The dojo was quiet as the two striking figures
strode in through the main doors; then again, it was six o'clock
on a Friday evening and both the manager and the owner had taken
a week off from the city. There was a slight musty smell that
said the place hadn't been used in a while, the slight hint
that dust had been allowed to settle undisturbed. Both men paused,
smiles on their faces, it had been an enjoyable vacation, but
it was good to be home. Richie strode past his dark comrade
and released the two heavy carry-alls he held with a sigh of
relief as his arm muscles flexed and complained at the weight.
One of the bags clinked, giving away that, at least, some of
its contents were metal. It was a familiar sound when an Immortal
was involved in life, and the noise gave even the relaxed pair
an unconscious feeling of security.
Duncan snorted at the face Richie pulled
as he ran a hand up over his developed biceps and shoulders;
it hadn't really strained the sculpted flesh that the youth's
loose vest revealed, but his friend never missed a chance to
make comment, especially after the minor deception that the
Highlander knew he'd initiated. The young man frowned at his
compatriot, but it was not a serious indication of his mood,
and with a wry smile replacing it, the blond creature disclosed
in easy cynicism, "Mac, remind me next time you offer me
a mountain vacation to say no."
The Scot grinned and, walking smoothly into
his office, called over his shoulder, "Wimp!"
That was too good an opportunity to miss,
and Ryan the smart mouth came into play as friend chided friend
amiably, "When most people think of a week in the hills,
they think of gentle strolls along peaceful mountain paths and
taking in beautiful views, not five mile runs split by
hours of six dozen training regimes."
"Ah," MacLeod pouted momentarily
from behind his desk as he sorted idly through his mail, but
smiling added, "Discipline is good for the soul."
"If I wanted discipline, I'd hit Boot
Camp," Richie waved a not too serious hand as the friendly
In all honesty, the younger Immortal had
to admit that he'd had a rewarding break in the calm of the
trees; the last few months had been busy and both men had needed
the chance to let go of the everyday routine. The vacation had
been hard work, Duncan had taken them both to the limits of
their fitness, but he'd returned with a sense of satisfaction
and achievement. Richie knew he still had a lot to learn and
the five days of freedom had added a mass of knowledge not only
about the skills he needed to survive in the Game, but also
about his closest friend. Mac was a man of many parts, and just
chatting round the campfire in the still of clear evenings had
revealed stories and concepts about the Clansman that the youth
had never before considered. His own background felt a little
insignificant in comparison to the wealth of history that accompanied
the ageless form wherever he went. Yet, the Highlander had seemed
just as interested in his pupil, and the young man had found
himself revealing a lot more than ever before.
Duncan grinned widely at his comrade, a
clear sign saying, `Well I got you there, didn't I?'. The man's
humour was catching, and didn't take long to ease the grimace
from the youthful features. Richie smiled and shook his head,
he wasn't sure what at, and then bent down to take hold of the
smaller sack on the floor, which contained his personal possessions.
The more experienced Eternal being watched the athletic figure
carefully, most of all the look in his eyes. He caught the ghost
that sat at the back of the baby blues as the young man's attention
flicked from the conversation to what he was doing, in the between
time when thought was suspended, there it was, the phantom that
still affected the youth so much, however unconsciously. It
had been ten months since Gervace Hemar had vented his sadistic
inclination on the challenger he had met by accident, and Richie
seemed to have worked through any pain that the experience still
caused him. Yet, his companion still recognised the vague impression
that was in the talkative being, and he knew that there was
more to come out. Richie hadn't spoken of the incident in a
long time, it was something he obviously wanted to leave in
the past, but, nevertheless, his friend had tried to coax whatever
was left inside, out. The one on one vacation had had two purposes,
as well as a chance for a change to city living, it had also
been an opportunity where the Scot had hoped that his familiar
would open up to him. However, they'd covered a lot of ground,
but had not broached the sensitive issue as Duncan had tried
to manoeuvre his protege into initiating the subject.
There was a slight sense of frustration
sitting at the back of the old mind as MacLeod realised that
in that one area, the holiday had been a failure. Yet, the face
which turned back to him was bright and clear; they'd both been
tired, weighed down by the drag of routine, and that was now
gone from his companion's manner. Life was being good to all
in the small circle of friends at the moment: Joe's Bar was
prospering; the dojo wasn't losing too much money; university
lecturing suited Duncan MacLeod; Richie was content with his
lot, managing the dojo and dabbling in whatever else he fancied.
There wasn't much to complain about.
"I'm going home," the youth disclosed
with a wave of goodbye.
"See you on Monday, if not before,"
Mac returned, leaning over and hitting the button on his answer-phone.
The man raised an eyebrow and his colleague
turned on his heel, a look of surprise on his features, as they
both heard the first word, "Richie."
The young man couldn't help himself as he
recognised the tone, a grin of vague foolishness crept across
his face; the soft, silky voice belonged to Naomi, and any mention
of her always sent him funny inside. Life at Agatha's ranch
suited the raven-haired beauty. Since her adopted father, Patrick
had been killed by Gervace, she had become more of a mother
to her Immortal siblings, and she seemed to be happy with the
role. Her regular letters and phone calls had been full of news
about everyone, from Annie's first horseback ride, to Harry's
wish to learn to use a sword. Richie had lapped up every piece
of information, the link with the unusual family very important
to him, and despite the distance from his home to Texas, his
bond with them had only grown in the last ten months. Duncan
had become seen as a kind of removed uncle to the Eternal children,
but the youth was more of an older brother, especially to his
darling little Annie. The young man tried to picture himself
as Naomi's brother, but somehow, their relationship was very
different. There had been no move toward the physical attraction
that was between them, but even separated, their covenant had
intensified and grown closer. The young woman had gone no further
than her novice vows in her aim to become a nun, there being
no convents within reach of the ranch, but she had formed strong
links with the minister of the small town nearby, and seemed
just as dedicated to following God as ever. That was not something
upon which the young Immortal intruded, despite his obvious
Those emotions were written all over his
visage as the young man dropped his bag and headed rapidly back
towards the office. Duncan just sat back and listened as the
"Hi there," the gentle voice continued,
a smile in the tone, "I've been trying to reach you all
week, Richard Ryan, and since you're not anywhere, and Joe says
you're out of reach `til Friday afternoon, I'm leaving this
message. I hope it reaches you before seven p.m.
Anyway, here goes, I have a BIG favour to
ask. You know we were talking about that Church centre you worked
at for Community Service? - Well, Agatha and I had a chat afterwards
and she suggested that the kids there might like to come and
enjoy a week at the ranch. There was a gap in the bookings coming
up, i.e. starting next week, and, as I said, I tried to get
hold of you this week to discuss it. Since I couldn't, I went
straight to the man in charge; I spoke to Father Macey on Tuesday
and he seemed to like the idea after I mentioned your name (he
had some interesting stories about you!). They have a minibus
for transport, but the only problem is, they intend to start
on Saturday and drive non-stop to get here, but to do that,
they need at least three drivers. They have two, one of the
centre helpers and one of the older kids has a licence, but
they need a third person. So...(don't freak)...I volunteered
you. The father is expecting you at seven tonight at the old
I know you'll help, thank you, Rich.
Annie sends her love.
I have to go now. I can't wait to see you."
Richie's mouth was slack as he stared from
the phone to Duncan and took in what had been said. The Scot
just laughed; Naomi hadn't imposed before, but it appeared that
when she did, she really asked favours. There was a slight
look of panic in the youth's eyes as he glanced at his watch;
he had fifty minutes to get home, change and be at his beloved's
appointment. He was vaguely aware that his companion found his
state amusing as he spun, grabbed the bag and hurried for the
"Bye, Rich," MacLeod chuckled
as he remembered times when he had been in much the same position
with his feelings for a woman; for some reason, Amanda
came to mind.
The figure who drew up outside the crumbling
hall looked far from a person who had just showered, dressed
and skidded halfway across town, neither did he fit with the
downtown neighbourhood. The young man knew there would be discrete
eyes watching him as he parked the bike and climbed off the
vehicle. Once he had fitted well into the rough area, scruffy
jeans, T-shirt usually covered in grease, but not anymore. Richard
Ryan was more sophisticated since MacLeod, but mostly Tessa's
influence had steered him towards smarter lines. His clothes
weren't expensive, he was still on a modest income, but he did
invest in his garments and chose them with greater care. An
uptown man had developed out of the street kid, and he was beginning
to regret the now habitual care he had taken over his dress
that evening. Maybe it would have been better to dress down
in the poorer part of the city; his fresh- washed denim and
grey, pressed T-shirt were good to look at, they accentuated
his strong physique, good for attracting the ladies, but he
wasn't partying tonight, and even the neat cut to his blond
locks made him stand out in this old haunt. The young man's
eyes were sharp and challenged anyone hidden in the shadows
to even think about touching his prize possession, as he glanced
around the dirty street; secretly, the youth hoped it would
be enough, his bank account probably wouldn't stand a dip to
refurbish the machine at the moment.
His stance made clear, the young man turned
his attention to the ageing structure outside which he had parked.
The once red brick, pitted in places, now almost black with
city grime, this place brought back a flood of memories. The
would-be criminal had been fifteen when he'd been caught for
burglary, and it had been a close run thing between Community
Service and Juvie Hall. Father Macey had taken his part, a complete
stranger who had just happened to be at the court house with
another of his reprobate aides; he'd offered to take the cocky
kid on the regime he ran, and that had begun the relationship
which had lasted until the youth had moved uptown with MacLeod.
As he took in the rusty sign which announced, St John's Church
Centre, Richie felt a small pang of guilt that he'd never revisited
the place where he had spent many hours even after his sentence
The Immortal resisted a temptation to slide
his sword out of its place on the bike and slip it under the
jacket he slung over his shoulder; this was not a place to carry
a weapon, even if it wasn't quite holy ground. Feeling a mixture
of unconscious nakedness without his protection, nostalgia as
memories slipped in and out of focus with every step, and trepidation
at meeting the father once more, he walked up to the entrance.
Of what the new-stranger remembered, the priest was a formidable
little man with a good heart, who had a temper to match a shock
of ginger hair. There had been quite a few confrontations between
the juvenile delinquent and the man determined to convince him
that crime didn't pay, but the youth remembered the stocky figure
Taking a deep breath, Richard Ryan put his
palm flat on the peeling paint of the heavy door and pushed.
He smiled as a high-pitched squeak signalled his entrance -
Macey still hadn't managed to get anyone to fix that damn hinge.
What lay inside hadn't changed much in over four years. The
place was slightly dingy, as the evening light pushed through
one spotless window above the door, and the rest of the fair
sized open space was lit by old-fashioned cast-iron chandelier
contraptions that had been put in with the original building.
Next to the door was a huge, beautifully-cared for Whirlitzer,
the pride and joy of the centre. A bar made out of crates was
halfway down one wall, it served soft drinks only, unless anyone
smuggled in something stronger; the sentimental recaller grinned
once more as he remembered the red sheen he'd inspired on Father
Macey's face when he'd hidden a couple of beers under the main
box. A stage, once again crafted from reinforced wooden chests,
was directly opposite Macey's Place, as the bar had been christened;
that had seen a few good gigs cobbled together by the youth
of the streets. Then in the far corner, there was the pool table.
It looked to have been given a new baize since the young man
had last visited. Finally, right at the back were the rickety
stairs up to the office where the youth remembered whichever
helper was on duty sitting and keeping a distant watch on the
comings and goings. The rest of the building was, as yet, deserted,
but as if he'd never left, the blond form was not surprised
to see a body occupying the exact place behind the desk that
he expected. Only the face was unfamiliar; she was a buxom woman
somewhere between thirty and forty, dressed in the informal
uniform of centre sweat-shirt and jeans, her hair tied up in
a ponytail. Brown eyes smiled at the stranger to her and she
pulled off large rimmed glasses as she stood and prepared to
descend the stairs.
"Hallo," the female called, tripping
lightly down the flight considering her plump proportions, "you
must be Richie Ryan. I'm Kathleen Mills."
The young man grinned and held out a hand
as the bouncy creature infected him with her intense good humour.
"Hi," he returned easily, shaking
hands warmly," and yes, I'm Richie."
"Father Macey said you'd been arriving
about now," the bubbly woman almost laughed as the words
tripped off her tongue with a fast Irish accent. "I'm afraid
he's going to be a bit late, he's been called out to a birth."
Richie snorted amiably, it was just like
the priest to be doing six things at once, and blessing a baby
was not a new one.
"Doesn't sound like much has changed,"
the nostalgic being shrugged.
"Well, I'm here to make you welcome,"
Kathleen was still grinning all over her face as she turned
back the way she had come. "Would you like a coffee?"
"That would be great, thanks,"
the newcomer returned, but didn't begin to follow, instead he
asked on a whim, "mind if I take a look around, it's been
a long time."
"Be my guest," the hearty female
waved wildly about her as she went back up to the ever ready
A little dazed by his pleasant memories,
the youth slung his jacket on the bar and wandered casually
over to the pool table. There was a far away look in his eyes
as he idly took hold of the eight ball and rolled it across
the green cloth. This was where he'd spent most of his free
time, taking on all comers - Richie Ryan, hustler extraordinaire;
the father had made him put all his winnings in the poor box!
There was a quiet sadness in his heart as the Immortal realised
that he had left this family without much of a thought when
Mac had come along, and he recognised his loss. He'd been selfish,
immature, thoughtless, all the qualities which seemed to be
the prerogative of the young nowadays - the prodigal son laughed
to himself as he considered the form of that thought, how much
he had changed, he hoped for the better.
The mature, contemplative form was not on
his own for very long; even before Kathleen returned with the
beverage, there was a crashing at the door and the youth turned
to see a huddle of six youngsters striding into their domain.
All the bodies stopped stock still, eyes hostile, faces suspicious
as they laid gaze on a stranger. Four boys and two girls, all
clad in ripped jeans, filthy T-shirts and leather jackets which
had seen better days - it brought back more recollections for
the Old Boy. Richie recognised one face, the eldest boy of about
sixteen, tall, brown haired where a thin layer dusted his shaved
scalp; the face was older, but the young man remembered the
face of the wanna-be-a- teenager he had mainly ignored when
he'd been one of the gang. It pained the older man to know that
he couldn't fit a name to the face.
Richie turned from the table, his feet slightly
apart, his arms at his sides, his face passive; it was a surprise
to him how easily the stance came back. This wasn't his turf
anymore, so it was up to the others to make a move first, those
were the juvenile rules that flooded back through his brain.
Despite his maturity, the young man felt it necessary to abide
by the code, and so he waited, cool and aloof.
The group were packed closely together,
and all eyes examined him carefully. Instincts of the street
died hard, even in the protection of the church hall, and they
were looking for weapons and gang badges. From first glance,
the newcomer was clean, so the skinny leader decided it was
time for identification. It struck the Immortal how similar
his present lore was to the stand-off situation as the young
figure stalked a little way in front of his friends and challenged,
"Who are you?"
"Name's Richie Ryan," was the
return, but there was no sign of recognition back the other
way, the pair had not arrived at speaking terms by the time
the youth had left. "I'm here to see Father Macey."
That raised an eyebrow, Richie may have
been well-dressed, but he didn't look like any church worker
in the kids experience. The young man smiled at the reaction,
it was time for a more adult approach to the situation.
"He's an old friend," he explained
turning back to the pool table and playing compulsively with
another of the shiny spheres.
"You play?" came from another
young mouth, an expectant note to the voice.
The youth grinned to himself, his back turned,
as he recognised a tentative feel for a hustle, and answered
carefully, "Now and then."
He glanced back over his shoulder, his face
straight once more as one of the younger boys, who looked to
be styling himself on his chief split from the crowd. There
was a hint of mischief in the green eyes which twinkled at him,
and the venture seemed too tempting to let go. The youth decided
to waggle some bait in front of the teenager.
"Want a game?" he asked innocently.
"Worth anything?" came the next,
not too unfamiliar phrase.
The laugh that responded was not meant scornfully,
this one was almost as bold as he remembered himself. Looking
like he'd fallen for the move, the `victim' replied amicably,
"Since you put it that way, ten dollars sound fair?"
A smart nod and there were grins of satisfaction
from all six faces. They were expecting a victory. The naivete
of the newcomer seemed to ease their initial hostility, and
the small group moved around the pool table. Richie fished a
note out of his pocket and laid it on the wooden part of one
cushion. Then, as footsteps came up behind him, he turned smartly
round and grinned at Kathleen. There was a suspicious smile
on the woman's features as she held out a steaming mug and enquired,
"What's going on here?"
"Oh, nothing," the young man grinned
back, and winked when he was sure that all of the youngsters
"Right you are, then," was returned,
her tone heavy with mirth as she shook her head disapprovingly
and headed back to her refuge.
The Immortal took a swig of the smooth liquid
and then placed the pottery firmly on top of the stake. With
a winning smile, he took a cue offered him by one of his hosts
and prepared for battle.
Half an hour later, there were eighteen
more bodies in the hall, the juke box was blaring rock and the
young challenger, who had been introduced as Randy, was not
looking as confident. He had proved himself to be a good player,
but Richie had found that he had not lost his knack for the
game. The black ball sunk elegantly down the top left hand pocket
and the Immortal stood straight, a grin of triumph on his face.
Casually, he picked up the money he had laid and turned to his
frowning companions. They knew they'd been had, and weren't
very happy about it.
"I was hustling in here when you, Jake,"
he had been reminded of the eldest boy's name, "were hanging
around us for a chance at an errand to run."
The victory was not to be supercilious,
however, animosity was not what the young man wanted, instead,
he offered the bill to his fellow competitor and disclosed in
admiration, "Great game, Randy, another year and you'll
be taking `em all like I was. Does Father Macey make you put
your money in the poor box too?"
The look he received in return was pleasantly
surprised, and the gift was not turned down.
"Buy your friends a round," was
the friendly command, "and I'll set `em up for another
The young man smiled after the group, who
wandered off chattering quietly about the generosity of their
guest. The Immortal's face fell and the cue flexed in suddenly
tight fingers as his soul sang in warning. For the first time
since entering the building, Richie cursed his lack of a weapon
as alarm daggered through him with the certain knowledge another
of his kind was close by. Urgently he scanned the room, the
wooden stick held in his palm almost like a staff. As the door
opened with the grinding shriek, Ryan's mouth went slack. His
eyes locked with a familiar pair and ideas that hadn't even
occurred to him rushed in. The black-clad, red-haired priest
hadn't changed, not surprising since he was the source of the
There were vague nods of welcome from distracted
parties all over the hall, but some, including Jake and his
people noticed the connection that had been made across its
length. They watched with fascinated intrigue at the reaction
of the `old friend' to the unusually still form of Father Macey.
Slowly, the young man put down the cue, this Immortal he knew
would not be armed, and began to walk as calmly as he could
manage over to the short stature. He was almost trotting by
the time he crossed the distance, but he stopped smartly in
front of the gently smiling face.
"Hallo again, Richie," came the
smooth greeting, and a hand was offered.
Unsure of himself, thrown off base by the
discovery, it took the ex- delinquent a few moments to respond.
Then his trust in the familiar figure came through, and with
a smile of bemused surprise, he took the palm in both his own.
"Hallo, Father," he breathed,
almost at a loss for words.
"Shall we go upstairs and have a talk?"
came the next, understanding suggestion.
"You knew!" Richie charged, sitting
heavily into a seat in the office that Kathleen amicably handed
over. "Is that why you took so much interest?"
"Partly," the priest shrugged
easily, he wasn't hiding his motives anymore, "and partly
because I liked you."
The young man wasn't sure whether to be
angry, or pleased that not one, but two Immortals had seen their
way to trying to help him. He shook his head and admitted quietly,
"I don't believe this."
"I know," Macey empathised with
a remembering look in his eyes, "I didn't know to begin
with; you were the first not-yet-Immortal I'd met in my sixty
odd years of existence, and I just thought I felt an affinity
to you. It wasn't until an old `friend' of mine dropped by and
asked me if I knew I was dealing with one of us that I realised
how obvious a conclusion it really was."
Richie snorted, a recollection suddenly
made sense and he asked dryly, "That wasn't the month you
suddenly became all over protective and we had the slanging
match about the demerits of joy riding?"
"That was it," the holy man nodded
vigorously and rolled his eyes. "I was terrified you were
going to get yourself killed at fifteen."
The youth smiled wistfully to himself as
the image in his mind clarified and he disclosed openly, "I
nearly took a hike out of here that night."
There was a look of past angst in his companion
as the short form continued more seriously, "I think I'd
have come after you if you had. I nearly did when you left us
so suddenly the last time. It was only when I discovered that
Duncan MacLeod had taken you under his wing that I backed off.
I heard the name as near legend and considered that he was probably
better for you in the long run anyway."
The pause that followed as both men took
in the statement was an easy one of old friendship. Ryan had
known the father as a teenager, but he decided that he still
knew him as an adult. Not much had changed, and his feelings
for the diminutive fellow had not altered, even with the revelation.
There had always been a bond between them that consisted of
penitent and confessor, and the young man decided it was time
admit his guilt; he spoke honestly, "I'm sorry I didn't
come back even just to say goodbye."
"Arghh!" the rector waved a dismissive
hand and answered plainly, "you were young, you had a new
exciting life to lead. I was glad for you. And anyway, you have
"And there's been a lot of water under
the bridge," the youthful Immortal observed with a contemplative
frown. "I'm glad I left my sword on my bike, or I might
have drawn it - the shock sensing you gave me."
Father Macey laughed, there was no reply
to that; instead he disclosed `evilly', "Oh, the nice machine
outside some of my boys were eyeing?"
The youth looked startled at the news, but
settled at the teasing sparkle he saw in the other's eyes, and
the finish, "Don't worry, I put my `special' blessing on
it - they won't even scratch the paint."
The returned stranger had to grin, this
was the man he remembered, kind, amiable, and always ready to
wind up the nearest person if he was given the chance. He felt
comfortable with the old manner and it reminded him of part
of Naomi's message. His tone thick with fake accusation, he
pressed on with, "You can still pick out a weak point,
can't you? And talking of harassing absentees, Naomi tells me
you've been telling her stories about me when I'm not there
to defend myself."
The priest chuckled with intent that could
have been considered unchristian if it hadn't been meant in
such good humour. He perched himself on the edge of the desk,
hands in his pockets in a familiar gesture of `you-got-me',
and returned sanctimoniously, "I was merely opening her
eyes to your bad points, she was more than able to furnish me
with your good ones."
Richie couldn't help himself, he blushed
at the insinuation as though he were a self-conscious juvenile
once more, but he smiled as well.
"Touche," he admitted and received
a nod of agreement.
"Anyway," the holy man continued
with a fresh breath, "we must move on to the details of
your very generous offer."
The youth snorted at that, and informed
his companion, "Naomi's offer - I haven't been in town
all week, so she volunteered me, not that it's a problem. MacLeod
is always up for a good cause, so getting the time off from
the dojo will not be any trouble. But, I would like to know
exactly what she's gotten me into."
Macey laughed heartily at the admission
and observed ironically, "Women! I knew the priesthood
was the right option.
Well, for your information, you'll be driving
in shifts with Jake, one of my boys, and Kathleen to arrive
at the ranch by Sunday evening. There are five days of activities
planned and then you'll be doing the same thing on the way back
the next weekend. As for what is actually going to go on at
the farm, I can't really say; Naomi gave me a brief description
over the phone, horseback riding and such, but we organised
this so quickly its all been a bit of a muddle, hence our lack
of one driver - I'm already booked up here and can't go.
Apart from that, I think all that's left
is to introduce you to the kids you'll be chaperoning for the
week, and believe me when I say you'll need all the guile you
had when you used to try and outsmart me to keep up with them."
Richie shook his head once more at the inverted
compliment, and pondered his position as the priest walked to
the door and leant out. The youth didn't think of himself as
much of a group activities person, sport having been about his
limit at school, and the idea of being responsible for a mass
of youngsters was a little daunting. The news that the bouncy
worker was also along for the trip made him feel easier, she
had an air about her that said she could cope with almost anything.
Being back in his one time haunt had made him feel quite young
again, when the rigours of the Game outside this almost forgotten
world had made him mature fast. The combination of youth and
the sense of reliability that hung in his self-image gave him
a funny feeling inside. He pushed the musings away as Macey's
accent came out while he yelled good-naturedly, "All of
you who've been jumping at my every whim for the last three
days, up here now please."
Within the minute there were sixteen teen
bodies, eight boys and eight girls, crammed into the little
office in front of the desk and Kathleen, Richie and the rector
were stood opposite them. All the young faces were excited and
expectant, and the ex-delinquent was glad to see that Jake and
crew were all involved in the expedition. Introductions were
brief, names flowed that the young man was sure he'd have to
learn as the opportunity arose, and a brief explanation of his
presence received welcome grins from those with whom he was
acquainted. Then was time for the briefing.
The priest's stance was authoritative as
he surveyed the small part of his life's work, and his tone
echoed it as he disclosed, "Well, it's almost time for
the go, and I have some words of wisdom for you all. You kids
have been selected by the votes of your peers, and that means
you're responsible for their good will. You are representing
St John's when you visit this ranch, and I expect you all to
behave with that in mind. I want no reports coming back
of behaviour not fitting of my elite. As for the details, you
know most of them, but I remind you that you must all be here,
ready and packed, one bag only, by eight a.m. What you pack
is largely up to you, but when it comes to clothes, I'm sure
you all have a fine selection of denim. However, please make
sure that it is not ripped, remember, they are for your own
protection, not just a fashion statement. Also, when it comes
to the parts of you that are not covered, St Johns has splashed
out for you," the man reached for a box and began tossing
tubes of sun bloc at the youngsters. "Use it please, or
you'll end up in the nearest hospital with not much skin left.
As for your heads, you must wear a hat, that goes double for
you and Randy, Jake.
Is that all clear?"
There were serious nods from all quarters,
none of the children, ranging from twelve to seventeen were
going to jeopardise their places on the excursion by being flippant.
The young Immortal empathised with the looks of animation in
the bright eyes; he knew from experience that these rough-looking
bunch were all like he had been, the city their only experience,
and the world outside was a thrilling prospect.
"Okay, thanks gang, see you tomorrow,"
Macey dismissed with a smile, but called, "but Jake, could
you stay for a few minutes to discuss the driving rota."
Richie went home an hour later feeling warm
and content. He was looking forward to the trip, and he'd taken
a bit of time to get to know the group he would be shuttling
around; he liked them, and he thought they liked him, especially
after a few riotous stories about his exploits while under the
priest's watchful eye. He hoped that the position of respect
he had gained thanks to the outcome of the pool game would help
in controlling the rabble, who, from recalling his own disposition
and observing the way they interacted with each other, he judged
could be a handful. He was in, more so than Kathleen,
who was seen as a kindly carer rather than one of the gang,
and it seemed to stand him in good stead when it came to discipline.
It looked like a tricky rope to walk, halfway between bud and
boss, but as he rode home, the young man considered that he
was up to and excited by the challenge.
End Of Part