands and instruments. Many died from it, but those who survived were forever scarred for life from what they had endured. Now,” he took a breath, and peered deeper into the other man’s fearful eyes. “If you don’t want to end up an il castrato, then I would advise you to keep your hands to yourself the next time.” He gave Louis a violent shake before releasing him. “And by the way—“

Louis’ left hand reached about his throat while his right covered the tender area that had been abused only moments before. “What?” he whimpered.

She did.” With that and a mocking, lopsided grin that belied the threat in his eyes and actions, Connor turned and left the bar.

Sunda lingered behind for a moment pausing to mention to Louis, “He’s a wanted man—I’d pay close attention to what he said, if I were you. He likes to play with very sharp object and he’s very good at it.” With that, he began to whistle merrily despite the loud music and left.

Outside the bar, Connor was waiting on him.

“You’ve gotten better with age, you old Scot.” Sunda casually remarked to him as they began to walk into the fog. “I see you’ve perfected that technique of scaring the piss out of someone, just with those spooky eyes of yours.”

“Not perfected—not yet. Give me a few more years and then maybe I will have.” Connor grinned. “Where are we any way?”

Sunda looked around as the fog drifted about them, slowly swallowing the two of them. “Damned if I know! San Francisco, maybe?”

MacLeod’s fist came flying at the remark and Sunda ducked. “You did ask, old man.”

The thick fog then swallowed them whole.

Seven

The plates precariously balanced as they were on the tray, seemed destined to fall. One small movement in the wrong direction, one bobble up or down surely would surely send them crashing to the floor. The waitress rolled her eyes as a small child came running from heaven knows where in front of her, making her pivot around in the narrow aisle. She held onto the tray for dear life as she twirled about before coming to rest at her booth.

Sunda and Connor sat at a booth, engrossed in conversation. Both were totally unmindful of the fact that their fourth serving of food nearly had been decimated by an unruly child. On the table, plates and saucers of various sizes were stacked high with a space just wide enough to place a coffee cup on. It didn’t matter to them that they didn’t have the full table. All they wanted was a small space to talk things over.

Connor’s eyes slid over to the new tray of food as it was set down on the next table so that their table could be cleared first. “Sunda,” he began as he started to stack dishes for the waitress. “Do you remember anything past that damn party we went to?”

Sunda pursed his lips as he tried to think back to that time. “I’m not sure.” He glanced up at the waitress and smiled as she got the last of the dishes off the table. “Thanks.” He winked at her then smiled broadly when she smiled back before she took the load of dishes to the back. “I might have a chance with her, you know, MacLeod? If I can work it right...”

The Scot interrupted him. “I don’t.” He looked around, then at his watch. “It’s still early yet, but I can’t remember where I’ve been over the past few hours.” He shivered at the thought as he flexed his hands in mid-air. “It makes me...uncomfortable.”

Sunda turned serious for a moment as he listened to the other man. Shaking his head, he stated, “You know, I can’t remember anything either, come to think about it.” He frowned. “Do you suppose we ran into another like us? And—“ He paused to think as he pulled at his chin.

“That their quickening caused amnesia?” Connor replied as he finished out Kastigir’s unspoken ones. “Never heard of it happening, but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t.” He took a quick sip of coffee before diving into the plate of food before him. Between mouthfuls of food, he said, “I just have the feeling that someone is out to get us—get me for some reason.”

Sunda smiled as he scooped his food and swallowed it. “You always think that.” He paused. “But normally you have good cause. Now as for me—no one wants my head too much—not like they want yours.”

“No, I mean that someone is out to get us, at this very moment!”

“You Scots are always a paranoid bunch. Always have been, in fact.” Kastigir remarked as he threw down his napkin, and got up. “I’m getting a paper—early edition should be out now. Maybe that will soothe your poor, paranoid mind.” He left, leaving Connor alone at the table.

Connor picked up the pepper and dashed it across the eggs on his plate then stopped as he heard several voices crying out in terror. “Stop!” “I don’t want to go-Momma!” “Help!” the chorus of voices seemed to be screaming. Wide-eyed at the entire experience, MacLeod paused in mid-shake and stared at the pepper shaker. He could swear he could see itsy-bitsy figures in it, all begging to be left alone.

Gently, he replaced the shaker on the table, and looked around, wondering if anyone else heard the pepper talking. His eyes flicked from one booth to another, then back at the shaker. Where was Sunda? he wondered as he went back to looking around the restaurant. And why did he get the overwhelming feeling that he was being watched?

Moments later, Sunda re-appeared at the table, newspaper in hand. “Miss me?”

Connor looked back over his shoulder before answering. “Did you see anyone unusual watching us while you were getting the paper?”

The African’s eyes slid around the room, checking out each and every person to see if he could see what his friend was talking about. Slowly, after he was satisfied that there weren’t being watched, he replied, “No. Why do ask?” He snapped open the paper to the front page, spreading it out so that he could read it easier.

MacLeod shifted his eyes around the room again. “We’re being watched.” His muscles twitched at the very thought of not being able to identify who the watcher was. He felt as nervous as a cat at the veterinarian’s office, ready to pounce on whatever at the first sign of anything that he considered a danger to himself.

Sunda sighed impatiently at the Scot’s insistent interruption of his newspaper perusal. “You’re crazy,” he told the other man. “We’re safe, no one is out to get us.”

“You’re wrong!” Connor said in answer then paused as he heard the pepper shaker begin to talk once more. A swift fist reached out and grabbed the black man’s wrist. “Listen,” MacLeod hissed at the African. “Can you hear them?”

“Hear who?”

“The pepper-!”

Kastigir looked askance at the man across from him and slowly shook his head. “If this is one of your bad jokes, old man, then it’s not funny!” He folded up the paper onto the table and crossed his hands.

Connor frowned as his eyes shifted about the restaurant before settling upon the paper under the former pirate’s hands. He grabbed it, opened it and began to read the banner headline. “My God,” he said as he slowly took in the article under it. “My God!”

San Francisco Chronicle

EXCLUSIVE

Two Men Believed To Have Drowned In Bay

By Bea Damned

(AP) Two men, believed to be suspects in a car theft ring, are believed to be dead, after an extended chase by police. The suspects, whose identities have not been disclosed by the police at this time, stole a Volkswagen from the Haight-Ashbury district and began an extended chase by police through parts of Chinatown until the stolen vehicle crashed through the warehouse district. Witnesses describe the fatal flight of the suspects as spectacular.

Aaron Meier, who witnessed the car’s last moments, told the Chronicle, “It was the best fireworks display I ever did see! Never thought I’d see a shooting star on earth before, but—wow! I did, sure enough.” Mr. Meier was then arrested for public intoxication after making his comments to this reporter. More on that later, in another report.

The unknown driver of the vehicle was reportedly in pursuit of a naked black man before police began to surround both suspects. There are confirmed reports from Chinatown of a naked black man breaking into someone’s store and beating upon the merchandise. At this point in time, police are not saying whether the two incidents are related.

The San Francisco Port Authority has called the U. S. Coast Guard for assistance to help with search efforts. Rescue cutters were dispatched earlier tonight to aid in pinpointing the exact location of the vehicle, but nothing has been located at this time. Authorities say that more rescue efforts will continue in the morning, when there is the best chance of locating the wreckage.

___________________________________________________________

The call when it came through to SFPD squad car 54 caught its officers unawares. They had taken off on break a short while before and since the night was relatively slow in their part of the city, they had decided to extend it a wee bit.

Squawking at the 2 officers, the radio’s unexpected noise caused both men to startle with the end result being one of loud howling as cups of fresh, hot coffee spilled and bright blue cursing began. “Car 54, we have a report of an assault at the Moby Dick.”

“JE-ZUS!” one of the officers screamed as he frantically tried to sop up the spilt coffee from his lap. “GODDAMN IT!”

“Car 54, come in please.”

“YE-OWWWW!” the other officer screamed in unison with his partner as he too was sweeping away the scalding liquid.

The radio squawked again. “Car 54, where are you?”

“Answer that damn thing, will ya?” The older of the two policemen snarled as he finished cleaning himself off.

His younger partner complied, “Yeah, dispatch, we’re here. 54, reporting in.” He shook himself off as best he could inside the car, muttering and shaking his head as he did so.

“54, what is your location?”

“San Francisco, last time I looked, dispatch.”

Whispering forcefully at the rookie cop beside him, the veteran cop told him, “Don’t tell them that! Tell them where we are, you idiot!”

“Sorry about that last transmission, dispatch. We’re near the—“ He rolled off their location as he searched the map for the location of where the assault took place. It was too far from their current location by the looks of it and thus outside their beat.

Dispatch continued, “Suspects believed to be on foot. Please be aware that they should be considered dangerous and should be approached with caution. We’re running a check on the suspects now and will inform you if any matches come up. Suspect 1 is a black man in a red suit, 5’10”, Afro type hair, Fu Manchu moustache. Suspect 2 is a white man, about 5’11”, sandy brown hair, dark eyes wearing a black leather outfit. This suspect should be considered a wanted man; remarks made to the victim by Suspect 1 indicate that Suspect 2 is wanted.”

The cops looked at one another then at the radio. The rookie shook his head as he answered the instructions. “10-4, dispatch. We’ll go looking around here to see if we can see them. And, don’t worry, we’ll call for back-up if needed.”

“10-4, 54. Out.”

The older cop sighed as he started up the car again. “So much for our break. Guess we had better go out and protect and serve the public again, huh, kid?”

Nodding in agreement, the younger cop only replied, “Yeah.”

_______________________________________________________

The more Kastigir learned of the incident, the more confounded he was. The things in the newspaper sounded familiar but yet they didn’t. What he couldn’t figure out was how they got from the party, gotten wet, then wound up in this part of the city. Or at least the part about getting from the party and getting wet. Fleeting images of tribal drums beating a steady tattoo, in preparation for a lion hunt haunted him from time to time. But were those images real in this time and century or were they from his past? He couldn’t say either way.

As he sat listening to the Scot prattle on about whether white pepper discriminated against its black pepper counterpart, he noticed that the man was slowly becoming a rainbow of colors. MacLeod’s rumpled hair had turned florescent orange and his jacket had turned lime green, so it seemed--at least to his eyes. It was enough to make him nauseous. In fact, he noticed that everyone seemed to be wearing a halo of some sort in a wide variety of colors. Shaking his head to clear away the psychedelic images, he covered his eyes. “I think I’m going to be sick,” he softly murmured to himself.

A tinkling of brass bells drew his attention as it did MacLeod’s when the front door of the establishment was opened. Two men, both in police uniforms, came in and stood by the door so that there was no way someone could get out. They swept the room with their eyes, keeping in mind the two suspects’ descriptions before their stony gaze landed on the two immortals at the far booth.

MacLeod looked defiantly at the cops, silently daring them to come closer so he could do what his brain was telling him to do—get rid of them, in whatever fashion it took to do so.

Corporal Caine, the younger of the cops, locked eyes with the white man, noting both the hostile attitude and the clothes worn by him. All seemed to match the description given by dispatch to them earlier before they began their search. He took a step forward towards his prey, but a burly arm stopped him.

“Approach with caution, Caine. Remember that—don’t do anything foolish.” Sargent McCoy calmly said as he eyed the second man. He was expecting anything to happen, as was the case when a suspect or suspects were cornered. He had the experience behind him to know that as a fact.

The sudden shattering of the street-side plate glass window was the last thing he expected to see as the suspects leapt from their booths and outside through it. He swerved away as the entire window fell in deadly jagged pieces both in and out of the building.

Caine screamed, “Down, everybody! Duck!” pieces of the window fell inwards onto the tables and booths. When the last of the window had fallen, he turned to look outside for the suspects, only to see them sprinting away. “They’re getting away, Sarge!” he called to his partner.

McCoy turned to see that it was indeed true—the two suspects were indeed getting away and damn fast, too! With a furious motion of his arm, he cried, “Follow them!” then exited the restaurant with his partner closely behind him.

Eight

One man, born to the wild terrain of the Highlands of Scotland, with one man, born on the wide-open Serengeti plains ran with ease through the streets and alleys of the city, without any sign of fatigue or being winded. Both were on foot and both were wanted by the police for questioning.

Their counterparts in blue, however, panted and wheezed as they careened around corners and down streets in pursuit of the suspects. Occasionally, McCoy would place his hand to his side to ease the sharp ache that he felt as he ran. Caine however, ran on a few more steps so he could keep the suspects in view before he stopped to look back at his partner. “Sarge? You ok?” he yelled at his partner.

McCoy nodded and waved him on. “Don’t lose sight of them!” He pointed in the direction both suspects had taken. “Go—I’ll catch up!”

Caine hesitated for only a moment before nodding then taking off after the two men.

McCoy watched him go then shook his head. “Damn hippies!” he swore out loud to the empty street surrounding him. “Goddamn hippie freaks!”

_____________________________

The Scot motioned his companion to a halt before ducking into the deep shadows of a building. Both men waited with their breath held and watched to see if they were followed but after a few moments, it was apparent that they had lost the police, if only for a little while.

As their eyes adjusted to the dim light, Kastigir looked around at the buildings. He surveyed all the storefront displays, chortling merrily at the items displayed, or in some cases, mimicking the mannequins until he was almost rolling on the ground in laughter. But finally, one display caused him to drop to a crouch so that he couldn’t be seen above the bottom edge of the window.

Out of a corner of his mouth, he urgently whispered, “MacLeod! Come here!” He lifted his head up a fraction of an inch above the bottom ledge of the display then swiftly lowered it again. “Hurry—while it’s still unaware of us!”

MacLeod hunkered down into a crouch too as he made his way to his friend’s side. All his senses were on high alert for the slightest sound or movements anywhere near them. “What?”

Sunda pointed at the window. “Look—tell me what you see.”

Cautiously, Connor lifted his head up to view the window display. His mind swam in blurry thoughts of his days he served with the British army in the last century as he took in what lay within the window.

The display showed a wide array of African stuffed animal toys all displayed against the background of a waterhole. Rhinos, crocodiles, hippos, flamingos and more all were arranged about the display, with a clutch of zebras poised as if ready to take flight as a herd, if necessary. But the star of the display was an oversized stuffed lion that lay in wait under some bushes near the rest of the animals.

“Lion!” Connor hissed between his teeth at the African beside him.

“Yes!” Sunda replied in answer as he slithered toward the door.

Connor looked around at the street and noticed the very large puddle in the center of it. “Waterhole’s over there-“ he pointed to the street before continuing. “Where’s my gun?”

Sunda looked back at the waterhole and pointed to the streetlights. “Mustn’t cause the giraffes to stampede—once they start, every other species follows their lead.” He doubled up a fist, slammed it through the glass door, then reached in and unlocked the deadbolt, unmindful of the alarm going off.

Slowly with one last look toward both giraffes and waterhole, both entered the store and began to silently explore its contents.

Sunda was drawn to a display of long, plastic spears, much like he had used when young. He hefted one to check for balance, unaware of nothing else except the lion in the window. Within minutes, he had found his weapon of choice and began the ritual dance his tribe had done before the tribesmen went out on a lion hunt.

Connor meanwhile was browsing the aisles in search for his shotgun. Somehow he had lost it along the way; there would be hell to pay if the British found out he had done just that. After a few furtive searches he spotted what he was after--a double-barrel, fully loaded shotgun. Sweeping it up in his hand and looking it over, he nodded. He raised it to check the sights on it, grunting his approval when he saw that they were still true.

“SHHHHHHHHH!” the African harshly whispered then glanced at the window. “You’ll give us away!”

Connor brought both barrels up and aimed directly at his friend then squeezed the trigger. Instantly a simultaneous ‘POP, POP!’ was heard as the two corks came hurtling out of the barrel of the toy shotgun. Calmly, the Scot reloaded his shotgun as he grinned. Laughing softly he told the black man, “Next time, I’ll aim for something more vital.”

Sunda rolled his eyes then lifted a finger to his lips to silence the other man. The time had come to come face to face with the lion, and to prove himself a man all over again by killing it. Dropping down to all fours while still gripping his spear, he motioned to MacLeod to back him up as he stealthily approached the window.

Raising his gun to his face, Connor took careful aim, and followed his friend with the barrel of the gun as he crept into the window display. The silence was almost deafening—the alarm had stopped ringing and the animals were also silent. That wasn’t necessarily a good sign, Connor knew from experience. It normally meant they knew that there was a predator around, somewhere even if they couldn’t be seen. No sound, no cries of fright from the animals, no—

A sudden crashing broke the silence, followed by the muted thumps of something being hit repeatedly. More stumbling and thrashing sounds were heard before finally it became utterly silent. “You alright?” MacLeod called out to his friend.

In answer, Sunda came around the side of the once intricate display wearing the remains of the stuffed lion tied about his neck. A fist beat against his chest as he proudly proclaimed, “I am a man—I have no fear!” He swaggered down from the window and held open the door, raising his spear in triumph. Rearing back his head he let loose a high pitched cry of exultation.

The wail of an approaching police car made them exchange a long look before exiting the building. One man, wearing a lion skin which flew behind him as he ran, the other man pausing long enough to take aim with his cork popgun as the flashing lights of the police car came careening at them around the corner. “Sunda!” the Scot shouted at his friend. “Meet me at the Orpheus—remember it? I’ll join you shortly.”

“Right-o!” came the reply as it bounced off the buildings before the voice faded into the distance.

Pausing, Connor squeezed his trigger at the policemen who were getting out of their car then melted into the shadows. He watched as the pair split up, then saw another patrol car join the first one with its occupants also splitting up to trail the two immortals.

One patrolman stayed behind to monitor the radio and to issue orders to his comrades on the street. From nowhere, fingers tapped him on the shoulder insistently, causing him to turn to see who it was but all he saw was the dark, fog-enshrouded night amid the streets of San Francisco. The street lamp's light caught his badge for a second as well as his nametag, winking on it long enough for one to read the name, “Callahan.” Again, as his back was turned, while listening to the squawking of the radio from all over the city, his shoulder was tapped just before his .36 police revolver was removed from his holster.

The cocking of the hammer as it was pulled back into firing position made him stiffen for a moment before turning about to face whoever it was and to stop the person from using it against him.

“Tell me, said the man, dressed in black leather, who confronted him. “Do you feel lucky?”

_____________________________________

The ticket booth was devoid of anyone when the black man finally arrived. His memory of the place was hazy at best. The last time he had come to it had been over a hundred years ago, when he had met Captain MacLeod, lately of the Rosemary, for an evening of superb dining, abundant drinking and the utterly charming Miss Lillie Langtry. Miss Langtry, or the Jersey Lilly as she was then known, was appearing for one night only at the Orpheus before continuing on her world tour.

The place then had been opulent and extravegant; everything about it had bespoke of wealth and privilege. But...he looked the building over and shook his foggy head. It had deteriorated badly and was in desperate need of restoration. Glaring signs announcing the coming attractions lined both walls on either side of the ticket booth. Sunda didn’t dare look at them because the images on the posters came to life every time he did. That he wasn’t frightened of for the most part—-he was raised to know that spirits existed everywhere around him. The part that frightened him was when they managed to somehow break free of their glass cages then disappear into thin air.

He began to pace up and down in front of the ticket booth, keeping his eyes averted so as to keep from seeing the wild, brightly colored images that he saw everywhere he looked. One hand reached up to finger the dead lion he wore about his neck, gaining courage from it. Murmuring softly, he told himself, “I am the lion! I have no fear!” But the truth was, in the state of mind he was in, was that he actually did.

The tell-tale twang of another immortal caused him to swivel around and search the area with his wild eyes, wincing at all the undulating colors before his eyes. As the twang became stronger, he called out in challenge, “Kastigir, of the Sunda tribe of Africa. And you are?” Even his voice sounded strange to him!

MacLeod finished polishing the brim of the policeman’s hat to a bright sheen as he walked up and paused to sum up the situation. He flipped the hat upon his head as he looked around before replying, “The sorry white ass you didn’t eat.” He waved a hand in front of Sunda’s face. “Hey, can you see ok?”

His wrist was grabbed in mid-air in a bone-crunching grip. “Answer your question?” came the answer.

The Scot twisted out of the grip and jerked his head in the direction of the theater. “Let’s go in.” As the two walked by the ticket booth, he threw a twenty-dollar bill inside of it to pay for their tickets for the night’s performance.

Once inside, they paused long enough to see that there wasn’t a soul in sight. MacLeod took full advantage of that fact by going over to the candy booth and grabbing a few bags of thick, black rope licorice as well as a few other things. He then left more money on the counter to pay for it.

Minutes later both were ensconced in the upper balcony of the theater at the very top row, right under the projectionist’s window. They could neither be seen by anyone nor heard. In fact, they were the only ones in the theater.

When the lights flickered before fading out Connor sat upright and stared at the screen in amazement. “I’ll be damned!” he declared.

Sunda stared at the blank screen for a few minutes before asking, “What movie is this? I don’t recognize it.” With a warning “ssshhhhhhh!” from his companion he quieted and began to stare as Connor was at the blank screen.

An hour passed. “What’s this movie?” he said as he jabbed his next seat over neighbor in the ribs. “Tell me!”

Connor frowned, annoyed at the interruption. “D.W. Griffin's, 'Birth Of A Nation'. Now, are you satisfied?”

The African pondered on the answer for a few minutes while continuing to stare at the blank screen. “How come there’s no sound?”

Even more annoyed than before, the Scot angrily replied, “Because it’s a silent movie!”

“Oh.”

Another hour passed by.

“Connor?” came Kastigir’s voice in the dark. “How come then there isn’t any piano or organ music accompanying it?”

“How the hell should I know?!” Connor rapidly shot back in exasperation as he pulled out a bag of the rope licorice. “Have something to keep your mouth shut!”

The lights flickered on for only a moment as he held out the licorice to his friend but it was long enough for the black man to see what was being offered him. Screaming at the top of his lungs, “Mamba!” he knocked the candy cleanly out of MacLeod’s hand before ransacking and wrestling Connor to get at the rest of the licorice.

Connor grunted and grimaced as he wrestled the other man for control of the candy only have it taken away and thrown over the edge of the balcony. Furious over the loss of the licorice he demanded, “What did you do that for?”

“They’ll kill you—very deadly snakes, very poisonous!” insisted the other man. “You get bit,“ he airily waved a hand in the air, “Twenty minutes later, -poof-, you are dead!”

“Never take a man’s candy, Kastigir. You can get killed over it.” Sighing, Connor peered over the balcony to the floor below in the hopes to see his candy, but it was too dark.

The two men grimaced and made faces at one another for a few minutes more before they both sat down to finish watching the non-existent movie. Much to their surprise, the screen actually began to flicker then music began to play as the credits came up.

“Oh look,” cried both of them at the same time. “A cartoon!”

Murmuring to himself, Connor began to read the credits beginning with the title: “Fantasia”. “Hey Kastigir! It’s Mickey Mouse!”

“My favorite! Oh boy!”

They both watched as the movie began to unfold before them. “Pass me some chocolate, will you?”

Nine

After realizing that pursuing the two suspects on foot was futile all patrol teams headed back to their respective patrol cars. It had been a frustrating pursuit at best, despite having a clue to their whereabouts. Those at Records couldn’t ID where or what the Orpheus was so the call finally went out for all to return to base.

However, when the original cops who had arrived first on site returned to their starting point and to Callahan, they found him bound by the radio’s cord inside the squad car. A thick forelock of hair had slipped onto his forehead and his nametag had been placed upon it as if it were a barrette.

“Hey, Rowdy!” one of the stunned cops called to him as he reached his side, staying far enough away so he wouldn’t get hit when Callahan was released. “What happened to you?”

In answer, a stream of blue audibly filled the air. “GET ME LOOSE!” The bound patrolman glared at the cop who had asked the question. “And stop calling me that!”

Another cop chimed in on the teasing. “You look nice in barrettes—you going for the pigtails look next?”

Callahan rolled his eyes at the hazing, too furious at his situation and too embarrassed to admit he had lost his gun. Muttering loudly, he vowed a vow he intended to keep. “I’m going to get the biggest mother of a gun I can get—no more measly, piss-ant weapon for me!”

_________________________________________

“Quite a night!” Irene said as she signed out at the time clock. She rummaged around in her pocket for her pack of cigarettes.

“Yeah, and it had started out so...quietly too!” agreed her friend who had been dispatching along with her tonight. “Sure got lively after those reports came pouring in about those two they believed drowned in the bay!”

Irene lit up her cigarette, taking a long drag on it before answering. “Typical weekend night, honey. You’ll get used to it—some nights really get rocking.” She took another drag on her cigarette. “This was NOTHING!”

__________________________

When morning came, it found the two immortals sitting across one another back at Kastigir’s flat. Both had fingers wrapped around steaming mugs of coffee as they quietly discussed past lives together and apart. Within a few hours, the Scot would be making his way back to the Big Apple, leaving Kastigir to his own devices and life again. Both knew that this might be their last chance together but whatever both felt about the matter, it remained unspoken.

“Don’t invite me to anymore parties, Sunda. I think I have had enough of partying for some time!”

“Don’t be such a, how do you say, spoiled sport, about it. You needed to get away, and I needed to have a distraction.”

“Is that what I am—-a distraction?” Connor roared in indignation at him then chuckled softly. Shaking his head, he fell silent.

“How long has it been since you can honestly say you have had as much fun as we have had in the last few days?” Sunda took a sip of coffee, then reached for a piece of toast. He paused with it in mid-air as he remarked, ”At least, I think it was fun, wasn’t it?”

MacLeod scooted his chair back, stretching his arms above his head as he thought about it. Replying slowly, he said in answer, “I don’t know—-I don’t remember anything past the girl with the brownies.”

Sunda licked his lips at the memory of the brownies’ unusual taste. “I wonder what she put it those anyway? I don’t remember anything either past that point, same as you.“ He took a bite of his toast as he thought about the past couple of days. “Do you have any idea how I wound up with a flattened toy lion?”

Connor eyed him for a long time as he tried to come up with a memory—-any memory of how that occurred as well as why he remembered bits and pieces of a fireworks display. “No,” he finally answered. “Hell, I can’t even explain what little fragments I can remember of the last day and a half—-or was it longer?”

Sunda checked the sun’s position out the window. “Day and a half sounds about right. Maybe a little longer, but not by much.”

Connor nodded, then glanced at his watch. Better start packing—not that I have much to pack, thanks to someone I know.”

“How is Rachel, anyway? That is her name, isn’t it? “Sunda grinned in merriment as his eyes twinkled.

The Scot ignored his efforts to draw him out further. He stood and made his way back to his bedroom, with Kastigir following close behind. Throwing his suitcase on the bed, he studiously began to gather up his belongings and pack them away in it.

Kastigir silently watched the whole proceedings as he leaned upon the doorframe. He would miss the other man terribly when he left; it was hard to have and maintain any friendship with others like the two of them had. It was the nature of the Game, but luckily, every once in a while, you find someone who you can actually trust to not take your head as well as someone to confide in about one’s realities when you are an immortal. For Sunda, MacLeod was one of those rare Immortals and he thanked Allah for his keeping him alive despite everything.

“I don’t need a mother watching how I pack my things, Sunda.” Connor glanced at his friend at the door. “Don’t you have better things to do?”

“I do, my friend, but they can wait.”

Connor went back to folding the last pair of socks that then were promptly placed in the suitcase. The Scot closed it, making the clasps sound like bullets in the silent room when he locked it up. “I guess, that’s it.” He glanced at his watch again then grew serious. “Stay low, my friend.”

Sunda nodded solemnly then disappeared.

MacLeod sat on the bed as he ran his hands through his rumpled hair and across his face. Closing his eyes, he mentally prepared himself for the trip back home and the loneliness he would feel again once he left this place.

“Cab’s called, should be here in a few minutes,” Sunda said as he reappeared in the doorway.

Connor frowned. “How’d you manage that?”

“Cab company's right around the corner.” The African slid into the room and picked up the Scot’s only piece of luggage. He jerked his head in the direction of the door.

“Oh.”

As they made their way outside to wait for the cab, Sunda cleared his throat. “MacLeod?”

Something in his voice caused the other man to turn his full attention to him. Gently, he said, “What?”

“If something were to happen to me...” Kastigir hesitated. “You’re a man of honor and one who keeps his oaths and words.”

Connor searched his friend’s eyes and read what remained unsaid. He placed his hand upon the other man’s shoulder. “I will remember you, I promise. And I will avenge you, never fear.”

“Warrior to warrior?” Kastigir asked.

“On my honor and warrior to warrior.” They shook hands then embraced, each gripping the other as if they were reluctant to let the other go.

When they did, the black man said, “MacLeod?”

Connor’s eyebrows shot up in a questioning gesture. “Yeah?” The cab pulled alongside the curb as he waited for an answer. The suitcase was placed in the trunk of it with the cabby nodding that all was ready to go at him.

“Whatever you do, don’t eat any more brownies!” Kastigir roared in laughter as did the Scot after a minute’s hesitation before getting into the cab and taking off.

Once in the cab, Connor refused to look back at his friend until he could no longer stand to not see him a final time. He craned his head then his whole body around to see his friend still standing on the sidewalk, watching him grow more distant. He shook his head, thinking how sentimental he was over it.

And yet...and yet...everything that had happened recently since his arrival all seemed to be linked to one thing: Kastigir.

He thought for a moment at Sunda’ parting words then turned back around and leaned his head back. Musing more to himself than anyone else, he softly said, “Come to think of it, it must have been something I ate, too.”

Ten

New York City

TAPTAPTAPTAP. The nervous sound of a pencil beating in rhythm upon the ornately carved, heavy desk was the only sound in the vast room. The man behind the desk ran a hand through his hair as he lifted up a piece of paper and absently stared at it. He hated doing paperwork but it had to be done, no matter how he felt about it.

Sighing, he threw it to one side and made his way to his wall of windows. He was restless and had been ever since his return home. “What’s wrong, MacLeod,” he whispered to himself as he looked westward to the buildings that surrounded him in that direction. His eyes flicked over the busy streets and buildings and shook his head. He sighed deeper, then perched himself on the wide ledge to continue his vigil in his ivory tower.

“Papa?” The decidedly female voice on the intercom made him startle enough to nearly fall off where he had been sitting only moments before. Recovering quickly, he stared at the elevator as he heard it engage as it began its ascent to his fortress of solitude. He slipped off the ledge and headed for the stairs, grabbing a wooden bo on his way and began to swivel it in the all-too-familiar patterns used in combat. As he reached the top of the stairs, the elevator started to reveal its occupant to him.

Long blonde hair that swept past wide shoulders, dark eyes, bell-bottoms jeans, and a loose tied-dyed shirt. That is what he saw as the gate was pushed aside. “Rachel!” he said in astonishment at the sight of his adopted daughter.

Rachel Ellenstein stepped from the elevator. “I thought you were going to come pick me up at the airport?”

Bewildered, the Scot searched his memory but came up blank. “Airport?”

With a few short strides she came and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Honestly! Didn’t you get my note?”

Connor gave her a welcoming hug as he shook his head. “I’ve been gone. What are you doing home? School is ok, right? You’re not having any problems are you?”

“School is fine, Papa, don’t worry. We’re on holiday and I wanted to come home to see you.” As father and daughter made their way to the living room below them, she continued, “Where were you?”

Connor pursed his lips and shrugged as he brought her hand up to kiss gallantly. “It doesn’t matter. Shall we go out and celebrate your homecoming?”

Rachel smiled at him with same soft smile she had always reserved for him alone. “I’d love to but...”

The Scot heard her reluctance in her voice to tell him something she really wanted to tell but was afraid of how he might react to it. “Rachel—“ he said in warning to her.

She patted his hand and shook her head. Wagging a finger at him, she giggled, “You know me too well!”

“I should hope so!”

“I’ve got plans, Papa.”

“A boy?”

She released his hand, stepping away from him as she did so. “No, no, I’m going with my friends over to the U.N.” In a soft voice, she told him, “There’s to be a demonstration against the war in Vietnam there.”

The words caught him off guard. “You’re going to a demonstration?”

“Not just going—participating!” she replied in a determined tone of voice. “My friends should be waiting for me about now outside.” She came back over to him and gave him a hug. “Please understand. I’ve got to go.”

Connor remained stiff as she hugged him, shifting position only when she went back upstairs to the elevator. “It’s not going to do any good, Rachel.”

She never turned back to acknowledge his comment.

He listened to the elevator gate open a second time with his eyes locked onto the upstairs area.

A flurry of steps brought Rachel to peer over at him from the railing. “Oh!” she said brightly. “I almost forgot—I bought you some brownies from Gordon’s. I know how much you love them.”

Connor swallowed hard as visions danced before him of a certain party. He forced a smile on his face. “Brownies? Why, thank you!”

With a quick wave, Rachel disappeared but returned as he called out to her. “Rachel?”

“Yes?”

“Be safe.”

Her face softened at his words, as her eyes glittered with unshed tears. “The brownies are on the front desk, by the way. And, thanks, Papa.”

Within moments, she was gone for good.

Five minutes passed, then ten.

Connor closed his eyes then made his move towards the elevator. He clicked the key in its lock with purpose, then pushed for the lower level. In what seemed like an eternity to him, the machine finally belched him forth onto the first floor. As he looked at the small plate of brownies that was on the Louis IV desk, he paused.

Hesitating for only a moment, he stepped up to the plate and reached out a hand for them. At the last moment, he pulled it away before finally picking it up with all his resolve and determination then headed back upstairs.

When the elevator jerked to a stop, he made his way quickly down to the kitchen and paused by the sink. Lifting the plate, he took a whiff of the still-warm brownies, licking his lips as he did so. He so wanted a taste of them, but his caution won out over his craving for the chocolate morsels. With determination, he flipped on both water and garbage disposal and shoved them down into it then watched them dissolve into nothingness.

FINIS

Author’s notes: My apologies to the cast and crew of the movie “What’s Up, Doc?”, to Clint Eastwood and his hairdresser, to the Volkswagen engineers, to all the winos in Chinatown who didn’t get to see any Earth-bound shooting stars, to those in the gay community as well as all the patrons of Moby Dick. Most of all, to all of you for staying with my bout of madness until the end. ;-)

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