Tessa edged out of the car slowly, juggling the two bags
of groceries and her purse. Duncan came out of the antique
shop and took the bags, kissing her cheek.
"Did you have a nice time at the grocery store?"
he asked playfully as they walked inside.
Tessa threw him an annoyed glance. Duncan knew how much
she hated grocery shopping. Cooking she didn't mind, but
she detested buying the ingredients. He usually did the
shopping, but today he'd stayed at the shop to help unload
"All I have to say is I'm glad Richie wasn't with me
this time," she said as they removed the contents of
Whenever Richie went with Tessa, they ended up bringing
home twice as much food as she had on the list, and it was
mostly snacks. Tessa wondered if he would ever outgrow his
junk food addiction.
"Where is Richie?" Tessa asked as they finished
putting away the groceries. She pushed her blonde hair out
of her face and rubbed absentmindedly at her lower back.
"He went out to see some friends," Duncan said
and wrapped her in his arms, moving his right hand down
her back to massage the spot that was bothering her.
Tessa sighed and put her arms around his neck, breathing
in the smell of his aftershave. She let her hands play in
his ponytail for a moment and kissed him longingly. It was
rare they had any private moments like this with Richie
around. Not that they would ever complain. Still, it was
nice to be alone with Duncan for a little while.
Tessa was about to suggest they make their way to the bedroom
when he broke the embrace.
"Hold that thought," he said, kissing the tip
of her nose. "I have to grab a brochure out of the
car from that new rare book dealer. His prices are low,
and I told him I'd call him yesterday. I don't want him
to think I'm not interested."
Duncan made his way out to the car and bent over the side,
fishing out the brightly-colored pamphlet from the back
seat. As he did, a movement across the street caught his
eye. A lean teenager with greasy hair appeared to be harassing
an elderly woman. She was shaking her head emphatically
from side to side, clutching at her purse as he talked to
It was early afternoon, and there weren't many people out
on the street. Most were indoors, avoiding the cold air
and shoveling down lunch. Although those who were outside
must have seen what was happening, they were doing their
best to ignore it. It wasn't surprising to Duncan. More
often than not, people didn't like to get involved in another
person's dispute and risk their lives to help someone they
But with Duncan's sense of honor, if someone was in trouble,
he helped them. Sizing up the would-be thief, Duncan knew
he could overpower the teenager.
Just as he started to cross the street, a familiar figure
turned the corner.
As Richie made his way up the street, he spotted the trouble
right away. He'd just finished playing pool with Gary and
some of Gary's friends, and had walked the short distance
back from the pool hall.
Richie stopped and decided he wasn't going to let this greaseball
beat up on an old lady. Mugging grandmas wasn't cool in
"Let her go!" he shouted and jogged over to the
The other teenager released the woman and looked at the
redhead approaching him. He went to make a last grab at
the purse when he saw another man with a ponytail crossing
the street toward him.
Richie saw Duncan out of his peripheral vision but kept
his eyes trained on the other youth. The old woman loosened
her grip a little too much as she watched her would-be rescuers
draw closer, and her assailant grabbed the purse and started
running. "My purse!" she cried, her hand flying
up to rest over her heart.
"Don't worry, I'll get it," Richie said as he
ran past her in pursuit of the thief.
The thief had chosen the wrong alley to run down -- it was
a dead end, and he had nowhere to go. Turning to face his
pursuers, he dropped the purse.
"You can have the old bag's purse, OK?"
Richie moved toward the teenager.
"You know, I may have stolen a lot of stuff in my time,
but I never took anything from a little old lady,"
Richie said disgustedly as he stopped a few feet away from
the punk. "You should learn some manners."
Duncan joined Richie and stood to his right.
"Turn around," the Highlander ordered the thief.
He planned to pin the kid's arms behind his back and lead
him out of the alley to wait for the police.
The youth had different plans. He started to turn away as
if obeying Duncan's orders, but at the same time reached
casually inside of his leather jacket, pulled out a knife
and whirled around.
Duncan didn't have time to prevent what happened next --
the distance between the thief and Richie was too small.
The teenager struck out at Richie with the knife. Richie
saw it coming and tried to move out of the way, but the
knife sunk into his left side anyway.
He felt the metal dig in and drag down along his ribs before
pulling out. Gasping, he staggered back as Duncan tackled
the thief to the ground and punched him hard enough to knock
him out. The Immortal got up and went to Richie, whose face
was white with pain.
"Richie? Are you OK?" Duncan asked urgently, grabbing
the pre-Immortal's elbows.
Richie looked down to where his right hand clutched his
side. Taking his hand away, he saw it was smeared with blood.
His blood. Bright red. A wave of dizziness passed over Richie
and he sagged forward into Mac's arms, grasping at the man's
shirt to maintain his balance. He felt Mac catch him, walk
him over to the right and ease him to the ground so he sat
up against the hard brick wall.
While Richie tried not to cry out from the sharp pain, Duncan
lifted up his sweatshirt. The wound was not life-threatening,
but if Richie hadn't side-stepped when he did, it could
*Someone needs to explain the word "restraint"
to him,* Duncan thought as he examined the wound. But he
didn't voice his opinion. Richie was in no shape for a lecture.
"Just take it easy," Duncan said, gently squeezing
Sirens wailed in the background, and Duncan looked up to
see Tessa running toward them.
"I called the police," she said as she dropped
down to her lover's side and looked at Richie's pale, sweating
face. "What happened?"
"Oh, you know," Richie said, gasping a little
in pain, "I had to save Mac's butt and got a souvenir
in the process."
Duncan shook his head at Richie. Tessa removed her sweater
vest and handed it to the Immortal, who pressed it up against
Richie's bleeding side.
Richie looked at the vest and leaned his head back against
the wall, closing his eyes and wincing at the pressure.
"Oh, Tessa. You shouldn't have."
"I don't care about the vest," she said a little
testily, pushing back the damp curls from Richie's head.
His hair always curled more than he liked when it was wet,
as it was now from his sweat.
"No, I mean you really shouldn't have," Richie
said, giving her a weak grin. "It isn't my color. Doesn't
go with any of my other clothes."
"Don't you ever stop joking?" Duncan asked in
exasperation. As Richie shook his head, two police officers
pounded down the alley to join the trio. They stopped and
one radioed for an ambulance.
Despite the pain of the knife wound, Richie shook his head
violently and tried to stand.
"I don't need a hospital. I'm fine," he said as
Duncan forced him to stay put. Richie cried out as the exertion
pulled at his side.
"Richie, you need stitches," Duncan said calmly,
gripping the teenager's shoulders tightly to keep him from
Richie's eyes filled with pain born out of more than the
knife wound. "Please, I don't want to go," he
said, his voice rising in panic. "Don't make me go."
He was desperate to avoid the hospital. There were too many
memories wrapped up for him there. Things he wanted to put
behind him. Things he was afraid to remember.
As Duncan settled Tessa's vest back over Richie's side and
applied pressure again, he caught Tessa's eyes. He knew
that something in Richie's past was causing his present
state of panic.
"Richie, we'll go with you," Tessa soothed as
she rubbed his arm. "You won't be alone."
Richie opened his mouth to tell her again that he didn't
need to go to the hospital. But before he could get the
words out, the world tilted violently away from him.
"He'll be fine," Dr. Tollefson reassured Tessa
and Duncan for the third time in the last five minutes.
The spectacled man had come to the waiting room as soon
as he'd finished with Richie Ryan and told the couple that
the boy was very lucky. The knife didn't do any serious
damage, and Richie hadn't lost too much blood, although
he'd feel a bit weak for a while. The doctor had thrown
in several stitches, and said Richie could go home as soon
as he finished making a statement to the police.
Tessa, still upset from seeing Richie pass out, kept after
the doctor for five minutes. She didn't want Richie coming
home unless he really was OK.
"Miss Noel," the doctor said, his voice tinged
with impatience, "Mr. Ryan is fine. He needs to relax
tonight and take his pain medication and some antibiotics
to prevent infection, but he's in no danger."
Tessa pursed her lips as the doctor walked away. Duncan
put an arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head.
"Trust the doctor, Tessa. He's the one with the degree."
Tessa smiled faintly and nodded her head. The pair sat down
to wait for Richie to come out of the exam room.
After the cop left, Richie dressed slowly. His mind was
going at lightening speed, flashing on a snippet of his
past here and a larger section there. He sucked in deep
breaths, trying not to completely freak out.
He'd regained consciousness in the ambulance and realized
with horror that he was headed toward the hospital. Painful
images from last spring had flooded into his mind.
He didn't say anything to Mac on the way to the hospital,
other than to ask where Tessa was. Mac said she was driving
the car over and would meet them there.
Once at the hospital, he'd spent his time in the exam room
staring at the ceiling, using all of his energy to think
about anything other than this hospital or the Davises.
When the nurses came at him with the needles, he bit his
lower lip to keep from crying out at the remembered helplessness
the sharp objects had brought him almost a year ago.
Even after the shots, he tried to pretend he was somewhere
else, anywhere else, than St. Tim's. He had returned here
only once since his stay last spring. In October, Tessa
had cut her finger, and Richie drove her here. He'd been
running on automatic pilot, his concern for her overriding
his fear of waking memories he'd just as soon let rot. He'd
left as soon as he knew Tessa was OK.
Richie finished dressing, carefully pulling on a white "St.
Tim's Softball Team '92" t-shirt the nurse had given
him to replace his bloody sweatshirt. He took one last deep
breath, relieved that he didn't have to stay overnight.
He didn't think he could stand it.
In a few minutes, he'd be out of St. Tim's and could forgot
But Richie couldn't forget, not even when he fell asleep
in his bed shortly after returning from the hospital. In
a nightmare, he saw Grant Davis putting out his hands, heard
his own scream of anguish and felt the pain of waking up
at the hospital.
Richie's eyes snapped open. The room was dark except for
the blue light from the clock's digital readout. It was
a little after 9 p.m. Mac and Tessa would still be up. He
eased himself out of bed and threw on a t-shirt over his
Duncan looked up as Richie entered the living room, surprised
to see the teenager awake. Richie had been unusually quiet
on the way back from St. Tim's and had insisted on going
to bed right away. Duncan didn't think he'd see the pre-Immortal
again until the morning.
Tessa shooed Duncan off of the couch so Richie could stretch
out. They sat in silence for a minute. The Immortal knew
something was bothering Richie, but he said nothing and
waited for the teenager to speak.
Richie remembered how good it felt a few weeks ago when
he told Mac and Tessa about Emily Ryan and Mr. Stubbs. The
couple was sympathetic, and Mac had helped him look for
his father, Jack Ryan. Jack turned out to be Joe Scanlon,
a con man, and Richie found out that Emily Ryan was only
a foster mother. He spent almost a week wandering around
in a haze of confusion, wondering if he'd ever find his
real parents. It had helped that Mac and Tessa were there
for him when he needed to dump out all of the thoughts bouncing
around in his head.
Richie decided to tell Mac and Tessa about what had happened
to him during his stay with the Davises. He needed to talk
to someone or he'd explode from all of the hurt and anger
boiling up inside of his gut.
Sighing, Richie rubbed his eyes for a moment, dropped his
hands and spoke without looking at Mac and Tessa.
"I didn't think I'd ever talk about this again with
anyone," he said quietly. "But I can't pretend
it didn't happen, and I'm tired of trying not to remember
it. It isn't working."
He paused for a moment.
"I was 16," he began. "Sixteen years old,
and pissed off at the world, but what's new, right?"
End of Part