The long, narrow columns of numbers began to blur before his eyes. Richie Ryan let his pencil drop to the desk and raised both hands to rub his eyes. A tension headache throbbed on one side of his head, and his shoulders felt knotted into huge lumps. He'd been trying to balance the dojo's books since late afternoon. A crushed can of soda and half-eaten cupcake - his lunch - sat on the corner of the desk. Night had fallen during his epic battle between accounts payable and accounts receivable, and the last customer had left about nine p.m. The dojo lay shrouded in darkness, with the large windows open to the hot summer air and the sounds of traffic below.
"Face it, Ryan," he told himself. "You were never meant to be an accountant."
He propped his head on one hand and gazed through the office's glass windows to the dojo beyond. The faint glimmer of a street lamp reflected off the Nautilus equipment, and he could pick out the silhouettes of the weight benches and the stacked exercise mats. Every other detail remained shrouded. Something - someone - could easily be standing there staring back at him, and he'd never know.
Stupid, foolish thought. He was alone in the dojo, as he was most nights, with only the wretched accounting books and a useless computer program for company. He told himself to get back to work. The bank accounts wouldn't reconcile themselves. But the darkness held him and mesmerized him, conjuring up the low, chilling dread that had been with him ever since a cold spring night in Paris.
His imagination didn't need much prompting to equate the dark dojo with the dark, abandoned racetrack where he'd almost lost his head. He could almost smell the dust and the dank breeze off the Seine. Echoes rang faintly in his ears - Mac talking to someone, his sword slamming again and again against plaster and concrete.
Richie rose from the chair, only half conscious of his own movement. He stepped away from the light and into the inky blackness, a cold shiver working down his spine. Common sense told him to run for the elevator or stairs. Get out while he could. Slam the loft door against all demons, ghosts and bad memories -
Something moved out there.
He could see it now, a silhouette fractionally lighter than the layers of black around it, an enemy revealing himself by degrees.
Almost ten weeks had passed since that horrifying night at the racetrack when Mac, suffering from a nervous breakdown, had tried to take Richie's head. Ten weeks, but he could still feel the spot where Mac's katana had sunk so deeply into his shoulder that his arm had almost been amputated.
His shoulder began to ache with that phantom, remembered pain as he lifted his sword.
Should have practiced swordfighting once or twice since then, he thought dismally to himself as icy coldness spilled out of his gut and worked up his chest. Should have found some sparring partner and kept his skills honed. He'd been badly wounded in Mac's attack. Severed arteries had surrendered quarts of blood, and he'd lain weak and dying in Joe Dawson's arms while Methos subdued Mac. After Richie revived, Methos and Mac had both left for Nepal with a prescription of rest and therapy for Mac. All's well that ends well, Richie supposed, but he'd returned to Seacouver with only Joe and a shitload of bad memories for company.
Still, he should have practiced. Kept his guard up.
The thing watching him moved again, as if readying for an attack. Richie again fought the urge to flee. He would stand his ground. In Mac's absence the dojo belonged to him, was his responsibility and burden and battleground.
"Who's there?" he demanded, stepping carefully and deliberately across the wide expanse of hardwood floor toward the shape. Adrenaline and fear pulsed through him. His hands felt clammy around the swordgrip. He should have eaten dinner, lunch, breakfast. The weak, watery feeling in his knees might have been preventable. Too late to worry about that now.
The shape moved, raising an arm, but it didn't answer. Richie's fears skated back to a different night almost a year earlier, when Mac had returned from a meeting with his old friend Coltec consumed by a Dark Quickening. That night Richie had also been forced to fight for his very life against his mentor.
And a year before that, Richie had come over after a movie date with Angie and found Mac battling an invisible foe in the middle of the dojo. Mac had swung on him then, too, inflicting a thin piercing wound across the very center of his chest.
Three times Mac had injured him with maniacal intent. Twice in this very room. Methos had promised to give Richie ample warning if Mac decided to flee Nepal, but Richie couldn't afford to take any chances.
"Bastard," he hissed. "I won't let you get me again."
He lunged and delivered a killing blow. His sword ripped through a towel that had been left hanging on the pull-up bar and shredded the cheap terrycloth into two.
Richie stood shaking in the dark, ashamed and cold and sick to his stomach. A towel. He'd allowed his fears to rule him, to drive him like a child afraid of the bogeyman. He snatched the offending towel and flung it to the floor.
"You're an idiot," he told himself.
Another shiver spiraled down his spine, but its origins had nothing to do with cold or an overactive imagination. Richie raised his sword and pivoted toward the dojo's front doors. The glass windows looked out into the entrance hall. A figure moved in the odd, reddish shadows of the emergency light there - someone solid and slim, wearing a trenchcoat, carrying a sword.
Richie let out his held breath and switched on the hallway lights, causing both Immortals to squint in the fluorescent glare.
"Connor," Richie said through the closed doors. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm visiting my favorite nephew," Connor MacLeod said, a small smile on his face as he dropped his sword. "Aren't you going to open the door?"
Richie undid the lock and hoped Connor didn't see the trembling in his fingers as he did. He held the door open for Mac's kinsman and then locked it again. The older Highlander moved with the same grace and strength as always as he sheathed his weapon in the folds of his coat. His white tennis sneakers made no sound on the floor. Connor surveyed the dojo with one quick glance before turning back to Richie.
"A Saturday night," he chided softly, "and this is the best you can do? Haven't you learned anything from me?"
Richie picked up the shredded towel. "This is the best," he echoed, with as much of a smile as he could muster. "You caught me on an off night."
"Hmmm." Connor looked Richie up and down with the same fair, even scrutiny he gave everything else. "Are you up for a little trip?"
Richie had learned the hard way not to accept any offer from Connor MacLeod without asking a few questions first. "A little trip where?"
"Paradise. Also known as Bali."
"Bali. You want to come?"
Richie didn't even know where Bali was. He stared at Connor for a full moment but gleaned no clue or hint from the older Immortal's expression. "Is it far?" he asked, going to the office.
"A few thousand miles," Connor admitted, following him as far as the doorway. "Easy by plane. Harder by tramp steamer."
Richie closed the ledgers, turned off the adding machine, and switched off the desk light. He left the computer on, its spiral screensaver shifting and twisting in a dozen different colors. "Which way are you going?"
"Plane. Definitely by plane."
"Come on upstairs," Richie said, heading for the elevator. He didn't think he wanted to fly a few thousand miles to anywhere, but he needed more time to decide. "Did you just get into town?"
"I had business to take care of in San Francisco." Connor didn't elaborate as the old elevator car clanked up past the darkened third and fourth floors of the building. "Now I have business to take care of in Bali."
As Richie led Connor into the loft he felt a mild sense of shame at the untidiness of the place. Mac would have been mortified at the mess. Richie had never been a great housekeeper - Tessa had always complained about the dirty dishes and piles of laundry in his bedroom at the antique store. Since returning from France he'd found it hard to muster any energy to care about how the place looked. He hadn't been expecting company, after all.
"You want some beer or something?" Richie asked as he pulled crumpled towels from the edge of the sofa and picked up the remains of a microwave dinner.
"I was thinking of something stronger." Connor helped himself to a glass of Scotch and drank it with the deep, satisfied air of a man reaching water after trekking across the desert. "Did you give up your apartment?"
"Yeah. Before I went to France. The guy was trying to raise the rent on me anyway. I just haven't had time to go find a place yet."
"You don't have to devote your life to running this dojo for Duncan, you know."
"Who else is going to?"
"Let it close."
Richie shook his head as he tried to cram more garbage into the overflowing kitchen bin. "There are customers paid up in advance for several months, and regulars who come every day. They expect the place to be open six days a week, fifteen hours a day."
"Who ran it while you and Mac were in France?"
"A college student named Jon Mull. But he got married and moved to Phoenix." Richie completed a wide circle of the loft, piling dirty laundry in his arms. Connor hung his coat up on the stand and sat in the armchair, saying nothing. Richie dumped the dirty clothes in the bathroom hamper and collected a stack of old motorcycle magazines from around the toilet. He went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, pretending to inspect the nearly empty shelves Connor couldn't see.
"You want something to eat?" he asked, hoping Connor would say no.
"No," Connor answered. "I want you to come sit down."
Richie recognized that tone of voice. He'd heard it as a homeless teenager, eavesdropping on Mac and Connor's conversations. He'd heard it a lot more on Mac's island, where Connor had taken him in the first precarious days of his Immortality while Tessa was being buried in France. Richie grabbed the last cold beer and went to the sofa. The antique clock on the wall chimed midnight. Richie avoided Connor's gaze by moving one of the black pawns on the standing chessboard. After a moment of second thought, he moved it back.
"Bali is very pretty," Connor said. "White beaches and great snorkeling."
Richie moved a knight without strategy or plan.
"And pretty girls," Connor added.
Richie looked up. "How pretty?"
"Come find out."
"Can't. Someone's got to watch the dojo."
"What if I found someone?"
Richie immediately dismissed the idea. "You won't be able to. Not on short notice. Besides, I think I've done enough traveling lately."
Connor's reply was solemn and quiet. "Hiding won't save you from anything, you know."
"I know." Richie forced a grin. "Trouble always comes knocking on the door. Just like you."
Connor lifted an eyebrow. "At least you can make jokes."
"Yeah. I'm a laugh riot." Richie gave up on the hopelessly muddled chess board and reached for the TV remote. "You want to watch a movie? The midnight creature feature?"
"No. I want you to get off my bed so I can go to sleep."
"You're staying here?"
"You want me to go somewhere else?"
"Of course not." Richie didn't know whether to be pleased or annoyed at Connor's presumption that he could just drop in anytime and make himself at home. Well, of course he could. Mac owned the loft, and Connor and Mac were family. Richie retrieved the last set of clean sheets for Connor to use, then excused himself to take a shower.
He stood under the hot water for a long time, almost lulled to sleep by its strong, steady pulse. When he climbed out of the tub, black spots danced before his eyes. He sat down and put his head between his knees until the faintness passed. When he emerged from the bathroom wrapped in towels, he found Connor and Joe Dawson sitting at the kitchen island eating chicken wings and nachos Joe had brought from the bar. Their low conversation stopped when Richie appeared.
"Hey, Richie," Joe said, looking glad to see him. The Watcher and and Connor had never been friends, and Richie wondered what leverage the Highlander had used to get Joe to come over before closing time. Still, it had been a few weeks since Richie had last seen Joe, and he'd missed him.
"Hi, Joe." Richie pulled on one of Mac's old bathrobes. It hung ridiculously large on him, and he had to run the belt twice around his waist. He slid up onto the third stool. "What brings you this way?"
"It's a slow night at the bar," Joe shrugged. "I heard you had company, thought you might be hungry."
Connor picked up one of the chicken wings and dipped it into a bowl of ranch dressing. "These are good. Try one before you waste away to nothingness."
Richie had known it wouldn't take long for Connor to remark on his weight loss. He couldn't figure out, though, if Joe had planted some seed of concern by telephone or letter, or if Connor really had come to the West Coast to take care of that unnamed business in San Francisco. A deep, flooding wave of weariness kept him from worrying about it too much. He wanted to do nothing more than crawl into Mac's big old bed and pull the embroidered cover over his head.
If he did, Connor and Joe would probably turn it into an issue, another point of well-meaning but unnecessary concern.
Richie picked up a piece of chicken for Connor's benefit and very deliberately tore it into little pieces. "What is this? An intervention of some kind?"
Joe sipped at his beer. An import label; he must have brought it with him. Amiably he answered, "If you want to turn it into one, we're up for it."
"Joe will watch the dojo," Connor proposed. "Come to Bali with me. It will do you good to lay on the beach and have naked girls bring you alcohol."
"Hell," Joe said. "It would do any man good."
Richie popped a piece of meat into his mouth. Like everything else since Paris, it had no taste to it. "Joe, what do you know about running a dojo?"
"How hard can it be?" Joe asked dismissively. "Mike will take over the bar. I'll take care of this place. You and Connor go fly off to some exotic tropical island and send me a postcard once in a while."
"Just say yes," Connor prompted.
"Yes," Richie said.
"Exotic tropical island, huh?" Richie asked late the next afternoon as they stood in line at the airport counter. "Why does the State Department warn against visiting it?"
Connor's gaze skimmed past the posted warning and landed on the departure board. He hated flying. He hated everything connected to flying, including airports, long lines, insincere airline personnel, and airplanes themselves. But at least their flight seemed to be departing on time.
"Political unrest," he said. "Nothing to worry about."
"Political unrest," Richie muttered, shifting his carry-on bag from one shoulder to the other. Connor wondered how the younger Immortal could even carry it. He looked skinny and pale, a fragile shadow of the strong young man he'd been just months ago. Duncan had been correct in asking him to go to Seacouver and check on Richie. Somehow, in the depths of his own emotional problems half a world away, his kinsman had sensed Richie needed help, too.
The line inched forward. Connor mustered his patience and studied the other passengers. A Japanese family. A young Korean couple. Five young Indonesian men wearing baseball shirts and caps. Some Americans, here and there, looking like exiles. Beside the Japanese family stood two middle-aged American women, sisters by the look of them. The one with frizzy blonde hair had sharp features and ridiculously long nails. The other, larger and with brown hair, looked bland and colorless in the late afternoon sun. Their excessive baggage, including two laptop computers, sat on the floor around them, blocking the aisle.
"Sometimes there is no sight more hideous than the spectacle of Americans abroad," Connor mused.
"We haven't even left the airport," Richie reminded him, shifting his bag back to his other shoulder.
"Who's your Watcher?"
"Joe. Sometimes Mike, his bartender. But you know they're not coming. Why? Do you see yours?"
"I left her in New York City." Since Connor had grown aware of the Watchers, he'd been careful to know exactly when and where he was being observed.
"So what's the problem?"
"No problem," Connor said. Surely Joe wouldn't assign to Richie and Connor those two blatant women. It would be an insult. The fact they both wore long sleeves that hid any tattoos on their wrists had to be a coincidence.
"How long did you say this flight was?" Richie asked.
Richie's bag landed with a thud on the floor. "Twenty hours?" he exclaimed, loud enough to turn some heads.
Connor nodded. "Well, we have to go to Honolulu first. Then we change planes again in Guam. I told you it was easier than going by ship. I didn't say it would be much quicker."
"Twenty hours," Richie repeated, dazed.
"That's why we're going first class," Connor said, and patted his arm for comfort.
The brown-haired sister sat precariously on the edge of her suitcase and opened up her computer. Her sibling folded her arms across her chest and shot dark looks at anybody not speaking English. The line shifted forward fractionally. Connor wondered if the air conditioning was working properly. Finally an apologetic employee opened up the first-class ticket queue, and Connor dragged Richie forward until they were second in line. As they checked their baggage and swords, the two American sisters reached the coach ticket counter just a few feet away.
The women gave their names as Gwen and Clara Tiller, and they were going all the way to Bali. They demanded to sit as far forward in the cabin - as close to the first-class section - as possible.
"It's imperative," said Gwen, the blonde one.
"It's non-negotiable," said Clara, the other one. "I know your manager. You don't want me to complain, do you?"
Connor took Richie to wait in the secluded lounge for airline club members. They sat at a corner table overlooking the runway and drank beer while watching jets race into the sky. Richie looked exhausted, with dark circles and worry lines no twenty-three-year old should have. From the comfort of the sofa Connor had heard him rise early that morning, around four a.m., and creep downstairs. He wondered how long the kid had been getting by on such minimal rest.
"You're staring at me," Richie complained.
"Sorry," Connor said. "To Bali."
He raised his glass. Richie matched him, but only half-heartedly.
"What am I going to do on a plane for twenty hours?" the younger Immortal complained.
Sleep, Connor almost said. He refrained and instead pulled a thick, worn paperback from his bag. "I thought you might like reading this. It's very well written."
Richie took the book skeptically and read the title aloud. "'The Happy Islands of Oceania?'"
"It's about a man who kayaked around the South Pacific on his own."
Richie read the back cover in silence. He thumbed through the dog-eared pages. "Is this your copy?"
"Yes. I read it a few months ago."
Connor knew Richie didn't read much, but Paul Theroux had done an excellent job of describing the islands, people and cultures of the region. A little education couldn't hurt the boy. Richie put the paperback into his own bag, sipped his beer, and looked at another plane lift gracefully and thunderously from the tarmac.
"It's not going to be like Europe, is it?"
"It depends on which way you mean. Many Europeans have lived in Bali, and their influence has rubbed off. The Dutch owned the place until the Japanese invaded. The caste system and religion resembles India."
"Mac killed a guy from India once."
Connor had no idea which direction Richie's thoughts had turned toward. "Your point?"
Richie blinked at him, his blue eyes cloudy. "I don't know."
Connor risked a stab at a sore point. "I never tried to kill Duncan, you know," he said in a casual way. "It's not some twisted rite of passage between teachers and students. In his right mind, he would never have tried to kill you."
"Three times." Richie cocked his head. "Not once, not twice, but three times."
Connor knew bits and pieces about Duncan's Dark Quickening, but he'd never quizzed his clansman on the exact details of the catastrophe. "Last year?"
"In the dojo once. He was flipping out over some invisible enemy. Turns out this guy was planting these visions in his head."
"I didn't know about that," Connor admitted. He turned the situation over and over in his mind. "So you don't think you can ever trust Duncan again, is that it?"
Two pink dots appeared on Richie's cheeks. "I don't know."
"I wouldn't know either, if I were you." Connor said. Before they could explore the issue more, a woman's voice on the overhead speaker announced their flight. The two Immortals finished the last swallows of their drinks and rose in unison.
"Richie," Connor said, "you're safe with me. Do you know that?"
Richie gave him a rueful smile. "I know. But that's what I always thought about Mac, too."
They went and boarded the plane.
Richie read little of Theroux's book during the first leg of their journey. He obviously preferred playing the Nintendo game and watching movies on the screen built into the back of the seat ahead of him. Connor kept himself distracted from the grinding engine noise and impossibly high altitude by reading steadily through two new science fiction books. He liked science fiction enormously. Jules Verne had been a friend. So had Isaac Asimov. He enjoyed watching their predictions of life in the future fail or succeed with each passing decade, and had even toyed once with the idea of writing a novel of his own.
"What kind of book would you write, if you were going to be an author?" Connor asked Richie as dinner was being served.
Richie poked at the chicken cordon bleu on his plate. "I'm never going to write a book."
"Never say never."
"I don't know. I'm not big on writing things down."
The younger Immortal met Connor's expectations by eating barely half his dinner and pushing the rest aside. Still, it was more than he'd seen Richie eat at the loft. The flight attendants dimmed the overhead lights. Richie stared out the window at the full moon rising in the west and Connor settled back for a doze. He tried not to analyze the throb of the engine for any odd-sounding noises, and refused to think about the stale, tired oxygen being recycled and reused with the whush-whush of the ventilation system. He fell asleep remembering Leonardo DaVinci's graceful flying machines and came awake some time later at the sound of an argument.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but these lavatories are reserved for our first- class passengers."
"That's discriminatory. I paid for my ticket, just the same as these people."
The flight attendant replied, "Yes, ma'am, but these are reserved. There are others at the aft of the coach section."
"It's too far for me to walk."
Connor cracked open an eyelid. Clara Tiller stood arguing with the attendant just a foot or so away. She had a little notebook in her right palm, and she kept stealing glances at Richie and Connor as if to catalog their every snore or twitch.
"Ma'am, it's not very far at all - it's just this way - "
"I'm going to complain to the management," Clara Tiller announced, and with a grumble let herself be escorted back to the coach section.
Connor glanced over at Richie, who had fallen asleep with the Theroux book in his lap. The Highlander studied Richie's drawn features and wondered, not for the first time, what would have happened to him if he'd never broken into Duncan's shop that long-ago fateful night. Had his life been made better or worse by Duncan's friendship, shelter and training? By the tragic loss of Tessa, the constant upheaval between Seacouver and France, the turning of Duncan's sword against him three times? They would never know. They could only deal with the here and now, not the might-have-been.
Connor fell asleep thinking about Duncan. When he woke again, the plane was beginning its long descent into Honolulu. He added his thin airline blanket to the one on top of Richie and went to use the bathroom. When he returned he stood in the aisle, carefully stretching his back and legs. Other passengers began to move and stir.
"Are we there yet?" Richie asked, yawning and rubbing at his eyes.
"Almost." In fact, it took forty more minutes before the plane pulled up to the gate and they stepped off into the icy air-conditioning of the Honolulu airport. Connor had lived all over the South Pacific, and he preferred the time when Honolulu had been a dirt-road town of natives and explorers over its present tourist-ruined state. During their one hour layover they toured the gift shop. Connor bought a new book and Richie discovered an entire table full of macadamia products in every form imaginable.
"I love these things," Richie said, and because it was the first time he seemed enthusiastic about anything, Connor bought him a box of chocolate-covered nuts and a large jar of plain ones.
The flight to Guam had fewer passengers than the flight from Seacouver. The bothersome Tiller sisters settled into the coach cabin again, pecking away with soft click-click-clicks on their keyboards. Connor wondered, caustically, what possible interest the Watcher Chronicles could maintain for Richie's preference of snacks or his own choice in reading material. The first-class section had enough empty seats that both Richie and Connor claimed a row and spread out for the long, steady flight over the black ocean.
Connor ordered himself a nightcap from the pretty flight attendant before settling back on a pillow with a blanket for warmth. He wished Duncan were along. He wanted to converse with someone in his native tongue, someone almost his own age. Through no fault of his own, Richie couldn't understand how arduous and difficult travel had once been. Connor could remember spending months criss-crossing the South Pacific in rickety, leaky, cramped, rusty boats of every size and shape imaginable. Now all he had to do was climb on an airplane and pray for the best and, through the miracle of modern aviation, he'd arrive at almost any destination he wanted.
He imagined tiny men in tiny canoes thirty thousand feet below, paddling through the lonely swells of ocean waves beneath the all-seeing sky of stars. Then he fell asleep again. He jerked awake three hours later with drool on his chin and a row of empty seats across the aisle. Richie returned to his seat several minutes later with an armful of magazines. He put on his overhead light, and the glare was bright enough to make Connor wince even at a distance.
"Why don't you try to sleep?" Connor asked.
Richie shook his head. "Nah. I'm not tired."
In Guam they disembarked into a hot, humid airport whose ancient air conditioning system had broken down. The lounge had large windows that had been pried open to the thick, sweet, moisture-laden night air. Connor tried to discern as much as he could of the landscape past the dirty windows. He'd last been to the island on the eve of World War II. He wondered if the landmarks he remembered - the Pan American hotel, the Main Gate bar, the stunning view from Two Lover's Point - still existed, or if they'd been trampled to dust by the passage of time.
"This is where I first met Methos almost sixty years ago," he said.
Richie, who'd been sitting slumped in a hard plastic chair, perked up a little. "Yeah? What was he doing here?"
"Teaching elementary school, I think."
"I have a hard time picturing Methos and a classroom full of little kids."
"I didn't say he enjoyed it."
Connor spent the rest of the layover telling Richie about his adventures on Guam, including the typhoon that had nearly destroyed the island and his and Methos' unmasking of an Italian spy. Richie listened with only an occasional yawn. The younger Immortal guzzled two cans of soda while they sat in the lounge, and by the time they boarded the plane to Denpasar, he was already restless with a caffeine high.
Connor watched the lights of the island disappear beneath the wing and then put his hand on Richie's bouncing knee. "Why don't you read your book?"
"It's depressing," Richie said. "Poverty and alcoholism and lots of waste. I don't see why they call Bali the 'Island of the Gods.'"
"There are a lot of problems," Connor admitted, "but there is also a great deal of beauty. Theroux notes that, too."
"How long are we going to stay?"
"As long as we want. The return is open-ended."
Richie flipped down the tray table in front of him and just as quickly shut it again. "What if I get sick of it before you do?"
"Then you can return before I do."
"At least give the island a chance," Connor said, somewhat annoyed. "I wouldn't take you there if I didn't think you'd like it."
That last, crowded flight south wore roughly on Connor's nerves. He was thoroughly sick of planes and wanted nothing more than to reach and stay on solid ground. Richie wouldn't sit still for a single moment, constantly shifting his attention between his book, a new magazine, the mechanics of the tray table, the operation of the overhead light, and a fidgety exploration of each and every one of the music channels through the headphones. He poked at the in-flight meal, flirted unsuccessfully with the flight attendant and walked around the first-class section several times. Connor wanted to yank him back to the seat and restrain him with his seatbelt, but held himself in check. He felt cramped and constrained himself, his skin sucked into dryness by the plane's lack of moisture, his eyes gritty from the haphazard snatches of sleep.
South they flew, over the vast reaches of ocean, the endless night turning pale and blue at the horizon until the friendly sun made its return appearance at the edge of the sky. Breakfast came, a light selection of pastries and fruit with large cups of coffee on the side. Although Connor's own internal clock still functioned on New York time, where it was 4 p.m., he dutifully reset his watch to the local standard of 6 a.m. and added a day to the date wheel. He told Richie to do the same, but the younger Immortal made no move to adjust his large digital watch. Exhaustion had finally caught up with Richie, and he sat slumped in his seat looking down at the ocean.
"We've come a long way, haven't we?" he asked.
"Yes," Connor said. "And we're not done yet. We still have to get to Ubud, where my house is."
"You've got a house?"
"Well, a bungalow."
Richie raised an eyebrow.
"More like a shack," Connor said, putting a note of defensiveness in his voice. "But at least it has running water. Or it did when I left."
"You're dragging me halfway across the world to live in a shack?" Richie squeaked out.
"Don't worry, you'll like it." Connor took a pen and quickly wrote the information on a napkin. "Here's the address - put it in your pocket in case you get lost."
Richie squinted at the napkin. "I'm not planning on getting lost."
You already are, Connor almost said. Instead he opted for, "No one plans on getting lost. It just happens."
Richie fixed on Connor with a somber gaze. "Connor, you're not taking me to see Mac, are you?"
The question surprised the Highlander. "No. Of course not. Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering if this was some sneaky Scottish way to show me he's all better now, ready to get back to his former life, whatever. I thought maybe he's fine now but he just doesn't want to come back to Seacouver, so this is like neutral ground. Methos promised to tell me if he left Nepal, but sometimes . . . sometimes people forget their promises, you know?"
Connor shook his head. "Duncan is not 'all better now.' That's going to take a lot more time. I saw him two weeks ago in Nepal."
"You went there?"
Richie looked like he wanted to ask more, but he bit his lower lip instead and shifted his gaze to the rising sun.
"He's in a secluded monastery," Connor said. "Very spartan. Lots of time to rest and think. Methos is with him, as well as a therapist friend of ours."
Richie nodded tightly.
"He asked about you. He's worried about you."
That last comment provoked a spark of anger. "Why the hell should he start worrying about me now?"
"He never stopped."
The anger drained away as quickly as it had appeared.
"Yeah, well, next time you talk to him, tell him I'm doing fine," Richie said.
A lie, and they both knew it. Connor judiciously let the truth pass by and instead handed his and Richie's breakfast trays to the flight attendant. Richie settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. Within a few minutes he was dozing. But rest had come too late for him. Only a half hour later the plane landed in Bali, Island of the Gods, where Duncan MacLeod was not waiting for them.
Part Two of Paradise
To the Authors' pages