Duncan MacLeod peeked around the edge
of the building and grimaced at what he saw.
Richie Ryan was across the street from
the antique shop for the third day in a row, pretending
to be busy cleaning SuperMart's windows. Duncan knew what
the boy was really doing, and that was spying. It had been
only a few weeks since Duncan had seen the teenager watching
him at the bridge where he killed Slan Quince, and Duncan
thought maybe he wouldn't see Ryan again. At least, he'd
hoped he wouldn't.
Connor MacLeod, Duncan's kinsman, had
told him the boy needed watching, and Duncan knew that was
true. Richie Ryan was going to become an Immortal. Duncan
thought how ironic that was; Richie had seen his future
that night in the antique store and not even known it.
In his heart, Duncan knew what he should
do. He should keep an eye on the pre-Immortal until the
kid died for the first time, and then act as his mentor.
But Duncan didn't want to baby-sit a teenager. It would
be easier to just come clean with the boy now and tell him
he was going to be an Immortal, then let things happen from
there. But Duncan knew better than to do that. Richie would
have to find out about his Immortality on his own. It would
be too dangerous to give the kid knowledge that could be
misused as a toy.
Duncan sighed, thinking how much nicer
it would be to walk away from the boy and continue spending
his days in the antique store and nights in Tessa's bed.
Duncan smiled at the thought of Tessa.
She was the most beautiful woman he had ever been with,
and definitely one of the bravest.
Tessa had handled the fallout from Quince's
intrusion well, although she was still a little upset that
Duncan had planned to leave her. She didn't want him to
make those kinds of decisions for her, she'd said the day
Connor brought her to MacLeod's cabin. And if he was honest
with himself, Duncan knew he didn't want to leave Tessa.
She was everything to him, and he was content to let her
consume his world.
Looking again at Richie Ryan, Duncan
swore softly to himself, his dark eyes narrowing. He had
hoped to enjoy a little more private, free time with Tessa
before making a decision on how best to proceed with Ryan.
But with the kid setting up such clumsy surveillance, Duncan
knew he didn't have any time left. With a heavy sigh, he
started across the street.
Richie squirted more glass cleaner
on the window and saw Duncan MacLeod approaching in the
reflection of the glass. He froze, not sure what to do.
For the last few weeks, Richie had done
odd jobs around town to earn money. The latest line of work
he'd landed was window cleaning the tiny grocery store across
the street from MacLeod's antique shop. Richie had talked
the owner into letting him work there so he could scope
out what MacLeod was doing.
As he watched MacLeod get closer, he
remembered the still-vivid image of the man whacking off
the head of the masked guy from the antique store. He'd
decided to try to figure out what was going on with MacLeod,
and had followed him around. But he'd never expected to
see what went down that night on the bridge, and he couldn't
believe what happened the next day when MacLeod dragged
the Frenchman out of the water. Richie was sure the man
in the trench coat and tennis shoes had died, but there
he was, alive and laughing.
With one last look at MacLeod's reflection,
Richie decided not to run, even though a twinge of fear
rose up inside of him at the thought of MacLeod's exceptional
"You know, you could have at least
tried to disguise yourself," the accented voice said
from behind him.
Richie turned around and looked at MacLeod.
The man was intimidating to look at, and Richie found it
hard to meet his gaze. But he did anyway, mustering up his
usual sarcasm for the situation.
"Disguise myself from who? You?
The Three Musketeer wanna-be?"
Duncan stepped forward and grabbed Richie's
gray t-shirt, yanking so he was just inches away from Duncan's
nose. Richie could smell the man's expensive cologne and
see the vein nearly popping from his right temple.
Duncan spoke slowly, enunciating every
"I don't like being watched,"
he said. "Is this your way of saying you want me to
send you to prison? I hear the inmates love boys your age.
You'd make a lot of friends."
Richie bristled at being called a boy,
but decided to let it go. The idea of facing lockup with
adults -- he had just turned 18 a few days ago and was no
longer a juvie -- did not appeal to him.
"I'm just here cleaning windows,"
he said, grabbing MacLeod's hand to remove it. The older
man only tightened his grip.
"Richie Ryan, I let you go that
day at the police station because you made me a promise.
You promised -- "
"Not to spill my guts to anyone,"
Richie finished for him. "And I haven't, so just chill,
OK? I'm just here earning some money."
Duncan let him go, watching as Richie
straightened his shirt. "I can't trust you to keep
your mouth shut," he said quietly.
Richie narrowed his eyes, wondering
if the man was about to threaten him.
"OK, fine," Richie said quickly.
"I admit I've been checking you out. OK? I wanted to
"Watch me what?"
"Do whatever it is you do. I want
to know what's up with all of the swashbuckling stuff,"
Richie said, cutting his right hand through the air in an
imitation of swordplay.
Duncan sighed. Ryan would eventually
find out the truth. He'd have to know, in order to survive.
But Duncan didn't feel like going into the whole saga right
now, particularly on a street corner. He hesitated a moment,
then made up his mind. He had to keep an eye on the boy
until the critical moment came, and the best way would be
to keep him nearby. But how to do that without revealing
to the kid the reason he was so interested in him? After
a moment's pause, Duncan decided that since the teenager
obviously wasn't in school, the solution was clear.
"It's time for another deal,"
Richie stood there, feeling the slight
nip in the air that September always brought with it, and
waited for the Scotsman to continue. He'd already made one
deal with MacLeod to keep his yap shut in return for his
freedom, and wasn't sure he wanted to make another. But
part of him was intrigued by what the man might offer this
"I want to make sure you don't
go around babbling what you know," Duncan continued.
"I want you to work for me at the antique store."
Richie laughed out loud. *Get real*
he thought. The man was offering him a job?
"Yeah, right," he said, still
laughing. "You're going to offer me a job at the store
I ripped off?"
Duncan smiled, although there was little
humor in it. "You'll work there five days a week until
I'm sure you're not going to try to shoot off at the mouth
about what's happened."
Realizing the man was serious, Richie
stopped laughing. MacLeod's secret must be pretty intense
for him to make such an offer.
Richie thought it might be better to
refuse the deal. After all, he could end up getting stuck
in the middle of a nasty fight between MacLeod and another
sword-slinging psycho. But what if he refused and it made
the man angry? Getting shishkabobbed on MacLeod's sword
was not a happy thought.
It was Richie's curiosity that made
the decision for him. He'd spent the last few days waiting
for something exciting to happen, but nothing had. Maybe
if he hung out at the store he'd see something. Besides,
he could take care of himself. He'd been doing it for years.
"So, you want me to work for you
so you can keep an eye on me?" Richie waited until
Duncan nodded. "And if I don't?"
"Then I'll suddenly remember you
were the one who broke into my store."
Richie looked down at the cement. If
MacLeod went to the police, he'd wind up in jail. And jail
was something he kind of wanted to avoid for the rest of
"How much do I get paid?"
Now it was Duncan's turn to laugh. "Paid?
Your only payment is a get-out-of-jail-free card."
Richie cocked his head to the side and
put his hands on his hips.
"Look, I'd love to be your slave,
but if I work for you, I won't be making any money anywhere
Duncan grudgingly realized the boy was
making a good point.
"Minimum wage," he said shortly.
"$5 an hour."
"$4 an hour, and that's as good
as it's going to get," Duncan said, not believing he
was bartering with this smart-aleck kid. When did he lose
control of the situation?
Richie was about to add that he wanted
to know what MacLeod's story was, but he knew he wouldn't
get an answer.
"Deal," he said cockily. "But
not because I'm afraid of you. Because I want to keep an
eye on you. I don't trust you, either."
End of Part